Drumbeat: May 11, 2013

Icy Arctic rising as economic, security hot spot

WASHINGTON (AP) — The icy Arctic is emerging as a global economic hot spot — and one that is becoming a security concern for the U.S. as world powers jockey to tap its vast energy resources and stake out unclaimed territories.

Diplomats from eight Arctic nations, including Secretary of State John Kerry, will meet next week over how to protect the thawing region as its waterways increasingly open to commercial shipping traffic.

U.S. officials estimate the Arctic holds 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves, and 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits. Until recently, however, the lucrative resources that could reap hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues were frozen over and unreachable.

But global warming has melted sea ice to levels that have given rise to what experts describe as a kind of gold rush scramble to the Arctic.

WTI Crude Falls a Second Day on Dollar Rally

West Texas Intermediate crude fell for a second day as the dollar climbed, reducing the appeal of raw materials priced in the U.S. currency.

Futures declined 0.4 percent as the Dollar Index advanced above 83 for the first time in more than two weeks. Gold dropped 2.2 percent. The 12 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries bolstered oil output last month, a report from the group’s Vienna-based secretariat showed. OPEC’s demand forecast was little changed. Crude rebounded sharply in the last 30 minutes of floor trading.

Brent Pressured by U.S. Tripling Crude to Canada

U.S. oil exports are poised to reach the highest level in 28 years as deliveries to Canada more than triple, helping bring down the price of the global benchmark Brent crude relative to U.S. grades.

The shipments will rise to at least 200,000 barrels a day by the end of the year, according to Ed Morse, head of global commodities research at Citigroup Global Markets Inc. Exports were 59,600 in 2012 and haven’t averaged more than 200,000 since 1985. The U.S. restricts companies from sending American crude abroad, with Canada an exception.

Middle East-U.S. Tanker Rates Seen Higher as Ships Head to Asia

Charter rates for the largest oil tankers hauling Middle East crude to the U.S. climbed after stronger demand drew vessels to Asia, according to shipbroker Braemar Seascope Ltd.

Earnings to carry cargoes to China topped those for crude bound for the U.S., London-based Braemar Seascope said today in an e-mailed report. Rates “jumped up” because shipowners were unwilling to accept lower returns, it said.

No ‘Peak Natural Gas’ Anytime Soon

ne does not hear much these days about “peak oil”, as new technologies are developed and implemented that, together with market conditions, make feasible the exploitation of previously uneconomical or irretrievable deposits. A new report by the Diplomatic Center for Strategic Studies (DCSS), based in Kuwait, just published, confirms an International Energy Agency report from two years ago, estimating that under present rates of consumption, global supplies of natural gas could last up to 250 years, until the middle of the twenty-third century.

The Obama Administration's Natural Gas Policy Is Tragically Misguided

The Obama administration has come out in support of the idea of exporting U.S. natural gas. This stance is counterproductive and shortsighted, and if followed, it will prove harmful to domestic manufacturing (i.e., value generation) and to future generations of Americans.

While exporting natural gas would certainly prove to be an economic boon for a very select minority of companies and individuals, it makes no sense from an energy standpoint and undermines our national interests. All it will do is enrich a few while boosting prices for all domestic consumers and shortchanging the energy and environmental inheritance we pass along to our children.

Struggling at home, US coal finds markets overseas

Coal companies in the US have been unable to compete with natural gas at home, Alic writes, but overseas this coal market is getting hotter by the minute.

Algeria after terrorist attack: Don't count on security promises

Four months after militants linked to Al Qaeda attacked the In Amenas gas facility in eastern Algeria – triggering a four-day confrontation with the Algerian army and the deaths of nearly 40 hostages – the Algerian government has beefed up border security and pledged to deploy the army to protect energy sites.

Threatened with a potentially weakened oil and gas sector, which accounts for more than 95 percent of Algeria’s exports, Algerian authorities had every incentive to quickly shore up confidence. This is particularly true at In Amenas, which represented over 10 percent of Algeria’s natural gas production and nearly 18 percent of its gas exports prior to January’s attack. The concerns of foreign governments, energy companies, and other investors, however, should not be assuaged by Algeria’s security window-dressing or assertions that the country’s woes can simply be traced back to a resurgent Al Qaeda.

18 dead in explosions on Turkey's border with Syria

Istanbul (CNN) -- At least 18 people were killed and more were wounded when two car bombs exploded Saturday afternoon in the Turkish town of Reyhanli, along its southern border with Syria, Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler said.

Guler said one of the bombs erupted in front of the post office and the other in front of the municipality building.

Electric energy requirement for 13 Indian mega cities estimated at 168 billion units by 2017

KOLKATA: Data compiled by the Electric Power Survey Committee (EPSC) estimates that total electric energy requirement (EER) for the 13 Indian mega cities by the end of 12th Plan (2016-17) will be about 168 billion units and by end of 13th Plan the requirement would be 233 billion units.

Turkey to help Iraq build oil pipeline

ANKARA: Opec member Iraq will need new oil pipelines to export its crude to world markets as it prepares to raise production, and Turkey is keen to help its neighbour build the infrastructure, Turkey’s Energy Minister said yesterday.

Iraq, the world’s fastest-growing oil exporter, aims to boost the 2.4 million barrels per day of oil it ships to world markets this year, mostly by increasing output from the fields around the disputed northern oil city of Kirkuk in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

Clashes likely to delay Myanmar-China pipeline start-up - official

YANGON (Reuters) - Security concerns will likely delay the first shipments of gas and oil from the Myanmar coast to China through a new pipeline running across territory controlled by ethnic militia groups, a Myanmar energy official said on Saturday.

Down the line: How TransCanada fumbled the Keystone pipeline project

TransCanada wanted to build its Keystone XL project through the middle of the Thompsons’ corn field. The family was worried that it would disrupt the farm’s irrigation system. But there was a solution. If TransCanada would move the pipeline an eighth of a mile – 200 metres – the Thompsons could live with that.

“We said, ‘you just run this thing down to the end of our field so it’s not cutting our field in half, and we’ll sign the damn easement,’ ” he says.

TransCanada said no, arguing that the move would require too sharp a bend in the pipe. It threatened expropriation if the family would not sign a deal. Mr. Thompson grew angry. His face, the Stetson-bearing image of the “pissed-off farmer” he calls himself, became the symbol of an opposition that sprung out of the corn fields and spread all the way to the White House. Mr. Thompson would go on to personally meet with some of the most powerful political leaders in the United States to argue against Keystone XL.

But, he says six years later, it didn’t have to be this way – TransCanada could have just moved the pipe route at the time and settled the matter.

It is a common sentiment.

Apache Seen Leading Industry in Offshore Lapses

Three years after BP Plc’s oil spill fouled Gulf of Mexico beaches, drilling safety is improving, though deficiencies remain at some of the same companies operating offshore, Democrats on a House panel said in a report.

The downwinders: Fracking ourselves to death in Pennsylvania

More than 70 years ago, a chemical attack was launched against Washington state and Nevada. It poisoned people, animals, everything that grew, breathed air and drank water. The Marshall Islands were also struck. This formerly pristine Pacific atoll was branded "the most contaminated place in the world". As their cancers developed, the victims of atomic testing and nuclear weapons development got a name: downwinders. What marked their tragedy was the darkness in which they were kept about what was being done to them. Proof of harm fell to them, not to the US government agencies responsible.

Now, a new generation of downwinders is getting sick as an emerging industry pushes the next wonder technology - in this case, high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Whether they live in Texas, Colorado, or Pennsylvania, their symptoms are the same: rashes, nosebleeds, severe headaches, difficulty breathing, joint pain, intestinal illnesses, memory loss and more. "In my opinion," says Yuri Gorby of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, "what we see unfolding is a serious health crisis, one that is just beginning."

China battery plant protest gives voice to rising anger over pollution

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Hundreds of protesters gathered in the Chinese financial hub of Shanghai on Saturday to oppose plans for a lithium battery factory, highlighting growing social tension over pollution.

This Bill Wants to Cut Ethanol Production in Half

The Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, was first passed in 2005 to mandate the use of biofuels in America's transportation sector. Despite being amended in 2007, it still has some pretty big flaws that need to be addressed. Now, four members of Congress have drafted legislation that seeks to make some pretty important changes. The proposed bill is far from perfect, but it could devastate the country's biggest ethanol producers and even disrupt the global ethanol market. Here's what investors need to know and two potential opportunities to keep in mind.

The Real Reason Tesla Is Still Alive (And Other Green Car Companies Aren't)

So what’s different about Tesla?

Experience, for one thing. While most of the other green car start-ups were founded by traditional car guys with a dream but little experience running a company, Tesla founder Elon Musk, with degrees in physics and business, had already built and sold one successful company, PayPal, (to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion) and also runs SpaceX, a maker of rockets and spacecraft. He had the stomach to push through difficult times, and the chutzpah to twist the arms of reluctant investors.

Environmental Review to Delay Two Engineered Crops

Genetically engineered crops that could sharply increase the use of two powerful herbicides are now unlikely to reach the market until at least 2015 because the Department of Agriculture has decided to subject the crops to more stringent environmental reviews than it had originally intended.

Why Federal Efforts to Ensure Clean Tap Water Fail to Reach Faucets Nationwide

MONSON, Calif. — Laura Garcia was halfway through the breakfast dishes when the spigot went dry. The small white tank beneath the sink that purified her undrinkable water had run out. Still, as annoying as that was, it was an improvement over the days before Ms. Garcia got her water filter, when she had to do her dishes using water from five-gallon containers she bought at a local store.

Ms. Garcia’s well water, like that of her neighbors, is laced with excessive nitrates, a pollutant associated with agriculture, septic systems and some soils. Five years ago, this small community of 49 homes near the southern end of the Central Valley took its place on California’s priority list of places in need of clean tap water.

Today the community is still stuck on that list, with no federal help in sight.

Paris projected as pivotal climate point

So, in other words, it's Paris or bust, he suggests, for COP meetings to deal with climate change on the international level, because he doubts that the COP process will survive if agreement fails at such a notable meeting. We'll see. At least the meeting participants should be able to find a good meal, as they see how this climate prediction pans out.

Carbon dioxide level crosses milestone at Hawaii site

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The amount of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere topped 400 parts per million at a key observing station in Hawaii for the first time since measurement began in 1958, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Friday.

The OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report came out yesterday. Search: OPEC Home then click on "Oil Market Report".

Total OPEC Crude production was up 277,000 barrels per day to 30,459 kb/d. Most of that was Iraq, up 102 kb/d to 3,139 kb/d and Saudi Arabia; up 139 kb/d to 9,270 kb/d. Everyone else had only minor changes in production.

The big news, to my mind, was from page 27 of the report, Saudi domestic consumption up again.

Looking beyond Asia and Latin America to elsewhere in the non-OECD, oil demand in the Middle East is projected to increase by 0.3 mb/d in 2013. This has been supported by remarkable growth in Saudi Arabian oil demand of 7% in 1Q13, driven by increasing requirements for industrial and transportation fuels.

In 2012 Average OPEC crude only production was 31,108,000 barrels per day. The average for the first four months of this year has been 30,285,000 barrels per day for a decline, so far this year, of 823,000 bp/d.

Ron P.

Thanks Ron,
Assuming that most of the increase in SA production came from the new Manifa field, I'm wondering what the percentage the 7% growth in consumption used. I have a feeling it is 'more than all of it'.

Another interesting stat in that report is the growth in transport fuels used in China, 13% year on year growth to March, p33.

Combine the two stats and you get Westexas's ELM in action.

Devaluing Oil

Take, for example, “gas flaring” in oil wells, a particularly acute problem in North Dakota. A common byproduct of oil drilling is that gas, embedded deep in the ground alongside the oil we extract, also rises to the surface. This gas is often flared because harnessing it and bringing it to market may not yield a profit for oil companies since there is less demand and less value for it. Essentially, we’re wasting a non-renewable resource because it’s not profitable.

So what if we were able to give it value? What if we made it so that our cars could have the option to use that wasted gas? One way to do this would be to convert that flared gas into methanol....

