Drumbeat: February 23, 2013

U.S. Oil Demand Fell to 18-Year Low for January, API Says

U.S. January oil demand fell to the lowest level for the month in 18 years as a weak economy reduced consumption, the American Petroleum Institute reported.

Total petroleum deliveries, a measure of demand, dropped 1.7 percent from a year earlier to 18 million barrels a day, the industry-funded group said in a monthly report today. Total consumption fell 2 percent in 2012, the API said last month. The U.S. jobless rate increased to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in January.

Stuart Staniford: OECD Oil Consumption

Global peak oil is probably not here, though I think it likely we are on the bumpy plateau. However, for the US and Europe, peak oil consumption has probably been and gone. We survived.

Peak oil down to war, depression and geopolitical shifts

Given the increase in the amount of oil that China and India are importing, it looks as if there will be no oil available for other countries to import in another decade.

Oil Prices Will Not Moderate for Long Periods of Time

Recent releases from the International Energy Agency tell of moderating growth rate of the global demand for oil – which was based on lower economic growth projections. And promises of “fracking” to boost oil supply are bouncing around cyberspace. Images of supply and demand curves flash in ones mind.

Yet, the cost of oil today has little to do with supply versus demand – but is more about marginal cost of supply and producers ability to manipulate supply. Peak oil and anti-Obama rhetoric notwithstanding, oil production in the USA has been growing (see graph below).

Past Peak Oil

All too often, people oversimplify things.

Whether it's comparing our federal budget to a single household budget, or absolutely refusing to take a closer look at the various political one-liners we see every day in news cycles, we're constantly exposed to the facts being boiled down to a simple, black-and-white concept that can easily be forced down a feeding tube.

We see a perfect example of this in the energy arena, and nothing will be more destructive than oversimplifying (and, as a result, misconstruing) the concept of Peak Oil.

A Proposal for a Propane Tank Looms Large Over a Maine Coastal Town

SEARSPORT, Me. — In the winter of 2007, thousands of homes and businesses in rural Maine almost lost their heat because of a severe propane shortage.

The shortage led to rationing and prompted Gov. John Baldacci to scramble for a solution, including asking DCP Midstream, a Denver company that already supplied propane to New England, to help increase imports to guard against future disruptions, company officials said.

...But a funny thing happened during the lengthy governmental approval process — the energy industry, flush with gas from hydraulic fracturing in the nation’s shale fields, did a U-turn and has cut back on imports in favor of exports.

“There has not been a ship that has brought propane into New England in almost a year,” said Joe Rose, the president and chief executive of the Propane Gas Association of New England. “At this point, the facilities in New England are in a state of being semi-mothballed.”

US shale may force more European refinery closures

LONDON: Europe’s hard-pressed refining industry faces more closures as its competition in the United States enjoys the double bonus of growing domestic shale oil supply and cheaper electricity bills from shale gas.

Traditionally, Europe’s refiners have exported surplus gasoline to the United States and emerging markets and served their home markets with as much diesel as they can produce. But the US shale boom is changing the dynamic, with American refiners now enjoying profitable advantages.

Oil Rises on German Business Confidence

West Texas Intermediate oil rose, paring the biggest weekly decline since December, after German business confidence climbed to a 10-month high and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced.

Futures gained 0.3 percent as the Munich-based Ifo institute’s business climate index increased, signaling that Europe’s largest economy is gathering strength. Equities also rallied on the report. Oil tumbled $4.26 a barrel in the previous two days. The drop accelerated yesterday after the Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude supplies rose 4.14 million barrels last week to 376.4 million.

India: Supreme Court may hear plea on pricing of natural gas

New Delhi (IANS) The Supreme Court is likely to hear Monday a petition seeking the quashing of a government pricing policy which allegedly gives cheaper natural gas to industry as compared to domestic consumers who use it for cooking.

Sri Lanka raises fuel prices to record to cut losses

(Reuters) - Sri Lanka raised the price of fuels to record levels on Saturday to prevent the state-owned oil firm suffering further losses due to increased global oil prices and a reduction in Iran crude imports, an official said.

China's energy consumption rises

Beijing (IANS) China's energy consumption has gone up, show statistics.

China's energy consumption totaled 3.62 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent in 2012, up 3.9 percent year on year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.

PBF Sees Crude Oil Trains Boosting East Coast Refinery Profits

PBF Energy Inc. is betting that shipping discounted crude by rail from Canada and North Dakota can make its East Coast refineries profitable on the heels of several shut-downs in the region.

Barnett Shale rigs slip to 10-year low

Rigs working in the Barnett Shale kept declining this week, dropping by two to 27, the lowest in at least 10 years as producers continue to migrate toward fields with more profitable crude oil.

Gasoline Gains for First Time in Four Days, Pump Prices Rise

Gasoline rose for the first time in four days and pump prices edged closer to last year’s highs. Crack spreads and the April contract’s premium to later months increased.

Ethanol Snaps Streak of Gains Against Gasoline on Higher Output

Ethanol snapped the longest streak of gains against gasoline in five weeks as prices for the motor fuel rose for the first time in four days and production of the biofuel increased.

The spread widened 3.01 cents to 71.66 cents a gallon, based on futures settlement prices, the first expansion since Feb. 14. Gasoline prices recovered a day after the Energy Information Administration said supplies sank 2.88 million barrels and ethanol production grew for a third week.

Forties Crude Loadings Rise in March Amid Swathe of Minor Delays

Seven cargoes of North Sea Forties crude were shunted further into the future by a few days each, reducing the number of February shipments by one, and increasing March’s tally by one, according to two people with direct knowledge of the schedule.

North Africa’s Prospects as Energy Goliath Are Fading

LONDON — A deadly attack by militants on an Algerian natural gas plant last month has dealt a major setback to a group of North African countries whose prospects as oil and gas producers were already cloudy.

A few years ago, Algeria, Libya and Egypt looked like they would provide much of the solution to Europe’s declining natural gas production and its uneasy reliance on Russia for supplies of a fuel widely used in industry, power generation and home heating.

But well before the early morning assault by dozens of raiders on the In Amenas gas facility, deep in the Sahara, the difficult political realities of the region were creating doubts about how big a role North Africa could play in the world energy equation.

Iran says 16 locations selected as suitable for construction of new nuclear power plants

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has selected 16 locations as suitable for new nuclear power plants it intends to build to boost its energy production over the next 15 years, authorities said on Saturday.

The Islamic republic says it needs 20 large-scale plants to meet its growing electricity needs over the next one-and-a-half decades. It currently operates a 1,000-megawat nuclear power plant at Bushehr, a coastal town on the Persian Gulf, and is planning to build a 360-megawatt nuclear power plant in the southwestern town of Darkhovin.

Ghana advised to manage oil find transparently

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has cautioned Ghana to illustrate greater transparency and accountability in managing the fledgling oil industry to avoid the challenges associated with the harnessing of the natural resource.

Enbridge Pipeline meeting scheduled for Feb. 28

BLOOMINGTON — Enbridge Pipelines will host an informational meeting Feb. 28 on plans to extend its pipeline system through Illinois.

The 165-mile proposed Southern Access Extension Pipeline Project includes an extension of existing pipeline from Enbridge’s Flanagan Terminal near Pontiac and ending in Patoka in southern Illinois.

Exxon lifts force majeure on Nigerian Qua Iboe crude

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp has lifted a force majeure on the Nigerian Qua Iboe crude stream put in place on February 7, the company said in a statement on Friday.

The company said that pipeline work had prompted the declaration.

Weak economy pinches Red Lobster

Darden's CEO specifically cited the payroll tax hike and higher gas prices as a problem. There are concerns that low-income and middle-class consumers will be squeezed by higher taxes and rising energy costs. Wal-Mart (WMT) warned Thursday of soft February sales too.

BP Heads Into Spill Trial With Initial Court Victory

BP Plc heads into a sprawling trial Monday over who is liable for the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history with an early victory, after a judge ruled some documents related to its criminal conviction can’t be used.

BP Spill Pact Excluded Billions in Possible Loss Claims

Bill Floyd, owner of an upscale seafood restaurant near downtown Houston, is a poster-child for the type of damage claim BP Plc left out of its $8.5 billion settlement for the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

When the energy company’s blown-out Macondo well dumped more than 4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Floyd saw his costs for fresh shrimp, crab and oysters almost double overnight while his sales flat-lined.

Underground Nuclear Tanks Leaking in Washington State

SEATTLE — Six underground tanks holding radioactive waste are leaking at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee said on Friday after a meeting with federal officials overseeing the cleanup of the nation’s most polluted nuclear site.

Md., D.C. utilities pay paper mills burning ‘black liquor’ for alternative fuel credits

Thanks to a wrinkle in the definition of renewable, the lion’s share of the money used to meet those standards is flowing to paper companies that burn “black liquor,” a byproduct of the wood-pulping process. Paper mills have been using black liquor to generate most of their power needs since the 1930s.

Environmentalists are up in arms over what they see as a perversion of the intent of the law. Instead of encouraging new clean technology, they say, it is rewarding an old practice that emits as much carbon dioxide as burning coal.

Saudi sets out roadmap for major renewable energy programme

(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has published a roadmap for its renewable energy programme, aimed at reducing the amount of oil it burns in power stations, and targets issuing final bids for the first plants within three months.

The world's top oil exporter aims to install 23.9 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power capacity by 2020 and 54.1 GW by 2032, it said in the roadmap, which would make Saudi Arabia one of the world's main producers of renewable electricity.

Indonesia's Palm Oil Blues Spreading to Africa: Report

Major palm oil producers accused of destroying Indonesia’s forests and driving its iconic wildlife to the verge of extinction are now taking their practices to the relatively pristine forests of the Congo Basin, an environmental group has warned.

Biofuels Converting U.S. Prairielands at Dust Bowl Rates

WASHINGTON (IPS) - The rush for biofuels in the United States has seen farmers converting the United States’ prairie lands to farms at rates comparable with deforestation levels in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia – rates not seen here since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

6 in 10 people worldwide lack access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation

It may be the 21st century, with all its technological marvels, but 6 out of every 10 people on Earth still do not have access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation that protects the user and the surrounding community from harmful health effects, a new study has found. The research, published in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology, says the number of people without access to improved sanitation is almost double the previous estimate.

India and Nepal face struggle over water resources

In the west of the region, arguments between Pakistan and India over vital water resources in areas bordering the two countries continue.

In the east tensions are rising as India expresses concerns about a spate of planned dam-building projects by China on rivers flowing into Indian territory, particularly on the mighty Brahmaputra.

Could Humans Go Extinct?

There’s a chance we’re living in end times.

Canada has acted on climate as Keystone waits: envoy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Canada has taken action to protect the climate during the more than four years it has waited for U.S. approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and there's little more it can do in the short term, the country's ambassador to the United States said.

The Case for Fossil-Fuel Divestment

It's obvious how this should end. You've got the richest industry on earth, fossil fuel, up against some college kids, some professors, a few environmentalists, a few brave scientists.

And it's worse than that. The college students want their universities to divest from fossil fuel – to sell off their stock in Exxon and Shell and the rest in an effort to combat global warming. But those universities, and their boards, have deep ties to the one percent: combined, their endowments are worth $400 billion, and at Harvard, say, the five folks who run the portfolio make as much money as the entire faculty combined.

Rethinking Our Response to Climate Change: Carbon Wedges 2.0

By framing decisions and objectives narrowly, the wedges paradigm (at least as applied in scores of analyses like the 90×50 report) prevents robust consideration of the complexity and uncertainty inherent in responding to climate change.

Lifting a Town to Escape the Next Storm

HIGHLANDS, N.J. — If not for the most deadly natural disaster in American history, in Texas, and an innovative response to it, more than a century ago, one might briskly consign the proposal to save this oft-flooded borough at the northern end of the Jersey Shore to the realm of pigs with wings.

But four months after Hurricane Sandy almost obliterated downtown Highlands, an unlikely idea with one enormous historical antecedent seems to be taking hold here: Don’t just raise the buildings. Raise the town.

'Canary in the coal mine': Living beyond the levees in Louisiana

"Leeville is washing away," Bryan said. "We're losing our marsh."

Leeville's plight underscores a national debate over how much to build near water and what to save once the land begins to disappear, said Robert Lempert, a senior scientist at Rand Corp. who studies how coastal communities respond to sea level rise.

Boston Grapples With The Threat Of Storms And Rising Water

Since the drubbing that Superstorm Sandy gave the Northeast in November, there's a new sense of urgency in U.S. coastal cities. Even though scientists can't predict the next big hurricane, they're confident that a warmer climate is likely to make Atlantic storms bigger and cause more flooding.

Cities like Boston are in the bull's-eye.

"Global peak oil is probably not here, though I think it likely we are on the bumpy plateau. "

So Stuart, how do you analyze that plateau?

There is a direct line from discoveries to current reserves to production. The Reserves over Production ratio is shrinking as the plateau appears flat.

That's even before taking into consideration the declining net energy from new oil and the usually increasing environmental impact thereof.

It really is about doing the right kind of bookkeeping. We need to separate out the various grades of oil and not mindlessly lump everything together.

It won't get this bad, but just think if gold, silver, platinum were all placed under a "precious metals" category and sold that way. Or if diamonds, rubies, etc were counted under the same bucket as gemstones. Yet that is what is happening with the oil production numbers, as more and more is being counted as an Barrel of Oil Equivalent (boe). This only works if somehow the net energy is included.

Wait until they change the numbers from barrels to metric tons and they start mixing oil and coal together and report it as all liquids and solids (alas).


Are you really making the case that the production over reserves ratio should trend in a straight line through the peak? If the production numbers stop rising and decline, and the reserve numbers are also declining (since we know there is a discovery time offset), then the curve should flatten - which is what the data appears to show.

Or are you saying we aren't at peak yet (in your model) and that's why the model output continues to climb.

Personally I think the curve should go up and down as different effects play out over different time horizons.

Mind, I would gain a different takehome from OECD consumption numbers than Stuart. The easy reductions are are the first reductions - cutting US demand from 20Mbpd to 15Mbpd should be relatively easy (given the waste). However, with China and India there to take up any slack (and more) the problem comes in the next tranche. The OECD has no easy cuts left, but its economies are relatively impoverished relative to Chindia. As the price spikes to drive out demand further, the strain brings 'breaks', not adaptation. We'd need to be making structural fixes now to avoid that, and that I don't see happening.

One can make quite a few points by looking at the system as a flow model. This is a statistical view of how long it takes to go from an initial strike to full production as a series of stages.

When the yearly reserve additions match the yearly production level the peak is near.

The peak growth rate in reserves happened very close to the shock in the 1970's.

The R/P ratio goes through cycles over a historical time-frame. It starts low and builds as discoveries accelerate. Over time the producers realize that they have too much oil and so need to throttle back on production. At some time the demand catches up and the oil becomes much more valuable, so production starts to accelerate. Since the market is very efficient, the collective sense realizes that this can't go on indefinitely and so the R/P ratio hits a minimum. Unfortunately, this will lead to a lull in economic productivity as production backs off and the R/P starts rising again. The last stage is when the reality of diminishing returns force the economy into hyperdrive as the oil becomes very valuable and the extraction pressure leads to a final decline in R/P.

So the R/P ratio profile is shaped like an upside-down W over time. The proportional extraction rate is the reciprocal of R/P and so that is shaped like a W.

How do you show this? Start with a discovery curve and a dispersive stochastic model

Then one applies a staged model to generate a reserve profile and modulate the production profile by perturbing the proportional extraction rate.

Note the middle of the W-profile appears very close to the highest yearly reserve growth rate. This is essentially when Pres. Carter had the future pegged.

If the R/P and extraction rate were constant over time, it would have looked like this:

but since geo-political and market forces exert an influence, we get the jagged production shape.

Nice series, WHT. But I'm a bit lost in your summary.

Then one applies a staged model to generate a reserve profile and modulate the production profile by perturbing the proportional extraction rate.

Would appreciate an expansion on any or all of the underlined points.

And ... then ... it would have looked like this: ... but since geo-political and market forces exert an influence

How are extraction rates influenced by market forces in ways not accounted for in your model?

