Drumbeat: April 24, 2013

Egypt to issue schedule next month for gradual fuel subsidy cuts

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt aims next month to issue a schedule of gradual rises in the subsidised prices various industries pay for fuel, to bring them near to world levels in four years, its trade and industry minister said.

A reduction in energy subsidies is widely seen as an important step towards allowing Egypt to secure a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to shore up its finances.

Egypt spends around a fifth of its budget on fuel subsidies, and the government is under pressure to reduce them to plug a deficit that has mushroomed since the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.

A growing population and a falling currency are expected to push the energy subsidy bill to more than 120 billion Egyptian pounds ($17.4 billion) in the financial year that ends in June.

BP predicts growth in global demand for energy resources by a third

World energy demand will grow by 36 percent by 2030, senior economist at the British company BP Lev Freinkman told journalists in Baku on Wednesday.

He said the increase in demand for energy resources is mainly due to increased consumption in the electricity sector.

WTI Crude Climbs to One-Week High After U.S. Supply Drop

West Texas Intermediate crude advanced to the highest in more than a week amid speculation that the European Central Bank will cut its key interest rate to a record low next week.

Futures increased as much as 0.9 percent in New York to the highest intraday price since April 15. Banks including UBS AG and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) expect a rate reduction for May. U.S. crude stockpiles fell 845,000 barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute said yesterday. Analysts in a Bloomberg survey before the API report had forecast government data today to show supplies climbed 2 million barrels to the most in 22 years, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

Drivers benefit as oil prices drop sharply

The price of oil is being driven lower by rising global supplies and lower-than-expected demand in the world's two largest economies, the United States and China. As oil and gasoline become more affordable, the economy benefits because goods become less expensive to transport and motorists have more money to spend on other things. Over the course of a year, a decline of 10 cents per gallon translates to $13 billion in savings at the pump.

Diesel and jet fuel have also gotten cheaper in recent weeks, which is good news for truckers, airlines and other energy-intensive businesses.

China Cuts Fuel Prices in First Adjustment Using New Controls

China, the world’s second-biggest oil consumer, will cut gasoline and diesel prices in the first adjustment under new controls after crude declined.

Retail gasoline will fall by 395 yuan ($64) a metric ton and diesel by 400 yuan, effective from tomorrow, the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner, said on its website today. The reduction is in line with changes in average global crude costs in the past 10 working days and includes an amount from the last price review, it said. The pump price of 90-RON, China III gasoline in Beijing will decline 4 percent to 9,325 yuan a ton, or $4.31 a U.S. gallon, the NDRC figures show.

Global LNG-Asia down more as stocks full

London (Reuters) - Asian prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes for June delivery fell sharply this week on scant demand due to packed terminal inventories. Prices fell to between $14.20-$14.50 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) compared with around $15/mmBtu earlier in the month, as buyers lowered bids in light of poor demand.

"A big Asian buyer paid between $14.20 and $14.30 for two cargoes spread across June and July," a source from a trading house said, adding there was little expected incremental demand expected until June.

Encana boosts hedges on gas

CALGARY – Encana Corp. is hunkering down for what it sees as a prolonged stretch of low gas prices, pledging to slash costs even as others point to an improving outlook for the furnace fuel.

Goldman Cuts Commodity Outlook as It Exits Bet on Gold Drop

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. cut its “near-term” outlook for commodities and reduced forecasts for oil and coffee amid prospects for weak demand from China to Europe. The bank also exited a bet on lower gold prices.

U.S. Risks Market Loss Without Gas Export Permits, Dominion Says

The U.S. needs to act quickly to take advantage of overseas demand for its glut of natural gas or lose market share to international competitors, Dominion Resources Inc. Chief Executive Officer Thomas Farrell said.

“The U.S. must act very soon -- or the door is going to close and our country will have missed a major economic opportunity,” Farrell said today during a luncheon speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington.

OPEC fracked

Since its inception in 1960, OPEC has never been shy in flexing its energy-fuelled power over the West. But those days are done. To put it bluntly, you could say that OPEC power has been well and truly fracked. And it’s not just the US and Israeli shale gas and oil revolutions which threatens OPEC’s decline. OPEC is already grappling with a whole bunch of serious energy problems that are colluding to hasten its demise.

Let’s just focus on the OPEC kingpin and world’s leading oil producer, Saudi Arabia. Even as the Saudis and other OPEC leaders have played down the nascent impact of US shale development on global production (especially America’s growing self-sufficiency), the signs are that the Saudis are increasingly desperate to keep their world number one ranking in oil production. But the runes are not falling their way.

Scientific viewpoint or 'religious' belief: My cat explains energy optimism

Each morning when I release my cat from the basement where he sleeps, he rushes to the upstairs bathroom to drink water from a bowl placed there for him. He appears to have a 'religious' belief that the water in this bowl is far superior to that in the bowl sitting alongside his food in the basement. So far as I can tell, there is no discernible evidence available to him to make this distinction. I take his preference then as a matter of faith rather than evidence. The water upstairs is holy. The water in the basement—not so much.

How do I know that the upstairs water is really holy? When I forget to fill the upstairs bowl, the cat complains even if his basement bowl is full. It is hard enough to reason with a cat, but even harder to argue one out of what is essentially a religious belief.

Abu Dhabi Plans Gasoline Imports for Year Until Refinery Starts

Abu Dhabi will continue importing gasoline for at least a year to meet domestic demand until a new refinery begins producing the fuel 12 months from now, officials with the state oil company said.

UAE to achieve petrol self-sufficiency

The UAE will be self-sufficient in petrol once a US$10 billion refinery upgrade in Ruwais in western Abu Dhabi is completed next year, said officials at Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).

A big increase in the use of the transport fuel has forced Adnoc to import petrol over the past year, as demand outstripped domestic supply.

Ghana Oil Output to More Than Double by 2021 With New Fields

Ghana, West Africa’s second-biggest economy, expects oil production to more than double to 250,000 barrels a day by 2021 as output rises at the Jubilee field and other sites start pumping.

The country has new crude discoveries at different stages of appraisal and development, Nana Boakye Asafu-Adjaye, chief executive officer of the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corp. known as GNPC, said in an interview in the capital, Accra, yesterday. At the Tullow Oil Plc-operated Jubilee field, 60 kilometers (37 miles) off Ghana’s western coast, output has averaged 110,000 barrels a day over the last three months, he said.

China has arrived as a major energy player

Driven by the biggest, fastest growing energy demand in the world, a major transformation is taking place in China. But this exciting, dynamic country faces environmental challenges, too, as the recent big smog in Beijing dramatically demonstrated. Our summit, co-hosted by WEC and the China Industrial Overseas Development and Planning Association, will help us to understand, within all the big-picture developments, whether there is a change or refocus of energy ambition within the new government.

India cuts oil import from Iran by 26.5% in FY'13

NEW DELHI: India has slashed import of crude oil from Iran by over 26.5 per cent in the financial year ended March 31 as US and European sanctions made it difficult to ship oil from the Persian Gulf nation.

The nation imported about 13.3 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in 2012-13 fiscal, down from 18.1 million tonnes shipped in the previous financial year, official sources said.

US arms deal ratchets up Middle East tension

The United States' promised $10-billion arms deal with Israel and two Arab allies sends out a clear signal and further increases the pressure on Iran, but where is all this tension leading?

As "clear signals" go, this one could hardly be clearer. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced over the weekend that the US was preparing a $10-billion (7.7-billion-euro) arms deal with Israel and two key Arab allies - Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Chinese and Japanese ships cluster around disputed islands

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The fragile relationship between China and Japan came under fresh strain Tuesday as ships from both sides crowded into the waters around a disputed group of islands and nearly 170 Japanese lawmakers visited a controversial war memorial.

Muslims helped foil alleged Canada train bomb plot

The two suspects in the alleged al Qaeda-backed plot to blow up a rail line between the United States and Canada appeared in court on Tuesday, as revelations emerged that the Muslim community helped foil the potentially deadly plan.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Monday that it had arrested Chiheb Esseghaier, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, of Toronto, over what sources said was a plan to derail a train from the United States after it had crossed the border.

Dutch court orders chemical trader to pay Saddam gas victims

A Dutch businessman who sold Iraq's former regime chemicals that were used in deadly gas attacks against Kurds in Iraq and in Iran was ordered on Wednesday to pay 400,000 euros ($520,000) in compensation to some of the victims.

The court ruled that Frans van Anraat must pay 25,000 euros plus interest to each of the 16 plaintiffs in the case.

Backers, opponents of giant Keystone XL pipeline face off in Nebraska

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Increasingly polarized as the bitter fight over the Keystone XL pipeline drags on, backers and opponents of the 1,700-mile project met in the same place Thursday for the only federal public hearing scheduled before the Obama administration decides whether to allow its construction.

The gulf between them was larger than the ice-and-snow-covered Heartland Events Center, the state fairgrounds and arena complex where nearly 1,000 people braved a late April snowstorm to testify to State Department officials. Even the smallest points were hotly contested throughout the all-day hearing and in dueling news conferences that preceded it.

Keystone Foes Say 1 Million Comments Show Grassroots Power

Keystone XL critics said they amassed more than 1 million comments against the pipeline to carry oil from Canada, showing what they called grassroots opposition to the $5.3 billion project.

Keystone will “contribute dramatically” to global warming and pose an “unacceptable risk to water,” according to a letter posted on the website of environmental group 350.org that visitors could electronically sign and submit to the State Department, which is reviewing the comments.

EPA wants State Dept. to rework analysis of Keystone XL pipeline

The Environmental Protection Agency objected Monday to the State Department’s latest review of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, suggesting that more work must be done before the Obama administration can determine whether to approve the 1,179-mile northern leg of the project.

The EPA recommended that State reassess the amount of greenhouse gas that would be emitted by the development of oil sands in Alberta, Canada, as a result of construction of the pipeline, which eventually could transport as much as 830,000 barrels of diluted bitumen crude to refineries in Texas.

Cuadrilla must tone down fracking safety claims - UK watchdog

(Reuters) - British shale gas explorer Cuadrilla Resources has been criticised by the country's advertising watchdog for exaggerating the safety of fracking, increasing concerns over the disputed extraction method.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said Cuadrilla's assertion in a 2012 brochure that it uses "proven, safe technologies to explore for and recover natural gas" were misleading, exaggerated and not substantiated.

FracFocus Fails as Fracking Disclosure Tool, Study Finds

FracFocus, the website used by Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and other energy companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, fails as a compliance tool for the 11 states that rely on it, a Harvard Law School study found.

Using the voluntary registry for compliance with state disclosure requirements is “misplaced or premature” because of spotty reporting, lack of a searchable database and an “overly broad” allowance for trade secrets, according to the study published today by the Environmental Law Program at Harvard.

Greenpeace launches Arctic "whistleblower" site for oil workers

OSLO (Reuters) - Environmental group Greenpeace launched a website on Wednesday seeking to attract whistleblowers from within oil companies to reveal risks with drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic.

Greenpeace wants governments to ban oil and gas firms from the fragile Arctic environment.

Graham Puts Hold on Energy Nominee Over Nuclear Facility Cuts

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, is blocking a vote on the nomination of Ernest Moniz to be energy secretary over proposed funding cuts to a nuclear processing facility in his home state.

Tohoku Electric, Tepco in nuclear compensation talks

SENDAI – Tohoku Electric Power Co. has started talks to seek compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co., manager of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, over losses from dropping electricity sales in Fukushima Prefecture, sources said Wednesday.

Tohoku Electric saw the amount of electricity sold in Fukushima drop by up to nearly 30 percent in a single month after the March 2011 disasters triggered the nuclear crisis that forced residents from their homes. The amount sold has yet to recover.

Life in a Real Nuclear Wasteland

Soviet radiation biology took a different trajectory from science in the United States. American researchers at that time were working with the highly politicized medical studies of Japanese bomb survivors. They narrowed the list of radiation-related illnesses to leukemia, a few cancers, and thyroid disease. Soviet doctors in formulating chronic radiation syndrome had grasped the effects of radiation on the body more holistically. They determined that radiation illness is not a specific, stand-alone disorder, but that its indications relate to other illnesses. They determined that radioactive isotopes weaken immune systems and damage organ tissue and arteries, causing illnesses of the circulation and digestive tracts and making people susceptible to conventional diseases long before they succumb to radiation-related cancers.

Slow is scary if France quits nuclear : state institute

TOURNEMIRE, France (Reuters) - A long slow retreat from nuclear power in France or indecision over policy could be very risky as skilled staff retire and young people reject careers with an uncertain future, the state-funded atomic safety research institute said.

If France does decide to pull out of atomic energy it should follow Germany's example and do it quickly, or face operating with inadequate personnel, said Jacques Repussard, who heads the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN).

China auto market balloons; pollution could choke growth

Ford and General Motors are reviving two familiar nameplates at the Shanghai Auto Show this week in a bid to make inroads in China, where the auto market could soon eclipse the U.S. and European markets combined.

Hybrid sales increase, but some eco-drivers are disappointed

Demand for hybrid and battery-operated cars may be increasing – the Toyota Prius accounted for 3.1 percent of the total U.S. new car market last year – but that doesn’t mean car buyers are trading in their eco-cars for another “green” model.

According to industry reports, only about one in three hybrid owners buy another gas-electric model when they trade in.

Could Biofuels Help Power Jets?

A new synthetic type of biofuel created by mixing and matching bits of DNA from different organisms could one day replace diesel and jet fuel, scientists say.

Ethanol Mills Get Tax Breaks as Brazil Seeks Output Lift

Brazil, the biggest ethanol exporter, will give tax deductions and extend low-cost credit to mills in a bid to lift output and reduce fossil-fuel imports.

The government will grant 970 million reais ($480 million) in credits to offset a 0.12 real per liter tax on ethanol and offer 4 billion reais in loans for crop renewal this year, Finance Minister Guido Mantega told reporters in Brasilia today. There will also be a 2 billion-real line of credit for ethanol stockpiling and tax credits for the chemical industry, he said. Shares of energy and petrochemical companies rallied.

Super wind turbines represent a major technological breakthrough

Harnessing the wind's energy is the objective of a new project, which aims to provide an important breakthrough in offshore wind industrial solutions.

The EU-funded project, called SUPRAPOWER, is working on a more powerful, reliable and lightweight superconducting offshore wind turbine. The four-year project has the expertise of nine European partners from industry and science under the coordination of Tecnalia in Spain.

We must continue to Europeanise our energy strategies – EU Energy Commissioner

“We must look beyond 2020 to come to a next level of binding energy targets up to 2030 and to agree common energy and climate change policies” – these were the words of the EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who was speaking in Dublin this morning at an informal meeting of EU energy ministers.

The ministers are convening in Dublin Castle for the second day of the informal energy meetings to discuss everything from unconventional oil and gas to ICT and energy innovation, energy efficiency and the integration of variable renewable sources in Europe.

U.S. States Turn Against Renewable Energy as Gas Plunges

More than half the U.S. states with laws requiring utilities to buy renewable energy are considering ways to pare back those mandates after a plunge in natural gas prices brought on by technology that boosted supply.

Renewables Tapping Partnership Tax Plan Backed by Big Oil

Renewable energy companies moved a step closer to accessing a tax financing structure that’s worth more than $350 billion as the American Petroleum Institute said it would back Congressional plans to expand the program.

Allowing wind farms and solar-power plants to organize under a corporate structure known as master-limited partnerships would help wean them from federal subsidies, Jack Gerard, president of the oil industry’s main lobby group, said today at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit.

Seven Spectacular Places Saved by the Environmental Movement

Introspection is healthy within limits. And yes, saving the planet is more complicated now than it seemed 40 years ago. But analysis and what-ifs shouldn’t obscure a simple point: Without an environmental movement, the United States would be a lesser country.

The 10 Things Americans Care More About Than the Environment

1. Strengthening nation’s economy 86%
2. Improving job situation 79%
3. Reducing budget deficit 72%
4. Defending against terrorism 71%
5. Securing Social Security 70%
6. Improving education 70%
7. Securing Medicare 65%
8. Reducing health care costs 63%
9. Helping poor and needy 57%
10. Reducing crime 55%

11. Protecting environment 52%
12. Dealing with nation’s energy problem 45%
13. Strengthening the military 41%
14. Dealing with illegal immigration 39%
15. Strengthening gun control laws 37%
16. Dealing with global trade 31%
17. Improving infrastructure 30%
18. Dealing with global warming 28%

Food poisoning on rise in US, survey finds

A crackdown on slaughterhouses has helped cut rates of certain types of food poisoning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday. But other causes of stomach upset are on the rise – a trend that indicates better regulation of meat from hoof to plate is needed, as well as stricter regulation of produce and processed food, the CDC says.

One type of stomach bug called Campylobacter, carried in chicken and unpasteurized milk and cheese, is becoming more common, the CDC’s regular survey of foodborne illness finds.

Book review: ‘Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation’ by Michael Pollan

Pollan shows us the folly of our decision to hire food corporations and other industrial forces as our live-in cooks. The consequences include the gluten intolerance that he suggests might be tied to modern flour cultivation and processing, and the compromised immune systems that might be related to our diet’s relatively recent absence of live-culture foods. What’s the most reliable predictor of a nation’s obesity rate? It’s not income. It’s not the share of women in the labor force. Quite simply, the higher the percentage of a country’s residents who cook, the fewer of them who are obese.

And about that time crunch that keeps so many of us ordering takeout? Time for a recalculation. Pollan cites Richard Wrangham’s fascinating theory, espoused in “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human,” that it was the control of fire to help make food more digestible that allowed us to develop smaller jaws, teeth and guts, and a larger brain. In Wrangham’s calculation, cooking gave humans an estimated four hours of extra time a day, time that we once spent chewing food to prepare it for digestion — and time that now, Pollan points out, happens to be about what we spend watching TV. We have plenty of time to cook; we just don’t choose to spend it that way.

How Did the World's Rich Get That Way? Luck

At the international level, the relative impact of effort vs. luck is even more biased in favor of luck. A recent New York Times story pointed out that household incomes in Manhattan are as evenly distributed as in Sierra Leone — in both places, the wealthiest fifth make 40 times more than the lowest fifth. The difference, of course, is the average around which that income lies. The median household income in Manhattan is around $67,000. Gross domestic product per capita—a measure of mean incomes in a country — is $1,131 in Sierra Leone and the median will be significantly lower. According to Branko Milanovic, about two thirds of total global inequality can be explained by geography. Put the two factors of locational and parental determinants together and about 80 percent of your income as an adult, compared to the global average, can be explained by where you were born and to whom you were born.

No City for Little Boys

Our one-floor-of-a-brownstone apartment is just too small for a family of four. We are fortunate to have two children and three bedrooms, though the rest of our living space is limited. There is little room for movement, and any movement is mitigated by the fact that we have neighbors downstairs who don’t want to live below the circus. “Please stop jumping,” is the sentence I repeat more than any other while at home (followed closely by “Do we have any more wine?”). Like most of our peers, we have no outdoor space safe for children, nor a basement or even a room dedicated to games. We do have a front door and weekends, but what’s outside our door isn’t much better.

There are not a lot of easy options for parents and their young children in the city. Most schoolyards are closed on the weekends. Many neighborhood parks are open concrete, with tiny playgrounds bursting with toddlers through teens. The big city parks, for most, require a hike beyond physical means of a child or a time-consuming trip via public transportation. People do it, but having an active small child along severely complicates matters. Riding bikes on the sidewalks or bike lanes is too perilous for my son. Simply walking around can be scary. On three separate occasions, he has bolted across a busy street. Once in the park, he can run till near collapse, but there’s nowhere for him to explore on his own. Neither in the park nor on our way there can I let him out of my sight for a second.

In China, Breathing Becomes a Childhood Risk

Levels of deadly pollutants up to 40 times the recommended exposure limit in Beijing and other cities have struck fear into parents and led them to take steps that are radically altering the nature of urban life for their children.

Parents are confining sons and daughters to their homes, even if it means keeping them away from friends. Schools are canceling outdoor activities and field trips. Parents with means are choosing schools based on air-filtration systems, and some international schools have built gigantic, futuristic-looking domes over sports fields to ensure healthy breathing.

“I hope in the future we’ll move to a foreign country,” Ms. Zhang, a lawyer, said as her ailing son, Wu Xiaotian, played on a mat in their apartment, near a new air purifier. “Otherwise we’ll choke to death.”

She is not alone in looking to leave. Some middle- and upper-class Chinese parents and expatriates have already begun leaving China, a trend that executives say could result in a huge loss of talent and experience. Foreign parents are also turning down prestigious jobs or negotiating for hardship pay from their employers, citing the pollution.

Court Backs E.P.A. Veto of Mining Permit

The Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to revoke a mining permit to protect streams and wildlife, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday. The decision was a victory for the agency, which in 2011 retroactively vetoed a permit granted by the Bush administration in 2007 to allow a subsidiary of Arch Coal of St. Louis to dump tons of mining waste into several West Virginia rivers and streams.

20 Pounds? Not Too Bad, for an Extinct Fish

PYRAMID LAKE, Nev. — For most fishermen a 20-pound trout is a trophy, but for Paiute tribe members and fish biologists here the one Matt Ceccarelli caught was a victory.

That Lahontan cutthroat trout he caught last year, a remnant of a strain that is possibly the largest native trout in North America, is the first confirmed catch of a fish that was once believed to have gone extinct. The fish has been the focus of an intense and improbable federal and tribal effort to restore it to its home waters.

Ottawa and Alberta release oil-sands environmental data for Earth Day

The Federal and Alberta governments are putting a present under Canada's 'Earth Day tree' today, as they open up a new website that will give the public access to environmental data from the Athabasca oil sands.

10 Signs Climate Change Is Already Happening

There is no real debate about whether climate change is occurring. The only dissent comes from the fringes, and generally from those whose research institutions or blogs are devoted, for ideological or other reasons, to attempting to debunk the notion that human activities are altering the planet's climate. But for many, the discussion, such as it is, can seem confusing. Is the Arctic Ocean predicted to be ice-free by the summer of 2100, or 2050, or 2030? And what exactly does ice-free mean? Are hurricanes supposed to become more frequent, or less frequent but more intense?

For scientists studying the impacts of climate change, such questions - and answers - are constantly being revised and refined as more information is gathered, models are fine-tuned, and feedbacks are better understood. But even as they focus their forecasts, those scientists are increasingly seeing the evidence of global warming happening right now, many of them in line with predictions and some of them even more severe and more rapid than anticipated. The following list provides a sampling of some of the key pieces of evidence that climate change is not just a prediction, it is already underway.

Nigeria: NSA Blames Insecurity on Climate Change

The National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), Tuesday blamed the widespread insecurity in different parts of the country on the phenomenon of climate change.

He said there was a link between the disruption of local economies and the insurgence of the Boko Haramm sect, the activities of the Niger Delta militants and other groups involved in violence and criminality across the country .

U.S. should do more on climate change to aid economy - UN's Figueres

OSLO (Reuters) - The United States should do more to fight climate change and help industry catch up on missed economic opportunities in clean energies, the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat said on Tuesday.

Christiana Figueres, speaking during a visit to the United States, welcomed President Barack Obama's plans to promote wind and solar power or to set tougher emissions standards for power plants in the coming years.

Saudi Arabia blocks climate change from UN poverty goals

Saudi Arabia is leading calls for climate change to be omitted from the UN’s 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At an SDG meeting in New York last week attended by over 70 nations the Saudis, together with fellow oil producers Venezuela and the UAE called for discussions of climate change to be separated from those on energy.

Why is Reuters puzzled by global warming's acceleration?

The rate of heat building up on Earth over the past decade is equivalent to detonating about 4 Hiroshima atomic bombs per second. Take a moment to visualize 4 atomic bomb detonations happening every single second. That's the global warming that we're frequently told isn't happening.

There are periods when the ocean heats up more quickly than the surface, and other periods when the surface heats up more quickly than the oceans. Right now we're in a period of fast ocean warming and overall, global warming is continuing at a very fast pace.

The confusion on this subject lies in the fact that only about 2 percent of global warming is used in heating air, whereas about 90 percent of global warming goes into heating the oceans (the rest heats ice and land masses). But humans live at the Earth's surface, and thus we tend to focus on surface temperatures. Over the past 10–15 years, Earth's surface temperature has continued to rise, but slowly. At the same time, the warming of the oceans – and the warming of the Earth as a whole – has accelerated.

Kunstler has really covered the current problems in this article! A must read!!!!!


Kunstler: We’ve Dug A Pretty Damn Big Hole For Ourselves

The diminishing returns of technology are insidious, and they are ever with us. By this I mean the slow erosion of the quality of life, despite the impression that technological wonders only make our lives better.

We’ve Become a Society of Self-Deluded Children

Kunstler writes:

...oil happened to be the "master resource" for generating economic growth and Peak Cheap Oil provoked a particular problem with money: Without continued growth of 3 to 5 percent a year, not enough new wealth could be generated to cover the interest on loans in the financial system.

I like that term Master Resource. One would hope that a widening use of this term might penetrate the minds of the little people, those 95% who don't fully understand what's happening in their lives. Or, is it too late to change?

E. Swanson

I've heard that term used for years about energy in general, or oil in particular. I suspect it's caught on about as much as it ever will.

Here's an example from 2006 (Thomas Homer-Dixon in the NY Times):

The End of Ingenuity

There's also a web site and book with that title. Though the author is an Austrian economist, and believes the free market will provide the proper solutions.

Isn't that were Jim Hansen got the name for his weekly "Master Resource Report".

I think the "Master Resource" fetishizes oil and gives it a bit too much importance such that he's going to look foolish when much of it gets replaced by other things. Oil is clearly amazing stuff and we are very dependent on it. But it is not magic and it can be replaced over time. We have already largely replaced it for electricity generation. We are largely replacing it as a feedstock chemical for plastics and other chemicals by using natural gas instead.

Kunstler's often-repeat mantra of "we are not going to our cars on batteries, natural gas, biofuels, or mix thereof" is just plain wrong. People are doing just that. Is it a painful and slow transition? Yes. Are we going to have to use cars less and do more walking & public transportation? Yes. But will we transition to alternate fueled cars? YES and it is happening whether he admits it or not. You cannot drive 101 in Silicon Valley during rush hour without seeing many Leafs, Volts, Plug-In Prius, Civic NG, Model S cars, and other alt-fuel cars packing the car pool lane.

If you don't change your views with the changing data, you are just going to look foolish.

You are merely stating an opinion which is not supported by data - whistling past the graveyard. You are ignoring the physical reality that oil is a far more concentrated and portable form of energy than any of the alternate energy sources you propose to keep the automotive transportation system working. You are extrapolating what may be happening in one small atypical region to the nation as a whole.

All energy sources are not equivalent in cost, concentration/density or utility, and these characteristics matter. That is why oil is appropriately called the master resource, and why systems that were built around its abundance cannot be assumed to be viable with other sources.

I am stating an opinion supported by data.

Yes, oil is a great concentrated form of energy . . . but that is not necessary for commuting. It is needed for air travel and long-haul shipping . . . but we still have plenty of oil left and we should allocate the oil for those purposes. And the free-market economy will do that over time . . . the economists do have some good points!

You are right in that all energy sources are not equivalent in cost, concentration/density or utility, and these characteristics matter. But driving on electricity is much cheaper than driving on oil! And as state above, the energy concentration of oil is not required for commuting.

We once used a lot of oil for electricity generation and home heating . . . but those uses have dropped down very low now. Did society collapse? Nope. We adjusted. We will do the same for light-duty automobile usage. If you disagree, show me specifically why that won't or can't happen.

In an automobile you must take the supply of energy with you, which means having some form of matter that you can store the energy in so that it becomes physically portable. Oil has that energy already stored in it, but empty media suitable for storing electricity does not, requiring significant amounts of time to transfer the required significant amounts of energy (even with an ideal battery). The storage media also has mass and requires space to put it, limited lifespans and other non-ideal properties.

None of this applies to wired systems at all (or trains), which is why we have mostly done one but not the other. Surely this is pretty darned obvious?

Yes, EVs have batteries. What's your point? The fact that you have to charge them? Well, most humans I know sleep. Not only that but these lazy people sleep EVERY DAY! So that is 8 hours every day for charging. There is also fast-charging coming along. But I gotta tell you, fast-charging is being retarded right now by an industry standards war and I can't emphasize enough how I annoyed I am by that. But that that will eventually be resolved.

Batteries have mass, volume, and limited lifespans? It has been my experience that internal combustion engines, exhaust systems, transmissions, radiators, and other ICE car subsystems also have these properties.

Wired systems & trains are great . . . we can do those too!

I cannot tell if you are being intentionally obtuse - you stated that we so easily converted all these older stationary oil powered systems and asked why it would be any different for cars. And I pointed out that they could be wired. Now you ask what the point was?

EV's have some advantage in the machinery, but not that much when considering power systems of equivalent performance. They have a significant disadvantage in in the energy storage media. That does not mean we get to choose to keep using fossil fuel powered cars. Neither does it mean that an EV-based system works.

Well your point about wired systems was not very clear. And maybe I'm still not understanding. Are you suggesting wired electric cars? They are electric vehicles too.

Why not wired electric cars? Because we can't run wires everywhere. That would be a massive infrastructure project that would require a lot of agreement and coordination among our politicians and competing manufacturers. I'm sure you've seen how dysfunctional our political system is, so I just don't see that happening.

I fully agree that batteries are not as good as gasoline in energy storage. There is really no contest. That is why we have driven ICE vehicles for the last 100 years. But with peak oil raising gasoline prices and modern lithium-ion batteries, EVs are now cost effective for commuter vehicles (when you consider the full lifetime operating costs). Will it be a painless easy transition? Not at all . . . it is and will be painful. Just look at the depressed economies and lower VMT numbers. Is it better than walking? I think most people would say yes.

I am suggesting, rather directly, that an EV-based transportation system is NOT VIABLE. That making a small number of EVs and running them on the present roads does not prove it scales or works. That wanting it doesn't make it work. That the fact that we can replace oil fired fixed infrastructure with electric infrastructure is irrelevant and has no bearing on doing that for an automobile that relies on stored energy. That trying to continue the failed automotive transportation system that has brought so much damage to our world will not only fail, but that it will preclude other useful things we could actually achieve in regards to maintaining a transportation capability.

I know it is very, very difficult to conceive of, but try to envision a future without cars. People could actually survive without them. Some might, eventually, find some meaning or purpose in life even though they didn't have an automobile.

Uh . . . OK.

What evidence do you have that suggests that we cannot scale up EVs?

I think that that the current small number of EVs being built and used is evidence that it can be done . . . it doesn't prove it but I don't see substantive evidence proving that it is not possible.

And to cut a few arguments off at the pass . . . rare earth metals are not required (Tesla does not use them). And there is no shortage of Lithium on the plaent.

speculawyer asks:

What evidence do you have that suggests that we cannot scale up EVs?

How about the fact that asphalt for roads comes from oil and has quadrupled in price along with the price of oil? As Lester Brown has calculated it takes a football field of asphalt for every 5 cars....

Well, that is scaling up roads not EVs. Since our population growth has slowed, we don't need that many new roads. And I'm sure you are aware that asphalt is not the only building material we have for making roads. Replacing oil as an energy dense liquid fuel is really hard. But I don't think replacing oil as a road material is going to be as difficult.

But definitely an interesting thing to look into. Have road building costs skyrocketed?

Well, there is concrete - at a huge cost in energy for production (if you have never watched a concrete plant, you need to. Uses heat from NG as part of the process!). Caliche comes to mind, gravel to the northerners. I doubt this is what anyone has in mind however. How about steel? Hmmm... no, also impractical, requires use of coal/coke furnaces.

No, spec, now that I think about it, the problem is not the material. It is the road.

And, you have not begun to deal with the plastics and 'rubber' used in the EV. All coming from, what? Created by demand from the free market?

Looking ahead, I have seen the enemy and he is us.


The road issue is interesting and I don't know much about it. It will be interesting to learn more. But as I mention above, our population growth has slowed so I don't think we'll be needing as many new ones. Maintenance is an issue though.

All the plastics & rubber to build an EV is pretty much no different than a conventional car, so that is kind of a wash. And from what I understand, plastic is mostly from ethane & propane so I think that can be handled with all the natural gas we find these days.

Population rates may have slowed, but the "haves" still want more, the "have nots" still want more and the TPTB are happy to oblige.

Growth and scale: There's limits to both. (Still).

Cheers, Matt

And, of course, plastic can be recycled. Even now, 99% of the steel in junked cars is recycled.

Plastic is not recycled, it is downcycled. See wikipedia.

As we have noted, most recycling is actually downcycling; it reduces the quality of a material over time. When plastics other than those found in soda and water bottles are recycled, they are mixed with different plastics to produce a hybrid of lower quality, which is then molded into something amorphous and cheap, such as a park bench or a speed bump.

A car interior does not become another car interior!

That seems kind of like bouncing down audio tracks on analogue equipment. ;)
Recycling/Downcycling of course still requires lots of energy.

Do we know that for sure? Metal recycling takes much less energy than virgin smelting.

Extending lifecycles would seem to use even less energy.

Yeah, cars could be used much longer than they are.

I tend to buy cars at about age 7, and keep them another 15 years - its much cheaper.

That's the current practice - plastic recycling is still pretty primitive.

That doesn't mean the '"waste" streams couldn't be handled more carefully.

Oh, another one of those things that it's so "easy" to do? Seems your whole future world is built on those things that we don't do but are so "easy", if we'd only do them.

Yes, there are a lot of things that we could and should do, but haven't yet. Often such change seems risky to the status quo for narrow groups, though they'd benefit the overall society.

The acid test: would it make sense if oil were priced properly at $2/liter?

In Europe oil is $2/litre or more, when sold as petrol or diesel. Cars are more efficient but people people still waste it like water and EVs are almost as rare as in the US.

Hi Ralph,

If fuel prices doubled or tripled over a 10 year period, would that make any difference? Many of the comments are US-centic where we use about twice the oil per capita of Europe. I think things would change for the better in the US if the price of petrol were $2/ litre (approx. 4 times the current US price.) Though I would not be elected to political office with such a view.


The price in the UK has about doubled in the last 10 years. People complain. They buy more efficient cars, and drive them a little more efficiently, on average. A major side effect is that road crashes have killed significantly fewer people - the lowest levels since records began in about 1920. We are also driving less, congestion is down, fuel sales are down, diesel sales are up slightly because the best diesel cars are more efficient (and cheaper) than petrol hybrids. However,
our economy is still below the 2008 peak, by about 3%. We are in stagflation, as in the last oil shock, but no politician calls it that.