Why should we give so much value to oil when we have the proven technology to use other fuels that we are currently wasting? By giving value to other fuels we would reduce the value of oil, lower prices and even out the playing field in a true open market.

This guy is a real genus. Just take all that gas we waste by flaring, convert it to methanol and all our problems would be solved. The price of crude would drop like a rock and we would all live happily ever after.

Ron P.

Most of us on this site understand the difficulties, but anyone can see that flaring is dumb. Like pound rocks dumb. If they put a LNG port on the west coast and a pipeline over to it, they could sell it to Asia for a fortune - but the upfront costs, hurdles due to opposition, etc., probably make it a difficult proposition which is why it probably hasn't been done (I assume, not being super-knowledgable on the details).

So give him a little credit, at least he's using common sense on the "flaring this stuff is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of" part.

I think you miss the point. Of course flaring is dumb but it is done because it would cost more to capture it via pipeline than it is worth. If the oil companies could make money by capturing instead of flaring that is what they would do.

However only about 36% of Bakken gas is flared. Search: Over one-third of natural gas produced in North Dakota is flared or otherwise not marketed

Natural gas flaring regulations. According to current North Dakota state regulations, producers can flare natural gas for one year without paying taxes or royalties on it, and can ask for an extension on that period due to economic hardship of connecting the well to a natural gas pipeline. After one year, or when the extension runs out, producers can continue flaring but are responsible for the same taxes and royalties they would have paid if the natural gas went to market.

That EIA article is a year and one half old so it may be less than that now. But the author of the original article I posted is suggesting that the Bakken flared gas could be converted to liquids, methanol, instead of flaring it, and that would drive the price of oil down. That is an insane suggestion. If they could capture it as a gas and market it at a profit they would. But suggesting that they convert that little tad of gas to methanol and could make a profit at it is nonsense.

Shell has spent 19 billion... and counting... on a gas to liquids plant in Qatar. Qatar has more natural gas than anyone in the world and Shell is, so far, losing their shirt in cost overruns for the gas to liquids plant they are building. Can you imagine building one such plant in North Dakota for that little bit of gas?

Search: A Big, and Risky, Energy Bet

The newest and largest plant in operation, Royal Dutch Shell’s giant Pearl plant, also in Qatar, cost the leviathan sum of $19 billion, more than three times its original projected cost, and has been plagued with unexpected maintenance problems. BP and ConocoPhillips built and briefly operated demonstration plants in Alaska and Oklahoma, but stopped short of full development of the technology. Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips announced plans to build giant plants in Qatar, but backed out, putting their capital instead into terminals to export liquefied natural gas.

My point is that some yokel with a blog suddenly comes up with the bright idea that he has the answer no one has ever thought of before. And that is: "Hey, instead of flaring all that gas why not just convert it to methanol instead and cause the price of oil to drop through the floor? Yeah, that's the ticket" After all, we have the technology.

Ron P.

Ron, did I say his solutions made any sense? No, I said those of US on THIS SITE know the difficulties better. Economic, political, whatever.

It is better economics to flare, and yes, they've cut down the percent flared - but it's still stupid and should never have been allowed, even if it meant development of the oil was much slower. It's nice to see someone saying that, even if they are otherwise a fool.

The guy is claiming expertise he doesn't have, but that's par for the course. Case in point: Bjorn Lomborg. I could name more. He's a fool, fine. Looking at his bio, he is a finance/economics due just like Lomborg, with a public policy MA. So he doesn't know jack about reality... But those dudes will always have a higher profile. Rockman is a great energy commentator, but I don't think CNN or whatever would touch him with a ten foot pole, despite his knowledge. Guys like the writer who run in financial circles literally run the world now. They will get more attention.

Lomborg is a political science/statistics guy, not a finance/economics guy.

"Qatar has more natural gas than anyone in the world"

I thought that Qatar was #3, behind Russia and Iran (in terms of proven reserves).
Please correct me if this is incorrect.

No, you are correct. I was just using a little hyperbole there. Actually I think the US also has more natural gas reserves than Qatar. But per capata or even per area of land no one comes close to Qatar. They do have, by far, the most natural gas available to export so it is quite natural that any Gas to Liquids industry would locate there.

Ron P.

I think we're about to see some new LNG export terminals proposed for the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to the active 5 proposals and total of 12 proposals for LNG export proposals in BC?

Or in response to the incipent BC elections?


Over many drumbeats there always seems to be a thread or two about how solar will save us. I find it disconcerting that people here that can easily follow the numbers relating to oil production or climate science have difficulty with the numbers involving solar. So I thought I would produce a few...

Solar pv build out has already reached an inflection point, growth is declining, the growth rates below

2006....30% pa..end of year total..7.0Gw
2007....34% pa..end of year total..9.4Gw
2008....67% pa..end of year total..15.7Gw
2009....46% pa..end of year total..22.9Gw
2010....73% pa..end of year total..39.7Gw
2011....70% pa..end of year total..67.4Gw
2012....48% pa..end of year total..100.0Gw
2013....35% pa, estimated addition of 35Gw..end of year total..135.0Gw

The last couple of years the world has added 28Gw, 32Gw, and 35Gw expected in 2013. These numbers clearly show something is holding back pV growth. I surmise that it is reduced govt incentives brought on by a host of factors including squeezed economies by high oil prices.
At current rates of increase it will be in at least 10 years time before we add 75Gw in a single year.
Assuming we add an average of 75Gw/a over the next 20 years the world would have a total of 1600Gw of capacity by 2033.
1600Gw is 1.6Tw, times 4 hours sun a day (33% above current rates world wide), times 365 days, gives a total solar generation of 2336Twh in 2033. So some perspective for this number...

Total world energy consumption is about 150,000Twh/a and has been growing at just under 2%/a for the last 20 years. This years growth in total energy consumption is likely to be ~3000Twh. All the solar panels put into electricity production for the next 20 years will not meet a single years addition to world total energy consumption.
At current growth rates world Total energy consumption is likely to be 222,000Twh by 2033, so all the PV panels added between now and then will still only contribute ~1% of total energy.

Of course there could be some type of great dislocation that stops energy consumption from growing, however the reduction in the growth rate for PV in 2009 clearly shows that solar roll-out would also suffer.

Solar will never play a major role in the industrial civilization we have created, though on a small scale we can all have the good feeling of doing "our bit".

Hi Hideaway,

The key assumption that you make is that because the rate of growth has slowed recently, that this will continue. As natural gas and coal growth begin to reach a peak and if the world begins to take climate change seriously, then prices of coal and natural gas will rise. As that happens along with a continuing fall in PV prices, then solar can take off.

Never is a pretty strong prediction, likely to be proven incorrect. If that was changed to for the next 20 years solar is unlikely to play a major role, you would get agreement from me, the future is pretty hard to predict.

When the price of solar becomes competitive it will grow exponentially for a time (10-20 years) slow to a linear growth rate and eventually level off if we get population growth to stop and then decline slowly to get the planet's population to a sustainable level.


I agree. Rates of growth of solar will shift quickly when we start to price carbon emissions. My guess is that carbon pricing will start to roll out on a wide scale not too long after the Arctic Ocean is essentially ice free in September. It won't be the ice free Arctic itself that gets things moving (better shipping, better opportunities for oil drilling) but seriously disturbing weather/climate/agricultural events that happen around the same time.

This shift won't happen everywhere at once, but will be something like a transition at a triathlon race. The faster swimmers will get out of the water, get on their bikes, and their speed will take off. The slower swimmers will still be in the water. Eventually almost everyone will be on their bikes at the same time. Then the fastest cyclists hit the next transition, where they will slow down when they start running. The slower cyclists will get to the transition eventually.

Every new building should be built with the expectation that future occupants will want solar on the roof. I probably wouldn't buy a house without decent solar potential.

What really happened with solar is that the EU was by far the biggest customer, especially Spain and Germany. Spain has been forced into an austerity death spiral, so they are barely able to afford any now. Germany has essentially gone from exponential to constant growth (i.e. they add about the same amount (7-8GW) each year. That leaves rapidly growing markets to take up the slack. Those include China, Japan, the US, and Latin America. Also it looks like the middle east will be coming on strong. The demand has essentially had to shift out of the EU. But these other markets are still showing strong exponential growth, so I think it likely that the growth rate will again accelerate.

Also note, net energy consumed (in TW hours) includes a lot of wasted energy as fossil fuels are burned in order to generate high quality energy (mostly electricity) at an average efficiency of maybe a third. Then we have lots of great new opportunities to use energy with much higher efficiencies. At least in the OECD I think energy consumption may have peaked, as we can now do more with less.

Over many drumbeats there always seems to be a thread or two about how solar will save us.

I don't think there is anyone here who is even remotely suggesting that solar will save 'US'.

I don't even know who exactly us is. Having said that I think what most people who support solar are saying is that given the other options on the table such as nuclear, tar sands, shale, etc... it might be a better long term investment to go with solar. It won't save all of us but it might give a sliver of hope to some of us.

Personally I think the vast majority of us are already doomed because there is no way to provide food for 7+ billion humans without fossil fuels and solar will not change that one whit.

And then there's 450 ppm or bust! So given the option I'd still invest in solar!

Hi DC,

When we look to the future, I agree never is a big statement, however beyond 20 years I do not think it remotely possible to get exponential growth rates for solar. I base this on the downslope of the oil supply curve. When we are well past peak oil there will be many dislocations because of food shortages, probably exacerbating oil shortages, my belief is that the current type of industrial production will not be possibe. Prices of everything, PV included, will go through the roof as oil is so integral to all industrial production.

I disagree that the world will ever take climate change seriously, it has been known about for 20 years since Kyoto, yet all that happens are increases in FF use.


Us, as in civilization as we know it, and yes there are cornucopians here who believe this.

I've already installed 5Kw myself and intend to get more, plus I have my own woodlot and produce food on the farm, yet none of that changes the actual numbers. I'm definately in the doomer category as well. When/if there is a collapse in civilization then having solar will not help much more than buy a few years if you (and me) are lucky. Eventually part of the system will fail, like the inverter or the batteries, then it becomes useless as replacements wont be found, likewise for what is run off the PV.

Eventually part of the system will fail, like the inverter or the batteries, then it becomes useless as replacements wont be found, likewise for what is run off the PV.

Perhaps you can even learn how to build and repair your own inverters

Google: How to Build a Low Cost, High-efficiency Inverter

As for batteries, I could certainly imagine a cottage industry making and repairing lead acid batteries for a long time to come.

The other day we were discussing an open source model for developing cheap pharmaceuticals in a way similar to Linux OS development. If there are people who are already doing that now then why not open source other areas of knowledge as well. Again let's be clear, this is for small groups of lucky individuals and not for humanity as a whole. But if you don't acquire the knowledge and build the network of people now, you certainly won't do when TSHTF!


Hi Hideaway,

Clearly I will not sway your views to any degree. I disagree again with you use of "ever" regarding climate change. If you mean it will never be taken seriously in a time frame that can make a difference, again a realist would likely agree. The optimistic person would hope that people will not require 4 degrees C of climate change before they become convinced that "Gee, I guess those climate scientists were right all along, why wasn't it on the news?"

Meanwhile Fox news would be commenting on how nice the weather is in northern Minnesota this February.

You also assume collapse will be rapid, society may prove more resiliant than you imagine.

How rapidly will the total collapse occur that you envision? It seems you are thinking 20-40 years. As we move beyond peak oil, oil becomes more expensive, enough so that it is allocated to those uses where there are few substitutes, it might even be rationed. Trains will be used whereever possible and more trains will likely be built, driving in cars will no longer be commonplace and adequate public transit will be demanded of elected officials. Things can change, but it the end you may well be correct that it will be too little too late.

One final note to those who will no doubt claim this is just the ravings of a cornucopian. There are shades of gray, not only black and white. Just because someone does not agree that "the end is near", does not mean that they believe that serious changes will not occur.

The inevitable rise in fossil fuel prices, as demand begins to outstrip supply at current prices, will likely cause a lot of pain, but it may also change people's decisions about how they spend their money.