A staged model is the figure labeled "shocked". The reserve profile is the green curve labeled "Reserve".
The production profile is the blue-green curve labeled "Model", which lays on the purple curve labeled "Data" (which drops at the last date). The production gets modified by the extraction rate which is applied proportionally to the amount of non-processed cumulative reserves available. The word perturbation indicates that the modification is around an average value. If it is not perturbed, then we get the graph labeled "average".

This is an inverse process because one wants to find the extraction rate by fitting a model to the data.
The analysis is often referred to as a multi-compartment model.

"How are extraction rates influenced by market forces in ways not accounted for in your model?"

The forces do exert an influence in the model. The only influence on the "average" model is a steady extraction rate, which essentially places a constant maximally "greedy algorithm" to the reserve resource.

The W modulation is also external. The analogy is that of a person's life activity. When we are young, we try to do everything. We only slow down when we realize we have lots of time to pace ourselves. At mid-life, we suddenly get nervous and try to pick up the pace. This activity drops as we realize that we can't sustain this pace. Finally, at the end we realize that the bucket list is still unchecked and we try to get the last flurry in before we expire. These are all market forces because we do things based on an awareness of our environment.

No matter what data we do or do not possess, the tacit knowledge exists that tells us how the oil situation is evolving. The world knew in the 1970's that we were reaching the reserve peak and reacted accordingly. Models are important in allowing us to infer this explanation.


Did you say on TOD a little bit ago that you are working on a book, or perhaps a paper?

I apologize for not remembering...I read a lot and lose track of all the things on my mental reading list...

Do you have your own web site/blog?

The book has been out about 2 years now as a PDF


I am also creating a semantic web server that will provide environmental models, including fossil fuel projections.
As part of the tuning effort, I am testing the models in the book as web services. The charts that you see part of this process. It is kind of interesting to revisit the data and models and see how they are progressing.

WHT, sorry for me being dense...I went to your blog and clicked on the embedded link to The Oil Conundrum, but went to a mostly-blank screen...do I need to sign in to Google DOCs to download the PDF?

Also, do you (or anyone else) know if one can load a PDF onto a Kindle Fire?

Beats me. They must have changed the access criteria.

Once you are in go to File/Download for the PDF. Then you can email it to your Kindle account.

For those who think that increasing price of oil will eventually kill economic growth, then a graph of quarterly GDP plotted against the price of oil since 2002 may be of interest, since it suggests that real US GDP growth effectively goes negative as early as 2014 (for moderate inflation) and as late as 2018 (for low inflation such as the last 12 months).

However since I can’t just cut+paste my graph here, then I will just describe how to go about plotting GDP vs. oil prices, so that you can add a new data point every quarter (note that the 2nd estimate of the most recent quarter comes out Feb. 28).

For the oil prices, I average the Brent and WTI prices for each quarter. You can get the monthly WTI oil prices at: http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=RWTC&f=M

And you can get the monthly Brent prices at:

To get the quarterly GDP numbers, go to the link below and click on “Current dollar and real GDP (excel)” [note that you want the nominal GDP numbers since you can adjust for inflation on the graph]: http://www.bea.gov/national/index.htm#gdp

I just annualize the quarterly changes. For instance, the 3rd quarter GDP was $15.811 Trillion and the 4th quarter estimate was $15.829.0 Trillion, for a .11% quarterly increase, and so a .46% annualized quarterly increase (yes, even before adjusting for inflation, the most recent quarter’s growth was essentially zero).
(Keep in mind that the first estimate of each quarter’s GDP is made about 3 weeks into the first month of the following quarter, with that initial estimate revised towards the end of the two following months.

At first, the graph of annualized quarterly GDP plotted against the quarterly average of Brent and WTI oil prices since 2002 will not make any sense, as the plot will look totally random. However, it becomes much clearer once the data for the last two quarters 2008 and the first two quarters of 2009 are eliminated. Once they are eliminated, the graph shows a very clear, though variable, trend and this trend shows the steady decline in GDP in response to the ever higher oil prices since the end of 2002.

(Why eliminate these 4 points of data? Remember, the purpose of this graph is to show how US growth responds to ever higher oil prices (how Y responds to changes in X ). However, during the 4 quarters eliminated, oil prices dropped due to the Great Recession (X responded to Y instead). In other words, unless one believes that low oil prices cause recession in the US, then those 4 data points are just muddying the waters).

Right now, the trend line through this adjusted graph shows that average GDP declines to zero when oil prices reach someplace between $122 and $150, depending on the inflation rate. In other words, if the inflation rate is what it has averaged since 2002 (2.84%) then it would only take $122 oil to drive nominal growth down to the 2.87% level. On the other hand, if inflation stays as it has the last year (1.7%), then it would take $150 oil to drive nominal growth down to 1.7%.

Finally, by plotting oil prices since 2002 (and assuming oil price continue to go up in a straight line as they seem want to do), then you can use the trendline through that data to estimate when oil prices will reach the price indicated by the first graph. When you do that, it can be seen that an oil price of $122 can be expected as early as late 2014, while a price of $150 would be expected sometime before the end of 2018.

Re posting images

1. Go to http://tinypic.com
2. Click on the "Choose File" button
3. Select a file and click "Open"
4. In the "Resize" option, select "Web/Email 320x240"
5. Select "Upload Now"
6. Enter in the phrase as prompted and select "Upload Now"
7. Copy the "HTML for websites" and paste it into a comment here.
8. And ... voila ... Du Rhinocerot

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You might want the next larger size for detailed charts.

What really matters is "per capita" GDP, because if GPD is growing less than population, then, the population is on average getting poorer. The first image I show in The Investment Sinkhole post shows that for the six year period comparing 2011 to 2005, US GDP growth on a per capita basis was already slightly negative.

US population is growing about 1% per year. The US economy has been growing by less than 1% per year, so when we back out population growth, the result is slightly negative.

The situation with wages is even worse. Wages have not been growing as fast as GDP. In the graph below, I divide US wages (excluding government wages) by the total US population, and then take this dollar amount and convert it to 2012$ using the CPI-Urban cost index.

To read about the wage issue, read my post The Connection of Depressed Wages to High Oil Prices and Limits to Growth. On this basis, wages in 2012 are between the level they were in 1998 and 1999.

Can you show where your wage data comes from?

I'm too dumb to figure out how to post my curves but using BLS data for wages and CPI I come up with weekly non-supervisory wages in the US peaking in 1971 at $114.85 (1967 dollars) and dropping to $97.62 in 2010. That's a drop of 15% over that time period. Most likely they haven't gone up much if at all since then. I use the 1967 base because at my age I relate better to those numbers!

Wow. Now that's something, a decrease in real wages since at least since 1947. I'm not surprised.

I wasn't able to reproduce EE's results.

1. I found no correlation between % change in quarterly oil prices (ave(wti,brent)) and % change in quarterly GDP from 1980-2012.

2. I found a very weak correlation between the two using the last 10 years of data (2002-Sep to 2012-Jun), but the trend was positive - a rise in oil_prices correlated with a rise in GDP. r = 0.41

3. Using the last 40 quarters but excluding the the last two quarters of 2008 and the first two quarters of 2009 (total 36 quarters) produced a data set with no correlation.

Script here

This kind of analysis raises lots of questions. A rise in oil prices could be related to increased economic activity (and therefore demand for oil) or to a supply shortfall. Possibly both these scenarios could apply at the same time. I've suggested before that, from the perspective of economic activity, oil prices could be considered as a negative feedback loop. There are also many other variables including the price of alternative fuels, such as natural gas, and the effects of efforts to stimulate the economy through monetary policy and other measures. It would seem that there are no constants - they are all variables.

The constant in my experience is spending power vs labour in hours. In other words how many hours does one have to work to pay the rent.

The number of hours I need to work to pay the monthly rent [for the same property I should add] as a commercial sector archaeologist has risen from 18.7 hours in 1988 to 52 hours in 2013. It should be noted that this includes the fact I have advanced in position from lowly site technician to a site supervisor role responsible for reports and analysis.

Thats an extraordinary hit on spending power. Now some may say commercial sector archaeology is an odd exception but if I compare wages in other jobs I have had in that time [archaeology has a record of intermittency since it is construction industry lead] which include bicycle messenger and sprinkler pipe fitter it is a similar story. I choose these two because I have done these jobs over a spread of years thus have temporal insight.

As a cycle courier in 1990 it would take about 48 "drops" "tags" or "dockets" to pay the monthly rent by 1998 it would take 70, in 2013 about 140. A frightening decay in wage power but some may say this is linked to the changing technological landscape [yes but what is your point?].

As a sprinkler pipe fitter [relatively high pay construction worker job] from 2000 to 2013 the hours required have risen from 37 hours to 48 hours. A job with inbuilt demand because large office/commercial properties have to have their pipe systems replaced every 12 years or so.

AFAIAC real wages have been shrinking a long time for manual sector work, even skilled manual sector work

I dread to work it out for energy prices

AFAIAC real wages have been shrinking a long time for manual sector work, even skilled manual sector work

This would be happening with or without Peak Oil. Lots of manual work has been automated. Lots of other manual labor has been exported. Plus, in an enormous act of folly we've allowed tens of millions of low skilled immigrants to come in. Less demand for manual labor. More supply. The result is incredibly unsurprising: lower labor prices.

I keep telling people: You've got to move, make career changes, work harder, learn more and learn faster. This isn't the 1950s or 1960s when a rising tide really did lift all boats. That era is so gone and it is not coming back.

I am amazed at the level of complacency, denial, and sheer laziness. Declining buying power per hour worked is a loud signal. You've got to respond to it. Think it is bad now? It will get far worse at higher oil price points. Time to start training to get into a more lucrative line of work.

And, as everyone gets into that "more lucrative line of work", it will suddenly be another dead end, low paying job. Not a career. A job. There are too many people seeking work, and technology makes it possible for fewer people to do more work. It is so ironic, I think, that Karl Marx wrote about this so long ago. I've always been amused by that observation that Marx was right about Capitalism. Unfortunately, he was wrong about Communism.

Personally, I think those of us that focus on living with less and are rediscovering community are on the right track. But I don't know. And I'm not sure anyone else does.

I think you might consider that there are a lot of quite smart and energetic people out here who HAVE figured out this issue without your guidance, and that retraining only gets you that next nickel if there are some nickels to be got. My wife just lost out to Austerity/Tea Party-ism this summer, and managed to, with a too-excellent resume' and qualification, beat 99 others to get her next situation, a downgrade in every repect but for hours required.. my path is following the curve just as predictably, and I could easily blame myself, and sometimes do.. but I suspect it's not just individuals who are being 'complacent, lazy or in denial' ..

For the reasons we've all been looking at for several years now, the nickels are vanishing from the tabletop, and the tablescraps have apparently long since dried up and blown away.

There are now record numbers hitting our shelters and food banks, and the street corners have more and more become staked out with the next wave. This isn't generalized from the national news.. this is the streets around me, right here.

One retired tradesman I spoke with at the job I now enjoy was telling me that a search of the building permits pulled for the surrounding towns, which used to number in the hundreds per town, are in single digits now. He said like 'Six, seven in a town..' The million dollar days for such retailers as mine are ever more distant memories.

There IS work and training to do, but looking for 'more Lucrative lines of work' might not be the right way to angle for it. 'Far Less costly ways to live' is a more likely path to success now..

"There IS work and training to do, but looking for 'more Lucrative lines of work' might not be the right way to angle for it. 'Far Less costly ways to live' is a more likely path to success now.."

The catch is that certain fixed costs are eating people up. Mididoctors' example of rent increasing relative to wages is probably the killer of them all, as rent is typically the biggest fixed expense. It's very hard to find a 'far less costly way to live' when just having a PLACE to live is eating up any gains you may have made with not eating out, driving less, etc.

I think land/property reform is the final frontier of modern capitalism, the biggest thing nobody talks about. We had a mortgage crisis, but we didn't talk about what that really meant. What it really meant is that real property is increasingly in the hands of banks, speculators, and the rich, while those lower down the ladder live at the mercy of those above who get the luxury of setting rents.

FuturePundit has a point but the reality is that many are getting the shaft no matter what. A society needs even maids, janitors, and baristas. All these people need to be able to live. Not everyone is smart enough, ruthless enough, or has the right connections to climb the ladder. As it is we seem determined to ensure that those people have less and less. Ironically, in a limited collapse scenario many people who don't have much would be better off in some ways, as it would probably be much easier to get away with squatting!

Capitalism is increasingly looking more and more like feudalism to me, except instead of Dukes and Barons we have CEOs and VPs.

As far as rent goes, I get to hold the back end of that vicious circle, too. I have 4 units that we rent out, providing heat and hot water, and my tenants have not seen a hike for some time. We get to juggle with the balance of 'If I raise their rent to really reflect the price change in energy, do I risk losing great tenants, will I find any who can manage the new price or do I drop it again and risk bringing in new folks that much closer to their own wage sags and impending bankruptcies?

I've been trying to rework these two houses to assuage the running costs, but it's a very rocky race against time.

I think the Mortgage Lending standards we've all been indoctrinated to accept are a good example of the feudalism you describe. A big all or nothing, never-slip-up gamble with a one-sided endgame.

Capitalism is increasingly looking more and more like feudalism to me, except instead of Dukes and Barons we have CEOs and VPs.

the rise in domestic workers has been noted where I live [Hackney N London.

would be happening with or without Peak Oil. Lots of manual work has been automated. Lots of other manual labor has been exported. Plus, in an enormous act of folly we've allowed tens of millions of low skilled immigrants to come in. Less demand for manual labor. More supply. The result is incredibly unsurprising: lower labor prices

You hear this sort of argument a lot and it seems fairly common sensical at first glance. But it can not be the whole story. The reserve labour force in the UK has sat at pretty much the same level for decades.

If you look at cycle messengers in London the number is holding pretty constant. surprisingly so. In point of fact one odd characteristic of the UK economy is the lack of rising unemployment.

In archaeology there is a shortage of labour! you can not get anybody to work for the pitiful wage and despite increasing demand the buying power is still declining. The situation makes no sense in simplistic economic supply/demand terms. what is happening there?

there is a regulatory stipulation in planning law to deal with archaeological deposits and people are desperate to get it out the way? Why has the value of that labour declined. quite odd?

I mean it's not like one can outsource archaeological deposits to China.

Ron, first of all, thanks much for explaining how to post an image with Tinypics. I would never have figured it out in a hundred years if you hadn't explained it. One reason it took so long to reply is that I lso had to learn how to use Powerpoint to save images in a png format

And just to be clear, in my graph of quarterly GDP change, I am graphing quarterly %change in GDP against the ACTUAL quarterly average oil price (average of WTI+Brent).

OK, so the first graph below is my graph of GDP change vs. oil price, with the 4 quarters excluded as explained earlier. Now I do understand that the R-Sq. of this plot is poor, but then I don't think anyone expects oil price to be the only thing that affects GDP. However, what I have done is to go back and selectively eliminate the data all the way back to 2008 and it is amazing how consistant the trend line has remained since then. I think the trend line back then would almost overlay the present trend line

Just to explain, I have also added the inflation lines to make it easier to see when nominal GDP reaches potential inflation, at which time, of course, real growth would be zero. And I have also added the second graph plotting monthly oil prices since 2002, which should be identical to everyone elses plot of the same oil prices.

Of course, my one worry is that any time one finds a graph that verifies one's beliefs, that a mistake was probably made someplace, so I will be interested if anyone can find fault with this GDP-oil price relationship

Thanks again.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Oh, and just to explain that the yellow data point is the most recent data point while the 3 red data points are the 3 before that. The 4th quarter GDP will get revised next week, and usually the revision is upward, but not always.

Okay, so I'm following you now.
(A chart is worth more than a wordy post)

A couple of notes.

1) The effect of eliminating 2008Q3-2009Q2 decreases the slope of your relationship. The intercept without the exclusions is around $113 a barrel (ave(brent,wti)) and with the exclusions at a $184 a barrel. However, the correlation in both cases is pretty low around .35.

2) Using data from 2002Q3-2012Q2, but including a 2 quarter lag in which I check GDP growth 2 quarters following the oil price, increases the correlation to .59. And decreases the intercept to $91.

