Drumbeat: January 28, 2013

Militants attack oil pipeline in Algeria, two dead

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Suspected Islamist militants attacked an oil pipeline in northern Algeria on Monday, killing two guards and wounding seven other people, a security source told Reuters.

The Djebahia region, some 70 km (45 miles) east of the capital, is a stronghold of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which earlier this month killed 37 foreigners at a gas plant in the south, and is where its leader Abdelmalek Droukdel is believed to be based, the source said.

Norway Debates Overseas Ventures After Siege in Algeria

AUSTRHEIM, Norway — Oil and gas made Norway one of the world’s most advanced and prosperous countries in just a few decades. Now the deadly siege in Algeria has fired up a debate here over how far its petroleum companies, and their skilled workers, should go in the hunt for resources and profits.

Oil Trades Near Highest Level in Four Months on Economic Outlook

Oil traded close to the highest level in four months in New York after posting the longest run of weekly gains since April 2009, lifted by speculation that a global economic recovery will boost fuel demand.

U.S. Gasoline Rises to $3.3443 a Gallon in Lundberg Survey

The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. pumps rose 1.96 cents a gallon in the past two weeks to $3.3443 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.

The survey covers the period ended Jan. 25 and is based on information obtained from about 2,500 stations by the Camarillo, California-based company. The average is down 5.01 cents from a year earlier.

Shell, Kinder Morgan to jointly export LNG from the United States

(Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it will tie up with Kinder Morgan Inc to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a terminal near Savannah, Georgia.

El Paso Pipeline Partners LP, a Kinder Morgan unit, and Shell will form a limited liability company to develop a natural gas liquefaction plant at Southern LNG Co LLC's existing terminal.

OPEC Sees Oil Markets Well Supplied, No Price Collapse in 2013

Global crude markets will remain well supplied in 2013 to meet growing demand and OPEC doesn’t expect prices to drop this year, OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla El-Badri said.

“At present the market is well-balanced. Looking ahead for 2013 the market is expected to remain well-supplied to meet expected demand growth,” he said during a conference at Chatham House in London today. Resource availability to meet growing demand “is not an issue,” he said.

Saudi Arabia to provide full term allocations to Asian refiners in Feb

Singapore (Platts) - Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco is expected to supply full nominated volumes of crude oil loading in February to Asian refiners, sources close to the matter said Monday.

Ambani Facing Wait for Profit at Diesel Pumps: Corporate India

Reliance Industries Ltd. and Essar Oil Ltd., operators of India’s two biggest refineries, face at least a two-year wait to profitably retail diesel, as the government prolongs the process of completely freeing prices.

Yudhoyono Buffeted by Fuel as Indonesia Election Nears

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is under growing pressure to raise fuel prices and curb oil imports as currency risks persist and the window to act narrows ahead of elections in 2014.

Iraq Warns Exxon on Kurdish Deals Amid Plans for BP Development

Iraq’s oil minister asked Exxon Mobil Corp. to stop dealing with Kurds if it wants to work with the central government even as he proceeded with plans for BP Plc to develop fields in northern areas claimed by the Kurdish authorities.

Baghdad's threats fail to curb demand for Kurdish oil

LONDON (Reuters) - European oil companies are purchasing an increasing volume of oil independently exported by Kurdistan, in defiance of Baghdad's threats to punish those that deal in exports it says are illegal.

Baghdad has promised to prosecute buyers of Kurdish condensate, a light grade of oil that has been exported without its permission since October.

Dubai’s ENOC Seeks Oil Condensate Supply to Replace Iran Imports

Emirates National Oil Co., Dubai’s government-owned refiner, is seeking new suppliers of condensate to replace imports from Iran because U.S. sanctions threaten financial penalties for companies that trade with the country.

Iran Wants More Water, Power Ties With Afghanistan, Fars Reports

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is seeking to strengthen links with neighboring Afghanistan, saying Iranian electricity and water companies have opportunities there, the state-run Fars news agency said.

Iranian Energy Minister Majid Namjou visited the Afghan capital Kabul and discussed boosting such ties with President Hamid Karzai and Energy and Water Minister Muhammad Ismail Khan, Fars said.

One killed in clashes in Egyptian capital

CAIRO (AP) — Health and security officials say a protester has been killed in clashes between rock-throwing demonstrators and police near Tahrir Square in central Cairo.

Azeri Police Detain 50 as Protest in Baku Is Shut Down

Police in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku arrested nearly 50 people as they stopped a rally in support of anti-government protests and riots that hit the northwestern Ismayilli District this week.

Nigeria Condemns New MEND Threat

The Nigerian government has condemned a new threat from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) - a militant group that has been claiming responsibility for attacks on oil companies, bombings and kidnappings since 2006.

In a threat made public over the weekend, MEND said it plans to attack Nigerian officials, South African companies, and oil reserves and refineries in Nigeria and beyond in response to the conviction of their former leader, Henry Okah, in South Africa.

Gazprom asks Ukraine for $7 bil for buying less gas than agreed in 2012

Moscow (Platts) - Russia's Gazprom has asked Ukraine's state-run Naftogaz Ukrayiny oil and gas company to pay $7 billion for buying less gas in 2012 than was stipulated under a contract, a source in Naftogaz confirmed Monday. "We have received the bill," the source said.

But the source could not confirm media reports that the Ukrainian company had no intention of paying the bill and is prepared to take Gazprom to court instead.

BP Starts Production from New Valhall Platform in Norwegian North Sea

LONDON--Oil major BP PLC (BP) said Monday it has successfully started-up oil production from new facilities at the Valhall field in the southern part of the Norwegian North Sea, adding that production is expected to build up to around 65,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the second half of 2013.

Hess to Pursue Sale of Terminal Network and Exit Refining Business

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Hess Corporation announced today that it will pursue the sale of its terminal network in the United States. Hess also announced that it will complete its exit from the refining business by closing its Port Reading, New Jersey refinery.

Swap-to-Future Conversion Has Regulators Studying Rules

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is reviewing whether energy futures contracts that are replacing swaps on the largest exchanges have enough transparency before they are traded, Chairman Gary Gensler said.

Coast Guard investigating potential oil spill in Mississippi River

(CNN) -- Two tank barges loaded with light crude oil struck a bridge in the Mississippi River early Sunday morning.

The Coast Guard said it was trying to determine how many gallons may have been spilled into the river near Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Superior refinery owner considering Lake Superior crude oil loading dock

The owner of Superior’s refinery is considering building a loading dock on Lake Superior in or near the Twin Ports to ship crude oil on the Great Lakes.

“Calumet is currently assessing the viability of the project and gauging interest in the marketplace,” Todd Borgmann, vice president of business development at Calumet, said in a statement released Friday. “We would expect to have this project fully operational during the shipping season of 2015 and are currently in talks with potential customers and partners.”

Russia Arctic Natural Gas Shipping Route to Asia 10 Years Away

Tanker transport of Russian Arctic gas through the Bering Strait to Asian buyers is at least 10 years away because of ageing infrastructure, vessel shortages and growing disputes over waterway rights.

Thawing sea ice caused by global warming has attracted energy companies to drill in the Arctic Ocean, an area mostly north of Russia containing 25 percent of the world’s untapped hydrocarbons, according to estimates.

Fracking Comeback in U.K. as Browne Seeks Shale Bonanza

Two U.K. drillers are taking the lead in exploring for the country’s first shale gas after a moratorium ended, with one of them backed by ex-BP Plc (BP/) chief John Browne and the other soon to count China as an investor.

An Oil Boom Takes a Toll on Health Care

WATFORD CITY, N.D. — The patients come with burns from hot water, with hands and fingers crushed by steel tongs, with injuries from chains that have whipsawed them off their feet. Ambulances carry mangled, bloodied bodies from accidents on roads packed with trucks and heavy-footed drivers.

The furious pace of oil exploration that has made North Dakota one of the healthiest economies in the country has had the opposite effect on the region’s health care providers. Swamped by uninsured laborers flocking to dangerous jobs, medical facilities in the area are sinking under skyrocketing debt, a flood of gruesome injuries and bloated business costs from the inflated economy.

Mining the Deep Sea and Outer Space for a Mineral Bonanza

From the early 1970s, the prospect of hauling up a boundless harvest of metal rich nodules from the deepest ocean beds was touted as the answer to the world’s increasing hunger for diminishing resources.

Electric Cars and the Power Grid: How Are They Coming Together?

A recently released study from Pike Research projects annual global sales of electric vehicles will reach 3.8 million by 2020, growing by 40% annually. That growth, is from a very small base: the 23,461 Volts sold last year represented only about a third of a percent of all new passenger cars sold in the United States.

Although the initial numbers are small, the trend is worth watching, as some of the pieces of the electric car puzzle are finally fitting together.

Is There a Green Side to the Super Bowl?

Opower, an energy consulting firm, compared the electricity use of 145,000 American households during last year’s Super Bowl with consumption on other winter Sundays when the weather was similar. Power use was down by as much as 7.7 percent, depending on the region of the country. And in the West, where the game ended early in the evening, electricity consumption was depressed until bedtime.

Wind research study has potential to diversify state's economy, provide energy to California

New transmission and generation infrastructure, relative to power generated by Wyoming's vaunted wind, would help diversify the state's economy with more high-paying jobs—both during the construction and operation phases—while providing economically priced renewable power to California, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Wyoming's Wind Energy Research Center.

European Offshore Wind Installations Increased 33% in 2012

European nations connected 1,166 megawatts of offshore wind turbines to the electricity grid in 2012, an increase of a third on the previous year, the European Wind Energy Association said today on its website.

City of Solana Beach Teams with Chevron Energy Solutions to Cut Utility Costs

SOLANA BEACH, Calif. /PRNewswire/ -- The City of Solana Beach and Chevron Energy Solutions have joined to implement a ground-breaking energy program expected to improve the city's streetscape, boost efficiency in city facilities, and save the city more than $40,000 in its first year alone, all with minimal impact to the city's general fund. The $1.4 million project is expected to trim the city's annual energy consumption by more than 350,000 kilowatt-hours by upgrading more than 500 streetlights to highly efficient LED technology; adding a new "cool roof" and more efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) to City Hall; and installing new efficient lighting fixtures at City Hall, the Fire Station and Marine Safety buildings. Solana Beach was one of first cities in San Diego County to pilot LED street lights, and is now the county's first city to complete a retrofit of all city-owned street lights to LED.

China's environment: An economic death sentence

The hazardous conditions in Beijing and northern China is merely of one many wake-up calls for the Chinese government. Will it be enough to spark change?

An Ecolabel for McDonald’s Fish Fare

McDonald’s has signed on with the Marine Stewardship Council to show that the fish it serves is caught in an environmentally responsible manner. While the fish is not changing, the deal will make the council’s distinctive blue logo familiar to tens of millions of Americans for the first time.

Plans to 'trade' water to dry areas

Ofwat has announced plans to persuade utilities to transfer more water to dry regions as part of proposals that will change the way it regulates the sector.

Despite four of the top five wettest years occurring since 2000, many parts of England have just experienced the driest 18 months for more than 100 years.

Groundwater fate and climate change

(Phys.org)—Simon Fraser University earth scientist Diana Allen, a co-author on a new paper about climate changes' impacts on the world's ground water, says climate change may be exacerbating many countries' experience of water stress.

"Increasing food requirements to feed our current world's growing population and prolonged droughts in many regions of the world are already increasing dependence on groundwater for agriculture," says Allen. "Climate-change-related stresses on fresh surface water, such as glacier-fed rivers, will likely exacerbate that situation.

Rising seas shift bay agency's mission

Leadership changes in regional agencies rarely attract attention, so it wasn't a big story last year when new people stepped into the top two posts at the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

But this is an era when the commission's original reason for being - to keep vast portions of San Francisco Bay from being filled by subdivisions and land-hungry local governments - is less of a threat than the rising sea levels that almost certainly lie ahead. This ecological shift demands a response, said the commission's new chairman and executive director, and it could place the 48-year-old agency back in the public spotlight.

Is Obama about to blow his climate credentials?

The US president could be poised to approve the doubling of imports of tar sands oil, one of the filthiest fuels on Earth.

Russian row over Kyoto extension rumbles on

A row over the extension of the Kyoto Protocol looks set to rumble on, after a group of former Soviet Bloc countries confirmed last week that they will take action against a controversial clause that would effectively force them to reduce emissions.

Filipino government makes climate change a top 2013 priority

MANILA (AlertNet) – Faced with worsening extreme weather and studies indicating it is likely to be highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, the government of the Philippines intends to implement a series of laws in 2013 aimed at reducing disaster risk, improving clean energy production and adapting to climate shifts.

World Bank boss urges coal for poor countries

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim is a vocal advocate of fighting man- made climate change. Two months ago he said he wanted to “shock” the world into aggressive action to halt “devastating” human consequences of failing to curtail carbon energy sources.

So some people might have considered it a little shocking over the weekend when, at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, he promoted the use of coal as a cheap energy source in poor countries. The World Bank’s mission is to reduce global poverty.

Make climate change a priority

If there is no action soon, the future will become bleak. The World Bank Group released a reportin November that concluded that the world could warm by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century if concerted action is not taken now.

A world that warm means seas would rise 1.5 to 3 feet, putting at risk hundreds of millions of city dwellers globally. It would mean that storms once dubbed “once in a century” would become common, perhaps occurring every year. And it would mean that much of the United States, from Los Angeles to Kansas to the nation’s capital, would feel like an unbearable oven in the summer.

My wife and I have two sons, ages 12 and 3. When they grow old, this could be the world they inherit. That thought alone makes me want to be part of a global movement that acts now.

Major climate changes looming

Washington -- In his inaugural address last Monday, President Obama made climate change a priority of his second term. It might be too late.

Within the lifetimes of today's children, scientists say, the climate could reach a state unknown in civilization.

Nicholas Stern: 'I got it wrong on climate change – it's far, far worse'

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: "Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then."

Here's a VMT graph similar to the one that was discussed the other day. This one is for the OECD, and is adjusted per capita, and zero scaled (from 1971), which were two of the issues with the US version debated here.

Smiley face

The zero point is at the 1970 level normalized at the 1970 level and not at zero driven miles!

Anyway this is a real difference and not a short blip, it lasted for seven years.

No offense, but shouldn't VMT be measured in, you know, miles? If you need a conversion, shouldn't it be to kilometers?

I find that graph utterly impossible to read. It's showing something, but what exactly it is showing is confusing.

It is showing growth relative year 1970. Has some uses, but miles or better Km would be much more usefull.

Really guys, the chart is change in percentage of miles driven per capita. If it read "Estimated Vehicle Kilometers Driven on All Roads" it would look exactly the same. The percentage change in distance driven would be exactly the same whether measured in miles, kilometers, feet or inches. The chart does not show distance, it shows percentage change in distance.

And I think the chart is very revealing, even shocking. I had no idea that distance driven per capita had dropped off that much since 2005.

Ron P.

Frankly, I am shocked at how much miles driven per capita have increased since 1970. Given that the middle class has made very little progress in income since 1970, its quality of life has decreased in the since that, relatively speaking, so much time and money goes to automobile driving. Of course, people might not see it that way. I had a boss who lived far from work and I asked him if that was a hassle. He said he preferred to drive a long way to work because it gave him time to think. I told him I did my extra thinking in bed as I had additional time in the morning being close to work. Not sure he appreciated that. Can't imagine what he was thinking about.

Frankly, I am shocked at how much miles driven per capita have increased since 1970

In the 1970's the importation of well machined Japanese cars meant you could expect over 100,000 miles out of a car.

so instead of the car being no good due to the engine dying, it became something that rusted away at the frame.

WWII habits due to gasoline restrictions were also dying out.

Written by tstreet:
... I am shocked at how much miles driven per capita have increased since 1970.

That might be caused by the trend to move to the suburbs to find an affordable house. The house is cheaper, but the travel expense and distance driven are greater.

"Frankly, I am shocked at how much miles driven per capita have increased since 1970."

Don't forget the women went to work too. That almost doubles the driving all by itself.

Or to point at a different version of that demographic, to consider how many families were still in the shift from living on one income, to needing both parents working to get by.. and variations of that where people went further afield to get to jobs, took multiple jobs, etc..

Yes, this is the case. A parallell to this is the habit of measuring oil production in barrels. I don't realy know how much a barrel is. Yes it is 159 litres, but how many barrels are tehre in a cubic meter? I could calculate that, but it does not realy matter. Because what I realy want from those graphs are the relative trends. Wich is what this graph above here shows. Percent, miles or Kms, still show the relative trend.

But if it was in Km, I would also know how much actuall driving occours, wich I can not deduct from this graph.

It is change in per capital miles driven relative to 1970. Let us say that per capita miles (or km) driven was 100 miles (or km) in 1970. In that case, in 2005 it was 168 miles. In 2012 it was 150 miles. In other words, per capita miles driven has fallen by a little over 10% since the peak in 2005.

If you want the actual miles, and a lot more information on this subject, it can be found here, the link where the chart came from: Vehicle Miles Driven: Population-Adjusted Hits Yet Another Post-Crisis Low

This is a great site with lots of information charts published daily. Dshort.com

Ron P.

Looking at gasoline sales rather than VMT, they conclude

Reasons for Plunge in Gasoline Sales in Order of Importance

  1. Huge rise in those "not in labor force"
  2. Boomer demographics and retirement (much of it forced)
  3. Chronic long-term unemployment
  4. Changing social trends in younger generations, no doubt accelerated by the recession and student debt
  5. Declining real wages leave consumers with less discretionary spending cash (think shorter vacations closer to home)
  6. High price of gasoline
  7. Increase in online shopping means fewer trips
  8. Improved fuel rates and cash-for-clunkers


And you can probably add the sharp drop in new vehicle sales from 17 million in 2006 to 9 million in 2009 that inspired the cash-for-clunkers program.

IMHO in this case absolute numbers make more sense than percentages because it is not clear what the base years are.
when you go from 100 to 110, then to 120, the change with the first datapoint as base will be 10% and 20%. on the way down (from 120 to 110 to 100 the change would be -8.3% (from 120 to 110) and -16.7% (from 120 to 100).
If one kept shifting the base year on the way up the changes would be 10% and 9.09%, and -8.3% (from 120 to 110) and 09.09% (from 110 to 110).

rgds WeekendPeak

IMHO in this case absolute numbers make more sense than percentages because it is not clear what the base years are.

In that just click on the link I posted above, it's all there. But just in case here it is again.
Vehicle Miles Driven: Population-Adjusted Hits Yet Another Post-Crisis Low

Ron P.

Cumulative growth resembles the original data in the shape of the graph. (To resemble is not to equal!). But it's something weird. It's kind of an integration of the derivative/y. I don't say it's hard to read, but it's not for "dummies" :-)

The real data will show a certain pattern (y=f(x)). The growth will show the derivative/y (g=1/y * dy/dx). Cumulative growth resembles the original data with fluctuations in the lower value regions exagerated to the fluctuations in the higher regions.

Percentages are so difficult! They do not behave lineairly, nor symmetrically. The above graph says "latest down 8.68% from peak", while the left axis shows a difference in the order of 14%. Not for dummies!

If it was truly cumulative it would always go up unless people started driving in reverse.

It's actually the 12-month moving average of VMT divided by the population of the US.

In 2007, 3.0 T miles 300 M people, 10,000 miles per capita.

In 1970, 1.1 T miles 203 M people, 5,500 miles per capita (my figures).

It would be interesting to see transport by all modes, road, rail, and air, and compare countries over time. We move around a lot more than our forefathers did.

"We move around a lot more than our forefathers did."

In physical space, technically true. But physically moving ourselves, i.e. walking and biking, we do much, much less. Basically, we've just coated the space between our homes and everything we do in asphalt and then ended up having to drive everywhere.

No question we move a lot more, but in day-to-day life the biggest factor is cars. There are other factors, airplanes especially, that have made going somewhere places easier, so travel overseas is more common as well, and travel between parts of any country is easier (Hawaii and Okinawa would be much harder to get to by boat). But I'm guessing the bulk of that movement is literally people driving to and from work, the store, etc.

If it was truly cumulative it would always go up unless people started driving in reverse.

I disagree. This is the difference between "cumulative" and "cumulative growth". The first one would go down only by driving in reverse indeed. The latter one goes down when there is a period of driving less. (Driving less = negative growth; so cumulative growth would go down.)

A cumulative graph and a moving average grapf would show miles in the left axis. The one above has percentages.

It's OECD, not US. (and, as Karlnick pointed out, it's normalized, not zero scaled)


‘Bitumen Bubble’ Roiling Alberta Finances as Redford Warns of Cuts

Alberta Premier Alison Redford made an unusual television appeal late Thursday night to her resource-rich–but suddenly cash-strapped–province. She warned of a “bitumen bubble” that is squeezing provincial finances and underscoring the severity of the economic pressure from sharply falling prices for Canadian crude.

The fundamental problem: As energy companies ramp up output capacity for oil-sands crude—basically bitumen mixed with quartz sand—they have no place to send it, resulting in a widening gap between U.S. and international oil prices and prices Canadian producers can get for their crude.

In 2011, the province’s energy minister at the time, Ron Liepert, warned in a WSJ page-one article that if new pipelines weren’t built, Alberta would be “landlocked in bitumen” by 2020. Based on Ms. Redford’s warning, the day of reckoning may be coming much earlier.

Thursday night, she warned voters in the western Canadian province that Edmonton faced a dire fiscal squeeze due to the falling prices. But the problem isn’t Alberta’s alone. Weak Canadian prices are already taking a bite out of Canada’s gross domestic product and government revenue, the Bank of Canada said this week.

Ms. Redford said the lower prices could reduce provincial revenue in the current fiscal year by roughly six billion Canadian dollars ($5.98 billion), or the equivalent of what the province spends annually on education.

Only 2 of Canada's 10 provinces - Alberta and Saskatchewan - are landlocked (i.e. have no seaports or Great Lakes ports) and have to ship their products to market through other provinces, and they are the #1 and #2 oil producing provinces in the country. They both have a similar problem - they have oil to sell and they can't get it to market. Historically, the Canadian government used the Declaratory Clause in the Canadian Constitution (i.e. "We Declare this project to be a Work in The Best Interests of Canada or of two or more Provinces") to drive through things like transcontinental railways and pipelines over any and all opposition, but they have not done so yet in this case.

It is kind of the Nuclear Option because it just vaporizes any legal opposition, and hasn't been used since the 1960's when it was used to build the TransCanada natural gas pipeline, but one wonders given the amount of money at stake whether it might not come out again. It could, although it might not be popular with the opposition and environmentalists. They would get "railroaded", as the old saying goes.

Speaking of "Railroaded," of course a short term option would be (pre-1972) Texas RRC style proration, ideally until Canadian prices approximated global oil prices.

As we have discussed, higher crude oil prices (up to near global market levels) would mostly negatively impact refiners, given the differences between the WTI crack spreads and Brent crack spreads (about $15 as of Friday). (Of course, the Western Canadian crack spread must be enormous.)

Well Texas RRC style proration is already in place in Canada, and has never really gone away. In my experience this came as something of a surprise to Texans, to discover that Alberta government was controlling oil production longer after the TRRC stopped.

However, under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada has agreed not to do this kind of thing to exports to the US. And, really, there's no point. All it would do is shift the profits between the producers and the refiners, and for the most part they are they same companies, so it doesn't make much difference. It is true that Western Canadian refineries have a huge competitive edge over other refineries and the ones on Edmonton's Refinery Row now dominate the Canadian market from the West Coast to Lake Superior. Nobody can really compete against them. It's all gravy for them.