If the fossil fuel down slope is gradual enough to not shred the fabric of society entirely, we have some small chance of transitioning to a sustainable society over a 40-50 year period. I don't think the chances are great, but I think it is worth a shot.


Yeah, I think there is so much fat in the system that there is a fair bit of resilience for some countries - the US has more than enough food and energy. But politics can screw it up and if it comes to nastiness then hope dwindles.

Incidentally, societies have had 40-50%+ death rates and kept going, like Black Death and stuff, so we shouldn't underestimate resilience.

Most of the arguments regarding PV production, along the lines that current trajectory of growth rates can be changed/will be changed, can be used for "all liquids" production as well. There is no shortage of gas, coal, tar sands etc to turn into liquids, hence the argument that peak oil is dead is just as realistic.

The price of PV is always brought into the discussion and the trajectory over the last 20 years, yet people don't seem to want to look at the resources used/needed. Currently we have a solar industry in crisis where many PV producers are losing money with factories being closed down. This is not sustainable. To think that a squeezed industry will not have to raise prices is not smart.
When prices rise for solar panels, the growth rate will be constrained even further. When added to western countries heading the same way as Greece and Spain, it is easy to see the highest growth rates are behind us.

Again the spectre of solar PV electricity saving us seems to apply to many, yet my main concern is liquid fuels for trucks and tractors. PV will never address the food production and distribution requirements.

Again the spectre of solar PV electricity saving us seems to apply to many, yet my main concern is liquid fuels for trucks and tractors. PV will never address the food production and distribution requirements.

There will be oil around for centuries. It will certainly peak eventually and become expensive but there will be oil. That oil will be allocated for the things that need it most . . . like food. If the cost of my food triples, I will grumble but I will still pay for it. I need to eat. But if the cost of my gasoline triples, I will buy an EV, ride the bus, walk, bike, etc. So light-duty vehicles will switch to become EVs (which can be powered by PV). But heavy-duty things like tractors and trucks will keep using oil. But they'll be plenty available for them to use because of all the gasoline cars taken off the road. Granted, it will cost more to operate those tractors, but people will pay what they need to pay for food.

I guess we will not be needing asphalt for roads for all those electric cars and all those bulldozers will be electrically powered also to maintain them?
As I have pointed out before the price of asphalt has already quadrupled in tandem crude oil prices. And we better hope the ambulances to try to rescue the 30,000 killed in electric car crashes do not run out of charge!
Or the rescue helicopters either?

I wonder how much energy is spent on Emergency Rooms for car crash victims?

"I guess we will not be needing asphalt for roads for all those electric cars"

Nor bicycles, eh? It's too bad we're spending gargantuan amounts of energy turning road building material into gasoline and diesel to burn instead of saving it for roads.


This is likely to be a contentious statement but...I think farm equipment might be one of those highly specialized areas where taking the hit on turning electricity into hydrogen might actually make some sense. Which would allow rapid refilling of energy made from a cache created over a period of time. Of course not using monocultures that all ripen at the same exact time will help tremendously with the "need to run 24/7 for weeks" thing.

The solar industry is not in a crisis. It has reached at point which is common to most industries. Overall capacity is high enough that the least efficient are being forced out. Right before this started we had a few more than 450 solar panel manufacturers. Expectations are that around 300 will remain after the least efficient are wiped out.

(At least a thousand US car manufacturers went under in the early days of car manufacturing. Hundreds of computer manufacturers failed, around 170 in the US alone.)

We're going to end up with some very strong companies which are going to have to spend money on research to stay ahead of competition. They will make good profits on volume.

Prices are very unlikely to rise. They may bounce around a bit over the next few months, but the overall price trajectory is downward. First Solar is projecting that they will be manufacturing for about 67% of today's price by 2017. They expect to be down to $0.42/watt.

PV (and other renewables) certainly can address food production and distribution. Distribution with electric trucks and trains. Doable. A large portion of our farm work with electricity, doable. The rest can be done with a very modest amount of liquid fuel, some of which can be biofuel.


PV (and other renewables) certainly can address food production and distribution. Distribution with electric trucks and trains. Doable. A large portion of our farm work with electricity, doable. The rest can be done with a very modest amount of liquid fuel, some of which can be biofuel.

I totally disagree with this, and there is no evidence that it is remotely possible. Just the other day I drove through hundreds of kilometers of dryland grain country. We are at the end of a long dry period here, expecting rain over the next week, in fact it has started to rain now. On this trip across a vast area every grain farmer was out with the 2-300+ horsepower tractors and seeders, often followed by a seperate tractor with a large pre-emergent herbicide spray unit. They were working dawn to dusk (probably longer but I was only on the road for that period). These are 5-20,000+ acre plus farms with nothing more than a SWER line electricity supply. They are each using hundreds of litres of diesel a day to get the crop planted.

There is nothing in place or even remotely on the horizon to replace this type of farming.

We have large battery trucks currently moving shipping containers around in our ports. We have large scale mining equipment running off electricity, some of it battery powered. There no doubt that we can do hard work with batteries.

If our only alternative to starving was to run some great big wires to our farms and run our tractors off batteries don't you think we would?

Consider a utility vehicle which would be capable of moving a replacement battery pack from charge point to wherever the tractor is working. Battery swaps are quick, Better Place has automated EV battery swapping which takes about 1.25 minutes. Tractor hardly has to pause in order to take on some charged batteries.

Then, if you don't like batteries, there's biodiesel. We can grow canola/rapeseed crops in between crops of wheat. Inter-cropping reduces top soil loss and water runoff. The canola roots and stalks add organic matter to the soil. Grow enough oil in each wheat field to plant and harvest the wheat crop.

Horizon breached....


If our only alternative to starving was to run some great big wires to our farms and run our tractors off batteries don't you think we would?

When societies/civilizations run into serious problems the course taken is rarely if ever the logical one. How many times have you heard the term 'eating the seed grain'. Someone will have to do without for farmers to gain priority in developments if/when there is a downward spiral. Look at what governments in Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Egypt are doing. Do you see any priority given to food production and distribution or do you see austerity for all. I would not be surprised to see farm output reduced in all those countries as farmers react to higher taxes and charges by consuming more of their own produce under the table and having off the book cash sales to locals.

Your growing canola in between crops of wheat happens now, it is called rotation. If you suggest farmers have one row of wheat then one row of canola, but use the canola themselves, then you are going to halve the wheat yield, there is no space between the plants and even if there was, harvesting and weed control would be a nightmare, it simply wont happen with anyone who knows anything about cropping. It sounds like a city based suggestion to me.

"When societies/civilizations run into serious problems the course taken is rarely if ever the logical one."

Do you really believe this?

"If you suggest farmers have one row of wheat then one row of canola, but use the canola themselves, then you are going to halve the wheat yield,"

No, canola will grow during the months wheat cannot. It does well in cooler weather. It's an extra crop on the same land which gives us an oil source, improves the soil, and provides farmers with additional income.

Canola is only one way to produce sustainable liquid fuel for those places where electricity would be hard to use.

We can move most of our transportation and a large amount of our agriculture off petroleum. We can do some or all flying and the rest of the farming/manufacturing with sustainable biofuels. And for what we can't do with biofuels we can use petroleum. We'd be in great shape, CO2-wise, if we cut our oil use to 10% of what it now is.


No, canola will grow during the months wheat cannot. It does well in cooler weather. It's an extra crop on the same land which gives us an oil source, improves the soil, and provides farmers with additional income.

You obviously have no idea what you are talking about in regard to the drylaand farming I am talking about, please do some research.

I was talking about farms that are currently being planted with wheat crops here in Australia, it is late autumn. If the farmers get enough rain and there is enough warmth left in the soil (it is very late for the autumn break), then the wheat gets a start now, it then slows in growth over the middle of winter, accelerates in growth during early spring, provided there is follow up rains to keep the soil moist, then harvested late spring/early summer. The ground is then too dry to plant anything until the following seasons crop. They use a rotation of different crops from oilseeds, to pulses, to fallows as part of the rotation from one season to the next.
I can assure you they have not been growing anything since the last harvest as it is too dry over late summer into autumn!!

I don't think your vision for the future is actually achievable. There are at least two major points that have been neglected in your scenario. The first one is, transmission losses.

It is not possible to move large amounts of electricity by wire without losing significant power in the form of heat. There is a finite practical limit to length of these wires beyond which less than 50% of the electricity fed in at one end reaches the other terminus. Large scale transportation and distribution losses of electricity to remote farm fields in the fashion you suggest would be remarkably inefficient. Then there is the problem of finding the materials needed to manufacture the conductors and transformers in the first place. Copper, the most effective material, is becoming increasingly scarce itself. Substitutes like aluminum have issues that increase their costs, and reduce their effectiveness and suitability.

As far as Bio fuels go, these are a pipe dream and always will be. The people who calculate EROEI for these 'miracle' fuel substitutes always seem to forget to include the fossil fuel energy input as fertilizer, which is based on ammonia manufactured from natural gas through the Haber process. Some estimates peg the total amount of nitrogen created by this process currently constituted in living organisms today at 50% of the total. We, and every living thing on the planet, are already 50% made out of fossil fuel.

See this article: 21st Century Snake Oil

Aside from farming - which would be a great challenge, to be sure - how would we be able to power the industry that would collect, process, preserve, store, and distribute the food? Batteries just don't have the power to weight ratio of hydrocarbons. They don't scale very well to long distance transportation. Wired power also has serious challenges to overcome in this kind of application as well.

"It is not possible to move large amounts of electricity by wire without losing significant power in the form of heat."

That is totally incorrect. Read up on HVDC and UHVDC transmission. (High voltage direct current and Ultra)

We don't use copper for large transmission lines, they are mainly steel.

Transmission at lower voltages is nowhere close to 50%, try well under 10%.

If we have to run higher than 240vac lines to farms for battery charging, then that's what we would do.

"As far as Bio fuels go, these are a pipe dream and always will be. The people who calculate EROEI for these 'miracle' fuel substitutes always seem to forget to include the fossil fuel energy input as fertilizer"

Canola and switchgrass have almost no fertilizer requirements. Canola grows well on what remains in the wheat field. Switchgrass is a perennial which might need a small amount of fertilizer during its first year while getting established, none after that.

Biofuel may never become as cheap as gasoline now is, but if the choice is between harvesting biofuel or starving....

"Batteries just don't have the power to weight ratio of hydrocarbons."

No they don't, but most of the energy in hydrocarbons is wasted by engine inefficiencies. Electric motors are extremely efficient.

"(Batteries) don't scale very well to long distance transportation."

True. That's why electrified high speed rail makes so much sense. There's no need for batteries since the railway is electrified.

As far as personal driving with EVs, we need only 200 mile range EVs with <20 minute, 90% recharging. EV batteries already recharge that fast and we're installing the rapid chargers along our major travel routes.

Drive 200 on your overnight charge, stop 20 minutes (eat/pee/check your email), drive 180, charge 20m, drive 180. You will drive over 500 miles with no more stops that you would likely have made with your gasmobile.

We don't use copper for large transmission lines, they are mainly steel.

No they are mainly made of aluminum, usually wrapped around a steel inner wire for strength.

From Wiki:

The bare wire conductors on the line are generally made of aluminum (either plain or reinforced with steel, or composite materials such as carbon and glass fiber), though some copper wires are used in medium-voltage distribution and low-voltage connections to customer premises.

Actually pound per pound aluminum is 1.85 times a better conductor than copper. That is why aluminum is used for heavy transmission lines. Search:

When the density of Cu (559 lb/ft^3) is compared to that of Al (169 lb/ft^3) and taking into consideration the conductivity ratio of Al to Cu of 56%, the result shows that on a pound per pound basis, Al has an amperage capability that is approximately 1.85 times that of Cu. In other words, one pound of Al has the same electrical capability as 1.85 pounds of Cu. Cu has a greater conductivity on an equal volume, cross sectional area, basis.

The big disadvantage for aluminum is that it has a very high surface resistance. There is always a layer of aluminum oxide on the surface that must be penetrated to make a connection.

Ron P.

Ron, do you have a calculation showing conductivity per dollar?