3) There is no correlation reversing the lag. There is no evidence that changes in GDP correlate with oil prices in the following quarters.

4) To understand the relation, understand the definition of GDP which is basically: consumer spending + govt spending + investment + exports - imports. As long as we are a net importer, higher oil prices (assuming constant demand) increase import costs and lower net GDP.

5) The .35 correlation for GDPgrowth-oilprice probably reflects the immediate effect of increasing/decreasing oil prices on GDP via import costs. I suspect that the higher correlation 2 quarter afterwards reflect the effect of increases/decreases rippling through the rest of the economy.

6) I think it's fair to say that this implies that the oil prices are supply driven and not demand driven. If demand was driving oil prices, wouldn't we see some evidence that rising GDP increases oil prices in the following quarters?

At what timeframes are you checking lead/lag effects? A jump in GDP from other causes would presumably be reflected immediately in consumer prices, and then later for upstream impacts. Going the other way, production issues would presumable flow the other way, as higher operations and recovery costs affect producers, then pipelines and refineries, blenders, and finally the consumers.

There is probably no way to completely decouple any analysis with so many obviously overlapping factors, but the regression you guys are doing against the core indicators seems pretty compelling, as it is logical as well as empirical.

Certainly makes more sense than saying "speculators" at every upturn and "energy independence" for every downturn in price.

I was checking 1, 2, and 3 quarters before and after.

My point 6) regarding price being demand driven -v- supply driven is wrong. We need to look at global GDP, not just USA, since demand and prices are set at a global level.

So the soft conclusion is that US GDP growth (ie ... US demand) is not driving oil prices.

Thanks for the reply, Ron. Although I don't quite understand why you think that deleting the 4 negative GDP/low oil price data points from the lower left corner of the graph has decreased the slope of the line , at least you don't seem to find the graph to be bogus.

Since the two graphs together imply that real economic growth goes permanently negative after 2018 (and probably before then, assuming higher inflation), and since they are both based on trends of hard data (not gut feelings), then that is the time frame I personally am expecting.

Of course, the graphs themselves really aren't making any predictions about Peak Oil, only that the steady, ongoing increase in oil prices will kill economic growth by then. But I find it also interesting that the only 3 "hard" Peak Oil predictions I know of also see Peak Oil occuring in that time frame as well, as follows:

Robert Hirsch [2013-2016]

Oliver Rech, formerly of the IEA [“between 2015-2020”]

David Demshur, CEO of Core Laboratories [production decline begins after 2015 or 2016]

So basically the crap hits the fan some time in the next 5 or 6 years. Not a lot of time to prepare.

Let's just say that you and I are drawing different conclusions from this data.

Recall the definition of GDP:
consumer spending + govt spending + investment + exports - imports

We've both seen that higher oil prices act as a drag on GDP growth.
And there is a both an immediate and a lagging component to that drag.
The immediate impact is that we spend more on oil imports.
But over time, we are both producing more oil and using less,
leading to a decline in oil imports.
And that decline should lead to an economy
in which growth/decline is not so closely tied to oil prices.

Thanks for the initial post. It's given me lots to think about and I'm not done with it yet.

Gas prices, which have risen every day since January 17th are pressuring the critical $3.80 level that has capped valuations for the equity market in the last three years.


I still think that it is kinda funny considering all the "USA will be energy-independent!" articles that have come out in the past few months based on fracked tight oil.

Re: Underground Nuclear Tanks Leaking in Washington State, above:

One tank was already known to have a leak, but the new revelation caught state officials by surprise, said David Postman, a spokesman for the governor. He said that federal managers had assured the governor that the leaks posed no health risks or threats to the water supply, including the Columbia River, which passes nearby.

Surprized? No threat? From Wikipedia:

The most significant challenge at Hanford is stabilizing the 53 million U.S. gallons (204,000 m3) of high-level radioactive waste stored in 177 underground tanks. About a third of these tanks have leaked waste into the soil and groundwater.[62] As of 2008, most of the liquid waste has been transferred to more secure double-shelled tanks; however, 2.8 million U.S. gallons (10,600 m3) of liquid waste, together with 27 million U.S. gallons (100,000 m3) of salt cake and sludge, remains in the single-shelled tanks.[5] That waste was originally scheduled to be removed by 2018. The revised deadline is 2040.[60] Nearby aquifers contain an estimated 270 billion U.S. gallons (1 billion m3) of contaminated groundwater as a result of the leaks.[63] As of 2008, 1 million U.S. gallons (4,000 m3) of highly radioactive waste is traveling through the groundwater toward the Columbia River. This waste is expected to reach the river in 12 to 50 years if cleanup does not proceed on schedule.[5] The site also includes 25 million cubic feet (710,000 m3) of solid radioactive waste.

[bold mine]

"highly radioactive waste is traveling through the groundwater toward the Columbia River:

Irrigation began in 1951.[122] The project provides water to more than 670 thousand acres (2,700 km2) of fertile but arid land in central Washington,[12] transforming the region into a major agricultural center. Important crops include orchard fruit, potatoes, alfalfa, mint, beans, beets, and wine grapes.

This vast agricultural area exists almost entirely due to the Columbia River water endowment. Just sayin'. No need for alarm though. From the first quote:

...the leaks posed no health risks or threats to the water supply, including the Columbia River, which passes nearby.

Repeat the mantra: ...no threat, no threat..

More, from CNN:

Those [cleanup] efforts were bolstered by about $2 billion in federal stimulus funds authorized in several years ago. But decades of more work remain, which is why Washington's governor said he feared that across-the-board budget cuts called the sequester -- which could take effect March 1, unless Congress passes and President Barack Obama signs an alternative -- could negatively affect activity at the site.

"We need to be sure the federal government maintains its commitment and legal obligation to the cleanup of Hanford," Inslee said. "To see Hanford workers furloughed at the exact moment we have additional leakers out there is completely unacceptable."

As a person whose irrigation water comes from the Columbia, I'm going to have to point out that the irrigation water you are referencing comes from above Grand Coulee Dam, which is well above Hanford both in river flow and elevation.

The irrigation flow comes down Banks Lake, past Moses Lake, to Potholes Reservoir, then down toward the Columbia River, with the leftovers meeting said river more or less across from Hanford. They can pollute everything downstream of the Hanford Reach to Portland and then out to sea, which would be bad enough, but the Columbia Basin is not at risk.

See map in the link;


By the way, besides the usual cesium and strontium, two other isotopes of interest are iodine 129 (the long-lived one, 15.7 million year half-life) and technetium 99, (211,000 year half life) That probably didn't cheer you up any, but it's better to know.

So I don't have to worry about my Walla Walla Sweets glowing in the root cellar. Good to know.

Looks like plenty of irrigation being done downstream of Hanford. Is all of this sourced from upstream of the site?

If it's East of the Columbia, then it is watered from the Columbia Basin Project, the Snake, or the Walla-walla.

Another system on the west of the Columbia is irrigated from the Yakima River. That is the green band from Yakima to Richland.

The other patch of green on the river south of Kennewick and and across from Oregon I'm not so sure about. A lot of them are center-pivots from wells, but whether they recharge from river water or from the hills to the north I can't say. Oregon's aquifer in the area is probably coming down from the Blue Mountains.

Two things easterners often miss is that the Columbia is at the bottom of a ditch. Google Maps is less forthcoming about elevations than it might be, but at Richland the river is at 341 feet. Tricities airport is 407 feet. From there it climbs rapidly. Potholes reservoir, the mid point of the irrigation system is 1043 feet. Lake Roosevelt is about 1290, and Banks Lake is 1570. 12 Pumps of honking bigness (65,000 to 67,500 HP each) pump the water from Lake Roosevelt to Banks Lake. Six of them can run in reverse to generate power in pumped storage mode.


The pumping station details are about 1/3 or the way down the page.

The other thing easterners miss is the concept of water rights. Just because you are sitting on a river does not mean you can run a pipe out and pump out all you want, or even any at all. Just because irrigated land is found near a river does not mean the river is supplying the water. Water rights out west are very complicated. When the State tried to enforce it's claim that they controlled all waters in Washington, the courts blew their case full of holes and sent them home. Which was fine as water-command empires do not have a good historical record.

This has been going on for more than 60 years. Furloughing some Hanford workers will make little difference. I worked at Hanford on the cleanup in the late seventies. The tanks were leaking then and now we have reports saying that they are still leaking. Hanford is more of predicament than a problem that can be fixed.

As I was leaving they were discussing a plan to encase the Hi-Rad waste from the tanks in glass. That is still the plan forty years later. Nothing is easy at Hanford: not the politics, not the management, and not the engineering. Unknowns are everywhere. Risk is discussed in unknowable terms of millenniums. Maybe in another forty years they will declare success and announce the creation of the Hanford Wildlife Refuge.

At it happened, I was associated with an environmental group that let me review the EIS for the Savannah River Plant back in the late 1970's. Their tanks weren't in great shape then either, although there weren't so many of them...

E. Swanson

Maybe in another forty years they will declare success and announce the creation of the Hanford Wildlife Refuge.

Almost anything poisonous enough to keep people away are good for the wildlife.

Maybe in another forty years they will declare success and announce the creation of the Hanford Wildlife Refuge.

We present, for your viewing (from a distance only) pleasure, the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, site formerly used for production of plutonium pits for bombs. The DOE declared victory in the cleanup effort in 2006, but records on the extent of the original contamination have been sealed and are unavailable. No public access has been allowed since the refuge was created. Recent reports have included the statement, "the contaminated ground may prove too dangerous for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore."

Maybe it's a shame we DIDN'T go all Fallout-style nuclear happy. We would probably have more wild spaces left, if only because we can't enter them... As it is, we seem on track to wipe the globe clean of non-domestic life instead.

Part of the area bordering Hanford (drag NW) is the Saddle Mountain Wildlife Refuge. To the east, across the river, is all irrigated farmland. It's a bit surreal seeing that much food being grown smack up against one of the most contaminated sites on the planet.

"It's a bit surreal seeing that much food being grown smack up against one of the most contaminated sites on the planet."

Most of Hanford is not contaminated at all. The contaminated locations are small, at least by Western standards. Granted they are really really contaminated. But remember which way the water flows.

And hope they keep it out of the air. That intentional iodine release they did in the bad old days blew right over the farmland, which admittedly wasn't there then. But there was dryland wheat a bit further down wind.

I remember some people wanting me to go there in the late seventies when I was unemployed looking for me. Wonder how my life would have turned out if I had gone. I remember some sort of quote from a decade or two, something to the effect "it took the government Xbillion dollars to make this mess, now we have guaranteed employment forever, as they will spend $Ybillion trying to contain it. Maybe the latest press-leaks are just another attempt to keep the gravy train rolling?

I have a cousin who works for a company that develops plans for toxic site cleanups and oversees execution of those plans. He told me once that they had been asked to bid on developing a plan for some aspect of the Hanford job, but that after looking at the classified material, decided that some things are just too risky to be associated with. As I recall his telling the story of one of the early meetings, a company chemist got very pale and asked, "You mixed what together in the same tank?!?"

Repeat the mantra: ...no threat, no threat..

recently found to be leaking radioactive waste, but there is no immediate risk to human health

That is the mantra of the its all ok at Fukushima - no one died right away.

Link up top: Saudi sets out roadmap for major renewable energy programme

Saudi is looking to the future. They are going all out to produce solar energy now and nuclear energy in the near future. And with good reason, they look at their ever increasing consumption and declining production in their old giant oil fields and know that they need to do something drastic and very soon.

One thing concerns me about solar panels in Saudi, dust. Saudi is one of the dustiest places on earth. Winds sweep across the hardpan scrub lands and desert sands and pick up tons of very fine dust. Saudi is one place where you can see the wind. The dust settles everywhere. It settles in tiny piles inside your house just beyond every tiny opening in your windowsill or other cracks.

Saudi employs an army of "insulator washer trucks". Every high voltage power line has a road built under it. Trucks with water spigots travel up and down the line hosing down the insulators. They gather dust and the dew soaks the dust and creates shorts. So every insulator must be hosed down every few weeks to prevent arc-over. (No, the power is never cut off for this. The water is not one continuous stream but short burst.)

But wouldn't the solar panels need the same washing down? Wouldn't the dust accumulate and block part of the sunlight, degrading the output from the sun? Just a thought.

Ron P.

Yes, solar panels need periodic cleaning, though not as much as you would think, since the wind will blow some of the dust off as the Mars Rover team discovered. I think the real point is that the entire region is in no way able to support the 27 million people in the KSA. Limits to growth, overshoot, all that. Anyway, keeping solar panels clean will be the least of their worries, IMO.

Ghung, off topic question but can hail crack or even shatter solar panels?

Yes, hail can shatter PV panels. They (most) are tempered glass, and built tough. Mine have survived hail in the 2-3 cm range. While there is no requirement that manufacturers test specifically for hail resistance, most do for overall impact resistance:

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory conducted several durability tests of solar panels, including simulated hail impact, in 1978 and issued a report1. The National Bureau of Standards (NIST) issued a procedure2 for hail impact testing of “solar covers” in 1982. The Standard Test Method for Determining Resistance of Photovoltaic Modules to Hail by Impact with Propelled Ice Balls, ASTM E1038, was first issued in 1985. Despite this long history of attention to determination of solar module hail resistance, there is still no required test for solar modules sold in the United States. Underwriters Laboratories Standard 1703 includes an impact test but it does not simulate the impact of hail and visible damage does not necessarily mean failure of the test. IEC 61215 contains a hail test that is very similar to the ASTM test and solar modules sold in Europe must pass this hail test.


I made sure that our homeowner's policy covers hail, wind, and other damages to our PV. I think it added about $20/year to the policy. Panel spec sheets have all of the various tests and certifications that the panels meet.

The Suntechs I just received show all of these, and more:
ISO 9001: 2008, ISO 14001: 2004 and ISO17025: 2005, IEC 61215
• Tested for harsh environments (salt mist and ammonia corrosion testing: IEC
61701, DIN 50916:1985 T2)**

Thanks Ghung. Just trying to understand the risk factors, before going forward. We have some friends that just had a solar system put in and they are off the grid, so we will be asking them many questions and possibly put in the same or similar system. Would love to go off grid to save money, to avoid power outages of which we get many in this rural area of CA and in case of you know what; collapse.

I have installed about 20 solar systems and three years ago we had a bad hail storm.... it broke a lot of windows on cars and big dents in the cars...but none of the solar systems had damage...just sayin...

They shoot solar panels with "hail" out of a big "gun" at something like 100 mph to
test them.

I've had 50 up for 15 years: no damage.

Seem indestructible. Real bullets no doubt different story.

Not Bushmaster proof.

Mars doesn't have dew though. From that earlier comment, morning dew might soak into the dust, dry off during the day and turn it into something like concrete.

Mars does get occasional frost (water or CO2). I can imagine some mornings the dust may have some ice crystals in/on it.

I've considered that. Cleaning systems can be developed fairly simply, a solar powered washdown system that recycles most of its water, or give some of those younger unemployed folks something to do. Sand erosion may be a bigger issue, but with PV at $0.32/watt per container load, who cares. Just replace them more often. Betcha the KSA is working deals with the Chinese at half that price. Cheaper than refueling a nuke. Send the old out-of-spec panels to Yemen or Africa.

I'm used to folks and markets holding PV to a higher standard than other generating sources, but there was a time I made a pretty good living getting repaired components to hydro, fossil, and nuke plants, tout de suite. It wasn't cheap either....

...and I don't mind cleaning the bird poop off of our panels periodically.

Ghung. I'll bet where you lived, if you never washed them, you'd still get 99% production. If it rains every couple of weeks, that usually does the job for you. [Of course I am a bit hyper about washing mine, as our water is notoriously "hard". But during our long dry (as in never ever) season, I do have to wash every 6-8weeks. I bet SA is dustier than where I live.

Where do you see $.32/watt? Current best manufacturing costs are more like $.50. I can't see China agreeing to sell gigawatts of panels at a big loss (unless they get a sweet deal on oil as a kickback). And SA is starting from essentially zero, as far as PV goes. They've announced impressive plans, but I think there are few panels in country as yet. That sounds a lot like Peru, a few gigawatts in the announced projects but only a few megawatts in country at this time.