All the headlines are about restarting growth to build our way out of debt, and the IMF is calling to a more Keynsian approach, but our current government are even more fossilised than the previous one. A few talking heads on the media are discussing the concept of a zero growth economy, which is a start, but we still have a long way to contract yet before that is realistic.

That just about sums it up, Ralph.
If I have read it right, there also are minor issues such as our scary financial 'industry' and our position regarding Anglo-Saxon economics (the bad guys are 'Europe'), and privatising and selling more public infra structure (health, education, local government services, to join water, electricity, gas, & subsidised rail) which are turned into 'profit centres'. The interesting exception appears to be roads. We still put our money on roads?

"Cars are more efficient but people people still waste it like water"

No, Europeans use 18% as much fuel for personal transportation.

Freight uses more: European rail is fragmented on national lines, and commercial diesel is taxed less.

"and EVs are almost as rare as in the US."

That's because personal transportation is already so efficient - its diminishing returns. OTOH, EVs are starting up in Europe. Patience, grasshopper...

if oil were priced properly at $2/liter?

How are you coming up with that price?

That's a rough estimate of direct and external costs:

Direct (criteria) pollution,
GHGs: CO2 and natural gas,
Domestic security,

Don't forget the enormous cultural costs: how many more bad war movies must we now endure??

It doesn't mean that 'it's no problem..' and sometimes it feels like that's how Nick presents this.. but I find it to be entirely worthwhile to look at what possibilities do lie before us, even if we've seen them fall apart before, or fail to be taken up.

I find too many people willing to say 'we tried that and it didn't work'.. but they're not really looking at WHAT didn't work when it was tried, they write off the whole project, as the Coservatives in Congress want us to do with Solar and Green Energy, by pointing at Solyndra.

There ARE huge problems, and we may be heading for ungodly disasters, but I'm not willing to sit there and prognosticate 'the terror', when I know there are useful ways to rework our approaches and make the odds better for us. Plastic Recycling, even if it's DOWNCycling, can be usefully applied if it's to make products that are intended for long-term use, and not just more cheap Throw-away crap. Even with Vehicles it's possible to design and build with a long-view in mind. Might not be the norm, but who here really is that devoted to 'the norm'?

Good point. I have to remember to point out that we have real problems. The point is, they're due to oil*!

The sooner we switch away from it, the better off we'll be.

*and other FFs.

Exactly. Some things will work and others will not. Some companies will succeed, some will not.

For example, Fisker built a car with technical problems, missed milestones, got cut off from their DoE loan, and are spiraling toward bankruptcy. Does that mean EVs suck and are a disaster? No! Tesla is doing great and hitting a $6Billion market cap! (A bit rich IMHO.)

We now have a whole spectrum of electrified cars from start/stop, mild-hybrid, conventional hybrid, plug-in hybrid, extended-range electric vehicle, and pure electric vehicle. As long as we keep working at it, the solutions will get better. Somethings will fail. But if we keep working at it, we can find solutions.

However, I do think we need to keep in mind the overall big problem . . . population growth. There is no sense in solving these little problems if all we do is enable more uncontrolled population growth.

There is no sense in solving these little problems if all we do is enable more uncontrolled population growth.

speculawyer, how true. The quicker population growth can be stopped the better.

Except population growth isn't uncontrolled in the OECD.

It's uncontrolled mostly in places where people still live on farms, and where women are uneducated.

Go to Africa, get women off the farm and into schoolrooms and offices. That will get population growth under control.

A lot of plastic is burned - a few miles from here is a big Wheelabrator plant that burns plastic and other refuse for electricity.

Who's going to build/maintain those roads? The non-opt-out operations-by-force corporate oligarchy governgangs? What if many refuse? Tax revolt? Peak government? Austerity? Civil unrest? Then what of your roads?

Another problem is simple ethics, morality, real care. Many of us do not live in an ethical, caring culture, and some don't even realize it! And you can't solve ethical problems with EV's, technology, money, or law.

By the way, and speaking of which, the film, Occupy Love is due within a month.

"...Imre Szeman argues technological utopianism is an irrational social narrative because there is no evidence to support it. He concludes that what it shows is the extent to which modern societies place a lot of faith in narratives of progress and technology overcoming things, despite all evidence to the contrary."
~ Wikipedia

"Looking ahead, I have seen the enemy and he is us." ~ Craig

"...Imre Szeman argues technological utopianism is an irrational social narrative because there is no evidence to support it. He concludes that what it shows is the extent to which modern societies place a lot of faith in narratives of progress and technology overcoming things, despite all evidence to the contrary."
~ Wikipedia

Here's the narrative for billions of humans on this planet today. I don't see it getting significantly better anytime in the near future... The cornucopian fantasy of 'LOTS' of rich Americans driving around in Leafs and Volts commuting to their 'GOOD' jobs, depends on our society turning a blind eye to the large swaths of the real poor in the world. Such as garment workes in Bangladesh who make between 15 and 24 cents an hour so that Americans in SUVs can drive to Walmart and be greeted by recently impoverished Americans working for little more than minimum wage, without health benefits selling them the garments made by the Bangladeshis.

Rescuers scour mangled heap after Bangladesh building collapse kills 200
By Jethro Mullen and Farid Ahmed, CNN

It also raises tough questions for the Western brands that have their products made in the South Asian country's low-cost factories.

The human tragedy continued to unfold Thursday at the scene of the disaster in the suburb of Savar.

The death toll rose to 199, Dhaka District Police Chief Habibur Rahman said Thursday afternoon.

More than 1,000 people have been injured and an unknown number -- some dead, others still alive -- remain buried within the structure's tangled remains.

Americans were certainly much better off when they made clothes and steel and cars for each other and didn't buy from Bangladesh.

The Bangladeshis, on the other hand, find 24 cents an hour jobs to be an improvement over what they had before. Which says a lot more about the state of Bangladesh and other overpopulated, badly governed hellholes, than it does about the cornucopian Americans.

Bangladesh is overpopulated, but hardly "badly governed", at least by the standards of a third world country. They are far BETTER governed than the country they broke off from, Pakistan. The garment industry is obviously under-regulated... But who buys these clothes? Wal-Mart and other US companies. Wal-Mart in particular refused to take any responsibility in helping their contractors maintain a reasonable level of safety.

It isn't surprising, the US had the Triangle Shirtwaist fire back when it was the low-cost supplier to the world. It's a product of industrialism and capitalism; profits are put ahead of people until a disaster happens.

Enforcing safety standards would generally be something for the local government to worry about. I think we all know corporations will only do what they are forced to do, certainly megacorps.

well the vast resources used in personal cars are another issue in "Peak Everything" which Electric cars do not conserve. In fact electric car batteries are highly dependent on rare earth elements which are, well, rare! The huge resources required for personal cars was one of the major reasons that the US elite shutdown car production to only 300 cars during WW II so the huge amounts of steel, rubber, glass and other resources consumed in producing cars could be diverted to the War effort.
I will dig up the stats on this from the excellent book "Cars and Capitalism on the road to economic, ecological and social ruin" which provides a great overview of Auto Addiction in the USA.

Once again electric cars do nothing to resolve these resource issues if anything due the batteries they only make things worse.

I agree, and I would have similar criticisms of people who suggest that solar panels and EV's are going to allow us to continue along in any semblance to BAU, even suggesting that we can continue growth! Pure delusion. But we are definitely going to have a need for independent vehicular travel no matter what happens, so as long as society doesn't completely implode, EV's could fill that role. It won't be about everyone clogging the freeways on their way to work -- it would be about how do we get the basic necessities accomplished that can't be accommodated by rail, bicycles, etc.

'In fact electric car batteries are highly dependent on rare earth elements which are, well, rare!'

Most lithium battery chemistries use very little rare earths.
That was the NiMH batteries as used in the non-plug-in Prius.

Electric motors also don't need to use them.

Most rare earths are far from rare in any case:

They are a bit difficult to extract cheaply though, which is why China got most of the market as they were a by-product of their other mining.

Since they don't form a large proportion of total costs for most things, with the notable exception of wind turbines which use around 600kg per MW, then there is no essential difficulty in paying a bit more where they are really needed.

That does not however include lithium batteries.

Mainly REs are used to make powerful permanent magnets. These allow smaller and more efficient electric motors/generators. This is where EV (and hybrid cars) use them. Electric motors can be made without them, but these are bulkier, and not quite as efficient.

The Tesla motors are triple-phase induction motors (no rare Earth metals) that can reach 13,000 rpm, are 70 pounds, and put out over 2 horsepower per pound. I think they can peak at over 250 horsepower. Not too bulky, really.

Concrete production doesn't require fossil fuels.

Steel production doesn't require coal. Coal is convenient as an reducer, but not necessary.

You need to review that. Concrete is created by cooking... most plants use natural gas, but I believe that other sources of heat are viable as well.

Steel does require coke, and no, it does not require coal, though that is the energy source normally used. Something about the carbon in the coal, and coke, that is needed for the product.

Interstingly, what iron production does not require is iron ore. It can be produced from peat bogs. And, using the bessemer process, steel can be made from the iron.

And, of course, coke can be made from wood, so there is no real need for the coal, is there? Only, trying to keep up with present needs using those methods is problematic, so coal is what I expect would be used. There seems to be quite a bit of it, though the better qualitiy, higher EROEI coal is in short supply.


Steel does require coke, and no, it does not require coal,...

Goodness, though coke can technically be made from other products it is made from coal. Yes steel requires coal.

Search: Coke: Carbonized coal used primarily in steel production.

Coke is carbonized coal, a product produced by baking coal in a heated oven. By using a process that allows the impurities in the coal to be burned off, while not allowing the carbon content of the coal to burn, the coal is turned into coke. The impurities burned off were actually the volatile matter contained in the coal, such as tars, oils and gases. When burned, coke generated an intense amount of heat but produced very little smoke, qualities that made it an ideal fuel for use in producing iron and steal. During the 1880's, coke began to replace charcoal in the making of steel at foundries in the United States. By the end of World War I, eight-eight percent of the nation's iron and steel was produced by using a process utilizing coke. At a typical foundry of the era, coke and iron ore would be mixed together, and then burned in a furnace. As the coke burned, it would remove the oxygen from the iron ore, converting it to metal.

Ron P.

How well I remember the smell of the coke works of the Bethlehem Steel home plant, long since shut down and now a large truck to rail transfer facility. We used to stop the car to watch them dump molten slag from rail cars at night. Those cars ran on top of mountains made of slag.

Even here people cannot wrap their heads around the concept of limits, have no feel for the amount of energy it takes just to maintain the systems we have, and believe that if we want something bad enough the universe will provide it for us.

F.Y.I. the oil sands plants in northern Alberta produce huge amounts of coke, which they stack up in big black piles. They can upgrade bitumen to synthetic crude oil by either adding hydrogen or removing carbon. If they remove carbon, they end up with coke. Heavy oil refineries do the same thing.

They sell some of it to steel mills, but I think they burn most of it for fuel themselves. If there were more steel mills in the region they would probably sell most of it and burn the locally available natural gas instead.

Coke is not essential - see my comment below.

Hell why was it ever used, we must be some stupid species. Why did we use IC engines, we should have gone straight to EV's as well.
Steel is not essential either we could use carbon fibre or titanium, man are we dumb. Seven billion people are not essential, why did we populate to the heaving, seething mass of humanity that is ravaging a unique planet.

FFs were fine at small scale.

They just don't scale well...

We used ICE engines because we didn't have Li-Ion batteries and oil was cheap and plentiful.
We used because we had not discovered carbon fiber and carbon fiber is still too slow & expensive use use. Titanium is rare and expensive.

We have 7 billion people because evolution has programmed us to reproduce.

It is all pretty easy to understand.


We thought oil was a lot cheaper than it really is.

Now we see that Climate Change and oil wars are part of the price tag.

Meanwhile, a Chevy Volt has better handling, is more convenient (20 seconds a night to charge, instead of trips to the gas station) is quieter, and has a lower Total Cost of Ownership than a comparable ICE.

Why did we use IC engines, we should have gone straight to EV's as well.

The electric car is older than the internal combustion car. They were very popular 100 years ago or so.

What killed the electric car was the Ford Model T. It had three times the range and three times the speed of an electric car, and cost 1/3 as much. At that time even buying a Model T was a stretch for the average worker, so the electric cars were completely out of their price range.

Henry Ford actually designed and built an electric Model T, but found he could not produce an equivalent to the gasoline Model T at any reasonable price. The battery alone cost more than the entire gasoline Model T, and was prone to premature failure, so it never got past the prototype stage.

Ford was in no way committed to the gasoline car - in fact he worked for Thomas Edison before he started his own company. However, he only built what he could sell, and the electric car didn't sell. He kept his options open, though. The gasoline Model T would also run on kerosene and fuel alcohol. Gasoline won because it was the cheapest and most convenient fuel - there was no conspiracy involved. It will be hard to replace with anything nearly as cheap or convenient.

Yes all true. The ice engine proved the shortcomings of electric vehicles. There are so many could of's and if only's.

To get some perspective of the enormity of the situation, stand on a freeway overpass for half an hour.
How many electric trucks of many many varieties, service vehicles, emergency, buses, delivery, army, navy, taxis or limousines all travelling at speed do you see? That is what the electric vehicle could never ever hope to scale to. We are left with what we have. An infrastructure built and adapted to the ICE vehicle. A cake baked and unable to be reduced again to the primal ingredients.

Sixty years ago we should have started, by now we would have adapted. Oil could still be cheap and plentiful, we could have transitioned to whatever was required. Now we want to build and BAU our way back to three billion people and solar powered blast furnaces. 60 years ago the population of the world was 3.3 billion people, think about that for just a second. Even then the ecological damage to land and sea was palpable. And now 7.1 billion and adding 65 million (exactly the population of France) a year........pity help us.

I've read several histories of the car industry in general, and EVs in particular, and I haven't seen those details about unreliable and expensive batteries in a prototype electric Model T.

Do you happen to have a source for that?

I got a new laptop last year and already have to replace my battery and it's an expensive replacement-- and likewise with other laptops owned. Maybe it's a cash-cow and some kind of empowerment for the battery seller and/or manufacturer. I wonder what happens to all those used batteries. Offshore those too perhaps?

China, Iraq, Afghanistan, USA... are all essentially the same place with the same people. For some, however, 'offshore' might as well be the moon.

"... So money goes toward those who will create even more of it. But, basically economic growth means that you have to find something that was once nature and make it into a good, or was once a gift-relationship and make it into a service. You have to find something that people once got for free or did for themselves or for each other, and then take it away and sell it back to them, somehow. By turning things into commodities, we get cut off from nature in the same ways we are cut off from community."
~ Charles Eisenstein

Laptop batteries are very different from vehicle batteries.

No value is not created solely by appropriating natural commodities. Think of aluminum recycled from one product, used to make an entirely different product.

Laptop batteries are very different from vehicle batteries. ~ Nick

Which says little or nothing about their reliability, recyclability, or how long they last, never mind the rest of the car, or humans' current incapacity to effectively deal with its industrial refuse, etc..

As for your second sentence, if you look at aluminum's entire lifecyle, then where did it originally come from? And what's that kid sitting on exactly?

Let's cut through the crap, Nick, and be honest with ourselves.

~ Caelan

Which says little or nothing about their reliability, recyclability, or how long they last

Actually, it does. Laptops have essentially zero charge/discharge or temperature management.

"Batteries don't die, they're murdered."

Let's cut through the crap

Yes, let's. The idea that there is no difference between a lump of iron ore and a fine kitchen knife, is crap. The idea that aluminum or iron can't be recycled essentially forever, is crap. The idea that we are going to need more energy than the sun can provide, any time soon, is crap.


We don't need much of anything the industrial-oligarch machine pukes out. Many of our so-called needs, our lives, are manufactured, and what isn't is often what we truly need, which is of course being severely degraded, including us, by said machine.

That kid represents part of us. I have less-than-zero concern for a murdered battery. My concern is with the kid.

I'd say you've seriously lost perspective.

Before the Industrial Revolution, infant and child mortality was so high that kids were ignored - treated as disposable - and only recognized as human after they survived the valley of shadow of death that was youth.

Kids were rugrats, emotionally deprived and lacking nurturing. "Industrial" food production, processing, transportation & storage, combined with a host of other fruits of the Industrial Revolutioons, such as modern water and waste handling, have changed all that.

Now, I would *strongly* agree that consumerism has long ago lost it's reason for growth - people are desperately trying to find happiness on a low level of the Maslow hierarchy, when they need to stop spending time making money to buy more stuff, and start some introspection and community building.

Still, the latest gadgets are facilitating greater communication, which isn't bad at all.

Aside from the questionable history, the effects of your "industrial revolution" have not yet concluded, though, and may prove (or are already proving) to be catastrophic. Goodness, Nick, how much of TOD's discussions about, say, climate change, environmental degradation, debt, infrastructure, "fossil sunlight", or species extinctions have you read?

The effect of witnessing a powerful bomb exploding in the distance is quite different from being hit by its shockwave, moments later.

...other fruits of the Industrial Revolutioons, such as modern water and waste handling, have changed all that. ~ Nick

...The problem isn’t the just the concrete; it’s the iron and steel rebar reinforcement inside. Cracks can be fixed, but when air, moisture, and chemicals seep into reinforced concrete, the rebar rusts, expanding in diameter four or five-fold, which destroys the surrounding concrete, and ultimately destroys the building, road, bridge, dam, levee, home, airport runway, sewage and water pipes, school, canal, power plants, grain elevators, shipping piers, tunnels, and so on...

The lifespan of concrete is not only shorter than masonry, it "is probably less than that of wood... We have built a disposable world using a short-lived material, the manufacture of which generates millions of tons of greenhouse gases." Cement is the third largest source of CO2 after autos and coal-fueled power plants. The World Coal Association states that "Coal is used as an energy source in cement production. Large amounts of energy are required to produce cement. Kilns usually burn coal in the form of powder and consume around 450g of coal for about 900g of cement produced".

...Even more troubling is that all this steel-reinforced concrete that we use for building our roads, buildings, bridges, sewer pipes, and sidewalks is ultimately expendable, so we will have to keep rebuilding them every couple of generations, adding more pollution and expense for our descendants to bear. Most of the concrete structures built at the beginning of the 20th century have begun falling apart, and most will be, or already have been, demolished".

...The world we have built over the last century is decaying at an alarming rate. Our infrastructure is especially terrible:

1 in 4 bridges are either structurally deficient or structurally obsolete
The service life of most reinforced concrete highway bridges is 50 years, and their average age is 42 years….
Besides our crumbling highway system, the reinforced concrete used for our water conduits, sewer pipes, water-treatment plants, and pumping stations is also disintegrating. The chemicals and bacteria in sewage make it almost as corrosive as seawater, reducing the life span of the reinforced concrete used in these systems...

It will take a tremendous amount of energy to replace and/or fix our concrete infrastructure, energy that will be less and less available. Why waste our remaining energy and create vastly more greenhouse gas to make concrete...

Our descendants won’t be driving everywhere, in fact, they’ll probably wish they could convert the pavement to farmland, which will take centuries even after the cement is gone for the soil to recover — why not start now?" ~ Robert Courland, 'Concrete Planet'

Still, the latest gadgets are facilitating greater communication, which isn't bad at all. ~ Nick

Aside from the idea of the end of the internet, it is unneeded in a local, resilient, etc., community context.

Well, I'm glad we've cleared up the question of whether the average person is living better now than before the IR.

Ok, details:

climate change, environmental degradation, debt, infrastructure, "fossil sunlight", or species extinctions have you read?

All of them, pretty much. I've been on TOD since it started. I agree that Climate Change, environmental degradation and species extinctions are big problems. The rest, not so much.


Not so much. As Leanan has noted, that Civil Engineering report is self-serving. I would agree that we need to invest more in infrastructure, but our structures are not about to collapse en masse.

"fossil sunlight"

That's highly unrealistic. The sun pours onto the earth the equivalent of all fossil fuel reserves about every couple of months.

local, resilient, etc., community context

Local communities are remarkably fragile. They do much better as part of a much larger society. And, they're not much fun to live in: they're generally rigid, authoritarian and closed (which is invisible to the long-time locals, but very visible to outsiders, which is defined pretty much as anyone not born there). And if they're rural, they're anti-intellectual - very few are going to be listening excitedly to talk of Gaia.

I would agree that we need to invest more in infrastructure... ~ Nick

Whose 'we'? Where 'we' are forced is where that system is predicated on a fundamentally-unethical, undemocratic framework.

And I just wrote this under Alan's comment:

This whole system's a racket. When you have a system that upholds anything other than the well being of the planet and life on it, it's doomed to fail. This isn't rocket science.

The process of enclosure has sometimes been accompanied by force, resistance, and bloodshed, and remains among the most controversial areas of agricultural and economic history in England. Marxist and neo-Marxist historians argue that rich landowners used their control of state processes to appropriate public land for their private benefit. This created a landless working class that provided the labour required in the new industries developing in the north of England. For example: "In agriculture the years between 1760 and 1820 are the years of wholesale enclosure in which, in village after village, common rights are lost". "Enclosure (when all the sophistications are allowed for) was a plain enough case of class robbery". ~ Wikipedia

"[interview with] Bill Mollison: The first time I saw a review of one of my permaculture books was three years after I first started writing on it. The review started with, 'Permaculture Two is a seditious book.' And I said, 'At last someone understands what permaculture’s about.' We have to rethink how we’re going to live on this earth — stop talking about the fact that we’ve got to have agriculture, we’ve got to have exports, because all that is the death of us. Permaculture challenges what we’re doing and thinking — and to that extent it’s sedition.

People question me coming through the American frontier these days. They ask, 'What’s your occupation?' I say, 'I’m just a simple gardener.' And that is deeply seditious. If you’re a simple person today, and want to live simply, that is awfully seditious. And to advise people to live simply is more seditious still.

You see, the worst thing about permaculture is that it’s extremely successful, but it has no center, and no hierarchy.

Alan: So that’s worst from whose perspective?

Bill: Anybody that wants to extinguish it. It’s something with a million heads. It’s a way of thinking which is already loose, and you can’t put a way of thinking back in the box... You won’t get cooperation out of a hierarchical system. You get enforced directions from the top, and nothing I know of can run like that. I think the world would function extremely well with millions of little cooperative groups, all in relation to each other." ~ Alan AtKisson, 'Context Institute'

"Using evidence from epidemiology, anthropology, and archaeology, Cohen provides fascinating evidence about the actual effects of civilization on health, suggesting that some aspects of civilization create as many health problems as they prevent or cure."
~ book description for 'Health and the Rise of Civilization', by Mark Nathan Cohen

I agree that Climate Change, environmental degradation and species extinctions are big problems. ~ Nick

No kidding.

Whose 'we'?

US residents, for that Civil Eng report.

I agree - current civilization can be improved enormously. Of course, the average person's quality of life is much better than in it's predecessors.

And, yes, "critical" would have been better than "big".

Laptop batteries are a sore point for me. I actually wish that the various market regulators world wide, would issue a directive similar to the one for cell phone chargers in the EU. All laptop batteries should be limited to a few distinct form factors and made such that a generic unit can work in all models with the same form factor, regardless of brand. Within a given form factor you could have standard and extended (higher Ah capacity batteries), with some communication between the battery and laptop to limit charging rates if necessary.

This comes out of an experience I had with my netbook when the battery stopped holding any charge, after a couple years of use. I ordered a cheap, "generic" replacement and was not careful enough in making sure my exact model was among those that use the battery. When the battery came it was slightly different and could not fit. In frustration, since shipping the battery back to the US would have cost more than it was worth, I busted open both the dead and the new batteries only to discover that they are very similar in that they both used six standard form lithium ion cells. I tried to fit the new cells into the housing of the dead battery but, I had done enough damage to the housing during opening, to mess things up. If I had a guide or howto (maybe they exist but I had not bothered to look at the time), I think I could have successfully changed out the cells.

I believe that these cells are the same used by Tesla Motors to build the batteries for their cars but, what the laptop manufacturers have done is come up with thousands of different shapes and sizes of packaging for the batteries that, are made up of standard cells, with the mistaken belief that they would have a captive market for their overpriced proprietary battery packs. To that end, they manufacture the batteries so that is is literally impossible to replace the cells without doing serious damage to the housing.

The end result is that, while my netbook cost me about US$240 (refurbished), the manufacturer wanted something like $130 for the replacement six cell battery, a little more than half the cost of the whole unit. Remember we're getting a screen, keyboard, motherboard with CPU, hard drive, 1GB RAM, AC power adapter and OS (Windows 7 starter) for the $240. I ended up buying a replacement non OEM unit for about $70, more than twice what the "wrong" battery cost and it's been working fine.

This whole replacement battery scenes seems to be a racket to me and the silliness needs to stop. It is exactly the kind of complexity that will do nothing to help us on the down slope.

Alan from the islands

I hear you, Alan.
This whole system's a racket. When you have a system that upholds anything other than the well being of the planet and life on it, it's doomed to fail. This isn't rocket science. That's in large part why I'm interested in such things as Permaculture for example.

Perhaps you've heard about this:
"Late last month Mitsubishi announced it was halting production and shipments of its Outlander plug-in after two units of the SUV experienced battery failure. One of the Outlander's battery packs overheated and melted while another caught fire." ~ Left Lane News

But the good news is that, since then, they think they've found the problem! ;P

It's an obscure bit of history that it takes a bit of in-depth reading of the biographies of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison to find. It was one of their few failures among their many successes.

Try "jalopnik dot com slash 5564999 slash the-failed-electric-car-of-henry-ford-and-thomas-edison" for a summary.

How Henry Ford And Thomas Edison Killed The Electric Car

The electric car is nothing new. Ninety years ago, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, two of America's greatest innovators, tried building one and failed. Daniel Strohl of Hemmings Blog tells us how they killed the electric car. —Ed.

That Henry Ford and Thomas Edison became good friends later in their lives is well known... when Ford was introduced to Edison and showed Edison his plans for a gasoline automobile, Edison encouraged him to pursue those plans.

That Edison and Ford later put their minds together to conceive a low-priced electric car is not so well known.

In early 1914, word had gotten around that work had started on a low-priced electric car... Ford himself even confirmed the rumors in the January 11, 1914 issue of the New York Times:

Within a year, I hope, we shall begin the manufacture of an electric automobile. I don't like to talk about things which are a year ahead, but I am willing to tell you something of my plans.

The fact is that Mr. Edison and I have been working for some years on an electric automobile which would be cheap and practicable. Cars have been built for experimental purposes, and we are satisfied now that the way is clear to success. The problem so far has been to build a storage battery of light weight which would operate for long distances without recharging. Mr. Edison has been experimenting with such a battery for some time.

... the downfall of the Edison-Ford electric car came about because Ford demanded the use of Edison's nickel-iron batteries in the car, and would have no other battery powering this car. Edison's batteries, however, were found to have very high internal resistance and were thus incapable of powering an electric car under many circumstances.

But the main reason was that with conventional batteries, the car was too expensive, too bulky, and too slow. As someone said in response to the above article, "Why pay $900 for a 25mph Baker electric with a 90 mile range and 8-hour charge time when your Irish immigrant gardener is driving a $400 Model T with a 50mph top speed, 300 mile range, and a 5-minute refuel time? Cars stopped being playthings and became practical tools, the early electrics were inherently impractical, so they eventually died out."

Interesting. Thanks.

Well, I guess the bottom line is that things have changed since then. Back then, we thought oil was a lot cheaper than it really is.

Now we see that Climate Change and oil wars are part of the price tag.

Meanwhile, a Chevy Volt has better handling, is more convenient (20 seconds a night to charge, instead of trips to the gas station) is quieter, and has a lower Total Cost of Ownership than a comparable ICE.

Something must provide the heat for the blast furnaces. Nothing, absolutely nothing, comes even close to the efficiency of coal in doing that job. Of course there are substitutes but all the good substitutes are also fossil fuels, like natural gas. Electricity is a very poor substitute.

A world without fossil fuels would be a world we would not even recognize today. Hell, we would not even recognize a world without liquid petroleum. To pretend that we could just switch to a world driven by solar, or whatever, is to live in a dream world. It simply cannot be done with the present population of the world, not to mention the 9 billion population level we are supposed to reach in a few decades.

Why do you corncuopians think it will be so easy?

Ron P.

Exactly correct Ron.

The cornucopians never follow the full chain of what is necessary to transition the world to being fossil fuel free, because if they did they would no longer be cornucopians.

As an example of how far down the road we are, there was a story on TV here the other day of how some of the large iron ore mines in the Pilbara in Western Australia are having to dewater the deposits, they have to lower the water table to get to their good deposits, they have mined the easy stuff. No-one is claiming iron is a resource we are short of, yet we seem to be going after harder to get deposits, using more energy of course, FF energy.

Apparently there's a fair bit of coal, perhaps because there was the historical switch to oil, but then, that bumps up against climate change. I've already recently posted a link in a previous Drumbeat to an article that suggests that capitalism is toast in this regard. Do EV's required capitalism/BAU?

Sorry that statement is not correct. Many chemical processes in industry are run either by coal or by electricity as heat source, the low price of coal or now NG was the reason for the preference of FF. With increasing coal price and/or chaeper electricity this can change of course.

The amount of carbon as component of steel is tiny and can without any problems provided by biomass or low quality coal, the same is true for reduction equivalents.

It is claer that we have no chance to elevate 10 billion people on the level enjoyed by western countries, but this is no excuse to stop a transition from FF to RE and there is no reason why we in western countries could not scalke back in some fields.

It is claer that we have no chance to elevate 10 billion people on the level enjoyed by western countries

How much of the enjoyment level is not due to energy level or technology but due to the harvest of other non-energy items and shipping them back to "the west"?

History has the country with the favoured coin of trade doing better than its neighbours. How many of the issues one sees due to that condition?

Sorry that statement is not correct. Many chemical processes in industry are run either by coal or by electricity as heat source, the low price of coal or now NG was the reason for the preference of FF.

What statement was not correct? Was it the one about electricity being a poor substitute for coal in firing a blast furnace? Or was it my statement saying that a world without fossil fuel would be unrecognizable today?

You need to be a little clearer with your replies Ulenspiegle. But both statements are absolutely correct.

With increasing coal price and/or chaeper electricity this can change of course.

A contradictory statement. If coal prices increase then electricity prices will increase. 68 percent of the world's electricity is still generated with fossil fuel, 41 percent from coal, 5 percent from oil and 21 percent from natural gas. 13 percent is generated from nuclear, 16 percent from hydro and only 3 percent from renewales.
Search: total world electricity generation by fuel 2011

Electricity would be far more expensive if the world stopped using coal and without fossil fuel altogether electricity would be prohibitively too expensive for most of the world's poor. Without fossil fuel there would be far less electricity generated.

Ron P.

Was it the one about electricity being a poor substitute for coal in firing a blast furnace?

In fact is it not a truth that if one wants to be in the 'microrefining' and 'specialty steel' business where you are using the SCIENCE! of material science you need electric forges to control the temperature and material better so that your output product has the magic properties one needs to make the correctly engineered Steel product?

So in that high value case (and one of the only cases that was a growth case at one time in Steel in the US of A) not using electricity is the "poor" substitute.

It was your statement that electricity is a poor substitute for coal, correct is that electricity is indeed used when it is cheaper than coal. See Norway or other central European countries with hydro power. You have for many industrial processes traditionally very different approaches, usually the ff approach won in the past, as it was cheaper, but there is no raeson that this will continue.

Your second argument -higher coal prices lead to higher electricity prices- is only true if we maintain in the long run the generation of electricity from coal at the current level, that is the next two decades correct for China/India, but even there it will change in the long run. We have a peak coal in a few years, with increasing coal prices alternatives for electricity production become more atrractive, however, I admit that large scale steel production will be run in most countries with coal or NG.

A world without coal/coke for steel would look *just* like the US does now.

The US produces as much steel as ever, but it does it with electric furnaces.

Of course, we'll still need to smelt virgin ore for a while, but you don't need coal/coke for that - you can de-oxidize (reduce) iron oxide (iron ore) without FF.

The US produces as much steel as ever, but it does it with electric furnaces.

Well no the US produces but a fraction of the steel it once produced. Yes it does use electric furnaces for recycling steel, which is just about all the steel making the US does today. To read about the total collapse of the US Steel energy search: History of United States Steel Industry.

To make steel from scratch you need iron. Iron is still made using coke and a blast furnace.

Search: Metallurgy – Modern Methods of Iron Ore Smelting

Here the ore is put into a blast furnace along with limestone and coke and subjected to hot air blasting and heat which converts the ore to molten iron. This is tapped from the bottom of the furnace into molds known as pigs and allowed to solidify into pig iron.

Search: Expecting A Steel Producer Rally In The Second Half Of 2012

Worldwide, 70 percent of steel produced is made in oxygen blown (blast) furnaces compared to roughly 30 percent in electric arc furnaces...

By contrast, more developed regions such as the US and European Union are more heavily reliant on electric arc technology, with 61 and 44 percent of steel production respectively made using this technology...

In contrast, an electric arc furnace essentially uses electricity to heat scrap steel metal, remove impurities and make steel. Producing steel out of such a furnace is cheaper but requires availability of significant quantities of scrap steel to use as feedstock,...

Ron P.

There seems to be a rather large lack of understanding about the scale of industry that was required to build the basic infrastructure that supports what we have today. And of how much of that has been dismantled. It may be that it has been gone long enough now that people simply never saw it, and don't realize what it takes.

I once visited a huge steel mill in Northern Norway (they said it was the biggest in Northern Europe) which was built to produce steel from iron ore from a mine nearby in Northern Sweden. Since Norway has no coal resources (except on the far northern Spitzbergen Islands shared with Russia), but has huge amounts of hydroelectric power, the blast furnaces were electric. I think they still required some carbon for the process, hence their mines on the Spitzbergen Islands.

However, I have been thinking that since, 1) the oil sands plants in Northern Alberta generate large amounts of coke as a byproduct of bitumen upgrading, 2) they also generate large amounts of surplus electricity from their co-generation plants, and 3) there is a large deposit of high grade iron ore northwest of there in the Mackenzie Mountains of the Yukon which has no market - that there is the potential for a pretty big industrial complex in Northern Alberta.

All they would have to do is build some steel mills, with the oil sands plants generating electricity for the blast furnaces and coke for the steel-making process, and build a rail line to the Yukon to obtain the iron ore. There are already rail lines heading south to move steel to market.