No I have no idea but I don't think the cost per mile is the main factor. Conductivity and weight would be the main factors. Aluminum wins both of those factors hands down. Aluminum is by far the best conductor per foot by weight, so that would quite obviously be the choice. Steel might be cheaper but far less conductive and far heavier.

Ron P.

For high voltage lines conductivity isn't necessarily the greatest virtue. If it is alternating current, we have a thing called skin depth. The current stays near the surface, because to penetrate a conductor, electric current creates a magnetic field, which creates an electric field that counters the current. So at a given frequency and conductivity you can calculate a skin depth (the current density decreases exponentially with depth), so only the outermost part of the conductor actually carries the current. For DC the skin depth in infinite.

The higher the voltage, the lower the current needed to carry the same amount of power, so you counteract resistive loses by going to a higher voltage. But higher voltages can lead to breakdown of the resistive properties of air, so there are limits here as well.

Okay, exactly what are you claiming here? Are you saying that aluminum is not used in high voltage transmission lines? No, it is used almost exclusively. If you have a link that says otherwise then please post it.

I don't believe there is any case, AC or DC, where high voltage is transmitted over long distance high voltage lines, where aluminum is not the prime conductor. But I could be proven wrong... with the link you provide.

Ron P.

I never said anything about aluminum versus any other material. I was just bringing up that transmission is about more than just material conductivity. No wonder you get in so many ferocious arguments in the comment threads, you take (hopefully) interesting side information as an attack on your thesis (which it wasn't). Aluminum makes perfect sense. Its drawback is getting current in/out of the metal, and in long distance transmission that doesn't happen very much.

I don't think the melting point is an issue either. I can't imagine running enough current for it to be an issue. It got taken out of last 100foot applications, because the oxide issue was found to be a fire hazard.

Sorry but I thought you were implying that aluminum wasn't used for high voltage transmission. The current in high voltage transmission is still very high. True, the high voltage allows lesser current to be passed. But still the current is high. The very reason for such high voltage is to get the current down to a minimum. But the more power you pass the more current you pass and it is, even at very high voltages, still quite high.

I think you misunderstood my point about contact resistance. That is why aluminum is never used never used for contacts that open and close frequently. That is usually copper, or in some cases gold. Gold has almost zero contact resistance. But the contact resistance of aluminum is not a factor in transmissions because at the contacts that open and close aluminum is never used. So there is never a problem of getting the current in and out of the metal as you suggest.

The high contact resistance of aluminum is not a factor in permanent wiring where the contacts are clamped tight , permanently, pushing through the aluminum oxide, making it a non factor.

Ron P.

Due to the skin effect, hollow conductors would be the most efficient, material wise.

Best compromise is 3 conductors arranged in a triangle.


Good explanation. Sounds like you know a lot. A few questions.
(1) What is a typical high voltage powerline current?
(2) You obviously know a bit about contact resistance, it sound fascinating. Any more interesting tidbits?

I have no idea what the "typical" line carries but found this on line: "The currents created in these lines range all the way up to about 1000 amperes." Search: "Length of High Voltage Power Transmission Lines"

I know a little about contact resistance because I worked with it most of my life. I once worked on a computer control system that used thousands of tiny relays to take samples of points around the plant. They would all open and close in sequence. That was in the days before such relays were not needed. Sampling can now be done with solid state, no mechanical devices needed. But the relays all had gold contacts.

Also, if you ever had to repair electronics, again in the old days, you had to push your meter leads through the coating on a solder connection.

Ron P.

Here is a map showing major US transmission lines. And proposed lines.


Saved at 9:54 EST, lets see how long this takes to get through the spambot.

If we assume a powerplant output of 500 Megawatts and a transmission line of 500 kilovolts we would have 1000 Amps. I doubt the entire output of a large power plant is carried on a single transmission line, lets say there are 4 transmission lines, then the current would be reduced to 250 amps, which is still a lot of current, but then 125 Megawatts is a lot of power.


Don't forget it's 3 phase, so the amps are divided amongst the 3 wires. But it's not as simple as dividing by 3.

Aluminum has a much lower melting point, 660C, vs. copper, 1084C, mainly important when things go wrong. Aluminum has a higher coefficient of thermal expansion. [engineeringtoolbox.com]

The farther away the source of power, the greater the overall transmission losses - approximately one percent per hundred miles. Any power source more than a couple thousand miles away will incur substantial loss.

It is true that losses incurred by HVDC transmission lines are lower than AC. DC can also make use of smaller cables because in AC transmission all of the electricity is carried on the outside of the conductor, while DC can use the entire cable for power transmission. However, 24,000 Kilovolt DC is not directly suitable for recharging batteries. It must be converted into AC first, and then transformed into successively lower voltages in order to 1) feed a distribution system where many endpoints are connected by a single wire, and b) power the battery chargers we have available right now. Each one of these conversion and distribution steps also has associated losses. Then there is the loss incurred by the battery charger; and finally, internal losses of the battery itself. Electric motors are indeed fairly efficient, but the total energy supply and distribution system you envision is much less so. And it takes a lot of raw materials and energy just to mine, refine, manufacture, and install the components. This is a big upfront cost that will not be immediately recoverable. I'm not sure we can afford it, either.

The argument also begs the question, where will all this power originate? Natural gas fired power stations? Nuclear Power plants? Giant arrays of solar panels? That one's going to need even more wires for connectivity, and have even greater transmission and conversion losses.

Finally, switchgrass without supplemental fertilizer and sufficient water is a very slow growing plant. It will stay alive under some very harsh conditions; but it will not thrive, and will not produce the bountiful biomass that is needed to generate usable amounts of energy. In fact all of the biofuel companies are starting to equivocate in their projections right now. Nobody can make energy flow 'uphill', against the laws of thermodynamics. TANSTAAFL.

It is not possible to move large amounts of electricity by wire without losing significant power in the form of heat. There is a finite practical limit to length of these wires beyond which less than 50% of the electricity fed in at one end reaches the other terminus. Large scale transportation and distribution losses of electricity to remote farm fields in the fashion you suggest would be remarkably inefficient. Then there is the problem of finding the materials needed to manufacture the conductors and transformers in the first place. Copper, the most effective material, is becoming increasingly scarce itself. Substitutes like aluminum have issues that increase their costs, and reduce their effectiveness and suitability.

This is filled with technically incorrect information. We know a lot about electricity transmission and we can do it very efficiently. The grid is around 94% efficient. The only issue is cost . . . sometimes it is not worth the cost of stringing long transmission lines to remote places.

But as I said elsewhere, you don't have to use electricity for farming. There will be oil around for centuries. It will certainly peak eventually and become expensive but there will be oil. That oil will be allocated for the things that need it most . . . like food. If the cost of my food triples, I will grumble but I will still pay for it. I need to eat. But if the cost of my gasoline triples, I will buy an EV, ride the bus, walk, bike, etc. So light-duty vehicles will switch to become EVs (which can be powered by PV). But heavy-duty things like tractors and trucks will keep using oil. But there will be plenty available for them to use because of all the light-duty gasoline cars taken off the road. Granted, it will cost more to operate those tractors, but people will pay what they need to pay for food. As much abuse as they get, the economists do have some good points.

Bulk transmission and local distribution losses in the United States are in the order of seven per cent. In Canada, where the major load centres are often located much further from the sources of generation (e.g., 1,200 km in the case of Montréal and the Churchill Falls), T&D losses come in at just under eight per cent.


Losses will drop as the grid gets smarter.

I agree, and we'll see continued improvements as older infrastructure is retired. For example, the distribution system in my Toronto neighbourhood was upgraded from 4.4 kV to 27.6 back in 2001. The distribution system that supplies our Halifax home is an embarrassing 2.3 kV.


There is nothing in place or even remotely on the horizon to replace this type of farming

Well, if that's true then I guess a lot of people are just going to starve, eh?

For anyone to think that 2-300+ horsepower tractors and seeders, often followed by a seperate tractor with a large pre-emergent herbicide spray unit, is even remotely sustainable in an ecological sense is just plain ridiculous. Assuming drought and climate change don't kill us off first. Your description of the large scale industrial agricultural model based on BAU is a complete dead end. Either we find a way to switch to decentralized permaculture based food production that integrates in a benign way into the ecosystem or we are all FUBAR anyway.

We're damned if we do and we're damned if we don't but I don't see any problem with using electricity to power farm machinery, that at least is a non issue.

I agree Fred, especially about FUBAR.

In this country, Australia, it would cost many billions of dollars and decades to set up say 3 phase power to all those dryland grain farms, there are no plans for any of it, the tractors to do the work do not exist, nor are being planned for.

When economies go into recession/depression over high oil prices on the downslope after peak oil, there will simply not be the resources to do the job. ergo FUBAR.

No real chance of permaculture on those dryland grain farms, simply not enough water.

No real chance of permaculture on those dryland grain farms, simply not enough water.

Sorry to hear that! I guess at least two of the four horsemen will be stopping by to visit in the not too distant future.

Best hopes that you find other options...


Hide Away;
I think that comment points ideally towards an issue I raise at times, and why I won't say 'Renewables will save us' as a Broad Swipe declaration. We live far out into ranges that are very likely simply unsupportable without the excess power and hence water and other vital supplies that can keep such places plugging along on artificial umbilicals.

But then again, there are also outposts that comprise a grey area in that equation, and as Peak Oil and the resulting economic 'adjustments' hit us apace, these will be truly critical distinctions, since these grey areas will be the ones that DO have the ability to be self-sufficient with the help of some independent power in the form of tools like PV and Wind that might only need a custom part shipped or replaced on the order of 5, 10 or more years, not some supply that has to travel to them weekly or monthly, like food, water, propane, ICE parts, etc.

As you and Fred have been saying, part of this upshot is that food production will very likely (inevitably) decline as some of these 'productive' areas start to fall offline from the global grain providers.. I expect population to mirror or resemble the Oil Curve, in that respect.. but I don't believe those curves will remain in lockstep all the way down.. Oil has no instinct, capability or desire to survive, while we surely do. Whether a future society that we evolve into will support electronics fabrication 'at all', that and other components of this industrial set of tools that we're inundated with now..nobody can really say, but I find it extremely strange to insist that if it can't be 'all of it', it must then be 'none of it'.. especially considering how many diverse environments this information, techniques and core ideas has been disseminated into. It'd be a tough weed to kill at this point. ('weed'? Hmm, judgemental description of a life form.. I might have said 'small, adaptible mammals' just as well. The resilience of the ideas around 'interchangable parts', etc. seems fairly similar to our own evolution..)

If you think that we are going to experience climate collapse in the next decade then I can see it unlikely that Australia and other countries would get their agricultural areas wired in time.

If you listen to the climate scientists then you believe that it is not going to happen anywhere that rapidly and we have the opportunity to avoid collapse.

Rising oil prices will simply move us more quickly into EVs/PHEVs/ultra efficient ICEVs, onto public transportation, and other fuel saving strategies.

Economic collapse over decreasing oil supply is extremely unlikely.

(Collapse, not rough spots, but collapse.)

If you listen to the climate scientists then you believe that it is not going to happen anywhere that rapidly and we have the opportunity to avoid collapse.

Really? Which climate scientists would that be?

Now finally, we can measure Earth's energy imbalance precisely by measuring the heat content in Earth's heat reservoirs. The biggest reservoir, the ocean, was the least well measured, until more than 3,000 Argo floats were distributed around the world's ocean. These floats reveal that the upper half of the ocean is gaining heat at a substantial rate. The deep ocean is also gaining heat at a smaller rate, and energy is going into the net melting of ice all around the planet. And the land, to depths of tens of meters, is also warming.

The total energy imbalance now is about six-tenths of a watt per square meter. That may not sound like much, but when added up over the whole world, it's enormous. It's about 20 times greater than the rate of energy use by all of humanity. It's equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year. That's how much extra energy Earth is gaining each day. This imbalance, if we want to stabilize climate, means that we must reduce CO2 from 391 ppm, parts per million, back to 350 ppm. That is the change needed to restore energy balance and prevent further warming.
James Hansen TED Talk

That was at 391 ppm now we have passed 400 ppm... I say 450 or bust! At which point we have to consider things like feedback loops, non linear dynamics, chaos theory and tipping points.