I have to think it wouldn't be difficult to factor into the designs for Desert PV Farms, a sacrificial layer of glass above the panels, so that progressive dust abrasion can affect that layer.. or similar to animals that have extra underwater eyelids, some kind of shields that can slip in place over the panels when a designated dust level in the air is reached..

Everything you put over the panel reduces its efficiency, dust, glass, water, air...Bird droppings even

Sure it does, but you can choose how much efficiency to sacrifice in the name of extending your equipment lifetime. This is done all the time with basically all systems. This is partly why I suggested the option of having retractable but transparent storm shields, so that the Panels could be getting full sun when conditions were safe for it.

You can also build your PV farms with simple reflective components to compensate for and even surpass such losses, and these could be put within the Glazed Space, if they would benefit from protection from Sand as well, like the Solar Troughs being used at some Gas and Oil wells.. A PV panel boosted to even 2, 3 or 4 suns depending on its tolerances could find a new sweet spot to allow this additional, but Modular, Durable and Replacable added equipment to succeed.

There are some parts of this that are adding complexity, but not an awful lot. None of that is as involved as Turbine, ICE or even most Tracking technology.

The Moron's Guide to Global Collapse

Yesterday I posted, on Amazon.com, the following review for this book:

1.0 out of 5 stars I was the moron for buying this book. February 22, 2013
By Ron Patterson
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
The author is a 9/11 truther and the book is filled with 9/11 rants against the government and how they are lying to us about everything. When I ordered the book from Amazon, I thought it was about the coming global collapse. Boy was I wrong. Though it contains a few essays on peak oil it is mostly one long rant about 9/11 and other supposed government conspiracies like the Kennedy assassination.

Basically the book is a long rant against the US Government and how they are lying to us about everything. That was definitely not what I expected when I bought a book with "global collapse" in the title.

From your link, the author is "...a former Teaching Fellow in Music History at Juilliard." I suppose, somehow, this makes her uniquely qualified to write on the subject of dastardly government cover-ups and collapse.

Jenna Orkin...she's Mike Ruppert's friend, isn't she? Can't be too surprised at the subject matter of the book.

Well, if it turns out that they're on the right track they might deserve a few more stars...

Ron... I believe the title of the book should represent what is inside. That being said... conspiracies, manipulations, assassinations, cover-ups, military coups and etc only take place in movies and Hollywood, and not in real life.

However, this has nothing to do with energy.

However, this has nothing to do with energy.

That just the point, global collapse has everything to do with energy. That's why I bought the book. And there were chapters in the book, which I viewed from the "look inside" option, that talked about peak oil. I thought it was a book that discussed collapse as did Tainter, Diamond and others. And I assume there are others who may think this is a book about energy and might be inclined to buy the book. Hope I saved them the time and money.

Actually I bought the book along with another, both about collapse. I was steered to the other book by an article posted by Ugo Bradi: Cassandra's Legacy: Immoderate Greatness: the narrative of collapse. That is a very short book but a very good book. And it is all about collapse. I have read it once and am currently reading it again. It is that good.
Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail Amazon.com

I will be writing a review on that one in a couple of days.

Ron P.

Ron... I realize collapse has everything to do with energy. My reference was towards the "Conspiracies et al". It was my attempt at sarcasm.

I caught that one. Actually, collapse will provide a particularly fertile ground for all of the things you mentioned. Conspiracies, coups, etc. Not that they don't occur regularly anyway, but severe conditions tend to lead things in radical directions. It's just a big mistake to see these as a cause of collapse when they are usually a result (though they sure can speed up the process). The most obvious one is the Arab Spring in Egypt - the US very publicly backed Musharraf for many years and only grudgingly turned away from him. If there was a conspiracy, who backed it, for what purpose?

As for 9/11 "trutherism", my retort is, "if they wanted to get the oil, they could have blamed the Saudis - 15 of 19 were Saudi, and there were ties between many "charity" organization and royal family members of SA and Al Qaeda. If they wanted to go to war in Afghanistan, they could have talked about the abuses of the Taliban and gotten the UN and NATO on board like in former Yugoslavia. So what was the point, again?"

Looking at what actually happens, it seems the emotions of the leaders are more important than any long-term goals. The invasion of Iraq was transparently driven by family politics. The Pakistani backing of extremists seems driven by a desire to get back at India and the US, but the extremists are much more dangerous to Pakistan than to either of these countries (see the Taliban takeover of Swat Valley and subsequent offensive). Heck, the early form of the Taliban was funded and armed by the US to fight the Soviets! There is no 'intelligence' showing there. There are plenty of conspiracies but they tend to be obvious, stupid, and short-sighted. Making up complex theories for why X is happening overestimates the cunning and intelligence of the people at the top.

Modern Islamic extremism, is very much a product of Wahabism. Wahabism originated in Saudi Arabia, and is the official religion of the country. That doesn't mean the power that been in SA were involved. But, their branch of the religion creates extremists.

Well, let me reword my comment. Collapse has everything to do with energy, and a lot of other things also. Or at least that is William Ophuls' opinion. From Immoderate Greatness, Bibliographic Note, page 73:

Joseph A. Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies sets forth his pioneering theory of declining returns on the human investment in complexity. To understand the world in Tainter's terms is to inhabit a transformed reality--one in which many of our most vaunted achievements, such as higher education or technological medicine, are now seen as costly mixed blessings. Highly influential, the book deserves the overused epithet seminal for having inspired or informed later work on decline, resilience, net energy EROI, and the like. Unfortunately, Tainter tends to downplay or even dismiss alternative explanations for collapse. I argue to the contrary that no single factor can account for the demise of civilizations, which is brought about by many causes that aggregate into an intractable problematique greater by far than the mere sum of causes.

So that is where he disagrees with Tainter. Tainter argues it is all about net energy, EROI, and the like. Ophuls argues that energy is definitely one of the causes of collapse, but so are a lot of other things. He doesn't talk much about dept or inflation but I would include those things into the causes of collapse. Just look at what's happening to Greece or Ireland right now. Of course debt and inflation have their causes and declining net energy may very well be part, or most of the cause.

Everything is just so interconnected in our complex society that it is impossible to put your finger on any single cause. Everything is caused and is a cause itself.

I am now of the opinion that we are living in the last days of civilization as we know it. But collapse has not happened... yet. But when it does, due to globalization, it will be a worldwide collapse. Oh it will start with one government collapsing, then later another and then another, and soon the whole thing comes crashing down.

Oh well, have a nice day.

Ron P.

Really you think collapse is imminent? I take heart that it has not happened yet...look at all the pressure in Europe and it is still holding together...I am a little worried about my piers in The US though... if you talk about any of this most people don't want to hear it and stick their head in the sand...The wealthier someone is the less likely they are to believe that we have a huge storm coming are way but collapse I just don't know....maybe a restart...but not a collapse....some people like chaos and thrive in it and hope for it when it is not there...

Well the process has already started. We are already in serious danger of slipping over the cliff. Or a better analogy would be snow building up way too deep on a steep slope. Some event will trigger it and it will be a cascade from there. I have no idea when this is likely to happen but I would not be surprised if it were within 10 years.

I really cannot blame people for not wanting to believe in the eventual collapse. If I were a younger man I would very likely be in denial myself.

Ron P.

Well if we do not have a collapse then we will cook the planet with Co2 emissions. I do not think collapse is the true doomer view; the real doomers are the BAU crowd.

I have to agree with you 100% there Ron. When collapse comes it will be such a surprise to so many, yet it seems so obvious whenever I try to follow a logical sequence of what is likely to happen.
Of course any one logical sequence of events imagined will not happen exactly, yet the globalization you talk of is what will get us into the most trouble.

I believe that the final unravelling of civilization will revolve around lack of availability of food in cities. What causes this will be/can be any combination financial/energy related brickwalls, yet it will be lack of food that creates the anarchy.
Currently all the major Middle East exporters of oil are net importers of food, and most of the major exporters of food are importers of oil. There is a recipe for disaster right here, and Westexas's ANE shows trouble dead ahead.
As oil becomes more expensive, so does food, the oil exporters can easily have their own arab spring, the oil stops flowing, the farmers stop growing, eventually food stops flowing to the cities of the west, game over.

I wish you were wrong, but you are not.

"When collapse comes it will be such a surprise to so many..."

It's clear that we aren't wired to assess the amount of negative synergy acuumulating in our systems. We'll likely never know which straw broke the camel's back... I'm not sure how surprized folks will be, but I expect many will be horrified nevertheless. Best hopes for slow collapse.

The strange thing about humans (well, ONE of many) is our need to define a causality chain with an accompanying narrative. There always MUST be a proximate cause, and a simple cause and effect HAS to be found. If you look at reports of major catastrophes there are engineering reports that list all the contributing causes and overlapping issues, but somebody always pushes for the one-line cause: "operator error" or "equipment failure".

A robust complex system can tolerate multiple faults, so a catastrophic fault generally means there are mutiple simultaneous events acting upon a system already under stress. That gets you to the "straw" we crave, but such thinking distracts us from noting there are overloaded, tired, old camels all around us.

Me, I don't look for certainty and straws anymore, but for major factors and big events causing statistical impacts. A pity the human brain is bad at statistics...

I speculate.

Following the logic of recent years, the most rapid manifest symptom might be a sudden forced retreat from the very recent huge expansion both in world trade and financial globalisation?

If that were to happen it is not clear to me who might feel the result most keenly. It could be that many regions might covertly benefit from a sudden and drastic re-balancing of world trade. Diminishing available net oil exports draws an increasingly tight noose around the USA, and could set the scene for something rather sudden?

The EU seems set to burn Algeria's resources, but must cut deals with Russia and my guess also is that the EU would also be very diminished if the USA lost its position as chief beneficiary and hegemon of global trade and if all its overseas trade contracted?

The USA imports and uses vast amounts of most industrial world resources, but it holds the international food-related export trade apparently as a trump card. (This is important, even when only about 10% of world cereal grains are internationally traded, and when a lot of that goes for animal feed. About 20% of world wheat enters global trade and is critical for some counties although this year an increased proportion of US wheat is going into domestic animal feed because of poor harvests, I assume.)

There might be, however, future ways round USA grains exports at least for larger key players?

"We'll likely never know which straw broke the camel's back"

We won't, but people in the 22nd century should be able to figure it out.

On the other hand, the anthropologists still don't know what caused the Late Bronze Age Collapse.


Empires dropped like flies, and people were on the move on a grand scale. But why remains elusive.

Written by Hide_away:
As oil becomes more expensive, so does food, the oil exporters can easily have their own arab spring, the oil stops flowing, the farmers stop growing, eventually food stops flowing to the cities of the west, game over.

There are factors in place that slow this scenario: tankers in route, stock piles, strategic petroleum reserves, fuel rationing, luck and geopolitics. The scenario played out in 2011 with the revolution in Libya (disruption), crude oil stocks drawn down, Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan (timely luck reducing demand), the EIA SPR release in Summer and NATO air strikes to timely end the Libyan revolution (geopolitical action). Decades of pressuring and degrading the system will be required to weaken it enough for your scenario to play out. For collapse to occur in the near term, a huge disruption would be required, such as 1/3 of world crude oil production suddenly being shutdown and stranded from a war between NATO and Iran.


You and I are about the same age and share most views of the future. I'm beginning to wonder whether our ages (mid-70's) has a bearing on how we arrived at our beliefs. Is it because younger people simply have not had the actual historical experience we have?

They have not experienced a "Depression", a world war and subsequent smaller wars, economic and societal change, etc. I know one reason I'm a prepper is I saw the impact of the Depression on my parents and their families and I swore I would do everything I could to avoid a similar situation.

We experienced "reality" whereas younger people are only guessing about possible futures. By this I mean, they haven't experienced living in a low/lower energy world, living where someone else didn't provide for their entertainment, knowing that more doesn't have to be associated with a less happy life and so forth.

The same thing applies to skills. I won't belabor this but people took care of what needed to be taken care of themselves without relying upon an outside "expert".

From my/our vantage point it is impossible to not see the collapse as it proceeds.


It has also occured to me that, as we get older, we may be projecting our own sense of pending personal doom onto society at large. Then again, I've been wrestling with the doomer thing since I was a child; perhaps started when my father was building a bomb shelter under our house when I was five; duck n' cover,, all that. That said, I've also factored these things into my assessments, which haven't changed much. The trends are pretty clear.

I've seen that accusation made many times against doomers: they're old people who just can't stand to think of the world going on without them.

I don't buy it, and I don't think this is a particularly fruitful way of thinking about things. Lots of old people are cornucopians. Indeed, research suggests that on average, older people are more optimistic (or maybe it's that optimists live longer). And lots of young people are doomers (if "Doomsday Preppers" is any indication).

Todd, I was born during the depression, 1938, and don't really remember it. However I remember so many stories that my Dad told and the stories of the others who sat around the pot bellied stove at the local country store near the farm I grew up on.

And I must disagree with Ghung, above, who suspects that because we are so close to facing our own doom, that we are more prone to see the world as being doomed. Actually I am far more optimistic than many doomers. Some may call me a wide eyed optimist but I believe there will be survivors ;-)

Actually I have been a doomer since my late 20s when I began reading lots of non-fiction books on nature, history and scientific subjects. And I became more hardened in my doomerism as the years rolled by. I have seen the population of the world triple in my lifetime. That, in itself, should make anyone pause and contemplate the trajectory humanity is taking.

And since I am a science and nature reader I know what is happening to the world. Everything is going from bad to worse. Water tables, because of irrigation are dropping in China and India by meters per year and almost that much in the rest of the world. Forest are disappearing, deserts are expanding, ocean fisheries are disappearing, species are going extinct. And of course I could go on and on but you have heard it all before. And I didn't even get around to declining fossil fuel.

And the cornucopians say... "but the world population will level off at about nine billion." That is truly absurd. Seven billion people are destroying the earth and they think it will just be all okay if we can hold the population to nine billion? We will never make it to nine billion, not even close.

Ron P.

And the cornucopians say... "but the world population will level off at about nine billion." That is truly absurd. Seven billion people are destroying the earth and they think it will just be all okay if we can hold the population to nine billion? We will never make it to nine billion, not even close.

And notice those cornucopians never factor in per capita consumption. This is despite the fact that most assumptions cornucopians make is people will become more prosperous in the future. This just makes this assumption of sustainability even more silly.

Here I am having a nice Sunday, and you push a button, so the dark scenarios play over again.

Given where we're at, all the potential futures look bleak. Population is a major factor, probably the largest one, and the least discussed and dealt with. The most direct paths for population control are brutal and abrupt - pandemic, major nuke war, etc.

I've given up on reasonable collective action, but I still want a good life for my kids. That means a whole bunch of other people need to exit stage left. I can only assume that as rationale beings, they would say something similar.

Take a few steps further and ugly options abound. Most individuals can't incite a nuke war but there are a bunch of people who could smuggle out a few bugs or bio-engineer their own, and the overcrowded slums and feedlots are rolling their dice continuously. It's only a matter of time before a pandemic comes about.

The meme, touted hourly on networks like CNBC, is that there are no limits as far as the eye can see. Just get the right formula and deregulate everything and there are blue skies forever. This just encourages criminal exploitation and neglect of the foundation of our economics -- our dwindling natural resource base. They are not even having the right conversation.

Most cornucopians seem to decry the idea of the population levelling off at any point.

A lot more of our stories are written, then we have left to write... and that does bring a certain perspective. Eventually it does get pounded in that you alone are responsible for your actions and you cannot count on anyone but yourself to do the right thing. Having survived this long, and everything the culture could throw at us we've begun to put more faith in our own judgement than that of others or our culture or our government.

My father till he died this year always grabbed that package of crackers that was extra, a hold over from the depression, I came of age when my government decided I could go kill for them whether I wanted to or not. The "80s" recession did me in and I headed "back to the land" I saw a lot of people fail at that and was surprised somewhat that I was stubborn enough to keep on. So when the wind and snow howl up here we're snug in our mortgage free home, wind&solar provide the power, wood from the woodlot the heat. I have a tendency to listen and just smile a lot now... doesn't seem much sense in wasting the words nowadays.