None of this is impossible, or even hard to do. A huge iron-ore mine was recently opened on Baffin Island in Nunavut Territory in the Canadian Arctic Islands, and a railroad was built to move the iron ore to port. They could do the same thing in the Yukon Territory. There are still some stones left unturned on this large planet of ours, at least in this part of it.

The opening tracking shot

...through a Chinese factory where 23,000 employees make most of the world's iron is a stunner." The review that appeared in the Boston Globe said the film "begs to be hung on the wall, studied, absorbed, and learned from" and also "taken as a whole, Manufactured Landscapes is a mesmerizing work of visual oncology, a witness to a cancer that's visible only at a distance but entwined with the DNA of everything we buy and everywhere we shop.
~ Wikipedia, entry; film, 'Manufactured Landscapes'

"There are still some stones left unturned on this large planet of ours, at least in this part of it." ~ RockyMtnGuy

a factory that produces most of the world's supply of clothes irons, which is one kilometer in length and employs 23 000 workers.

Clothes irons not iron. Someone needs to do some fact checking, and this doesn't even pass the smoke test since no factory is big enough to produce most of the world's iron.

Even though neither my wife or I iron clothes, somebody has to produce irons for the people who do, and it might as well be the Chinese since it is a high volume, low margin business, which they excel at. Think "Chinese laundry".

This has little or nothing to do with Norwegian electric steel mills, Arctic iron ore deposits, or cancer, though. It's irrelevant and immaterial.

It's about manufactured landscapes and mining and those 'stones turned'... And iron, clothes irons and 'everything else we buy and everywhere we shop'-- and that 'visible only at a distance' thing, where it's irrelevance or immaterialness can be what we might choose to ignore, sometimes at our peril.

(The second section, which was selected for its particular passage, incidentally, had iron without the clothes... like that proverbial emperor; like the denuded/raped Earth.)

The second section, which had iron without the clothes, was a typo. They should have said, "irons".

When I said, "There are still some stones left unturned on this large planet of ours, at least in this part of it," I was speaking literally. Most of this planet has been modified by people, to a much greater degree than people realize. I have seen parts of it that are in original condition, and they look quite different than people might expect. They are also not very safe places, because nature, in its original form, was not very friendly to people. It was a dog-eat-dog, or more likely cat-eat-human world before we domesticated it.

I just got off on a tangent because we have a resident cougar here in town picking off roaming dogs, and we have a small dog we worry about. Actually, a lot of things around here eat small dogs, but cougars eat big dogs. We are in something of a large carnivore abundant prey zone - not totally natural but the animals can't read the "Wildlife Corridor" signs and wander through the middle of town. Human beings just have to watch out for themselves, keep their dogs on-leash, and don't act like food.

We could do with a few of those dog control specialists down here. Especially for the one who wants a piece of me mornings and evenings. There would be no shortage of food.


the US produces but a fraction of the steel it once produced.

No, the US produces pretty much the same volume.

Page 6 of the USGS steel report below says that in 2000 US raw steel production was 102M tons. In 2011 it was 86.4M. Thats 85% of 2000 production, and pretty consistent with the average production post-WWII. In 2000 US imports were 34.4M. In 2008 they were 14.7M, or less than 50% as large. Net steel imports dropped by 63% from 1978 to 2009:

Imports Exports Net-imports

1978 20M 2.97M = 17M

2009 14.7M 8.42M = 6.3M

minerals.usgs.gov/ds/2005/140/ds140-feste dot pdf

U.S. cement production accounts for 0.33 percent of energy consumption.

www.cement.org/manufacture/man_fuels dot asp

American steel production peaked in 1969 when the country produced 141,262,000 tons

From: www.history.com/topics/iron-and-steel-industry

Well, sure. Production is roughly 30% lower than that peak period. But production and consumption are very close. That's not "collapse", that's no longer dominating world production.

Why should the US expect to dominate world production?

And then we had the Peak Oil induced stagflation of the 1970's followed by the offshoring of US manufacturing of steel along with everything else. I remember how ironic it was that US Steel fenced in what had been an open free form beach allowing dogs, dune buggies and access without Corporate beachfronts on Sand Key Island across from Clearwater Beach. Instead of making steel they were fencing off what had been open beachfront for their privatized expensive luxury condo development...

Wonder what Kunstler would say about how that encapsulates the whole missteps of American capitalism for the past 20 years?

Something must provide the heat for the blast furnaces.

Electric arc furnaces are already used for 30% of industrial steel production. A carbon source is required for chemical reduction of the iron, but that carbon source can be biomass (e.g., biomass to coke).

The fact that steel can be produced without direct consumption of fossil fuels is largely irrelevant, though, as steel production only accounts for about 10% of overall coal consumption, and even that could be reduced 3x by switching the remaining 70% of production to electric arc furnaces. 3% of current coal consumption could be maintained for quite some time.

A carbon source is required for chemical reduction of the iron

Carbon isn't needed.

Here's a nice comment from Engineer-Poet on the subject:

While western man is addicted to fossil carbon's combustion energy, we are also overly accustomed to its chemical reducing potential, which is not very high, really, and in turn leads to inefficiency.

Iron is the most used structural metal because it happens to be easily reduced by coke. Aluminum and magnesium are more abundant, but not obtainable by carbothermal reduction, so we need to burn the coal, make electricity at 30% efficiency, and reduce the metals by electrolysis. Take away the carbon and all metals become equally obtainable. Manganese, titanium, and zirconium use can increase, and silicates can be used as ores. Sustainable technologies won't just be carbon-age ones with a windmill bandaided on. They will be different and more efficient from the ground up. (hat tip to "half full")

Carbon isn't needed.

Here's a nice comment from Engineer-Poet on the subject:

While western man is addicted to fossil carbon's combustion energy, we are also overly accustomed to its chemical reducing potential, which is not very high, really, and in turn leads to inefficiency.

Iron is the most used structural metal because it happens to be easily reduced by coke. Aluminum and magnesium are more abundant, but not obtainable by carbothermal reduction, so we need to burn the coal, make electricity at 30% efficiency, and reduce the metals by electrolysis. Take away the carbon and all metals become equally obtainable. Manganese, titanium, and zirconium use can increase, and silicates can be used as ores. Sustainable technologies won't just be carbon-age ones with a windmill bandaided on. They will be different and more efficient from the ground up. (hat tip to "half full")

Strictly speaking, carbon is not needed, however, the dioxide of carbon can easily be seperated from your product iron, that saves money. Think about other metal oxides and the affair becomes ugly in industrial scale.

I'm not sure what you mean.

Are you suggesting that metals other than iron are hard to smelt without fossil fuels? I think aluminium is a good counter example.

Iron oxide can be reduced either with direct electrolysis, or with hydrogen from any source. Eventually smelting will become much smaller - most of the steel used in the USA is reclaimed from scrap (and when industries mature, essentially all of their steel can be recycled).

Err ... I don't live in USA but 'growth' of your revenues to pay for public infrastructure is reputedly been in reverse. Will USA afford EV cars themselves at the scale of production / sale that would keep unit costs down? You may not need more roads, but they have high maintenance cost. When personal transport in aggregate rather than a booster (just get out there and make that petroleum work faster!) becomes a drag on the economy, will you afford roads? Even if wages go down in real terms costs of raw materials for roads and most everything else have and will continue to go up.

US GDP is growing. Government revenues for such things would be fine if the oil billionaire Koch brothers weren't financing a movement intended to "starve the beast".

GDP is a very misleading indicator though. Just because it goes up, that doesn't mean things are better. For example, if the price of oil goes up, the GDP will go up because of all the oil produced. Does that mean things are better? No . . the opposite really.

if the price of oil goes up, the GDP will go up because of all the oil produced.

That's inflation, not an increase in GDP - if oil prices rise, inflation rises, but not GDP.

Yes road building costs have increased to the point that shortly after the 2008 crash with Michigan suffering from the collapse and offshoring of auto production decided they could no longer afford to pave some of their roads and let them devolve to gravel. This in the Auto capital of the world! The problem with Auto addiction and personal cars being the only mains of Transit is not just the fuel for the cars. It is the vast infrastructure of roads, bridges, parking lots, driveways, garages which take as much as 30% of a town's space whereas Rail can deliver 12x the number of people in the same amount of space. And you do not have to provide a parking lot or garage for the LightRail vehicle you take! Of course Railyards are required but again the space required is far less than for the hundreds of cars that Rail can replace.

But this is only the beginning of the costs of Auto Addiction which causes 30,000 deaths per year. So far there have been zero that is 0 deaths from Japanese bullet trains and yearly Rail deaths are usually 0-10. In order to deal with all the casualties of Auto Addiction emergency rooms are swamped:

Traffic accidents a leading cause of ER visits

Health & Fitness
January 17, 2010
By: Edward Lamb

0 Email
Healthcare newsletter

More than 3 million Americans required emergency
treatment after a car crash in 2006. (S. Dak. DPS)

"About 3.5 million motor vehicle crash victims were treated in emergency departments in 2006," begins an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality data summary on the health effects of traffic accidents released last Wednesday.


From the same source

Motor vehicle accidents cost residents of the Commonwealth an estimated $4 billion during 2006, and the country an estimated $150 billion that year. The costs represent both property damage and health care expeditures.

So we are forced to pay to maintain more ER beds, ambulances, traffic cops, traffic courts - all these are the price of Auto Addicted transit as opposed to Green Rail bike and walking transit. Ironically WNYC reported that while New York city is having some success with converting Times Square and other paved areas to pedestrian plazas there are still a lot of pedestrians hit by autos even when they are in the crosswalk and crossing with the walk sign!

The point is the FUEL is only the beginning of the problem with the monopoly of Auto Transit and cities built for autos not for people in this country. Electric cars do NOTHING to resolve those issues!

For the reasons you stated and a hundred pf others, mass auto transportation was one of the biggest mistakes ever made in the history of so called civilization. But in part, I will admit, that is a subjective opinion on my part. I was biking to work in 1975 and found it more productive, enjoyable, and healthier than driving to work. Sadly, that is probably just me and a few others. At that time, my bike was the only bike parked at my place of employment. No doubt others considered me a freak.

As someone else said, but people want cars and more cars. That is true, but the amount of the subsidy is getting worse and worse as politicians refuse to raise the gas tax. Instead, non or infrequent users have to subsidize the heavy users through property and sales taxes. Perhaps less people would feel the need to drive so much if they had to pay the full costs. Then we could see how much they really, truly love their cars.

If you look on human civilization as an exercise in open-system thermodynamics, private automobiles make a ton of sense (or even two tons, depending on the make).

Private automobiles are some of the most dissipative structures we have yet invented. They require enormous energy-consuming organizations to design, manufacture, market, maintain and dispose of. They force their owners to work at energy-dissipating jobs to afford them. They consume vast quantities of potential energy in the form of fuel throughout their life. They generate huge amounts of entropy directly in the form of waste heat and carbon dioxide, and indirectly through all the other entropic activities they entrain.

But that's just the entropic side of cars. It's not a thermodynamic process unless the entropy in the enclosing parent system is balanced by negentropy in the embedded child system.

The negentropy automobiles create is in the form of social structure. Cars create enormous amounts of self-organization on a number of social fronts. They enable unprecedented mobility directed entirely by personal choice, which in turn enables us to create more flexible, adaptive social systems. They cause the creation of social structure in the form of companies to do the design, sales and maintenance. They cause the elaboration of structure in the form of networks - dealer networks, pipeline networks, financial networks etc.

From a thermodynamic point of view cars are a complete win. Too bad for us.

I thought something that caused the host body to reorganize for its benefit was called a cancer.

This isn't a "re"-organization. This is just the way the universe works. We may not like it, but it is what it is.

Since I've come to an understanding of "civilization as a dissipative thermodynamic structure" I've completely dropped the idea that we are "broken beings", or the cancer/HIV analogies that invite us to judge our fellow man while holding ourselves blameless. What is the point of blame, when it wasn't anyone's "fault" in the first place?

The majority of people aren't to blame because they either have no choice or they believe the lies fed to them by the MSM. And why should they be expected to believe otherwise? I think that the majority would definitely make the right choices personally and politically if they truly understood how thermodynamics runs the world and what a dangerous situation we are in, but only a very very small amount of people do understand this. it seems many posters on TOD still don't understand this.

What about our spineless leaders setting the policies, conspiring to make things even worse? They have no idea how energy or the planet's systems work. Are they more culpable than JSP? I frequently bring it back to analogy with a male elephant seal on a beach fighting for territory and a harem. If he could use computers to control the entire world's economy to maximize the size of his personal possessions and harem at the expense of everyone else, then I'm sure he'd do it. Of course, he's an elephant seal and therefore can't do that. No matter what, he's stuck in his place and can only maintain X square meters of California beach to his name, for a year or two.

We really are not much more advanced than elephant seals.

Are our leaders really spineless? Or are they just as constrained by their beliefs and the realities of their situation as any JSP? Why do we think they have more degrees of freedom than we do?

In the end, most of them want exactly the same thing as we do: to use their talents and circumstances to give their children a better life than they have. Their perspective on what "a better life" means, and how good theirs is, is based on the same kinds of comparisons to their peers as we make. An American's idea of wealth and poverty will differ radically from that of a rural Bolivian. It's the same for a trans-national CEO's view versus that of an "average" North American. I would like a raise, and a politician wants to be re-elected. Same thing. We both do what it takes - I work harder and smarter to give my boss what he wants, the politician gives the electorate what they want. He may recognize that he's not doing the best thing for the long-term interests of the planet, but his kids have to eat. What's more important, your planet and species a hundred years from now, or your kids' needs today? This is why I've stopped thinking of CEOs and politicians in pejorative terms, as "The Enemy". IMO they are just as trapped as the rest of us.

There are probably two main reasons we're so trapped. One is our enormous capacity for self-delusion, for re-interpreting situations so as to relieve the distress of cognitive dissonance. The other is that we didn't figure out thermodynamics until after we invented the steam engine. Too damned late.

Our leaders can set policies that would change our direction. I am much more cynical of our leaders' intentions. As the old saying goes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. History is rife with examples of tyranical leaders, and today's societies aren't much better. You'll see their true nature soon enough when the real extent of our "democracies" becomes apparent. There's another saying too: the cream rises to the top. Well, so does the scum.

Because our leaders don't understand the thermodynamic basis behind our economies and the world, they can come up with a whole variety of "theories" describing that world which they then use to justify their acts. Our leadership (the politicians are not much more than mere puppets, front men for who's really in control behind the scenes -- those in control of the bond (debt), or slavery market). The rich are in it to get richer. That's what they do. While there are numerous reasons why our economies must grow in order to function as they do now, the main reason is because if the rich are to continue getting richer, then in order to keep the poor from getting poorer, the economy must grow. Do you think the rich are going to buy into some nebulous thermodynamic explanation of how the world works and voluntarily cease accumulating wealth and even give some of it up in order to keep the rest of the world from becoming poorer? Not a chance. They are sociopaths. They'll take the whole world down with them before they relinquish a bit of their control and wealth.

The rich are in it to get richer.

So is everyone else. Why do you think ordinary people buy lottery tickets or invest in stocks?

My take on it is that there is no difference in kind between "them" and "us", merely a difference in degree. Each of "us" is a "them" to somebody else. We have many of the same goals as they do, just different opportunities to fulfill them. Would any of "us" turn down a billion-dollar opportunity?

If there is indeed a problem, it's not "them" that's the problem, it's us.

However, my preferred view is that if we step back from our anthropocentric concerns just a pace or two, there is in fact no problem. We are completely meeting the interlinked objectives common to all life: to act as an effective dissipator of all accessible potential energy gradients in our environment; and to use the work harvested duri8ng the dissipation process to ensure our survival and increase our complexity at the same time.

Peak Oil, climate change and nuclear accidents are just evidence that we are doing our job to the very limit of our ability. Nobody's to blame for any of it, it's just the way the universe works.

It is dangerous to take an "us" approach when it comes to our leadership because it is indeed "them", being the 0.001%, trying to take advantage of "us", the other 99.999%. Leadership needs to be constantly and relentlessly questioned, investigated, and held to account. When this doesn't happen, leaders inevitably take advantage of "us".

I agree with your thermodynamic approach. You will probably find my long winded essay on the topic interesting. It's due for an update with some new data (on oil sands EROEI, etc.), but it is mostly correct.

Search markbc Thermodynamics for Economists

OK, that is one sweet article. Thank you!

The aspect of the Second Law (2LoT) that has me most fascinated right now is the spontaneous appearance of self-organization in nonequilibrium open systems. The appearance of dissipative structures that become ever more complex as more energy flows through them. Stars, planets, chemicals, living organisms from prokaryotes to you and me, to all the abstract apparatus of civilizations - all of it driven by energy flows, but especially by the organizational properties of the Second Law.

My speculation right now is that the reason we can't get off the energy treadmill, can't stop growth or fight climate change is because we are fundamentally formed in the image of 2LoT. It's below the level of genetics, a property of the universe itself. Our teleonomic destiny, if you like, is to dissipate all available potential energy gradients into entropy and work, and to use the work harvested in the process to enable our survival and increase our organization. At least until the first Liebig Limit we encounter kicks our feet out from under us.

This principle operates at the structural level of the universe itself, which explains why we can't even recognize its operation in our daily activities and the choices we make. We interpret everything we do not in thermodynamic terms, but in rationalized human-centric experiential terms.

In the thermodynamic view, EROEI is a measure of the steepness of the energy gradient we're harvesting. The proof that we're being enormously successful at operating near our dissipative limit is the declining EROEI of fossil fuels, the accumulation of entropic waste as atmospheric CO2, and nuclear reactor accidents.

This, to my mind, is the reason we haven't been able to address climate change, or implement any degrowth strategies, or even begin a population reduction exercise. Our very nature precludes such activities as being tantamount to suicide.

Are the 1% aware of such things? I think not. Nobody else is, after all. We'e all still hung up on finance, fracking, electric cars, recycling and big stone heads (aka windmills). These are mere diversions in the grander order of things.

I agree. My electric car article is a bit old and I'm not so optimistic about things anymore, I should revise that one too.

The aspect of the Second Law (2LoT) that has me most fascinated right now is the spontaneous appearance of self-organization in nonequilibrium open systems.

Yes I've often pondered that, in relation to life. How come energy cascades down through such complex things as a tropical rainforest? Wouldn't the most dissipative process simply be a barren planet radiating that energy back out into empty space?

I think there's more to it than the 2nd law and entropy. Quantum mechanics opens up whole new realms of bizarre interpretations. Thermodynamics is macroscopic but a lot of the things we observe have microscopic origins.

How come energy cascades down through such complex things as a tropical rainforest? Wouldn't the most dissipative process simply be a barren planet radiating that energy back out into empty space?

If you've never seen it before you might enjoy a little primer on Ecosystem Thermodynamics by Aiko Huckauf...

The really deep question to my mind is why did a quantum mechanical universe create economists? >;-)

Random interactions put the same amount of energy into every possible degree of freedom. Some of those degrees of freedom allow conversion of the energy in an existing gradient towards growth and replication, thus living things appear. Quantum mechanics need not be a factor, and life may or may not be more dissipative than non-life depending on how long you do the time integral. E.g., over time an "intelligent" life form that deploys fusion bombs may generate an excess of entropy compared to the alternative sterile planet.

That's way too simplistic.

How does the 2LoT explain that fertility goes down as income rises?

Some people having foresight, and others not? Some people thinking in more complex ways about problems with wider boundaries, and some not? Some being more prone to tribalism?

In particular, why are elites especially prone self-delusion, and psychopathic behavior?

Elites, by definition, have more power in an hierarchical society. Analysis of the dynamics of elites, and their various processes (thinking, communication, control and influence of others, etc) is, therefore, essential.

2LoT operates probabilistically at the macroscopic level in open systems. It doesn't explain all the details of system behavior, but it has a lot to say about the overall structure. So while the specifics of the behaviour of individual members of an elite my not be directly explained by 2LoT, some significant general attributes of the system are, IMO. Some attributes that are candidates would include the spontaneous appearance of hierarchy itself (it enables the system to process larger amounts of energy - see Odum); the general behavior of elites near the top of the hierarchy in consolidating power (low-entropy energy) by ensuring the export of entropy to the rest of the system (i.e. out to the environment and down to the lower levels of the hierarchy); and the degree of cross-linking near the tips of disparate power pyramids. Other general outcomes of the operation of 2LoT IMO are the innate human antipathy for degrowth and our energy-seeking obsession.

Psychopathy and self-delusion among the elites may be defense mechanisms that are the logical outcome of feeling forced by circumstance to disadvantage other life forms, including people - sort of a last-ditch defense against severe cognitive dissonance. In fact, the self-delusion that most non-elite people engage in is precisely a defense against "normal" cognitive dissonance.

By all means analyze the behavior of the elites, and everybody else for that matter. But it always helps to understand as deeply as possible why people do what they do, rather than just what they do.

But how does the 2LoT help us understand why fertility falls with income, or some people choose to "right size"their homes or vehicles?

Or why some people are farsighted about energy efficiency and energy substitution, and others aren't?

I ask these questions because this meme seems to suggest that human intelligence doesn't matter...

"Why are some people X and other people are not-X?"

That's answered by the fact that 2LoT operates probabilistically. We are not automatons. 2LoT determines how the whole ensemble behaves: 2Lot sets the overall tone of species behavior, but individual behaviors can vary. It's similar to IQ distributions - the species overall has an IQ of 100, but there's room in the model for smart people and stupid ones. However, the farther you go out from the species mean in either direction, the fewer such individuals you'll find. That's the meaning of "probabilistic". In thermodynamic terms, the fact that the entire (closed) system tends towards equilibrium doesn't preclude there being (open) parts of it that exhibit order. There's probably a power law that relates the degree of order to the frequency of occurrence of open systems that exhibit that degree of order.

The question of "why fertility falls with rising income?" is crucial of course, and one that I looked at a while ago. My current take on it is this:

Fertility doesn't fall because of rising income. They are correlated, but not directly causal. The fall in fertility and the rise in income are both driven by the penetration of technology into the society in question. Income rises because greater technology allows more energy to flow through the society. The energy flow is what generates income, either directly or indirectly. Fertility falls because fewer people are required in in a higher-technology society. In a low-tech society human beings play a greater direct role in the processing of energy flows, so if the system is to grow (which requires that more energy be transformed into useful work) it needs more people. As the level of technology increases, and machines take over more of the energy-transformation role, human involvement shifts toward the role of "system managers" to the technology. Because fewer people are needed to manage these systems, and their income is higher due to the increased technology-driven energy flows, fertility falls.

You can see that effect here:

This graph shows the power law relating technological penetration (represented as per capita income from industrial production) to birth rates. The data is from the World Bank Development Indicators database.

I ascribe this effect to the underlying influence of 2LoT for the following reasons:

  • My core assumption is that 2LoT drives all open systems towards the greatest degree of organization they can attain with the available energy flows, in order to maximize the rate of entropy production in the parent closed system.
  • Life emerges spontaneously within inanimate open systems (conditions permitting) because living organisms are in fact more dissipative than inanimate structures. For a discussion of the relative dissipative capabilities of non-living vs. living structures see the work of Harvard astrophysicist Eric Chaisson, particularly his PDF on energy rate density as a metric for complexity and a driver of cosmic evolution.
  • Life in turn evolves in the direction of intelligence, which adds another level of end-seeking capability to the system. Intelligence develops in order to permit living organisms to detect and exploit steeper and more obscure potential energy gradients at greater distances (e.g. oil, gas and coal fields). This directional development is inherent in the teleomatic behavior of 2LoT itself, and in the teleonomic behavior of living organisms.
  • Technology arises spontaneously over time in societies of intelligent organisms precisely because it enables greater energy flows, and therefore makes the social systems more dissipative.

The connection I draw between thermodynamics to human cultural structures is a difficult concept for people to grasp at first because it's a brand new idea. It may or may not turn out to be "true" (whatever that means), but I think the resistance most people have towards the idea is largely because of i) its novelty and ii) as you intuit, it implies that the stage upon which human free will operates may be much smaller than we have assumed. This isn't an easy idea for people to accept. Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin notwithstanding, we still haven't removed Man from the conceptual center of our universe - we are all humanists at heart because of 50,000+ years of perceptual and cultural conditioning. It's painful to think that to some degree we might be marionettes dancing to natural principles.

I don't think that QM has as much to say about social structure and cultural development as 2LoT. this is because 2LoT operates visibly at the macroscopic level, and because the operation of 2LoT is not random or chaotic at the macroscopic level. QM effects predominate at the lowest structural levels, but as these effects are aggregated up into the macroscopic world, they operate in the statistical ways we have become familiar with since Carnot.

We now accept that thermodynamics applies to both inanimate and living systems. Perhaps it's time to explore its reach into cultural domains as well.

2LoT operates probabilistically. We are not automatons.

I don't quite qet what you mean here. Are you suggesting that power dissipation's genetic basis varies significantly, either more widely within a species than between species, and/or widely between species? Either seems unlikely, if it's as basic as this line of argument suggests.

There's probably a power law that relates the degree of order to the frequency of occurrence of open systems that exhibit that degree of order.

I don't get this either. The earth is a single giant open system, with vast energy pouring in from the sun.

Fertility falls because fewer people are required in in a higher-technology society.

Doesn't this violate the idea that there is an imperative towards power dissipation? 1) why aren't people like reindeer, maximizing family size, and 2) why does society satisfice at a certain level of production?

Clearly, humanity is *not* mindlessly maximizing power dissipation (at least defined simplistically) - parents are not maximizing fertility, societies are not maximizing the production of stuff.

it implies that the stage upon which human free will operates may be much smaller than we have assumed.

I have no trouble with deterministic systems - the whole concept of free will is problematic. Still, I don't really see much explanatory power to this approach

It seems to me obvious that power dissipation (and self organization) is deeply relevant. I don't see a good theory yet as to how that operates. So far, it seems to be just adapted to justify our preconceptions, rather than creating new insights.

"People want cars." That implanted mantra is not only contradicted by important evidence, but flattens all distinctions within the category of "people." Capitalists are the real car addicts, and always have been. The auto-industrial complex is quite literally lifeblood to the corporate system. Meanwhile, there has never once been an open democratic debate over basic transportation policy in this society. Not even close. There can't be: The public would almost certainly insist on some movement toward reason in any such discussion.

That's weird. They keep buying them. And they are very expensive. They must be crazy because apparently they don't want cars yet they spent thousands of dollars on them. Maybe it is a brain-eating virus.

People want cars, but not like they used to, not in the US. The cost-benefit analysis, which is not just about price but also cultural expectations, looks worse and worse for personal auto travel.

The century-long increase in Vehicle Miles Traveled has been broken dramatically. And kids don't look at driving and cars the same way their parents and grandparents did.

Not mentioned so far is the problem of market penetration. Sure, those EV cars can provide local transport and electricity can power trains, both local and long haul. There are going to be early adopters and there are many out there as we write. The problem I see is that it takes time for the fleet of automobiles to be replaced and those older cars are used by poorer folks who can't pay the cost of a new car, let alone a new EV. Older EV's will need new batteries and the cost of the battery is likely to be more than a driver with limited income can scrape together. Then too, a large fraction of the vehicles on the road are trucks or vans, which have larger engines and provide worse mpg in today's world. Those vehicles are still operated because of their usefulness to the driver, such as load carrying or towing capacity, attributes which an EV may not be able to provide.

Even if all vehicles were required to be powered by electricity, half of the present fleet would still be on the road in 10 years with resulting demand in oil based fuels. If the decline in fuels made from oil happens at a rapid rate, one might expect that the production and sales of replacement EV's may not occur as rapidly, thus the economy would shrink as jobs evaporate and workers are no longer able to commute to work if they can find a job. Kunstler points out that our banksters have built a system which relies on continued growth and without that, the economic system would implode. He may be proven correct...

E. Swanson

Definitely fair criticisms. Some thoughts:

1) I agree that it is going to be hard on poor. Always has been, always will be.
2) I agree that the existing stock of ICE vehicles may run into trouble. This is why I've mentioned several times that I am predicting a 'gas guzzler bubble' wherein a lot of low-MPG cars that people are buying these days may become underwater vehicles . . . the value of the car may drop below the loan on the car if resale values drop since no one will want a low-MPG vehicle. Don't buy a low MPG vehicle! (It might not happen if gas remains relatively cheap by why not hedge against this with a hybrid or EV?)
3) I think cars will become smaller. Instead of the beasts we drive, our cars will look more like the cars in Europe.
4) ICE vehicle will still persist for a long long long time. They'll just lose marketshare over time.

Even if all vehicles were required to be powered by electricity, half of the present fleet would still be on the road in 10 years with resulting demand in oil based fuels. If the decline in fuels made from oil happens at a rapid rate, one might expect that the production and sales of replacement EV's may not occur as rapidly, thus the economy would shrink as jobs evaporate and workers are no longer able to commute to work if they can find a job. Kunstler points out that our banksters have built a system which relies on continued growth and without that, the economic system would implode. He may be proven correct...

Or . . . the complete opposite may happen. If people become forced out of their ICE vehicles due to high gas prices, they may start buying EVs in large numbers. There are lots of people out there with money in the bank that can easily afford them. There are lots of people with good jobs where they can easily finance an EV and they'll certainly do so if forced in order to keep getting to their good job. If the market where to grow bigger, there would certainly be more innovation and mass-manufacturing scale that would help bring down prices.

So . . . the exact opposite could happen to some degree. Necessity is the mother of invention. Being forced into a corner could create a nice new industry to have a growth spurt and improve the economy. Can a disaster improve an economy? Well, many credit World War 2 for helping us out of the great depression.

One of the reasons I think we have an economic slump right now is that there is no "new thing" driving the economy. In the 80's we had the PC revolution, in the 90's we had the internet revolution, in the 00's we had the wireless revolution . . . but we are kinda stuck on a 'next new thing' right now. The 'paradox of thrift' is something that is probably hurting us right now. Saving money is good for the individual savers. But if everyone does it, the economy grinds to a halt. Right now a lot of people are trying to save and pay down debt. Well, being forced out of their gas cars and into an EV could force people to spend some money and help the economy.

Would it work out that way? I have no idea. But I don't think people are going to sit on their hands and do nothing.

I have no idea how things will play out. However, my scenario begins by assuming a rather fast fall in oil output, which would lead to a rapid increase in the cost of oil. Of course, I would expect that those people with good paying jobs who could buy the more expensive EV's would do so, but the rest of us who buy used cars would be stuck with those cast off gas guzzlers. Driving them would seriously impact the other purchases of those on the bottom of the economic pile and they would be in even worse shape than is now the situation because our cities have been restructured into car/truck only transport configuration.

The people who do the real work, such as the builders and the service oriented people who work in the food industry or WalMart often live far from their jobs and thus must drive to work. If those people can no longer commute to work, the jobs won't get done and the rest of the economy will suffer, if not implode.

We are all rather like the frog in the pot of slowly heating water. We won't jump until it hurts and we may not realize how bad things are until we can't make the jump any longer. It takes money and effort for an individual to move in order to take a new job in another city or state and if a family with a house is involved, it's much more difficult. Most people in the past have "sheltered in place", driving the distance before selling the house and moving. The recent mortgage meltdown has wiped out the equity of many less wealthy home owners or even worse, they are "under water", owing more than they can sell the property. As an example, my neighbor works building houses and he is now driving his small PU about 50 miles one way to work at a lumber mill, after the local building scene collapsed and the "official" county unemployment rate is around 13%.

Will things turn out OK? I suspect that most of us in the US are living frog like in warming water based on the way things were in the past. The idea that China is about to take our share of the oil import market hasn't dawned on folks. As a nation, we are being led to believe there's no problem as our oil production is booming and soon we won't need any oil imports and may even become a net exporter. Where's the incentive for Mr. Amerikan to shift to alternative powered vehicles, let alone change his living arrangements to give up cars for most travel? Only time will provide an answer...

E. Swanson

Fore sure, none of us have any idea of how things will eventually play out, though many seem quite sure that they know. But I am not optimistic.

As for converting the entire fleet of cars to EVs, it would be extremely expensive and take a couple of decades... at least. I just bought, last November, the last car I will ever own, a 2013 Hyundai Accent. It is, of course, an internal combustion engine that runs on gasoline. So if there is ever a mass conversion to EVs I will not be a part of it, and ditto for hundreds of millions of others.

The very suggestion that we could all simply convert to EVs and everything would then be fine and dandy, is totally absurd, to put it mildly. We won't because we can't. And it is not just because it would be extremely expensive in a time when real wages would likely be falling fast, but the grid simply could not support the new load that would bring.

I have not done the calculations of what kind of extra load that would place on the grid, but I would expect that it would be enormous.

So when you hear people say something to the effect: "All we have to do is this and this..." you will know immediately that they haven't a clue as to what the hell they are talking about. Converting the entire world transportation system from something it is now, to something entirely different, will not be as simple as those who say: "All we have to do is...."

Ron P.

The very suggestion that we could all simply convert to EVs and everything would then be fine and dandy, is totally absurd, to put it mildly. We won't because we can't. And it is not just because it would be extremely expensive in a time when real wages would likely be falling fast, but the grid simply could not support the new load that would bring.

I have not done the calculations of what kind of extra load that would place on the grid, but I would expect that it would be enormous.

Well, you'll be quite happy to learn that the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has run the numbers and that we could switch over some 73% of our existing vehicles with the current grid. Of course, it would take decades to switch that many cars and we could build more grid during the time (jobs!).

(Or you'll just discard this information and go with your pessimistic gut feeling. Up to you.)

Enjoy the new car!

I agree with most of what you said Ron but EV's would be mostly charged at night when demand is otherwise low; we could mostly convert to EV's with little or no extra burden to the electrical infrastructure; it just wouldn't power down at night.

It may not result in a higher peak load on the grid (although it probably will to some extent), but it results in a higher duty cycle - in other words, the system is run at a greater percentage of its capacity for a much greater percentage of the time. And the grid is transmitting a larger amount of energy. There are potential problems with this. All of that energy passes through real, actual components, some of which will be degraded faster.

Indeed. But that is a feature not a bug. That means we will need to spend more money upgrading and maintaining our electricity grid, in other words . . . jobs! Domestic jobs. Instead of shipping all our money overseas (or up north), we'll keep more of it here. (Don't worry Canada, we'll still buy plenty of oil from you . . . lots of ships, planes, long-haul trucks, tractors, and other things that are not easy to electrify.)