Another problem is that the big Western Canadian refiners are multinationals (Exxon, Shell, Suncor) who also own refineries in the US, and if they expanded their Canadian refineries, they would just put their own US refineries out of business. It might also upset the US government. This doesn't make business sense, so they just sit back and collect the profits.

From the larger scale Canadian perspective, the problem is that Canada imports 40% of its oil, and all of this goes into Eastern Canada at 100% of Brent prices while oil is exported out of Western Canada at 60% of Brent prices. It has not escaped the politicians' notice that this could be equalized (and Eastern Canadians get a piece of the refinery action) if the pipelines were extended all the way to the East Coast.

New Brunswick pushes cross-country pipeline as 'game changer'

New Brunswick Premier David Alward is headed to Alberta to inject some political momentum into a proposed $5-billion, cross-Canada oil pipeline that he describes as a nation-building project.

The Progressive Conservative Premier will make his first visit to Alberta early next month, where he will meet with his counterpart, Alison Redford, travel to Fort McMurray to tour the oil sands, and visit industry executives in Calgary.

In an interview, Mr. Alward expressed enthusiasm for the proposed TransCanada pipeline project that would bring western oil to eastern Canadian refineries, and perhaps allow for crude exports from the deep-water port of Saint John.

“This is something that is potentially a game-changer for New Brunswick, but more importantly than just New Brunswick, for all of Canada,” Mr. Alward said.

New Brunswick happens to have the largest oil refinery in Canada, the 300,000 bpd Irving Oil refinery in St. John. If they had access to Western Canadian oil, Irving Oil would probably renew their mothballed plans to build a second 300,000 bpd refinery just like the first.

RockyMtnGuy.. a question,

If Canada exports crude to the US, will that crude be subject to the US embargo on crude exports? I'm asking specifically with the opening of more pipeline capacity to the Gulf Coast, and also with Keystone in mind....

If not subject to the embargo, it strikes me that Canadian crude could be piped to the Gulf Coast and then shipped up the East Coast to those Canadian refineries. An expensive exercise, no doubt, but may be cheaper than a Trans-Canadian pipeline??

Canadian crude transshipped across the US would not be subject to US export restrictions - that would violate NAFTA rules. In fact, I'm not sure that all US crude is subject to US export restrictions. It might be only crude produced on Federal lands or waters. Somebody who knows more about US rules might be able to clarify that.

Pipelining Canadian oil to the Gulf Coast and then shipping it to Eastern Canadian refineries wouldn't make any sense. More likely they would boost the capacity on the existing Trans-Canada pipelines going east from Alberta to Ontario (which happen to run through the US), and then then reverse the existing pipelines which currently take oil from the East Coast to Ontario refineries to carry the oil to East Coast refineries which currently use imported oil.

It's all perfectly doable, it's just a huge conceptual leap for Eastern Canadians who thought that they would always be able to buy cheap imported oil.

Funny that the Feds didn't help out Newfoundland and Labrador in getting power from Churchill Falls to market through Quebec. They were basically forced to practically give the power to Hydro Quebec and the revenue they are currently getting doesn't even cover the cost of maintaining the dam and powerhouse. Quebec is making billions each year reselling that power at the current market rate.

What the Feds are now going to do is to subsidize the construction of a subsea power line from Labrador to Newfoundland, and from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia (the Maritime Transmission Link). This will get its power from Muskrat Falls in Labrador and completely bypass the Province of Quebec on its way to Newfoundland and the Maritime provinces.

The real problem is that Newfoundland signed a 65-year agreement with Quebec to sell them electricity from Labrador at a very low rate. In retrospect, this turns out to not have been such a good deal because Quebec is now reselling the power to the New England States for several times the price it is paying Newfoundland for it.

These were two sovereign governments signing a legal agreement between themselves, and the Courts will enforce it. The Canadian government doesn't particularly want use its constitutional powers to tear it up for them just because one side was stupid at the time. The Canadian Constitution assigns control over electric power to the provincial governments, and the Declaratory Clause specifies "to the advantage of TWO OR MORE provinces". Newfoundland is only one province, so it would be a marginal legal exercise, at best.

The agreement expires in 2041, at which time I expect TSTHTF and electricity to get a lot more expensive in Quebec. Until that time, sleep as best you can.

RMG – “Thursday night, she warned voters in the western Canadian province that Edmonton faced a dire fiscal squeeze due to the falling prices. But the problem isn’t Alberta’s alone. Weak Canadian prices are already taking a bite out of Canada’s gross domestic product and government revenue, the Bank of Canada said this week.”

Sorry but I’ll have to call your politicians on this BS just like I would a US politician. How much of a “dire fiscal squeeze” would y/all be facing if WCS was selling at $30/bbl as it was in July 2009? Or even as recent as Sept 2011 when it was selling for $63/bbl?

So Canadian aren’t getting the same price as LLS. So? They aren’t getting the same price a Brent or Nigerian sweet. They think they are getting screwed by the US? If the US suddenly (and only by divine intervention) were to decrease its imports by 2 million bopd what would WCS be selling for then? The provinces aren’t losing income because they are selling to US refineries…they are making money…a lot of money. Much more than they would if the US weren’t importing any Canadian oil.

OTOH taking her position I suppose I should be complaining about the “dire fiscal squeeze” Gulf Coast producers are facing given that instead of the rock bottom price of $110/bbl we’re getting for LLS we would be getting a much better price without those damn Canadian imports.

Okay, you're right - it is mostly BS.

What they did was budget for WTI selling at $99/bbl and for WCS selling at a $16 discount to it due to quality differences - that gives a price for WCS of $83/bbl. Currently WTI is about $94 and WCS is about $64. It's below estimates, but it shouldn't have been a surprise. Estimates are just estimates, they are not real money and shouldn't be treated as such.

It's never a good idea to assume the good times will always roll. A prudent treasurer (e.g. me) would have budgeted for WTI selling at $80 based on the trailing 5-year average, and WCS at a discount of say $20, giving a price of $60 - which would be slightly under the actual price this year. Even though the base numbers would be wrong, the total would be pretty close.

Then when budget time came rolling around you could say, "We were more or less on budget this year, but next year we need to exercise more discretion and avoid overspending." Polite applause, and then we move on to the next item. This is way better than "OMIGAWD the sky is falling in we need to panic and run around in circles!" That goes over badly at election time.

Politicians almost always budget for best-case conditions to please the voters, so the voters are almost always horribly surprised, and take it badly when they are told their expectations are too high and they aren't going to get what they were promised.

I'm the treasurer for a not-for-profit organization which is handling significant amounts of money, so I have my ideas on how this sort of thing should be done. Never budget for best case conditions, always budget for not quite but almost worse case. That way, you're almost always pleasantly surprised when things work out better than expected, polite applause at the AGM. When you find yourself with a surplus, ignore demands to spend it and find some way to squirrel some of it away in rainy-day accounts. That way if it is really a worst-case scenario, you can pull some money out of the hat just when things are looking bad, and save the day. Some whining at the AGM but no rotten tomatoes.

You've just explained why you could never get elected. The other guy could always promise more, lower personal taxes more, etc. - so you'd lose.

Institutionally optimistic.

good article

It is kind of the Nuclear Option because it just vaporizes any legal opposition, and hasn't been used since the 1960's when it was used to build the TransCanada natural gas pipeline, but one wonders given the amount of money at stake whether it might not come out again. It could, although it might not be popular with the opposition and environmentalists. They would get "railroaded", as the old saying goes.

Nuclear Option... such an apt description!

Nicholas Stern: 'I got it wrong on climate change – it's far, far worse'

Author of 2006 review speaks out on danger to economies as planet absorbs less carbon and is 'on track' for 4C rise

"This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential."

Canadian oil sands production adds only a minuscule amount to global CO2 levels and will never be high enough to amount to much. The biggest increment has come from increased burning coal in developing countries such as China and India. China is now the world's biggest producer of greenhouse gasses, replacing the US in that position.

Canada's total CO2 production is less than a tenth of China's, and even in Canada coal-burning power plants are a bigger contributor than oil sands plants - despite the fact that Canada's electricity production is 60% hydroelectric and 15% nuclear. Burning coal really does produce huge amounts of CO2. This has been the biggest reason for the unmitigated failure of the Kyoto agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

So which straw should we use to break the camel's back. Oil sands contributions may be 'relatively' small, but they still are contributions to global warming. I don't like the thought of not using oil-sands any more than you do; my pension, in part, depends on their health. However, my grandchildren's health may depend on the oil sands not being exploited. The kids, all kids, deserve a future.


A dilemma (Greek: δί-λημμα "double proposition") is a problem offering two possibilities, neither of which is practically acceptable. One in this position has been traditionally described as "being on the horns of a dilemma", neither horn being comfortable. This is sometimes more colorfully described as "Finding oneself impaled upon the horns of a dilemma", referring to the sharp points of a bull's horns, equally uncomfortable (and dangerous).
Source Wikipedia

No easy answers, are there?

"Canadian oil sands production adds only a minuscule amount to global CO2 levels and will never be high enough to amount to much. "
There is about 230 GtC in the tarsands. All fossil fuel used untill today accounted to a bit less then 500 GtC and the carbon budget for the 2 C limit is another 500 GtC. I'm sorry to break that 'tarsands won't amount to much' bubble.

Thanks for breaking that bubble! It gets tiring to keep hearing that "our little bit of pollution ain't that much, so why should we stop?" mantra. That's the problem, everybody says it and nobody will stop. End of story...

styno - I think you misinterpreted the statement...or I did. It's not that burning the tar sands oil won't add to AGW problems but the actually GHG production from the process of extracing them is minuscule compared to what will be produced by burning the oil itself. Similarly the amount of GHG produced by building a car is probably minuscule compared to the amount of GHG generated by that vehcile during its life...even for the high mpg models.

You could be right Rock, although RMG compared the tar to coal burning elsewhere so I think he meant producing and burning the tar. Also, even if taroil is produced with and EROI of 10 then there is still an additional 10% GHG emission from producing the taroil. Assuming the energy imput comes from nat-gas or anther fossil fuel source. That's 10% which cannot be emitted from a more usefull process then just producing oil.

It's called bitumen, not taroil, and is just an extremely heavy and viscous form of oil. They burn NG to produce it, so an EROEI of 10 implies a 6% increase in CO2 emissions since NG has more hydrogen and less carbon than heavy oil.

However, the big problem, even in Alberta, is coal burning power plants. There was a plan to capture and sequester the CO2 from the big coal plants, but that has been shelved due to provincial budget cutbacks, and that is due to the low price of oil.

The oil industry is rather keen on the capture and sequesteration process since they could inject the CO2 into old oil fields to recover more of the oil. Get rid of the CO2 from the coal plants, produce more oil to sell to the Americans. They could capture the CO2 from oil sands plants too, but there's less of it to work with.

Now the Americans would have to capture the CO2 from the car exhausts to reduce their share, and that would be a bit more of a challenge than capturing the CO2 from power plants. However, they don't even have any plans to capture the CO2 from their hundreds of coal-burning plants, and they emit about 50 times as much CO2 as Canada's oil sands plants.

That amount is enough to raise the Global temperature -- all by itself -- 0.36 degrees C. Reference: Swart & Weaver: The Alberta oil sands and climate. Nature Climate Change. doi:10.1038/nclimate1421.
Actually the same reference estimates that the temperature that could more likely be attributed to Alberta is between 0.01 and 0.03 degrees C. Even so, it is quite impressive that one place can influence global temperature this much. To my mind, that is still 0.01 degree too much. I think what is as important as the temperature rise is the mindset that says 'this is OK' and that in getting this oil to burn we pollute and change thousands of square miles of Alberta forest, but that is "just another" miniscule issue considering the vast boreal forests that the world has. see (Kurek et al: Legacy of a half century of Athabasca oil sands development recorded by lake ecosystems: Proc Nat Acad Sc. 2013/01/07 doi:10.1073/pnas.1217675110

We are "nickle and diming" the world to death; each of us takes a little bit; unfortunately 7 billion nickels and dimes adds up to a lot.


They are doing an apples vs oranges type of comparison - comparing the total oil-in-place of the oil sands vs the total amount of coal that has been produced to date. The vast majority of the oil-in-place in the oil sands will never be produced. The estimated economically recoverable oil is about 1/10 the OIP, and it will take centuries to produce it.

As it happens, Alberta's coal reserves vastly exceed its oil sands reserves. Half the province is underlaid by coal. In fact, the coal may be the source rock for the oil sands. That's just one of the theories, but it has been proposed that since coal is a "poor to fair" source rock, Alberta's coal deposits may be where the oil in the sands originated, given their vast extent. It's just a theory, but I thought I'd mention it.

The rest of the world has truly massive deposits of coal as well. The coal that has been produced to date has just scratched the surface. One more thing for the AGW theorists to worry about.


A little thought experiment might be useful in thinking through what might happen to Alberta, and consequently Canada, if CAPP (Alberta APP), the Alberta government and the present federal government insist on pursuing the development of the tar sands (aka the Nuclear Option).


- We already have AGW of ~0.8 Celsius
- We have another 0.6 Celsius of warming baked in because of past GHG emissions
- We are pretty close to melting the Arctic
- Melting of the Arctic will set up some wicked feedback loops, methane releases from permafrost and clathrates, lower albedo, decreasing winter ice extent; rinse and repeat
- The weather is now weird and the frequency of drought in key agricultural regions is not a trivial matter.

So, the impacts of climate change are now obvious and observable and we have a whole lot of misery and suffering baked in. Recognizing that climate change must be addressed we have two things to do...
1) Adapt to what we can't prevent...
2) and most importantly, Prevent what we can't adapt to.

But preventing what we can't adapt to means that we have to eliminate Fossil Fuels as a source of energy... faster than we can imagine... to zero by 2040. (Anderson's Cabot Institute Lecture)


- I, and We, have a profound dependency on Fossil Fuels
- Most people are now concerned about climate change
- but they haven't a clue that preventing climate change that we can't adapt to means a complete transformation of our energy infrastructure.
- So any action will be piecemeal and incremental, instead of transformative, for the next little while.

This is because people, though they are concerned, aren't aware of the required transformation and haven't been given enough of a scare to make them commit to that path. (I have lots of friends who are concerned about climate change, and yet many of them will hop on a plane this winter for a week long vacation in Cuba.)

So here we are, we've juiced Mother Nature with our GHG emissions, and frankly she has been slapping us around pretty good, and people are noticing, but I think it won't be until she starts kicking us in the groin that we finally get it.

And then we will, as Stuart Staniford put it, Panic and Repent.

I think we'll panic and repent a lot sooner than Staniford suggests, something more in line with slide 29 in Anderson's presentation. Either way, splitting the difference, we end up with pretty rapid declines in Fossil Fuel use.

The thing about the various tar sands projects is that they have huge upfront costs and the rate of production requires very long timelines for an adequate return on investment. Pipeline infrastructure investment will also take a long time for an adequate return on investment. So tar sands projects will run up against our "Panic and Repent" response, when we start to desperately try to reduce emissions. Consequently, there is no way that tar sands developments have enough time to return on their very large investments.

But at that point Alberta and Canada's economies will be fully committed to tar sands development. The high petro-dollar will have caused "dutch disease" to have truly set in by that point.

And at that point Canada will have nothing that the world will want to buy, because all we'll have to offer is bitumen.

It just doesn't seem like a prudent path to set Canada's, let alone Alberta's, economy on?

I'm not about to panic because I've been preparing for AGW for the last 30 years.

I figured governments acting in unison could be counted on to do absolutely nothing of a useful nature to stop it, and I was absolutely right. That's just the way international organizations work.

And, as I noted long ago, it doesn't really matter what Canada does in the global context because it only accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions, and only a tiny fraction of that involves oil sands. The big culprit, even in Canada, is burning coal.

By contrast, China accounts for over 25% and their share is rising fast. Between them, China and India have nearly 2.5 billion people - over 1/3 of the world's population, whereas Canada has 35 million - fewer people than California. Certain Chindia has lower per-capita energy consumption, but as they rapidly industrialize and their new factory workers move into the middle class, their per-capita energy consumption will approach Western levels. Their energy efficiency is very low, and while they have little oil, they have vast amounts of coal which they are burning enthusiastically - hence their CO2 production is rising very fast.

So, AGW is going to happen regardless of what Canada does. Get ready for it because you can't stop it.

I'm just pointing out the basic reality of it all. I don't intend to change anything because it doesn't matter what I do, and unlike international bureaucrats, I'm not into making pointless sacrifices that don't help the situation.

rest of the world has truly massive deposits of coal as well. The coal that has been produced to date has just scratched the surface. One more thing for the AGW theorists to worry about.

Yes. They are aware. We have already emitted to much CO2, there are not "place" for any more. And yet we have barely begun to deplete the sources. Be worried, be very worried.

Arguing that coal is worse than tarsands does not make the problem of the tarsands go away. It's a distraction and a logical fallacy.

Yes, there is much more coal than there are tarsands but that doesn't mean that we can burn the tarsands and think everything will be well because coal is worse. Both need to stay in the ground.

The idea that it would take centuries to produce the tarsands does not make it any worse either. The CO2 lifetime is measured is centuries to millennia too. Everything burned in 200 years will simply be added to what we have burned 100 years ago.

The ERO currently may be 10% but will likely increase as it has for conventional oil. Also there is the emission from burning the tar as well from the production of the taroil.

"Arguing that coal is worse than tarsands does not make the problem of the tarsands go away. It's a distraction and a logical fallacy."


If someone is poising you with X dose of Arsenic and someone else is poisoning you with 3X dose of Cyanide, that does not mean you can ignore the X dose of Arsenic. It means you have to stop both doses of poison, otherwise you still die! Why can't some people see beyond this to see what they too are responsible? RMG???

Well, I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but I think the counter argument is closer to: Poison A will kill you in 10 years, but Poison B will kill you in 10 days, so there's not much point in focusing on Poison A until you get a handle on Poison B. More bang for the buck, so to speak. CROEI (Carbon Reduced On Energy Invested).

There is vastly more coal in the world than oil sands. According to reports on the latest Drumbeat, China now burns nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined, and

India is also growing rapidly and demanding ever more coal. By 2017, the IEA expects India to become the world’s second-largest coal consumer, surpassing the United States.

This is where the big increase in global greenhouse gas emissions is coming from, not from oil sands.

Is anybody going to try to make China and India stop burning coal? Probably not. So, if global warming is going to happen, it's going to happen. Get ready for it.

1. I fully understand the points you're trying to make. It's a repeat of the old, all my friends are doing it a lot, why can't I do it just a little? Please Mommy?

2. I'm doing what I can to get ready for global warming, and I'm not out there stating that "I see it's going to improve things where I live so what's the problem?".

I'm not satisfied with what I'm doing to reduce my fossil fuel/CO2 production, I'm not going to be satisfied by those who are in favor of using/making more. What I see this as is just more of the same rationalizing of what someone's doing so that they don't feel they need to make any changes. You're not alone, plenty of company for that attitude.

That's why I fully accept that nothing effective is going to be done at all. My changes and in fact all of us on TOD who are making changes don't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of even beginning to offset those just on TOD that don't wish to make any changes to their cushy lifestyle. But we'll still try and contribute to the process of change anyway.

“The US president could be poised to approve the doubling of imports of tar sands oil, one of the filthiest fuels on Earth”.

Once gain an oil path c0nservative is forced to defend the POTUS. Whether the president approves the short section of Keystone that crosses the border or not Canadian imports from the oil sand fields will increase. Just as they have been increasing ever since he locked the crossing permit so long ago: in 2012 the US imported the largest volume of oil from Canada in history. In addition to the existing pipelines companies hauled the oil via truck and rail cars. And the expansion of rail transport is still increasing.

“Environmentalists are up in arms. They fear leaks. No matter what its sponsors suggest, this is no ordinary pipeline. The tar-sands oil - essentially diluted bitumen - is more acidic than regular oil and contains more sediment and moves at higher pressures.” But they don’t fear the leaks from the old pipelines. And they don’t fear leaks as a result of truck accidents and train derailments? The oil has been crossing the border in increasing amounts and will continue to do so. Just a question of whether it comes thru a new p/l built to current specs or thru the old infrastructure.

“Obama would rightly lose all environmental credibility if he were to approve a scheme to double his country's imports of this fossil-fuel basket case.” Again, whether President Obama approve the border crossing permit or not the Canadian oil will keep coming. At least until some president bans importing oil. Yeah…that’s going to happen real soon. LOL.

It’s just the harsh reality of keeping economies growing. In a similar light from up top the president of the World Bank appears to understand AGW.

BUT: “So some people might have considered it a little shocking over the weekend when, at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, he promoted the use of coal as a cheap energy source in poor countries. The World Bank’s mission is to reduce global poverty.”

I suspect he'll approve it and use some of this as the justification.

That oil is going somewhere no matter what whether by rail, truck, or a different pipeline. I understand the activists goals but I don't think trying to stop the pipeline is an effective strategy. It may be better to argue for higher gas/diesel taxes to help reduce demand.

The oil flow won't be untimately stopped, but the very fact that the producers are only getting about half of the world price, due to the landlocked issue, shows they are doing some serious financial harm to the producers. Sure they will find a way to get the bitumen delivered, and the price depression reduced, but every day of delay costs them bigtime.

eos - Depends how you frame the situation. If the US wasn't required to import as much oil as we do now then the Canadians wouldn't be making as much money as they are today. Note in 2012 Canada exported more oil to the US then ever before in history. And at a higher average yearly price than it has ever sold for in its history. So are they lossing money or making a sh*tload? The answer to both questions is yes IMHO. As I said in the other post I can claim to be losing "bigtime" by selling my LLS for a measely $110/bbl since I could be getting a lot better price if it weren't for those Canadian imports. One could make the argument that Canada is "dumping" and thus hurting US producers. So am I losing money or making a sh*tload?

The fundamental problem from the Canadian perspective (and this has been discussed a lot in top Canadian political circles) is that Canada is selling to a monopsony buyer (the US). A basic rule of marketing is that you should always have more than one buyer so you don't get held up for ransom, so this is fundamentally undesirable.

Canada does this for historic reasons, since the US has always been a very good customer for oil and at times the American government has given Canadian producers a better deal than the Canadian government did. (The US did this for strategic reasons, since back during the Cold War it was nice to have a secure landlocked oil supply in case Russian submarines started sinking US oil tankers).

However, the oil volumes Canada is producing are now getting bigger than the American market can deal with, and this is only going to get more serious since Canada is capable of ramping up its oil exports quite a bit higher if the price is high enough (not too many countries can say that). China is the obvious second buyer since it is a huge market, and Chinese companies have managed to buy up quite a bit of the producing facilities. They actually have first dibs on a lot of Canadian oil production.

The big problem is, "How do they get the oil to China?" It is easily solved by building pipelines to the West Coast and loading up Chinese oil tankers with Canadian oil. However constructing the pipelines is stalled in the regulatory process and various bits of Canadian internal politics. This was not expected to become a problem so soon because the existing export pipelines were not expected to be out of capacity until 2020, but apparently they're already out of capacity and the crisis is upon us.

The whole thing will eventually shake itself out and Canadian oil will move to West Coast, East Coast, and Gulf Coast ports and go wherever it has to go to make money. However, in the interim, Canadian oil companies, not to mention Canadian governments are out a lot of money they otherwise would have made. It is an unstable situation, and one wonders what will happen in the interim to rationalize the situation. Odds are, given the money involved, something will happen.

and go wherever it has to go to make money.