Don in Maine

Most people I know in their 70's don't want to believe that there are problems...probably because they are so invested in the system....gotta keep those checks rolling in.gotta another trip to Europe planned etc..this is especially true if they are Obama fans....look how great the stock market is doing and housing prices are up as the greedily count their fake money...I personally feel like the route we have been on is unfairly tilted in their favor and I am developing resentment to older generations. Why should we have to keep supporting their medicare and SSC when there is very little chance we will get it in the future? Our political parties are promising everything under the sun just to get re-elected...there are no jobs for the young in this country and it is the young that start revolutions and topple governments.

On the one hand you are mad at the older well off. But then the only thing you propose is screwing the older not well off who need medicare to survive. I think that the right wing has you right where they want you. It is called misdirection and they have been immensely successful at it.

Start by redistributing the wealth from the rich before you start attacking medicare as the solution.

Yes, it is always possible that no one will be supported in the future with respect to income or health care. However, your approach will guarantee that.

Yeah, at some point people are going to realize their is an age war going on. The government spends more 4 times as much on people over 65 than we do on people under 18. Ironically, many of these 'cut Federal spending' types are the very ones living on social security, medicare, and disability payments. They vote for people claiming then want to cut government. But when the government actually looks to start cutting government, they stop them. And quite the the opposite actually. The conservative Bush administration started two unfunded wars while cutting taxes. And a new Medicare Part D program thrown on top of that.

We are just not rational and fair. We want our taxes cut and we want 11 carrier battlegrounds, medicare, and social security to keep flowing.

But cut off that foreign aid! (Of course these people don't realize that foreign is less than 1% of the budget . . . they tend to think it is more than 20% of the budget.)

How about a "means" test then? I know an older couple and they pull in about $160,000 a year on pension SSC and 401k and then they have vacation property worth a lot of money....So 6 years ago one of them had to use a lot of medical care to the tune of $265,000 and then they walk out hardly paying $9,000.out of pocket...I have a kid and health insurance and I have to pay twice that on their birth! And on top of that pay into a bankrupt ponzi scheme! I am sorry but that does not seem right. These problems did not start with W by the way they date back much further than that, W just sped up the timeline..and yes there is an age war going on...when we are told there are green shoots coming up and everything is rosy when we don't have decent jobs etc.... Sounds like "Well let the young eat cake if they are hungry"

I haven't looked closely into Medicare costs but I have looked at Social Security and I'm certain that most of us receiving SS aren't exactly sponging off of the younger generation. A few years back I did a net present value of the SS contributions I made over my working career. Just using the rate of inflation each year as the investment gain my Social Security monthly amount, including my wife's share will never be paid back. Every year that I worked for a full year, since I graduated from college, I paid the maximum amount into the plan. Yet, because I was laid off before I turned 65 and was ineligible for Medicare, my social security just barely paid for my health insurance. So, for us, we haven't made out very well. Guess why.

Because Social security is not only a pension plan it is also a disability insurance plan. If you die young, your dependents get benefits. If you are disabled, you and your dependents get benefits. So this nonsense about the old ripping off the young is just that, nonsense. Whether they know it or not, working people are the beneficiaries of the program during their entire lives, not just upon retirement.And because the trust fund money is only "invested" in US Treasury bonds, thereby earning the lowest possible return on any investment vehicle available in the country.

It may be ugly and inefficient so if the program doesn't make feduciary sense then the politicians need to change the program. Creating Social Security is probably the best thing the US government did in the 20th century.

You looked at the program that is somewhat under control. Medicare is the one that is spinning out of control.

To be fair the intergenerational transfers that are becoming apparent to only the most perceptive of the young (congrats on seeing through), were not planned, but are a result of a change from an economic era of exponential growth, to something with low/no/negative growth. The institutions that were set up required exponential growth of at least three percent per year to be sustainable. That assumption was wrong. We, as a society haven't come to grip with that fact yet. So the approach has been to muddle through, and assume the happy days will return. That muddling through seems to be to keep past promises -especially to those too old to make a life course correction. So in order to fund the promises made to the already -and about-to retire,they funnel almost all of the younger generations contributions towards shoring up the payments for the older generations.

My generation (boomers), didn't really have this experience, we could hapily fund our elders retirements, because we knew their labour advanced the economy enough that we were better off then they, because of their efforts. Thats what exponential growth makes possible. The fact that it ain't sustainable, is what makes many of our institutions dysfunctional.

Not ironic, reliance on social security is a powerful motivation for wanting the government to remain solvent. Besides, social security is a distraction to the real budget, by law Congress can not formally incorporate that revenue stream (or loss) into future budget projections.

But half the actual budgetary spending is for defense, and cutting *that* would have some real effect. And personally I don't understand how those costly gulf wars have improved the rest of my life in any way.

I'm pretty sure that reducing the defence budget would make us all a lot safer by reducing the temptation to embark on half-witted adventures that seem to alway make more enemies than friends.

adventures that seem to alway make more enemies than friends.

A (selfserving) feature, not a bug!

If you really want to crater the economy, then cut off SS it's one of the best economic stimuli going. The $$ are turned around almost right away heading right back in to goods and services. Lots of jobs depend on those old folks showing up to spend their SS. I know very few people who make investments with their SS $$.

As I said, I just smile at some of this foolishness. Very few people actually think things through.

Don in Maine

Look we are talking about collapse--- and if that is the case then there is no BAU anywhere in our society. We are all going to have to make sacrifices and work together and I don't see that. I see "I worked hard for mine,sucks for you" attitude. I don't want to take away those programs for those who really need it but those wealthy enough should not be getting medicare and SS, and maybe a Dr. should not be making $300,000, do it because you love it. ...This rah! rah! the economy is doing great is ignoring the millions of people without jobs or underemployed and the mass media is distorting the truth about unemployment. Much of the young are slipping into debt slavery. Most of the young people I know are just barley holding on; another downturn will be much, much, harder..The facts are that the FEDS actions have made things worse for the younger generations...

what would the price of oil be if they were not flooding so much money into the banks?....

we don't want to borrow from banks- we want work for our future too...I think I would rather have an economic collapse now then to be slowly boiled in this water....

I can certainly understand the frustration and rage that the younger generations are going to experience. I don't like "I worked hard for mine,sucks for you". I'm only a few years away from SS collecting myself, and I'm one who could get by without it. I'm mainly working because I want to create as much of a buffer for my kids as possible, and because I'd be bored stiff if I wasn't, and because I think I can use the money to promote needed stuff like solar and efficiency.

Medicare isn't the enemy. Our refusal -as a society, to really take on rising medical costs is the issue there. Seems attempts to reign in future costs are a great target for opportunistic predatory politicians "death panels, and the similar". But, medicare (and veterans administration), are the two most cost effective parts of our medical delivery system. A better approach would be to progressively decrease the eligibility age until we end up with a truly socialized medical system. Then the bad incentives that arise from for profit healthcare -and healthcare administration (private insurance) can be eliminated.


Thanks for the link to the book "Immoderate Greatness". I downloaded it to my Kindle and started reading it last night. I got so hooked I finished it this morning and am going to read it again. He makes a compelling argument in a relatively short book. Although I am not saying I totally agree with all of his assertions I am finding it difficult to counter his overall assessment. A collapse is baked into the cake (my words).

Plus anytime one argument simultaneously applies Liebig's Law of the Minimum, the power of exponential functions, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics to economic systems, it catches my interest.

But he ruined my Sunday :-)

Just downloaded it on kindle and will read later. Thanks for the recommendation.

Speaking of canaries in coal mines. IMHO again a case of overreaching that provides AGW deniers a very easy rebuttal and hinders the fight.

“In a phenomenon recurring in coastal areas across the United States, wetlands loss and sea level rise are gnawing away at Leeville. Around 70 percent of the town's (Leeville , La.) surrounding wetlands have vanished since 1932”.

If sea level were not to rise even one mm Leeville, as well as all the coastal areas of S. La., will be inundated by the Gulf of Mexico. This is indisputable: there is a history more than tens of millions of years to suppport that fact. It’s called subsidence. Besides growing up in Nawlins I’ve drilled many wells in this area and have taken more crew boats out of Leeville then I can remember. I know the area very well. So 70% of the wetlands in this area have disappeared in the last 80 years. How about the fact that 100% of the La. coastline as it was a few hundred years ago is now below sea level. In fact, rocks more than 30,000’ feet below the current shore were once at sea level.

But man’s activity actually has worsened the situation. Unlike during millions of years of the Mississippi River changing course and adding to the coastline the Corps of Engineers forces the channel to stay in its current location directing all the sediments into the deep GOM and thus starving the coast. Making it worse for the last 50 years the oil industry has cut canals in the marshland to facilitate drilling. This has allowed even more coastal erosion. The problem is mitigated today but that damage has been done and the actions of the COE prevent it from being repaired.

Folks trying to make the public aware of the potential dangers of AGW should leave S. La. alone. Not only does it not help the cause but it gives the deniers an easy counter argument that they will win.

Everything you write is true. But it also means the people living there will be hit twice as hard once SLR start picking up speed.

JW – Correct but I think you might have missed my point. Using S. La. to sell an AGW sea level rise is a complete losing proposition IMHO. Once a denier shows how simple it is to explain coastal submergence with zero sea level rise I imagine many J6P’s will stop listening to anything we have to say about climate change. Remember the goal is to convince the ignorant and not win debating points. Once a certain number of the pubic hear the argument about S. La they’ll tune out the rest of the discussion.

I agree we shall not use S. La. as an argument to prove AGW. As you say. But we need to comunicate to the people living there their land is sinking for natural reasons, and soon SLR will begin to take up speed, so get prepared. But it need to be packaged in a way so they understand these are two separate issues.

I missed the original graphene capacitors printed by DVD burner story from last March

Although electrochemical capacitors (ECs), also known as supercapacitors or ultracapacitors, charge and discharge faster than batteries, they are still limited by low energy densities and slow rate capabilities. We used a standard LightScribe DVD optical drive to do the direct laser reduction of graphite oxide films to graphene. The produced films are mechanically robust, show high electrical conductivity (1738 siemens per meter) and specific surface area (1520 square meters per gram), and can thus be used directly as EC electrodes without the need for binders or current collectors, as is the case for conventional ECs. Devices made with these electrodes exhibit ultrahigh energy density values in different electrolytes while maintaining the high power density and excellent cycle stability of ECs. Moreover, these ECs maintain excellent electrochemical attributes under high mechanical stress and thus hold promise for high-power, flexible electronics.


Now the same researches believe they have a method to scale the technique to industrial production ...

The rapid development of miniaturized electronic devices has increased the demand for compact on-chip energy storage. Microscale supercapacitors have great potential to complement or replace batteries and electrolytic capacitors in a variety of applications. However, conventional micro-fabrication techniques have proven to be cumbersome in building cost-effective micro-devices, thus limiting their widespread application. Here we demonstrate a scalable fabrication of graphene micro-supercapacitors over large areas by direct laser writing on graphite oxide films using a standard LightScribe DVD burner. More than 100 micro-supercapacitors can be produced on a single disc in 30 min or less. The devices are built on flexible substrates for flexible electronics and on-chip uses that can be integrated with MEMS or CMOS in a single chip. Remarkably, miniaturizing the devices to the microscale results in enhanced charge-storage capacity and rate capability. These micro-supercapacitors demonstrate a power density of ~200 W cm−3, which is among the highest values achieved for any supercapacitor.


Could this be a game changer in battery/capacitor technology in either cost of storage or rate of charge?

One would think that after almost a year of further effort, your question would have been answered...

E. Swanson

A year is nothing.
Not even for 'game changers.'
Question remains on the table.

From Ron Broberg's link, UCLA researchers develop new technique to scale up production of graphene micro-supercapacitors, UCLA Newsroom, Davin Malasarn, Feb., 19, 2013:

They [the supercapacitors] could also be fabricated on the backside of solar cells in both portable devices and rooftop installations to store power generated during the day for use after sundown, helping to provide electricity around the clock when connection to the grid is not possible.

I did not see any mention in the article of the leakage current which limits how long it can store charge. A power density of 200 W/cm3 is misleading because these are plainer capacitors much less than 1 cm thick. I see no mention of the amount of charge they can store. "The resulting capacitor is thin (less than 100 microns)..." which is .1 mm thick.

Here is an article with a graph plotting energy vs. power compared to various batteries and capacitors. The graphene being scribed by the DVD laser is the electrode. Two of them sandwiched between an electrolyte makes the capacitor. Graphene supercapacitors are 20 times as powerful, can be made with a DVD burner, Extreme Tech, Sebastian Anthony, March 19, 2012.

The graph shows a LSG-EC ionic liquid version having an energy density of 1 mWh/cm3, but a discharge power density of 20 W/cm3 (not 200). If one of these capacitors is attached to the back of a 1 m2 PV panel and is 1 cm thick, it would store a measly 10 Wh of electricity. If it is 25 cm thick, then it would store 250 Wh which would store about 1 hour of power output from a 300 W PV panel. I suspect attaching this capacitor to the back of a PV panel would not be viable making it heavy and more difficult to mount.

Supercapacitors, which suffer virtually zero degradation over 10,000 cycles or more....

That is 27.4 years or more fully cycled once per day.

Someone should manufacture an L-16 battery using this method and publish the specifications including the price.

I think the capability of capacitors to buffer solar energy is measured in a minute or less. This could still be useful, for partly cloudy situations, aiding power quality etc. But, it doesn't address day/night, cloudy versus clear or seasonal variation.
I had the impression this potential graphene tech was more about small to tiny applications, rather than major components of the energy infrastructure. The former market can live with much higher unit cost.

Thanks for the comment and the link.
I have a better understanding of its market niche now.

However, while the capacitor production might involve some novel uses of off-the-shelf tech,
it looks like graphene is still a very expensive material.

OIL TO THE WORLD - a versusplus parody anthem

YouTube video sung to the tune of "Joy to the World". This one will crack you up.

Ron P.

Thanks for the link, really humorous. This is the kind of english you need to be native or really really well educated on as a secondary language to be able to stitch together. Couldn't have written this my self.

Quite the production! It fracked, I mean cracked me up indeed...

Re Lifting a Town to Escape the Next Storm

Highlands, NJ towards Raritan Bay northeast of Shore Drive is all historic landfill. Away from the bay, adjacent to Shore Drive, the hill rises sharply to the actual Highlands from which the town takes its name.

So they are really just talking about adding more fill to the existing fill - something that is complicated by the fact that there are buildings on it. But in essence, it would just be another layer on the cake.

Some buildings which have only garages on the ground floor did not suffer any particular damage, even though the ground floor flooded.

Rebuilding after Sandy

Something of a bit of false sense of security re: building on higher land. The primary improvement to Galveston was building the sea wall. Thus preventing a storm surge from doing more damage. Unfortunately it doesn’t protect from other damages. The last hurricane, Ike, to hit Texas caused about $30 billion in damage and killed almost 200 hundred. The calculus is, unfortunately, very simple: build along the coastline and you’re going to suffer a great deal of damage when (not IF) a storm hits the area.

And it doesn’t make any difference if the source was AGW or Mother Earth. Build along the coast and you’ll eventfully pay a big price for that decision.

Highland is somewhat sheltered from the Atlantic by the Sandy Hook penninsula, so it is less exposed to surge and wave action. Also, the way the land fill was done, it is higher along the shore than further inland, so just putting up a seawall creates a bowl that would likely flood. Hopefully they will both raise the level of the land and improve the shoreline protection.

Merrill – It may shelter from surges/wave action but not the wind. The vast majority of damage by Ike was from wind. Raising the base won’t change that risk. Unfortunately moving structures inland tens of miles doesn’t offer much additional protection. Folks in New England just got a crash course in the real risk from Hurricanes folks in the south understood many decades ago. Some day the Highlands area will again be devastated by a big storm even if they move to higher ground. It might not happen for 100 years but it will happen.

The case for fossil fuel divestment (linked above).