I bet grid degradation goes up rapidly with load. So this increased nighttime demand should generate more grid revenue than it costs in extra maintenence. The real concern with stuf like solar, is who will pay for the grid? Maybe EV owners will pay for the grid?

1) I agree that it is going to be hard on poor. Always has been, always will be.

I strongly suspect that a lot of cornucopians who currently don't yet fall into the category of being poor will find their buying power severely eroded in the coming years... just a hunch.

There are lots of people out there with money in the bank that can easily afford them. There are lots of people with good jobs where they can easily finance an EV and they'll certainly do so if forced in order to keep getting to their good job.

Just curious do you think you could put an actual number to those statements. Exactly how many is 'LOTS'?!
Furthermore what makes you think those so called 'GOOD' jobs will continue to exist? Or the access to 'EASY' credit?

Spec, I'd really like to see you and Nick without your rose colored BAU glasses and blinders on, taking a walk on the wild side in some of the poorer parts of the US and more importantly, the rest of the world. You guys really need to step outside of the Matrix for a little bit... Reality ain't even close to what you guys imagine. But I realize neither one of want's to hear that technology is not going to save the world you hold so dear!

Even if all vehicles were required to be powered by electricity, half of the present fleet would still be on the road in 10 years with resulting demand in oil based fuels. If the decline in fuels made from oil happens at a rapid rate, one might expect that the production and sales of replacement EV's may not occur as rapidly, thus the economy would shrink as jobs evaporate and workers are no longer able to commute to work if they can find a job. Kunstler points out that our banksters have built a system which relies on continued growth and without that, the economic system would implode. He may be proven correct...

Let us assume that peak oil occurs within 10 years (sometime between 2013 and 2023), let us also assume that real oil prices will increase by a factor of 4 over that same 10 year period. Will such a change in prices cause a dramatic change in demand for ICE vehicles and demand for public transportation?

Lets say the answer is yes. If there is an increased demand for public transit, and Volt-like and Leaf-like vehicles, this will tend to increase employment.

Also note that a rapid drop in oil output will lead to a rapid rise in oil prices, or rationing. This would tend to cause more rapid adoption of non-ICE transportation and the employment that would go with the increased production of the new types of vehicles and the buildout of public transit systems.

I agree with those that think public transportation is the wiser use of resources, but there are some places (rural areas) where the low population density makes this problematic and in those places, plug-in hybrids and EVs, may make more sense. The market is not perfect, but if properly regulated, I haven't seen a better system, let the market decide the appropriate proportion of public vs private transit.

Without the unnecessary turn to lower government spending during a recession/very slow economic recovery, we could could have gotten people back to work building public transit and possibly some HVDC trasmission to make it easier to distribute any excess windpower or solar power (though in reality any govt spending would likely be spent on roads and bridges.)


If there is an increased demand for public transit, and Volt-like and Leaf-like vehicles, this will tend to increase employment.

The economic milieu and context that will lead to such demand will result in a decrease in employment. A few jobs building and selling Volts etc. to the people who remain able to afford these vehicles will not be enough to make a difference.
When we reach the point that the low wage rural worker cannot afford the fuel to get to work there will be a lot of urban people who find how much cities depend upon rural resources, because the price of these resources will have to rise, or the flow of resources will stop.
There will also be many businesses that will fail because they can't pay higher wages, the workers may be willing to continue at the same wage, but are unable to, because they cannot wish fuel into their cars, while keeping the other necessary bills, which will tend to rise also, paid. The well paid people who own, run, and invest in these rural businesses, who believe they are immune to an increase of a few dollars a gallon for fuel, will find themselves in economic trouble when their businesses fail. Rural America, in its present incarnation, is very dependent on the price of fuel. The cities are dependent on rural America for resources.
The well being of the majority of the well-to-do is linked to the well being of the working class.

A real increase of a factor 4? Not going to happen.

Current price of oil: +- 100$. Current consumption: +- 80 mmbpd. Total value for all that oil in a year: $3 trillion. Size of the world economy (according to wikipedia): $70 trillion. So, 4% of the entire world economy is tied up to a single raw resource. A real factor 4 increase would make that figure 16%. That is so enormous as to be unbelievable.

If oil production goes down, prices may go up a bit, but most of it will just mean the economy shrinking. Which has already been happening regionally these last 5 years.

I would interpret 'real' to mean the current price of oil compared to the current economic value. If the price of oil went to $200.00 and the economy suffered a 50% decline, oil would then be 4 times as expensive as a componant of the economy.


Search on Real Prices Viewer - EIA

Real oil prices rose from $17/barrel in 1998 to $100 in 2008, more than a factor of 5 in 10 years, so it can happen. When peak oil hits a price increase will ensue, I believe prices rising by a factor of 4 is a conservative estimate. A total collapse of the world economy, that many envision as a result, could well lead to a fall in prices. My hope is that the rise in prices will change consumer buying behavior and cause a general recogition of limits to growth.

My take is that we will soon reach peak oil (my guess is 2017 +/- 5 years), but rather than a shark fin type profile, that we will remain on a plateau for another 5-10 years or that the down slope for these years will be gradual. If real oil prices gradually rise over this 10 to 20 year period (by 10 % per year) we may be able to transition to a low-fossil fuel transport system. If the world economy continues its 4 % real growth, it will grow to $126 trillion in 15 years so 29.2 billion barrels * $418/barrel= $12.2 trillion or about 10 %.

Will the transition to a more sustainable world be easy? Not by any means. Is it possible? I hope so, time will tell.

Clearly we need to wean ourselves from all fossil fuels. I have read about concrete which sequesters carbon, it seems for roads and buildings we could try to use more of that and less steel. We could also go back to buying high quality products that will last. Wind power could provide 90 % of electricity if overbuilt.

For concrete search concrete carbon sequester
For wind power search cost minimized wind


Real oil prices rose from $17/barrel in 1998 to $100 in 2008, more than a factor of 5 in 10 years, so it can happen

So. There is already an historical precedent. Petroleum expenditures as a percentage of GDP were higher in the 1974-1984 period than in the 2007-2012 period. 2013 is still open. But I'll take the under until 2017.


The same chart shape replicates for households.

Mean petroleum expenditures as a share of GDP averaged 4.8% from 1970 to 2012. 2012 was 5.7%. 1981 was 13.7%. 2013 will not be a big deal.

But what was the GDP fraction imported vs locally produced? Energy produced at home has a different affect on the economy than imported oil. In the early 80's, we imported less than half the energy we do today, and we had less debt.
I agree that 2013 will be OK, but it won't be rosy, nor will it be anytime soon, unless you're in an energy-producing state.


Energy produced at home has a different affect on the economy than imported oil

Absolutely, but not in substantive terms. The difference is the intertemporal change in net imports which is not a big deal in a GDP context since 1970. The increase in domestic oil and natural gas production has been a highlight for U.S. GDP in the last 5 years.

In the early 80's, we imported less than half the energy we do today..

C+C imports by volume were 5.3 mb/d in 1980 and 8.5 mb/d in 2012. 2013 is projected to be 7.7 mb/d. You are a couple of years behind on the increase in C+C domestic production which bottomed in 2008 at 5.0 mb/d with 2013 annual production projected by the EIA at 7.3 mb/d. Last week, the U.S. produced 7.3 mb/d and it's only 33% through the calender year.

Do you have such a graph for the whole world? The united states isn't a closed system. The US has a big trade deficit, meaning that other countries are funding US consumption. This complicates analysis, but for the world as a whole that can't happen.

speculawyer writes:

... but we still have plenty of oil left and we should allocate the oil for those purposes. And the free-market economy will do that over time ...

We do NOT have a free market in terms of alternatives to Auto Addiction which is supported by hundreds of billions in terms of maintaining highways, hundreds of billions in terms of pushing personal automobiles, hundreds of billions in external support such as ambulances to treat the 30,000 auto addiction deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries, traffic cops, traffic courts, etc etc etc.

Chris Nelder does an excellent job of outlining all the costs of the USA's current Auto/Air monopoly (note the concerns of Teabag Republicans when the planes do not fly conveniently due to their own sequester across the board cuts).

See http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/energy-futurist/reframing-the-transporta...

The current Interstate highway system supporting Auto Addiction was built with 90% Federal subsidies while existing trolleys run mostly by electric utilities actually had to pay taxes before they were systematically wiped out by the GM-Chevron-Firestone Trolley conspiracy.

The US auto companies were bailed out already by the Federal government to the tune of tens of billions of dollars including $3.5 billion cash-for-clunker subsidy, $7.5 Billion electric car subsidy, and the ongoing exemption from even the pretense of loan requirements by Dodd-Frank for sub-prime Auto loans. GM capital was one of the financial giants bailed out by the infamous TARP subsidies.

Changing from hugely subsidized and destructive Auto Addiction will require a change in government policy to transition to Green public transit, Cities for people not cars, bikeways and safe sidewalks. As there is no "free market" already in Transit there will be no automatic change.

Political pressure WILL mount and is already mounting from the young eschewing cars and moving to urbanized transit oriented living. But policy changes are needed.

As AlanfromBigEasy likes to say - make Americans pay the true cost of Auto Addiction without it being hugely subsidized by all levels of govt including things as mundane as local zoning ordinances requiring car parking and you WILL force change.
But the alternative still requires government policy for eminent domain to restore Rails, change Exurban zoning etc.

I really don't think oil is nearly so crucial. It was very convenient to have it no doubt, and it was usuable with a relatively modest level of technology. But we will figure out how to function without it (or without it in largescale supply). But it is going to be a long while before most of these applications need to be replaced, we will still have it, but the volume of supply and the price will increasingly be problematic. We have at least a quarter century to wean ourselves off oil powered ground based transport, longer for things like airtravel. It won't be smooth going, and it will probably be a drag on the economy, but it isn't a death blow for civilization.

It won't be smooth going, and it will probably be a drag on the economy, but it isn't a death blow for civilization.

I do not believe it will be a death blow for civilizations period. I believe it will be a death blow to our civilization eventually, but I expect it will take generations to play out - with moments that may well feel like the end of the world for some people at some times.

No, I think he's stating something fairly mundane. He may be wrong about how well the car does (precisely due to density issues, I expect at some point large roads will be torn up to put in houses and shops), but he's not really stating anything that unusual.

Consider the world economy of 1600 - wood is the "master resource". Most home energy use is wood. Sailboats require special trees for their construction. Land transport is based on dirt roads with horse carriages.

World economy of 1850 - coal was the "master resource". Transportation ran on coal. Railroads were being put down like crazy. Coal steamers revolutionize world trade and warfare.

Now look at today - oil is the "master resource". Transportation runs on oil - cars, boats, planes. Roads, cars, and parking lots cover huge areas.

The future will be, MUST be, some other way because oil is getting too expensive and too damaging to use as the master resource. Electric trains powered by renewables? Sail containerships? Who knows. The shape of society will be different just as it is radically different now than it was in 1850. That doesn't mean it won't be harder to transition - it may be MUCH harder as it is a transition to more diffuse energy sources... But it will happen in some way. This is inevitable.

Each one of those sources was more concentrated, portable and useful, and we built/replaced our infrastructure to take advantage of that. So now oil is the master resource, even if coal was once upon a time. Clearly it won't be in the future, and equally clearly (to me), there is not a replacement that is more concentrated, portable and useful. And so the world without oil as the master resource will be a very different place.

Once again I'm watching the discussion about reforming our transportation systems and transitioning away from fossil fuels occurring in a compartmentalized thread,, as if we can ignore all of the other transitions that will be (are) occurring concurrently with this one. The suggestion that, somehow, our industrial civilization will accomplish this feat, in a relatively short time-span, while dealing with climate change, transitioning our agricultural systems, our financial systems, repairing our biosphere (or even limiting ongoing damage),, althewhile running in the race for what's left of virtually every necessary resource without turning on other societies en mass,,, just seems a bit naive to me; bargaining. Virtually every so-called solution to these things results in our further exacerbating our overshoot situation. It will require robust economies of scale, and financial systems that function well.

In case some of you haven't noticed, the economies and financial systems we currently have are being held together with duct tape, so while transitioning off of fossil fuels, we'll be scrapping what's left of them, to be replaced with what? These things are absolutely inseperable. There can be no incremental changes in one while the others undergo a massive refit; not in any way that I can fathom. We're already well into the 'robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul' phase, civilizationally. The reduced miles being driven and flown we are witnessing aren't voluntary or part of some master plan. These things are being forced by circumstance. Sequesters and austerity; forced. Substitutions; forced. Reduced aid to the poor and failing states; forced. EOR; forced.

Seven billion humans (and counting) with massively excessive claims to resources of all kinds vs. declining resources and failing systems, failing states, cultures transitioning farther away from reality. I expect that whatever solutions are forced upon us collectively will be less than ideal for about 90% of us; downright unacceptable for most.

That said, I really would like a little EV to charge with our current PV surplus ;-)

.. and with the massive piles of existing Vehicle Chassis, and Electromotors and Electronics, a great number of these very little vehicles could be made entirely from existing stocks, adding almost nothing to the material flows demands from new mining and refining, etc.. and the resulting vehicle would, in turn lean very lightly, if at all, on the grid and on the rest of the global infrastructure.

Not all EV's are $30k to $100k shinies on the lot, and they have the ability to REDUCE our weight on the system.

While I'm passionate about reusing and retasking things, I have visions of whomever's around thousands of years from now digging some of these things up and wondering what the point was, kind of like finding a coprolite that sombody sugar-coated, maybe sprayed a little air freshener on before walking away from it.

Well, still we can't be surprised to see how many of the existing auto bodies will be getting repurposed over the next 3 or 4 decades. We are undoubtedly going to be using wheels, and if we've got a good way to help us heave them down the lane, we certainly will.

It's just such a strange volley that gets going on this EV thing.. so much of apparently built around 'Since we can't have it be all EV's, therefore they should simply be avoided altogether instead.'

Hi Ghung,

The government austerity thing is really not necessary for countries that issue debt in there own currency. check out Concious of a liberal

Basically Krugman argues that if governments had followed the advice of Macroeconomics 101 since 2009 there would be a lot less unemployment. The whole "the financial sky is falling" comes from forgetting all that we had learned about macroeconomics. Otherwise I agree that there are many problems which need to be addressed, but I don't think the answer is that we are doomed, so lets just focus on how nothing can be done to improve our prospects.

Do you think trying to find ways to transport goods across the country or provide electricity without burning fossil fuels is a bad idea?

When the "so-called Cornucopians" argue that maybe there are things we can do to improve mankind's difficult future, the "realists" say no no no that is just BAU, where I see more of a tentrative bridge to attempt to get us from here to where we need to be. I don't think anybody is suggesting that it will be easy, I believe the argument is that it is possible, if we work together.

Or we can just say there is no hope, most of us will die, there is nothing we can do, this is our nature.


It is possible to believe there are things we can do to improve mankind's difficult future that are not BAU. This seems to be an attempt to portray those who think BAU is the problem as somehow wanting a difficult future. In fact I see many who see possibilities to improve the lot of those who come after us, but understand that attempts to preserve BAU will preclude those options.

there is no hope, most of us will die, there is nothing we can do, this is our nature.

You say it is possible we can get where we need to be if we work together. Nothing that has occurred in at least the last few decades makes me think this is possible, at least in the United States. I think you have nicely summed up Darwinian's position but he, of course, can answer for himself.

We will die, of course. The only question is, when, and will we die together en masse.

I see rays of hope but that is usually in my weaker moments. I am not optimistic but do not completely discount the occurrence of miracles or events that contradict my generally cynical view of the future.

I've realized that I don't actually need hope in my life so long as I have meaning. I can live a hopeless but meaningful life. I cannot live a hopeful but meaningless life. Thanks to Victor Frankl for that insight.

DC, Twilight and Tstreet, just what are you guys hoping for? And what do you believe? Do you believe with Faulkner: "I decline to accept the end of man... I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail."

Is that what you guys are hoping for, that man will prevail? Or the better question should be will man continue to prevail? He has prevailed so far over every other species on earth. Mankind is going through the earth's natural resources like a drunken sailor through his rich uncle's inheritance. We are literally destroying the earth's ecosystem and driving many of the earth's species into extinction.

So my question to you is: Are you hoping for something that will allow this mass slaughter and destruction to continue?

Just curious.

Ron P.

Of course not - I'm expecting that the reality of energy and other resource limits, combined with the effects of climate change, will cause the collapse of industrial civilization, and the US empire in particular. I expect the process to take a bit longer than you do, otherwise I expect our views are not that different. I don't think our present automotive transportation has very long until collapse, nor our present power grid even without trying to power EVs off of it.

I would love to see the US try to build out the rail system for the benefit of those who come after us - and I do believe there will be those. Such a system could be maintained at lower levels of complexity. I am very doubtful it will happen.

Mostly in this DB I have been trying introduce a bit of reality about what limitations really mean to the happy talk and hand waving car culturists - I know it is pointless.

I have watched this debate with amazement, not sure if this the right place to jump in, but it will do.

So many people on here seem obsessed with EVs, and leave me with the impression they feel every drop of oil needs to be replaced by some other means. Peak oil is about a PEAK in oil not zero production of oil. As the scarcity increases, so does the price. People who find EVs useful can/will change. Others will move to smaller more efficient cars, others to public transport. The one area I feel most people on here are missing is the oil displacement of Nat Gas as high horse power engines, eg Trains, ships, oil & gas production, fracing and heavy trucks, move to using Nat gas instead of diesel.

Cat, GE, Cummins, Rolls Royce are just a few of the heavy hitters investing large amount of time and effort to convert this high oil use market away from diesel. Partly fueled by price but also changes to environmental controls being brought in a few years. As these markets move rapidly away from oil, the pressure for the commuter to make all out changes to EVs will be delayed. Not to say that some EVs will hit the market and be sold to niche markets, but I don't see the pressures to totally dump oil use by the individual in the short term, and I feel natural gas will displace much more oil in the next ten years than any amount of EVs.

And if you do feel as we will have no oil for personal use, remember some good words of advise from one of the long term members here, ie to keep your last gallon of fuel for your chain saw, It will save you a great deal of work.

Agreed! I have a couple of saws, including some with the newer, more efficient "stratocharged" engines that drastically reduce emissions and fuel use. And lots of spare parts. A very small amount of fuel will enable me to heat my home, and I will be willing to pay quite a bit for it.

I've watched with amazement as well, and i figure i'll jump in at this spot (seems as good as any)..
We have a bunch of people who seem obsessed with EV's and don't like to hear anyone say anything but praise for them.
We have a bunch of people (some of them also in the above set) who seem obsessed with cars in general and don't like to hear any suggestion that people (implying they themselves?) will ever live any other way than happy motoring.
We have a bunch of people who absolutely hate cars and don't like to hear anything that suggests that anyone will still be driving them in 1, or 5, or 10, or however many years it is that they hope the last car will finally be parked and abandoned as useless junk.

And all of these bunches of people seem to be preoccupied with sweeping reforms to help enact their desired vision.

keep it simple. The guy who said that reality will happen regardless, he's spot on.
Most people are going to continue to try to solve whatever problems they have right in front of them day to day.
Sometimes cars are really handy to have around. There will come a time not long from now when there won't be any
working motor vehicles left on this planet. Personally i think that will be a good day. Until then, a lot of people will probably find some kind of motorized transportation for stuff or themselves, to be attractive enough to be worth a fair amount of effort. There will not be any single solution which will be rolled out in any comprehensive way. We're already deep into the diminishing or negative returns on complexity, so really everyone dreaming of sweeping reforms (in an organized manner) is just dreaming.
There will be some EVs. There will be some ICE vehicles. There will be carts pulled by donkeys. There will be rickshaws. There will probably be a day when somebody gets the idea to make folks carry his ass around on a sedan chair again. The general trend is clear, mechanized transport, while awfully convenient when people can manage it, is not going to be manageable for a lot longer. Right up to that moment a lot of people will prefer it, and right after that moment those same people will mostly abandon it since then it won't be feasible any longer. Whatever preferences or 'lifestyle' demands they have will at that point get their reckoning with reality.

so, keep it simple. focus on local solutions.

Since I basically believe there is no hope, I can't say I am really hoping for anything. There are things I would like to see happen but that is different from hope. As far as man prevailing, I would like to see that happen at a population of something South of a billion. And as you have pointed out repeatedly, that will happen but it will not be a result of collapse and overshoot.

"... if governments had followed the advice of Macroeconomics 101 since 2009 there would be a lot less unemployment."

I can't ignore that full employment under our current economic system equates to continuing current levels of consumption. Consumption of resources must decline dramatically, eventually to the level of only renewables and recylables, if human societies are to persist much longer. Our cycles need to be closed in accordance with the reality that, for our needs (and the requirements for biospherical continuation), we live in an essentially closed system. The only way for that to happen is to fully reject waste-based economics, and reduce population. We've wandered into a trap, and are not in a position to do these things. We're far too deeply invested in things as they are. And there really is no "we" when it comes to cooperation.

I, too, refuse to accept that we are 'doomed', while also refusing to accept that we, collectively won't be forced to dramatically modify our behavior. Humans are remarkably reactive creatures, and terribly stubborn. We're being forced through a bottleneck of our own making.

"...maybe there are things we can do to improve mankind's difficult future..."

There certainly are. I've been working the problem for some time now, as have many people. It is, however, a problem of scale, and the scale of our overshoot is huge, IMO. Our waste-based, search and destroy industrial era has tremendous inertia; our capacity for change, globally, is retarded. My sole reason for posting these things is, hopefully, to get more people familiar with the seriousness of the situation, though most folks simply don't care. They're distracted, hypnotized, or simply have very limited choices. It's the nature of this trap. Very few of us are capable of equating contraction with progress, but contraction is the one form of progress that will matter.

I don't disagree.

My point was that there WILL be a transition of some sort, so I don't think arguing about it WHETHER it will happen is really useful. Whether that transition is to electric trains or to horses or to feet depends on how bad that interim period is. If you think we're in for total collapse, well, I would say you think we're going to transition to horses and feet. I, personally, feel that is unlikely because there are too many possibilities between what we have now and feet that can be managed. Even Iraq has buses. It would have to be a long, drawn out war like in Somalia or Afghanistan for everything to break down.

As it is, yes, the economy is stagnant, most people are doing worse, and everything is held together with duct tape... But solar and wind are still being built, transitions are being made. You've done it, other people are starting to do it to. To some extent the question is which goes faster. A lot of people are going to fall into poverty, either way.

If we have a market crash ala 2008 again, it will probably be much worse and things will deteriorate quickly. On the other hand, if we have a 20 year period of stagnation like Japan, many more possibilities are open.

My understanding of 'peak' changed quite a bit when it sunk in that what we are party to is the transition of history's largest economy (by far) from being surplus driven to being based largely on salvage and triage. That the "economy is stagnant" is really the apogee of our orbit away from humanity's base line; industrialized humans' wild ride.

Yes, that is the point. The more you used the more you had. Until recently, the more fuel that the biggest economy in the world used the faster it went, and dragged in ever bigger amounts of resources to fuel (resource) its expansion. This 'progress' set up numerous 'arms races' (literal and close analogies) for both the citizens within the economy and for other economies. Count your blessings and see what you can save on the way down?

The master resource was always accompanied by a characteristic energy transmission system.

Wood -> direct heat
Coal -> steam
Oil and gas -> electricity
Renewable -> ???

Oil and gas -> Oil tankers & pipelines, and gas pipelines
Renewable -> electricity

Renewable -> electricity through wires...

Better edit.

We are entering the age of the electron.

Kunstler, of course, is just a writer, with no energy training or experience. He's described himself as an entertainer.

An example: he predicted that Y2K would cause TEOTWAWKI. He didn't say that it was a big risk that could be fixed by determined programmers, he said flatly that we were doomed.

I don't read JHK as often as I used to. "Entertainer" is probably the best description of him, but his humor is pretty black. The referenced article is pretty good but typically loose with facts. I've come to conclude that anyone who offers that he understands what happened in the recent economic conflagration is either trying to kid his audience or himself.

Well he's not a scientist or engineer so when he wades into technical things his writing can get pretty bad. He's got a narrative and he is sticking to it . . . no matter how much things change.

The world is far wider than California's silicon valley. EVs won't work for us or for almost everyone I know...that is until the range hits 300-400 miles.


Well explain this one to me. I'm very curious. Do you and all your friends commute 300 miles in a day?
I'm going to have to doubt that since statistically around 90% of commutes are less than 60 miles a day.

I think it is mostly just a change in thinking required and maybe a few rentals for long weekend trips.

We live 50 miles from the store. My daughter lives 150 miles away from us. I cannot go to the store and back with a leaf, even if it is only once every two weeks. I would find it hard to imagine stopping for a couple of charges to go 'down Island, although if I had to I would. Before I would ever buy an ev I would buy a new small to medium sized MC and pick my days to travel.

To rent a vehicle to go down Island I would have to drive 60 miles one way. The bus is very expensive and runs once per day and there is no train service as the tracks stop 80 miles away. Where I used to work in Yukon 300 km between towns is the norm. Canada is a big wide open country with a small population...too small to make ev infrastructure possible, although the nearest city got a grant to install 3 charging stations. They also wasted $300,000.00 dollars for a 'green roof' on city hall...here, in an area that rains 90-100 inches per year and rarely gets warm/hot. I assume if you have an ev you would know where the charging stations are hidden? Maybe behind city hall?

I also find it handy to fill up a few Gerry cans when I am in town for the tractor, etc. You will have to accept my word that an EV would be a waste of money for us. I would be better off with a hand pulled cart or an MC side car. I already have the bicycle for scooting around local.

I love our Yaris and my 86 Toyota PU. They work and are affordable. The windows roll down and no failing circuit boards in the truck. It can be fixed at home for the price of jobber parts. Maint. on new vehicles is absolutely dumb/expensive when something fails.

I can imagine the groans when the bills come in for check ups at the Dealer or when the electronics get damp and act pissy in an ev. Modern cars are waaaay too complicated and expensive, imho.


Yes, Canada is a big country with a small population but surprisingly a higher percentage of Canadians live in urban areas than Americans. The percentage of Canadians who live 50 or more miles from a store would be quite small.

A lot of stores in rural communities have gone out of business because with better roads most people prefer to drive to a larger center to do their shopping. A larger town offers more choice and lower prices. However, as driving becomes more expensive and we are no longer able to afford to maintain nice paved roads everywhere we can expect that general stores will start to reappear in some rural areas.

What you're describing is not, to me, a problem with EV's OR of Train Services, but a problem with where and how you live. Sorry if that's offensive, but I don't find it is the responsibility of the Car Manufacturers, the Road Makers or the Railways to keep providing people with a cheap way of covering such vast distances in order to keep their lives going.. some of our 'pop. density' issues were created by cheap and dirty fuels, and the changes surely may come from recognizing when an area is just not supportable, and people have to consolidate or adjust their expectations for access.

I see EV's as helpful, even essential in some roles, and surely FARE cleaner than ICE cars in doing so, but I also chose our home where we can walk our daughter to grade, middle and high school, walk to many shops and town resources, walk or bike to work, I moved my Dad in from out of state (3 hour drive) to where he's 3 blocks walk from me now. The short drives that I do have to do for family and work are actually the WORST for our car, as the Engine is the least efficient in the first couple miles, which is not the case with Electrics.

I know many others aren't in anything like this situation, and it takes some real hurdles to change the scene and all these components around us.. but we have to really look at our own assumptions and expectations, and do the work to become ready for the next stage..

What you're describing is not, to me, a problem with EV's OR of Train Services, but a problem with where and how you live. Sorry if that's offensive, but I don't find it is the responsibility of the Car Manufacturers, the Road Makers or the Railways to keep providing people with a cheap way of covering such vast distances in order to keep their lives going.. some of our 'pop. density' issues were created by cheap and dirty fuels, and the changes surely may come from recognizing when an area is just not supportable, and people have to consolidate or adjust their expectations for access.

Maybe JStewart lives in the country because his work is there. Our comfortable suburban white-collar lives are wholly dependent on a just-in-time industrial system that starts with raw resources . . . found in the country. The infrastructure that processes basic resource and transport them for finishing is what makes this internet and your life operate so seamlessly. We can not live without it.

Perhaps it is not JStewart "problem" that his life's work is in an area you consider "not supportable." Perhaps the problem is yours. Is JSteward a miner, timber worker? Does he educate their children, service their machines? JStewart and (ultimately our lives) are dependent on Jerry Cans, easily transportable energy. Every truck and car out here in the Humboldt wilderness has a ready source of backup energy they can carry in their hands, refill at a distant gas station. The same can not be said about electricity. The energy density of liquid petroleum is 500 times that of a lead acid battery. The former is convenient. The latter impossible.

One Detail.. the reply was to Paulo, not J Stewart.

Really, I have no way of knowing if his locale is truly supportable or not, but when he says it's 50 miles to get to the (essential?) stores every week or two and three times as far to get to family, the warning bells start to go off.

It's a numbers game. If he can afford the gas, if his province can afford to keep the roads together, if the community can support their own stores, if if if...

'The former is convenient..' uh huh, that's one word for it. It's also the focus of this website, for reasons I shouldn't have to detail here. The question is whether it Requires that High Density fuel, at a certain price.. to be able to hold jobs or keep a home or a town or a company going out where you have such high travel and fuel requirements. Some people think that because a town or a house is there today, that it has some kind of right or guarantee to be permitted to remain. (Permitted by economics, that is, not by government)

So again, is it the 'Lead Acid Battery' that's really Impossible in this scenario? I tend to think that puts the cart before the horse, if you take my meaning.

The issue is not whether Paulo's locale is supportable, but how and who will support it. Can we produce an alternative transport system to access raw resources away from populations centers? Can EV excavators, loaders, trailers, bulldozers, etc procure our essential elements. That would require electric transmission lines to the woods, to each timber harvest plan. I do not believe an EV pickup truck could possibly support those machines with diesel fuel, spare parts, lunches? Or extra batteries? Many exurban lives are faux-frontier indulgences. But many are real. It would not be possible to run a farm community on EV's. We live in the city precisely because folks are willing and able to live in the country to support our city/suburban lives. Those folks could not do it with EV's.

The same can be said for the support infrastructure that surrounds us in the city and burbs. Can a plumber racing to a stopped toilet really afford to change out his dead battery? Would you tolerate it?

"The issue is not whether Paulo's locale is supportable, but how and who will support it.."

I really disagree. We have people living far up mountain-ranges, out in deep deserts, up in unproductive frozen territories, out on barren islands. A great many remote homesteads are held together by a more precious and untenable umbilical line of artificially cheap food and supplies brought in by artificially or at least deceptively cheap energy. These are not all just 'farmlands and mines that support the cities'. If they do provide an indispensable product, we'll pay for that product as long as we can, and then we won't.. and that place will become another Ghost-town, Ghost-factory.. or the people there will figure out how to live without having to lean on that umbilical the way they used to.

Let's keep watching Vegas and Fairbanks, and see which one holds out better. Watch my town, too. Who knows? What about Hawaii? Some of these places might be excellent for 15,000 people, but just not for 750,000. But NYC and my Portland, well watered natural harbors that connect rivers and railheads into forest and farmland, factory and the Atlantic Ocean.. I think they have fairly durable roles to play for the long haul.. I hope.

You seem to have misunderstood my comment. I have no doubt that the exurban false-frontier lifestyle, romanticized by so many suburbanites is not sustainable. (Nor is that realized on Hawawii and other remote places). These living arrangements are more dependent, not less, on the oil infrastructure than those found in the inner city. Attached-walled structures, made with hefty materials can offer more privacy, better sound insulation, longer lives and durability, and higher energy efficiencies than shoddy thin-walled private homes on mini-estates. Plus the relatively small properties are not really consequential for food, energy, or security needs.

My reference to an "editorial" Paulo (perhaps inappropriate, and I apologize to all parties concerned) was for another kind of a person who lives in the country and is not-so-apparent necessity for the urban person. Petroleum has to reach the timber, mineral, agriculture resources and the men/woman work them. That means a chain of infrastructures that includes convenience stores, markets, motels, fuel, has to run from the city to the country. All the way. EV can not support such a structure. It is not the distance that is the threat. It is the possibility of losing the life-giving charge. You die if you can not drive out, if you are unable recharge a battery, or drag a thousand-pound battery pack through the snow.

"I have no doubt that the exurban false-frontier lifestyle, romanticized by so many suburbanites is not sustainable. (Nor is that realized on Hawaii and other remote places)."

Funny thing, people have lived on the frontier for a very long time - long, long before cars and gasoline. They just didn't get groceries nearly as often, and many things were brought to them by travelling salesmen. I met a lady who grew up in Hokkaido when it was still mostly a forest, and she told me about these things... And that's just within the living memory of one person.

As for Hawaii:

A)It has more agricultural potential than any of you realize, and more renewable potential than it needs
B)It's in the middle of major trade routes between Asia and North America - which made it very cosmopolitan even in the 19th century, during the Kingdom period
C)Many of the people here are military or supported by the military, because of its strategic position

I have no doubt that many people will leave Hawaii if the economy gets tough. Many people leave as it is. But you guys are talking as though these places exist in a vacuum. Some people move because they can, sure, but generally people live where they live for some reason. These places will continue to exist, even if the economy changes. Populations may change, industries may change, and some places may decline greatly, but there will still be people living in the sticks. There may be MORE people, if agriculture becomes important again or trade becomes more expensive - Upstate New York is depopulated compared to when it was a center for agriculture, or when it was a center for industry.

. It would not be possible to run a farm community on EV's.

I did the calcs on using an EV tractor to far the land as being done now in past TOD article comment sections.

Go read 'em to see how the EV faithful claim batteries will work.

Our locale perhaps supports a great many of those who live in cities because we supply the raw materials used by sawmills, pulpmills, and the fishing plants. Indeed, the wealth we generate has been funneled, first back east in the 1800s (London UK and then Toronto), and now worldwide to urbanites who currently own the shares in the multi-nationals our resources feed.

We choose to live here...and I can afford the fuel to get to town. And, I just planted 133 hills of potatoes for our family, will produce 30 broilers, catch 200 lbs of salmon, grow our own vegetables, and grow our wood which we use to heat with. We may get a deer or two and pay all required taxes to keep our infrastructure in place. Furthermore, our fire protection is volunteer, and we supply our own water and sewerage (septic).

If the Province cannot keep the roads going, well...you/they won't get our wood or fish, so I guess the roads will remain for awhile yet. It isn't like we are parasites...in fact, it seems like it is the other way around most days.