That was at 391 ppm now we have passed 400 ppm... I say 450 or bust! At which point we have to consider things like feedback loops, non linear dynamics, chaos theory and tipping points.

For more on those topics, head over to Nature Bats Last:


For starters:

The twin sides of the fossil-fuel coin: presenting in Massachusetts.

And along the lines of what Darwinian has been talking about:

Preparing For Near-Term Extinction

Actually Fred it is more like we're at 470PPM equivalent*. We have to also include all the NOx, Methane and various minor gasses.

*Based off something I read that I can't remember where, probably real climate or similar.

Thanks for the reality check.

Yair . . . Using electricity for large scale farming is not an issue.

We have proved up the concept of a machine that attaches to a modified conventional centre pivot irrigator and performs all functions of a tractor, planter, harvester ect.

The prototype is standing thirty meters from my house. The patents have lapsed and further development has ceased do to lack of capital.

It does work and can work at any scale from 30 meters 500 meter radius . . . smaller versions can work direct from attached PV.


Your rig is a thing of beauty, Scrub! I hope you find ways to get that idea out there, if the patent and business approaches have to remain abandoned.

Yes, there are just silly numbers of ways to adapt electrical power to support Ag, in no small part because we're very busily relearning how to feed ourselves, so ALL of ag has changes in store.

Just visiting the local Nursery to buy some flowers to plant for the summer for Mother's Day I noticed how energy intensive even a modest North Jersey Nursery was - fans blowing to ventilate the Greenhouse, huge equipment to toss and pour out the soil, pumps for long pipes to irrigate all the plants. Of course various oil / gasoline powered tractors and moving machines, oh yes and a conveyor belt. I had not really noticed how even this small operation was so fossil fuel dependent....

The PV industry is being "squeezed" because it grew capacity faster than the economy could absorb. Apparently it is hard to pull back on industrial expansion plans, and the industry was unable to cut the expansion. But costs of production are indeed dropping, and aren't so high that the industry won't be able to return to profitable growth. Things are looking great for solar (unless you are a producer of cells/panels), which have transitioned into a commodity.

My expectation is that prices will stagnate for a couple of years, then resume a gradual decline to under $.50/watt. At that price they make so much sense, that there will be robust demand. There is still a lot of work to be dome to bring balance of system costs down enough that we can fully exploit the new cheap panels.

We're getting there on the BOS stuff. Utility scale solar has now dropped to about 10 cents per kWh in the sunny parts of the US. This is considerably cheaper than the price of electricity from gas peaker plants.

I'd like to see references for this. I would be surprised (pleasantly) if solar PV, even in utility applications could produce power that cheaply. I would also think that most gas-fired power plants operating in the US produce power at below $0.10/kWh.

Outside the US, especially where the fuel source is LNG, I would expect prices in the range of $0.15/kWh.

And this is still not comparing like for like as solar power is still lower quality and requires grid system upgrades.

I am in favor of solar power, but just doubt the figures you have presented.

Which figures?

Current installed solar prices in the US?

4th quarter, 2012 prices can be had at http://www.greentechmedia.com/. Look for their most recent solar report and download the (free) executive summary.

Solar for about 10c/kWh in the US?

"According to a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between El Paso Electric Company and First Solar, electricity will be sold from First Solar’s thin-film solar panels to El Paso Electric Company for 5.8 cents per kWh...."

Add in the 2.2c US subsidy and the 2.7c state subsidy and you've got $0.107/kWh.


Germany installing at $2/watt?

€ 1,570/watt March, 2013. $2.04/watt.


Or some other number?

Combined cycle gas plants do produce for about 5c/kWh. But they run a lot of hours. Gas peakers run many fewer hours (less time to cover fixed costs) and are not as efficient as a CCNG plant. Even a CCNG has to run for three hours or so before they become maximally efficient.

I have no idea what you mean about grids requiring upgrades because of solar. Rooftop requires nothing. Large scale solar is generally installed close to existing transmission lines so the cost to the grid is minimal.

Thanks, Bob, for chiming into this little discussion with those good points.

I agree with the majority here- solar won't save us; we are way too far into overshoot in too many dimensions, but solar can sure do some big help in energy.

It's astonishing to me to see in these solar comments so little imagination on possibilities and so much emphasis on easily overcome difficulties if we put our priorities right. I look at the insolation map, and the north end of the red sea, both sides, seems to me to be the ideal place for energy-intense industries- gobs of solar power, ocean transport, close to europe. Why, Saudi Arabia could be the saudi arabia of solar energy!

During WWII, we recognized that we had an existential threat. Ergo, car production was shut down to produce planes and battleships. We have an existential threat now that is far worse than WWII. But all we have is crickets.

Yep, I remember it well. One day, humdrum, next day, all out for guns--Overnight.

Right, so now we have a far greater threat than the Imperial Navy, and --nothing. Wot!?

Maybe we don't deserve to exist--and so won't-- except for those appalachian junk kickers around here, for them, civilization has been collapsed quite a while, and they have got used to it.

What is this existential threat your see? Clearly most people don't see it. If they did, they would do something.

Saudi Arabia intends to become the Saudi Arabia of solar.

SA intends to invest over $100 billion in solar over the next few years.

... studies show that the grid investment required to bring Saudi electricity to Europe would amount to between 15 to 20 percent of the total investment required to install some 20 gigawatt renewable generation capacity.

"Our study demonstrates that trading with the EU is economical, depending on the route chosen," he said. Export capacity levels of 3, 5 and 10 gigawatt had been studied.

Transmission cables could go either via North Africa or via Turkey and Bulgaria, but the latter route is less advantageous because Bulgaria is a net exporter of electricity.

Turn it into a link by adding www up front - I'm mod dodging...


Yeah, Fred, the idea that "solar will save us" has never entered my thinking; never will. It's about our individual response to the collective energy madness going on around us and taking responsibily for our own actions, demonstrating to others that they can do the same, and local resiliency. The whole concept of "saving the world" seems totally fantastic at this point. See:

Electric energy requirement for 13 Indian mega cities estimated at 168 billion units by 2017


He said that solar would not save industrial civilization. True. It cannot be saved by solar or anything else. And the anything else will destroy most of us.

Hasn't the technology sort of stalled as well? You don't hear much about alternative materials to crystaline silicon, particularly thin-films which support roll-to-roll film processing and automated assembly of the solar panels?

On the other hand, investing to expand the crystaline solar cell supply chain may not be sensible if there is an impending switch to a lower cost alternative. It may also not be sensible if they are not making back their cost of capital in the current pricing environment.

Massive consolidation in solar

Amid rapidly falling prices, mounting losses and massive operational costs, the upstream solar photovoltaic (PV) supply chain is undergoing major consolidation, with the number of companies participating in the market expected to plunge by 70 % this year.

Worldwide, the total number of companies participating directly in the manufacturing of PV solar panels, from polysilicon manufacturing through module assembly, is set to fall to approximately 150 in 2013, down from about 500 in 2012, according to HIS.

This compares to about 650 in 2011 and 750 in 2010, as presented in the figure attached.

“It would be a major understatement to say that consolidation is occurring in the PV supply chain this year,” said Mike Sheppard, senior photovoltaics analyst with IHS. “Most upstream PV supply operations will simply cease to exist, rather than being acquired by other companies. Most of these suppliers actually have already stopped production—and will never restart.”
Consolidation and reduction in a supply chain results in capacity being taken offline, often benefiting the remaining players in a market. But given the weak conditions in today’s PV market, there is no guarantee that the supply-chain shakeout will help surviving suppliers in 2013—or even make it less likely that they will fail.

"You don't hear much about alternative materials to crystaline silicon, particularly thin-films which support roll-to-roll film processing and automated assembly of the solar panels?"

The alternatives got hammered when the price of silicon panels came down so far. Amorphous silicon was done in by low efficiency. The CIGS cells use too much indium, and selenium in that quantity is not cheap either. And they are somewhat less efficient, so you need more of them for the same output, and then cost of the extra racks and mounts eats up part of the cost savings.

The Cd-Te cells are hamstrung by the tellurium supply. The gallium arsenide cells are still very expensive and only cost effective with concentrating systems, but the cost of the concentrating systems is more than a bigger rack of crystalline silicon PV cells.

And so far none of the great improvements in those optimistic press releases has made it to market. So for the foreseeable future crystalline silicon rules the mass market. Even after the great discovery that renders silicon obsolete, it will be 5 to 10 years to build enough factories for the new technology to start impacting the market.

There seems to be a huge glut in polysilicon at the moment.

Solar Glut Worsens as Supply Surge Cuts Prices 93%: Commodities

Nov 10, 2011

Polysilicon has plunged 93 percent to $33 a kilogram from $475 three years ago as the top five producers more than doubled output, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. The industry next year will produce 28 percent more of the raw material than will be consumed, up from 20 percent this year, said Robert Schramm- Fuchs and Shai Hill, analysts at Macquarie Group Ltd.
The global supply of polysilicon is set to reach about 500,000 tons by 2014, Ewald Schindlbeck, head of Wacker’s polysilicon unit, said in an interview. That compares with 266,000 tons this year, according to Macquarie.

Thanks for that quick update on thin-film and other "alternative" solar PV technologies. I had wondered what happened with the "imminent" thin film revolution.

First Solar (CdTe) is still very much a going concern. The others are struggling and will probably fail. All the thin film techs had the same promise, lowish price, but limited scalability, along with somewhat lower efficiency than cSi. Apparently it is hard to get and keep the recipe for thinfilm right, as so many with promising business plans just can't meet their production and price targets. First Solar is at least competitive with cSi pricewise, similar is cost/price to the best Chinese cSi. First Solar mainly (exclusively?) is doing large scale utility plants.
What has really driven driven solar, is the tremendous drop in the price of solar silicon. This used to dominate the cost of making panels, but not so anymore. Thats what the thinfilm business didn't predict.

What happened to the quantum dot technology? That seemed to have potential, but needed lots of R&D. Did the money dry up?

I've been tracking PV growth since 1986 and I'm not so worried about the future growth, as PV is one technology that can be produced in many countries and can scale rapidly. If it doesn't, the much smaller human population will be able to carry on by stealing the solar panels that my peers and I have installed, and at least the surviving remnants will have some electricity.

I will grant that we use perhaps rose-tinted glasses when looking at ramp-up of photovoltaics. But only three percent of Americans polled accurately understand that installing solar can cost less than $1,000 upfront, which is possible because companies like SunRun, SolarCity and Sungevity. This is not an implied endorsement for any particular company, but rather a statement that the business model of individuals or firms leasing rather than purchasing PV systems may dovetail nicely with the downward trending cost of panels.

"Solar industry news reads like the dawning of a very sunny day. One study shows that rooftop solar is already cheaper than grid power in over ten percent of the market in five states—California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. That trend is projected to spread among 49 states—with hydropowered Washington the only exception—by 2022." I live in Bellingham, WA and have set of three parallel 3Kw arrays, one dedicated to our house and to each of two rental houses nearby, hence obviously I am the the sort of early adopter that enjoys that 'good feeling' that you mention above.

"A separate Citigroup report projects that solar power module costs may fall to 25 cents per watt by 2020. (For comparison’s sake, the United States Department of Energy’s SunShot program aims to get the modules down to 50 cents per watt by 2020.)" http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/citigroup-how-solar-module-prices-could-... I am less sanguine about this point, for we may well be a low point in PV prices for the moment.

A further point I believe is that the above compilation of figures deals with both distributed PV arrays and presumably centralized PV arrays. But left out then would be concentrating solar systems. Even Saudi Arabia is somewhat ironically planning significant PV installation to offset the proportion of their petroleum being siphoned off to electricity generation, apparently 54 Gw by 2032. http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/white-paper-unveils-deta...

Centralized concentrating solar is growing fast in the US. "SEIA and GTM Research forecast that the market will continue to grow at a steady clip with over 4,200 MW of PV and 940 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) expected to come online in 2013. (All data from SEIA/GTM Research “U.S. Solar Market Insight 2012 Year-In-Review” unless otherwise noted.)" http://www.seia.org/research-resources/us-solar-market-insight-2012-year...