;) You really hit the nail! If I only could get my wife to accept this everything would be fine.


re: Alberta debt and pipelines, etc.

As you mentioned up top, the problem is one of spending and not revenues as per Alta debt. The Govt. spends money like an overpaid oil worker which is much of the constituency. I know so many pulling down 200 k/yr dead broke because they try and substitute a decent life for consumption. It seems to have bled over into Govt. spending. "I make this much and work in camp I should __________ and fill in the blanks with sleds, giant houses, tropical trips, F-350s for groceries", etc. The Govt version, "we have all these revenues we don't need no stinkin sales tax, in fact!!! we can lower our taxes, pay more for every Govt service, etc etc". It is a shared mentality.

As for bailing them out with Northern Gateway I believe fervently that such a Fed imposition would create massive civil disobedience and a coalesce of forces never before seen in our country. The fact they are floating ideas of Churchill Manitoba, rail, new eastern headed pipelines etc. suggests that Harper understands what he faces. Despite what laws on the books might exist, imposition would be extinction for whoever might be rash enough to act on them.

Times get tough? Spending too much? Cut back like families and business need to. It is the future, anyway.


I don't buy the idea that the Alberta government is overspending. Alberta, like every other province faces rising costs for health care, education, etc. Oil development isn't just a free source of revenue -- it also creates a requirement for additional infrastructure spending. The problem I see is that there is no longer enough resource revenue to enable Alberta to have by far the lowest income tax and gas taxes in the country, and no provincial sales tax. Personal taxes are going to have to increase

If your spending is rising faster than GDP, you're overspending. Alberta is overspending.

If your expenditures exceed your revenues, you are overspending. Alberta's GDP is rising quite rapidly, but I think the government's budget is the main issue. GDP is somewhat secondary - although Alberta's GDP per capita is truly awesome. This means nothing if it doesn't end up in the government coffers, though.

That's a bit too simplistic. You gotta look at why revenues and spending are following the trajectory they are. You can have a spending spike due to unforeseen forces beyond your control, such as an economic shock, a natural disaster, a market plunge pushing your retirement plans underwater etc. You could also be suffering from a revenue dip for whatever reason, good or bad.

For instance Republicans routinely shout (concerning California state government) "spending is out of control", yet per capita expenditures have been dropping for years. Now I'm not familar with Alberta's finances. It does seem odd that in the midst of an epic expansion, they are having this problem.

The Alberta government is having financial problems precisely because its economy is expanding so fast and its population is growing so rapidly. It has new roads to the North to build, new schools to build, new hospitals to build, new everything to build, and at the same time its revenues are down about $6 billion because it is not getting full world price for its oil.

The Alberta government gets about 1/3 of its revenue from oil, and this is highly dependent on the price it gets for the oil produced in the province. This makes it somewhat different than California, which apparently doesn't even have a severance tax of any sort on oil - complements of clever manipulating of its (rather weird) political system by the oil companies. The oil companies haven't had as much success in doing so in Alberta because people are on to their tricks.

It has been pointed out that Alberta government revenues would be much more stable if they introduced a sales tax like all other provinces and almost all states have. However, that just wouldn't go over well with the voters in Alberta. Alberta has never had a sales tax, and the government would prefer to build new export pipelines rather than put new taxes on the voters.

I'm thinking more about the delta (change) in price brought about by US Keystone obstructionism. Had those projects gone ahead without delay, what is the estimate of the average price Canada would be getting? There are effects (which are real physical things, and there are effects (which are human emotional effects). They rarely are the same.

Well, if all the pipelines had been fast-tracked through and built in the US, Western Canadian Select (WCS) would currently be trading on the Gulf Coast at the same price as Louisiana Light Sweet (LLS) - $110 per barrel - less a discount of about $16/bbl for the quality difference, giving a price of about $94/bbl.

It currently is trading in Canada at about $64/bbl, giving a difference of $30/bbl. You could subtract another $5/bbl for transportation costs, meaning Canadians (companies and governments) are losing about $25/bbl due to a lack of pipelines to the Gulf Coast.

In a perfect world, Canadian companies would be processing all of it to syncrude and selling it everywhere on the international market at the same price as Brent - i.e. $114/bbl, or $50/bbl more than it currently gets. However, this is far from being a perfect world.

the Canadians wouldn't be making as much money as they are today.

With the "too cheap to meter" Fission based nuclear power, they will make even more.

Toshiba Corp. has been developing a small nuclear reactor for mining oil sands at the request of a firm engaged in such mining projects in Alberta Province, Canada, and aims to begin operating the reactor by 2020, it has been learned.

The producers aren't particularly suffering because they have been in this game for a long time, and expect to be in it for a lot longer. They are only looking at their margins, and don't really believe the forecasts. When their price is below forecast, they just cut their capital budget and start whittling away at expenses.

Governments tend to spend their money before they get it. When it doesn't come in, they panic. Oil companies, at least the ones who have been around a long time and expect to be around a lot longer, tend not to take anything for granted. They only spend money they can afford to lose. If they lose it, oh well, They might have better luck next time. But, they'll never assume that.

Don't bet money you can't afford to lose is the first rule in the oil patch. (The second rule is don't bet your own money if you can bet someone else's.)

Having less money coming in than they would with early Keystone production, I assume most of this money not being spent would have gone to capacity inreases. If so the enivironmentalists have succeeded in delaying the expansion.

eos - And there's the theoretical question: has the lack of a border crossing permit significantly delayed development of the oil sands? As pointed out earlier in 2012 Canada exported more oil than ever before to the US. If the border crossing had been built in Jan 2012 would they have exported more? I don't know because even without the pipeline crossing they exported a lot of oil to us. It might have lowered the transport cost enough to boost the economics on some projects that were on the fence. OTOH were the Cushing bottleneck and the lower prices it caused a bigger detriment of exporting more oil than the lack of Keystone?

I'm sure some folks will have an opinion one way or the other. But me...I know what I don't know. And I don't know a solid answer to that question.

My assumption, if they have more money due to current and recent higher price, they will spend more on increasing production. If they are future, rather than past looking, it is the expectation of price that matters here, but that is also affected by pipeline capacity.

eos - "...but that is also affected by pipeline capacity." And that's the big game changer going on right now: not the Keystone border crossing but the increased capacity of Cushing to the Gulf Coast. Wasn’t as much incentive to build the K border crossing if the oil was going to get hung up in Cushing. But that dynamic is quickly changing. OTOH the new GC pipeline capacity is also a big incentive to expand rail et al transport...which had already been happening. Not only getting the oil south to the GC but also east as well as west. Again a question I don't think can be easily answered: if the alternative transport systems (such as rail) build out enough would they effectively compete with the price K can charge to transport oil through the border crossing? What about those thousands of rail cars that are today hauling oil across the border to depots just inside the US where the oil is dumped into existing pipelines? Pipelines that may have excess capacity that couldn't be used because of the Cushing bottleneck. A bottleneck that's in the process of disappearing.

Perhaps a lot more moving parts to the process than some realize.

Canadian oil sands producers are definitely putting their expansion plans on hold because of a lack of pipeline capacity. They are not going to spend a lot of money to put more oil into a transportation system that can't handle it. They will just sit back and collect their profits rather than spend money unnecessarily. This will result in a slower increase in Canadian oil production, but an increase none the less. That might be different from the rest of the world where drops in production are more likely.

North Dakota shale oil producers are in a similar situation because they are putting their oil into the same overloaded pipelines as Canadian companies, bordering on Canada as they do. The fact that they are expanding production regardless suggests that a serious financial bubble is developing in shale oil production, and a crash may be ahead.

The railroads are making a lot of of money due to the lack of pipelines, but they know that this is a temporary situation and when the pipelines get built, they will undercut the railroads on price. The railroads intend to make a lot of money in a few short years, and then scrap the tank cars when the pipelines get built.

I am enjoying this discussion. What I'd like to highlight is that ND and Oilsands production depends on price forecasts based largely on the effect of bottlenecks and higher transport costs. So higher production can, if nothing is done, severely lower the price of their oil. Once that price gets low enough, investment crashes.

No matter what its sponsors suggest, this is no ordinary pipeline. The tar-sands oil - essentially diluted bitumen - is more acidic than regular oil and contains more sediment and moves at higher pressures.

The real problem is that none of this is true. It's all rumor and innuendo with no facts in it. They made this stuff up out of hot air.

When producers ship bitumen, they typically blend 33% condensate and 67% bitumen (dilbit) or 50% syncrude and 50% bitumen (synbit), or some combination of the two blended with conventional oil (Western Canadian Select), and end up with a product that meets pipeline and refinery specs. This will typically be 21.5°API (min), 3.3% sulfur (max), and 0.5% BS&W content (max). It's basically the same gravity, the same viscosity, the same acidity and the same sediment content as for heavy, sour crude oil, which is pipelined all over the US. The pipeline pressure will be whatever the pipeline was designed for. They don't change the pressures for dilbit.

Sure, it would be nice to produce nothing but sweet, light West Texas Intermediate, but that's generally not what comes out of the ground these days, even in the US.

If you want to read more than you ever wanted to know about dilbit vs. conventional crude, see also: Comparison of the Corrosivity of Dilbit and Conventional Crude. If you're still having trouble getting to sleep I can come up with even more detailed papers.


That is about the size of it as far as I can see.

+1, Rockman, and this is why it's such a windmill tilt for green activists to have chosen this utterly silly target. Call me when McKibben gets arrested on behalf of public transportation and railroads.

The pipeline is appealing to activists because it puts Obama on the spot, in a way most other issues don't. He has to make a decision on a cross-border pipeline.

dovey – Actually I’m not sure he has to make a decision per se. He can continue to have his people delay they permit while they continue to “study” the situation for the next 4 years as they have for the last 2 years. Not that I think that will happen but if it does what difference would it make? While they’ve been “studying” the proposal for the border crossing leg of Keystone Canadian oil imports during 2012 reached an all-time high. Not only has “studying” the proposal not stopped the oil import the old infrastructure has been come more taxed (and thus greater potential environment calamities)as well as new transport systems, such as rail/trucking, have expanded. As the Cushing bottleneck is in the process of being eliminated the bottleneck will be transferred to the Canadian border. Given the assumption that eliminating the Cushing choke point will increase the price Canadian companies will get for their oil allows them to pay even more for alternate cross border transport systems so rail/truck transport would likely increase even more than it already has IMHO.

And let’s not forget that the expansion of the other segments of the Keystone p/l (which don't require fed approval) have never stopped. And lets not forget the expansion of other p/l systems (which also don't require fed approval) hasn't stopped either. In time if the only section never completed is just those few tens of miles crossing the border it’s easy for me to imagine alternate shipping methods filling the gap by the lack of the border crossing section of the line. We're not talking about hauling the oil thousands or even hundreds of miles. I suspect loading/unloading will take much more time than the actual crossing.

If that all comes about as I’ve outlines President Obama never has to allow the permit and thus makes the environmentalists while at the same time more Canadian oil flows into the US than ever before and thus the consumers are happy since they are not being denied the largest source of US imported oil.

IOW not a damn thing changes. LOL. Except the Canadians make more money and US oil producers may make less money. And maybe there’s an increased risk of a major oil spill via the old p/l infrastructure currently crossing the border as well as derailments and tanker truck accidents. But there's a 50/50 chance it will happen on the Canadian side so it won't matter to us. LOL. Considering what has happened in the last two years President Obama delaying a decision has worked well for him. Even the criticism from the right has proven harmless given the surge in Canadian oil imports to the US.

Meanwhile, the coal trains move relentlessly west, to the East. Given all the information I have gleaned from your posts, I have mixed feelings, at best. It would have been nice to have a less nuanced windmill to tilt at. LOL. Maybe the railroads will lead the fight against the pipeline. I believe Buffett is profiting from this.

I think Mckibben's doing alright. He's definitely doing his part. Maybe YOU should go get arrested on behalf mass transit, eh?

Rumpus: When you wrote the article for Rolling Stone, Justin Bieber was on the cover, and I was thinking to myself, If Justin Bieber just became a climate hawk…just one Tweet, from the Biebs, and we’d be in such a better place right now.

McKibben: It’s really funny, I got a call from the editor of Rolling Stone a few days later saying, “It’s weird, but your piece has ten times more ‘Likes’ on Facebook than the Justin Bieber piece.” It became the most shared piece Rolling Stone’s ever had.

(Later, on Geoengineering..)

... "The real thing to me, though, is it just seems so depressing. I used to run a homeless shelter at my church, and I knew lots of addicts. All kinds. And addicts—you must know some—have their own peculiar logic about the world. Everything is going to work out through some deus ex machina. Anything that doesn’t involve them coming to terms with the fact that they’re completely f****d up and need to do something different. This strikes me as geoengineering. It’s like, “I’m going to keep driving my Escalade because someone’s going to shoot a huge cloud of sulfur into the sky and cover my tracks.” Well, okay, but that’s pretty depressing."


I'd love to get arrested on behalf of public transportation. Alas, mis-leaders like McKibben prefer gestures to on-target organizing. Interesting, meanwhile, that you equate fame and success in movement building.

As Rockman says, the tar sands are coming, pipeline or no. McKibben's shenanigans disguise that crucial point.

"I'd love to.."

And you disdain 'Gestures' over real organizing? Right.

Keep throwing your slippers, I think it's starting to have an effect.

Michael, I see three dots to connect which lead me to believe that the tar sand industry is a dead man walkin´. I pity the good folks of Alberta who have bet the farm on their bubble continuing to expand.

1. The rapid decline in VMT as discussed in threads above. This will continue even if the economy improves. Young folks these days do not crave cars and the growing throngs of old folks drive less.
2. Federally mandated laws to improve fuel efficiency for new vehicles in the USA. The current target is about 54 MPG (US gallons) by the year 2025. This target will be implemented across the globe, and likely be met much earlier as plug-in hybrids are the only practical solution for most models, and these will use effectively much less fuel. See for example real-world stats for the Chevy Volt at www.voltstats.net .
3. The rapid development of electric cars, and the 18% fall in sticker price for the Nissan Leaf announced a few weeks ago as a new Nissan plant opened in Tennessee to produce the Leaf. This is the tipping point for uptake of electric cars.

These three dots will reduce fuel consumption in N. America by 2-4 million barrels/day by 2020 compared to today. There simply will not be a viable market for hugely expensive oil of any kind at that time, and there will be a world of pain for that industry coming soon. McKibben will be gloating from ear to ear.

From the Mckibben interview Bob posted...

I don’t think it can financially cripple Exxon, I do think it can do for the fossil fuel industry what people did with other tactics to the tobacco industry: take away their veneer of respectability. Make people understand that they are a rogue industry, that they’re outlaws against the laws of the—not the laws of the state; they write those—but outlaws against the laws of physics. And that’s the debate we have to be having. Divestment is a great way to make sure we have that debate. So two weeks ago, three quarters of the Harvard student body voted to demand divestment.

72% of Harvard Students Vote to Divest from Fossil Fuels

the Harvard College Undergraduate Council announced that the student body had voted 72% in favor of Harvard University divesting its $30.7 billion endowment from fossil fuels

Apartheid divestment campaigns at universities were pretty successful. For students then, it was a moral cause!

For students today, when it comes to divestment from Fossil Fuel corporations it's not just a moral cause, their future well-being depends on the their campaign being successful. This time they have a great deal of "skin in the game".

Where are you putting your retirement savings?

As a resident of apartheid South Africa, my guess is the divestments, sports boycotts, academic boycotts, commercial boycotts (no McDonald's before 1994!), etc. did maybe 5% compared to internal forces to bring about majority rule.

You can use moral suasion against tobacco and fur because people don't need them (except maybe Inuit). But people need oil. So the oil companies will always have the upper hand.

But when you start to point out the geological costs, even that balance is not permanently weighted against us.. and then there's EROEI, also blandly trickling from the credit side to the debit..

Tick, tick, tick..

One could even make an environmentalist argument FOR the pipeline.
1) Without a pipeline the oil will largely being shipped by truck & rail. Due to road accidents and train de-railments, a spill is much more likely with those methods.
2) If you ship the oil by truck & rail, that involved burning oil to transport the oil. A pipeline can operate with electric pumps and will be a much more energy efficient method of transporting the oil.
3) The stranded oil has its price slashed down to nearly half the world oil rates in order to help move it. Such low prices will encourage inefficient usage of the oil. With the pipeline, the oil will fetch prices closer to the $100/barrel level and thus it won't be wasted as much.

Are those arguments persuasive? I don't know. But I just don't think fighting the pipeline is going to work.

As most TOD ers know (not all I am afraid but the vast majority):

To stop Oil Addiction you need to stop AUTO Addiction which accounts for 70% of US
oil usage!

Of course this threatens a much wider set of interests than just the Oil Barons, including the very Auto Companies our tax dollars bailed out for virtually nothing in return for realistically dealing with Peak Oil and Climate Change. A few more miles in gas mileage which will take years to take effect when people now hold used cars for 7 years is a pittance.

Like the foolish short term profits of SUVs and gas guzzlers in the past, the US Auto monoliths are again asleep at the switch to Green Transit. They should be researching and investing in Green Transit buses, shuttles, trolleys and god knows even LightRail and Rail equipment! You want EV's? Make them Green Transit vehicles not 2 ton personal cars for
1 200 pound person...

"thru a new p/l built to current specs or thru the old infrastructure."

It boggles the mind that people can't get their head around the notion that we can engineer a pipeline to meet the requirements for this type of crude. Rather than fighting the pipeline environmentalists should be insisting that it is built to the highest standards, that there are severe financial penalties for spilling a single barrel of crude and those should rise exponentially with the amount of crude spilled.

But then again it was never about the pipeline- environmentalists just hate the idea of the "dirty oil" and think nothing about driving to rally protesting the use of the "dirty crude". It seems to me that the right are not the only ones who are delusional.

crazy - There's a list of reasons to not develop the Canadian oil sands. Some I might agree with and others I wouldn't. But as you say they are wasting their powder on an issue that isn't an issue. Besides wasting the effort it gives the other side an easy angle of attack on the environmentalists.

The purpose of the pipeline is to move tar sands oil, is it not. One could be aware of transportation alternatives and still be against spending millions of dollars on something which has a purpose one doesn't approve of. But yeh, ultimately, one has to take the position that the import of the oil should be stopped regardless of the transportation alternative chosen. I don't think the angle of attack matters too much since those concerned about the carbon intensity of different kinds of oil have been losing and will continue to lose regardless. The need to consume is just too overwhelming. I think there are alternatives but can't see that we have enough time to implement them to avoid le deluge.

Of course it is not about the pipeline, it is about the carbon intensity of the oil from the tar sands. It is about taking a stand somewhere and getting politicians to support that stand. It is about the fact that development of tar sands just hastens the day of reckoning, the day when the increase in temperatures will be unbearable and irreversibly destructive.

As far as being delusional, I think that is going a bit far. I frankly don't know to what extent McKibben, for example, realizes that this oil will get to market one way or another. I think he probably realizes that the fight against the pipeline is symbolic and he may have come to realize the realities of transport after he had invested too much in the issue.

Further, there is always the argument on many issues, that we don't do or use something up then someone else will. For example, if we cut our coal usage, which we are, then the coal will just be exported to China, which it is. But then one has an obligation to fight exports as well and ultimtely the production of coal.

People take stands all the time when they know it is fruitless or they know that the problem is so overwhelming that they might as well just shut up and give up. But some of the issues are ultimately considered moral issues. If it is wrong to do something, you take a stand regardless of he consequences. I think it is only delusional if you believe something which is clearly untrue based upon the availability or knowledge of contradictory information.

As far as Obama, if he actually understands that the oil will flow to our country regardless, he should take a stand to not be a party to enabling the consumption of the tar sands oil.

No doubt there are people who are against the pipeline who drive their SUVs to the rally. On the other hand, there are those who walk, bike, or take the bus. There is always hypocrisy everywhere but that is not a guide to what position one should take on an issue.

Partly, it is often the case, that whatever action taken will at best only solve a small piece of the problem. But, you got to start somewhere, and hope others follow up to attack other pieces. It is clear there is significant oposition within BC and the native nations (or whatever they are called), to make alternate routes be a headache for whomever has to get the approvals done, and projects started. So the landlocked nature of the tarsands, is hurting them, and won't be as easy to fix as earlier assumed.

ts - Well said

I think that last comment shows about the size of it.

It's entirely symbolic. The problem is real, and oil is at the root of the problem, but it is very much like the war on drugs in one way - going after suppliers is not going to change the reality of addiction. You can herbicide bomb Columbia and Bolivia will make up for it. You can send Mexico guns and helicopters but you can still buy coke in every city of the US. You can shut down the pipeline, but then it will come in by truck.

And a lot of the time, drugs are filling real needs for people. Need to work hard for long hours? Getting sleepy? How about some coke! Need to study? How about some Adderall! Need to get out of poverty? How about some coal!

The head of the World Bank is basically pushing drugs in this case. The drugs fill a real need: poor countries need cheap energy. And sometimes these projects can make a big difference - for example, the cookstoves issue pretty much disappears if you replace all those smokey indoor cookstoves with electicity or natural gas. Chinese city dwellers don't have to worry anymore about dying young from cooking over three stone fires. Now they have to worry about dying young from pollution outdoors - overall, they might be better off. Just like drugs, fossil fuels create their own problems. Sometimes they are manageable, sometimes not. There are lots of functional addicts out there.

The World Bank is not concerned with fixing the problems of modern industrial society, it is concerned with getting people to join modern industrial society. To do that, you have to hook them up.

Hydrogeologist Questions Reservoir Releases and Blasting Rock to Deepen the Mississippi for Barge Traffic

... “We’ve got to stop subsidizing anachronistic industries like the barge industry,” he says. “The barge companies would be out of business in a hot minute,” Criss says, “if they had to maintain their own river channel and pay to use locks.”

Several recent news stories have quoted shippers saying they cannot afford the cost of shipping by rail rather than by barge. “They’re right,” says Criss, “but only because the economics have been skewed by public policy: Railroads pay to maintain their own track.”

We can pretend barges can move tonnage cheaper, but the system they use is subsidized by the taxpayer and costs us dearly,” Criss says.

...Criss, having battled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for years, no longer trusts their calculations (see floodplain diagram). He is not alone in this. In 2000, a senate subcommittee accused the corps of “skewing data to justify higher spending for water projects,” according to The New York Times.

In 2005, again according to The New York Times, the National Academy of Sciences found that “the agency routinely inflated the economic payoffs of its construction projects to justify steadily greater budget outlays, while underestimating the environmental damage of those projects.”

“River engineering hasn’t controlled the river,” Criss says. “It’s created a monster; the river is more and more unpredictable each year.”

River engineering hasn’t controlled the river,” Criss says. “It’s created a monster; the river is more and more unpredictable each year.

Perhaps if they didn't have to serve so many needs, and let the river be like a river... But I'm not sure if barges are "anachronistic" exactly. There is a bit of contradiction in what he's calling for - he's saying we should go back to letting the river be river-like, but saying the technology that dominated when the river was like that is somehow unsuited to the river. I seem to remember that Mark Twain wrote quite a bit about using the Mississippi as a travel and trade corridor. Anachronistic, perhaps, but that's before most of the modern river engineering. If we didn't have the dams and reservoirs on all the tributaries, and the river flowed a more natural course, we might see more barge traffic!

There is a place for engineering, but it's a delicate balance as it inevitably alters the environment. Does it do more harm than good? Would it be better off to adapt to existing conditions? These questions often go unasked.