Cheers...Paulo (I would have replied sooner, but I am in town taking a full-time welding course to add to my carpentry and piloting. I used to teach but am returning to forestry/construction as I find it more satisfying.)

I think many of us carry our own weight and I need to remind those who think that rural folks who use more fuel in transport may actually use far less fuel in their chosen lifestyle and may well support a great many people who seem to be cutting edge green.

We are all in this together and need to approach our problems collectively. All I said was that a Nissan leaf would not work for me or mine. This ain't Contra Costa County, Dorothy.

Bye for now.

And if I offended anyone about Contra Costa it was not intended. That is where I was born and from where we left in 68. It is a beautiful place where I would choose to live if there were perhaps 25 million fewer residents in California. Too crowded, and dare I say....too many cars. I miss our orange trees and lemon bushes. We even had olive trees.


We choose to live here...and I can afford the fuel to get to town. And, I just planted 133 hills of potatoes for our family, will produce 30 broilers, catch 200 lbs of salmon, grow our own vegetables, and grow our wood which we use to heat with. We may get a deer or two and pay all required taxes to keep our infrastructure in place. Furthermore, our fire protection is volunteer, and we supply our own water and sewerage (septic).

If the Province cannot keep the roads going, well...you/they won't get our wood or fish, so I guess the roads will remain for awhile yet. It isn't like we are parasites...in fact, it seems like it is the other way around most days.

In two short paragraphs you basically just described how rural life is the only life which is really sustainable.

People cannot eat Mortgage Backed Securities nor can they quench their thirst with stocks&bonds and the latest iPhone will not keep them warm on a frigid night.

The best thing about cities, the thing they really have going for them, is that they leave the countryside intact by compacting the physical footprint on the land...which leaves the rural areas that actually generate the life-giving substances of food, of water (watersheds, lakes, streams), where the materials to build shelter are sourced, where the things that make life possible are found.

As human society goes, trying to separate the cities from the country is the classic 'Pound of Flesh' .. you can have the flesh if you can take it without taking any blood, which wasn't in the bargain.

We've had 'City and Country' in our cultural makeup for many, many centuries now, and they are just highly complementary in many ways.. while it's no surprise to hear the classic back and forth continue.

But even in the para's you pointed to, it started with, "..and I can afford the fuel to get to town." That point is likely to become more of a crux for many areas and situations.. and Peak Oil will also be hitting a long-driving shopper at the Grocery Store and the Hardware, .. you paint it merely as 'Rural Living', but I'm saying that back-country is not some monolith of sustainable plenty.. and once the Truck and the Generator Tank have started weighing heavier and heavier, and even when that bumper crop of Apples just didn't sell well after the price crash.. or we just can't seem to fill enough Casinos to pay that California DeSal-Water Bill.. well, it might be time to leave the old place behind.

I appreciate the details, Paulo, and I can't be all that surprised that you have things worked out. I think my point stands, even if it doesn't necessarily apply to your area, which sounds to be plenty productive. But the balance for many who aren't at all ready for this will shift, and drastically for some places as transportation makes greater distances more expensive to reach.

I do agree that we have to work together.. robust electric rail will hopefully be wisely placed to provide a healthy circulatory system, and it will need a good balance between public and private investment and control in order to proceed without the kind of Monopolization that can undermine the effort.

I don't disparage rural life, .. it was no accident that I also mentioned cities like Vegas as well as homesteads that are way out, and hanging on any number of energy-enabled components that will ultimately weigh in to show their place as tenable or not.

The issue isn't replacing 100% of vehicles with EVs, replacing 95% would work. We can still create liquid fuels via any of several processes in small volumes. There will still be some needs for the older tech. As long as those neds are not too great they shouldn't be a problem.

Thank you. Jeebus. So much discussion as if all solutions have to be all or nothing. If we focus on medium size towns and cities, we fix 95% of the problem.

It's actually Paulo, not me, who lives in a remote area. I don't think we can generalize the rural lifestyle. For some, they need to be there to produce natural resources needed by society. For others, it is a personal choice. Consumption of fossil fuels is also highly variable. At one extreme you'll have people who are largely self sufficient and only use fuel for infrequent shopping trips. At the other end, you'll have people who are into all manner of mechanized equipment -- boats, snowmobiles, ATV's, 4x4 pickup trucks and use far more fossil fuels than your average city dweller.

In Canada, we also have many remote aboriginal communities that are accessible only by air or winter ice roads. There is no economic reason for most of these communities to exist -- they are there because that is where their ancestors lived and the Federal Government picks up the tab of providing a modern lifestyle. The per capita consumption of fossil fuels in these communities and to keep them supplied would be extremely high.

Going back to 1975 before all this was considered much of an issue, I always made a point of living close to work even if it cost me more for housing or I had to have a smaller house. Most others with similar income made different choices as they chose to live 30 miles for work and get to work over impossibly crowded freeways. They felt like their bigger homes made it worthwhile. But I don't feel like I should subsidize their choices.

Sure, there are those people who don't have much of a choice. However, I have found that my peers always had choices and they generally chose to drive long distances. My boss even told me he preferred to live far from work so he could "think" while driving to work. Yeh, driving through rush hour traffic is a great way to get some high quality thinking done. In his case, it clearly was not that helpful.

You live 50 miles from the nearest store? OK, fine. You are an exception. An EV is not for you. Of course a PHEV like the Volt would work but it might not be worth it. But a couple things: (1) You are statistical outlier, the vast majority of people live in and around cities, not out in the middle of nowhere; and (2) It is your choice to live there. You can move. If oil prices keep going up, you might need unless there is a reason you are out in the middle of nowhere. For example, if you are a farmer then you have to be out in a remote area. And as I've indicated a few times, the market is always going to prioritize food (people need to eat) such that money will be allocated to ensure farmers have the oil they need to grow food.

He may be an exception, but he is a critical exception that you depend on. Critical resource-extraction workers in the country (not just farmers, but oil field and pipeline workers, the folks who maintain electric transmission lines, etc.) support our middle-class services/information occupations. In the city carpenters, electricians, road-crews, municipal utility workers, food truckers do not have the luxury of EV's.

Exactly. Those that really are critical resource-extraction workers will get the oil resources they need since the market will pay what it must pay to obtain those critical resources. And oil itself is one. As demand grew and supply became anemic, people largely kept buying gasoline as the price rose from $2/gallon to $4/gallon. People what they could to reduce their usage but if you really need something, you'll pay for it.

We are not going to get rid of oil in the next 100 years. But as it becomes more and more scarce, we'll adopt more substitutes like EVs when when can and we'll use it more efficiently with more aerodynamic and lighter vehicles.

Weirdly i'm within 10 minutes walk of 3 supermarkets. An EV is actually too much for my needs.

For A person(s) living more than 50 miles away from a store, there are other solutions.. Like....

Car pooling(sharing a ride to store with neighbors and split the fuel costs). Purchasing a dedicated chest freezer and buying larger quantities of food each trip(reducing the number of trips). Planting a garden with greenhouse or (cold frame) to extend the growing season. Canning seasonal food surpluses for later use.

The solution for Peak oil and global warming will not be a one size fits all solution. Everybody will face different challenges specific to his or her situation. The key question, are you creative enough to implement them?

Hey Paulo, I took my Leaf out to Tofino, I just need a couple hours top-up in Alberni. I was looking into how I could get it to Port Hardy, that would be a bit of a stretch... a multi-day expedition.

A Volt with maybe say 80 miles of range would work better for you though.

An electric US will be a divided country.

EV's work fine for us in Houston.

I have personal experience that suggests EV can be adopted more broadly with moderate will to change and little pain. Our Leaf is leased (39 months) $275 per month. Capital lease cost per mile is about 15-20 cents. Cost per mile for fuel 2.2 cents - 100% renewable power contracted for 3 years at a fixed price 8.7 cents/kwhr. No volatility in pricing, unlike that "other fuel" that jumps in price between $3 and $4 per gallon -- and maybe higher in future. Other maintenance is very small for the Leaf - no oil changes, no smog inspections, etc. Insurance is comparable to another small car we drive... We also have a Civic 4 cylinder gasoline, which costs about 12-15 cents per mile for capex (we own it, so to get that low a rate means we need to keep it to 125K miles -- we are at 60K now) and 10-13 cents per mile for fuel. Compare that to other options often used for commuting in Houston; I pass them every day on my 11 mile commute to / from work. F150 crew cabs. Estimating Capex about 25-30 cents per mile. Fuel costs about 15-20 cents per mile. Total cost 50 cents per mile (like the IRS allowance). EV at 25 cents per mile all in, is Very economical.

But EV is not all purpose -- It won't pull a boat on that one or two weekends that you choose to go to the lake. It won't take 6 passengers easily when all the kids / grandkids are in town. It won't drive on the interstate for 25 hours at 80 mph to go from Houston to San Fransisco. We use ICE cars, usually rented, for some of this (of course, we don't own a boat). These uses occur only rarely -- probably only 2-5% of the use of the vehicle.

So, our neighbor, the F150 owner, is paying a lot for the option of driving his owned vehicle on those rare instances -- take all the excess cost for the 95% of normal driving, and roll it onto the 5% "optional" driving use. His ability to over-pay so much for those few occasions is the real excess cost in our society's current vehicle fleet. Cutting down cars to a "normal use", switching that normal use to EV, and switching to time-share approaches (rentals) for the "optionality use" helps to fix the excess cost problem , and will help make a transportation system founded on autos a lot more affordable in future, particularly as oil prices climb.

One other thing: Based on our own experience at our business, what is needed to make EVs work for the broader population is simple: charging at multiple locations, primarily a) home at night = 10 hrs and b) work during day = 8 hrs. These require only simple 110 V 15 A circuits; slow charging works for about 80% of all trips - you can charge up 32 miles of range in 8 hours at 110 V. Most commutes are less than 30 miles. These outlets are found in most garages, but maybe not (yet) at most employers parking lots. At our business, we installed faster Level II chargers at our multiple store locations; these are needed only for day trippers to recharge. We offer them for free charging to any EV who comes to the store (it costs little to pay for the electricity after making the $1500 investment in the Level II charge + installation).

In Houston, EV Go has a network of about 20 superfast chargers (400V DC). We have a subscription; we use it only a few times a month at most, to cover extra range driving when there is a problem that requires driving 150+ miles in a day -- such as repeated visit to a store. It can and does work.

Not tough to do. Not end of world. Not hyperbole. It requires sustained, moderate change efforts at employer and consumer levels. Change is hard for many to contemplate. But the technology is there, and it is not hard to adopt.

Finally, I want to address the "all or nothing" mentality. We don't need to go overnight from 100% ICE to 100% EV. All we need to do is manage a transition, about in line with the fleet turnover, 10-11 years, and make sure that distributed renewable power is grown at the same rate. EV doesn't have to provide exactly the same experience as we currently have with petroleum ICE's. It just needs to do enough so that society can operate more or less within its parameters of acceptable rates of change. It isn't doom. And it isn't cornucopian. But it is a path that will be one of many that we are likely to take.

"EVs won't work for us or for almost everyone I know...that is until the range hits 300-400 miles."

That's overly pessimistic. 80 miles under worst case conditions would do fine for me and I have a longish commute. The Leaf does 45 miles under those conditions, so it's already half-way there. A Leaf would drop my gas consumption by 3/4.

I can even negotiate a bit on the worst case. As in any morning less than 20 F or when snow is in the forecast, I take the truck. There aren't that many of those days, so I'd still cut my gas consumption by well over half.

And the Nimh's pushing Rav4EV's from a decade ago..

Comment #6..

Silver 2002. Purchased new. Lots of reflective informational stickers on the back. Powered from our roof-top 4.5kW solar PV system. We regularly see 150 miles of range. ...

http:// www.evnut. com/rav_owner_gallery .htm

(Where they have a link for the RAV owners who have hit 100k miles, and now one has made it to 200k (150,000 on the first Nimh pack)

We have already largely replaced it for electricity generation.

We are not replacing oil for electrical generation on a worldwide basis. Oil only produces about 5 percent of the world's electricity. Coal produces about 41 percent of the world's electricity and that percentage is not dropping. Natural gas produces about 21 percent of the world's electricity. But the main point, electric cars will only have a marginal effect on CO2 emissions and fossil fuel use.

Search: CO2 Emissions from Electrical Generation: 1980 to 2030

Ron P.

We're not decarbonizing our primary energy use at all.

The low intensities before 1900 are due to the relatively high contribution of biomass to the primary energy mix, while the carbon emission measurements from CDIAC only cover fossil fuels and cement manufacture.

We are making no overall progress whatsoever in reducing the carbon intensity of our aggregate energy use. We were making some progress for 35 years, but then China decided to join the 20th century at the beginning of the 21st, and that was the end of that.

I've come to the conclusion that large-scale human behavior (i.e. culture) is best understood through the lens of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, as it operates in far from equilibrium open systems. When seen this way, our behavior (cars, cities, growing social complexity, growing population, industrial agriculture, the search for ever more energy, our favouring of concentrated forms like FF over diffuse forms like wind and solar, our inability to prioritize efforts to deal with entropic waste like CO2 and chemical pollution) all makes perfect sense.

Our decisions as a species are all made to encourage the operation of the Second Law (2LoT), and we can barely even understand that the consequences are negative. It's not even just the way we humans are genetically constructed or culturally educated. The universe is founded on the teleomatic and teleonomic qualities of 2LoT - in fact that's where all the structure we see around us comes from. It should therefore come as no surprise that the same teleomatic and teleonomic qualities that govern the inanimate universe and the operation of all life, also underpin our teleological cultural activities.

As much as we like to think these are all rational free choices we're making, at a deep fundamental level, they are not volitional at all. 2LoT is a natural teleomatic principle - the energetic equivalent of gravity's operation in the world of matter. As a species and a civilization, we can no more choose to ignore a steep potential energy gradient than we can choose to fall up instead of down. Of course we can see gravity operating in our lives and plan accordingly. Unfortunately we can't see the operation of 2LoT directly, and our brain has developed some cunning devices that keep us from recognizing its operation in abstract domains like culture.

We believe we are free agents, when in fact our apparently unlimited range of choices is sharply circumscribed by the requirements of the Second Law. We just develop other, logical reasons for doing what 2LoT tells us to do - just as we do when we rationalize all our other unconscious, emotion-driven decision-making.

We are not replacing oil for electrical generation on a worldwide basis. Oil only produces about 5 percent of the world's electricity.

We have dropped in the past and we are starting to drop again. It used to be up around 20% and we've dropped it down to 5%. We still use oil in places where there is nothing else because oil is easy transport. So remote islands tend to use oil. And we use oil in places that are oil exporters. The reduction of oil for electricity has stalled out for a couple decades because prices were stable. But the use of oil for electricity is now starting to drop again because the price of oil rose so much. In particular, the oil exporting nations are realizing it is stupid to burn valuable oil for electricity and are moving to natural gas, wind, solar, etc.

Coal produces about 41 percent of the world's electricity and that percentage is not dropping. Natural gas produces about 21 percent of the world's electricity. But the main point, electric cars will only have a marginal effect on CO2 emissions and fossil fuel use.

If use electricity that is 100% coal generated then an EV is around equal to a gas car on CO2 emissions. But other than that, the EV wins. Why? Cars are only like 20 to 25% efficient whereas power plants are 40 to 60% efficient and EVs are like 85% efficient. And the grid is turning greener every year as more wind, solar, and natural gas are installed. Last year, more wind power was added to the grid than any other type of electricity generation (natural gas was #2).

There is a reason why the various environmental groups push EVs . . . and it is not peak oil. They've run the numbers. Take it up with them.

"There is a reason why the various environmental groups push EVs" I am pretty sure they did not read the statistics about electricity generation.

40% * 85% = 34%
60% * 85% = 51%
The range for cars is 20% to 25% versus 34% to 51% it is clearly a lot more effecient with EV. Gasoline consumption could be cut in half but we would still use a lot of it.

One great advantage with EV is the diverse sources of energy for electricity generation. For an EV almost any kind of energy source could be used.

If use electricity that is 100% coal generated then an EV is around equal to a gas car on CO2 emissions.

And if the EV is charged using 100% coal at night, the CO2 emissions are likely to be far less than an average car as the typical coal power plant runs at a much reduced efficiency at night due to the much lower load.

Well, with the price of oil per unit of energy being several times that of any of the other usual FF and RE sources, it certainly makes sense to move that 5% of electrical generation by oil to something else (preferably a renewable source). I heard that China had the most electricity generated by oil of any country a few years ago and that they were determined to replace it (most likely with coal).

If your figure of 5% of the world's electricity generated by oil is correct, that is about 4.3 mb/d if I did the math correctly and coincidentally also about 5% of the world's oil consumption.

FWIW Henry Groppe claimed back in 2007 that the world's use of oil for electricity production (mostly in the developing world) was more like 15 mb/d. So if true the world has made some progress in this conversion. Reduction in oil use for electricity may have also helped keep oil prices from rising even more than they have (or keeping us from a worse economic situation).

... everything in the U.S. economy worked on revolving credit, including the issuance of money itself (which was loaned into existence by the banks), ...

It always seems to me that there is no difference between the government printing money into existence (interest free!) and banks lending into existence. It has the same result... more money. Same consequences... inflation, or ameliorization of deflation. Same danger - hyperinflation if done too much. Same benefit - the government pays their bills.

It seems to me that in balance printing is better since it eliminates the middle man, and the interest part (which must be paid through taxes). In fact, since the loan must all be paid with taxes, I should think Grover Norquist would want that!

Just thinking.


More money may cause inflation, but it may also cause the velocity of money to go down. If you print money and people just stuff it behind the mattress for later use, it has no effect on the economy. Except that it may become a time bomb when people start spending that money at the same time, which may just happen when inflation picks up and people realize that their savings should be in something with real value.

Re: Why is Reuters puzzled by global warming's acceleration?

The author of this piece, Dana Nuccitelli, points to an article which he (and others) published in the journal Physics Letters. They contend that the apparent lack of warming in the atmospheric data is being hidden in deep warming in the world's oceans. There's a link to this other commentary, along with discussion, at SkepticalScience.


E. Swanson

It seems like each day I wake up with a different hunch about what will get us first: climate change, or net energy decline (what I've taken to calling peak oil). Or maybe they will take us down in tandem, like a couple of hungry wolves.

Which way are you leaning today?

You don't have to choose! They are both consequences of having used the majority of that stored solar energy, with the results that the easy to get, highest net energy oil is gone and that the carbon bonds in which the energy was stored are broken and the carbon is released.

Lots of bad things happen in the petri dish after a while, but you can't get out of the dish even if you do decide which one of them is worse.

Doomesday Report: How Are Humans Going To Become Extinct?

What are the greatest global threats to humanity? Are we on the verge of our own unexpected extinction?

An international team of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers at Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute is investigating the biggest dangers.

And they argue in a research paper, Existential Risk as a Global Priority, that international policymakers must pay serious attention to the reality of species-obliterating risks. Last year there were more academic papers published on snowboarding than human extinction.

The Swedish-born director of the institute, Nick Bostrom, says the stakes couldn't be higher. If we get it wrong, this could be humanity's final century.

Dr Bostrom believes we've entered a new kind of technological era with the capacity to threaten our future as never before. These are "threats we have no track record of surviving".


Don't rule out the unseen large space object impact. Much as I would prefer this NOT to happen, I wonder about the behavior of humanity from discovery to impact including possible futile attempts to neutralize the threat.

And just to add a bit of drama/irony assume this happens soon after we have "solved" the fossil fuel and climate change challenges - or not.

Perhaps a good Hollywood movie script - oh wait.

The impact of the large object might significantly reduce but eliminate homo sapiens. Hopefully, the survivors, if any, will make better choices than we did. In any event, the planet and the universe will continue onward.

Odd. Scanning this thread I am reminded that in the 1950s we were constantly discussing nuclear "end of the world" scenarios. At least the discussions are a little more varied now. Are any of them more likely? Who knows?, but it will all be over when the sun eventually explodes. So ask yourself whether it really matters if its 50 years or 10 million.

The end of all life on earth will occur long before our sun becomes a red giant. Sol, (like all stars), has been steadily brightening over billions of years. Earth's biosphere fate was sealed a long time ago, total extinction in 500 to 900 million years. Then Earth becomes another Venus.

Thus is a huge reason why we must solve AGW problem. Humanities current run up of GHG could trigger an early final and permanent extinction event.

I.E. There is no guarantee that earth's biosphere will survive another extreme heating cycle like PTE. Conditions have changed and the outcome could be a one shot deal.

Well, the US could simply outlaw "sustainable" like some Kansas legislators want to do.

Kansas Sustainable Development Ban Proposed By State Legislator

Like those "Too Big to Fail" banks, there's no problem so big that "we" can't ignore it...

E. Swanson

Climate change will cause ever more unpredictable weather extremes and drain increasingly scarce monetary and natural resources. We will throw vast sums of money and energy at fixing things up to be "better than before" (e.g. millions of $$ to restore beaches and boardwalks after Hurricane Sandy - with the work done by lots and lots of diesel machinery)...

I think it was 2011 and 2012 that each had at least ten natural disasters in the USA alone with damages over a billion $$...

At some point there is just not enough capital to sustain continuous "adaptive / restoration responses" while at the same time financing the cheap energy exploitation that must occur to allow those responses to happen.

At the tipping point we will be forced to just abandon our hopes of adapting specific locations - the only applicable adaptation will be giving up and leaving. That too will require vast amounts of energy.

Definitely will be a one - two punch... only question is which one merely delivers the jab that stuns us and sets us up for the one that turns our lights out with a brutal uppercut.

That is my guaranteed scenario (*)

* subject to change due to various unknown unknowns

Nice analogy the boxing one. My thoughts are the myriad of climate events are the jabs. The brutal uppercut will be when we are told 'sorry Ghawar is tapped out, no more exports' or something like that.

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels Nearing Historic Threshold. As CO2 Reaches Symbolic Milestone, Scripps Launches Daily Keeling Curve Update

For the first time in human history, concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) could rise above 400 parts per million (ppm) for sustained lengths of time throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere as soon as May 2013.

For the past 800,000 years, CO2 levels never exceeded 300 parts per million.

"I wish it weren't true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400-ppm level without losing a beat," said Scripps geophysicist Ralph Keeling, who has taken over the Keeling Curve measurement from his late father. "At this pace we'll hit 450 ppm within a few decades."

Scientists estimate that the last time CO2 was as high as 400 ppm was probably the Pliocene epoch, between 3.2 million and 5 million years ago, when Earth's climate was much warmer than today.


This whole "global warming reversed for the last 15 years" fails on only one simple factor. One so simple most, or all, people fails to recognize it. And that is that climate is measured over periods of 30 years.

Anything less than that is just a series of weather observations. You need 30 years of data to talk about climate. This practice have been developed in order to avoid this kind of weather fluctuations.

That would be problematic because under such a stipulation we couldn't talk about arctic sea ice disappearing, or increases in weather disasters. No, the only yardstick is if the change is statistically significant. The heating of the last 15 years isn't statistically different from the longer term trend, so the conclusion that heating has stopped is unsupported. The temperatures of the last 15 years aren't significantly different from the model predictions either, so the conclusion that the current temperatures prove the models wrong is unsupported too.

Unfortunately, few people understand statistics. Perhaps we should just argue that, since today isn't warmer than yesterday, we have now proven that summer won't come this year.

The PIOMAS model of arctic sea ice volume is on a linear trend to hit zero before september 2020, with rapid acceleration in the last decade, making September 2017 the more likely date. The results of this modelling have been largely backed up by measurements from recently launched satellite data, and annecdotally by the fragmentation of the sea ice this spring.

The world may not be on average much warmer, but the north pole is changing beyond all recognition.

It was from The Oil Drum comments four years ago that I learned about electric bicycles and made the decision to have an electric motor/battery kit put on my bike with an Xtracycle attachment. Thanks TODers! Now it appears electric bicycles are on the verge of becoming trendy. Here's my review of the pluses and minuses of electric bicycles for anyone considering one.



Here is a great personal story. Karen and her family dropped one car out of two, in favor of using e-bikes for short-trips. Savings was large; personal satisfaction was also large.

This, I think, is an example of how we can transition successfully to a future of hope.

Well that's what makes TOD different from other websites, people need information on which they can act upon, to make a real change to their lives and this forum provides that.

Hi A.C. Interesting statistic, that. Of course, we still imported 46.44% of our needs, which we hear are decreasing.

I think it is great that we are not bringing as much oil in for our use; not so great that we are still so dependent, not only on foreign oil, but on oil in general, for so much of our economic and agricultural activities.


While the barrel price in 1992 was under $20, or 1/4 to 1/5 the current price, while real wages in the US have been essentially flat for the vast majority of the population, against steep food, insurance and fuel cost rises. Gas, from $1.10 to $3.50 over the same stretch.

This is like cheering as the car speeds up, rolling towards the edge.

And some more info on those Bakken projections I posted in the last Drumbeat.

Evolution continues: Densities could reach 24 wells per pad; 6,000 wells over next 3 years

For purposes of long-term projections, Helms said the division has used six wells per pad. With approximately 8,000 spacing units proposed for the Bakken/Three Forks play, that number results in an estimated 48,000 wells that will ultimately be drilling to fully develop the resource. That total number of well bores, he added, is nearly 10 times the current number of wells producing from the Bakken petroleum system. Fully developing that system is going to be a decades-long process, Helms concluded.

Yes, but they are in a Race with the Red Queen. They will have drilled the first wells in the "sweet spots" in the formation - since it was discovered 50 years ago everyone knows where the sweet spots are and they will have drilled them first. Each well will have a very steep decline rate, and each infill well will start out with a lower production rate than the first well in the area. They have to drill faster and faster to get ahead. Eventually they will completely drill out the formation - since it is a finite size - and run out of new places to drill.

So, sooner or later, the Red Queen will win the race with the drillers, and the total production rate will start to decline. It is not really a question of "if?" it is a question of "when?".

Those of us paid by the well will enjoy the race while it's run. Not sure there will be many 24-well pads in ND, but that's neither here nor there. Been there, done that. Heard about one 42 well pad in CO. Equipped a 32 already, but forget where that one was.

I hope it hold out a few more years.......

I've seen 24 well pads years ago in Northern Alberta. However, it was a heavy oil project and the wells weren't very deep.

In the oil sands they are reportedly drilling up to 100 SAGD wells off a pad these days. Wells typically last 4-5 years but unlike the Bakken the decline curve doesn't decline and is flat right up until it crashes at the end. The main difference is that the formation is about the size of Florida, and they typically drill the SAGD horizontal wells on 100 m (330 ft) spacing, sometimes with infills on 50 m (165 ft) spacing. It will take a century or more to drill out the formations at the current rate.

I don't yet have a good steam app and the right channel, but SAGD is on my list. If nothing else I'd like to visit and see it -- must be an impressive operation!

Wow. That is a lot of wells. That can't be cheap. And yet some people are thinking the Bakken is gonna push oil back down $40/barrel. Those people are going to be sorely disappointed.

Ran across this account of an EV1. This is the 2nd generation with NiMH batteries. I've mentioned this model before as well as it having a solid 120 mile range which was met with disbelief. Keep in mind...this was over 12 years ago.


About 20 miles down the freeway, I was finally feeling pretty good heat, but I had to keep the temp selector on high for about a half hour. Finally, I had to back it off to about midway to keep things comfortable inside my electric cocoon. Tired of the political game, I found some pump’n rock on the FM groove to keep me entertained; for such a high tech car, it’s stereo is lack luster. Oh well, at least I had some tunes to listen to. After an hour of continuous 70+ mph freeway cruising that included quite a bit of hill climbing (nothing really steep), and with the heat pump using juice the entire time, and with the car’s multitude of fans, pumps, and lights all getting in on the current gig, I was astounded to see that the range meter still showed 79 miles left, this, after having gone more than 70 miles!


At almost exactly 110 miles since I left the Saturn dealership, I had pulled off the freeway and was on Century Drive, stopped at a traffic light near EV Rentals. The EV1 had been flying along for about an hour and a half at 70-80 mph speeds, and had never once felt like it was running short on power. I noticed that there was an estimated 36 miles left on the range meter, so when the light went green, I decided to see what was left as I planted my right foot down one last time…..screeeeechhhh….,chirp-chirp…..scrreeechh….d**n that traction control! What an EV! After running along at freeway speeds for so long, and after 110 miles, the thing could still fry the tires at will!
It’s a shame GM has to put their negative spin on this wonderful achievement, and its a shame the rest of the world can only dream of having such a beauty to drive everyday. While the naysayers are still out there telling everyone electrics don’t work, the EV1 continues to deliver 0-60 in the mid sevens and 130-160 miles range per charge.

The battery was only a smidgen bigger than that of the Leaf...27kWh vs 24kWh for the Leaf. But it did only carry two people. With current battery density, weight, motor controls, etc they could likely punch the size out a bit and get four seats (back to back) and retain a 100+ mile range. Or make a tandem two seater with a lower frontal area and Cd that should get better range. It's sad that we're trying to catch up with a 12 year old design.

I suspect the claims in that article are a bit exaggerated. But the EV-1 did have something that most of the EVs on the market today lack: A really good aerodynamic design with a small frontal area. That allowed the EV-1 to have good range even when driven fast.

Most of the EVs available right now do not have good aerodynamic design and I find it quite disappointing. I guess the problem is they don't think consumers will buy such futuristic-looking extremely aerodynamic designs. People want cars to look like conventional cars. Tesla has done a very good job with it though.

ObEVnews: The GM Spark EV just got EPA rated at 82 miles of range. That is pretty great considering it only has a 20 kWh battery! Unfortunately, it is not the most attractive car. But man, if they put that EV drivetrain in a car as aerodynamic as the EV-1, you'd get even more range and the price is not unreasonable. ($32K up-front, $25K after Fed tax-credit, some states have more incentives)

Those claims are not exaggerated. I knew two different people back in 2001 that were leasing one with the NiMH battery and that was their experience too. One of the people was an attorney for the company I worked for, the other was a Ham Radio friend. You can see his page about his EV1's, he had a Gen I (NiCd) and a Gen II (NiMH), at www dot ka9q dot net / ev

I heard nothing but extreme praise from both of them about their EV1's.

There is NO question that we can create a viable and simple EV.. but with comments like 'Lackluster Radio', and the glee at being able to drive hard and screech the tires, it's easy to see how many of the customers are clearly as much part of the problem as are the mfrs, investors and policymakers.

We whimper so terribly when we don't get our toys just quite shiny and perky enough for our bourgois demands. Some of these Impala are clearly preparing to become Lion-meat. (.. and I don't mean the Chevy Impala)

That we can create a viable electric vehicle is irrelevant. Can we convert our oil-based automotive transportation system with and EV-based one? This is for the most part the only transportation system we have. If we cannot convert at least a large portion of it with an EV-based system, then what is the purpose of the large investment and continued subsidization that would be required? Why would it not be better to subsidize a rail based system and let the automobile die?

If instead you are talking about electric bicycles and such, then you are not discussing the automobile transportation system or its conversion to EV, but rather the creation of a different system (i.e. rail plus E-bikes for the last mile).

That we can create a viable electric vehicle is irrelevant. Can we convert our oil-based automotive transportation system with and EV-based one?

These sentences seem to contradict each other. I guess you are asking if we can convert existing gas vehicles to electric. And yes, we can do that but I don't think it is cost effective. We still have plenty of oil left and it can be used in the existing oil-based cars. I do think a lot of people are really being foolish by continuing to buy low MPG cars though and that will come back to haunt them. But what can you do . . it is a free-market. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink.

Why would it not be better to subsidize a rail based system and let the automobile die?

I'm kinda dumbfounded by this. Do you really think you can run train tracks to every home and business?

And why can't we do both EVs AND build more public transportation?

I guess you are asking if we can convert existing gas vehicles to electric.

Of course not - that would only result in even more compromised equipment. My point is, and has been for a long time, that making a few EVs is not sufficient and does not mean that you can have an automotive transportation system - one that does pretty much what our system does now - only with EV's.

Can people afford the new vehicles? Can all that energy be the supplied by the power grid, or can we build up enough renewable sources to power those cars? Can we still afford to maintain the road systems for them, supply tires and new batteries and spare parts?

And while you may be dumbfounded by the idea of a rail system, perhaps you should look at an old rail map, and contemplate that we once had such a system, and ask how it was done then. Unlike an EV based system, it has already been proven, and that was without viable ideas like E-bikes and such.

And finally, the reason we can't do it all/have it all is that we are broke now that we don't have access to cheap oil anymore. If you notice, rather than trying to do too much of it we are basically not doing any of it.

He's not 'Dumbfounded' by it, it's just clear that there are extents to which rail will not be 'sufficient' either.. neither will just having the last mile served by Ebikes and Busses.

You turn any discussion of EV's into your spin of 'an EV-based System.' it's a strawman, an unfair debate contortion.

I'll address the questions:
1) Can people afford the new vehicles?
Yes. A 2013 Leaf S is $28.8K . . . that is WITHOUT ANY SUBSIDY (With subsidy it is much cheaper) The average new car sold today is $30K

2) Can all that energy be the supplied by the power grid, or can we build up enough renewable sources to power those cars?
Can the grid handle it? Yes. We will need to do some upgrades but it can be done. And I'd be delighted to see so much demand that upgrades to the grid would be required since that would be a lot of domestic jobs created. :-)

Can we build up enough renewable sources to power them? Is it possible? Yes. But that is not likely to happen . . . we will certainly power many with wind & solar. But we will also build more natural gas plants and probably some more nukes too. Hopefully no more coal plants but it could happen.

2) Can we still afford to maintain the road systems for them, supply tires and new batteries and spare parts?

Why not? Those are critical transportation infrastructure items. Before we let the supply chain for those items die I'm we'd cut so much of the other useless or frivolous crap we spend money on such as wars, entertainment, luxury travel, etc.

And while you may be dumbfounded by the idea of a rail system, perhaps you should look at an old rail map, and contemplate that we once had such a system, and ask how it was done then. Unlike an EV based system, it has already been proven, and that was without viable ideas like E-bikes and such.

Oh, I have no doubt that we could build the rail system we once had in the past. Easily. But people don't want it. Why did that system go away? Because we got cars.

I understand you don't like our car culture . . . but that is not a view shared by the vast majority of the public. They are going to exist whether you like them or not. I don't like all the guns that exist in our culture . . . seems like an unnecessary waste of money on something you'd hope to never use (except for hunting or target shooting). But they are not going to go away so I'm better off trying to find ways to make small changes that at least reduce gun deaths a bit. I think you might find the same approach toward cars a bit more productive.