Finally a comment about wind, since we are dealing with electricity generation here and not the transportation fuels/petrochemical feedstocks that Oil Drum predominantly focuses on. Most Americans are oblivious to the fact that in 2012 there were nine states that produced over 10% of their electricity from wind - not capacity, but rather actual production. And again the cost curve is headed in the right direction, unlike all the conventional and unconventional petroleum/NG extraction. "The costs for a utility scale wind turbine in 2012 range from about $1.3 million to $2.2 million per MW of nameplate capacity installed. This cost has come down dramatically from what it was just a few years ago." http://www.windustry.org/resources/how-much-do-wind-turbines-cost

Total world energy consumption is about 150,000Twh/a and has been growing at just under 2%/a for the last 20 years. This years growth in total energy consumption is likely to be ~3000Twh. All the solar panels put into electricity production for the next 20 years will not meet a single years addition to world total energy consumption.

You're being deeply misleading by suggesting that 1kWh of chemical energy in coal is equivalent to 1kWh of electrical energy from solar. Given the significant expense people are happy to accept to transform that 1kWh of coal into 0.3kWh of electricity -- and the similar efficiency gains from heat pumps, electric motors, etc. for other uses of fossil chemical energy -- you're inflating the problem by at least a factor of three.

Moreover, your analysis is little more than begging the question. You're effectively saying:
1) Assume solar stays small.
2) Look! Solar stays small!

A more thorough analysis would look at the past drivers of PV installations (government subsidies) and the likely future drivers of PV installations (falling PV prices vs. rising fossil fuel prices). In particular, 2013 has seen PV has reach unsubsidized grid parity in major countries (India, Italy) for the first time (according to a Deutsche Bank report this spring), and more countries will reach this threshold soon as PV prices continue to drop.

Will that drive PV installation rates far beyond your projections? Unknown, although groups like Deutsche Bank and UBS seem to think so.

Your post got me to wondering why India hasn't set up their own manufacturing facilities to feed their own domestic market withing their own labor pool...apparently they have - and the US is being a d**k about it:


Its national solar programme, the grandly named Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (named after India's first prime minister) plans to generate 20,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022. But an ugly trade spat with the US may frustrate India's efforts to go solar.

In February this year, the US asked the World Trade Organisation for dispute consultations concerning the "domestic content" requirement of the solar programme. Domestic content is a loaded phrase in international trade. What it means is that India requires solar energy producers to use locally manufactured solar cells, and offers them special subsidies. This allegedly violates WTO principles that require countries to treat both foreign and domestic goods equally.

Amazing...this must be the first time the US has actually attempted to use free trade laws to actually protect American companies. It seems unimaginable though that it would be cheaper for India to use US made panels than to make them themselves.

Amazing...this must be the first time the US has actually attempted to use free trade laws to actually protect American companies.

You have to be joking!

Three words... "Canada", "softwood" and "lumber".


Three times US lost (softwood lumber), but continued to not comply

Funny how that works, or doesn't depending upon which side of the 49 you lie. :-)


No. Countries of all types go after whomever their own politically well-connected companies see as a potential threat. This is a very common practice. Local politicians go for the domestic content thing all the time, it is a way to score cheap political points. The US has done this many times -including for solar/wind when it gets government subsidies.

It does seem odd that we have a solar WTO war between India and the US. I would think it would be India v China. But, maybe China has seen the wisdom of not firing the first shot.

It's not a surprise since WTO was created to further the interests of MNC's and stop local businesses from thriving. But I have a hope, India is a chaotic market and local companies enjoy advantages that cannot be quantified or described on an accounting sheet. The market for solar here is still nascent but fast growing, government offers subsidies for installing panels and there are plenty of service companies and corner stores who specialize in installing them for you. The fact that we are always starved for electricity has contributed greatly to this.
For people living in rural areas economics of PV doesn't matter because they are out of power for 12 hours in a day and the power isn't available no matter how much you are willing to pay

For people living in rural areas economics of PV doesn't matter because they are out of power for 12 hours in a day and the power isn't available no matter how much you are willing to pay

This statement does not make sense. If they're willing and able to pay for a PV system with battery backup, they can have power 24 hours of the day.

I meant paying to the utility companies. For example the usual counter argument against buying PV's is that for the same amount I can buy electricity for 10 years. It holds true in cities but not in villages because the power simply isn't there to buy.


You're being deeply misleading by suggesting that 1kWh of chemical energy in coal is equivalent to 1kWh of electrical energy from solar.

I would not be surprised if the figures were almost the opposite from what you think. 1Kw of chemical energy in coal gives about 330w at 33% efficiency, in modern plants.
Your 1kw of solar power drops down in efficiency once it goes through the inverter. If you are to have any power when it goes cloudy or at night you need storage. Efficiency into batteries is ~85% then out likewise, plus you need to replace the batteries every few years. All this is extra compared to coal that can simply be burnt at night.

A full energy audit on solar with storage, including the life and maintenance of that storage will probably surprise many when compared to the chemical energy of coal. I'm not saying coal is good, I just want people to be realistic about the problems of matching todays energy use with that of a solar BAU. It simply isn't going to happen.
The fact that so many here in this forum, who understand peak oil, yet seem to have a blind eye to solar, tells me that when collapse comes it will be such a shock to most, yet is seemingly inevitable when looking at the real numbers, all the numbers.

Lead acid storage simply isn't going to scale. It only makes sense for small scale offgrid apps, where the cost of grid interconnection offsets part of the cost of storage. Storage will be done at the utility scale, via various technologies that have much better price points than smallscale batteries in every garage. The problem with utility scale storage is that it is a chicken or egg problem. It hasn't been developed much, because we haven't needed it, and it isn't available. There are plenty of cool ideas out there, but public utility commissions are notoriously tightfisted and don't like to fund pilotscale projects to develop tech that their local grid won't need for years. So it has been a tough environment for those storage startups.

It would be cheaper to design refrigerators and freezers that run only around mid day. Demand side management....

This is already done in large refidgerators, i.e. cold storage houses. The household demand for cold is too low to cut the PV peak and one could add that most households do not have the electronics for such an application.

PV is growing too fast, therefore, batteries make more sense.

You're being deeply misleading by suggesting that 1kWh of chemical energy in coal is equivalent to 1kWh of electrical energy from solar.

I would not be surprised if the figures were almost the opposite from what you think.

You're suggesting that 1kWh of coal is worth 3kWh of electricity?

Please back that claim up with evidence, as the entire field of study on exergy (e.g., Ayres et al), not to mention the entire electricity industry, thoroughly and quantitatively disagrees with you.

Efficiency into batteries is ~85% then out likewise, plus you need to replace the batteries every few years.

Pumped storage is 85% efficient round-trip, and lasts for decades.

(It's also, at present, the only storage solution that can scale large enough. For reference, the water behind the Hoover Dam holds enough stored gravitational energy to cover roughly 1/10 of the US's storage requirements from an all-renewable grid.)

I just want people to be realistic about the problems of matching todays energy use with that of a solar BAU. It simply isn't going to happen.

[Citation Needed]

Your posts on solar PV are riddled with errors; you can't expect anyone to take your word for it when you make bold claims on the topic.

The fact that so many here in this forum, who understand peak oil, yet seem to have a blind eye to solar, tells me that when collapse comes it will be such a shock to most, yet is seemingly inevitable when looking at the real numbers, all the numbers.

I humbly submit that you don't have nearly the understanding of "the real numbers" that you think you do.

By contrast, I've done hour-by-hour modeling of electricity demand vs. solar irradiance vs. wind speed vs. remaining storage in order to determine what it would take to have a >95%- or all-renewable grid, and it's surprisingly plausible given current prices and technologies.

You can find discussions of these models on this site from about 5 years ago when I was regularly active here. Interestingly, the lowest-cost solution was 90% windpower then, but is much closer to a 50/50 wind/solar mix with today's prices.

Mostly-decarbonizing the world's energy supply is a surprisingly-tractable problem from a technical perspective.

It is amazing how people change the concept from Total energy, to current grid electricity then state the numbers are wrong. We need to replace FF, they are used for a lot more than current electricity generation.

Your pumped storage is a great idea, just where do you think the water for the hoover dam will come from? What happens in much flatter regions, like here in Australia where there are not the locations for the pumped storage. How do you account for all the energy in the building and maintenance of the required reservoirs. How do you account for the land degradation and increased expenses from using seawater where there is no freshwater to be pumped up in the first place?? How much extra energy expense in upgrading transmission lines from the largest pumped storage sites to/from the desert sites that are best for solar??

Lots of questions that all go unanswered as cornucopians only look at one or two ideal sites, not the world as a whole, nor at replacing FF's. Massive energy expense, with infrastructure buildout that simply wont happen with economies squeezed by declining standards of living during the downslope of peak oil.

"I humbly submit that you don't have nearly the understanding of "the real numbers" that you think you do." applies back to you.

My train of thought re solar is pretty simple. Tell me where I am wrong.

We get off ff or we are cooked. If cooked, then no need for further discussion

If we get off ff, the biggest , easiest, most widely distributed source is solar

Solar energy today is small, but physics says nothing to stop it getting big. Everything starts small,fergodssake. The argument that it's small today is empty. If physics says it can get big, it can get big.

Solar tech is wildly underexplored, there are TONS of other options than PV, some very simple, cheap and good. Example- a Bush engine, or thermocompressor. Anybody could make one, some people can even make good ones, witness artificial heart program in'70's.

Economics is NO OBSTACLE . All we have to do is move our chips over to solar- the ones we have taken off the crap we are doing now. It makes me sick to hear people say "we can't afford it" when they are affording the crap as they speak, and I do mean that obese pickup truck, Bubba.

I rest my case.

Solar, yes, but more importantly wind.

Wind is cheaper than solar and the world could power itself at least 7x over with nothing but wind power. (The number could be as high as 34x, but 7x is plenty.)

Wind is available more hours of the day than solar. Right now storage is expensive so any renewable we can use direct is valuable. By tying together wind farms over a modest geographical area wind will contribute significant power over 50% of the time. Solar is, at best, 20%.

Wind 50%, solar 20%, assorted other renewables (hydro, geothermal, tidal, biomass/gas) 10%, stored wind/solar 20%.

That's what a future all renewable grid could look like.

Adjusted from area to area, some countries are already 100% renewable because they have a lot of hydro. Others may have no geothermal or tidal.

I don't see wind tech getting much more cost effective in the future. Wind expansion pits tech advances against the fact that the best sites were developed first. In many places there isn't enough wind resource available. In a few years new nameplate capacity additions of PV will surpass wind. Your 50/20 wind/PV will probably end up more like 30/60. But you are correct, that it will be a major player. And mixing sources with different temporal generation profiles makes sense. Its not real wind against solar, its wind and solar against fossils.

Fact is, wind is becoming less expensive. Cost are dropping and cost will continue to drop.

Another fact is, we have not used up all the good spots. We haven't even started to use them up. Yes, you might find a part of the country that has only a small amount of the best sort of wind, but that does not apply to the entire country.

We are getting ready to tap Wyoming's most excellent wind potential and bring that electricity to the West Coast via a new HVDC transmission line connecting to the Pacific Intertie and Intermountain Intertie.

We haven't even started to tap our incredible offshore and Great Lakes potential.

Wind will probably play a larger grid role simply because it requires less storage. Even if solar dropped to 3 cents (not very likely) and wind to only 4c (likely) the cost of storing solar would make stored solar more expensive than wind-used-direct-from-the-turbine.

We'll likely install as much wind and solar as we can use directly and then install the cheapest of wind and solar, storing away that generation.

Right now it's cheaper to overbuild wind and throw away some generation rather than store. That will change to some extent.

Bob. I really like your thinking. Wind used directly is great. so is solar used directly, and more widely distributed. I happen to live in a wind pit, a little circle of no wind surrounded by some wind. But I have an ordinary amount of solar. So I am playing around with solar used directly- frozen water, brine, pumped water, cooled cistern heat sink, etc.