Barge traffic certainly has a future... for example this new canal project in France:


Rivers realy are more complex and dynamic than some people tend to believe. They are not a pipe system, they are living beeings. One can not just walk into Mord... poke a stick into it, and expect it not to do something unexpected. It will. The river is basicly a flow of energy. If you do something at one spot, there will be a tilt in the balance, and something else will happen somewhere else. And a big system like the Mississippi, it just is not for poking around with. And there has been a lot of poking around.

“River engineering hasn’t controlled the river,” Criss says. “It’s created a monster; the river is more and more unpredictable each year.”

I think this chart shows an effect of climate change and not the failure of dams and reservoirs to control the water flow through mismanagement. Snow has been melting and rain falling faster overwhelming the system.

I would be cautious on that. It may be a sign of destruction of wetlands, which leads to a lack of places to suck up the water. Climate change is just ONE major impact we've had on the environment.

You would have to control for more and faster runoff due to land use changes like paving roads and replacing virgin vegetation with farm land, roofs and tarmac, together with piping and canalizing storm water, and removing river obstructions upstream. All these factors would increase flood peaks.

I recently listened to this Radio Ecoshock show with Robert Hirsh (no, not that one), a USGS flood expert. Regulars here should know I'm as far from a CC denier as one can get, but this guy does offer some interesting thoughts on watershed dynamics that are not related to CC: http://www.ecoshock.org/audio-on-demand/climate-change-2013/

“We’ve got to stop subsidizing anachronistic industries like the barge industry,”

Is that because the wheel is newer than a boat?

“We can pretend barges can move tonnage cheaper, but the system they use is subsidized by the taxpayer and costs us dearly,”

VS the money spent to keep oil cheap?

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for years, no longer trusts their calculations

While that may be true (the corps is fudging data) - can Mr. Crips get get product from producers to export via a chheaper method? Like, shall we say, shipping out of Chicago via the Great Lakes?

We’ve got to stop subsidizing anachronistic industries like the barge industry
Inland navigation uses low amounts of energy. Inland navigation is what made Europe's cities great. Inland navigation will play its crucial role in supporting societies around the world in the next centuries, like it has allways done throughout all known history. Inland navigation is my job. Please don't touch it!

One of the great industrial/economic projects pre-oil, was the Erie canal. Didn't China build a massive canal a couple of thousand years ago. What was old, "canals as strategic economic assets" might become new again, as the energy-is-cheap-brute-force alternatives get too pricey.

I took a motorbike trip along the Rhine back in the '70s. I was amazed how much river traffic there was.

Coming from a country where rivers dry to a trickle each year, I can say that countries with big, navigable rivers don't know how lucky they are.

Smart Organizations should also Be Stupid, According to New Theory

Critical reflection and shrewdness can help companies to avoid crises, but sometimes good old-fashioned stupidity can serve an important function in raising the efficiency of an organization, claims Mats Alvesson, Professor of Organisation Studies at the School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Sweden, in a new theory of 'functional stupidity' that has been published in the Journal of Management Studies.

"We see functional stupidity as the absence of critical reflection. It is a state of unity and consensus that makes employees in an organisation avoid questioning decisions, structures and visions", says Mats Alvesson. "Paradoxically, this sometimes helps to raise productivity in an organisation."

"It is a double-edged sword. It is functional because it has some advantages and makes people concentrate enthusiastically on the task in hand. It is stupid because risks and problems may arise when people do not pose critical questions about what they and the organisation are doing."

"Short-term use of intellectual resources, consensus and an absence of disquieting questions about decisions and structures may oil the organisational machinery and contribute to harmony and increased productivity in a company.


Wha do dat meen?

"We are going hell bent in that direction. That direction may lead us off a cliff, or into a brick wall, but we are going to get there FAST!"

Basically it's saying sometimes the stupid win. It's neglecting when then company goes bankrupt.

Heh, I linked to this from another source 2 DB back.

"Functional stupidity is prominent in economies that are dominated by persuasion using images and symbolic manipulation. It is preferable that people have an enthusiastic belief in an activity which may not necessarily fulfill a need.

Like this?


Actually, inasmuch as even those "non-stupid" by these criteria are for the most part sociopathically unwise, and willing to sacrifice the future for a more pleasant Now, "functional stupidity" in the masses may be more important to achieving rational ends than education & enlightenment. Because there's at least a possibility they'll be stampeded in a useful direction, while the odds of a majority intentionally voting for immediate self-deprivation are nil.

I'd be the first to agree it's a shame.

Because there's at least a possibility they'll be stampeded in a useful direction,

Point taken.

A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week. -- Gen. Patton

But a stupid plan is always a stupid plan.

I think Functional Stupidity means "Just do it the way the boss says, unless it's obviously stupid, in which case speak up."

That way you don't faff about discussing niggling details that have little impact on the final outcome.

Link up top: OPEC Sees Oil Markets Well Supplied, No Price Collapse in 2013

Peak oil will not come in the near future, El-Badri said, referring to the theory than eventually a point in time will arrive when total world production will start to decline from the highest level it will ever reach.

“We appear to have moved on from the peak oil debate the industry was having only a few years ago,” he said. “Peak oil will come one day but not for the foreseeable future.”

I wonder why the OPEC Secretary-General brought up peak oil? Does he have something on his mind? At any rate according to just about everyone peak oil is decades down the road.

I received the below chart from a company called Wall Street Revelator. I cut it out and scanned it into my computer. Their figures are in Billion Barrels per Year. One billion barrels per year comes to about 2.74 million barrels per day so you can do the math.

CitiPrediction photo CitiPrediction_zps6280b881.jpg

So according to their "author extrapolation" in 2030 Mexico will be producing almost 7 mb/d, Canada will be producing 11 mb/d, Russia will be producing almost 13 mb/d, Saudi Arabia will be producing 16 mb/d and the US of A will be producing a whopping 19 million barrels per day.

Peak oil? Goodness, if these guys know what they are talking about then peak oil is many decades into the future. Of course that is assuming they do know what they are talking about. ;-)

Edit: I had to post this from "The Wall Street Revelator", bold mine, link above:

Nothing written here is an invitation to buy or sell any particular security; at most, Andrew and Lynn are handing out educated guesses as to what the markets and particular stocks could do. As Andrew is fond of saying, "the markets always find a new way to make a fool out of you," and "while everyone else is getting 80 degrees and clear skies, you could be getting the thunderstorm."

Ron P.

'Educated guesses', that's about as generous-minded a self-description as their math.. .. their decision to have their extrapolations based on the angle of attack from only the most recent year, and that their 'Possible?' errors won't even come due until 2020.

Sounds like those Viagra emails really do work on some dudes!


This medicine man art was mentioned indirectly in Seraph's thingy up-thread "Smart Organizations should also Be Stupid, According to New Theory" ...

It is a new theory doncha know.

What a weird graph. Do they really think those earlier production numbers don't just go up smoothly because those places don't want money? Or do they really think fracking is brand-new and will be applied everywhere and magically boost production everywhere (even in places where it is not appropriate)?

BTW, didn't Citi come out with this cornucopian stuff a couple months ago and the price of oil has gone up by $10/barrel since then? Clearly the oil traders are not buying this tale of increased production everywhere.

They are professional deceivers. They make stuff up and don't feel an ounce of shame in doing so.

I really like this site, but I am amazed at the naive, institution-trusting attitudes that continue so strongly here. Maybe it's a generational thing, maybe it's because so many who read and post here are themselves empirical and trustworthy in their dealings, so they cannot imagine deception because they've never practiced it themselves.

THEY ARE MAKING IT UP. Just take a deep breath and admit it. It's not that hard, and you will feel better and more aware after you do so.

I really like this site, but I am amazed at the naive, institution-trusting attitudes that continue so strongly here...


Geeze, Energyblues WE ALL KNOW THAT! Do you think I posted that graph because I thought it was something that really might really happen? Or that Speculawyer's comment implied that he believed it? Good God man, get a clue.

But the guy that made that graph really believed it is something that might happen. Not that he really expected things to go up in a straight line, but he really believed all those countries might really increase their production that much. That is the alarming thing about that graph. There are really people out there that believe that is possible. And these folks seem to be in the majority. That is the astonishing thing that should shock us all, not the comments you read here.

Ron P.

Well heck, I'm going to wade in here.

There really are people who still believe what they see and hear on the TV and in the newspapers. And there really are people who still believe what politicians say.

And there are people who believe it when their buddies say they're going to quit smoking, drinking, eating bad food, and start exercising.

And there are people believe themselves when they say to themselves that next time things will be different; they will stand up to their boss, their wife, the idiot next door.

Sensing a theme here? Hint: People make sh*t up all the time. And it is believed.

Hey, I think that is exactly what I said. And it needs to be understood that the people who just make it up believe it also. One cannot know the future. So they make up good things happening in the future, and they believe it.

But there is a serious flaw in this system. People realize that they cannot know everything so they rely on experts to tell them what they need to know. Of course there are experts on both sides of the fence. So people believe the expert that tells them what they desire to believe.

Ron P.

I am no expert,but I have seen hundreds if not thousands of oil production diagrams, and never, not once, have I seen a stright historical production line. Never. Is this gonna change in the future?

Yeah, Jedi, they passed a law. It's part of the Homeland Security Public Perception Maintenance Initiative, better known on Capitol Hill as The Baffle 'em With Bulls*** Compromise. It's one law that really seems to be working :-0

They'll just run all numbers through the BLS. "Seasonal adjustments" can smooth out any unfortunate dips. And if the numbers still don't work out, they can make up a new category of "people who no longer want to buy oil" and add their projected demand on top of the production figures to make it work.

Some interesting comments by a Saudi prince, apparently from the the "Math-Free" zone in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia to Sustain Crude Exports Through 2030, Prince Says:

The kingdom will be able to keep exports at the current level until at least 2030 without adding new capacity, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said today by phone from Riyadh. The nation’s crude production capacity is 12.5 million barrels a day, he said.

“We will maintain our current oil exports levels for the next twenty years and beyond despite the rise in demand,” the minister said. “Those who are forecasting the kingdom to turn into an oil importer are ignorant bordering idiocy.”

Saudi Arabia is working to improve energy efficiency to ensure availability of crude for export, Abdulaziz said. The kingdom produced 9.57 million barrels of crude a day in December, according to Bloomberg estimates.

The country’s total consumption of crude and other types of oil liquids will almost double in 17 years to slightly exceed 8 million barrels a day, Abdulaziz said*. That includes 4 million barrels a day of crude and petroleum products and 4.2 million barrels of natural gas liquids, he said.

The 8.2 mbpd consumption level in 2030 would be pretty close to an extrapolation of the 2005 to 2011 rate of increase in Saudi consumption (9.4 mbpd).   In 2011, they produced 11.2 mbpd (total petroleum liquids, BP) and consumed 2.9 mbpd, resulting in net exports of 8.3 mbpd (versus 9.1 mbpd in 2005).   The prince is saying that they don't have to increase production in order to maintain exports, even though he is projecting consumption of 8.2 mbpd in 2030.   So, I guess he is asserting that 11.2 - 8.2 = 8.3 mbpd.

Recent Saudi production & net export data (BP, total petroleum liquids):

2002:  8.9 & 7.2

2003:  10.1 & 8.3

2004:  10.6 & 8.7

2005:  11.0 & 9.1

2006:  10.8 & 8.7

2007:  10.4 & 8.3

2008:  10.8 & 8.4

2009:  9.8 & 7.3

2010:  10.0 & 7.2

2011:  11.2 & 8.3

*I suppose it's possible that the prince was misquoted here. The efficiency comment and the 8.2 mbpd projection in 2030 seem contradictory, but Saudi Arabia is a strange place, and the comment in bold speaks for itself. Of course, most people, and most government officials, seem to live in "Math Free" zones these days.

What the prince is saying is: "We will never export more oil than we are exporting right now." Or to put it another way: Saudi Arabia has reached peak oil exports. Of course we already knew that but now they have admitted such.

This should shock the oil importing world. But it likely will be completely overlooked. Shale oil from the US will assure cornucopians around the world world that peak oil is decades in the future.

Ron P.

westexas.... according to the IEA, Saudi Arabia actually increased their 2012 crude oil consumption more in percerntage terms than either China or India:

It is amazing that Saudi Arabia is now the sixth largest oil consumer in the world

So, I guess he is asserting that 11.2 - 8.2 = 8.3 mbpd.

Well if a - b = c

Then to put it another way 11.2 = 16.5.

Either poor Al-Khwarizmi must be twisting and turning in his grave or those numbers are variables... >;-)

Thanks for posting this. I read it in my Google News feed and came over here to see if it had been posted and to post if it had not. Pretty stunning statement by the guy...

Maybe this is a signal that they are no longer going to subsidize local gasoline prices and that they will let them start rising toward market prices?

That is the only way I can see them getting a handle on the rising consumption.

Maybe this is a signal that they are no longer going to subsidize local gasoline prices and that they will let them start rising toward market prices?

speculawyer, probably not likely due to the Arab Spring concerns.

Best hopes for eliminating fuel subsidies to reduce demand.

Oh I agree that placating the people is of primary importance. But giving away cheap oil that is used inefficiently is probably not a good way of doing it. Selling that oil on world markets and then giving people money that they can spend on whatever they want is probably more effective.

The kingdom will be able to keep exports at the current level until at least 2030 without adding new capacity, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said today by phone from Riyadh. The nation’s crude production capacity is 12.5 million barrels a day, he said.

“We will maintain our current oil exports levels for the next twenty years and beyond despite the rise in demand,” the minister said. “Those who are forecasting the kingdom to turn into an oil importer are ignorant bordering idiocy.”

I suspect this is a cultural thing, and we are taking his words too literally. What he really means is "We hope that in the future we will be able to export the same amount of oil as we do now, despite rising domestic demand."

It is to be understood that this is what Saudi Arabia would like to do, even though it is probably physically impossible. The spirit is willing, but the wells are depleted, sort of thing.

In Learning to Think Like an Arab Muslim: A Short Guide to Understanding the Arab Mentality, Marine officer Edward V. Badolato says:

Orators are prone to be carried away in verbal exaggeration when speaking before an audience. This exaggeration is called mubalagha in Arabic, but it is not considered to be a derogatory term by the Arabs. Rather it is considered to be an admirable capacity for oratorical eloquence. A key point in understanding Arab hyperbole is that their mentality finds nothing wrong with eloquent exaggeration because they feel that words really shouldn’t be taken at all times at their face value.
Arab scholar, Dr. Edward Shouby: "Arabs are forced to over-assert and exaggerate in almost all types of communications, as otherwise they stand a good chance of being gravely misunderstood. If an Arab says exactly what he means without the expected exaggeration, other Arabs may think that he means the opposite. This fact leads to misunderstandings on the part of non-Arabs who do not realize that the Arab is merely following a linguistic tradition."

Shouby’s comments emphasize the important concept that the average Arab uses exaggeration and overemphasis without even being aware that he is doing it. It is very difficult for an Arab to make a simple statement of fact. For this reason it usually pays to be cautious about focusing on exact translations of Arabic statements
There is also a bit of wish fulfillment in Arab exaggeration. They at times can have such a strong desire for an event to take place that they make a statement that confuses the desired action with an accomplished fact. The general vagueness of thought and ambiguous structure of the Arabic language itself also contributes to this tendency to exaggerate and substitute words for action.

Good point, and Ron has also mentioned this aspect of Arab culture.

In any case, in my opinion most of us, including the Saudis, are somewhere between denial and disbelief regarding what I call "Net Export Math." It's just a little unusual to see the denial stated in somewhat quantitative terms.

Yes Aardvark, as Jeff states I have brought up this subject not once but several times in the seven years I have been on this list. I have been called every name in the book, even a racist, for doing so. It is extremely difficult for Westerners to understand this aspect of Arab culture. But I spent 5 years in Saudi Arabia and this was one of the things drummed into us during our orientation before we left the states.

Ron P.

I have been called every name in the book, even a racist, for doing so.

Sorry to hear that, cultural misconceptions are very common and frequent source of friction, the more they are dispelled the better it is.

I'll just add a few from my side. Next time you hear an Indian say 5 minutes what he/she really means is 20 minutes, similarly if you invite someone to tea and they say that their kid is sick it means that they don't want to come, their kid is fine. It's considered rude to refuse anyone on their face here.

Oh, I see. Thanks for that. So you mean they are just like our politicians. Things like, "we are the greatest country in the world". Or, "we have the best health care system in the world."

No, that is not what he means at all. Your examples of political exaggeration general, not specific. An example of a specific exaggeration would be: "We will maintain our current oil exports levels for the next twenty years and beyond despite the rise in demand." Or: We have 264 billion barrels of proven oil reserves."

Ron P.

Yes, I was exaggerating. However, our politicians are very specific with their lying as well. In general, however, they are probably a bit more subtle. Not telling the whole truth is also lying. Further, almost all of us lie every day in the sense that we edit our comments and responses to others. And then there are white lies and lies to spare other people's feelings. I expect politicians to lie simply because the vast majority of them could not be reelected if they told the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

FWIW, I do not really know whether the subject in question was actually lying. Perhaps his minions are lying to him. I was in the military and we were flat out told to lie to our superiors. When I questioned this practice, I was told I was naive, that I didn't understand how Washington works. Well, I didn't. I was 19 years old.

Later when I became more sophisticated, I came to realize that higher ups did not want to hear the truth and therefore we were doing them a favor.

*I suppose it's possible that the prince was misquoted here.

Yes, perhaps he meant:

We will maintain our current oil export REVENUE levels for the next twenty years and beyond despite the rise in demand

and thus predicting that the price of oil will go up over the years so as for SA to maintain or even grow oil export income as barrels of exported oil drop????

Good News from the Pacific Northwest

Every once in a while I like to provide a little positive news just to mix things up. Here are a few recent Seattle stories covering buildings and transportation.


World's Greenest Office Building Opens in Seattle

With 100% of its energy provided on-site by solar panels and its water harvested entirely from rain, a new six-story building in Seattle is being hailed as the greenest commercial structure in the world.

Stone 34 -- Deep Green

Stone34 is designed to use 75% less energy than typical buildings and capture nearly all water uses on-site. The building will be equipped with technology to inform occupants of their level of energy consumption – exhibiting that human awareness is the most effective way to reduce energy use.

New Seattle apartment building catering to cyclists

Via 6 is designed for the cyclist, with 250 parking stalls just for bikes. There are 434 underground parking spots for cars, but there are 654 apartments.

"Our hope is that we can get people out of cars, get them on the streets, using mass transit and using bikes and create a more vibrant neighborhood and vibrant city," Rosauer said.

Residents will have direct access to Velo Bike, which is relocating from Capitol Hill to the first floor retail space here. And those who don't live here, can join the building's bike club, giving them access to a locker room and lock up for their bikes.

Greenfire Campus

The vision of the Greenfire Campus is to create a community that demonstrates both sensible and social sustainability. The project aims to achieve a practical balance between green construction and cost-effectiveness. It's like balancing a checkbook – every sustainable choice has to make financial sense.


Sound Transit breaks ground on Northgate Link light rail extension

"Expanding rail transit in Seattle is critical to our future. It gives people a better choice for getting around town. It will help us move away from our dependency on oil. And it creates opportunities to build the kind of vibrant communities that make city living so special," said Sound Transit Board Member and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. "Today's groundbreaking is the latest milestone in an effort to expand transit that is made possible by strong and successful relationships with regional partners. I look forward to continuing to work to expand transit in Seattle."

New streetcar to remake First Hill

There will be fewer lanes for car traffic and a loss of parking. On the other hand, the line will mean more-frequent transit, and a huge gain for bicyclists. Along much of the route, the streetcar will share a traffic lane with cars, as in many cities.

Seattle proposes bus lane to fight RapidRide clogs in Belltown

In addition to aiding RapidRide, the city says Metro routes 1, 2, 13, 29, 24, 33, 15E, 17E and 18E would benefit — altogether, an estimated 25,600 riders a day pass through the area, said city spokesman Rick Sheridan. And a bike lane would be striped eastbound. A total of 24 on-street parking slots would be removed.

Car2Go comes to Seattle

A car-sharing venture called Car2Go has arrived in Seattle, deploying 330 miniature, blue-and-white Smart Cars. Members can unlock any car along the street, drive across town from Greenwood to the Central Area, for instance, then drop it off curbside, until another user comes along. "Experience spontaneity on wheels," the website says.

Cycling becoming more popular in US cities (Most of this video was filmed blocks from my house!)

The US has always been known for a car culture that includes many people driving big petrol-guzzling vehicles. But in many places two wheels are now starting to replace four.

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports from Seattle.

Best Hopes for more positive developments.


As I have opined around here before, Seattle and San Francisco should be able to provide examples of how the US can move forward post peak. However I also pointed out that, during my visit to both cities in the summer of last year, I felt more like I was in Europe than in the US. They both felt very unlike other US cities I have visited.

Alan from the islands

Best hopes for long-term siesmic stability ;-/

Regarding Car2Go and "spontaneity on wheels"... assuming you rarely need a car and that's why you use this service, it would sure suck to go pick up a new piece of furniture and have somebody "spontaneously" drive the car off while you are inside buying it. You can make a reservation, but only 15 minutes in advance. Do you have to keep reserving it every couple minutes to make sure it waits for you?

I'm sure I'm making a bigger problem out of it than it is, because there are so few walking around with access. And when they're everywhere, scarcity won't be a concern either. But it seems like there's some rough middle ground to cross.

Always good to have the traditional fallback, I guess: a friend with a pickup. LOL

Do you have to keep reserving it every couple minutes to make sure it waits for you?

waterweasel, let us hope someone on TOD has used Car2go and can let us know how well it works for them.

Best hopes for car sharing.

The windows in the Bullitt Center are triple-pane and 2 inches thick. The larger windows weigh 468 pounds each. They are equipped with automatic shutters on both the interior and exterior.

Seattle’s Silver Bullitt: A New Office Building Goes Ultra-Green Time, June 20, 2012

The Curtain Wall System at the Bullitt Center

The Bullitt Centre:

natural light will account for 82 percent of all lighting, thanks to oversized windows and higher ceilings that help get light farther inside. And so will air, as the building’s electronic “brain” automatically opens and shuts the windows based on temperature needs, eliminating the need for air-conditioning units.

Bigger windows also mean more solar insolation.

The San Francisco Federal Building similarly has no aircon, relying on widows opening and closing. One wonders if history will repeat itself.

San Francisco’s Green Building Nightmare

workers seek to relieve the heat by opening windows, which not only sends papers flying, but, depending on their proximity to the opening, makes creating a stable temperature for all workers near impossible.

When I spoke with a Labor Department worker at the building (who noted that she is encountering the type of bad work conditions that her agency is supposed to enforce against), she confirmed what might have been an urban legend: that some employees must use umbrellas to keep the sun out of their cubicles.

The lack of internal climate controls has left some workers too cold and others too hot. A happy medium has proved elusive. And while the managers’ offices do have heat and air conditioning -- a two-tiered approach fitting in a building named for Bush -- the “green” design apparently has messed with the effectiveness of these systems, leaving these top staff as physically uncomfortable as the line workers. [my bold]

the building’s electronic “brain” automatically opens and shuts the windows based on temperature needs, eliminating the need for air-conditioning units.

I've been in several buildings like that, and they were generally pretty awful places to work. The excessive "natural" light levels made it impossible to read a computer monitor, and letting hot outside air into the building couldn't get heat levels down to tolerable levels on the sunny side.

Typically, they also put about twice as many people into the building as it was designed for, and since people generate quite a bit of heat themselves, the systems couldn't handle the load. Then, the "open area" concept combined with speaker phones and people holding meetings in the "open area" resulted in excessively high noise levels. The result was it sounded like a boiler factory - and heat levels were similar.