We are into the era of damage and compensation. Damage that is a direct consequence of heatwave already meets a balance of probabilities test for attribution. Anyone that has suffered direct heatwave damage in the past decade could win a court case for damages. The oil companies have used the same sort of denialist tactics that tobacco firms used, and once a state prosecutor decides its worthwhile taking them to court, they will take the same sort of penalties that the tobacco companies eventually took.

Sooner or later the evidence for flood/storm/droughts will emerge above the background level and meet a balance of probabilities test too. There's never going to be "beyond reasonable doubt" for a particular case of damages, but civil cases only need balance of probabilities. Once the frequency of a damaging weather event is definitely above twice what it used to be, they are liable for the lot.

Re: Stuart Staniford: OECD Oil Consumption

Global peak oil is probably not here, though I think it likely we are on the bumpy plateau. However, for the US and Europe, peak oil consumption has probably been and gone. We survived.

Just reading the quote, it seems like this guy thought the bad thing with the peak would be the bump that comes from actually hitting it. More realisticly, the bad thing is the ever tightening supply situation that follows. So yeah, we survived the first few years, with a crumbling world economy to show for it. But what about in 5 years from now? 10? 50?

Jedi, "this guy" deserves just a hint of respect for ideas (possibly not always correct) worked on at TOD:

Hälsningar från Sverige.

That is some serious data.

No, I was not commenting the article as a whole, but the qouted part only. And I don't think any Peaker feared hitting the bump, but the ride down that follows.

Stuart is a really smart guy, and he has actually worked to prepare himself, but sometimes it does seem like his academic class/upper middle class position affects his thought process. I think he also might be like a lot of people here, who expected worse after 2008 and so have dialed back their expectations of doom.

I have to admit that I have been surprised by how well the wallpaper (bailouts, unconventional oil, etc.) has worked in covering the rot. It is a slow process, at least for now. Until there is a serious decline, the facade can be maintained seemingly indefinitely, and honestly it ISN'T that bad - we haven't seen 30% unemployment in the US. Spain and Greece are in full depression and Europe is doing pretty bad... but they've been doing badly for YEARS now.

Say we start to hit a steeper decline - maybe we collapse, maybe we get gasoline that's $2 or $3 more expensive and made from natural gas and coal. If unemployment in the US goes up 2% or even 4%, it will be terrible for those people but somehow I doubt it will change much.

There hasn't been an inflection point of any sort. No "collapse", no revolution in the west, the bankers remain in control, the currencies haven't fallen apart, nothing. How long can this go on? Who knows?

I don't think Stuart has ever been a fast crash doomer. At least, not during the time he was on staff here. His view of the future seems more 1984 than Mad Max.

There was an interesting discussion when Stuart, Sharon Astyk, and John Michael Greer started an interblog debate about food. Stuart thought industrial farming would continue as long as we who are alive now have to worry about it, and that it was foolish to learn to grow your own food. Sharon, of course, thought the opposite. Greer was in between.

I suspect Stuart's chosen specialty - cyber security - ties in with his views about how peak oil will unfold.

Given that none of us can realistically predict the future, I think it is only fair to note that Stuart's guesses about the near term future have been closer to reality than the other two prognosticators mentioned above.

Collapse typically occurs through some "black swan" event, that strikes an overly-efficient system with no resilience, often when it looks like the system is still struggling along and doing okay. Like the with Irish famine of the 1840s. Much has been written about this, theres even a article from a few years back by Ugo Bardi about it. But one interesting thing is how the fertility rate immediately prior to the famine had dropped, precipitiously, and the population was due to stabilise at about 9 million. The system was headed towards some kind of precarious stability. But it never got the chance, the potato blight hit, the ultimate black swan event, and the population crashed.

Looks like it's catabolic collapse all the way. I think it's like that most of the time, it's only with the benefit of hindsight that we rewind through history with a fast forward button and proclaim certain events as being 'revolutionary'. The collapse of Rome took centuries and there is no precise date when it began. But it's worthwhile to note that collapses do happen with regularity and have severe consequences, the other day I was watching a documentary on Rome which showed how people in the city had running water, a drainage system and public bath houses, something that wouldn't make an appearance for at least the next 1400 years. Similarly here in India we had the Indus Valley Civilization, there were planned cities, drainage systems, paved streets and then suddenly it all disappears and we get a pastoral civilization. What happened ?

Looks like a common theme everywhere

Robert Drews describes the collapse as "the worst disaster in ancient history, even more calamitous than the collapse of the Western Roman Empire".[7] A number of people have spoken of the cultural memories of the disaster as stories of a "lost golden age". Hesiod for example spoke of Ages of Gold, Silver and Bronze, separated from the modern harsh cruel world of the Age of Iron by the Age of Heroes.

Combined with the collapse of Roman civilization I'd say we lost over 2000 years worth of scientific and engineering progress over there. I say this because many people have told me that collapses don't happen and the whole of human history is basically a single thread where technological progress is the rule.

Tainter and Greer have written about this. The Minoans had flush toilets and a primitive printing press...inventions that were lost for thousands of years when they collapsed.

Greer points out that this is one of the hallmarks of collapse: the level of complexity falls to far below where it was before the complex society arose. Technology is lost...routinely. He uses Roman ceramic technology as an example. The Romans used pottery to make everything from dishes and storage vessels to roof tiles and drain pipes.

But this technology was lost as Rome collapse.

When archeologists uncovered the grave of a sixth-century Saxon king at Sutton Hoo in eastern Britain, for example, the pottery found among the grave goods told an astonishing tale of technical collapse. Had it been made in fourth century Britain, the Sutton Hoo pottery would have been unusually crude for a peasant farmhouse; two centuries later, it sat on the table of a king. What’s more, much of it had to be imported, because so simple a tool as a potter’s wheel dropped entirely out of use in post-Roman Britain, as part of a cascading collapse that took Britain down to levels of economic and social complexity not seen there since the subsistence crises of the middle Bronze Age more than a thousand years before.

How could a society lose technology that was so valuable? The specialization that made it possible for even poor farmers to have nice tableware and watertight roof tiles proved a fatal flaw when the distribution system broke down.

Even where Roman pottery factories existed, they were geared toward mass production of specialized types, not to small-scale manufacture of the whole range of pottery products needed by local communities. Worse, as population levels declined and the economy contracted, the pottery on hand would have been more than adequate for immediate needs, removing any market for new production. A single generation of social chaos and demographic contraction thus could easily have been enough to break the transmission of the complex craft traditions of Roman pottery-making, leaving the survivors with only the dimmest idea of how to make good pottery.

Yes History is fascinating esp ancient history. There are actually many examples of what our civilization could have been had the dark ages not arrived.

There's the Antikythera mechanism which was basically an early analog computer from 87 BC, the likes of which weren't seen until Gottfried Leibniz built his in the 17th century. Then there's Phaistos disc from Minoan civilization (the early printing press you wrote about) and let's not even talk about the number of ancient libraries that were burnt to the ground.

So in a sense a worldwide collapse has happened before and another one wouldn't be unlikely.

So in a sense a worldwide collapse has happened before and another one wouldn't be unlikely.

Agree. Seems to be human nature for warfare and various fanaticisms that want to destroy any knowledge of 'not like us.'

Just in my lifetime: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamiyan

Sadly I suspect there will never be likely a time where knowledge from previous civilizations will get to be passed on. Like the library in Alexandria: most likely humans, if we continue to be sentient, will have cycles of destroying previous knowledge/reinventing/rediscovering.

I hestitate to bring up the much maligned this-time-is-different idea, but in some ways it is, and in important ways. Our supply lines are longer, more complex, and growing more brittle. Not saying that this wasn't the case in earlier collapse scenarios, but the scale at which we are operating, truly global, means there's nowhere to run, so to speak. The level at which we've depleted necessary resources, the necessary extraction rates, means of payment/exchange, and the speed at which these things occur are all off of any scale humanity has experienced previously. I think these things will matter a lot. There is very little local production to fall back on, and local skills/knowledge is lacking. Most of the things we consider essential are obsolete shortly after deployment. Our ability to do damage, to our societies and our environment, has increased exponentially while our ability to mitigate these things is diminishing at a similar rate.

It's all about scale, level of complexity and velocity of change. I haven't let the massive inertia we currently enjoy lull me into complacency. This time the resources will really be out of reach, globally and permanently, and damage to the biosphere is global as well. Add to this the stories we are telling ourselves...

The collapse of the Western Roman Empire needs some rethinking IOO. Not that it did not happen but more in what it meant. Tainter's picture of collapse is misconstrued I think. I think it deserves some attention as it is often cited as the best analog

The organisational systems that held Roman urban and villa society together did indeed collapse but this system was not like our society in which the "system" supports the ever growing population or allows this large population to exist if you like. Conversely Roman urban centers were more supported by an externalised population rather than facilitated mechanisims to support a growing population as a whole. The broad mass of the population within the Empire were in a very literal sense "energy slaves" for a urbanised sector that was <10% of the total population, perhaps as low as 4% of that total. Hence why there is some odd correlation's if not contradictions in the archaeological record. Urban investment and complexity may have increased in many centers even towards the end of the 4th century despite there being arguments for population shrinkage. Arguments that now perhaps seem suspect [a different discussion]. But the point is the majority of the population gained no real benefit from the empires infrastructure perhaps the opposite. It was not keeping them or their families alive it was just depleting them. You could look at the Human resource base of the Roman empire as the fossil fuels of their age.. when did they hit peak slavery. the population is split into benefiters and resource. This is an simplification as urban slaves or those who worked for some artisans may have benefitted from the arrangement thus count as benefiters. It also highlights why household slaves would in time have been co-opted into the system and thus loyal compared to the human guinea pigs on some treadmill pumping water out of a Spanish gold mine. Some of this roman human power engineering is hard to believe until you see it.

Al la Tainter, When the return on organisational complexity fell the mass of the population would have been liberated rather than suffered which is the essence of Tainter's thesis anyway. The notion that civl society had no reason for existing as the increasing demands on it to solve problems out weighed the solutions. However in the Empires case the issue is more complex because the increasing burden was invisible to the benefiters, perhaps until very close to the end which may be more nalogous to our present mindset. who knows
In our instance Urban organisation will probably increase because its the more efficient thing to do as energy EROEI heads towards the toilet. The death of suburbia and automobile commuting etc. Obviously this is not analogous to the Roman situation at all. What we have here is some sort of move towards centralisation and rationing across the board were re-urbanisation is a form of mitigating the impact of declining per capita wealth. compared with the western Rome empire which is sacrificing everything in its resource base to maintain an absurd difference in living standards and styles. You could argue that the current financial classes and elites are attempting such a societal divide now but I am not so sure the analogy fits. I am open minded on this part and admit even this comparative analogy of urban problem vs re-urban solution seems not to hold. How useful are these analogies. History does not repeat it self, it just throws up some new combo with added nowness.

On any given day I tend to see a dystopian future rather than some collapse. frankly I am not sure which is worse.

Civilizations are unnatural accumulations of wealth and power that cannot be sustained over the long term. Insuperable biophysical limits combine with innate human fallibility to precipitate eventual collapse. Any one of the factors discussed above would suffice to sicken a civilization. All of them together are lethal, because each exacerbates the rest. Decline and fall are therefore "overdetermined"---that is, the product of a multiplicity of causes tending toward the same effece. As Gibbon said, instead of asking why Rome fell, "We should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long."

Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail page 65 (bold mine)

Ron P.

It was an appalling barbaric world they made for themselves.. the answer to your bolding basically is they had no opposition except internally until the late 3rd cent... at which point the wheels came off.

this is not to say that barbarian invasion was the sole cause or even the primary cause of collapse as the author states.

Barbarism is the consequence, perhaps unavoidable in the human meme, of having too many people and disproportional allocation of resources and power.

I think its a problem of definitional terms... barbaric is a bit loose in hindsight.

what are we saying here? too me it has something to do with the blatant disregard for human welfare. But on reflection the term I suspect will tend to short circuit discussion and have everybody talking across each other.

Rome subsisted so long largely because it had access and control over a vast pool of resources, and the means to exploit it,, until it didn't. Sound familiar? I expect that everything else is secondary.

I suspect an unappreciated factor was the paradigm shift engendered by the takeover of Christianity. The Roman empire function through utter ruthlessness. Ruthlessness, was considered to be a virtue, not a horrible evil. That was not what the early Christians thought.

Now, I don't hold the Roman collapse against the Christians. The Romans were really a nasty empire, that functioned as predators on the surrounding regions. Outside the empire, they were hated, and those who actually seemed to have had some hope of destroying them such as Hannibal, were heroes.

Christianity probably would not exist if Constantine did't Christianize the Roman Empire.
Hellenism was collapsing, and there were several options.

I've studied church history and I say it would. But it would have been a lot different. Constantine was only adopting to a trend none of the emperors before him have managed to stop (and did they try). The development was ineviteble. But, he managed to change the church nearly down to the core. Many of those changes gives us hangovers still today 17 centuries later.

Are these not two steps on the same continuum? From Rome through the Colonial era, empire grew to bring resources toward the core, as an aggregation of power.

Today, empire follows the successful sequestration and leverage of energy, with "energy wealth" pervasively flowing throughout the economy.

Is our economic structure simply a factor of higher EROEI, and we'll collapse more toward a Roman model, and then down further, depending on how energy levels slide? A reverse of how we got here?

The US perhaps has a somewhat different view of colonialism since we were on the resource side of traditional colonialism, and on the control side of the energy version.

This down step model has occurred to me and others in the field [I am an archaeologist by profession].

It does strike one as a distinct possibility does it not? And still sits inside a tainteresque model of heading to a lower level of societal complexity... complexity as used by Tainter is perhaps somewhat pseudo scientific.

We need new definitions and I am not the man for that Job. Believe me I have tried but had to resign myself to the reality that I am a man of moderate stupidity

How about this for complexity...'number of articles/objects produced/manufactured by society'. It's been suggested before as well.

Not really what Tainter et al are on about... too narrow a view. while production and diversity of goods is one part of the measure, the complexity of increasing organisational tasks. bureaucracies, regulation the ability to raise taxes etc. Increasing need for detailed information on what society is producing and how it is being allocated is the other.

these tasks require economic effort but produce a decreasing return. The added complexity of sourcing raw materials is another example of how the word complexity is perhaps misused.

I think one definition of complexity is to enumerate the distinct professions or skilled jobs in a society, as a measure of the compartmentalization of working knowledge.

This is an imperfect measure, as even in an agrarian society a wheat farmer in the midwest wouldn't necessarily be interchangeable with a west coast tomato farmer, so there is some room to argue the definition.

Other measures could be sizes of cities, layers in a company or ranks in the military, or number of states and countries represented in an average store.

I'm sure there is a technical definition of complexity that I should already know, but I'm not sure it would be more valuable than a rule of thumb measure.

Edit: A partial list of measures:

I maintain the problem of the term arises out of the label "complex societies" which is an archaeological term. Somehow this has been conflated with complexity in some pseudo thermodynamic sense. This has been pointed out by others here before. I believe, WHT voiced this.

"There hasn't been an inflection point of any sort. No "collapse", no revolution in the west, the bankers remain in control, the currencies haven't fallen apart, nothing. How long can this go on? Who knows?"

Until China stops growing. At 7% yearly growth (their current target) resource consumption doubles in 10 years. When China hits its physical limits and stops growing (with the economy and living standards still far below western standards), then all hell will break loose.

Re: Production Vs. Cumulative Net Exports Depletion

My thesis is that we are only maintaining something resembling Business As Usual because of an almost totally unrecognized and virtually catastrophic rates of depletion in post-2005 Global and Available CNE (Cumulative Net Exports).

The Six Country Case History consists of the six major net exporters that approached, or fell below, zero net exports in the past 20 years (with the exception of China). The following chart shows normalized combined Six Country total petroleum liquids production (1992 production rate = 100%) versus remaining post-1992 CNE by year (by definition, post-1992 CNE = 100%).

I believe that 1995 was to the Six Country Case History as 2005 was to Global Net Exports of oil (GNE), i.e., a major inflection points in production.