You are making an assumption that I and other people can afford $30k for a new car. That is not affordable for us. We am retired and have no intention of ever buying a new car again.

I'm making the assumption that the people buying the average new car today at $30K can afford a $28.8K Leaf Model S. (And note, that is $28.8K without any subsidy.) Will they like buying a small car with a limited range compared to gas guzzler they used to drive? No. But if gasoline is very expensive such that EVs are a better value will they buy them instead of walk? Yes.

If you are retired and don't drive much then gasoline prices really shouldn't make huge difference to you since they'll be a small part of your budget. It is when you drive many miles every day that gas prices really hurt. So, you may be fine with gas cars. But over time, EVs will hit the used markets and be more affordable to many. They are starting to the hit the market.

From the standpoint of the overall system, it does not matter that some segment of the population cannot afford or willnot buy new vehicles. Old vehicles get taken out of service, and new ones replace them, so every year some fraction of old vehicles are replaced by new. After maybe 15 years the turnover is pretty high.

How long do you think the environment or system can handle that?

We all know this is a multifaceted issue, but still, you're sort of moving the goalposts by jumping questions like this. From the previous aspect, there are certainly factors of individual affordability that surely go into the EV question, and the answer has been that 'there are still folks who CAN buy them, and the growth in those vehicles will be from that sector'. In that alone, the environment is 'seeing' fewer tailpipes on the roads..

Meanwhile, other changes will also be happening.. such as the EV's will then be in greater production and the economy of scale will make more of them affordable, will also probably allow the vehicle MFRs to be introducing cheaper and Smaller vehicles, so they will reach further down into the income ranges. Again Fewer Tailpipes.. Fewer Catalytic converters and Oil Changes, Fewer Air filters and Coolant changes, fewer brakepads,...

Beyond that, as others are STILL unable to ever consider car ownership again, or simply find better advantages in living differently and refuse to bother with cars, there will be more people figuring out how to walk to work, bike, ebike take the T or the L, etc. So then it's again fewer wheels on the road, fewer Starting motors, fewer rebuilds and leaking head gaskets and blown rods, serpentine belts, fuel pumps and rusted feed-tubes, idles out of whack, O2 sensors, leaking rings, timing belts..

The ICE cars are a constant set of moving parts that are shedding layers of exotic and toxic materials into the environment as they roll along.. forcing the constant replacement of these materials. EV's are far simpler, and the battery, the worst of their foreign components, is contained, able to be changed out almost entirely cleanly, and only needs to offer that vehicle Volts, so it can be substituted by better batteries if we come up with them. Tires do remain as a material flow from either, and so do roads.. but there's a lot we can do to pull the scale of the operation down from the behemoth it is today, and I think that a range of electric vehicles have a great many factors that help us move in that direction.

If one believes 'we're just done with roads, or at least we won't need Family sized wheels on them' , I find that implausible.. it doesn't mean I paint that picture with a requirement for Asphalt and McDonald's Drive Thru's..

Millions of retirees already own EVs in Florida......most people call them golf carts. Seriously, this is the car of the future, especially for us in the slow phase of life.

Bingo!! It is called appropriate technology.

You can lease a Leaf for $200. a month.

How many people spend that or more on petrol monthly?

A 2kW PV array would provide 33 miles per day, or, 12,000 miles per year.

That would cost $10k, which amortized at 4% over the 25 year life of the panels is $52.

I'm looking forward to getting mine; car and array both. The notion that I'll be able to actually take a drive for the sheer pleasure of it again is an interesting one.

$10k for 2kW...you're getting bilked.

You've just made a great case for setting up 0% interest government loans. If you take the interest out of the equation (10,000/(25*12)) = 33.3/month you'd be looking at 36% lower cost on that alone. This should really not cost more than $6,000 which would bring it down to 6k/300 = $20/month. A piffle.

A car getting 45mpg @ $3.70/gal would cost ~$82/month for the same yearly mileage. Gasoline would have to be $0.90/gal to get to $20/month.

Yep. The end game is in sight. With an EV and a good PV array, you can generate all your net transportation fuel and electricity. No oil imports, no oil wars, no pollution, no CO2 emissions, no gas taxes, no electricity taxes . . . it will be quite disruptive if a lot of people do it. Disruptive to oil companies, disruptive to governments, disruptive to oil exporters, disruptive to utilities, etc.

In other words, people really like cars, therefore there will be cars.

Quite simply . . . yes. As long as people can afford them, there will be cars. If cars become less affordable, there will be less cars. But there will be cars. Lots of them.

and.. 'if cars become less affordable', there will be smaller cars, and there will be Tiny cars, and scooters and E-motorbikes, the $30k Leaf is not the definition of an EV, just because it's currently the picture in many folk's mind.. there are $10k Volts-wagen conversions, and as things get dire, there will be more like that, more E-Go-Karts and GolfCarts and all sorts of variations.. pedal hybrids, etc. There will be jointly owned vehicles within extended families or neighborhood groups, and not JUST because we like them, but that we Like them because they provide many essential services.

I understand you don't like our car culture . . . but that is not a view shared by the vast majority of the public. They are going to exist whether you like them or not.

Quote of the week!

There are times when the anti-personal transport rhetoric here gets so intense it's almost fanatical. Cars --even modern EVs-- are far from perfect and come with plenty of externalities, inefficiencies and drawbacks. Nonetheless, they do an amazing job of getting the job of flexible, reliable basic transport done and have several key advantages over transit:

1. The "last mile"
2. They are available even in low density communities (And before anyone says it, yes, this is primarily b/c of our road/highway system built over decades with public money. Do we abandon all that sunk infrastructure b/c we don't like cars or maintain it where it makes sense?)
3. Their "schedule" is 24/7
4. They are amazingly flexible about accommodating complex multi-stop trips, last minute detours and changed plans
5. Really easy to haul cargo, luggage and groceries

For many, like it or not, a car really IS "your freedom"!
And as speculawyer said, why can't we have BOTH (relatively fewer but better designed EV cars and relatively more transit --where the density & economics make sense)?

"There are times when the anti-personal transport rhetoric here gets so intense it's almost fanatical."

That's hilarious HARM. There you go, projecting again. The most fanatical voices are the ones that insist we will always have cars, because, you know, people really really like them.

It doesn't matter what anyone likes. Reality will have the last word.

There are times when the anti-personal transport rhetoric here gets so intense it's almost fanatical.

I'll speak for myself only. I'll be sixty next month and hold a valid Class B commercial drivers license, I have had a license since I was 16. I have owned many ICE vehicles during that time. I very much like being able to get in my car to go wherever I may need to.

Having said that I know that cars, ICE or EV of the type that most people think of when they say automobiles are simply NOT sustainable! What part of 'unsustainable' do people not understand?

Will we have EVs and some ICEs for a while to come? Probably. For how long? None of us knows.
But to claim that they will exist whether we like them or not, is simply not a logical or a credible statement.

I'm with Sage below. "Reality will have the last word".

Fred, Fred, Fred. We will have SUVs in use for a LONG time.

Of course, they will be parked in the empty parking lots of the empty big box stores, and people will be living in them, not driving them. But, they will be there... in use!!!

Best hopes for affordable housing.


I agree, SUV's will offer excellent housing in the future, and removing the motor will have added storage.
Low entropy solutions are obvious.

And some more benefits of cars....

6) They aren't driven by unionized train drivers who go on strike from time to time.
7) They aren't a dense concentration of humanity begging for a terrorist to bomb them
8) They let you play your own radio as loudly as you want, without bothering the person next to you
9) You have space in your car to sit without having to touch the sweaty commuter drone next to you = far too intimate a contact for a stranger you may never meet again (and yes, I have been on commuter trains in New York, Boston, Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, Singapore, Paris and London, UK, and NONE of them were any fun compared to driving my own car during rush hour, even with all the aggravation of driving during rush hour).

Those are real reasons that people will continue to pay extra for the benefits of driving a car vs. "public transport".

That said, I loved having no car in London where the tube is almost ubiquitous, and the trains in Sweden that moved the fireworks crowd quickly out of downtown, and Singapore's trains are efficient, clean, cheap and on time. But these are exceptionally dense population locations with huge infrastructure investment; not sure it is feasible for most US cities.

No Sunrise it isn't the density that makes those places different its the investment in proper Transit systems.

But yes people will probably choose to keep up the habit of dragging their private space around with them everywhere until they can't. And then, if there is a real Transit alternative available they will discover the advantages of decreased social isolation that Transit can offer, along with the disadvantages of more involvement with others that you list.

But if we don't invest in Transit now; it ain't gonna be there as everything gets tighter.....

Get somewhere more walkable and with Transit now, or fight for improvements to your city is my advice.

It is the density, indirectly. The density makes traffic unbearable, and parking very expensive. That outweighs, for many people, the discomfort of public transportation.

I take transit to work, but being crowded in with hundreds of other people sucks. I choose to do it because I don't want to pay for a second car, insurance, maintenance and, most importantly, parking. Not because I enjoy the "decreased isolation".

Not all forms of transit are equal. Rail has it's uses, but there is very little discussion on The Oil Drum about Personal Rapid Transit. For many years there were no systems in place. Now there are two very limited applications, one in Heathrow Airport. Others are being built (South Korea). Personal rapid transit brings people from station to station in small electrically powered vehicles. Their schedule is or can be 24/7, they are available upon demand or within a few minutes. Personal rapid transit is distributed transit rather than mass transit. This form of transit could be a last mile or five mile solution, making rail more accessible without driving. It would be much less expensive than light rail and leave a smaller footprint.

Cars will probably be around for a long time, but much more limited in availability to the general public. Fewer cars and more transit, more walkable communities is the likely evolution for economic reasons unless we cling to our cars the way Charlton Heston clutched his guns. Whether they are electrics or plug-in hybrids, they will use less fuel.

Younger people are not clutching to cars as much as previous generations because living in transit oriented communities is much more affordable. Many young people are not getting their driver's licenses. If we in the States are prudent, we will develop alternate transportation that approaches the automobile in convenience, but is much lower in cost.

And it must be rapid because our time is so very important? Our time has seemed to become important because the things humans can do has been amplified by the stored energy of fossil fuels. As access to those fuels decreases, there will be a lot of people with nothing but time. Getting there fast won't be very important, and it is foolish to optimize whatever systems we build for speed.

PODs are rubbish and offer no answer; are less useful than either cars or Transit. They only appeal to people with social issues who feel they have to have their own personal space at all times yet get that the car world is unsustainable. A distraction, a fairground ride. A cul de sac on route to sustainable solutions for access and place improvement.

Our 2009 Yaris $13,000.00. Cost to fill it...(In Canada...35-45 dollars)...range 700 km. If it ran on straight alcohol I would grow more beets. No plans to buy a Leaf. It does not make economic or practical sense...(yet).

Diesel? Yes.


His argument only holds if he keeps up this insistence that we're only advocating for essentially a full 'fleet replacement' of ICE to EV's, and it sits unmoving as the lynchpin of any discussion with him about it.

No matter how many times and ways we show our similar eagerness to amplify Transit, Elec. Rail Freight, Velomobiles and Bikes, Walkable Communities, Human-powered equipment, Twilight is dead-set on demanding that 'any EV's means ALL EV's'

I frankly find that argument disingenuous at this point, as I've thoroughly shown my various advocacies regularly in these comments. He despises cars and any picture of the future with 'some' carriages and roadways is clearly anathema to him.

You continually misrepresent my view in this way while refusing to address the actual issues I raise. We will not be able to continue the ICE powered automotive transportation system regardless of what anyone wants. What percentage of the existing ICE fleet do you expect will be replaced in a 1 for 1 manner? How much will we have to spend to make those, and how much will we have to spend to build and maintain the infrastructure required for these to be useful? Can we do that while building alternate systems for those that don't have EVs? Should we just say to hell with them, they can walk? Can we afford to do all of it? Just what do you envision?

If you don't replace a significant portion of the ICE, what have you accomplished? How much public money should be invested in continuing the subsidies that are required even to keep the present system running (beyond the oil), so a few people can run their EVs around? Continuing the present system only with EVs substituted for ICE cars is what everyone else is discussing/envisioning when they talk about EVs, not just me. That is the conversation - you may be talking about something else, but that is not relevant.

EV advocates never want to discuss it as a transportation system, only ohh and ahh over the latest technical spec of the latest EV's. But look at the system - millions of people moving back and forth to their jobs and for shopping every day in automobiles, with no other choices at this time. What exactly is the role you see for the EV in a system that addresses these transportation needs? And if there will not be so many jobs for people to have to commute to, then how does all this get paid for anyway?

You want to discuss Velomobiles and Bikes, Walkable Communities, Human-powered equipment, etc., yet right here some cannot begin to imagine how you would get from your home to the rail station - wouldn't those be really great ways to deal with that issue? Of course they would, but they are not automobiles - they could be a viable part of a different kind of transportation system.

"What percentage of the existing ICE fleet do you expect will be replaced in a 1 for 1 manner? "

WHAT?! After all this, how can you ask me about this 1 for 1 replacement meme all over again? All I'm ever telling you is that EV's will NOT be there to replace ALL the cars.. that we will be doing whatever we can with all the other tools mentioned here, Trains, Mass Transit, Bike, redesigned communities, so that we don't NEED the kind of auto fleets we have now.

"If you don't replace a significant portion of the ICE, what have you accomplished?"

You DON'T replace the whole existing fleet, you reduce the need for it. You develop TOD, you (you all, the population) start to live closer to work and shops, where you can bike and walk.. but with all that going on, I contend that you still will have all sorts of vehicles needed, from Ambulances and Taxis to Mobility Scooters, and for these, some of which will be family or farm cars etc.., EVs look to be excellent tools, and at this point, with the amount of the other work we need to do, they will be indispensable ones.

"EV advocates never want to discuss it as a transportation system," No, we do. That's just when you start to listen to someone else who's making wild claims that are easy to shoot at.

You're a capable craftsman and you appear to be approaching this from a backyard mechanic point of view. You need to think about the economies of scale and the industrial infrastructure needed to build enough EVs to matter (in terms of providing transportation without fossil fuels), or any EV's at all. Without enough investment in design and tooling, and parts purchased in sufficient quantities, you don't get a reduced production, you get none. It requires an incredibly complex global supply chain to manufacture an EV and again, it isn't infinitely scalable. If you've reduced the need for it you also reduce it's viability. And are the people who live above their workplaces going to want to pay for roads for EVs they don't own?

And without the continued investment in the rest of the infrastructure then there isn't sufficient demand for the EV's because the roads aren't there. Again, it doesn't scale down. The fact that the automotive transportation system is almost the exclusive system in most of the country is not an accident - even through the height of our prosperity we could not afford to maintain both. So that's what we've got. If you want to provide transportation in the future, it has to be replaced, and the electric automobile cannot do that.

Of course a few folks will keep some small number of electric vehicles going for some time, but so what? The scale of the investment needed to maintain any sort of generally available distance transportation system is huge, and I don't really think we'll be able to do any of it for very long, but if we can't focus on a system that is at least viable then we'll have nothing.

Build out electric rail, and let the inventive folks figure out how to deal with the last mile. Some will ride bicycles, some will walk, some will make their own EVs, some will drive horse carts. Many will move (they'll be doing that anyway as they lose their homes). Perhaps someone will mass produce an EV cheap enough to serve that role (it will have to be cheap because it will not be the sole or even main form of transportation). But that is not an electric automobile system, it is a different type of transportation system not centered on the automobile, which is exactly what I'm advocating.


" The fact that the automotive transportation system is almost the exclusive system in most of the country is not an accident - even through the height of our prosperity we could not afford to maintain both. So that's what we've got."

Cars became dominant because they're better than mass transit in many ways that matter to people...#1 is that they run on your own schedule, go from door to door, and do it with relative comfort and speed. Even in places that have excellent public transportation there are still a hell of a lot of cars - how do you explain this?

I know two married couples that work at the same place, one of them drives in separately...for them one likes to come in about an hour before the other, and sometimes the one does sports after work. They could ride together "carpool" - but they don't, despite coming from and going to the same exact place. The other couple actually does carpool.

To ignore that people over ages (think horses, camels, carriages, and sailing dinghies) have desired personal self-propelled transportation is to ignore what appears to be a root human desire.

"Build out electric rail, and let the inventive folks figure out how to deal with the last mile."

What country do you live in? Because of the size of the United States and the poor choices it has made there's no "Last Mile" - there's "Last 5 - 10 mile" issues to deal with in a lot of places. The United States is f#*ked if it doesn't buy time to re-make the system.

Time for what? You may ask. Time to reduce population, time to build houses/apartments/condos to in-fill urban areas to make room for people to move from the exurbs and suburbs, time for attrition to nip away far flung areas - condemn/reduce maintained roads in low population areas. Time to build tramways, bicycle infrastructure, rebuild and electrify freight railways and passenger railways. Time to learn how to do without the insane system we've built.

"But that is not an electric automobile system, it is a different type of transportation system not centered on the automobile, which is exactly what I'm advocating."

Believe it or not - so am I, and so are other people here that advocate for EVs.

You're looking at trying to replace, practically overnight, a system and way of thinking which took 100 years to build during relative boom times. It takes time to build a new system and it takes a lot of time and effort to convince people to think about things differently. Cities have to be made to be desirable places to live before people will want to move there (I believe EVs will benefit that) - there will have to be a place for them to live when they get there - which means building housing, which takes time.

Where's the transition pathway? Is it just one based only on pain?

I see reactions like yours as fear that BAU will simply take on an electric face, but I just don't see how that can happen with Peak Oil and Climate Change set to constantly nip at our heels and force change away. Like Toyota and their Rav4EV, the companies may attempt to sell BAU model vehicles - but costs are simply going to be prohibitive and they're going to be forced to downsize and streamline to keep the prices from running away.

Imagine building a world that you can point to and show that it's more fulfilling, more convenient, cleaner, and less expensive to live in the city than out in the suburbs.

"... need to think about the economies of scale and the industrial infrastructure needed to build enough EVs to matter"

EVs can be deployed more rapidly than the entire transportation and housing infrastructure can be rebuilt - they can be a critical stopgap measure which will leverage already existing infrastructure while at the "end of the tunnel" becoming a much smaller but still useful part of the transportation mix. In the interim it'll be much easier to replace a car at $30,000 than a house at, literally, 5-7 times that cost. It'll take decades to build the housing and rail systems to support a mass migration into cities and fundamental transportation shift.

Imagine New York City, for instance, replacing it's 13,000+ vehicle Taxi fleet with EVs...what would that do for noise and air pollution? Now imagine if they charged a stiff "pollution fee" for non-electric/PHEVs to enter the city (perhaps in the form of a sticker that could be enforced/sold by traffic police) - traffic would likely drop, and what remained would be a higher mix of EVs - creating a quieter and much less polluted city. At the same time they could increase bicycle lanes, and with less traffic, less noise, and less pollution there would be increased bicycle ridership and increasing demand for bicycle lanes and a more pleasant walking environment.

There are actually pilot programs using Nissan Leafs for taxis, but I fear that they will fail miserably and once again tarnish the reputation of EVs because of the poor range of the Leaf leading to an excessive need to recharge at high rates and the poor thermal management of the batter pack...thus not only taking up time to recharge when they could be making money instead, but also destroying the battery in the process and killing the economics. This would be doubly worse because the range degradation would lead to more need to recharge, leading to more degradation, time wasted, etc. IOW, a miserable failure because the Leaf (especially in that situation) is severely under-engineered and under-equipped. The Leaf is a d**ned Trojan Horse.

So lets build EVs to try to keep transportation from complete failure, while we build electric freight and passenger rail and trams, while building housing in the cities and making the cities desirable places to be, while we address population problems, and while we figure out solutions to other energy-related problems. As time goes by, like areas of Detroit, there will be places that will be abandoned...if a place gets desolate enough the roads, electric lines, water piping, etc might get torn out and the material used elsewhere (though there's probably enough bitumen in Canada's "oil" sands to keep roads going for quite a while). There needs to be a way from here to there and I think EVs will be a vital part of that process (particularly for the US).

Cars became dominant because they're better than mass transit in many ways that matter to people...#1 is that they run on your own schedule, go from door to door, and do it with relative comfort and speed. Even in places that have excellent public transportation there are still a hell of a lot of cars - how do you explain this?

Much of that is self-fulfilling - our society has evolved around the characteristics of the car, so of course those characteristics are now key to its function. You don't really need a taxi in New York, as there are several alternate systems (including sidewalks)

There will be much pain in the transition as our fossil fuel based industrial fails due to peak oil. The transportation system is only one part of that. There is an implied assumption by the advocates of electric automobiles that a (partial, significant, tiny, ?) replacement of the ICE automobile fleet with these machines is actually possible and beneficial. That it will reduce the pain of the transition. I disagree that it will even be possible at a scale that will have any impact, and that it will be beneficial.

If it does not work, as I expect that it won't for reasons I have articulated before, then what do we have? If a reasonably accessible rail system could be built up it would preserve a capability that we are likely to lose otherwise.

Part of the problem is that we just want to focus on the machines, the cars themselves. This leads to a blindness to how much investment will be required to do it, even beyond the already huge investment needed just to maintain the parts of the system we'd have to keep.

EVs can be deployed more rapidly than the entire transportation and housing infrastructure can be rebuilt

A strawman and a guess. Can they be deployed more rapidly than, say, tiny 1000cc direct injection cars with multi-speed transmissions while taxing the motor fuel massively and building up local light rail? Can you show any examples of functioning electric automobile based transportation systems that carry a significant percentage of passengers? What if those of us who say there will be technical problems with doing it are right? What if we can't afford to maintain the roads needed for it?

The presentation of EVs as the safe, low risk, lower cost bet is false, it's never been done, especially post peak oil - it's a guess by people who have an emotional attachment to cars and can't see past it. Electric rail is the safe, proven, lower complexity bet for preserving some transportation capability post peak.

Yes, it's a "The Wolf You Feed" kind of thing that has given the car an extreme advantage in usability and convenience, but it's there now, as well as the perception of it - and it will take time to change that, if ever.

A strawman and a guess. Can they be deployed more rapidly than, say, tiny 1000cc direct injection cars with multi-speed transmissions while taxing the motor fuel massively and building up local light rail? Can you show any examples of functioning electric automobile based transportation systems that carry a significant percentage of passengers? What if those of us who say there will be technical problems with doing it are right? What if we can't afford to maintain the roads needed for it?

One could probably call it a guess, but it's a guess based on observation. The observation may not be entirely valid as applied to China, where they can apparently go "Build a city" and they go out and build entire cities in the blink of an eye. The US has been selling around 12-15 million vehicles per year every year. The average age is somewhere near 11 years.

Now the other bit you bring up is interesting and the answer is no - they can't be deployed faster than say, a Kei Class car. The Kei cars are basically a Japanese phenomenon, lightweight, super small, and use a one, two, or three-cylinder 660cc engine no more than 64 horsepower. The Misubishi i-Miev is actually a re-powered 660cc powered Kei car.

Here are some pictures of a Mazda AZ1 next to things 'Mericans can relate to: http://forums.vwvortex.com/showthread.php?4947024-A-1992-Mazda-Autozam-A...

So is it possible or even likely we'll just see a continual downsizing of fossil fuel burning vehicles until utter collapse instead of jumping ahead to using electricity? Yeah, probably. Really it's already happening. The whole "Crossover/SUV" is probably a result of this trend...but even more telling, I think, is the proliferation of lower cost brands like Kia and Hyundai, and Toyota's sub-brand Scion where they can produce cheaper cars without burning the "Toyota" prestige. The latest batch of "economy" (cheap garbage) cars like the Sonic, Spark (rebranded Daewoo) are selling better than expected. So I would say that people are already chasing to the downside. They'd be chasing it a hell of a lot faster, IMO, if they knew what was coming and weren't constantly lied to that "2 buck gas is just a frack away!"

The presentation of EVs as the safe, low risk, lower cost bet is false, it's never been done, especially post peak oil

It's a calculated guess based on many examples of home tinkerers and the few mass production EVs allow to "escape" into the wild. The numbers appear to work. You're really going to trot out the "It's never been done"...? Personal computers had never been done until the 80's, massive numbers of people with cell phones hadn't been done but are everywhere now - and they're more powerful than the first batch of personal computers now, the internet, space station, blah blah...the world is replete with things that have never been done until they're done and all of a sudden you're taking a phone call on a computer that fits in your pocket and can access immense databanks of knowledge the likes of which would have melted someone's face in the 50's...and it's used to watch cat videos.

The note I'll leave on is that we're going to build cars. Going to. Just as people will watch videos of cute little cats and fling angry birds at pigs on a pocket computer/phone that puts to absolute shame the state of the art computers on the rockets we sent people to the moon with. I'd rather those cars be powered by electricity than have them continue to be 100% fossil fuel dependent, noisy, and polluting. PV is on the charge, perhaps not in North Carolina much longer since our stupid government's been hijacked by the coal-burning power industry...but it doesn't take much to cover the daily needs of an EV, and the charge network required for long range travel is easily do-able in technical terms and only difficult politically (because our government is owned by corporations, including oil-related corporations). Again, they're not the be-all and end-all, but I think they'll prove a vital link in transition.

The EV is not the only available form of electric powered transportation. One could build tiny efficient ICE cars, not as an end point but as a viable transition while building out a proven electric transportation system, and avoiding the costs and risks of attempting an EV system.

And yes, we are going to build cars, until we can no longer afford (in a variety of ways) to do it any more, because too many are stuck in the dream.

SOMEWHERE west of Laramie there's a bronco-busting, steer roping girl who knows what I’m talking about. She can tell what a sassy pony, that’s a cross between greased lighting and the place where it hits, can do with eleven hundred pounds of steel and action when he's going high, wide and handsome. The truth is - the Playboy was built for her. Built for the lass whose, face is brown with the sun when the day is done of revel and romp and race. She loves the cross of the wild and the tame. There's a savor of links about that car - of laughter and lilt and light - a hint of old loves - and saddle and quirt. It’s a brawny thing - yet a graceful thing for the sweep o' the Avenue. Step into the Playboy when the hour grows dull with things gone dead and stale. Then start for the land of real living with the spirit of the lass who rides, lean and rangy, into the red horizon of a Wyoming twilight.

- 1923 add for the Jordan Playboy

These are the kinds of adds that supplanted the machine specification type adds of the early days of the automobile. They recognized that it was not about the logic of the system, it was emotional. And it still is.

You're hilarious, Twilight.

It's 'understandable' to build wee little ICE cars, purely as transitional tools, mind you, but any mention of an Electric and it's instantly the Gargantuan Paradigm of an ENTIRE EV SYSTEM, an emotional appeal and the entire built roadway infrastructure that has to be held under the scope.

You're right about one thing. It's emotional alright.

And you see no difference between implementing an already designed and existing technology that has been proven to be scalable, uses existing infrastructure, and could be introduced in the next model cycle if so desired, and the gamble of going for an entire new scheme that requires massive changes and entails major risks? Or you can go back to the alternate position of "well, we won't really need to make many", in which case who cares?

What is hilarious is that you have basically stated you agree with me:

No matter how many times and ways we show our similar eagerness to amplify Transit, Elec. Rail Freight, Velomobiles and Bikes, Walkable Communities, Human-powered equipment, Twilight is dead-set on demanding that 'any EV's means ALL EV's'

What you advocate is a mixture of this and that, a hodge-podge of transportation systems. That is not the automobile-exclusive transportation system we have, and it is not the electric automobile variation of it that everyone else is expecting. It is, in fact, the end of the automobile, though you are apparently unable or unwilling to accept that the automobile requires massive scale to make producing them possible, and huge continuing investment just to maintain the infrastructure. We either commit to investments of those magnitudes or in short order the whole thing fails. Which is fine by me, I would just like to preserve some generally accessible means of getting around, and a couple of folks who've managed to cobble together some battery powered cars here and there is not going to do that.

...we will be doing whatever we can with all the other tools mentioned here, Trains, Mass Transit, Bike, redesigned communities, so that we don't NEED the kind of auto fleets we have now. ~ jokuhl

If we did, we'd be there by now it seems. It's quite possible that "we" may miss plenty of ideal(istic) opportunities as we go down in flames, kicking and screaming.

Just in case this discussion presupposes some kind of working "capitalist" (or even stable) system...

...In another analysis, the changes necessary to halt global warming cannot be contained within capitalism. It will be argued that the technological changes required are so very major as to imply a drastic reduction in material production and consumption. The consequences of doing nothing are equally drastic. One possible outcome is world revolution...
A likely outcome is a last days flurry of grand projects and expensive wars, followed by a collapse in food production and population. So whatever is done to resolve the environmental crisis, we are not going to end up with a capitalist society. For environmental activists, putting environmental outcomes first is just as likely to bring down capitalism as a campaign to end capitalist society. Doing nothing at all is very likely to have the same effect.

Thinking about environmental catastrophe requires us to imagine future society, and think about what might be likely and what could be possible... I will argue the changes necessary to halt global warming cannot be contained within capitalism. The consequences of doing nothing are equally drastic for capitalism..." ~ Terry Leahy, 'Checkmate: Why Capitalism Cannot Survive Global Warming'

Look, when I describe that, I'm just putting forward my proposal of a combination of these factors that feels reasonably balanced. I'm not kidding myself to pretend that we have a balanced or reasonable society or Indus. Civilization..

Of course we have missed the ball on getting so many of these things going as we should have. It seems we're still fighting just to defend birth control at this point.

I don't support EV's 'because they are the way capitalism can handle this problem'. I do think, despite itself, that the mfr and auto sector can be part of it through this type of technology, since to get a non-polluting alternate out there in any numbers does require it at this point.. but I also don't assume that those 'numbers' need to be much in comparison to the current fleet.. maybe as little as 1/4 to 1/10 of the current autos deployed.. but even saying so comes with a shrug.. it's not the way I think it works to place these things. 'That wouldn't be businesslike', and Ben Knox might say. (Local Hero)

Do you think that, if we're on a runaway train, we have the "luxury" of looking to the very manufacturers of its faulty parts to help us conveniently transition off of it?
If so, you may have more faith than I-- faith that we don't (inadvertently) set up other precedents that make it even harder to disembark; that we have long enough before the train derails or hits something unyielding; or faith that it's not already too late, and, a few cars forward, if behind Greece and Syria, the engine hasn't already planted its cow-catcher.

I'm looking at the parts themselves. EV's can charge directly from any electric source, and the motor can be astoundingly durable and efficient.. some give it the equivalent of a million miles. What we make the tires and the roads out of as we move forward is available for all sorts of discussion.. but we will be needing wheels on the ground to do this.

The roads we've got around us today are the ones we'll be traveling on to enact this transition. What will the remaining cars on them be? What choices do we have for doing this work?

I'm not worried about whether the car mfrs should be left swinging because cars have been so devastating.. I'm not convinced by Twilight that the only way to 'do' EV's is with the same full-court press that we see pushing the F250, etc.. There are great opportunities for compact-car conversions and lightweight EV's, all manner of trucks and service vehicles.. as we also work to get the commuters to get to work in other, better ways. Many of those could be built by existing auto and truck manufacturers, while it doesn't in any way HAVE to equal the number of models and makes that are currently being produced. I don't like the ramifications of Capitalism and much of the Manufacturing excesses, but there are essential tools that DO need to be made at this point, and as we say again and again.. PO is primarily, or initially anyway, a Transportation Issue.

I got challenged for my 'hodge-podge' of various different tools combining to address the different aspects of this crisis. That was played as unthinkable in handling this problem.. while I see it as inevitable. It seems natural and obvious enough to me that when a Monolithic system is not working for us, then it should be pulled apart and replaced with more applicable subsystems.. I believe there is a street-philosophy in the West Indies, likely from India, considering the Bollywood Singers who explained it to me.. called 'Chutney', like the relish.. and it is the delightful mix of flavors and textures that can be created in a proper Hodge-podge.. and they would apply this to food, music and life in general.

Hopefully we're not so enamored of Monolithic Approaches and Incensed Abstinence that we fail to see a nice complicated stew when it's bubbling right in front of us.

We are still talking past each other. Of course a hodge-podge is what will happen, that was the point. That is not what we have, what we have is monolithic. Monolithic is what it takes to have the economies of scale needed to make automobiles. Monolithic at scale is what it will take to create the vehicles and the infrastructure to do an electric automobile system.

It won't happen, and neither will a coordinated effort at making a rail system. It will be hodge-podge all the way through.

You keep trying to paint me as an advocate of some big monolithic system, which is about as polar opposite as can be. I am pointing out that this is what it takes to do automobiles, of any type.

You keep trying to paint me as an advocate of some big monolithic system, which is about as polar opposite as can be. I am pointing out that this is what it takes to do automobiles, of any type.

Actually that isn't quite correct. Automobiles can be hand crafted from scratch and manufacturing can be an open source project. By the way an electric velomobile is by definition an 'AUTOMOBILE' in that it moves without human power input. I'm currently studying growing structures and parts out of bamboo.

Twillight, can you say 'Paradigm Change'?

Check out:"50 open source machines for civilisation"

And: "A Pre-Fab Bamboo Bicycle, Grown From The Ground In Bike Shape"

We really seriously need to start thinking outside the BOX glass icosahedron... So to be crystal clear,(multilevel visual pun intended) it absolutely does not take a big monolithic system to do automobiles. We just need to re-examine what we define as the necessary process and more importantly what we think of when we say 'AUTOMOBILE'. Obviously 57 Tbirds are out!

Um, yeah, and I'm one of the people with the skills and abilities to do that kind of thing. I am frankly astonished at the inability to comprehend scale. If you or I or a handful of others cobble together some self propelled machines that run on some form of stored energy, using the remains of the road system built in the last century and parts of old machines, then is that really going to be an important impact in the times ahead? Or will it rather be an irrelevant last gasp of a dead system?

The paradigm change is all around us, and will soon result in the inability to keep doing what we've been doing. Minor tweaks to the system won't save it.

Also, "automobile" can certainly be applied to a fairly wide range of machines, but it is a term that has a definition in the minds of most people. If you go about changing what you mean by an already commonly defined term it just leads to confusion. An automobile is a thing, it is not a golf cart, a velomobile or a pair of walking shoes.

I am not saying that you're in favor of the Monolithic, but I am suggesting that you are too willing to paint it as this requirement.. even when you are willing to point towards little outbursts of 'theoretical' small ICE transitional vehicles in the same breath.