A truly classic case was a building in England I worked in for a month. It couldn't even handle English summers. When it got hot outside, the windows automatically opened and let in not only hot air but wasps. The wasps preferred the hot indoor conditions, so the staff went outside and sat on the lawn with their laptops, trying to get some work done - or more likely went to one of the nearby pubs and quaffed a few pints of fine English ale until things cooled down. The rather relaxed attitude of the Brits to working hours helped there.

I returned to North America, but the month after I left, they had unusually heavy rainfall in England, and the nearby river overflowed. Fortunately, the building was on a hill sitting high and dry, but unfortunately all the access roads were in the valley, and none of the employees could get to it. It was sitting in the middle of a lake.

I had to watch what I said about this, because the engineering company I was consulting for had designed their own building. They didn't appreciate snide comments about the competence of British engineers. Most Brits don't.

"When it got hot outside, the windows automatically opened and let in not only hot air but wasps."

They didn't put screens in the windows? The mind boggles.

Don't know if it has changed in the last few years but window screens, in the UK, are rare as hens teeth.


That is one thing that is very striking to Americans in the UK. No window screens. No one has ever been able to explain it to me. Maybe bugs are less of a problem there? Or the kind of windows they use are not amenable to screens (the swing out type, rather than the raise/lower type)?

I used to have vertical sash windows that would have been amenable to screens and swing out, but not rotating, windows could have internal ones. The simplest explanation is that they just don't have the annoying bugs that I need screens here for.


(with 2 big bug bites on the backs of my legs from being outside)

Well, I did notice that. None of the Brits had screens in their windows, but when I pointed out to them that if they put them in, they could open their windows any time they wanted without letting bugs into their buildings - they recoiled in horror. It was something that was - just not done in Britain. It was just too... foreign, I guess.

Ditto the idea of installing triple-glazed windows and super insulation so they would not freeze their butts off in winter and their heating costs would be much more reasonable.

There were a lot of things like that. The Brits seemed to go out of their way to make their lives much more miserable than they really needed to be. England has a very mild climate - with a little attention to detail they could all live very comfortable lives there, rather than just keeping a stiff upper lip (stiffened by the cold, wet drafts blowing through the single-glazed windows and non-vapor barriered walls).

Many years ago, my father's department moved to a new office building. Lots of glass and, to save money, opening windows with no air conditioning. When it got stifling, the windows were opened leading to liberal re-distribution of documents. As the was the department responsible for maps and town planning, full of large maps and forms, I will leave imagining the chaos to you. The retrofit of air conditioning was very much more costly then what had been originally saved.


I could not find a sufficiently detailed description of the Bullitt Center to be confident enough to properly critique it. However, I do not see any thermal mass incorporated into the building to store the heat from sunlight. It could have a central shaft where warm air could be sent and vented. If the ceilings are sloped appropriately, that could be done passively. The photovoltaic panels appear to be mounted above the roof in a plane with air flow beneath completely shading the roof and overhanging enough to shade at least two of the walls (at least the upper floor). The roof will not get hot in the summer sunlight. One of the walls is beside another tall building allowing little direct sunlight on that wall. Because it looks simple to fit bug screens on the interior side of the windows, they probably dealt with bugs entering the building.

I wondered what they would do about wind blowing through the open windows. Maybe they expect paperless offices with everyone using notebook computers.

I wonder if the outer shutter will be closed all day and night during winter cold spells. Those windows can not be used as fire exits.

If the building only has stairs, how do they deal with handicapped access? Maybe there are no such regulations in Seattle or they got a waiver.

I was wondering how they addressed all the details.

From the Time article referenced upthread, it has "26 geothermal wells, each 400 ft. deep, to warm it up in the winter and help cool it down in the summer."

A few years ago I worked on the design for a green building in Seattle. It was basically a least-cost structure with a grab bag of fashionable LEEDS features tacked on. The two dumbest aspects in this case were a water garden swale surrounding the building, and a living roof over a low-bid membrane roof.

This site has a small stream flowing from NE to SW about 10 months of the year with wetlands right next door. The swale (which was immediately dubbed the swamp) would have produced clouds of mosquitos right around the area that was intended for a lunch patio. Also the lack of air conditioning and opening windows would have meant all occupants would have been constantly bitten.

There are two other buildings on the same site with cheap membrane roofs. The maintenance crew has been chasing leaks in them for over 15 years. The same type of roof with soil and plants on it would have been essentially impossible to maintain. No provision was made for hoisting to and from the roof, so everything would have to come through the access hatch balanced on someone's back.

These problems and many others were pointed out to the designers during the review phase. Every objection was brushed aside by architects who had never even visited the site. When the market crash of '08 caused the project to be cancelled there were celebrations among the staff.

I am a big proponent of energy efficiency. But much of what is being built today is simply poorly thought out. By pushing these unworkable show projects down our neck, the building industry is turning people against the entire idea of low impact buildings.

I am a big proponent of energy efficiency. But much of what is being built today is simply poorly thought out. By pushing these unworkable show projects down our neck, the building industry is turning people against the entire idea of low impact buildings.

As am I! I have posted a link to this lecture before but if you haven't seen you might enjoy it. I think Dr. Lstiburek keeps batting them out of the park over and over again.


Dan Ariely's post today:

Economics and the maximization of profit (and lies)

According to this study, economists, it seems, are worse than most when it comes to truth telling...This is not terribly surprising to me in the context of the greater history of economics, which has been characterized by the study of selfishness. The concept of the invisible hand (inherent in the notion of self-correcting markets) holds that people should act selfishly (maximizing their own profits) and that the market will combine all of their actions with an efficient outcome. While it’s true that markets can sometimes accommodate a range of behaviors without failing, if we continue to teach students the benefits and logicality of rational self-interest, what can we really expect?

RE: Is Obama about to blow his climate credentials?

What climate change credentials?

He is Oil-Qaeda from head to toe.

Oh, the increase in global warming induced climate change.

Now I get it.

Dredd - I can honestly say I have empathy for the man. If he spoke what many of us here believe to be true about the environment and energy resources he would be blasted from every angle. The left/environmentists would wack him for espousing the benefits of Big Oil's efforts while the right/Big Oil/businesses would wack him for casting doubt on the future economy. Outside of the small band of TODsters who would praise him for such honesty?

I agree with this. I remember from his first election campaign speeches he could never open his mouth and not speak about energy supply issues. He is Peak Oil aware. I have no doubt he is also Climate Change aware. He just can't speak freely about it. The system wont allow it.

Here here.

Thinking about how many rich men could thread that needle and get into the Kingdom, eh?

Since he cannot run for reelection, why can't he speak his mind? How can the system force him not to speak freely. In fact, after the election, he has spoken more about global warming than during the entire election, which was virtually nil.

On the other hand, I have never thought that he really cares deeply about the issue deep within his heart and his gut. He has always been a big supporter of coal in part given the fact that he is from Illinois. In fact, he recently was touting the advantages of so called clean coal. He think natural gas is a clean fuel. Well, maybe it will take longer to get to hell that way, but to hell we will go nevertheless.

What is required is something on the scale of the Marhall Plan and World War II. Of course congress would not approve that, but at least thinking big and talking big about the issue should be done anyway. He claims to care about what future generation think about us. Well, if he really cared deep down he would be shouting action on climate change every chance and in every venue possible.

And finally, I think that someone who deeply cared about this issue would be angry. I don't think he is really angry as he would rather just get along.

I could very well be wrong, of course, and I wish it were so.

Although President Obama does not have to worry about re-election, he is the head of his party, and can't just do whatever the heck he'd like. He has to think about positioning his party for the 2016 elections. Indeed, the 2014 elections...

He's not exactly a free agent in this...

It may not affect his personal future career path, but it could have an impact on the prospects of the Democrats, and by extension future US policies. If he gets too agressive, it could turn out to be counterproductive. So I expect him to be cautions (overcautious in my mind).

sgage - And that's his trap IMHO. Any man, regardless of his party, has to have a healthy big ego to run for POTUS. President Obama has to be thinking about his legacy. Will his healthcare bill hold up? If it does will it prove itself or flop? He can make all the noise he wants about the enviroment such as changing CAFE standards in the future but any future president can change those rules if they care to AFAIK. He also has to worry about his legacy as head of the D party. Does he want to leave the same smell of such efforts as President Bush left on the R party? He may get us out of Afg. on his watch but what if that turns into an even worse nightmare for the region? He has to see that as a possibility IMHO. And if the inflation bomb explodes in the next 4 or 5 years as some predict?

He still has to make the choice on what he pushes for the next 4 years. And we all know what can happen when you linger in the middle of the road too long. IMHO there are few choices he can enact that would substantially change our future on environmental and energy issues. And if TSHTF really bad in the next 5 or 7 years for many he'll replace Jimmy as the worst president in modern times even though he really didn't have the power to prevent much of anything.

I agree Rock. Sometimes it seems that there's nothing anyone can "do", in a political position - it's all so boxed in, in so many ways. I've long felt we're on our own...

Sometimes there is choice to start a war or not. I read an article today with a picture of the current president where USA complain Iran do not have the right send a monkey to space.

That had to be a cartoon caricature. Iran has not published anything about any kind of space program and has certainly not mentioned putting a monkey into space. But cartoonist, that wish to degrade the US, are free to put their opinions on paper. One should never take such things seriously however because their purpose is to exaggerate their opinions.

Ron P.

Iran has not published anything about any kind of space program


Good thing that is from Press TV, known "poppycock" to TOD readers and posters.


I see this story has been running on CNN since yesterday. Monkeys.... in.... space..... Because it really really makes sense.

Whether he's angry or not, he exists in a very specific role, both with the D Party and the Nation, and with the rest of the world govts and corporations.

I think it's inaccurate to call the president 'powerful'.. he is at the FOCUS of an amazing quantity of power, and he becomes a lens through which it passes.. but what he really has the chance to do within that is incredibly tight.

WE have a great deal of freedom compared to him.. of course as Janis and before her Kristofferson reminded us, we have that freedom since we have so much less to lose than he does.

I think it's inaccurate to call the president 'powerful'..

WE have a great deal of freedom compared to him.

That's an important realization. Individuals can do a lot more nuanced stuff, even at fairly large scales. They just mostly don't, due to self-circumscribing of perceived options.

Maybe they're just lazy ;-/

well yeah, that too.

Since he cannot run for reelection, why can't he speak his mind?

You mean, his Crypto-Muslim Indonesian Kenyan Marxism? Of course, he isn't those things, but progressives assume (without evidence) that he's some champion of civil liberties, democracy, transparency, the environment, etc.

In fact, he's neither a Muslim mole, a Marxist, or a Super Progressive. He's your standard-issue modern American president: a mass-murdering crony capitalist.

Jersey Patriot, Obama is not a mass murderer. And I find that kind of language offensive.

Ron P.

A couple of thou from the drone war, plus the continuing war in Afghanistan. You could use the term without stretching the meaning. Add in double-hit drone attacks (wait a few minutes still rescuers show up, then restrike the target". There is a reason some of us refer to him as the O-bomber.

I notice that you are not disputing the crony capitalist part.

John Corzine still walks free.

Personally authorizing drone strikes qualify President Obama as a mass murdering sociopath. Does his charm fool you?

Don't get carried away.
Pakistan state sponsors terrorism. Where do you think OBL hid for years and directed operations. He escaped from Afghanistan with direct assistance from the ISI (Pakistani Secret Service).

They (Pakistan) actively support The Taliban and Al Qaeda, (it's easy enough to Google) they are two faced liars and everyone knows it. There is a steady stream of young brainwashed suicide bombers rolling out to do their duty world wide. These very young suicide bombers are killing many women and children in IRAQ and Afghanistan and anywhere else they are able to ply their Jihadist ideals. And there is no shortage of supply, young Jihadists arrive to enroll in their programs from all over the Islamic world.

There is no way Pakistan will ever without a fight, give control of Afghanistan to friends of India like the UK or USA.
Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal and if it wasn't for that fact they would have been invaded. It still might happen, drone attacks have been steadily increasing. Eventually something will be done nuclear threat or not.


Obama is not a mass murderer

Personally, no. But he is in charge of organizations that do kill a whole lotta people.

I find that kind of language offensive.

Well, what should the person in charge of organizations that kill many people be called?

Well, what should the person in charge of organizations that kill many people be called?

Executive Chairman of 'Fly by and Take Out Deliveries'?

Though my personal vote for the all time winner of the euphemistic understatement by a national leader telling his people that TSHTF has to be this:


Emperor Hirohito informed his subjects of their country's unconditional surrender (after two atomic bombs, the loss of 3m people and with invasion looming) with the words, “The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage.”

Apparently the delivery boys at the time didn't get the executive memo where they were instructed to ask the Japanese people if they wanted to be fried with that.

There's an interesting documentary by Oliver Stone taking a new look at the assumptions of American history and that's one that is apparently bunk. The atomic bombs were a middle finger to Russia, a threat it would use a number of more times believing it would be the only country to ever have an atomic bomb - "whoops" - and the real reason that Japan surrendered was the looming invasion by...Russian troops. Once Russia entered the war against Japan they knew there was no hope and that's when they surrendered (and they would have done it sooner if they'd been guaranteed that they would not lose the emperor).


He spoke more clearly in his inaugural, at least on climate change.

He does a lot of things that bug me, but he deserves credit for that.

Words VS. Actions


President Obama has chosen his 5th Chief of Staff: Denis McDonough, who is unlikely to shake things up in Washington. This is the most recent pick in a line of many that shows Obama is not progressive; on the contrary, he's deeply conservative. Why? Cenk Uygur explains with John Iadarola (Host, TYT University) and Wes Clark Jr. (Consultant, Veteran)

Yeah, we know. He really wants to switch to wind energy, end the wars in the middle east, legalize marijuana, expand personal privacy protection, get rid of DHS, and stop torturing and remote-drone murdering foreigners. It's that evil "system" that makes him do the opposite in almost every way.

Give me a break. He's Bush III. He just gives better speeches.

Perhaps you have created an imaginary version of Obama. He has never said that he wants to "switch" to wind energy, legalize pot, get rid of DHS, or stop droning foreigners.

He did say he wanted to end the Iraq war and that has been done. He did say that the Afghan war was the relevant war and escalated it. That was probably a big mistake but at least they are talking about ending it now. They did say they would stop torture and have claimed to have done that (of course we have no way of knowing if that is true).

Obama has never been some very left character as many imagine. If anything, he's an old fashioned moderate Republican (except that he's pro-choice & supports gay rights), a species that is pretty much extinct.

He certainly has been frustrated in many of his efforts by others. For example, the closing of Gitmo was stopped by the House of Representatives.

Yes, the tragedy is that right wingers consider him to be a socialist. Yeh, and if so, so was Reagan and Nixon. Obama is a master at getting people to project their hopes and desires on him. Some very intelligent people thought he was going to be a transformational president. No, he is the master of the status quo while giving people the impression he is all about change. There is still the theory that the secret socialist and progressive and environmentalist will burst fully born in his second term. Well, I don't think so but would love to be surprised and wrong.

He appears to be comfortable within his own skin, normally a trait to be admired. But I wish he were a bit less comfortable and had a little less spring in his step. But that is probably just a reflection of my world view and my personality.

Strictly, Obama didn't agree to end the Iraq war. Bush did. Obama merely carried out the Status of Armed Forces agreement previously signed.

Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq

All American military forces were mandated to withdraw from Iraqi territory by 31 December 2011 under the terms of a bilateral agreement signed in 2008 by President Bush. The U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq was completed on 18 December 2011 early Sunday morning.

True. But they were trying to negotiate another status of forces agreement (SOFA) that would let many troops stay there. He could have kept working on that and kept more troops there. The hang-up was dealing with immunity. But instead of continuing to fight for some new SOFA they just said ~"Forget it, we're gone. Bye" The right-wing got all mad about this. John McCain was mad and Mitt Romney said he would have kept troops there.

The same issue is happening with Afghanistan right now. We'll see what happens. They had been trying to get some arrangement to keep troops there but given the current political climate, I suspect they've changed their minds and they are trying to figure out the most graceful exit.

Its not clear if he wanted a new SOFA or not. It was crystal clear however that Iraqi PM Maliki was not going to grant one. It would have been pretty deflating to have the world see our supposed client saying NO and getting away with it. Better to quietly accede to their wishes and hope it largely stays off the radar screen.

I an imagine how badly it would have played, if after not getting a new SOFA, we just said "screw you, were gonna stay anyone", and then watching as the number and severity of attacks on our forces increases dramatically.

It would seem that the US has not really left Iraq:

The US departure from Iraq is an illusion

39,000 soldiers will leave Iraq this year, but US military control will continue in such guises as security and training

State department figures show that some 17,000 personnel will be under the jurisdiction of the US ambassador. In addition, there are also consulates in Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk, which have been allocated more than 1,000 staff each. Crucially, all these US staff, including military and security contractors, will have diplomatic immunity. Essentially, the Obama administration is reaping the political capital of withdrawing US troops while hedging the impact of the withdrawal with an increase in private security contractors working for a diplomatic mission unlike any other on the planet.

Obama didn't agree to end the Iraq war. Bush did


The Constitution has "war" as a topic. Did the US 'declare war'?

He just can't speak freely about it. The system wont allow it.

A President who no longer has to be popular to be re-elected is beholden to others?

Its a good thing there is a "Free Press" - because that "free press" will cover things that need covering with the urgency the issue needs ... like climate change, right?


"Outside of the small band of TODsters who would praise him for such honesty?"

Resorting to some polls, there seems to be ample support, but sometimes I wonder what the polling is based on and how well the polls were done.

I just do not think Obama really gets it (example) in the sense that The Global Climate System is not part of the White House thinking.

At a news conference his mind seized up on the "single weather event" fallacy as a result.

Dredd - Not what support he has now. I was speculating how much support President Obama would receive if he hit the American public right between the eyes with what many TODsters believe is the actual energy problems were facing. How much support would he receive if he proposed reducing economic growth (as some TODsters feel we must) in this country in order to stem AGW? How much support would he receive from the left if he encouraged a rapid expansion of drilling in the US? Actually so far he hasn’t given any serious argument against increased drilling that I’ve noticed...just some lip service IMHO about the environmental risks.

Opinions vary on TOD for sure. But in general has the POTUS done much of anything to satisfy most on this site? And if he suddenly changed his positions to those more commonly seen here how would the American people in general respond? I suspect not very supportive.

As I've pointed out before, I think that Obama really stuck his neck out on the energy issues with what they did with the stimulus bill. They gave out a lot of low interest loans and grants to various green energy things. Many of those failed badly and became an albatross around his neck. (Solyndra, Fisker, A123, Enerdel, Beacon Power, etc.) Of course many have also done well or at least made progress.

I think a lesson learned is that you can't just throw money at a green energy idea and expect it to work unless it has been proven cost-effective. Instead, you have to use regulation & laws to force things along the way Germany has. You need tax-credits, feed-in tariff rules, renewable portfolio standards, CAFE rules, ZEV mandates, etc. Those things work.

Of course technically the loan guarantee program has done great. They planned for default rate of 10% and the actual rate is under that. And a lot of good stuff is being built. But the slime machine is working overtime to throw any failure in his face. How can one take even the most minor risk, when a powerful slime machine is waiting to tar you with any failure.

Yes and no. Yes, what you say is true. However, that is true because the vast bulk of the loans were for those big nuke plants. If you take out those big nuke plants, the results are probably not very pretty. As my posts indicated, I'm a fan of EVs but I think they went overboard a bit. For example, they should not have given Fisker a big loan and I'm glad they cut Fisker off when Fisker failed to meet milestones. I think the $7500 tax-credit is the better way to support EVs. It allows all makers to compete on an even playing field and there can be no cries of cronyism.

But it was a stimulus bill and the point was to do federal spending so getting money out there was part of the point. I think the money spent on weather-stripping and insulation programs was probably better spent.

Even on the renewables level they went well. Most of the funds were for actual power plants, mostly wind and PV. Those are actually pretty low risk projects.

The much greater Nuke loan guarantees, they may bite us still. And it they do, they are likely to be great White Shark bites, as compared to insect bites. What sort of odds would you give that those plants actually get built? Or that their price won't skyrocket?

Agreed about the stimulus thing. Could have followed Krugman's advice and paid people to dig and refill holes. But so little of the electorate understands the Keynesian thing, so that can't be used in a political argument. So we have to demonstrate success by showing much narrower metrics.

St. Lucia moves to lower electricity rates

The St. Lucia government says it will amend existing legislation governing the operations of the St. Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC), the sole electricity company, as it moves to provide consumers with relief from high electricity rates.

I have a St Lucian friend that attended to the University of the West Indies campus in Jamaica for a number of years, up to the point of getting a Master's degree. She was always a bit contemptuous of how Jamaica managed it's affairs and rightly so, as it seems St Lucia's much smaller economy has avoided the debt problems of Jamaica, despite not having bauxite or reggae music. It appears that this news was not news in St. Lucia itself, as I was unable to find this story on any St Lucian web site but, it appears that they face a very similar predicament to other small island states that are totally dependent on imported fuel for energy.

In looking up references for this information, I found this web page on St. Lucia, at what I think is a really neat site:

Clean Energy Info Portal - reegle

Alan from the islands

The BGI Cognitive Genomics Project is currently doing whole-genome sequencing of 1,000 very-high-IQ people around the world, hunting for sets of sets of IQ-predicting alleles. I know because I recently contributed my DNA to the project, not fully understanding the implications.

Jeez... maybe they can hunt for sets of sets of humility-predicting alleles at the same time.

Yes, but he doesn't say that he was asked to contribute; just that he did. >:}

Geoffrey Miller, Evolutionary psychologist, NYU Stern Business School and University of New Mexico; author of The Mating Mind and Spent

I think he is on very shaky grounds with his conclusion, he Continues:

These IQ gene-sets will be found eventually—but will probably be used mostly in China, for China. Potentially, the results would allow all Chinese couples to maximize the intelligence of their offspring by selecting among their own fertilized eggs for the one or two that include the highest likelihood of the highest intelligence. Given the Mendelian genetic lottery, the kids produced by any one couple typically differ by 5 to 15 IQ points. So this method of "preimplantation embryo selection" might allow IQ within every Chinese family to increase by 5 to 15 IQ points per generation. After a couple of generations, it would be game over for Western global competitiveness.

I don't think he understands how heritability of genes actually works. It is based on the same flawed thinking as that of those proposing we should study the DNA of Adam Lanza to find out what caused him to snap and shoot 20 school children. It doesn't work that way. A sample of one tells us absolutely nothing and depending what you are studying even a sample of 1000 is insufficient for any robust conclusions.

Heritability is defined as the proportion of variance in a trait which is attributable to genotype within a defined population in a specific environment. A number of points must be considered when interpreting heritability.[42] Heritability measures the proportion of 'variation' in a trait can be attributed to genes, and not the proportion of a trait caused by genes. The value of heritability can change if the impact of environment (or of genes) in the population is substantially altered. A high heritability of a trait does not mean environmental effects, such as learning, are not involved. Since heritability increases during childhood and adolescence, one should be cautious drawing conclusions regarding the role of genetics and environment from studies where the participants are not followed until they are adults...

Individual genes

A number of individual genes have been reported to be associated with IQ. Examples include CHRM2, microcephalin, and ASPM. However, Deary and colleagues (2009) argued almost no evidence has been replicated.[50] About 20,000 genes are thought to have an impact on the development and functionality of the brain...