Solar car. use solar to pump up air tank in car to replace compressor part of gas turbine. Turbine then puts 3/3 of its power to wheels, or alternator, instead of 2/3 to compressor and 1/3 to wheels. Zoom. Burns pelletized weeds.

Kite wind would be fun, and more or less available everywhere. A little problem with airplanes- and neighbors.

General comment- As with any new tech, cost of renewables is certain to drop, since we have not yet begun to really try.

In California at least the area with sufficient wind is actually quite constrained, and mostly already has WTs. And we only have 6GW of it. Wyoming is a long way from the west coast, good luck getting 25GW of transmission capacity. Offshore is expensive, its not clear how much will be affordable.

I've seen estimates that a worldwide drain of a TW of wind significantly affects the global winds. Presumably this is a TW average -not nameplate, but we must already be close to 10% of that value.

Good luck?

The Zephyr will connect Wyoming to the existing Pacific Intertie and Intermountain Intertie. It will not only bring Wyoming wind to the West Coast, it will connect the upper ends of the two existing West Coast HVDC lines, making them more robust.

The first project will be 3 GW. If more is needed it can be added. The hard lifting of acquiring the route will be done.


"I've seen estimates that a worldwide drain of a TW of wind significantly affects the global winds."

I've seen them too. They're bogus.

I hope the zephyr actually carries wind power. I fear it might be used to export Wyoming coal power. But 3GW isn't so much, the coast will probably install that much solar before it goes online.

Wyoming wind generally picks up speed about the time the Sun is dropping low in West Coast sky. Wyoming wind can be a great fill-in for late afternoon/early evening peak hours.

It's about timing....

Its also about being wary of coal interlopers, using the same power line.

For coal to 'interlope' there would have to be a customer.

Who, along the West Coast, would buy coal-generated electricity? The WC could get all they wanted from Utah on existing HVDC lines, but are saying 'no thanks'.

I see there having been threads about how solar can HELP.. and ones distinctly on how solar WON'T save us.. but I don't see more than one or two posters here at this site making the claim you claim. Same as the Electric Car discussions, I think they frequently end up shadow-boxing against this phantom argument that 'these technologies will save us'.. with it's silent presumption of that save being an invisible transition.

Yes, we comment on Articles that pose the plausibility of how as much solar could be built, but apart from a couple of our own real cornucopian voices, any of the Solar advocates here, including myself, have made regular disclaimers that we'll have to pair any of our new energy tools with a vast downsizing in lifestyle, population, economy.

For anyone to claim that Solar either CAN or CANNOT 'support an Industrial Economy' is extremely presumptuous. We only just really have one such Industrial age to compare such theories to, and it's the one we're in, so creating some kind of Monolithic definition of the term, based on where we've just been is not going to be very helpful. Whatever we will be working with in the decades to come is going to undergo shifts that will really rewrite such models. Whether we have a dark age, a brown age, a green age, a grey age.. and whether Asia ends up having the same kind of dawning Age as Europe, Africa or the Americas.. it's going to play out in wild, unexpected and in the rear-view, blatantly obvious ways.

For my part, I'll be happy to know that there's some PV in a bunch of toolkits. It's mostly helpful, and not that harmful, and not the only tool we'll need by any shot.

Certainly not solar alone.

Worldwide, solar perhaps 20%. Wind perhaps 50%. Other renewables 10%. Storage 20%. Some sort of distribution like that, varying from area to area.

There is no reason we should have to do less or drive less. There is far, far more renewable energy available than we could ever use. It's simply a matter of building the equipment needed to harvest it.

We basically built the world's current supply of energy generation and transportation in less than 100 years. We can replace the fossil fuel parts in much less time. We manufacture at blinding speeds compared to even a few decades ago.

We need to drop population size but I'm not sure we will do much to do so. I suspect we'll let the current slowdown work its way through and we'll peak at somewhere around 9 billion. (We can feed 9 billion if the climate doesn't change too abruptly. Both the US and Africa produce about twice the food consumed and waste the other half. Waste, for different reasons in different places.)

We won't get from here to there without some pain. That's pretty much dialed in. The weather, flood/drought cycles are going to jerk us around. Some areas are going to encounter significant water problems. Relocation of millions will probably be required. But these problems will roll on over a number of years and we'll patch stuff us as needed.

My guess....

I think the changes you outline as ones we simply won't do voluntarily are going to be done unto us.. driving less, population size, home and business energy use, and ultimately the amount of Renewable Energy that gets installed will all meet new balances no matter what we are willing and ready to do. In a way, it's the same point that Hide-away makes, but I expect the balance to be a good bit less dire.

Our balances for things like Home Footprint, Drivable Ranges, Calories Available per Day, Lumens per square foot, Hours of 'Midnight Oil' we get to burn.. all of these are, to my eye simply expressions of the extreme surplus of energy that comes as the Frosting of the Oil Age, and it seems to me that the parallel balances from a Solar economy (if readers will allow that term to stand as being not nearly as monolithic as it sounds) will be intrinsically much leaner.

"There is no reason we should have to do less or drive less." I think there are a great numbers of reasons we will have to.. but I don't agree with those who take this to the other extreme and tell us that 'driving is over.'

tell us that 'driving is over.'

Driving will be over. But, because of folks like wiseindian who are working on computerized driving, we will become passengers rather than drivers. We will probably rationalize our travel so we do less of it, and use more efficient means.

Computerized driving is still years away. Right now you will have to be content with black boxes and driver assist systems which treat the driver like a baby.

All new U.S. cars may require a "black box" by 2014

Flight data recorders, commonly known as “black boxes,” have been a standard feature in airliners since the early 1960s. More recently, various companies have started offering apps and dedicated devices that essentially serve as black boxes for cars, keeping a record of the vehicle’s parameters and location when involved in an accident. Now, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing that similar devices become mandatory in all new light passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. by September 1st, 2014.

According to the NHTSA, an estimated 96 percent of model year 2013 passenger cars and light-duty vehicles already come equipped with event data recorders (EDRs).

Get ready to pay more for insurance. My company's building these with gusto.

Driving will not be over.

I don't see where any of your arguments lead us to an end to driving.

As usual, I suppose I need to boldly disclaim that I'm not predicting a continuation of Commuting, Three car garages and Drive-thru's.. I'm saying we will have powered road vehicles that drivers will need to manually operate.

Self-driving cars might very well come in and flood the place.. but they will not leave us in a world with nobody else at the wheel. Not nearly by half, I'd say. How much of the world has phone and computer access today? Reliable Grid Access? Driverless cars dominating?.. convince me.

If you could purchase a car that drove itself, was a safer driver than you are, and cost no more than a 'manual' car would you?

(Remember, the resale value of that self-driving car is likely to be much higher than a manual.)

If you had a self-driving car would you continue to fight your way through commuting traffic or take a nap/watch a video/read a book? Would you spend your time driving a winding scenic road or turn the job over to the car so you could just look around?

Remember, acceptable self-driving cars will be safer that the best of drivers. They will be able to see things which humans can't see and they will be able to look in all directions at the same time. They will not blink or sneeze....

We're moving toward 'drive by wire' cars in which everything goes through a computer rather than mechanical systems. Adding sensors and processing power is likely to be fairly cheap.

And when you have less variability in what is being manufactured, then manufacturing costs drop. That's why manual transmissions, roll-up windows are disappearing. A car without self-driving will start to be a more expensive 'special order'.

Eyeroll.. Bob, you're going to give Bob's a bad name.

No. I don't even buy the ones with the Auto Transm or Electric Windows. I want direct access to my systems, be it with a camera or a car.

"They will not blink or sneeze...." until they DO. Me, I can drive, AND blink and sneeze, and make evolving choices when my sensors detect new combinations or false indications or human signals like body language, eye contact, subtle symbolic cues. You guys astonish me.

I have a close friend from college, high-caliber Video Tech, who was playing with his first PC in the early Nineties, and I was complaining about my system hanging and hard drive troubles.. This guy who repairs broadcast electronics on a daily basis said to me, "What do you mean? Computers aren't supposed to break.."


This guy who repairs broadcast electronics on a daily basis said to me, "What do you mean? Computers aren't supposed to break.."

Hahahahaha! The human thought process is so full of holes it borders on the ridiculous! We evolved to escape lions, not to think rationally.

... but there was something really instructive happening here, because there are two ways of looking at a problem; the inside view and the outside view. The inside view is looking at your problem and trying to estimate what will happen in your problem. The outside view involves making that an instance of something else—of a class. When you then look at the statistics of the class, it is a very different way of thinking about problems. And what's interesting is that it is a very unnatural way to think about problems, because you have to forget things that you know—and you know everything about what you're trying to do, your plan and so on—and to look at yourself as a point in the distribution is a very un-natural exercise; people actually hate doing this and resist it.

Category: Master Classes

That's why manual transmissions, roll-up windows are disappearing.

Umm, have you ever been outside of the USA?! Anyways, I think there are going to be a lot fewer cars in all of our futures. May I suggest getting a nice bike... Jeez!

I spend a significant part of each year outside the US. Have done so for 30+ years. A good deal of it in less developed parts of the world.

Will there be a lot fewer cars in all our futures? I can't see why.

We can build cars with recyclable and sustainable materials. We can power them with renewable energy. Why should we assume we'll have fewer?

Bikes are fine for some people in some circumstances. Try biking your sick parent to the doctor with a couple of pre-schoolers in tow. And with a bum knee....

I spend a significant part of each year outside the US. Have done so for 30+ years. A good deal of it in less developed parts of the world.

Then you must know that what you say is false! For the record I'm in Brazil right now. Manual transmissions and roll up windows are the norm not the exception. Most of the world is like that.

We can build cars with recyclable and sustainable materials. We can power them with renewable energy. Why should we assume we'll have fewer?

Sure we can but we are still hitting all kinds of resource and physical limits. I put my money on fewer!

Bikes are fine for some people in some circumstances. Try biking your sick parent to the doctor with a couple of pre-schoolers in tow. And with a bum knee....

That's what a community sponsored ambulance will be for. Hoping they will be available for those who really need them.

Never 'erd of bicycle rickshaws or bicycle ambulances, has 'e? I'll leave him to go google those.


A couple edits to that and you could be describing either bus or rail transit. They are self-driving from where I sit. Safer than cars, check. More standardised than autos, most certainly. Will have to talk to the city about wifi and a jetpack for the last-mile connections though.


We basically built the world's current supply of energy generation and transportation in less than 100 years. We can replace the fossil fuel parts in much less time.

There is, however, a difference btwn building FF infrastructure and renewable infrastructure. To oversimplify, build a big boiler, you've put FF to work for you. The capex/opex ratio is small compared to renewables, where the expense comes largely up front. Tom Murphy & others have written about this 'Energy Trap', wherein we'd have to make a huge investment in renewables while at the same time attempting to maintain current systems whilst available net energy is declining.

And that 'if' you put in front of abrupt climate change is a big 'un, IMO. Check out Kevin Anderson.

I'm not saying I think you're totally off base. But I do think there's much more challenge in front of us than this: It's simply a matter of building the equipment needed to harvest it.

Declining EROEI, increasing population and a dramatically shifting climate are what I see happening now.

Murphy is an expert at setting up scenarios in which things don't work. As someone who did the last of their graduate work at UCSD, having Tom on the faculty embarrasses me.

"The capex/opex (of FF generation) ratio is small compared to renewables, where the expense comes largely up front."

The important measure is LCOE. Upfront capex is not a big deal if opex is low. If opex is low enough one borrows the capex, pays interest, and ends up with a lower LCOE.

Wind and solar have incredibly low opex.

The LCOE of wind is about the same as natural gas in a combined cycle plant (cheap capex, high opex), our other cheapest form of new generation. The LCOE of wind is locked in for 20 years while the LCOE of NG is subject to rise with increasing gas prices. After 20 years the cost of wind drops to almost zero for another decade or so.

The LCOE of both wind and solar are now lower than that of new coal.

The LCOE of solar is now around 10 cents per kWh and dropping. Natural gas is almost certainly going to increase. A few years now their curves are likely to cross.