It's as if the range of electric motors that are all around us have somehow not proven themselves, where small ICE motors have, and where other limited products (relative to major Auto Sales) that use small motors are out there in the marketplace proving themselves.. Snowblowers, Leaf-blowers, ATV's, etc..

You are intent upon painting the EV side of that image as some full-blown system, while much of that system is the same one that would be under the wheels of YOUR transitional offering, there.. whereas the Fuel Supply for these E-vehicles is already ubiquitous in practically every household and business in the country.

As Fred said, you need to be willing to teach the dominant paradigm what the definitions CAN mean, instead of simply parroting the obviously narrow terms that the mainstream is willing to work with. You think that the only discussion that counts is 'theirs', they who insist that the EV will do the magic replacement act. Why do you give them so much sway in this? They're wrong, we all know they're wrong (to varying degrees, of course).. and the definitions and the expectations can and must change. That DOESN'T mean, however, and I'm not suggesting that we can call anything at all an AUTO.. Velos that are light enough to be both Human and Electric powered, though, and still be functionally able to work at AUTO speeds, at least in town, are surely in a Gray Area, considering the amount of single-driver commuter Autos that they could replace. They can certainly be both Handmade ( in good numbers by any of Tens of Thousands of Craftspeople, no less), but can also be Mass Produced by any number of Bike or Auto Companies. How would that not start to make a remarkable change in the Commuting Landscape? They would even help to reduce Road Wear, and assuming we were also working to move freight over to rails, would go far towards letting the roads offer much greater durability.

I'm not doing this so I can pretend to argue with the Mainstream Mindset. If I wanted that, I would just yammer out those pointless comments at MSNBC and even the CSM. As the saying goes.. 'They're not even wrong..'

We need to get the hell off this runaway train model and thinking-- yesteryear.

We previously discussed, in other Drumbeats, what some of us mean by EV's (different things) but they still seem like a distraction or deception, such as if some think it means building/running/maintaining them and their infrastructures, etc. in the ('monolithic') runaway-train context and/or suggesting or inferring this kind of thinking:

"I do think, despite itself, that the mfr and auto sector can be part of it through this type of technology". ~ jokuhl

I am not necessarily against you, per se, cobbling together a post-industrial hodge-podge collection of leftover parts in your workshop, if that's what you mean, as long as we're honest.

'Reasonable balance', as you say, is not two kids of equal weight nicely balanced on a fundamentally-dangerous/flawed seesaw. The kids need to get off it. Leveraging that same teeter-totter manufacturer to help the kids get off also makes little sense.

What do you think of this kind of technology?

What do you think of this kind of technology?

Works for me!

Great! :)

Until the 1930s, streetcars ran throughout most major (and some minor) cities, at least until GM sold them a bill of goods on diesel buses. The old traction remained for quite a while, and later was dug out and sold for scrap.

Later the bus line ran on the same streets.

Not every home has a bus going past, nor would they have street rail in front of each and every domicile. However, electrified mass transit (trolly buses, street rail, and street cars) is an excellent solution.

We tend to think in things the way they are. We imagine that public transit needs a hub and spoke distribution system like air travel, while the fact is that it does not. Of course, there are transit centers (back in the day, transfer points), but people walk to the nearest public transit and transfer as needed to get where they are going. It will be a bit slower than autos, but there is a wonderful opportunity to interact whilst on the bus/train. Or take a few miutes to catch your breath from the rest of your life. Read a book, newspaper, or do a crossword puzzle. If you have kids with you, interact with them... my earliest memories include riding the 3rd rail (CA&E RR) in to Chicago, transferring to the El, and going on in to State Street for Christmas! Watching the scene as we traversed it was education and interesting.

Maybe this mass transit stuff can be good for us...

Best hopes for interesting transportation.


zaphod42 wrote:

...Not every home has a bus going past, nor would they have street rail in front of each and every domicile. However, electrified mass transit (trolly buses, street rail, and street cars) is an excellent solution....

Actually I have pointed out the Brookings May 2011 study numerous times which found that in the top 100 US Metro areas ALREADY without restoring any Rail that 70% of working age Americans live only 3/4ths mile from a transit stop!


The problem is that only 30% could reach a job even during peak hours due to lack of frequency, lack of coordination between, Rail bus and shuttles, lack of local/express service. These can all be fixed.

As I also pointed out before after the 2008 crash over 150 Transit systems cut their service just as ridership was showing double digit increases with the first $4 per gallon gas. Restore those cuts, provide operating subsidies, run major Metro systems like NJ Transit, MARC, VA Rail etc during off peak hours as well as weekends and we could get thousands of cars off the road in a year.

Beyond that restore existing Branch Lines, add shuttles and safe bikepaths and we could quadruple Green Transit (ie non Auto addicted) in a few years as the US did between 1942-1945 for WW II.

"without restoring any Rail that 70% of working age Americans live only 3/4ths mile from a transit stop!"

That is not a useful metric, or at least not as useful as it should be. I live only 2 miles from a transit stop, and it goes completely the wrong way. (E-W instead of N-S). Sort of like Amtrak, which actually has a stop only 5 miles away that would be very useful if I wanted to get up at 4 AM to go to Everett. I'm only 20 miles away from an airport, but that one has no passenger traffic.

In other words, a transit stop alone isn't necessarily useful.

Yeah, it is very misleading. I'm sure there is a bus stop with 3/4 mile from where I live. But if I were try to use it to get to work, I'd spend 2 hours getting to work and 2 hours getting home whereas I can drive and it takes 30 minutes when there is no traffic.

People will use public transit when it is convenient. I used it all the time when I lived in major cities. But out in the suburbs . . . it is not very practical.

Then again, with what you and PV said, part of transit happening is that the Networks simply need to be more robust than they are, and we, the potential ridership will also be forced to rewrite our demands and 'preferences' as the convenience mode of thinking is surpassed by the survival and pain-avoidance modes of thinking.

You don't have to be a rocket-scientist to remember that there could be far less pain if we looked forward a few steps and set these things up thoughtfully BEFORE they are playing out as panic attacks.

"People will use public transit when it is convenient."

Spec, you're a member of those suburbs, your involvement in them is part of the pressure that either pushes it forward, or else sustains the current inertia, no? When you say 'convenience', it sounds a lot like a 'customer mentality', just waiting for the waiter to finally bring you a healthy choice for soups.. If they're not looking ahead strategically, I sure hope you (we) are. Reactivity isn't enough.

PVGuy, you must be in my neck of the woods.

In Hamsterland

That is PRECISELY the point!

The fact is there ARE existing Rail, LightRail and bus systems within walking distance of huge numbers of Americans already without even restoring some of the USA's existing 233,000 miles of Rail, building new Rails or building Rails down highway median existing rights of way. The problem is that the existing Green transit is insufficiently operated with infrequent service and a serious lack of coordination from Rail to LightRail to bus to shuttle to bikepath to safe sidewalks. This the first thing to do to save oil, greenhouse emissions, congestion, auto deaths and the continuing slaughter of what is left of our Green landscape, farms, parks and wild spaces. After the 2008 crash 150 public transit systems CUT their frequency and service even as their ridership was booming with $4 gasoline. The cheapest and first thing to do is run the trains we have! In New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and many other places which are already paying the capital costs of maintaining tracks, and trains to run on them trains are not run on the weekends! Before Reagan (as usual!) public transit operating costs were provided by the Federal government to States and cities just as
we are now discovering part of the $20 Billion direct subsidy to airlines with the Feds paying for now furloughed air traffic controllers. Instead of spending $7.5 billion on electric cars for the affluent we should be spending at least that much on just RUNNING THE TRAINS AND BUSES on tracks we already have.

How hard is that?

For an example of how cheap public transit operations actually is compared to endless Auto Addiction repaving, cloverleafs, widening etc consider New Jersey Transit which spends only $300 Million in operating subsidies for over 365 Million public transit trips: ie less than $1 per ride.
Just one interchange between the Garden State Parkway and I78 cost almost $80 million. Last month our Teabag Gov Christie borrowed another $1.4 Billion on top of existing spending of $3 Billion to chop down trees and widen the Garden State Parkway while actually VMT is declining!

And yes it is ludicrous that there are only 3 weekly trains to Cincinnati on Amtrak - the service levels are ridiculous for serious transit.
So again, run the trains!

And why can't we do both EVs AND build more public transportation?

I go one step farther and say that we will build both, and that they are compliments rather than substitutes for each other. The EVs won't look like an electric version of today's cars -- the Leaf is overkill for 90% or more of all of the trips that the typical suburban driver makes. Small light electric cars with limited range (15 miles or less) are sufficient for running errands (with some forethought) and getting to and from the train station. Circulating buses and by-the-hour rentals you can pick up a block from the station at the other end will happen.

Absent the small electric car for me to buy, in three years that's going to be the pattern for much of my travel. Errands are already a loop of under 10 miles. In 2016 the new train station opens two miles away; 18 minutes by light rail to downtown; downtown is long and strung out, but buses with a suitable internal layout already run as free shuttles up and down that length. Those shuttles drop me within four blocks of the Capitol, the main library, the performing arts center, the art museum, and everything else downtown has. Get off at different stops and it's a similar distance to the football stadium, the baseball stadium, the basketball/hockey arena, or the University of Denver.

In my case it's Denver. But all the other major metro areas in the western US (ie, from Denver west to the Pacific Ocean), with the exception of Las Vegas, are on the same path, and have light rail up and running with expansions planned. It may be 20 years before all the pieces are in place, but I really think it's going to happen.

Sounds like an excellent plan to me.

"Small light electric cars with limited range (15 miles or less)"

Holy Smoke, dude...if you thought people had "range anxiety" before - Yikes!


It has a 6.1 kWh battery - nearly 1/4 the size of the Leaf (less than 1/2 the size of Volt), but it has a 50 mile range due to light weight (~1000 pounds), low top speed of 45mph, and tandem seating that reduces frontal area.

They could easily design something more aerodynamic and, well, actually weatherproof. But it's a good example of the possibilities. With a fully weatherized cabin this would make a near perfect short range commuter/errand runner. Though it wouldn't take that much more to turn it into a highway capable medium range commuter.

Unfortunately we don't have a "heavy quad" designation in the US, so we're SOL on getting anything like this until that happens because this would never pass standard crash tests. We could see three wheelers (like the Morgan Three-Wheeler or Trex), registered as motorcycles, but three wheels compromises passenger/cargo space because of the compromises to retain the aerodynamics.

Krikey, Substrate, take a trip to Florida and check out the fleets of golf carts already used by millions of retirees for their daily 4-8 miles of driving.....

You do realize that retirees are also side effect of our industrial society and will be going away, along with the communities built for them? Retirement is a recent invention made possible by cheap and abundant energy, and is unknown for the vast majority of people who have ever lived, or who are alive now.

At 49 I have no expectation of being able to retire, ans only hope to get in a situation where my needs are drastically reduced and that I do not need to travel far.

mcain6925 is totally right - the real role for EV's will be as shuttles to connect between Rail and Lightrail. Instead of wasting $7.5 Billion to try to prop up the dying personal car Auto Addiction business the Federal government should be providing EV subsidies ONLY to transit vehicles like shuttles, buses,taxis etc. We may not be able to build a huge infrastructure of EV charging stations equivalent to the 115,000 and declining number of gas stations in the US but charging stations for shuttles at Rail stations is surely feasible.
Here is the link on the dwindling number of US gas stations:


According to the economic census for retail trade (census.gov) in 1997 there were only 126,889 gas stations (64% of them having convienence stores).
I simply took the 1997 and 2002 census data and continued the trend based on the limited data:

1997 - 126,889 gas stations. 81,684 (64%) with convenience stores.
2002 - 121,446 gas stations. 93,691 (77%) with convenience stores.
*2007 - 116,223 gas stations. 104,600 (90%) with convenience stores.
*2008 - 115,223 gas stations. 106,696 (92.6%) with convenience stores.

Actually there is progress being made all over the Auto Addicted USA in building LightRail systems - Maryland is building the Purple Line to connect the Hub & Spoke Metro Lines, Virginia even with a conservative Republican is continuing to expand VARail (I saw some stations being constructed in Alexandria, Va on a recent train trip to Florida), Cincinnati is building a street car line, California is seriously building not only High Speed Rail but LightRail systems in what had been an Auto Addiction mecca, and finally Gov Deval Patrick of Massachusetts has proposed an ambitious $13 Billion Rail investment plan to revive East-West Rail and Rail to a staging point before the bridge to Cape Cod.

Most exciting for the Northeast US is the proposal finally for real high speed Rail taking only 90 minutes between New York City and Boston. When this is completed, just as Acela did for NY to DC, it will probably take over 85% of the current air traffic from NY to Boston. Why deal with all the hassles of flying with the security checks after traveling to a distant airport with increasing chances of delays or cancellations due to weather when you can hop on a very nice train with drinks, laptop plugs, room to spread out and work or just play cards with new friends in the Club car?

It is unfortunate that in my home state of New Jersey, the most densely populated State in the USA, more densely populated than China with over 1,000 miles of existing Rail and branches combing our whole state that Rail expansion basically stopped and has gone backwards since 2006. Except for the opening of the Meadowlands Rail to Giants/Jets stadium for sporting and concert events, services have been cut and expansion has basically been stalled even though 50% of New Jersey lives within a mile of an existing train station, let alone reopened Rail branch lines.

And why can't we do both EVs AND build more public transportation?

What for? Visit grandma and take Disneyland vacations..............
I'm afraid you could be suffering from cognitive dissonance.
Just the other day you were claiming that people will give up their useless consuming (flatscreen TV's) and buy EV's instead.

The current predicament was attained by utilizing cheap fossil fuel (including the population explosion). Consumerism is the lifeblood of globalism. Debt is an increasing burden to the sorry mess. The electronics industry and consumerism is entwined hand and foot with the business of manufacturing, marketing, selling and maintaining EV's. Are Apple, Panasonic, Samsung etc only minor players on the employment front? EV's are just an extension of the consumer addiction and BAU at all costs meme. Same for electric trains. They are a pipe dream of those that think we will have BAU lite and commute to work on them (what damn work). The load on government as more and more jobless emerge, will choke off the present life giving subsidies.

The world will not revert to last century but with seven billion people. When businesses begin to fail due to falling consumerism and overwhelming debt, jobs will be a premium and the migrations to shanty towns and the perception of work will leave EV's and electric trains to their death by starvation.

To blithely proclaim that we can give up consuming and buy EV's and continue our "average 60M round trip" to work and back is astounding. For a thought experiment imagine we tomorrow cut by decree the selling and manufacturing of 50% of consumer "useless" products, or even non essential services, or even if its gradual. Do you think it would be a good thing? If you do the dissonance is probably complete.

Some very good reading, the first two will give you an understanding as to why we behave the way we do, even with the realization that we are killing ourselves and the biosphere. They are available at Amazon or from Audible dot com.

"How The Mind Works" Steven Pinker
"You Are Not So Smart" David McRaney
"After America" Mark Steyn
"How It Ends" Chris Impey

I do not disagree much. I do think that there are a few things the existing government/system could do before it fails that would have real, lasting benefit. Creating the basic structure of an electric rail system would be one. This could be done in a very low tech way that is maintainable at lower complexity. Such a system would be a useful legacy that would preserve some measure of transportation capability, not for daily commuting to remote jobs like we do today but it would allow people and goods to move around. I believe such a system would be an important infrastructure to help ease our transition to a lower energy society.

I do not really believe this will happen other than in limited areas.

Why is the thinking still about building and engineering our way out of a situation brought about by those very endeavors and actions.
There are no more pioneer routes to "open up" and develop. The rail infrastructure presently built is much, much more than enough to satisfy the "want and need" in the future. Look what is written up thread about unemployment in some European countries. What use are electric trains and ev's to those so poor as to not be able to afford a fare. They don't consign goods or purchase online, they are "out of a job". They have no prospects and no hope but for government assistance.

Then again there are those that laud the vision of France, they expect to be an island of plenty in a sea of want. If copies amounts of electric power is the only requirement to stabilize decline, defend their borders and global warming.....

Jobs are everything. High employment is required by governments, corporations, small and large businesses and individuals.
We can't desire a consumerless society and expect to even sustain a modicum of regulated adjustment.

What would benefit everyone the most is protecting fossil fuel deposits like they WMD's.
The most dangerous people are right here on TOD. They keep writing of what we can do if we just build more. They acknowledge overpopulation but say its not a problem because the "growth rate" is declining. They acknowledge global warming but want BAU while a "gradual" change is made to how we use FF's. They laud the countries that use relatively little FF's but export all they can. All this in the face of fracking the crap out of everything for oil and gas, deepwater drilling, arctic exploration, tar sands oil production and cropping for ethanol. They want BAU so we can continue to do that?

All the while humans occupy ever habitable and even some non habitable place on Earth. The oceans are losing their ability to sequester carbon, we are killing off the very organisms that help the planet's equilibrium.

James Lovelock thinks its game over. The events set in motion are no longer containable. Watch out when the blaming begins, every human superstition will come to the surface, goats will be scaped from all walks of life.

I have not studied the amount of available track in the US, nor stated what the right amount is - if there is enough and all we need to do is put passenger service on it, then fine. I don't believe that is the situation. In the Allentown region of PA we have very little connection to anywhere by rail, and no local trolley systems.

None of us know exactly what the "want and need" of the future is nor the exact details or time scale of the decline ahead of us - to state otherwise is pretentious. I'm certainly not advocating trying to build a functioning rail system as a means of preserving BAU or some sort of jobs program, merely as a gift to those who will come after us who's world we have done so much damage to. Maybe it will be of use for a time.

Honestly, do you think the TOD crowd here is of a single mind? Do you think you are the only one who sees the situation and finds in it reason to despair? Despair and wring your hands and wail if you wish, it means nothing and does nothing. I will try to do what I can to be of use to people in the future I will never know, without any idea whether the things I did were helpful, and with full knowledge of how bad the situation really is.

New Mexico Earthquakes Linked to Wastewater Injection

An ongoing earthquake swarm in New Mexico and Colorado, which includes Colorado's largest earthquake since 1967, is due to underground wastewater injection, researchers said Friday (April 19) at the Seismological Society of America's annual meeting in Salt Lake City.

The earthquakes are concentrated near wastewater injection wells in the Raton Basin, where mining companies are extracting methane from coalbeds. The basin, which is actually a series of rock layers exposed in the Rocky Mountain foothills, stretches from northeastern New Mexico to southern Colorado.

I'm really not sure this matters, assuming it is indeed the case?

New or newly updated CRS reports that Congress has not made publicly available include the following from Congressional Research Service [CRS] ...

Drought in the United States: Causes and Issues for Congress

Public policy issues related to drought range from how to identify and measure drought to how best to prepare for, mitigate, and respond to drought impacts, and who should bear associated costs.

While numerous federal programs address different aspects of drought, no comprehensive national drought policy exists. A 2000 National Drought Policy Commission noted the patchwork nature of drought programs, and that despite a major federal role in responding to drought, no single federal agency leads or coordinates drought programs—instead, the federal role is more of “crisis management.”

... A 2008 study asserted that water storage in Lake Mead has a 50% probability by 2021 to “run dry” and a 10% chance by 2014 to drop below levels needed to provide hydroelectric power under current climate conditions and without changes to water allocation in the basin.

... a 2012 study confirmed that the Colorado River is over-allocated given existing and projected water supply levels and that “the long-term projected imbalance in future supply and demand [based on median projections of each] is about 3.2 million acre-feet by 2060.”

Economic Recovery: Sustaining U.S. Economic Growth in a Post-Crisis Economy

In the typical post-war business cycle, lower than normal growth during the recession is quickly followed by a recovery period with above normal growth. This above normal growth serves to speed up the reentry of the unemployed to the workforce. Once the economy reaches potential output (and full employment), growth returns to its normal growth path, where the pace of aggregate spending advances in step with the pace of aggregate supply. There is concern that this time the U.S. economy will either not return to its pre-recession growth path but perhaps remain permanently below it, or return to the pre-crisis path but at a slower than normal pace.

Problems on the supply side and the demand side of the economy have so far led to a weaker than normal recovery.

Thx WP

Re: Economic Recovery ... Congress should have asked the Onion (h/t Desdemona Despair)...

Nation Starting To Realize New Era of American Innovation Never Gonna Happen

After nearly a decade of promises that the nation was on the brink of a technological, economic, and scientific golden age, citizens across the country confirmed Monday they are now realizing a bold new era of American innovation is just flat-out not gonna happen.

Citing the fragile economy and an exceedingly volatile political landscape, many Americans told reporters they are now fairly certain that the chances of the United States spearheading global advancements within the likes of biotechnology, health care, or manufacturing are pretty much zilch.

... “During the last election, I admittedly got really excited when Obama proposed things like a high-speed rail system, a modernized and more efficient national power grid, and affordable college educations for every American,” said physical therapist Chris Donner, 42, of Wilmington, DE. “But now that I’ve had a chance to sort of step back and calmly assess where we are as a country, I can say with full confidence that we’re not taking any bold leaps into a bright future anytime soon.”

“I still drive a car that runs on expensive gasoline along dilapidated, crumbling roads, I put my kids through an education system that’s as broken as ever, and my sister died of cancer last year,” Donner continued. “So, unless every other part of America is experiencing a bold resurgence that just hasn’t gotten to Wilmington yet, I can safely say I’ll be long dead before any of that happens.”

... A 2008 study asserted that water storage in Lake Mead has a 50% probability by 2021 to “run dry” and a 10% chance by 2014 to drop below levels needed ...

And as of 2013, those chances have decreased. Mead and Powell have maintained a combined 50-60% capacity even in the face of a decade of drought.

Not that it couldn't happen. But the water management plan in place is designed to keep Mead out of critical decline.

We'll see. The last decade hasn't really been a "decade of drought". The rather precipitous drop in total storage from 2000-2005 in the linked graph was during drought years; the last six or seven years have had pretty normal inflows on average. 2011 was, in fact, a bumper year -- snow pack ran about 120% of average, and the North American Monsoon that year was very strong. 2012 was quite dry again, and the overall snow pack for 2013 is running well below average (the extreme northern portions of the Colorado drainage are in good shape, but farther south is not looking good).

IIRC, the recent (last few years) drought rules that the feds imposed on Arizona/California/Nevada don't relieve the upper basin states of the requirement to deliver 7.5 Maf per year from the Glen Canyon Dam. So basically they've shifted the risk of running dry from a long string of drought years from Mead to Powell.

Those two evaporation tanks days are limited.
I doubt that both will ever be full again, and the priority will be Mead.
So Glen Canyon will reemerge, and what is left will just fill with runoff soil.

What BP doesn’t want you to know about the 2010 Gulf oil spill – ‘These are the same symptoms experienced by soldiers who returned from the Persian Gulf War with Gulf War syndrome’

“It’s as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid.” That’s what Jamie Griffin says the BP man told her about the smelly, rainbow-streaked gunk coating the floor of the “floating hotel” where Griffin was feeding hundreds of cleanup workers during the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, the workers were tracking the gunk inside on their boots. Griffin, as chief cook and maid, was trying to clean it. But even boiling water didn’t work.

“I tried Pine-Sol, bleach, I even tried Dawn on those floors.” As she scrubbed, the mix of cleanser and gunk occasionally splashed onto her arms and face.

Within days, the 32-year-old single mother was coughing up blood and suffering constant headaches. She lost her voice. “My throat felt like I’d swallowed razor blades,” she says.

Then things got much worse.

"It’s as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid."

That's not very safe. Try to avoid dumping it into natural bodies of water. Actually, most detergents are more dangerous than crude oil is. There are about 200 natural crude oil leaks in the Gulf of Mexico, and there are oil-eating bacteria in the Gulf that specialize in metabolizing crude oil. If BP had just skipped the toxic chemicals and let the local bacteria work on the oil, it would have been a lot healthier from the natural environment standpoint. In 5-10 years, the oil would have been gone and nobody would know it ever happened.

“I tried Pine-Sol, bleach, I even tried Dawn on those floors.” As she scrubbed, the mix of cleanser and gunk occasionally splashed onto her arms and face.

Within days, the 32-year-old single mother was coughing up blood and suffering constant headaches. She lost her voice. “My throat felt like I’d swallowed razor blades,” she says.

Then things got much worse.

Another hint: Don't mix household chemicals. Mix hypochlorite bleach with certain acidic drain-cleaners, and all of a sudden it's WWI all over again in your very own bathroom - a chlorine gas attack. Machine guns are no defense.

"Actually, most detergents are more dangerous than crude oil is."

Let's see now. I once calculated that oil from the Exxon Valdez was 1-1/2% BTEX, that is benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. All light weight aromatics. Benzene is a known carcinogen. Marine bacteria that metabolize crude oil can only do so if the concentration of benzene is very low. If it's high it kills them. Some people have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, that is, nearly any strong unusual odor causes nausea and vomiting. Very sensitive folks may have a reaction even before the offending chemical can be smelled or tasted. So the detergent may in fact be the cause of the reaction.


Marine bacteria that metabolize crude oil can only do so if the concentration of benzene is very low.

It's a good thing that the concentration of benzene in crude oil is very low, otherwise the bacteria wouldn't be able to destroy it. I'm not talking about a hypothetical thing here, this is something that bacteria do if they get the chance.

Some people have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, that is, nearly any strong unusual odor causes nausea and vomiting.

So, if you have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, stay away from crude oil. Let the insensitive guys who wallow in it every day handle it - they are used to it.

What I am saying is that detergents used to clean up crude oil are often more toxic to the environment than crude oil is. Companies use detergents, and governments encourage it, because what is left afterwards looks a lot cleaner than a crude oil spill, even though the environment has been completely screwed up. In many cases, the best thing to do with a crude oil spill is to stand back and let nature take its course.

In the old days we used to just throw a burning rag into the spill and set it on fire. That's just as effective as waiting several years, and much quicker. Nature is even better at cleaning up after a fire than after an oil spill. Trust me, I've seen a lot of grass and forest fires.

Understandably, most people want the "Big Bad Oil Company" to completely clean up an oil spill. It's a task that is far easier said than done.

I'm skeptical of the benefits of using chemical dispersants on a spill. It seems more of an attempt to hide the oil by dispersing it into the water column and the chemical dispersants themselves are toxic. OTOH if oil is allowed to drift ashore this presents new cleanup challenges.

After the Exxon Valdez spill there were intensive efforts to clean beaches with high pressure hot water. Some beach areas were left uncleaned so comparisons could be made in the future between beaches that had been cleaned and those which had not. Studies show that the hot water cleaning was not always the best choice -- in some types of beach environments it did more damage to the environment than if no cleanup had been done.

The conclusion I would have to draw is that it is far more important to focus on preventing spills. It's too late once a spill occurs -- it is impossible to cleanup 100% of a spill and the cleanup effort itself has the potential to do additional damage to the environment.

Egypt to issue schedule next month for gradual fuel subsidy cuts

This is going to be interesting to watch. On the one hand, the absolutely HAVE TO do this. They can't afford the subsidies and the subsidies are TERRIBLE POLICY. On the other hand, the people are going to riot (I think). Stuck between a rock and a hard place.

If you're correct in your post further up that a transition is being made away from ICE's to alternative powered vehicles, as they are in Silicon Valley, then why don't the Egyptians do the same to avoid the financial burden of a loss in subsidies?

Well why would they adopt EVs when they have subsidized gasoline? Indeed, that is one of the reasons why oil subsidies are such terrible policy.

But the transition to EVs is JUST starting and it is slow and expensive. It is just a trickle today . . . but it will increase as gasoline prices continue to go up. One of the reasons why they are more popular in California is that we have higher gasoline prices.

I do not believe their will be a 1-for-1 transition from ICE cars to EVs . . . there will be less driving involved. Public transportation needs to be improved to make up for that.

But that said, Egypt certainly could benefit by taking advantage of electric bicycles. They are reasonably inexpensive, VERY efficient, they have good weather to use them in, etc. China literally has tens of millions of them.

Because, I'm sure a lot of them could afford EVs if their gasoline were not so subsidized......

Well, the country cannot afford to subsidize gasoline any more, and the people cannot afford to pay full price for gasoline. The country cannot afford to subsidize EV's, and the people can't afford them either.

What is your third choice for affordable transportation - well, bicycles leap to mind. Electric trains are affordable where population densities are high enough - and in Cairo they are certainly high enough. It certainly worked in what I saw of China, and Egypt is as affluent as China used to be in the old days, before it got on its current economic roll.

The problem for the idea of a gentle and seamless transition from ICE to EV is that this is only possible at moneyed end of society. And anywhere where highway infrastructure is maintained by fuel taxes you can clearly see the problem. The moneyed and influential will insist on continued spending on driving infrastructure while personally opting out of contributing to its construction or upkeep (not paying fuel taxes). Forcing those trapped in an increasingly unaffordable technology (old inefficient cars) to pay for the convenience of those Silicon Valley types mentioned above, who, like Spec. can't see the problem. Just by a new car; losers!

Of course it is those stuck with high fuel costs and taxes are the ones that would most benefit from an ambitious programme to invest in the return of viable urban Transit, but the time-poor well off who believe that the convenience of the private car must not ever be compromised by investment of scale in Transit will prevent this. They will prefer other ways of persuading themselves that it can be EVs for all with little discount schemes (fully captured by the already well off) and other delusions.

But they're probably right in that we don't have the resources to build both. Unfortunately they will force society to fund their preference, which will lead to huge inequality of access. Late model high tech EV and hybrid vehicles will be speeding past bikes, wrecks, and probably even horse-and-carts. The cities with legacy Transit systems (especially wired electric) or that are investing now will be more successful, less violent, and happier places.

Thinking we can order this century around the private car shows both a lack imagination and sense of history, as well as a desire for a very feudal have and have not world. Oh and the return of the highway man- those flash cars are going to be targeted.

Last thought on technology transition. The Prius went into production in 1997, 15+ years ago. Not testing, or design; production. What proportion of the fleet are these things now? When will the transition begin?

Yes, I see this as the biggest barrier to keeping "a lot of cars" around in the post-carbon age.

If only rich people can afford cars, there will be a lot less support for spending on infrastructure. And even Bill Gates can't afford to pay for his own highway system.

It's possible we'll move to some kind of third world system, where ordinary folk still use the roads via taxis, jeepneys, buses, and trucks, I suppose.

My take is the distribution system fails before the highway system. There's no way retail gas stations, as we know them, are viable once demand gets soft.

They're squeaking along selling beer, candy, and lottery tickets at current demand levels.

If fuel demand drops another 10-15%, watch out.

And even Bill Gates can't afford to pay for his own highway system.

yeah but he can probably afford his own helicopter...

Sao Paulo has the second largest fleet of privately owned helicopters in the world, the rich don't need roads or cars! The poor could never afford cars anyway and those of us in the middle class, well we'll have to do things differently in the future.

In case anyone is thinking of getting a helicopter...

The Real Cost of Helicopter Ownership
Posted on December 28, 2010 by Maria Langer

The Bottom Line

When you look at the cost of acquisition, the fixed cost of ownership, and operating costs, a helicopter like mine costs a heck of a lot more than the $185.10 per hour Robinson estimates. I can tell you exactly how much I spent on insurance, fuel, oil, maintenance, and repairs over the past 6 years: $208,000. Divide that by the 1100 hours I flew during that period and you get $200 per hour. Now add in the reserve for the overhaul that is required at 2,200 hours — roughly $100 per hour. So, after 6 years of operations, I’m seeing an average hourly cost of $300 per hour — not Robinson’s rosy $185.

Of course, that calculation doesn’t include my other costs to operate a business: advertising, supplies, travel, hangar rent, automobiles, taxes, fees, etc., etc. It doesn’t include depreciation, either. It also doesn’t include the $2,100 per month I pay on my aircraft loan or my initial $160,000 cash downpayment. Ouch.

In Sao Paulo it's double the price...

I'm actually curious as to when we're going to experience these uber high gas prices that everyone keeps predicting. We still haven't surpassed the prices from 2008...5 years ago. Same with oil, still cheaper than it was 5 years ago. Unless something turns around quick this summer, it even seems like gas this year will be cheaper than last summer. When viewed from 2008, the trend in gasoline prices has actually been declining year over year. If anything, driving has become *more* affordable in the past 5 years. Especially when considered with the ridiculously cheap credit out there and crazy long loan lengths.

" If anything, driving has become *more* affordable in the past 5 years."

Considering reduced consumption and falling miles driven, apparently not, unless you are positing that most folks are suddenly 'getting it', and doing the right things. Spikes and consistantly higher prices relative to incomes have donr their jobs well, IMO, but we still have a long way to go.

Certainly if you don't have a job then it has gotten more expensive, but in my daily experience it seems most people are driving less by choice just to save money, not because of actual financial duress. Personally that's how it has happened in my household - the cost of gas isn't an issue whatsoever however we both try to minimize driving just to save some money and wear and tear on our cars.

I could have stuck this as a reply in a lot of places up-thread but this seemed as good a place as any.

It drives me crazy reading about alternative transportation when they are all based on some form of BAU or BAU Lite continuing into the future. The assumption is that people will have the same or comparable jobs for the same money...they will only use some form of different transportation.

I hate to be the continual wet blanket but it seems obvious to me that as resources dwindle BAU and BAU Lite are dead meat in the medium term if not sooner. I fully acknowledge that no one including me can foresee how it will play out. But, we know several things for sure: Energy costs will escalate impacting everything from food availability and cost to transportation. Further, I believe - with no proof - that many of today's jobs will die.

What society needs to do is finally site down and start discussing what kind of alternative society is possible. It could be some form of Ecotopia or more tribal/localized for that matter. However, we aren't having any discussions involving society as a whole. And, it is unlikely that we ever will until it is too late.


Agreed. I started several responses at the various places this topic is covered today. All ended up too long, and rambling.

Not that I am long winded, or ever get off topic ;>).

The problem is, of course, that people tend to expect the future to be much like the past; radical paradigm shift is not viable to the masses. Which is why politicians promise more of the same, and businesses continue quarter to quarter, extracting as much wealth as possible from the commons and basically urinating on everyone.

Being a septeginarian, I am not concerned that I will be impacted by even the mid-term problems. My children, though, will be, and my grand children even more. For them I am sorry... and I tell them that frequently. And let them know they have one heck of a job to do in the future if they want to survive.


Oh I fully agree that the up-front money cost is a problem.