...Recent research suggests that molecular genetics of psychology and social science requires approaches that go beyond the examination of candidate genes.[46]

Source Wikipedia.

I'm not even slightly worried about this one! Not to mention that even if they are able to select for higher IQ, they may simultaneously be selecting for other genes with deleterious effects making them less fit for survival.

I don't think he knows what he's talking about. As if "intelligence" is a unitary thing to be measured in a scalar fashion. I think he's just looking for publicity.

Clearly he is too optimistic about the results. He implies the improvement would be linear in generations, which seems highly unlikely. IMHO maybe they would get 5 points the first generation, and maybe half that much more the second, and a bit less the third. And your concern about potential deleterious effects could rear its ugly head. What if the propensity for say BiPolar -or Autism were strongly correlated with the selected genes. It would be far better (if the goal is longterm eugenics), to apply mild selection pressure over a large number of generations, so that other problems have a chance to settle out. Still I could imagine China gaining somewhat of an advantage competitively. It could be just like the advent of farming, if your tribe chooses not to, before long your tribe will be replaced by those who were not so sqeemish. But, I think that concern is still a ways off, I won't lose sleep over it tonight.

Someone should tell him about Functional Stupidity.

Not to mention that intelligence (as classically defined) is sometimes an impediment to survival.

Gad! I have never heard that one before. If so then this is terrible news. Any impediment to survival will be selected out by natural selection. Only the dummies will survive. We are doomed.

Ron P.

Not to mention that even if they are able to select for higher IQ, they may simultaneously be selecting for other genes with deleterious effects making them less fit for survival.

Fred, natural selection has been selecting for higher IQ for about 5 million years or so. Had it not done so then higher intelligence would not have evolved. And unless you are a creationist then you must believe that all traits, including intelligence, did evolve.

Even if some detrimental traits do show up among those selected for higher intelligence they will not show up among all those selected for by natural selection. So those with those traits would die off while those without it would survive to reproduce.

And natural selection works exactly like unnatural selection. (Darwin called it "domestic" selection, as in cattle or dog breeding.) That is any detrimental traits, or harmful traits will be selected out because they will not be present in all those selected for the desired trait.

Ron P.

It's a little more complicated than that.

Many traits can be both harmful and beneficial, and their penetrance in the population reflects that. The classic example is sickle cell disease. Having two sickle cell genes can be fatal, but having only one makes you resistant to malaria. If it was 100% beneficial, everyone would have it. If it were 100% harmful, no one would (except as an occasional random mutation). But it's both beneficial and harmful, so the trait is common, but not found in every individual. I'd guess this applies to most traits that do not have 100% penetrance.

Intelligence does have drawbacks. A large brain requires more nutrition. Humans have more difficulty giving birth than other mammals, because of the combination of a large brain and upright walking. Intelligence has also been linked with myopia (possibly because one gene affects both brain and eyes). That is not a serious problem in a modern industrial society, but could be a severe drawback in other situations.

And natural selection works exactly like unnatural selection. (Darwin called it "domestic" selection, as in cattle or dog breeding.) That is any detrimental traits, or harmful traits will be selected out because they will not be present in all those selected for the desired trait.

Far too simplified. Just look at problems created by artificial selection. Turkeys with so much white meat their legs break trying to support their bodies. Cats with such flat faces they are prone to eye and sinus problems. Dogs so large they are prone to hip dysplasia. Spaniels with such heavy ears they suffer constant ear infections.

I think Fred is right on this one. We're finding out that genetics is far more complicated than we imagined. Things are connected that we never dreamed were connected.

Traits that appear to have no benefit in the current situation might be highly beneficial in the future. Though there's still disagreement about the mechanism, the general consensus is that the metabolic changes that lead to diabetes are so prevalent because they are beneficial in times of famine. It might seem like a no-brainer to eliminate the diabetes or sickle-cell genes...if you're sure the current situation will never change. If, OTOH, you think that in the future we'll be living in a warming world where modern medicine is scarcer and food shortages more common, both those traits should be preserved.

If it were up to me, it would be genetic diversity I would try to preserve. Since we have no way of knowing for sure what the future holds.

Yes Leanan, I know it is a little more complicated than that. In fact it is far more complicated than that. I was just giving a quick and simple example that would be easy to understand.

Almost all evolutionary traits, that give an animal an advantage also has its drawbacks. Even domestic selection has drawbacks. A racehorse is selected, by its breeder, for speed. But the drawback is smaller bones to reduce weight. As a result racehorses are prone to leg injuries while running.

But no, Fred is not right on this one. He was not talking about genes selected because of high intelligenc as you were about turkeys selected for white meat. Fred was talking about genes that a high intelligent person might have, not related to intelligence, that might be detrimental. Or at least that's the way I interpreted his post. Therefore, his reasoning went, that selecting for intelligence might, at the same time, promote something detrimental like low resistance to certain diseases.

My explanation was, that though this might very well be the case, because there are many others, selected because of high intelligence, this one will be selected out because of low disease resistance.

When talking about evolution no short explanation can give the whole story. But you can make one point with a short explanation as I did. And my point was very valid. Let me put it more clearly:

Of course all traits selected for have drawbacks. Large brains mean difficult birthing and so on. But traits totally unrelated to the trait being selected for will not be a factor in the long run. Because these traits will be selected out.

Ron P.

Here's my view: traits "totally unrelated" are not what he was talking about. If they were totally unrelated, why would they be selected for when you select for intelligence? He's talking about traits that are related - though we may not know it.

Well he did say "other genes". Genes selected for intelligence would not be other genes but the same genes. These "other genes", because they occupied the same body as the genes selected for intelligence, would be passed on. That is, a very intelligent person selected for his/her intelligence, could also possess "other genes" that could possibly be detrimental to the health of his/her offspring.

That is the way I understood his post. And my explanation was simply to explain that this would not be a serious problem. If I misunderstood his post then I apologize. But the way he worded his post my interpretation is the only logical interpretation.

But if I did interpret his post correctly then my explanation is correct.

Anyway, I thought it was common knowledge, among anyone who knows squat about natural selection, that almost all beneficial selected traits have a price, that is they also have an evolutionary cost. I assumed that Fred knew this, and therefore he must have been talking about unrelated traits.

Ron P.


Therefore, his reasoning went, that selecting for intelligence might, at the same time, promote something detrimental like low resistance to certain diseases.

Actually since we were discussing heritability of genes for intelligence, I was thinking more along the lines of Autism, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders that might be genetically linked to high IQ in some unknown way. I think Leanan's example of sickle cell anemia get's closer to what I was thinking about.

Though the more important point of what I was trying to get at, was that based on a sample size of only 1000 high IQ individuals from various corners of the world, finding a gene set that could then somehow be selected for in a Chinese breeding program based on Mendelian inheritance was highly unlikely to produce the intended results. Which if I understood correctly would be to produce an elite group of Chinese geniuses who would then confer a competitive advantage to the Chinese nation as a whole.

I say that is still a bit of a stretch.

Yes High IQ and Autism go hand in hand, there are several papers in this regard. Moreover in general people with higher IQ's find it difficult to talk and get along with other people, they will usually retreat and sit back in a corner when a conflict arises or go berserk. Do we really want a society full of such people, most problems require collective efforts along with gizmos.
I know of several 'geniuses' who find it difficult to get along with others, many of them have been counseled to use less grey matter if they want to lead happy lives. Ignorance is 'bliss'.

Yes High IQ and Autism go hand in hand, there are several papers in this regard.

Please provide a link to some of those "several papers" Wiseindian. I found the exact opposite to be the case.

IQ in children with autism spectrum disorders: data from the Special Needs and Autism Project (SNAP).

Of the 75 children with ASD, 55% had an intellectual disability (IQ<70) but only 16% had moderate to severe intellectual disability (IQ<50); 28% had average intelligence (115>IQ>85) but only 3% were of above average intelligence (IQ>115).

I understand that autistic children, and adults, are very hard to test. And there are certain nonverbal test that autistic children score average or above. And of the very few who are autistic and above average in intelligence (the 3%) tend to show high anxiety.

Ron P.

I stand corrected, there is not much correlation between autism and high IQ. All I could find was this teaching paper
http://archives.evergreen.edu/masterstheses/Accession89-10MITPalmer_JMIT... and this one http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FB%3AJADD.0000029550.19098.77?... but it does not indicate high IQ, only high performance IQ for those with Autism.

However there was a study linking Schizophrenia to High cognitive ability in terms of genes. I was probably thinking of this when I wrote that comment.

Fred, thanks for the expanded explanation. I must point out that "genetically linked to high IQ" would not be "other genes" but the same genes.

That being said, I know of no mental defect that has ever been linked to high intelligence. And certainly not autism. Children with autism, far more often than not, display low IQ though many blame this on the autism and not actual mental ability.

On the other hand tests have shown no correlation between schizophrenia and intelligence.
Schizophrenia's Impact on Intelligence

But here is the important part of my argument. There is no known mental defect that is always linked to high intelligence. That is totally unlike sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia is always linked to the malaria resistance associated with the disease. I know, not all who have the resistance have sickle cell anemia. It takes both parents with the resistance to have an offspring with the disease. But the association between sickle cell anemia and this type of malaria resistance is always there.

On the other hand even if you did have something detrimental associated with intelligence, it would likely be present in only a very few of the 1000 individuals. Therefore, even if it were fatal it would make little difference in the long run because it would be selected completely out of the gene pool.

That was the point of my post and I think it a very valid point.

Ron P.


Children with autism, far more often than not, display low IQ though many blame this on the autism and not actual mental ability.

Autism is a spectrum. I have a son, who has a very high IQ and he was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome, which is/was part of that spectrum, when he was very young. He has been taking advanced level math and science courses since he was in Jr. High. However his social skills are not quite up to par with those of his peers.

Disclaimer: I'm aware that there is some recent controversy about Aspergers syndrome no longer being included under the autism spectrum of disorders. As far as I'm concerned a rose by any other name is still a rose. However they want to classify it, my son still has to cope with it and navigate through the rest of his life with whatever it is called.

I guess my comment was somewhat colored by my personal experience.


I have one who probably would have qualified, although I never heard the word used. Heck, I probably had a mild case myself. In any case, even until 9th grade they had him partly in special Ed. Now he is a junior in comp sci, and a very accomplished programmer. I think he still has a mild social deficit, but it becomes less apparent as time goes by. There is hope.

And just like dog breeds with known breed specific health problems, applying a great deal of selectivity in only a handful of generations, doesn't leave much time for the deleterious changes to be eliminated. Trying to do something big in a hurry, usually leads to unforseen consequences.

I'd further add that I'm not at all convinced that "breeding" for higher IQs is good for society. Granted, you don't want a populace that is as dumb as a box of rocks but it's not an end all or be all.

First, it strikes me as another attempt at a technological fix, i.e., these smart people will come up with great ideas that will save the world.

Second, as someone with a somewhat high IQ (140-160) I've found it to be as much a mill stone as help. It's easy to talk past people because you assume that they're on the same page as you but they aren't so you have to make an effort to fill in the lines - but you don't know what they don't know or understand. It's also frustrating when it takes "forever" to get people to see "the answer", wasting time and effort. And, from a really personal perspective, I would, literally, be a lot happier if I couldn't connect the dots easily. I find it depressing to see what is likely to come while knowing that it doesn't have to be that way.

Yup, there are lots of trade-offs.


I don't know my IQ but my SAT score is in the 98th percentile, so it's high-ish. I've always had social problems, never married, never had kids.

Parents don't know what to do with smart kids. There were no gifted child programs in my day. My parents put me down every time I made a mistake and basically tried to prove I was really rather stupid. My father afterwards said, "We didn't want you to get a swollen head." Plus they put me ahead a year in school to prevent me getting bored in class. As the youngest and smallest (5'2" fully grown) and coming from a dysfunctional home, I stayed an outsider, had no self-confidence, and failed to develop social skills.

I think what happens to most guys in my position is that old cliché, the love of a good woman. In my case I preferred alcohol until a family intervention. I'm not complaining. I made my choices and I live with them.

From a Darwinian perspective, being a good parent means the ability to make a living, find a mate, and have children who themselves will grow up to be good parents. The last requirement is often forgotten.

No matter how one "breeds" for high IQ the average IQ of the population will be 100. That is how the math works.

I find it depressing to see what is likely to come while knowing that it doesn't have to be that way.

Todd, hopefully it will turn out better than you fear.

Best hopes for the future.

Ditto everything Todd said, and Aardvark too.

Even Einstein said that he thought most geniuses led unremarkable lives, and the world was not the worse off for it. I suspect that more than once he wished such a life were his.

Thanks for the nice thoughts Kindhearted and Paleocon. We'll see how it plays out. I would really like to be optimistic and sit around watching Dancing with the Stars (unfortunately I stopped getting broadcast TV 15 or so years ago :-)). But seriously, there is nothing on the horizon that I see that will prevent bad, bad things from occurring. Society had a chance but blew it.


Eistein was probably right about geniuses leading unremarkable lives.

What kind of people are Members of Mensa?

Mensans have ranged in age from 2 to more than 100, but most are between 20 and 60. In education they range from preschoolers to high school dropouts to people with multiple doctorates. There are Mensans on welfare and Mensans who are millionaires. As far as occupations, the range is staggering. Mensa has professors and truck drivers, scientists and firefighters, computer programmers and farmers, artists, military people, musicians, laborers, police officers, glassblowers--the diverse list goes on and on. There are famous Mensans and prize-winning Mensans, but there are many whose names you wouldn't know.

Einstein, incidentally, had two sons. The older, Hans Albert, became a professor of hydraulic engineering at UC Berkeley and was married with children. The younger, Eduard, planned to become a psychiatrist but was schizophrenic from the age of 20 and cared for by his mother. He lived in clinics after her death.

not fully understanding the implications

of just how pumped up his ego would get by letting as many people know about his selection based on being part of a super elite group possessing absolutely incredible genius IQ's, but his disclosure needed to make it seem like he was so special they didn't even let him know exactly what the project was - huh?

Jeez... maybe they can hunt for sets of sets of humility-predicting alleles at the same time.

How do we know that *his* genes weren't used for the control group?

With the 1995 Maternal and Infant Health Law... , China forbade people carrying heritable mental or physical disorders from marrying, and promoted mass prenatal ultrasound testing for birth defects.

Seraph, this is the first time I had heard about this Chinese law.

From Wikipedia: History of Eugenics

The Chinese Maternal and Infant Health Care Law (1994), which has been referred to as the "Eugenic Law" in the West, required a health check prior to marriage. Carriers of certain genetic diseases were allowed to marry only if they are sterilized, or agree to use some other form of long-term contraception. Though the requirement for the health check has been dropped at the national level, it continues to be required by some provinces. Local medical doctors make the decision on who is "unfit" to marry. Much Western comment on the law has been critical, but many Chinese geneticists are supportive of the policy.

What is you opinion on this Chinese law?

What is you opinion on this Chinese law?

That would depend upon how many people are affected by it. If it is just one in a thousand, and it prevents significant suffering, then on whole it is for the better. If it affects wide swaths of people, for relatively minor ailments, that is completely another matter. Another way to do eugenics, would be to have a one child policy for everyone, but a few couples with excellent genetics get to have two. Its a lot easier socially to award a few, than it is to punish many.

We have about 20,000 genes each. Each one of us has one or two (on average) harmful recessive genes, but unless we mate with someone who has the same dud gene we will never find out. I know I have a 2/3 chance of carrying a fatal recessive gene, because my brother died from it, but only one in 2000 of my children will go the same way, if I mate with an unrelated female. As it happens, I adopted my kids.

To use a recessive gene as a reason to prevent reproduction is simply a way of arbitrarily controlling who produces.

Still, if in fact you applied negative selection pressure against identified carriers, you would over time reduce the frequency of those genes in the genepool. Given that medicine may be allowing greater "fitness" for those with genetic issues than was the case a hundred years ago, the frequencies of many of these deleterious genes is probably on the increase. Eventually we will have to do something about that. Hopefully it could be as simple, as prescreening eggs before fertilization, rather than banning certain people from having kids. I figure this is a few generation off, so I'm not going to get too excited about it.

At least China is making a go at it, just like they made a serious attempt at population control. Can you say the same about America...a country that wants to grow forever?

My humble opinion is that the West is becoming slightly dysgenic because of modern medicine, unsound immigration policy and the "everybody is special" mentality that is a perversion of an earlier Christian morality.

Having said that, I think the collapse is going to throw all of this for a loop.

The reality is much, much worse than that, energyblues. See this 2006 "study" for more information:


No one wants to hear the word 'eugenics' and for good reasons too. Maybe in an imaginary world where everyone takes only rational decisions and is not blinded by prejudice and hatred this would work but in the real world it hardly does. Eugenics frequently leads to horrific human rights abuses and is most of the times antithetical to the purpose of eugenics when the brightest members of any opposing tribe are picked off and killed in the name of eugenics. Let's leave natural selection to nature.

I agree about the modern medicine, immigration policy and "everybody is special" part. Sometimes we need to embrace hardships.

What I was envisaging, is more like the evolution of genetic conselling. Currently that mainly happens after a couple has a baby with a genetic disease, "Do we dare have another kid? If not, is a surrogate baby from IVF safe?". This could involve into external fertilization and selecting out the bad apples. Then later maybe genetic tests before having kids, and in cases with unexeptable risks the selecting out of bad apples proceedures. As the technology gets better, the opportunities to make this less intrusive become possible. If I had a significant risk, I'd much rather undergo this than the current practice, which is (one) have no kids, or (two) take your chances.

America has never known anything but continuous growth in population, wealth and resources ever since it was settled. It is suffering a severe case of hubris. That it is a special, blessed land with infinite room for growth is just assumed by most of its citizens. The collision with reality when it comes will probably be harsh. Look at the shock the Great Depression caused, and that was just a blip in the growth chart.

The EIA's Monthly Energy Review is just out. US Crude + Condensate increased from an average of 5,651,955 barrels per day in 2011 to 6,426,138 barrels per day in 2012. That is an increase of 774,183 barrels per day or an increase of 13.7 percent. December 2011 to December 2012 increased by 908 kb/d or 15% to 6,934 kb/d.

Consumption, or Petroleum Products Supplied as they call it, dropped 1.54% to 18,657,257 barrels per day. That is all liquids of course, not just C+C.

Ron P.

That's a massive year-over-year increase in US oil production -- I assume it's mostly from tight oil such as Bakken and Eagle Ford. We'll be hearing a lot about how this rate of increase is going to continue for years and make the US the biggest producer in the world.

How wierd is this?

So some people might have considered it a little shocking over the weekend when, at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, he (World Bank president Jim Yong Kim) promoted the use of coal as a cheap energy source in poor countries. The World Bank’s mission is to reduce global poverty.

followed by this

followed by

If there is no action soon, the future will become bleak. The World Bank Group released a reportin November that concluded that the world could warm by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century if concerted action is not taken now.

So, we've got to action to stop climate change now but, those actions must exclude not burning more coal in order to get cheaper energy! It seems that once you bring up the absurdity of these statements, all discourse on climate change stops, untill the next newsworthy weird weather event.

In the meantime, it appears that at least some freedom fighters (terrorists) have figured out that they can do far more damage to their enemies (the "free" world) without leaving home, by attacking oil and gas production/transport infrastructure.

How is the international community going to respond if these attacks become more widespread and/or frequent?

Alan from the islands

In the meantime, it appears that at least some freedom fighters (terrorists) have figured out that they can do far more damage to their enemies (the "free" world) without leaving home, by attacking oil and gas production/transport infrastructure.

Yeah, I wonder if this is going to become a big thing. We just had that big Algerian natural gas plant massacre. And now the top story above is "Militants attack oil pipeline in Algeria, two dead". You can beef up security at various plants. But there is very little you can do about protecting thousands of miles of pipeline. Just ask Nigeria . . . and those people are just trying to tap in and steal, not blow up the pipelines.

All the more reason to work hard on reducing reliance on oil.

spec - Very good point. How easy is it to damage a pipeline/production infrastructure? Consider the relatively small and much more controllable areas of buildings in Iraq, Afg. or anywhere else in the world and we see an endless stream of suicide bombers successfully hitting them. Compare that to the vulnerability of a thousand mile long p/l where there isn't a comparable defensive position every few hundred yards. And a refinery or NG processing plant that covers hundreds of acres. And there are thousands of such facilities in the ME. Given refineries have a bad habit of accidently blowing up how difficult would it be to sabotage one? And they wouldn't even need to physically hit a p/l itself: just knock out the computer control center and the p/l instantly becomes nothing more than some metal sitting in the ground slowly rusting away.

In an odd way the situation makes me think of the problem we have with wackos in this country deciding to go on a murderous spree. We can talk gun control and mental health issues all we won't but that won't stop the next potential nut. And, if by some fluke, it does there will be more waiting in the wings. Just like stopping the first 5 terrorists from blowing up a pipeline doesn't do much good if #6 makes it to his target. Given what seems to be an unlimited supply of suicide bombers it will never be a question of if a facility will be hit but when.

How is the international community going to respond if these attacks become more widespread and/or frequent?

For one, we will be "responding" by paying more for the oil we import.

Interesting juxtaposition of articles on your point which led me to think that maybe the terrorists are inadvertently striking out against carbon emissions by sabotaging oil and gas infrastructure.

The so called damage to the so called free world seems rather dispersed at best and I don't think anyone will notice or lose much sleep over it.

Daimler, Ford and Nissan to collaborate on fuel cell tech

Stuttgart, Jan 28, 2013

Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., have signed a unique three-way agreement for the joint development of common fuel cell system to speed up availability of zero-emission technology and significantly reduce investment costs

Collaboration expected to lead to launch of world's first affordable, mass-market fuel cell electric vehicles as early as 2017

Fuel cell cars . . . the cars of the future and always will be. ;-)

For the past couple of years, 2015 had been touted as the magic year for fuel cell cars to really hit the market. It looks like they hit the snooze button and punted to 2017. Well, I guess that is better than the BMW & Toyota announcement that punted to 2020!

Electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric cars (PHEVs) are struggling . . . but at least they are in the ballpark.

It seems to me FCVs combine the advantages of electric transmission with long range. It's a pity they cost $0.5 million or at least that's what I heard about the Honda FCV. Some may recall the episode of UK Top Gear when (if I recall correctly) they took days to drive three EVs from London to Edinburgh. Their conclusion is that FCVs not EVs have to be the answer.

However I don't think cost is the only issue. The other bugbear is use of cryogenic hydrogen fuel. If the fuel cells could use methanol or cellulosic ethanol it would vastly simplify fuel production and distribution. Rather than steam reforming to get hydrogen if would be good if straight alcohol could be used directly in high temperature ceramic fuel cells. Sure the thermal energy is half that of petrol but there is no clutch or gearbox to waste energy.

My understanding is neither PEM or solid oxide fuel cells can get anywhere near the 1,000 hour maintenance cycle of ICE engines. Therefore batteries have to get better but they never improve enough. We're stuck in an infinite loop with FCVs.

FCVs are at best somewhat more efficient and cleaner burning ICEs. And ICEs are getting more efficient, and can be augmented into hybrid/plugins. So these FCVs would have to get >ten times cheaper, and go much longer in between FC overhauls. I rather see the money spent on FCVs go towards the wave disk engine, which would be about the same efficiency.