An extrapolation of the six year 1995 to 2001 rate of decline in the Six Country Case History ECI ratio suggested a post-1995 CNE depletion rate of 16%/year. Because the production decline rate increased after 2001, the actual Six Country post-1995 CNE depletion rate from 1995 to 2001 was 23%/year.

The CNE depletion rate is the rate that the CNE in the "Net Export Fuel Tank," after a given index year, are depleted. Let's assume that you start on a road trip with an 18 gallon tank, and you consume three gallons per hour. After three hours, you will have consumed 9 gallons, and the fuel tank depletion rate would be 23%/hour. Of course, the assumption is that there is always a gas station down the road. What if this assumption is wrong?

An extrapolation of the six year 2005 to 2011 rate of decline in the GNE ECI ratio suggests a post-2005 Global CNE depletion rate of about 4.1%/year. An extrapolation of the six year 2005 to 2011 rate of decline in the GNE/CNI ratio suggests a post-2005 Available CNE depletion rate of about 11%/year.

Note that both of these Global and Available CNE depletion rate estimates are based on extrapolating, for decades, the slow 2005 to 2011 rate of increase in (2005) Top 33 Net Exporters' production (0.3%/year), an extrapolation that is not well supported based on prior case histories (Peaks Happen). Therefore, these estimated depletion rates may actually represent something of a best case scenario, certainly no worse than a reasonable middle case scenario.


GNE = Top 33 net exporters in 2005, BP + EIA data, total petroleum liquids
ANE = GNE less Chindia's Net Imports (CNI)
GNE/CNI = Ratio of Global Net Exports to Chindia's Net Imports
Global CNE = Cumulative CNE from (2005) Top 33 net exporters
Available CNE = Cumulative CNE available to importers other than China & India
Six Countries = UK, Indonesia, Egypt, Vietnam, Argentina, Malaysia
ECI = Export Capacity Index, ratio of total petroleum liquids production to liquids consumption

If I can't get a Tesla Model S, I think this will do (that is if I move to Europe):

VW 261mpg hybrid

To get there, Volkswagen designers and engineers have taken a number of critical steps:

They’ve used carbon fiber and other super-light body and chassis material to bring the XL1’s total mass down to just 1753 pounds – or about 1,000 pounds less than the 2-seat Honda CRZ;
The wind-cheating design of the VW plug-in includes covers over the rear wheels and a sealed underbody, achieving aircraft levels of aerodynamic drag. The XL1 could cruise down a freeway on the power produced by a medium-sized lawnmower;
The powertrain is comprised of a pint-sized, 47-hp 2-cylinder turbodiesel of only 0.8 liter displacement, mated to a 27 hp electric motor. They’re linked to the wheels through a 7-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox.


A Tesla Model S may end up being cheaper. VW has had this concept for a LONG time and they've never produced it. Now they are talking about building it but it would be in small numbers and probably have a price tag that would make it completely impractical.

I'll believe it when I see it.


'Thin Snowpack in West Signals Summer of Drought'

DENVER — After enduring last summer’s destructive drought, farmers, ranchers and officials across the parched Western states had hoped that plentiful winter snows would replenish the ground and refill their rivers, breaking the grip of one of the worst dry spells in American history. No such luck.

Lakes are half full and mountain snows are thin, omens of another summer of drought and wildfire. Complicating matters, many of the worst-hit states have even less water on hand than a year ago, raising the specter of shortages and rationing that could inflict another year of losses on struggling farms.

“A year ago we went into the spring season with most of the reservoirs full,” Mr. Hungenberg said. “This year, you’re going in with basically everything empty.”

Forecasts are murky: They predict warmer weather and less precipitation across the West over the next three months but say the Midwest could see more rain than usual.

Even if you don't read the article, its worth a look at the photo which shows the Colorado Rockies with a very thin layer of snow.

I guess farmers will have to switch to drought crops like sorghum.

We would certainly like to 'divest ourselves of fossil fuel" based refrigerated air conditioning. Does anyone see or know about the possibility of solar powered refrigerated air conditioning systems? I believe there's a company in Colorado that has developed air conditioning systems for drier climates that can be solar powered....but as I understand it, the removal of humidity is the core of the problem for solar powered systems. We would
CERTAINLY like to expand our system and get rid of our electric heat pump a/c. Notso hard to keep warm in the winter with wood heat...but summers of 110 to 115 F are truly brutal, especially for us older folks.

You may be referring to "Coolerado'"







After reading these references, I am not convinced that this unit makes sense compared to a standard evaporative cooler (swamp cooler). My house uses evap cooling. I get the imporession that the 'Coolerado' unit costs more to buy than a MasterCool or similar evap, and that it may use more water as well.

Perhaps others here have direct experience with this indirect evap technology used in the 'Coolerado'

Edit: IIRC, Fred posted something on TOD a ways back about some sort of solar=powered house cooling

You can probably cut the amount you need. Much of your heat load comes from direct absorption of sunlight, heating your roof, walls, and through windows the interior. There are several lines of attack that can be taken:

(1) Lighter colors, reflect more of the sun, surfaces aren't as hot.
(2) Trees and vines as shade.
(3) Overhangs or awnings above south facing windows.
(4) More insulation, an attic foil to reduce radiant heat flow from the attic ceiling to the insulation.
(5) Adding fans to better ventilate the attic.
(6) Opening windows and using fans to draw cool air into the house during the nighttime.
(7) Using evaporative cooling (swamp coolers).

I live in a place with 15-20 100 degree days per year, I've done all of these except number 5. I tried 7, with a portable unit, but the pump on the unit died, I consider that experiment a failure. My AC use is a fraction (maybe 20%) of most of my neighbors. That might be enough of a change that finding a solar cooler might not be important enough.

For number three, I built wood slat based shades that stick out roughly 20inches. This blocks maybe half of the sun (you still want blinds/curtains). The cost of materials is about $20 per window.

Does anyone see or know about the possibility of solar powered refrigerated air conditioning systems?

Well, in a way all you need to do is change what you plug the Air Conditioner plug into for getting the power.
It could be as expensive as a dedicated (PV system + DCtoAC non-grid inverter) that you plug into,


Having a grid-tie PV system that 'offsets' the energy used by the A/C at some level.

Sadly, both are non-trivial investments for most people, but those that have them here on TOD seem to find it was a worthwhile thing to have done.

It all depends on where you live, what your resources are (time, money, zoning laws), and what you are willing to do.


Here is the technology I remember FM posting a ways back...I am not convinced it is commercially available for residential applications, but I may be in error:


Here is FM's original post citing this this technology:


In the event that we should find ourselves in a similar predicament at some future point, take note: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY0T1VyK2Ek

[This is part of a BBC documentary that originally aired in 1986, and the narrator's voice should prove familiar to many of you.]


Never really liked how they claimed as fact, that the resulting diet was healthier.
The problem being that the war also changed their activity during those years, which makes it hard to determine in a scientific sense what was the cause of the increased health. And this is also not taking into account any other of the myriad factors that a proper study would isolate them from.

Sadly though no study like that would be done as to do so would mean they would have to isolate a set of humans, at a young age, to control their environment and take that variable out of the equation. Like any other scientific study worth its merit.

Government hones oilsands message with focus groups

Natural Resources Canada set to spend $9 million this year on energy sector advertising

Focus-group testing on what the Harper government calls its Responsible Resource Development campaign found the advertising to be light on facts but uplifting and patriotic, according to a government-commissioned study.

The fruits of that taxpayer-funded labour will again be on display this spring as a second wave of ads — designed to persuade Canadians of "the importance and impact of Canada's energy sector" — hits the air.

Natural Resources Canada has budgeted $9 million in the current 2012-13 fiscal year for ads that show a cross-section of resource industries in a job-friendly and environmentally sensitive light.

Manufacturing consent?

The Canadian government does have a dog in this fight - it is losing billions of dollars in tax revenues due to low oil sands prices caused by pipeline and other restrictions. When politicians have a choice between painless growth in tax revenues (because Americans are paying for the oil) and painful spending cutbacks to popular programs (such as are happening now), they will usually choose the former.

"...it is losing billions of dollars in tax revenues due to low oil sands prices..."

It's not losing anything RMG. It's just not getting as much as it wants as quickly as it wants. Big difference, IMO. Repeatedly blaming the US because Canada can't unwrap it's presents quickly enough gets tedious.

Fracking: Feds Throw Wrench in High Profile Lawsuit

Judge suddenly promoted; plaintiff Ernst sees strategy to 'delay and exhaust.'

By Andrew Nikiforuk, Yesterday, TheTyee.ca

In a stunning move the Harper government has thrown another hurdle before a high profile Alberta lawsuit that seeks to put the regulation of hydraulic fracturing on public trial.

Last week the Department of Justice appointed Honourable Barbara L. Veldhuis, a Court of Queen's Bench judge presiding over the landmark case, to the Court of Appeal of Alberta. The promotion effectively removes Veldhuis from the multi-million dollar lawsuit.

Moreover, Veldhuis was about to rule on whether or not Alberta's energy regulator could be sued by a landowner for failing to uphold provincial rules, protect groundwater and respect the constitutional rights of Canadians.

The Harper government's appointment now means another judge will have to be appointed to hear the case, which has attracted global attention including the United States, Australia, Poland and Ireland.

Obstructing dissent?

I think it falls heavily into the "they just don't care" category. It's a rather flakey lawsuit - the landowner doesn't own the water rights under her property, but she is suing the government claiming they should protect it for her. That's where the government's, "We owe no duty of care" to her argument comes in.

The government's position is that they supply clean drinking water to the nearby town of Rosebud, and she can truck it from there to her place using her own money. It's tough not having riparian rights on your land in a dry country.

I grew up near Rosebud, I helped my father in his business of installing water systems on farms, and I can testify that most of the well water around there is real crap, if you can find any at all. If you're lucky, you can use it for washing clothes and it won't stain them too badly or set them on fire.

Fracked Gas Won't Solve Energy Crunch: Report

Conserving key to energy independence concludes geologist David Hughes.

By Andrew Nikiforuk, Today, TheTyee.ca

In a meticulous 181 page study for the Post Carbon Institute, geologist David Hughes concludes that the U.S. "is highly unlikely to achieve energy independence unless energy consumption declines substantially."

-- snip --

The report also provides a reality check for aggressive bitumen forecasts in Canada's tar sands.

Projections of four or five million barrels a day by 2035 made by a variety of industry cheer leaders will likely not be realized due to "logistical restraints on infrastructure development and the fact that the highest quality, most economically viable portions of the resource are being extracted first," says Hughes.

"It has taken 40 years to grow tar sands production to 1.6 mbd, yet forecasts call for a nearly tripling of production over the next 18 years," says Hughes.

But industry has already "high graded" or dug up the highest quality bitumen deposits first. Most of the active development is now taking place in shallow open pit mines while the bulk of the resource (and the lowest quality) lies so deep underground that it requires large amounts of water and natural gas to extract.

Adds Hughes: "The economics of much of the vast purported remaining extractable resource are increasingly questionable and the net energy available from them will diminish toward the break even point long before they are completely extracted."

And for those who would like to read that report by David Hughes:

Executive Summery

Full PDF File

Ron P.

Speaking of oil sands perhaps I missed this if discussed on TOD. But with all the MSM attention on the Canadian oil sands I’ve seen nothing about the current POTUS leasing public lands for the development of US oil sands. Not as big as Canada’s and just beginning to grow but it has begun.

It’s been happening: http://www.heavyoil.utah.edu/Research/In_Situ.html

From: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/11/first-us-tar-sands-mine-utah_n_...

From April 2011: First U.S. Tar Sands Mine Stirs Controversy In Utah

“Beneath the lush, green hills of eastern Utah's Uinta Basin, where elk, bear and bison outnumber people, the soil is saturated with a sticky tar that may soon provide a new domestic source of petroleum for the United States. It would be a first-of-its kind project in the country that some fear could be a slippery slope toward widespread wilderness destruction.”

“Much of the world's oil (more than 2 trillion barrels) is in the form of tar sands, although it is not all recoverable. While tar sands are found in many places worldwide, the largest deposits in the world are found in Canada (Alberta) and Venezuela, and much of the rest is found in various countries in the Middle East. In the United States, tar sands resources are primarily concentrated in Eastern Utah, mostly on public lands. The in-place tar sands oil resources in Utah are estimated at 12 to 19 billion barrels.”

Well, other than being 1/100 the size of the Canadian oil sands, the American "tar sands" have a few more problems.

First, the are too deep to mine, so they will have to be produced using in-situ techniques.Canada has spent billions of dollars developing techniques such as SAGD, which might be useful if modified, but they won't work as is. More money needs to be spent, but oil companies tend to cramp up if you talk about spending a billion dollars on research to (maybe) produce a billion barrels of oil.

Second, the American tar sands are "tarrier" than the Canadian oil sands. The grains of sand in the US are oil wetted rather while the Canadian sand is water wetted. This means the bitumen can be separated from the Canadian sand using a simple hot water process, but the American sands probably require solvents to be added. This is one reason why Canadians tend to refer to their sands as "oil sands" while Americans call theirs "tar sands".

Third, some of the water limitations the environmentalists worry about actually do apply to the US sands. Utah is actually short of water.

But industry has already "high graded" or dug up the highest quality bitumen deposits first. Most of the active development is now taking place in shallow open pit mines while the bulk of the resource (and the lowest quality) lies so deep underground that it requires large amounts of water and natural gas to extract.

The industry has only dug up a small corner of the "high grade" part of the reserves. Off the top of my head I would say they have produced only about 20% of the mineable area and have about 40 years to go before it is fully "high graded". There is about 30 billion barrels of mineable bitumen left there, after all.

The true high grading occurred decades ago during the leasing process - the established companies locked up the mineable leases decades ago, and they aren't letting go of them except for serious cash (Which the Chinese have been showing up with - they have to recycle their surplus US dollars somehow).

The pigs that were late to the trough have had to make do with the deeper reserves, but new technology (SAGD) has made part of that economic, too. The high-grade part of the deeper resources is about 140 billion barrels.

Add 30 billion and 140 billion together and you get 170 billion barrels and that is what Alberta has booked as proven reserves. At 5 million barrels per day, it would take 100 years to fully "high grade" the oil sands. They have just scratched the surface, so far.

Thanks for the reminder that Canada will be enabling the continued massive release of CO2 into the atmosphere long into the future. A nice guarantee of your contribution to deadly climate change!

a – And let’s not forget the US produces much more oil than the comes from the Canadian oil sands, burns more oil than any other economy, burns many time the oil per capita than any other industrial economy, burns about 25% of all the NG produced on the planet and is a major coal producer with much of it exported to countries with little or no pollution controls.

And one of the worst environmental disasters of all times from the Macondo blowout on lands belonging to our govt….just as the oil sands come from their govt lands. BTW in case you missed my post our govt has issued over 400 new drilling permits on those same offshore govt lands since the Macondo blow out. And, as I just discovered, the same oil sands are beginning to be developed in Utah on govt lands…our govt lands

Just a tad kettle calling the pot black, eh? Nothing wrong with criticizing developing any fossil fuel. Just good to not be hypocritical in laying the blame at someone else’s feet if you’re playing the same game. Especially if you’re contributing significantly more.

Hey, I'm going to be criticizing anybody who is bragging about being able to make more CO2. It's not something to be proud of. RMG is just more vocal and repetitious on TOD than others so he gets more back. China isn't on here speaking for me to respond to... I'm actively working to massively reduce my CO2 emission either directly or indirectly.

Besides, he/his government is vocally blaming us/the US government for impeding Canada's inability to make as much money as they want!

a – I suppose you and I listen with different types of ears. I don’t recall RMG ever bragging. Like me and other oil patch hands on TOD we tend to deliver facts. You may not like those facts but they are what they are. Who would you rather get info from…the MSM…the PR machines of the oil companies…the politicians?

Speaking of bragging you seem proud of your efforts. Good for you but apparent you’re still using FF’s and, though reduced, you are still contributing to the problem. Takes a tad of the shine of the brag IMHO.

I guess I don't buy into the theme of "Since we can't all be perfect and all get totally off of FF instantly, there's no reason to do or say anything. In fact, let's do what we can to burn more FF. Making money for my retirement is good, even if it's helping in it's own small way to fry us."