And I do see that problem. That's why I tend to focus on the low-end EV and point out that the transition is going to occur with a lot of bitching, moaning, and pain. But it is not just rich Silicon Valley people buying $30K cars, that is the AVERAGE price for a new car. And the median probably skews lower such that a $28.8K Leaf S is higher than the median price. But, the Leaf S costs much less to fuel so you'll be able to afford a larger monthly payment.

The Tesla Model S is a beautiful car and great piece of engineering . . . but that car is not ever going to be sold in large quantities because it just costs way too much for most people.

And yeah, the poor are gonna be screwed (as always). But the poor people are one of the reason the EV subsidies are needed. The EV subsidies help the middle class people buy EVs. And the subsidized EVs will eventually trickle down in the used market. But a lot poor people are going to have to use public transportation to get the work. Commuting a sizeable distance in an old low-MPG ICE clunker is just not going to be manageable with a low-wage job. Lots of Priuses on the used market will help.

I think it's likely the poor will simply move close to their jobs. Live above store, like in the old days. Or employers will provide housing on site, again like they used to in the old days (and still do for migrant farm workers and some others).

As it is, there are people who don't drive and don't use public transportation, but still work. They are limited to jobs they can bike or walk to. I used to be one of them.

Exactly. The automobile is part of a transportation system, which includes roads, highways, bridges, snowplows, road salt, traffic police and emergency services, traffic control devices, rest areas, spare parts distribution systems, etc. In every rural township I've lived in the road related costs were the biggest part of the budget and the road crew represented the majority of the employees - and I do not remember any of those townships EVER building a new road, as they forced the developers to do that. Those were maintenance costs only. Highway costs are huge in all local, state and national budgets, and at least some of it comes from what amount to taxes on use.

Many of these are fixed costs that do not scale proportionately with reduced numbers of vehicles or miles traveled. So if the number of vehicles drops dramatically, there will be pressure from those who still drive to maintain the system, while those who don't use it will balk while any use tax revenue falls. That will clearly be a class divide. How much smaller do people think the system can get and still be maintained?

On the other side is the belief that the electric automobile can be scaled up to significant levels. At the current level of penetration, electric automobiles are insignificant in all ways, including their impact on the electric distribution system. That won't remain true if they were actually scaled up.

Last the Prius is an ICE powered automobile. A better analog is the electric car itself, which has been with us since the dawn of the automobile age. The fundamental problems with it have not been solved because they are inherent characteristics of an EV, based on the need to transfer large amounts of energy into the storage media (matter) in the car and the fixed and significant amounts of time that takes. The non-idealities of batteries only make that worse.

TOD is a great web site full of very informed posters, but this post is so far out of touch with reality it really brings me back down with a crash.

Egypt has recently gone from oil export status to oil import status. Their population has grown to 80 million and their agriculture can support 20 million sustainably. The Nile is so over exploited that most of the year it doesn't reach the sea. They are run by a military back patriarchal elite which recently transitioned from Western backed strong man to Islamic backed strong man, who wants to reduce womens rights further and expand the population. Egypt was the original spiritual home of the extreme branch of Islam which causes most of the terrorism we are so terrified of.

Egypt is bankrupt , hungry, close to civil war and population collapse. And you ask why they don't build and sell more EV's?

I'm fairly sure Peak Earl understands that and that the comment was intended to point that out. I could be wrong.

Up top Oil Sands Environmental Data (Canada Earth Day Harpo)


1. Quick glance at the .xl spread on metals on the slave lake, would anyone know the method used to get the ug/l? I can't see ICP being used in situ. (Used to do SDWA's etc. in the US)

I do not see any reference to sampling metals in the microgram per liter is the web site for the data sampling apparatus.


The water quality parameters listed above could be done automated with Technicons in the lab back in the early 80s. Is there in situ methods nowadays that would find metals at those levels that does not involved spectroscopy?

2. Why can't they leave a Picsces or two in the Experimental lakes if they can get the data that rich via satellite? (They could)

3. How can we be assured that this sampling will not suddenly stop by executive fiat a la the Experimental Lakes Area?

wget -r does yield up a lot of data when applied to interior portions of the joint oil sands monitoring web site. Gawd, lots of data in csv

Interesting with the food-poisoning article how they jumped so hard on the campylobacter infections, which only killed 6 people, next to the leading killer, Salmonella, killing 33 or almost 6 times as many.

We hear food poisoning and are pointed immediately at bad meat and, of course, raw milk.. while blithely scooting past the infection that did the real heavy Coffin-lifting. Interesting enough to look across to the Russian Nuclear article and notice that the main effect of higher rad doses was a weakened immune system, the part that our bodies use to protect us from things like Salmonella and Campylo..

I'll be interesting if they start looking at rancidity in long-stored and overheated seed-oils, and 'fresh' produce that sits in traffic, warehouses and storeshelves for extended stretches before making it to our plates.. instead of getting all twitchy about Raw Milk, over and over.

Planned Gulf lease sale to open 21 million acres for oil, gas drilling

Federal regulators plan to put more than 21 million acres in the western Gulf of Mexico up for bid to offshore energy producers in August, the Obama administration said Wednesday.

The lease sale, tentatively set for Aug. 28 in New Orleans, will include about 3,953 federally owned drilling tracks from nine miles to 250 miles off the coast of Texas. The blocks are in water depths of 16 to more than 10,975 feet, the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which regulates offshore drilling, said in an announcement.

The sale could lead to the production of 116 million to 200 million barrels of oil [6-11 days supply of U.S. oil consumption], and 538 billion to 938 billion cubic feet of gas resources, according to federal regulators.

Stuart Staniford who once thought Saudi Arabia was headed for a "Nosedive In the Desert", then had second thoughts and retracted his prediction, now seems to be having second thoughts again:

Latest Saudi Arabian Oil Supply

I'm resolved to follow Saudi Arabia a bit more closely after the big cut-back this winter. The above is the latest data: March shows a very slight increase in production (probably less than the uncertainties in the data, so we could call it basically flat over February). There was also one extra oil rig in country. No sign of a return to the mid 2012 production level at present.

That's it, probably the shortest of all his blog articles. But we can see his thinking here, "Hey, there is something very serious going on here!, or something to that effect. And I agree. Something is coming down in Saudi, and we should know about it before the end of 2013.

Ron P.

IMO, the ECI plot (ratio of total petroleum liquids production to liquids consumption) clarifies things quite a bit:

2012 data not yet available.

I posted this on Stuart's site:

On one hand, the 1 million barrel/day drop over a couple of months looks too dramatic to be caused by natural decline. On the other hand, the rig count and high prices over the last couple of years suggest that it isn't voluntary. Maybe the water column in one of their giant fields hit the multilateral wells at the top of the anticline? This would mean game over for high production for that field, and the only big game left in the foreseeable future would be Manifa.

On one hand, the 1 million barrel/day drop over a couple of months looks too dramatic to be caused by natural decline.

Actually, according to the OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report, the drop from June, the peak, to January was .85 mb/d and took seven months. Still too fast for natural decline but I think natural decline had a lot to do with it.

Saudi Crude Only production in kb/d.

Jun-12	9,926
Jul-12	9,847
Aug-12	9,851
Sep-12	9,738
Oct-12	9,738
Nov-12	9,565
Dec-12	9,096
Jan-13	9,078
Feb-13	9,082
Mar-13	9,123

Ron P.

So maybe it is simply just natural decline.

Is it possible SA purposely cut back production due to lower oil prices, to reduce world exports in an effort to try and raise the price back up?

Anything is possible but Saudi production dropped most last year when oil prices were at their highest, over $110 a barrel. So it could not have been to get prices back up because they were already up.

Ron P.

Output from the Abu Safa field in Saudi Arabia (shared with Bahrain) fell by 8% in October-December on an annual basis.

Bahrain growth slows in Q4 as oil output stalls

The small non-Opec oil exporter has reported a decline in crude output from its key Abu Safa field shared with Saudi Arabia, which accounts for around 70 percent of budget revenue.

Output in the hydrocarbon sector, which accounts for a quarter of Bahrain's $30 billion economy, grew by a mere 0.4 percent in October-December from the previous quarter and plunged nearly 8 percent on an annual basis.

Don't know if anyone noticed the statistics that showed US supply was down; today oil is up >2% (see the chart top right).

I can't say for certain that we are seeing something significant. IMO, though, prices are reacting as we would expect in a PO situation, and production as well. Demand drops a bit, prices drop, supply falls off... prices reach $90/bbl and productions craters, so that supply drops from low production and purchasing. When supply becomes critical, the remaining demand increases price to where drilling and extraction efforts become economic, and, viola!

In short, the $90 price range seems somewhat vindicated as the level below which oil is not produced sufficient to meet demand. We can expect oil to vacilate between ~$90 and ~$110/bbl until all of the oil that is economic in that range is exhausted, at which point prices go up some more, demand goes down some more, and the plateau undulates like a snake!


Lots of material lately on sustainability; general posting is skepetical that our corporate masters will have any part of it. Nice to know that someone is studying the subject:


Referenced in the blog is a publication, Sustainability Practices, 2012., that you can have for your own for only $395.00. It highlights 72 areas in which American corporations are engaged. Since that is out of my price range, I will leave it for one of you high rollers to actually read the materials collected. Interestingly, what I have seen reviewing it, there seems to be little mention of peak oil, or other references to finite resources.

Still, the Harvard blog will be a good site for study. Enjoy.


For those interested in such, Ohio State U offers degrees in Sustainability.


There are several others, Cleveland State, and one in Colorado that show up in a Google search.

I now have a better idea where I should send my grandchildren for school, and what they need to be studying!


Chile says burned Chinese ship sinks in Antarctic

A Chinese factory fishing ship that burned last week off Antarctica has sunk without anyone on board, Chile’s navy said on Monday.

The vessel Kai Xin caught fire and its 97 crew members were rescued by a Norwegian ship...

"An environmental disaster is ruled out because of the fire on board," Villegas said. "Experts say that if there was any fuel on board it has burned out by now."

Call for fewer tourists to Antarctica

Environmentalists are calling for tougher regulations in Antarctica, as tourism numbers continue to rise.

They say visitors these days want to do more than just look at the ice and wildlife from their ships. Many want to go ashore for adventure tourism and hiking, and that significantly increases the risk for the environmentally fragile continent...

And with all those extra people disembarking, there are fears habitats will be trampled. There's even the possibility of an exotic species being introduced. And then there's the big one: a cruise ship running aground and leaking oil.

Ukrainian Scientists Discover Oil-And-Gas Deposits In Antarctica

Ukrainian scientists in West Antarctica, near the Ukrainian Antarctic Station Vernadsky Research Base, based on the results of geoelectric sounding in 2012 discovered a petroleum province, reads a statement made by the State Agency for Science, Innovations and Informatisation.

The scientists found anomalies of the petroleum accumulation type of overall area near 600 square kilometers, substantiated by the satellite exploration data.

"The data received, bear evidence of existence of a new petroleum province in this part of the Antarctic shelf. Real prospects are yet to be estimated," the statement said.

And a 97 crew fishing ship is not an enviornmental disaster in it self+

When there's an apparent need to fish in Antarctic waters-- possibly the most inhospitable-- perhaps this suggests something of a kind of desperation? The state of our age?

Yet another claim for a battery breakthrough:
New Battery Design Could Help Solar and Wind Power the Grid

have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid.

"flow" batteries, because it's relatively simple to scale their tanks, pumps and pipes to the sizes needed to handle large capacities of energy. The new flow battery developed by Cui's group has a simplified, less expensive design that presents a potentially viable solution for large-scale production.

"In initial lab tests, the new battery also retained excellent energy-storage performance through more than 2,000 charges and discharges, equivalent to more than 5.5 years of daily cycles,"

Yet another of a string of potential storage longshots.

Multiple explosions in fuel barge fire
MOBILE, Ala (WALA) - UPDATE: 10:07 p.m. - Mobile Mayor Sam Jones said Mobile Fire-Rescue will let the fire burn out on its own to prevent further injuries.

Turned out better than that time in 93 when the Amtrak train went for a swim (one very lost barge operator hit a rail bridge in the bayou). I also remember in 97 when the chlorine tankers derailed in Pritchard, that could have been very bad. Things just go bad all too often in West LA (lower Alabama) and other times they are incredibly lucky.

In the land where science and safety are often shunned, I was not surprised to also see a link on the WALA site that Pritchard's city water is over MCL's for trihalomethanes. The source was pawning it off onto "disinfection operations" in the past. It would be nice if Mobile would send them over some of their water from their reservoir, but that's never going to happen.

The population control debate in one Jamaican newspaper rages on:

EDITORIAL - Helping young people negotiate sex

LETTER OF THE DAY - Force contraception on baby-factory moms

Alan from the islands

And in Iran it goes backwards.


Hope you read Swedish. Apparently they decided it is time to stop all pop growth control work, hire 150 000 workers to educate people in the benefits in having more kids, and double the population.

Google translates that so well I'd almost swear it had been written in English.

I thought when the Mullahs took over initially that they encouraged a baby boom with the hopes of creating some Islamic renaissance....which instead lead to a bunch of children that grew up and discovered something called "science" and an admiration for the US. We're doing bad things with all of the sanctions...basically taking a population that was headed in the direction of western democracies and pushing them into the open arms of religious nutbags.

Democracy or religious nutbags are all the same to the empire. It's about allowing our corporations access to their resources, we really could care less about anything else.

After reading this latest batch of Drumbeat comments, I wanted to share my thoughts to USA citizens regarding suburbia.

Some here are quick to despise and criticize these vast areas of private houses and regard highly of Europe and his cities with extensive mass transit.

There are some good reasons for such an opinion but it seems to me that many are losing sight of the privilege and advantages that the easy access to private housing brings with it.

I for one live in the center of this "mass transit paradise", in Geneva, Switzerland. Of course, it is convenient to be able to use new tram lines that were laid a couple of years ago, and to reach my tram station after a few minutes of bike-riding and leave the bike there until the evening. But there is a price for it: in Geneva, the areas for prive housing did not materially expand for at least 20 years. It is currently politically inacceptable to propose opening up more acreage for prive housing.

It must not be understood that the city has embraced limit to growth and refuses to convert more agricultural lands to urban zones. No. Every year, the city is quietly expanding but every square meter will be dedicated to buildings with rental units or condominium.

I would really like to be able to buy a nice house (even in wood as they seem to made of in the USA!) and I am not alone in this case as one can infer from the constant stream of people from Geneva moving to nearby Vaud state or surrounding France to find these (not so) cheap houses that are not being built in Geneva (incidentally creating traffic jam problems, of course).

So, yes, mass transit is good but as prerequisite involves compact cities with everybody living in appartments... and that's not what everybody wants! The advantage of a house for me are the workshop space, the DIY veranda, possibly a small seasonal swimming pool for children, a garden. You can forget about these in your appartement. And don't forget PV. In this connection, EV will have a hard time to catch on here because where do you charge your car? Many people just leave their in the street overnight; they don't have a garage (although new buildings usually have underground garage but without power sockets). So, for the most part, we will be stuck with mass transit.

OTOH, in the USA, you seem to have a pretty high chunk of people living in houses and they can install PV and power their EV when the time comes...
For the PV advantage and the garden, I would not be too quick to condamn suburbia. It might have hidden strenghts that will come to the light gradually.

and that's not what everybody wants!

When a population is massively in overshoot and resource limits begin to take hold, perhaps there are many people who cannot satisfy their wants. There are many today who want food and/or water, but their wanting does not seem to produce it.

The opportunity to buy a detached house is unquestionably one of the primary reasons why so many people want to move to countries like Canada and the US.

Linking PV with electric cars is really mixing two independent things.
As to US suburbia, for me the most amazing thing is how wide most of the streets are (and sometimes curb), and how small front/backyards are.
(of course some exceptions)

Linking PV with electric cars is really mixing two independent things.

expliquer, s'il vous plaît.

They are two independent things, yes, you don't need one to do the other...but they compliment each other in a synergistic way. To fuel your car you put up PV and since you're doing that anyway you go ahead and put up more than you need so you can power your house as well. So you eliminate the CO2, NOx, SOx produced by the car and at least some of the CO2/NOx/SOx/Hg used to generate electricity for your house. Lower emissions and your overall costs wind up lower.

Yes, but I find mixing the two a bit of a classical "green washing angle", especially when the PVs are on the car roof (the numbers do not add up)
Most PVs installation are tied to the grid these days (and it makes sense), except for remote locations.
Moreover the sun peak isn't probably when you want to charge your car.
So really seems to me that for EVs, the important thing is the availibility of sockets tied to the grid (and possibly the charge billing system associated).
And as to PV or not, it is part of the overall strategy to feed the grid (and if PVs are put as a canopy above a parking lot for instance, that cars below are EV or not isn't that related)
Also think that the EVs making sense aren't really "normal cars except that they are electric", but more electric bikes, or small "cars" like the renault twizzy or the toyota i-road

If you can buy Kilowatt Hours to charge your car, and you choose to install and offset or sell Kilowatt Hours with PV, that's hardly some kind of tricky accounting. You're not even converting for different forms or units of energy at that point.. it's a direct relationship, connected through the investments made by a conscious buyer, and you are assuring that you can account for the energy you've used in transit with a clear and measurable input from a source that is within your control and your possession.

Surely people will start to see that they'll often get just as much utility from smaller vehicles, and with a far lower investment, both at the generating and the driving sides of the investment, but while you choose to sniffle at it, there are EV/PV owners today who are driving and not putting carbon or carcinogens into our air. It already shows several improvements for the owners who have described their experiences here and elsewhere.

Sorry not sure I understand your point, I'm not saying I'm anti EV or PV, just that most PV install are currently tied to the grid (and also for financial reasons at least in Europe with feed in tarrif), so that the two are really independent.

Maybe I missed your intent, but when you described it as "greenwashing", it sure sounded like you were suggesting that there isn't any real link between the two that's worth mentioning.. and the fact that they're not immediately putting the very KWH's that are being produced into that same car at the same time of day somehow negates the claimed benefits of 'replacing' the KWH's the car used with new ones from the PV. I find that logic to be flawed.

I don't hear such objections with the suggestion that the Coal KWH that have come online as a result of Nuclear ones being brought OFFline are similarly the responsibility of the Nuclear Protesters. That power is credited with clear fungibility. If it's all tied in through various measurable Grid additions and subtractions, then the relationship is there and it's not 'greenwashing' or some sort of feigned advantage.

But the intitial message was about the fact that appartment buildings instead of single family houses with respect to EV, didn't necessarily provide the sockets in the streets or in the parking, and not enough room for PV on the roof. In that case the PV aspect isn't really the key I think (even though putting some on apartments building roofs why not, in fact with flat roof might be easier to put the right orientation). And about "greenwashing", I could find tons of "design concepts" where they mix the two suggesting "here it goes the solution is found" even with 1 square meter or something on the roof of a car, or 4 or 5 per car above parking lots. A bit like these towers with a couple little windmills at the top.
Always the need for real numbers there.

Weird turn in the ricin case. The Elvis impersonator they arrested has been released.

It's still early in the investigation, but it sounds like he may have been targeted by an online enemy. Whoever sent the ricin used Paul Kevin Curtis' online sig, apparently with the intent of framing him. He suspects he knows who it was: a man named J. Everett Dutschke, with whom he has "a contentious history."

However, Dutschke denies involvement, and says they were not online enemies. He threatened to sue Curtis over a fake Mensa certificate on his Facebook page years ago, and that was the extent of their interaction. Dutschke has not been charged or arrested.

It sounds like it was an online enemy of Curtis' who did it, but whether it was Dutschke is still unknown. It also sounds like Curtis is legitimately a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

Curtis: "I thought that they were talking about rice; I don't even eat rice."

Perhaps the Mensa certificate was fake.

It also sounds like Curtis is legitimately a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

Oh yeah, I'd say so. I saw some clips from a press conference he held after his release, and the things he said were so strange I put the TV on mute until it was over.

And here I was thinking "Score one for good police work" and "the level of snooping and background investigation is sufficient to catch actual crime"*

not online enemies

Is that a thing? To have online enemies? For him to state this one guy is not an online enemy, then he must have others who are.

*Even if the crime is a rather dumb one....why would anyone believe the letters would get to the addressees and I doubt enough ricin would be transferred to be a health concern.

I seriously doubt the point of the crime was to actually hurt the politicians targeted. It was to get Curtis in trouble - and that succeeded. He was in jail for a week.

As for online enemies...yes, that's a thing. Most people content themselves with flaming those they disagree with online, but some take it into the real world, as they say. Tactics I've seen: report things posted online to someone's boss, to try and get them fired; look up their physical address and send insulting, obscene, or threatening snail mail; find out where they live and slash their tires; report them to their ISP to try and get their service cut off.

This ricin thing is about the most extreme I've ever heard of, though. The only other instance I can think of that comes close is that peak oil impersonator. She pretends to be various people oil personalities (Chris Martenson, Matt Savinar, and others) and posts obnoxious things, trying to get them in trouble and ruin their reputations. Some suspect she's someone who was banned from peak oil sites and is exacting revenge, but I'm guessing she's just nuts.

The only other instance I can think of that comes close is that peak oil impersonator.

Wait..... THAT is a thing?

If this she was in the US of A they could be looking at Federal charges of Identity theft, had any of the impersonated opted to push the issue.

The cops were involved, because threats were made to journalists and TV reporters using the assumed identities. I don't know the outcome.

IME, people who do this are either dumb kids, or adults with serious mental health issues. They aren't doing it for profit, so the punishment tends to be counseling or being cut off from the Internet for a period.

And I should say...I'm not sure the person in question is a "she." An e-mail address with a female name was used to register one of the fake accounts here, and IME this kind of thing is more common with women than men. But like they say...on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog. Could be anyone.

By 2023, 'expect the unexpected' in energy

HOUSTON -- If you could close your eyes for just a moment and, like Rip Van Winkle, blink them open in 2023, you might see a very different energy world.

Electric cars may be popular. Solar energy could be cheap enough that millions of households and businesses deploy solar panels to generate their power needs. Fossil fuels will probably still dominate, but most trucks and many trains could run on natural gas rather than more polluting diesel. And the United States could be a major oil exporter.

Dream on! This article waxes on for several pages describing the wonderful world we will live in just 10 years from now. Power plants will be turning coal into gas with only half the CO2 emissions.

Ron P.

From 1976 to 1985, the US ECI ratio (ratio of total petroleum liquids production, divided by liquids consumption) rose from 0.56 to 0.67, a rate of increase of 2%/year (as the result of rising production and declining consumption). At this rate of increase, the US would hit 1.0, and thus zero net oil imports, in 2005. But of course, production did not increase indefinitely, as US production rebounded due to Alaskan North Slope production, and the ECI ratio was down to 0.33 in 2005.

From 2008 to 2012, the ECI ratio rose at a very rapid clip, from 0.35 in 2008 to 0.54 in 2012, a rate of increase of 11%/year (as the result of rising production* and declining consumption). So, at this rate of increase, the US would hit an ECI ratio of 1.0, and thus zero net imports, around 2018.

Of course, the current rebound in US production is a result of very high decline rate tight/shale plays. My guess is that the overall decline rate from existing US wells is at least 10%/year. Total petroleum liquids production + biofuels in 2012 was 10 mbpd. At a (conservative) decline rate estimate of 10%/year, the industry would have to add (assuming no increase in decline rates, which is not likely) 6 mbpd of new petroleum liquids + biofuels production from 2012 to 2018, in order to just maintain a 10 mbpd petroleum liquids + biofuels production rate out to 2018. At a 15%/year decline rate, the industry would have to add 9 mbpd of new production, in order to maintain 10 mbpd of total petroleum liquids + biofuels production out to 2018.

Or, in round numbers, at a 15%/year overall decline rate, the US would have to replicate most of current Saudi liquids production in six years, in order to maintain 10 mbpd of total petroleum liquids + biofuels production.

And of course, the higher the production rate, the higher the annual volumetric decline rate that the industry has to offset. This of course is why Peaks Happen, and it's why we saw a (so far) absolute peak US C+C production rate in 1970, with a secondary and lower peak in 1985, i.e., starting in 1971 and 1986 respectively, the new wells being put on line could no longer offset the declines from older wells.

*Biofuels included in 2012 production number

Comments are open at the link.

Unemployment misery deepens in Spain and Greece

The eurozone debt crisis extracted a heavy price in Spain and Greece to start the year as labor markets in both countries continued to shed jobs.

The number of unemployed in Spain broke the 6 million barrier during the first quarter, a new record. The unemployment rate rose to 27.2%, according to data released Thursday by the government.

Spain's out-of-control unemployment is matched in Europe only by Greece, which posted a 27.2% jobless rate for January, the most recent month available...

... In Greece, 34.2% individuals aged 25 to 34 are unemployed. It's even worse for younger workers -- 59.3% of Greeks aged 15 to 24 are out of work.

For Spaniards aged 16 to 24, the unemployment rate is 57.2%.

Nearly 60% of kids in Greece and Spain, not going through the process of actually learning to work. I'm not talking about developing useful, specific skills, but actually learning what it takes to show up at a job, any job, and do a full day's work (the 'work ethic'). I'm just wondering what the implications are.

I'm just wondering what the implications are. ~ Ghung

Ecovillages! Real work! And less of it! More fun, love, leisure, art!

...philosopher André Gorz wrote:

"The work ethic has become obsolete. It is no longer true that producing more means working more, or that producing more will lead to a better way of life.

The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet-unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact..."
~ Wikipedia

I'm not talking about developing useful, specific skills, but actually learning what it takes to show up at a job, any job, and do a full day's work (the 'work ethic'). I'm just wondering what the implications are.

I find this a funny contrast/discrepancy that keeps showing up and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it yet.

There are folks who talk about "eschew stuffs, live simple, lower impact, etc" and often juxtaposed, sometimes the same person, will begin to rail about "work ethic" and the glory of full time employment.

These appear to be contrasting statements. When you're working - especially if you're full-time employed...you're probably at a job using resources of some sort - and you're going to use the money to buy stuff - lots of "useless junk" kind of stuff in all probability. So...perhaps not learning to be a work addict is a good thing?

So...perhaps not learning to be a work addict is a good thing

Or even better: "Working is for people who don't know how to fish!"

But I also share your sentiments.

I was pretty sure this would come up, and there's a difference in being a workaholic and being motivated. I have a streak of 'constructive laziness'; don't have to be busy all the time, though I'm still motivated enough to accomplish things to the point where I probably have more irons in the fire than I can attend to. I tend to avoid folks who are go-go-go, making little time to reflect on things.

My main concern is with the mindset, even mental health of those, especially the young, who have little sense of usefulness; idle hands, idle minds,, all that. It reminds me of Cheech and Chong's "What I did on my summer vacation" - (went downtown to look for a job then hung out in front of the drugstore). It's important to most people to have some sense of purpose.

Even living a low-impact lifestyle and living sustainably require a learned sense of motivation and self worth, perhaps especially so.

How to solve overpopulation

However, it's not too late to stop the world's trend of overpopulation, he said. He claims the solution is for families to have only one child.

Wow! Now why didn't I think of that? What a genus this guy is.

Ron P.

I believe that Congress' approval rating is in the low double digit range. Here is a story that could send it down to the low single digit range:

Politico: Lawmakers, aides may get Obamacare exemption

Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.

The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers — are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said. A source close to the talks says: “Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done.”

Robert Heinlein:

In a mature society, "civil servant" is semantically equal to "civil master."

I read something about it (on Kevin Drm), apparently a rider was put into the Obamacare bill. Like all big legislation there will be some holes/problems found. Normally they can just be fixed. So the potential problem with this, is it kicks the staffers off their current insurance and may not provide a legal mechanism for the employer to pay. Now normally you'd just get congress to fix the little mistakes, but our congress would rather embarass Obamacare, by letting cases that fall through the cracks pile up.

Here is the link to the Politico story:


There appears to be some confusion in Congress about the impact of Obamacare on Congress itself.

I guess Rockman isn't coming back is he?

Efforts were made and olive branches extended and no response. Is that it?



You never know.. people do return, too. I've still never seen much better as far as actual dialog that's worth having at any other site.. but then, I haven't felt the need to look that hard, either.


'U.K. Escapes Triple-Dip Recession With Growth of 0.3%'

Britain’s economy avoided a triple- dip recession in the first quarter with expansion that exceeded economists’ forecasts and will provide relief to a government criticized for failing to foster a recovery.

It’s quite encouraging,” said David Tinsley, an economist at BNP Paribas in London and a former central bank official. “It probably eases pressure on the chancellor and enables him to push back on criticism of his strategy.”

How far down have expectations gone when .3% growth is something to celebrate?

FMagyar, I just watched a Dan Rather Reports on the Lion Fish invasion...do you know anything about this?

Yes, I've personally seen Lion Fish while diving on my local reef. Fortunately the local diving community is also aware and the Lion Fish happens to to be highly edible... Humans are reasonably good at overfishing edible species so while the Lion Fish will not be eradicated anytime soon, people will be able to control the population. Truth be told our coral reefs are already in truly dire straits as it is. Ocean acidification is IMHO a bigger problem than Lion Fish by multiple orders of magnitude.

BTW, I'm not affiliated but if anyone would like to donate to these folk, I think their project deserves support...

Coral-bots: teams of robots that repair coral reefs by ... - Kickstarter

That's pretty cool! I've wondered about these robot-competitions, and whether it would be possible to create some solar Marine Robots that are programmed to Sail out to the Pacific Gyre, identify enough plastic waste to fill their holds, and bring them back in. Then follow up with the winning designs being duplicated and have them run regular races, where the winner is a combination of tonnage and speed (and lack of delicate sea-life, of course..)


Hi Jokuhl, Interesting thought, however the problem with plastic in oceans and even in the Pacific Gyre is not so much the pieces you can see floating around. It is much more insidious. The part that really worries scientists is the microscopic particles that have become pervasive everywhere...

I apologize for the long excerpted section from this NatGeo Article but I didn't want to post a link.

Oceans Awash With Microscopic Plastic, Scientists Say
James Owen

The sediments were collected from beaches, estuaries, and shallow waters. "Everything that didn't look like a piece of natural organic debris was then identified," said Richard Thompson, a senior marine ecology lecturer at the University of Plymouth, who led the study. Up to a third of this material was later identified as synthetic polymers used in plastics.

Even so, the scientists write in the research journal Science: "We believe that these [fragments] probably represent only a small proportion of the microscopic plastic in the environment."

Thompson says the amount is probably greater, but they currently lack the technology to accurately distinguish plastic debris less than 20 microns in diameter (a width thinner than a human hair).

Beyond plastic-enriched shorelines, the team found that plastic particles are now common in the high seas.

To gauge long-term trends, the scientists examined plankton samples collected over the past 40 years in shipping lanes between Iceland and Scotland. Results showed there was approximately three times more plastic in the water column in the 1990s compared with the 1960s.

"Estimates for the longevity of plastic range from a hundred to a thousand years," Thompson said. "Since we've only been [mass producing] plastics for 40 years, we still don't have a full handle on their longevity

Maybe the robots could be giant whale sized and have the capability to process microscopic plastic particles and somehow separate them from phyto and zooplancton. Quite the tall order that!

U.S.: Intelligence points to small-scale use of sarin in Syria

(CNN) -- The United States has evidence that the chemical weapon sarin has been used in Syria on a small scale, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday. But numerous questions remain about the origins of the chemicals and what impact their apparent use could have on the ongoing Syrian civil war and international involvement in it.

When asked if the intelligence community's conclusion pushed the situation across President Barack Obama's "red line" that could potentially trigger more U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war, Hagel said U.S. officials are still assessing the situation and need all the facts.

In a letter to lawmakers, the White House cautioned that given "the stakes involved and what we have learned from our own recent experience, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient. Only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision making."

Re: The 10 Things That Americans Care More About Than the Environment

This list should come as no big surprise to anyone.

Humanity is in general blind to any activity that does not either a) promote immediate survival and/or b) dissipate potential energy gradients. Economic activity (that dissipates potential energy gradients) and physical/economic security (that promote immediate survival) are the drivers behind every one of the top 10.

Dealing with the environment isn't as dissipative as messing it up in the first place, and it doesn't promote immediate survival, so it falls below the fold. Notice how far down "Dealing with global warming" falls at #18.

"Dealing with the nation's energy problem" is an interesting item, though. It should be high on the list because it's both dissipative and promotes survival. But since this is a poll of attitudes, its placement implies that the population at large thinks it's being done relatively well at the moment. Presumably people are satisfied with the combination of fracking, offshoring industrial production and erecting big stone heads, aka wind turbines.

Yeah the list isn't surprising at all, unfortunately...except for #4 about terrorism - that's a little creepy. It's like someone living in Florida who worries about getting mauled by a Kodiak Grizzly - so low probability that it shouldn't even register. There are dozens of things on any given day that are much more likely to kill you.

What's missed are the interconnections between all of these things (particularly that the environment is not a luxury and is the source of life and therefore the economy) such that working on #11 Protecting the Environment can wind up making all of the others better.

Start a large scale deployment of PV = mine raw materials -> Creates mining jobs -> refining & forming into final product -> Creates more jobs -> Installation -> Creates more jobs

When you're finished you've incurred an environmental cost through all of those steps, but in the end have cut the need for continuous mining of coal and the release of more CO2,NOx,SOx,Hg, and should wind up at a net positive (or rather overall less negative). Impacts 1,2,8,9,12,17,18. Weatherizing and insulating to reduce demand further.

Building a national infrastructure of electrified transportation (Trains, trams, buses, automobiles) and Transit Oriented Development ("The other TOD") impacts 1,2,4,8,11,12,13,16,17,18.

It matters how it's carried out, of course, but even things that might not impact something like social security directly can wind up impacting them indirectly - such as through reduced heating costs, lower electricity costs, etc. If you reduce oil demand you reduce the "need" for having a military to maintain oil supply lines and keep the threat of force to frighten oil suppliers in check and cut off funding sources for nations that fund terrorism.

All intertwined.

Just stumbled over this. It fits in neatly with a discussion that comes up here on TOD DB over and over.


Can anyone tell me if they have debunked this article from the Atlantic yet?
When will we run out of oil? How about never! http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/05/what-if-we-never-run...

Well written article, and very interesting.

My view is: it is as they say, but the conclusions made are wrong. He seems to believe there will for ever be a steady flow of oil. I don't think so. But there will for ever be some more oil left to get. We will never run out. For whatever reason we stop to use oil, there will be more to get when we stop pumping.

There are many replies to the article over at PeakOil.com. Check it out.

Ron P.