They are a good bit more efficient than ICE vehicles and there is no emissions. And they are much better than EVs in that they can be refueled very quickly and can have good ranges. However, FCVs have several problems:
1) fuel cell stack still too expensive (Some optimistic reports have them down to $50K or so but even at that price, it is tough for them to be better than PHEVs.)
2) Hydrogen is not cheap & plentiful. The cheapest source is steam reforming methane.
3) No hydrogen distribution infrastructure.
4) Some danger issues in dealing with high pressures and combustible hydrogen.

They know how to build them but the problem is cost. It would be real nice if they could figure out how to build them inexpensively. But I'm skeptical. They just keep pushing back the supposed launch date. Remember when W. Bush was pushing them? And we still haven't got them.

Why not using methane or methanol instead of hydrogen in fuel cells? For the former a distribution network already exists, for the latter one could be provided at lower costs than for H2.

I don't know. I suspect it is because the type of fuel cell that works with such fuel sources does not work well in an automobile environment since pretty much all of the automobile FCVs are hydrogen based.

Maybe because the first examples used H2, this sticked, limited reseach budgets also does not help.
In case of house heating systems the methane fuel cell is in field tests and for small applications (laptop etc.) the methanole type are used.

There is no reason for me that in a bus, truck or locomotive there is not enough space for a methane fuel cell, cars may be a different story.

10 to 1 that what they come out with will be a ::drum roll:: hybrid. And the fuel for the fuel cell? Natural gas (with on-board reformer).

Hybrid: The fuel cell stack requirements drop considerably with the addition of a substantial battery pack. Instead of needing something on the order of 100kW fuel cell stack, they can use a 25kW fuel cell stack and buffer against the battery. This is a logical extension anyway since the fuel cells usually require a period of time to "warm up" and having batteries means that you can get in drive off immediately as opposed to waiting a couple of minutes for the fuel cell to get up to temperature.

There's been a lot of research into replacing the platinum in the proton-exchange-membrane...maybe they've gotten somewhere with it. There are companies making building back up power systems aimed at servers and hospitals, perhaps the cost is viable or they see it as being near enough to go for it.


Then there’s extra credit for electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel-cell vehicles. These machines already garner very high CAFE ratings, as they use little or no gasoline, but to encourage their sales, the government will factor each sale of an electric vehicle by 2.0 in model year 2017. In other words, if you sell 10,000 electric vehicles—either battery powered or fuel cell—they will be counted as 20,000 when calculating that company’s fleet fuel economy. This factor will phase down to a multiplier of 1.5 by 2021. For plug-in hybrids, the factor will start at 1.6 in 2017 and phase down to 1.3 in 2021.

Ethanol continues to lose favor, and flexible-fuel vehicles will only receive extra credit when manufacturers present data proving how much E85 such vehicles actually burn in real-world driving. In most cases, that amounts to little or none, so sell your Iowa farmland now.

One attempt I know of to fuel a hybrid with a pressure cylinder of gas (in this case propane) was cancelled
That was for a low pressure tank 15 bar as opposed to 220 bar for methane. I'm thinking a CNG-FCV-PHEV needs to be a van to store traction batteries, gas cylinders and propulsion unit. It's hard to see such a car selling for $20k which is what the public wants.

:) That's why the Chevy Volt is a 4 seater...there are batteries sitting in the "5th seat." I imagine if the easy-fill infrastructure were there that the Volt would have been propane (LPG) powered. It's the perfect fuel for such a car as it will essentially store indefinitely and doesn't require a bomb-esque 3,000 psi as you note for natural gas. Hydrogen requires similar pressures but has the added twist of making the container it resides in brittle over time. As natural gas is all the rage these days and reforming it for use in fuel cells is well known it seems the prime candidate. Fleets already run it in ICE vehicles, and there are already places with the infrastructure in place. They can also try to sell them on home refueling: http://www.cngnow.com/news/post.aspx?id=688

If they can hybridize and use a 25kW instead of 100kW it should knock down the price of the stack by roughly 3/4s.

I got a little sloppy with my bolding up above, but I'd like to again point out that a fuel cell vehicle will get a 2X counting on the CAFE starting in 2017, coincident with when they want to start making them. IOW if they make 50,000 fuel-cell vehicles which get "100 mpg-equivalent" they would get to count that as 100,000 FCVs @ 100mpg-equivalent...they do this so that they can keep making the 600 horsepower V8's that make them $$! while remaining CAFE compliant.

But the 4-seater design of the Volt was just one particular design choice to make the car small aerodynamic and light. You certainly can make 5-seaters by making it a little bigger or sacrificing trunk space as other cars coming on the market have shown (Accord PHEV, C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi, etc.)

On-board reformer? Is there such a thing? And if so, is it efficient and reasonably inexpensive? That may be too complex . . . they can't even build hydrogen fuel cell car cost-efficiently yet.

Daimler had the NECAR program in the 1990s with a methanol reformer and PEM fuel cells, that worked well for several generations. Volvo has a reformer for methanol, gasoline and/or diesel and a high temperature PEM. It is cost effective and can be produced in volume.

Well if it really worked well, was cost effective, and could be produced in volume then they would be building them today. Clearly that is not all true.

Volvo has every intention to market the car in a few years, they had to work out the high temperature PEM details and find partners to work with.

Cost effective means it can do the job in line with competitive products. A $10,000 Nissan can do the job of a $100,000 luxury car, which is more cost effective, which sells better and which makes more profit?

I'm not at all convinced about well to wheel efficiency. You got to create the hydrogen (or methane or whatever) in the first place. You got to make it ultra-pure so as not to mess up the FC. You have to deal with the issue, that FCs may require serious warmup, and like to be used at constant output levels. And generally the efficiency goes down with smaller size. So when you get to the bottom line, well to wheel efficiency, does it still compete?

Don't get me started. I think the FCV is largely a boondoggle. I think they should keep working on it but it does not appear to be ready for prime-time. I think the biggest problem remains in the cost and reliability of the fuel cell stacks. After that, the complete lack of a hydrogen infrastructure.

Unless they figure out how build a cheap reliable fuel cell system, I just can't see how it can compete with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the Volt, C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi, etc. PHEVs are still a little bit too expensive but they are in the ballpark. And the infrastructure needed for them already exists: ordinary electricity outlets and gas stations.

Volvo uses a high temperature PEM that can take CO at higher levels, so purity out of the reformer is not a problem. Methanol in general is pure, it is synthesized from natural gas at about one gallon per therm. A therm of natural gas sells for about 40 cents wholesale now.

Well to wheels is not bad, a therm is 100,000 BTUs and methanol is about 67,000 BTUs, a fuel cell vehicle can go about 40 miles on a gallon of methanol. The advantage of the Volvo is that it can reform methanol, diesel and or gasoline, so distribution is not a problem. Do a search on "Volvo reformer fuel cell" and see for yourself.


In case anybody is interested there is a MOOC (massive open online course) on Energy at:
Given by Dr. Sam Shelton, a professor at Georgia Tech, Strategic Energy Institute (and free to attend).

Energy 101 focuses on the big energy picture giving perspective and context to the details one reads in the daily onslaught of energy news in the headlines. As the number 101 indicates, there are no pre-requisites and no particular training or background needed. The course will review the driving forces of energy used in transportation, building heating and cooling, electrical loads and manufacturing. The current facts and trends of the resulting demands placed on coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, biomass, solar and wind used to meet these energy demands are then covered. The technologies and characteristics of different energy processes and infrastructure used to convert the renewable, fossil, and nuclear energy into the desired form necessary to accomplish a given task are then described. Economics is always a part of the discussion. The natural laws of thermodynamics limiting these processes are described, as well as future technologies and their potential.

As a lot of the learning happens in course forums after the videos, I thought some of the students could benefit from Oil Drum wisdom as well.
I can't vouch for the quality/level of the teacher or the course (I just signed up), but it looks interesting.

His primary research focus has been renewable and efficient energy technology development receiving over $30 million in R&D funding. Dr. Shelton holds eight patents in energy technologies and founded two companies developing, manufacturing and marketing energy-efficient products. Starting in the 1980s, he was among the pioneers developing commercial solar energy technologies and the assessment of offshore wind farms. His favorite hobby is flying experimental airplanes.

Sounds promising!


"New lab could unlock vast potential of seabed methane ice

The University of California, Irvine has been granted $1 million to develop a unique laboratory for the research of clean energy obtained from methane hydrates, an as-yet untapped source of methane gas that exists in huge quantities in some ocean-floor environments."

h - There are other TODsters who understand the research process far better than me. But I know a $million seed won't produce much more than a few published articles. If there were a potential engineering approach to mining hydrates (and I'm not sure one has really been developed yet) it would easily take $100 million+ to get to any practical level IMHO. Sure...gotta start somewhere. But $1 million? Kinda like peeing in a big swimming pool to make it salty. Ain't going to happen with just one bladder full.

the new laboratory will contain a combustion reactor vessel and a multiphase emission evolution vessel that will allow the combustion of methane from methane hydrate in simulated deep-sea conditions. "The point of the multiphase emission evolution vessel is to see how the presence of other combustion emission gases affects the CO2 capture and stability,"

that seems to be where the $1m will get spent. Great to hear that when we burn all the coal, oil and gas ... someone will still be making money to keep the party going for a little longer.

will allow the combustion of methane from methane hydrate in simulated deep-sea conditions.

Oh great. Now they're going to boil the sea. Just what we need. /sarc

m - Do they really mean "combustion" of methane from the hydrate or conversion? If they are burning the methane as it's liberated from the hydrate in "deep-see conditions" what are they going to do with that energy created on the sea floor? Something just doesn't seem correct in that description.

My guess is they burn some of it to destabilize the rest of the ice-like clathrate structures so the methane trapped within will be released. The amount of methane burned can be fairly easily controlled by limiting the amount of oxygen added to the system. Then the unburned methane can be captured and separated from CO2, water, etc.

FYI: Methane hydrates (or clathrates) consist of a single methane molecule inside a "cage" of water molecules that is a stable solid in a specific temperature/pressure regime. Altering the conditions (increase T, decrease P, or add a new chemical to react with the water) deconstructs the cage and the central molecule will be released. Clathrates can also be formed with CO2 as the central molecule and consequently this is being studied as a carbon sequestration option.

Hillson - Thanks. That makes sense even if it wasn't what they meant. The hydrate could be mined and then put into a combustion chamber and then that heat would free the other methane which would have to be captured by some sort of plumbing system and delivered to the surface were is would have to be liquified for transport. Not that it couldn't be done but that would be one heck of an operation. Unless it could be done on a very large scale it's difficult to imagine it delivering NG at a price the econnomies could handle.

Aren't these clathrates usually found in soft mud. It would seem to be difficult to "destabilize" them and not have significant leakage issues. At least small methane leaks underwater lead to the methane being oxidized to CO2 while still dissolved in the water coumn, so you can probably control atmospheric methane emissions (a big deal climate-wise). But any leaked methane untimately adds to the atmospheric CO2 load.

ROCK and EoS - I'm skeptical of these efforts to try to collect methane from clathrates for exactly some of the reasons you both bring up. In my view, the closest comparison in terms of extracting them is the tar sands. Heat must be added over vast geographic scales to induce flow; unlike the tar sands, though, they don't exist in stable, permable rock strata, so destabilizing them could result in violent releases through the sea floor. Mining the clathrates would be a safer operation, but obviously much more time-consuming and expensive.

Then there is issue of the globabl warming potential, which is enormous. I'd rather have the clathrates just sit peacefully on the continental shelves for the rest of humanity's time on this planet, but Mother Nature probably has her own intentions for them (which won't work out that well for us).

Its not even clear the order of magnitude of the resource. Several years ago there were really huge estimates. But the deposits are very patchy, and the last I'd heard estimates of the global amounts had been reduced severalfold.

Clathrates are much like the tarsands; they need to stay where they are, not converted to CO2.

Estimates indicate there is up to 10.000 GtC of methane hydrates in the seabed. We've burned about 800 GtC from conventional resources so far and have about 400-500 GtC budget before we'll reach 2C warming beyond which is considered dangerous. The current rate is 10 GtC per year and rising at roughly 3% per year. We'll be easily able to blow past the 2C using conventional resources and now we're preparing to use the non-conventional resources as well. Are we really that stupid?

I guess the last question is rhetoric, the answer is a thundering: yes!

Japan has been working on Methane hydrates for many years. So far, no cost efficient method of harvesting & using them yet. They've put a lot of money into it and have been continuing the research. The best of luck to them.

I saw these two new initiatives in providing storage for renewable energy this week...

The first is an alternative to current pumped storage (in the UK we don't have too many places left we can dam for pumped storage, but have lots of sea):


and this from Germany on solar PV storage - they already have 31GW of solar PV which is great for mid day peak, but this sounds like a real step forward if it works:


It would seem that England could do well to create some kind of SuperInsulated Teapot that millions of consumers can let get heated up with a price-signal, instead of everyone just switching on right after Eastenders or ManU or whatever it was that spikes the UK grid so bad.

Actually.. just program it to do its preheating bit all on its own.. but let them hit the same buttons they always did after the show.

It's unreal that we don't simply have an air liquefaction stack in every city producing liquid nitrogen using any power excess, and then simply delivering it to areas with industrial scale cooling needs.

I think the Belgian doughnut is more like an artificial volcano-shaped island than like the floating inner tube illustration. Sea water will be pumped into and out of the crater lake to store and release energy.

A volcano projects up above the surface of the water. The lake will be under water. Think of it like a big pipe rammed into the sea floor with the top sticking into the air above the waves. When there is surplus renewable power, the water will be pumped out of the pipe and dumped into the surrounding ocean. To generate power the sea water is allowed to flow back into the pipe to spin hydroelectric generators.

It sounds cheaper than building an artificial lake on land. They probably should use rocks, instead of sand mentioned in the article, to prevent storms from washing it away. Some sort of inner liner would be needed to prevent sea water from seeping back in.

There is a better artist's conception of it at Belgium Plans to Build Island to Store Excess Wind Energy, Renewable Energy World, Januray 21, 2013.

The three-kilometer island -- shaped like a horseshoe with a vast, deep reservoir located in the center -- is to be located three to four kilometers off the coast near the province of West Flanders.

Wiki: Wind power in Belgium states it is "estimated to produce 300 MW for 3 hours a day." That will not store much energy for a country that consumes on average about 10 GW.

Will it use constant head or variable head generators or water flow generators? To achieve high efficiency I think they will have to use constant head generators.

I see. An island ring a bit more than 2 km wide.

But they already have a big hole in the sea nearby they can pump water in and out of. It's called Holland;o)

Pump water into Holland :-) YES! That would turn Antwerp eventually to a real seaport.

My lastest invitation from CERA:

“We are pleased to announce a special CERAWeek program Monday afternoon, March 4th, on “IHS CERA Global View Insights 2013.” This session will feature outlooks by IHS leading experts on energy markets -- oil, natural gas, and power; followed by emerging global trends in chemicals, automotive, social media, and geopolitical hotspots. This program responds to requests for more IHS CERA content. The Monday program will also include:

• A banquet networking event which delegates are invited to meet IHS experts and fellow conference participants for informal and relaxed discussion. Delegates may choose the topic and/or expert of greatest interest.

• The opening dinner will provide a global economic outlook entitled: How Long Before We’re Out of This? The World Economy in 2013 and Beyond”

Interesting to note they question how long before the global economic situation is improved and not if it will be improved. But I suppose that’s the role of every cheerleader.

Well . . . at least they recognize there is a problem. With the good fortune of the oil companies these days they might not have even seen a problem.

...How Long Before We’re Out of This?

Oh, and I thought they meant, out of oil >;-)

Humans can conduct war against the malignant growths within their own bodies and yet don’t think twice about growing cancerously within their own ecosystem. I can only conclude that cancers (cells and civilizations) are greedy and myopic.

The cells (human organizations) have provided for their own vascularization to maximize the nutrient flow for their own amorphous and undefined tumor-like growth. The banks excrete tumor growth factor (Keynesian stimulus), hoping the concrete and steel infrastructure of death will penetrate further into virgin tissues and bring the malefactors additional nutrition, pleasures and diversions. The ecological body becomes more disrupted, its circulation impeded, its vital functions compromised. The cancer is unhindered in its growth as the body weakens. The leaders of the cancer continue their search for growth opportunities, even though the needle upon the biosphere’s homeostatic compass has begun to swing wildly. They even seek to exploit the cadaverine clathrate gas emanating from a rotting body. Ah, yes, dissipation is imminent.

But let us not despair, even as willy-nillys deluge the land down under, arctic cyclones smash the thinning arctic ice and Fukishima brandishes its hot iron against our friable DNA, we can rest assured that the wondrous realm of techno-malignant accomplishment will extract our tumorous civilizations and spirit them away to other planets where happy homeostasis always comes true.


"...where happy homeostasis always comes true." Beautiful ;-)

Yours are some of my favorite posts on TOD.


“Don’t encourage him”, most would say, but the arrogant belief that somehow our civilization is “advanced” grates me and can only be interpreted, in light of the overwhelming evidence, that we have achieved an unprecedented advancement in our level of cancerous growth. Life within the cancer is wonderful as we eat the lunch of our relatively passive and well-behaved ecosystem brethren. Our cups are full of glucose swag within our pirate “civilization” as we fiddle with the delicate homeostatic mechanisms of the body. Is it any wonder that we have not contacted other advanced civilizations when by its very nature advancement means unrelenting growth and eventual self-destruction.

Link to an interesting cancer article: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0051844

Dopamine, I read your linked cancer article thinking of cancer as a metaphor for our civilization's unbridled pathological growth paradigm.

Therefore, from a therapeutic point of view, in order to evaluate the extent of micro-environmental manipulation required to shift the population composition away from a more malignant phenotype, one would first need to evaluate tumor composition with respect to rapidly-proliferating vs. slowly-proliferating phenotype, i.e., using this particular characteristic as a metric by which to quantify the level of heterogeneity; naturally, other metrics would need to be used for other types of treatments, where tumor heterogeneity plays a role.

I couldn't help but think of our current crop of politicians, economists, corporate leaders, and financial experts as composing those parts of the tumor that would fall into the category of cells which are of the more malignant rapidly-proliferating phenotypes. It seems to me that if we are to have any chance at bringing this cancer under control and into full remission we need to aggressively target these individuals and try as hard as possible to counteract their malignant effects on our society.

As someone who recently lost a good friend to cancer I realize that the odds may be stacked against us.

Citi analyst is expecting a super spike in oil this year to $180/barrel: http://kingworldnews.com/kingworldnews/KWN_DailyWeb/Entries/2013/1/25_Oi...

He, Citi analyst Tom Fitzpatrick, uses technical analysis to arrive at this conclusion. That means looking at charts, tops and bottoms, drawing trend lines, curve fitting and such. Fundamental analysis would perhaps arrive at a totally different conclusion. Fundamental analysis means looking at supply and demand, expected production and the economic situation and so on.

Fundamental analysis is often, but not always, wrong. But technical analysis is always garbage.

Ron P.

Does a model like this take demand destruction into account?

Ron – had me wondering at first too. But I can see his logic. Although it does make a huge assumption IMHO: the movement of the market will follow the movements of past markets because the global dynamics are the same as during previous spike periods. It’s easy to point out some flaw to that logic IMHO. OTOH some combination of different factors could produce similar results.

But OTOH he also seems to be making the point (although he doesn’t directly say so) that not only will the spike be relatively short lived it will also cause the oil market to crash just as he shows in those prior spike periods. Which is exactly what his charts of past events show. Well DA! LOL. Is this some sort of inspired revelation? The only bold part of his prediction IMHO is that it will happen towards the end of this year. He may be correct or not. But I don’t think it’s difficult to expect such boom/bust cycles to repeat themselves at some point in the future. The specific dynamics of those future movements may vary to some degree from past events but I imagine the general cause will be the same: economic growth leads to increased demand that leads to increased oil price. Growth that cannot be met by increased extraction that leads to a spike which knocks demand down and prices with it.

From NOAA, USGS: NOAA, USGS: Climate change impacts to U.S. coasts threaten public health, safety and economy

According to a new technical report, the effects of climate change will continue to threaten the health and vitality of U.S. coastal communities’ social, economic and natural systems. The report, Coastal Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerabilities: a technical input to the 2013 National Climate Assessment, authored by leading scientists and experts, emphasizes the need for increased coordination and planning to ensure U.S. coastal communities are resilient against the effects of climate change.

A key finding in the report is that all U.S. coasts are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as sea-level rise, erosion, storms and flooding, especially in the more populated low-lying parts of the U.S. coast along the Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, northern Alaska, Hawaii, and island territories. Another finding indicated the financial risks associated with both private and public hazard insurance are expected to increase dramatically.

“An increase in the intensity of extreme weather events such as storms like Sandy and Katrina, coupled with sea-level rise and the effects of increased human development along the coasts, could affect the sustainability of many existing coastal communities and natural resources,” said Virginia Burkett of the U.S. Geological Survey and co-lead author of the report.

Other key findings of the report include:

- Expected public health impacts include a decline in seafood quality, shifts in disease patterns and increases in rates of heat-related morbidity.

- Changes in the location and the time of year when storms form can lead to large changes in where storms land and the impacts of storms. Any sea-level rise is virtually certain to exacerbate storm-surge and flooding related hazards.

- Because of changes in the hydrological cycle due to warming, precipitation events (rain, snow) will likely be heavier. Combined with sea-level rise and storm surge, this will increase flooding severity in some coastal areas, particularly in the Northeast.

- Temperature is primarily driving environmental change in the Alaskan coastal zone. Sea ice and permafrost make northern regions particularly susceptible to temperature change. For example, an increase of two degrees Celsius during the summer could basically transform much of Alaska from frozen to unfrozen, with extensive implications.

- Although adaptation planning activities in the coastal zone are increasing, they generally occur in an ad-hoc manner and are slow to be implemented. Efficiency of adaptation can be improved through more accurate and timely scientific information, tools, and resources, and by integrating adaptation plans into overall land use planning as well as ocean and coastal management.

Adapting to the changing climate will be a challenge for coastal economies that contributed $8.3 trillion to the GDP in 2010 and depend on coastal landforms, water resources, estuaries, and other natural resources to sustain them.

Has this been posted - Google's Trillion dollar Driverless Car

I am not sure why they want to spend on technology of Cars
when the same thing could be acheived by Driverless Buses for a lower cost.
Or heck EMPLOY a few people and have chauffered cars - It is called Call Taxi in India, you call a cab when you need it,
the car is used 20 hrs a day, no parking required for all the cars it would replace etc.
They count the SAVINGS from fewer accidents, less parking spaces required, no personal auto insurance to introduce a new techno fix, when the same savings are not used to justify Public transportation!

Not to mention trains, subways, light rail,etc. Even if they have drivers, they carry dozens of cars which are driverless.

Texas is thinking about giving its oil and gas inspectors guns



Texas seems to want everyone to have guns. It is a bit creepy. Yes, you have your right to own guns. But do you really want a society where everyone walks around with a gun on their hip? I certainly don't. Obligatory Somalia Cartoon.

When I was young, we worried about the Soviet Union. The biggest threat was possible nuclear warfare. Our safety, such as it was, depended upon MAD, mutual assured destruction. The difference between then and now, with the proliferation of personal weapons of mass destruction is that we are moving into MAD on a domestic level. The problem is that this system is much less stable and secure than what we had on a international level. We are still in a period of escalation where people have concluded that their only chance for "safety" is the accumulation of their own private arsenal. While there are those lucky or skilled individuals who may be actually able to protect themselves, the system as a whole has led to tens of thousands of personal and even mass murders on a system level.