I'll fully admit that I'm still using FF, though at a vastly reduced rate, and that still does make me part of the problem. If if everybody has to shut up until they quit totally, we'll have even more complete silence than we do now. If I lived in Canada, sure I wouldn't be touting how responsible the government has been to make sure that they can continue to produce, sell and burn increasing amounts of FF, I'd be saying the same stuff I'm now saying about the US Government and people. And about the entire world...

Recently I calculated my personal contribution of carbon to the atmosphere and it is eight tons annually. At TerraPass, the cost to offset these emissions was $95.00 I was actually startled at how low this price was.

It doesn't directly remove the carbon, but it does help finance investment in renewable energy and other mitigation strategies.

Reportedly about 60% of the U.S. population now believe that CC is happening. If this majority reduced their fossil fuel consumption by 25% and bought offset credits for the remainder, it would send a revolutionary shot over the bow of B.A.U., in my Limbic opinion.

Good for you. You are trying to be part of the solution -and being realistic as well. We contribute both by direct effects (what we personally consume), and how we effect others. You affect others partly by example, and partly by how you use your money. Whether you do TerraPass (or crowd funding solar, or whatever), we do have more scope to influence things than most people realize.

No one serious about reducing fossil carbon emission would purchase carbon credits because about 75% of the money goes to the financial system where it falls into the pockets of the 1% whose fossil carbon emissions are astronomical. Opt for the local solution. The only way to do something right, is to do it yourself.

Using TerraPass's Carbon Footprint Calculator, my annual fossil carbon emission is 877 pounds (43 gallons of gasoline/year and 3 gallons of propane/year). TerraPass offsets 1,000 lbs CO2 for $5.95. It would cost me considerably more than $6 to eliminate my remaining fossil fuel consumption.

No one serious about anything believes that ridiculous claim that 75% of carbon credits go the the financial system. As far as I know the only basis is one old article by a biased organization that Eric Blair has posted here over 100 times.

877 pounds seems remarkably and commendably low B.T., does that include your electric usage and heating?

To the depth that I looked into it before I bought credits, TerraPass seems effective and transparent. They independently audit, and publish the results on their web site.

I didn't use their calculator however. I did that directly using the data from my utility bills, and from my actual gasoline consumption.

If my plans going forward are realised, then I will have eliminated my carbon emissions for domestic power and personal transport within five years, and possibly sooner. Since I am a landlord, this will also eliminate the electricity derived emissions of my three other apartments. Unfortunately, it is not possible for me to eliminate my natural gas usage; hence the offset approach.

The point is that I finally became motivated by the hypocrisy of my own inaction. I have friends and family scattered along a broad continuum of AGW views and I became troubled by just how politicized the issue is, and how many who claim to accept AGW as real seem to do so for blue or green flag identity reasons. If we believe it is real, why do we fail to personally act? If I believe it is real, why do I fail to act? By acting, does it have a positive effect, or just free up fuels that others will burn indiscriminately anyway? What Would Jevon Do?

I think his Paradox is a real phenomenon, and that he would probably do nothing, but I think perhaps he failed to take into account how intensely social the human animal is. As humans we are routinely socially inhibited from behaviours that might bring immediate personal benefit. A tremendous factor in peoples personal transport decisions are status based. People buy Hummers and big a$$ trucks for use as passenger vehicles all the time, under the flimsiest excuses of practical utility, and although it makes no economic sense. Why?

Well, if the AGW believing majority began making behavioural choices that reflected their view and were appropriate to the implications of the science, perhaps the social effects would be profound. Perhaps it wouldn't be long before driving an ICE and living in a non zero-net-energy home would provide as much positive social status as openly defecating on public sidewalks. Social tipping points can happen very quickly - just look at how quickly a meme or fad can rip through Japan.

a – I don’t recall seeing anyone say you couldn’t express your feelings. That’s one of the great aspects of TOD IMHO: even when someone disagrees with another's position it’s usually a polite debate.

And it’s great when anyone does anything to reduce their carbon footprint. But I think many develop resentment towards those involved in FF extraction because the consumer is forced to be part of the problem as you say. Many here, such as aws and clifman, express legitimate concerns about certain methods of FF extraction. All very worthwhile discussions IMHO. But every TODster has a carbon footprint from the burning of FF…everyone. Your footprint may be just 1/5 of that of the average TODster (which is likely lower than the national average) for which you deserve sincere acknowledgement. But your life style still requires, in fact demands, FF extraction, doesn’t it? At the least you’re here on the net which is powered by FF consumption. Your job, if you’re still working, almost certainly wouldn’t exist without FF consumption. You utilize some portion of society’s infrastructure every day even if you don’t work…infrastructure built using FF.

I appreciate the conflict many feel. I’ve been in the frontlines of the process for 38 years. If one cares about current and future generations one must. I doubt any TODster, even Ghung, could maintain their lifestyle without some FF production. No one should be pleased with what we’ve done and continue to do to the environment. But criticizing some folks for doing what every TODster not only requires but demands does come across somewhat disingenuous at times. Many valid reasons to be upset with some of our methods of FF extraction or areas we chose to operate. If you’ve read many of my posts you’ll see where I’m in agreement in some areas. But everyone here supports FF production by the fact they use FF to some level in their daily lives.

Everyone on TOD, regardless of to what small degree, is dependent upon FF extraction. And thus whether they can stomach saying it out loud, supports at least some FF production. Conflicted emotions to say the least.

I don't disagree with your sentiments in any way Rock, but I'm not seeing a comment on this thread where criticism is directed at the FF industry for supplying a demand.

I think there is a likely majority consensus on TOD that FF's are a finite commodity, and that future economic instability is likely from price volatility. A transition to a different energy base is inevitable at some future point. If AGW is real, then the faster that transition can happen the better, although I can understand why people employed by fossil fuel provision may not share that view. I'm not critical of the industry for fulfilling a market demand. What the oil companies actually accomplish is incredible, but the full cost of the product is being externalized to everyone, and appears to be stacking up to a very expensive future bill.

I think it should be clear from my comments that I advocate eliminating demand, not artificially limiting supply.

Tragedy of the commons will indeed become a common tragedy.

Unless there is a one-world-gov't or some other sort of unification of viewpoint, it's all going to get burned. There is a miniscule change some will be sequestered.

Me, I'm betting on the digging to get harder and the burning to continue, so as to get my kids through college and off to their uncertain future. 3 years ago I decided to move into energy, and almost chose alts versus fossil fuels. I figured oil was the safer bet, though I commend those here who are making alts work too.

Pretty good chance I'll join that side of things myself, when it gets to the point that they're the ones hiring away my engineers for $40 or $50K more than what I can pay, like the pubco's are today.

I'll also toss in the reminder that US coal burning power plants are emitting 50 times as much CO2 as Canadian oil sands plants, and that US coal resources vastly exceed the oil sands resources of Canada. It's the enormous pot calling the tiny little kettle black.

And let's not forget the elephant in the room that the global warming activists don't like to mention - China, which produces nearly half of the coal burned in the world, and now exceeds the CO2 production of the US.

They will argue that on a per capita basis, Canadian emissions are high, but Canada is the second biggest country on Earth and has fewer people than California and not many more than some Chinese cities. They leave a small footprint on an underpopulated corner of a big, overpopulated planet.

RMG, don't you think that since you've already admitted some time ago that you have investment in the tar sands, your opinions on the subject are nullified by a conflict of interest? Here's an example of what I mean: Let's suppose that instead of having an investment in tar sands, you owned a house as part of a community downstream and the water is being polluted by their operations. Would you still be for extraction of oil from the tar sands or against it?

If I owned a house downstream of the oil sands, I would vote for taking the town water from one of the numerous other rivers in the area, and keeping my job at the oil sands plant. I think most of the other townfolks would vote the same way - the oil sands are the biggest employer in the area after all.

However it's basically unnecessary because the government does regular tests on the water quality and has determined that it is within acceptable limits. Some groups claim it is dangerous, but these are the ones who would argue that Perrier Water will kill you.

They seem to do a lot of campaigning for the water supply of nonexistent people. They have never seen it, but the main characteristic of the land north of Fort McMurray is that it is empty. There are only a few thousand people living along the Athabasca River north of there, and most of them have smaller but cleaner rivers nearby to draw water from. The reason they don't is because they think the water is fine.

Shutting down the oil sands would be like shutting down the City of Chicago because it is polluting the Mississippi River. Certainly it is adding pollution to the Mississippi, but a more productive solution is to put in pollution controls. If you forced the people to leave, they would go somewhere else and cause pollution there - possibly in your neighbourhood.

The good thing about Fort McMurray is that, as I said, there are only a few thousand people living downstream from it. Chicago has tens of millions of people living downstream from it, and where do they get their drinking water from?

I'll also toss in the reminder that US coal burning power plants are emitting 50 times as much CO2 as Canadian oil sands plants

Of course this is a pointless meaningless statistic. Coal burning power plants generate electricity which is then consumed with no further emissions. Canadian oil sands plants generate synthetic crude which is then refined (producing emissions) into a variety of oil products which are mostly burned thereby creating much more emissions.

Coal power plants create a final product whereas oil sands plants merely create a raw energy hydrocarbon that produces more emissions.

I think RockyMtn is a resident of a glass house who likes to throw stones. (I'm an internal enemy in a land of glass houses). At least the US is reducing its use of coal. Now, if only we would leave it in the ground instead of trying to export it. But, at least the time rate of change is in the right direction. The tar-sands wars, are about where we draw the line, in terms of how low a quality of fossil carbon we extract. If we let Canada do it, then everyone else with similar low quality resources will say "me too, me too". So then all the worlds tar sands, and peat will be up for grabs as well.

I agree, its hard to be against a local windfall. I see that conflict thinking about the Monterrey shale. At this point we don't know if it is extractable, the few who are trying are upholding secrecy (I think they don't want to start a bidding war for drilling rights). But, if it becomes a big thing, it would sure help the state economy. So on the one hand, I hope they succeed. On the other, I fear they may succeed.

"Energy independence" is inevitable long term. It'll come when the US can no longer afford to import energy, and it won't be pleasant.

It could come sooner if the US imposed strict rationing. But that isn't going to happen.

Applying Project Management to our future Energy Systems
I've been taking a Project Management course, and I started wondering how it could be applied to our future Energy Systems.
In looking at a system, one can plan for 3 types of data.
- One is where both the cause and effect are known. These are called the "knowns".
- One is where the cause is known, but not the effect. These are called "known unknowns".
- One is where neither the cause nor the effect is known. These are called "unknown unknowns".
So, for our future Energy Systems, we are trying to understand what the future may be, based upon our understanding of the past (the "knowns"), and based upon models of the future ("known unknowns"). These models are never accurate. But what about the "unknown unknowns"? Can we plan for these as well? What happens if and when unforseen events happen which cause even more unforseen events? Can we mitigate their effects, and if so, how?

Someplace to start - Places to Intervene in a System by Donella H. Meadows

In the drumbeat of a few days ago someone mentioned a recent Solve for X talk given by a representative of the Lockheed Martin skunkworks in which Lockheed claimed that they will produce a prototype 100MW fusion plant in 4 years time.

No details were given at the Solve for X talk but someone has now unearthed the recent doctoral thesis of the chief scientist on this project and it looks very promising, maybe human civilisation saves itself at the last minute yet again.

The thesis is available here http://ssl.mit.edu/publications/theses/PhD-2007-McGuireThomas.pdf and it gives enough hints to begin to believe why Lockheed Martin might have gone public.

I posted a thread on this in an Irish political website earlier today to gauge the reaction, which was interesting, that thread is here http://www.politics.ie/forum/education-science/206808-nuclear-fusion-4-y...

Full circle and perhaps fitting in that much of the thesis research builds on the work of none other than Robert L. Hirsch.

Potentially useful, but I don't see the materials problem being addressed. As I understand it, currently there is no known material that can stand up very long to the neutron bombardment the containment vessel receives from D-T plasma fusion.

If they have solved that problem and the other engineering impossibilities that fusion requires, it might be useful. Particularly for missions to Mars, as mentioned.

Contrary to the presentation, though, it won't be much use in water-poor, grid-poor, and graduate-poor Asia and Africa, though.

An alternative, PV solar, is a much lower-impact solution because it needs neither grid nor water to operate. PV can also scale from less than 1 kilowatt up to gigawatts (meaning you can buy as much as you can afford, and buy more later as desired), whereas this thing seems to be fixed at 100 MW. Nor does PV need a bunch of people with post-graduate degrees to install and operate it.

One of my fundamental questions on this was why a secretive outfit like the Skunkworks would go public on a technology it had not yet mastered, Thomas McGuires thesis now gives us a clue.

Lockheed see the cream in developing a new space drive but perhaps need private investment to get this tech over the line in an era of declining government investment in space tech, hence the lure of earthbound electricity production.

A successful fusion tech will ironically face the same economic problems faced by current renewables, high capital cost v low marginal costs.

Charles Chase in his Solve for X talk spoke about providing baseload power, if this tech becomes viable I see it working alongside, rather than instead of, renewables. Ireland for example now regularly supplies up to 50% of electricity demand from so called intermittent renewables with absolutely no grid stability issues, ever and the Irish grid will be capable of accepting 75% of renewables within 3 years. If the Irish can do this everyone else can as well, making the commitment is all it takes.

The neutron bombardment problem can be solved by using a water curtain to protect the walls of the containment vessel, however as you point out, not everywhere has plenty of water.

His thesis concludes

"This thesis makes two main contributions. First, a multi-grid IEC device is shown to be capable of confining a non-neutral ion population for life times at least 3 orders of magnitude greater than state of the art IEC devices. Second, the increased lifetime allows the development of a self-organizing synchronization behavior which enables a low-power, breakeven non-neutral IEC fusion reactor."

Thomas McGuire's thesis is about electrostatic containment while Chase's presentation indicated magnetic containment in a cylinder 2 m long by 1 m in diameter. I think they are different methods.

Chase's presentation is lean on details omitting the amount of power needed to initiate a fusion reaction and how much power has been produced by fusion, if any.

RE: Could Humans Go Extinct?

The scientist Ernst Mayr said no doubt, because human intelligence is a fatal mutation:

I'LL BEGIN with an interesting debate that took place some years ago between Carl Sagan, the well-known astrophysicist, and Ernst Mayr, the grand old man of American biology. They were debating the possibility of finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. And Sagan, speaking from the point of view of an astrophysicist, pointed out that there are innumerable planets just like ours. There is no reason they shouldn't have developed intelligent life. Mayr, from the point of view of a biologist, argued that it's very unlikely that we'll find any. And his reason was, he said, we have exactly one example: Earth. So let's take a look at Earth. And what he basically argued is that intelligence is a kind of lethal mutation ... you're just not going to find intelligent life elsewhere, and you probably won't find it here for very long either because it's just a lethal mutation ... With the environmental crisis, we're now in a situation where we can decide whether Mayr was right or not. If nothing significant is done about it, and pretty quickly, then he will have been correct: human intelligence is indeed a lethal mutation. Maybe some humans will survive, but it will be scattered and nothing like a decent existence, and we'll take a lot of the rest of the living world along with us.

(What Kind of Intelligence, emphasis added).

Human intelligence has certainly been a fatal mutation to other species because we dominate so completely it becomes a decision on our part which species are allowed to survive and in what numbers. But as to whether or not we will become extinct, I think the answer is not any time soon. Sure, the oil age is an endowment that on the downside from peak will apply depopulation pressure, but as long as the planet is still habitable people will find ways to at minimum eek out an existence. There will probably be many expansion and contractions of human populations, and for many years to come I am sure the oil age will stand out as a major peak. However, information on technology will get passed down and in the distant future there will other population peaks as well (but probably not by burning ff). Hopefully hard lessons will have been learned through this time period that ensure a more balanced approach to expansion.

Not that I'm not a doomer, because in the near term I certainly adhere to the idea of a coming collapse because the math is simple; as we move down the net energy ladder there will be less for everybody and that insures a break point (differing for each country).

Perk Earl,

Well said.

There are fresh discoveries and older ones too that may point to possible sources for such lethal mutations to arise.