Stipulating that the U.S. constitution requires the right to bear arms on a virtually unlimited level does not mean that we shouldn't seriously question whether this system is good for the country or the individuals therein. Well, we are probably past the point of no return in that even limited disarmament would require the full force of the police state. Although, any attempt to rein in the crazies, those capable of mass murder will also require a very powerful, invasive police state.

Perhaps those with their arsensals because they are concerned about the federal government should take aim at some of the millions of surveillance cameras we have throughout the country. Big brother is already here and all the personal guns in the world is not changing that.

Gun ownership has increased dramatically since the 1980s but violent crime has plunged. Your fears are unfounded.

Actually, gun ownership has decreased dramatically. Fewer people now own guns. However, the number of guns has gone up. It is a smaller group of gun owners who each own a lot of guns. The number of gun owners has been found to be the more relevant statistic, not the number of guns.

Interesting. Do you have a link. That makes me feel a little bit better. I can go back to shooting the finger at passing drivers. Oh, wait, that is my wife as I slink down in my seat.

Well 'dramatically' is incorrect. But household gun ownership has dropped from around the 50% level to near the 30% level.

I think you need to back that up a little bit, eh?

Having just witnessed some of the most gruesome mass shootings over the last decade or so, I think we need to look at a lot more than just the annual Bullet and Bodycount.

High (but unlikely) Hopes for a responsible and mature national discussion on this one.

The difference between then and now, with the proliferation of personal weapons of mass destruction is that we are moving into MAD on a domestic level. The problem is that this system is much less stable and secure than what we had on a international level.

On not at all convinced its as unstable on an indivdual level. Its just that you substitute the law of overwhelmingly large numbers. We only had a handfull of nuclear fingers on the trigger. Say five states times forty years, or two hundred finger on the trigger years. Now give twenty average citizens a gun, and flollow them for twenty years. The odds are pretty decent no shootings will be observed. But give 200 million guns, and there will be lots of them -although no one shooting is an existential threat to the country.

spec/ts – The article was a tad silly as to the reasons they mentioned for TRRC inspectors being armed. But I can promise you that no TRRC inspector in at least the last 20 years has every travelled down a lonely lease road in S Texas and wasn’t armed. I suppose the only reason it comes up now is the aspect of the state providing some training. Works for me: they’re going to be packing anyway so the more safety training the better. Folks in the country never hear about the dangers down there. A production hand being armed? Many of the companies I know working S Texas won’t even let hands go out to leases by themselves let alone unarmed.

As far as all Texans carrying a sidearm I’ve mentioned before how untrained folks, especially those lacking the proper mental attitude, make me very nervous. OTOH had a few folks in that school been armed probably not as many children would have died. But there’s an obviously a tradeoff: arm enough teachers and eventually one will accidently shoot someone/themselves or, more tragically, a child they were supposed to be protecting. The odds of any school teacher needing to be armed are very, very small IMHO: lots of schools/teachers and not very many wackos. It’s like the old joke about life insurance: you’re betting on whether you die sooner than normal and you’re hoping the insurance company wins the bet instead of you. I’m always armed when in the oil fields and hope it’s all a wasted effort.

Fortunately most folks have never been in a truly life threatening situation. But I’m pretty sure if they were they would be very happy to have someone armed close by that could help them. And also hope that this someone doesn’t shoot them accidentally. LOL.

Reminds of folks who argue against wearing a helmet on a motor cycle. I’ve met a few bikers that suffered brain injuries and I don’t recall one every saying they were glad they weren’t wearing a helmet. Which brings up a statistical fact that seems to conflict some folks. We all agree that a biker is better off wearing head protection, right? So what about wearing a helmet when in your car? There are many, many times more folks who die of brain injuries in auto accidents than motor bike accidents. But simply because there are many, many times more auto accidents than biker accidents. Yes: the odds are worse for the biker. But what’s the concern: the statistics or how many folks who would still be alive if we all wore helmets in our cars? Many more children died of brain injuries last year in car accidents than that maniac killed. I still don’t have a good plan to prevent that from happening again…the nuts will always find a way to arm themselves legally or not. But I know a sure fire way to save the lives of many children: make them wear a helmet in the car. We do it with car seats for young children and seat belts for the rest of us. So why not helmets at least for the kids?

The helmet subject is fresh in my mind because I ate supper just last night with an engineer who won't ride in the local MS150 bicycle run because they require everyone to have wear a helmet. Having MS myself and understanding how losing a few brain cells can be a bit disconcerting I still didn’t tease him about it. Just like I don’t tease folks who would rather not own a firearm. Or wear their seat belt.

Funny you should bring up helmets. There is a school of thought in the bike (not motorized) world that wearing helmets is generally unnecessary and silly. Part of their stick is to ask why motorists aren't required to wear helmets, or for that matter, pedestrians. For that matter, I have sustained more injuries running than all my years of bicycling, which is zero. For casual, fairly slow riding, I agree that a helmet is unnecessary. But if I were a racer, I would certainly wear a helmet. Not sure the analogy with guns here is that good since helmets and seat belts don't accidentally shoot, or otherwise kill other people.

I get that people feel they need guns to protect themselves given the fact that there are so many other possibly bad people with guns out there. I am just saying that our system and way of life has produced this problem whereas in other countries gun deaths are minimal and people don't largely feel the need to arm themselves. But we are what we are and we will continue to suffer the consequences.

ts - In reality the probability of anyone, including myself, having to use a firearm to protect themselves is very low. You probably have a higher probability of sustaining a serious injury during a slow bike ride than by being confronted by a bad guy. For me it's simply a way to have some piece of mind. Even when I’m in some desolate and potentially dangerous places I just don’t tend to be worried. I’ll pay attention to what’s going on around me for sure but not very concerned. Every weekday I get out of my car at 5:30 in a dark parking lot in not the best of neighborhoods in Houston. Doesn’t bother me at all since I’m probably the most potentially dangerous person in a mile radius. LOL.

OTOH I'm not one of those folks, like my wife, who can literally start getting hyper at the sight of a firearm...even one they're holding. She does not have access to any of my weapons…that prospect is way too scary for me. LOL. BTW about 12 years ago I spent the weekend in the waiting room of the ICU of the Big Hospital in Houston. Needless to say a lot of brain traumas: motor cycles, no seat belts, etc. I don’t recall one gunshot victim.

Firearms in other countries: We had that same chat a few nights ago about the difference between the US and Britain. But as you seem to imply it doesn't matter what the situation is over there...we don't live in England. We're stuck with what we've developed on the centuries.

The bicycle situation is very different in Europe vs the US, and that complicates the helmet issue. US riders tend to go faster. I can only say from my own experience that the choice in my area is go VERY slow on the sidewalk (which is often very poor quality) or go as fast as you can on the street (my city doesn't have enough bike lanes to be worth mentioning). On my grocery routes, it's a mix of both no matter what grocery store I go to, as I've come to switch between roads and sidewalks. This is something I tried to avoid at first but gradually found to be the safest solution (I have to cross a highway to get anywhere, which complicates my routes as well).

If I had separate right of ways or conditions were different I would ride slower and not use a helmet. In Japan I did just that. But in Japan I didn't have to ride on fairly fast streets to get where I needed to go.

As to guns, every country has a different solution. In Britain and Japan, police don't even carry them all the time. In other places they carry SMGs or military rifles. The usual pattern in the US is a handgun, which is right in the middle.

Texas seems to want everyone to have guns.

I never understood why guns, especially ones that have 100 bullet clips are legal, but grenades are not. It's actually easier to avoid a grenade than bullets, because there's usually a few seconds to duck behind cover. For that matter why not stinger missles? I'd prefer to take my chances seeking cover from a missle than bullets that can't be seen.

Really? Grenades are illegal? Damn! It might be fun to go into a bar, put your grenade down on the table and order a few drinks.

Fun, yes. Maybe it would be a safer world if everyone had a grenade in their hand with the pin pulled ready to blow the other person up if they do something inappropriate.

On a more serious note though, I think they're illegal because it's more expensive to replace structures than incinerate bodies.

One of the local id10t's tried that, he got legless. Unfortunately he injured several others.


Well you could make quite a mess throwing one into a packed subway car. A much greater chance that no one would know who threw it, versus shooting a high capacity clip into a group of people.

Energy Saving

A DECC report last year ‘Capturing The Full Electricity Efficiency Potential Of The U.K.’ identified a potential for cutting energy demand by 40% by 2030, 155 TWh in all, of which current policy is estimated to capture ~54 TWh (~35% of total potential). They focused on three key sectors, and in each case they looked at the 3 largest categories of abatement measures per sector, which together are estimated to deliver ~127 TWh of savings (~80% of total potential):

Residential: The top 3 measures’ saving potential is ~58 TWh: CFL lighting, appliances and better insulation, of which ~75% is expected to be captured by current planned policies (primarily Products Policy)

Services: The top 3 measures’ saving potential is~45 TWh: better insulation, lighting controls & HVAC, of which ~15% should be captured by current/planned policies

Industrial: The top 3 measures’ saving potential is ~24 TWh: pump, motor and boiler optimisation, of which ~5% is expected to be captured via current/planned policies

Saudi Arabia overthrow imminent: Obama advisor

A close aide to US President Barack Obama has warned the president about the imminent downfall of the ruling monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

But don't worry TODers - one of the regular posters here have declared anything by presstv is poppycock due to being in the control of Iran. So points like:

“Saudi Arabia is the world's last absolute monarchy” and that “like [France's] Louis XIV, King Abdullah has complete authority.”

the ongoing wave of "Awakening” is making a revolution possible in the Arab kingdom most probably during the second term in office of President Obama.

are just Iranian propaganda.

Seriously dude. Using the screen name 'eric blair' and then believing the Iranian government press reports about Saudi Arabia when everyone knows they have a feud with Saudi Arabia is embarrassing. I'm not even saying discard everything PressTV says . . . propaganda outfits know that you have to largely tell the truth or people won't believe the propaganda parts. But I certainly would be VERY SKEPTICAL about reports between feuding parties.

The key bogus thing here is that something that was merely deemed 'possible' got called 'imminent' in the headline.

I'd have gone with 'guy (is alleged to have written) writes a brief for President'.

Then pointed out War Plan Red. You know - how there was a plan drawn up in 1927 to invade Canada.

Conclude with 'the Government of the US wants to have all options - and yea there could be such an event only because there are revolutions there is a non-zero chance of one in Saudi Arabia'. But the best conclusion argument would be around 'due to the oil money and the various affiliations due to marriage along with that money - a revolution would seem to lack a group who thinks they'd be in power once the present group is ousted VS upsetting the sweet deal they now have'

PressTV says it was Israelis who were doing the mass shootings in the U.S. They're as reputable as my dog's blog.

Man Builds Most Energy-Efficient Home He Could

Saving money was never on Dennis Kaech's mind when he built his Olympia, Wash., home. But saving energy was.

... The home features a windmill, solar panels, passive heat storage and enough insulation for a colony on Mars.

... The walls of the wood-framed home are built like a layer cake. Underneath HardiePlank siding is a layer of foam insulation acting as a thermal break, followed by house wrap over subpaneling. Inside the 2-by-6 framing, Kaech installed 4-inch batts of fiberglass insulation and had a 2-inch layer of blown-in foam insulation. Lastly, sheetrock followed.

... The radiant heat system and domestic water supply are both heated using geothermal technology.

A look over Kaech's bills shows the results. In December 2012 PSE delivered 584 kWh while his system produced 81 kWh. But in August Kaech's system produced 663 kWh. (Kaech was not yet living in the house in August and PSE delivered only 99 kWh).

A windmill that rises above the home was supposed to add to the green electrical system but it has never functioned correctly. It's a sore point for Kaech - one of the home's few failures.

... sounds like a TODster

Yeah, I've heard that small scale wind systems are generally not worth it. Small solar makes sense but small wind isn't worth the effort (unless you are totally off-grid and want some source diversity).

Hi Speculawyer,

Small scale wind can be very profitable but the wind resource is critical in a way people often overlook.
Between the North and South of the US, solar PV (with the right orientation, no trees in the way, etc) often only varies by a factor of 2. (say between California and North Dakota).

With the wind it's entirely different. Because the energy produced is proportional to the cube of the wind speed.

Energy-in-the-wind ~ (wind-speed)3

People often think their location is "windy" but it is rarely "really windy", which is what you need.
Say you have an excellent location with 9m/s average wind speed (uncomfortably windy really!). In this case imagine your payback time is typically 4 years.

If you have a 4m/s location (a little windy), then for the same turbine your payback is:
4 x (9^3 / 4^3) = 44 years!!
but if it's 6m/s (quite windy) then,
4 x (9^3 / 6^3) = only 13 years
and 6.5m/s average,
4 x (9^3 / 6.5^3) = only 10 years

This is obviously just a coarse calculation. But it shows the power of the "cube" function. Pretty windy (6m/s) and a little windy (4.5m/s) can mean a difference of 30 year payback.
Often people are unaware of how important the wind speed is, and then say "it doesn't work". But they never bothered to install an anemometer for a few months to a year to begin with. You would be surprised how even large companies investing $400m wont' bother to measure long enough how much wind there is. And then be surprised that they are losing money (This often happens when Banks or Countries have an investment that needs to be made before the end of the year. They measure in the winter ... the prospects are great! and forget to measure in the summer when the average tends to go down.). (for a quick intro to small scale wind you can see this link)

Here a example from northern Germany: The state government of Schleswig Holstein, where most of the turbines are owned by farmers, has published by the ministry of agriculture a document with calculations that clearly show that small wind looses against PV (even in northern Germany):


(page 14)

The take-home messages in countries with limited number of good sites clearly are not to waste good sites with small wind and better invest in a energy cooperative and large turbines than in small wind.

This is yet another example of poor siting. They compare a turbine in a 4.5m/s site (getting paid 8.9c/kWh produced) with a solar panel (getting paid 24.43c/kWh produced) [see p. 14 of the pdf above.]. I'm not advocating wind as a solution everywhere. On the contrary. But people need to understand the importance of wind in order to install a wind turbine.

Small turbines can be very profitable (and large turbines even more as they are more efficient). However there are other costs involved: A few large turbines means someone has to come up with €10m or €20m. And that means you will pay for the electricity, the execs, the bankers, the interest, the marketing, the complexity ... and the profits of the utility. So a medium coop owned turbine is wonderful if you can convince your neighbours. A small one on a good spot is great for resilience too.

See the results from a test of several small windturbines here.

That test is either very poorly done or has an ax to grind.

The average speed in the test site was measured to be 3.5m/s (see previous TOD article and PDF results).

At this speed it's highly discouraged to install any wind turbine large or small.
It's like putting solar panels in the shade, measuring for 3 years and saying: "see, solar doesn't work!"
With the cubic relation of energy and wind, and putting the turbines in a slight breeze (3.5m/s average), it's no wonder they don't deliver.

The test report says not to take the avg. windspeed number literally. There was no official or calibrated windspeed measurement and the test was conducted near the Dutch coast which is windy enough. The test was setup to compare the turbines among eachother. If a turbine does not work sufficiently there, it won't work in most other places. A nearby official weatherstation reported average windspeeds of about 6 m/s.

But I assume it's possible that there was some 'shade' from nearby buildings although the report says: " it is an open field with no obstructions".

I did roughly a similar thing, but to existing construction, in an area not far from the person in the article in 2006. Curious what tech is being used to generate 200F water in January. That is quite remarkable with the level of solar insolation this time of year. I would be lucky if the DSHW system on my roof produced 100F on a January day. A friend has place in the same area built new in 2007, well insulated like the one in the article with the in floor heating driven by a DSHW system. It does not produce enough heat storage to last the night, so propane is required to raise the temp.

Instead of radiant in floor heating, the house was already plumed for a forced air wood furnace, which was replaced in 2006. It has a loop for water heating and when running, can generate very hot water, which it does well at. The wood lot provides heat at the cost of managing the wood gathering/storing/moving around process.

The PV does well for the amount of solar window it has. A dual axis tracker has been the advantage. A SkyStream turbine rounds it out. It is really only good for winter storms. That was known going into it. 20/20 I would have just added more PV. But, the process at least got the county to accept it and when there is one permitted > 32', future installations benefit from an existing approved system.

Other additions like better windows and insulating blinds were added. The climate is relatively mild and the home is log, so it has good thermal inertia.

For a while the home produced more electricity than it produced, but this changed as people moved in. There is a great deal of conservation that occurs, but in the end we still consume.

Ultimately, for those who cannot afford such direct energy investment, my greatest investment has been a green house. Back when I started, I took the whole PO/CC situation seriously enough to move beyond talking about what can be done and just did it. Now, I have a very, very good understanding of what is possible for my skills. If there is any device in the PNW climate worth investing in it is a green house of some sort. I have year round greens. The herbs and various greens provide significant nutrition. All immediately fresh. It does not get any better than that.

Ultimately, however, I am as good as those in my neighborhood. Fortunately, many people stock a bit of food, can manage hunting and have small gardens. I don't feel too much like a sitting duck; nothing like my urban farmer friends with their 1/10 acre lot bursting with food surrounded by people with little clue or desire to clue in. No shortage of stories of easily accessible berries disappearing to their disappointment; and it is not the raccoons…

Even in our rural areas, notably where farming is based on trees and not food, there are still a lot of people unwilling to do the necessary manual labor to raise a garden. Despite this, regardless of where we are, we're all utterly dependent on the ultimate umbilical cord: the gas pump…. $4 diesel has nearly driven the final stakes into the increasingly desperate logging communities, especially in SW Washington.

The veil of affluence in Seattle and elsewhere is simply a veil. Many of my wealthy co-workers cannot even use a screwdriver. When presented with "exotic" meat like farm raised goose, they timidly poke at it. But, they at least have a reference in that it can be done. It just takes work and a belief in personal change.

From the local CBC newscast:

N.S. man goes green living off the grid
LEED Platinum home saves hundreds per year

One Nova Scotian is living off the grid with a super-efficient house that saves hundreds of dollars per year in electricity and heating costs.

Keith Robertson, who runs a Halifax-based architectural firm, has finished construction on a green concept cottage on Second Peninsula, N.S., about five kilometres northeast of Lunenburg.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2013/01/29/ns-off-the-gr...


Oil Refiners Say Higher Ethanol Blends May Damage Engines

Ethanol-blended gasoline approved for use in most U.S. vehicles may damage car engines by harming fuel pumps, according to a study funded by oil refiners and automakers.

While the EPA cleared the 15% blend for most vehicles sold since 2001, the study released today by the Coordinating Research Council shows it may cause fuel-pump failures, component swelling and problems that could trigger on-board diagnostic system breakdowns.

... Supporters of its use say refiners are funding studies such as the one released today by the Coordinating Research Council in their bid to overturn the Renewable Fuel Standard, either in court challenges or through legislation.

“This is more of the same old junk science, recycled by oil companies to continue to attack biofuels, which are cutting into their market segment and bottom line,” Michael Frohlich, a spokesman for the ethanol-industry group Growth Energy, said in an e-mail. “I am surprised that the CRC has not attempted to provide ‘scientific’ data that links E15 to flat tires.”

A recent Building Science Corporation paper on a multifamily (multi-unit) building ventilation retrofit. It may be of interest to anyone who owns or manages these kinds of buildings. (link is to the html report splash page, access to a 12.4 mb pdf from there)

Multifamily Ventilation Retrofit Strategies

From the executive summary...

The electrical savings resulting from upgraded fans (and reduced ventilation rates) are also significant,
changing from roughly 4,500 kWh/month to 290 kWh/month in fan use energy, including the estimated contribution of unit exhaust fans.

Lots of opportunity to reduce energy demand... and a reminder that we'd be saving a lot of energy if we bothered to build well and give a damn in the first place.

From Robyn Allan at The Tyee...

Canadian Oil Producers' Crocodile Tears

Two reasons why claims that pipeline resistance hurts their bottom line are, well, crude at best.

Cenovus CEO Brian Ferguson, speaking at a Whistler investor's forum Jan. 24, 2012, claimed the double discount in crude prices from a lack of pipeline capacity is a "subsidization to the United States consumer by the Canadian economy" which he calculated is "$1,200 per Canadian."

The message he's sending? If each one of us wants to keep that $1,200 a year instead of providing income support for Americans, then get on the pipeline band wagon and become like him -- "in favour of all pipelines, going anywhere."

Ferguson's message is a variation of a theme we've been hearing from big oil for a couple of years -- echoed by the Canadian and Alberta governments. They get away with this tall tale because most of us do not understand how oil is traded and crude prices are set. Nor do we realize that the majority of crude oil produced belongs to integrated operations that own refineries too -- so if they lose on the one hand, they make it up on the other.

So, is this supposed to convince Americans to support the pipeline?

Nah. That is just to get Canadians to support it. And they can talk about it openly because they know Fox News is not going to carry such a story and the Americans are not going to find via other means.

Well, it's pretty clear that Allen doesn't know how crude oil is marketed and prices are set.

The Alberta and Canadian governments are upset because a lot of this money comes out of their pockets. Taxes and royalties on oil companies are much higher in Canada than in the US, and there are no subsidies to Canadian oil companies. Why would there be when most of it is exported to the US?

In fact, low prices are going to cost the Alberta government about $6 billion in lost royalty and corporate income tax revenue this year, and the Canadian government is down a similar amount. Meanwhile it is affecting the country's balance of payments, which would show a surplus rather than a deficit if oil was being sold at world levels.

The low prices also constitute a subsidy from Canadian producers to US refiners - or in many cases from the Canadian branch of a multinational to the American parent company. The Eastern Canadian refineries don't benefit because they pay full Brent prices for their feedstock, and 40% of the country's oil consumption is imported into Eastern Canada at those prices. Meanwhile, Canada is exporting more oil to the US than it consumes itself, but at a discount of about $50/barrel to Brent prices.

It's pretty clear Allen doesn't understand any of this. He is right, though, that American consumers are not benefiting from any of this. The American refiners running cheap Canadian oil are selling fuel at the same price as refiners who have to run Brent, and are pocketing all of the savings themselves.

Rocky – I’m going to keep picking on you but you know it’s not personal, you whining bastard. LOL.

“In fact, low prices are going to cost the Alberta government about $6 billion in lost royalty and corporate income tax revenue this year”. Allow me to rephrase that statement: how much more income has Alberta received from royalty and taxes in the last 5 years thanks to increased prices…prices that US consumers have been forced to pay to you greedy Canadians? I’m particularly miffed with yous guys for dumping your cheap crude into the US market place and knocking down the revenue I get from my oil production. The amount of “lost royalty and corporate income tax revenue” in the US, along with decreased production revenue, has been staggering. And all thanks to Canadian efforts to hurt US producers, mineral owners and local govts as well as the fed govt. Let’s not forget that the fed govt is the largest single recipient of oil royalty in this country and those cheap Canadian imports have reduced that revenue stream.

"The low (high) prices also constitute a subsidy from Canadian producers (US consumers) to US refiners (Canadian producers)." Again, nothing personal, you bastard. LOL. You gore my ox and I'll gore yours.

How much more income has the Alberta government received from US consumers in the last 5 years because of higher oil prices? Oh, it's hard to say but I would guess it is about $30 billion. And we'd like to thank you for the money. We've done our best to spend it wisely on schools, roads, and hospitals - unlike in the US where it would have been spent on keeping troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and bailing out banks.

We're not particularly interested in goring your ox. We'd be willing to gore anybody's ox. We'd really like to gore some Chinese oxen, but we just can't get the oil to China - yet.

Rocky - As much as I hate to admit it but I'm sure your Canadian govt has managed such affairs better than the US govt. All thing being equal I'd rather see our money go to yous guys then Hugo. But all of you are still greedy bastards! LOL.