We constantly replace FF generation plants. They wear out. We can use that replacement money for renewables. That lowers the overall cost of moving off fossil fuels.

If we're honest with ourselves we'd admit that "old coal" is extremely expensive. We spend tremendous amount via tax dollars and health insurance premiums treating coal pollution caused disease. Using some tax dollars to install renewables will cut our coal use and free up health care dollars.

I don't know how to apply EROEI when it comes to wind turbines and solar panels. Given that their energy inputs are basically electricity and that we now have more wind and solar generation on line that are used to manufacture turbines and panels, does EROEI really matter?

We're not using a limited supply of one fuel to produce more of the same. We're not using a gallon of oil to extract/refine two gallons.

We're using a very tiny amount of the solar energy that hits us every day, and will continue to hit us for billions of years, to produce harvesting equipment.

How does EROEI figure into that system?

Written by Bob W:
Worldwide, solar perhaps 20%. Wind perhaps 50%. Other renewables 10%. Storage 20%.

To provide all electrical power using these renewable systems, the solar and wind must be over built by more than you appear to be assuming. Assuming PV has a 15% capacity factor and wind has a 25% capacity factor, your example overbuilds PV by 133% and wind by 200%. The best efficiency for storage will be about 80%. This does not provide sufficient power to supply demand and address fluctuations. The fractions you have chosen are similar to Germany's renewable targets which will use fossil fuels as backup. It will be cheaper to overbuild solar and wind than to build storage.

An economic analysis will likely result in 200% to 300% overbuild for solar and up to 400% overbuild for wind. Storage and demand side management can capture some of the surplus, but it will be more cost effective to discard the remainder of the surplus.

Bob used the amount of energy as reference. So you are both right.

For a German scenario one would build around 100 GW onshore wind, 50 GW offshore wind, 100 GW PV, 5 GW biomass, 4 GW hydropower and you would have at least 50GW back-up NG power plants or written of coal power plants with very low FLH.

Peak demand 83 GW, of which 5-8 GW could be avoided by flexible demand management.

Offshore wind has a capacity factor of 50%, onshore wind with modern turbines 25-40%. 100 GW or more PV only work with storage systems, here batteries seem to be the best bet IMHO. Excess production of wind must go into pump storage or P2G.

However, as long as reneables have a share below 80% we have no need for large scale long term storage. We should do the R&D and tap cheap resources (pumped storage in Austria for example), but we can and should avoid P2G on large scale in the next two decades.

P2G = power to gas. Not used much outside Germany?

What do you guys think of the following:

The “Black Age” of Crude Oil, Now Entering Hospice Care



Peder is a well known PV & EV enthusiast. He makes good points but sometimes drops things to exaggerate the case. For example, that case is highlighting the low fuel costs of PV power for an EV compared to gasoline. And that is very very true. (He does stretch the numbers a bit $14K for a 4KWH solar system installed is a bit cheap. Will gas go up at 3.5% annually? Maybe but that is almost twice the base inflation rate.) But the big thing that is missing is cost of the EVs to drive during those 25 years. That will be at least 4 EVs purchased during those 25 years and the EVs cost much more than the comparable ICE cars. The net will be cheaper for the EVs but the savings is not as dramatic as that image shows. Or maybe it will be dramatic . . . it all depends on how the price of EVs and oil change during the time period.

$14k for a 4kW system is not cheap. Not if we look at what solar costs in Germany. Currently solar is installed in Germany at an average of $2/watt. 4 kW for $8k.

Germany has the same panel/hardware costs as do we. They got their prices down fast due to the subsidy system they instituted (FiT). We lag Germany 2-3 years on the price curve.

US large array solar fell to $2.27/watt during the fourth quarter of last year. England just installed a large array for $1.40/watt.

Solar, and wind, will give us very affordable electricity for EVs, as much as we want.

4 EVs in 25 years? Totally wear out a car in 6.25 years?

EVs probably will cost no more than equivalent ICEVs within a few years. Internal combustion engines are much more complicated to design and manufacture than are batteries. Battery manufacturing can be totally automated and does not require expensive materials.

The current high cost of EV batteries is really a function of low production volumes.

The Nissan LEAF price, without subsidy, just dropped to $28,800. Right now a 13,000/year driver using $4/gallon gas in a 30MPG vehicle would save over $1,200 per year in fuel costs. Add in oil change and other maintenance costs and a half dozen years of operation makes a $29k EV cost the same as a $20k gasmobile. (That's without the federal subsidy.)

This is the USA, not Germany. I hope we can get the cost down, but it is not there yet. And this is household rooftop not large array.

4 EVs in 25 years because the scenario he is discussing is a 2 car family using 2 cars at the same time. 4 cars is stretching it . . . it might closer to 6 becase you are not going to get 12 and 1/2 years out of a battery.

EVs will always cost more than ICE cars. Hopefully the gap will narrow but there is no way of getting around the cost of the batteries. And mass manufacture will help but it is largely the material cost. We already do mass manufacture . . . every cell phone and tablet has a Li-Ion battery in them. That is billions.

I'm a big EV advocate and I drive an EV. But I prefer to keep expectations realistic because if you oversell things, you will get a back-lash when they don't live up to the hype.

4 EVs in 25 years because the scenario he is discussing is a 2 car family using 2 cars at the same time. 4 cars is stretching it . . . it might closer to 6 becase you are not going to get 12 and 1/2 years out of a battery.

If you undersize the shizite out of the battery like they've done in the Leaf and pound the living hell out of it you won't get 12.5 years out of the battery. They're allowing the pack to pull 3.3 Coulomb with the chintziest of thermal management. On top of that it starts out with a barely adequate range for most and gets worse from there as it loses range over it's lifetime.

I do agree that over-selling causes disaster - that's why I've come to hate the Leaf so much - it's under-designed and under-equipped...but people aren't expecting it to be. They don't look at it and think "This is what a poorly implemented electric car is"...they just think "Electric cars are garbage....lets go hydrogen."

Batteries should last at least 10 years if not more. A simple few numbers can start to lay the foundation for this...if you take the cheapest of Teslas, the Model S with 60 kWhr battery (the 40 will not be made due to lack of demand) - EPA range is 208 miles. The LiFePO4 battery they use (A123) has been tested to 3,000 cycles. Lets down-rate that to 2,000 cycles and start it at 80%. 208mi*0.80*2000 = 332,800 miles. That's 33,280 miles/year for 10 years - almost three times the average annual mileage of a normal driver. So cycle life isn't a problem...and for LiFePO4 the shelf-life shouldn't be a problem either. It'll nip into that number a bit, but it won't be game changer.

Tesla does not use LiFePO4 batteries. Nor are they from A123. They use batteries from Panasonic.

The Chevy Spark EV will use A123 batteries.

Well just have to wait to see how the EV price curve develops. GM claims they can cut $10,000 off the price of a Volt -and that it will be profitable. The price of traction batteries has been coming down. How far it can be pushed down isn't yet known. They may not be so unaffordable in five or ten years from now. We will just have to wait and see.

Consider the complexity of the internal combustion engine. The various special spec metals. The energy and labor inputs.

Consider the battery. A packet of not-expensive chemicals. Plopped out quickly by machines.

Consider the Tesla Model S battery. More than 7,000 Panasonic 18650A lithium-ion cells, together with associated battery management circuitry. A bit more than a "packet of not-expensive chemicals".

I think GM had hinted at pack-level cost of around $600/kWhr in its first generation run, but was working quickly on getting that down to $400/kWhr and there was rumor that Nissan's pack was already that low (because of it's primitive temperature regulation).

"Battery prices will be down to €180–200 per kWh for large-format battery cells in 2014/2015."

That’s $238 - 264/kWh.


Is that a correct prediction? I don't know, but Berger apparently gets some respect in the industry.

"Primitive temperature regulation" means Nissan went with air-cooled rather than liquid-cooled installations. That saved money and may only present difficulties when EV batteries are repeated rapidly (Level 3)charged when local temperatures are very high (Arizona summers).

The move to heat pump cooling may be the best solution.


I thought that first article compared apples with oranges very well.

To the driver of the vehicle it doesn't matter how much energy is lost on the way to them, what matters is what is in the tank.
The big tractors I have been talking about have something like 200 gallon tanks, at 34kwh/g that gives 6800Kwh in the tank, they are very efficient diesels, 35%.

35% of 6800Kwh = 2380Kwh of useful power, now where is that 2380 Kwh battery that I can go and use, plus replace with another charged one in 5 minutes, hmmm.

In the second article, they only plan to drive at night as the car is charging during the day. Plus most of the driving will be in summer at night. Yep, another apple and orange comparison.

There's nothing that requires tomorrow's tractors to be at the same scale or type as today's.

- It might be that we'll have to replace the APPLE combine with the ORANGE tractor.

- It might be that we'll have developed (not rocket science) Transoms, Tracks, Rigs or Reels to run electrical tractors and other field tools on direct power, not necessarily batteries.

You realise that the whole picture might have to change, so trying to fit some picture from today into tomorrow to prove it's impossible is really only showing that it's impossible for you to envision a greater range of changes.

An interesting comment Hide away - there may be many more inflection points to come - the market is far from saturated. Loss of gov incentives no doubt is responsible for much of the current inflection downward - the US dumping dispute w. China no doubt is responsible for a portion also. The trade dispute brewing between Germany and China may soon have a negative impact. The post Fukushima PV boom in Japan may slow, or it may strengthen, subsequently impacting the market either way. Future unemployment numbers will have a major impact upon private PV I am sure - however an interesting positive aspect of PV is the extreme long life of silicon PV panels - 50 year old panels still functioning relatively well are not unknown. This may be considered a decline rate of installed PV of sorts, it is very low. Due to the long lifespan, the installed base should continue to increase for a long while. The effect of trade disputes, etc. should average out.
An interesting additional point - 2336Twh is quite a lot - though it may be only be 1% of world production, it represents about 267 gigawatts of continuous production. As a rule of thumb, one megawatt in the US provides for about 1000 private homes (this is about 744 kwh/month). Thus 2336 Twh is sufficient to supply about 267 million private homes in the US with electricity. But according to the American Housing Survey of the United States, published by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development every two years, there are, including rented houses, only about 125 million homes in the US. So there you have it - PV's may make quite a large difference in the near future to home owners, not so much to eg the aluminum industry. For me, the numbers work even without gov incentives, although payback in that case is about 10 years, and that is with me doing what I can myself & finding deals.

I also have a 25 year old solar panel that still works well, it cost $600 for 55w at the time, is there any evidence that currently produced panels will have as long a life? On one of the forums I read a lot from, the PV installers there seem to be aware of some of the cheaper new types breaking down in sunlight after only a few years. I see comments like this all the time...

Really cheap panels = throwaway still you should be able to get 5 years for them from there I suspect to see a whole ewaste issue around them.

This from the Whirlpool forums Greentech section, wont put the link in as don't want to involk the spam bot.

None of that electricity will produce an ounce of food nor provide any power after dark, unless there are a whole lot of other expenses as well.

Mono and poly crystalline silicone is as durable as ever, and is probably less likely to yellow. The thin layer technologies are much more problematic - though I believe they are not the majority of sales. I am also hesitant to invoke the spambot - but note that the majority of warantees for crystalline silicon cells are for 20 or 25 years at 80% output, there are many, many manufacturers (although less now). I believe the warantees are a safe bet overall considering cs pv history. They are still made largely by hand of a few well proven components eg silicon solder tedlar adhesive and aluminum. Tedlar is an extremely stable and UV resistant polymer, the adhesive is likely better than it used to be, perhaps a possible weakness would be newer low lead solder generating whiskers that cause shorts over time, but I believe the problem has been addressed.

None of that electricity will produce an ounce of food nor provide any power after dark, unless there are a whole lot of other expenses as well.

The substitute for electricity is human and animal labor for motive power, and consumption of other resources for heat and light, which if available will be obtained at a cost. I grow quite a lot of food and process and pressure can it with the use of electricity. My refrigerater and deep freezer are electric, as is my stove and oven. My wells that provide water for my gardens are shallow wells and are pumped with electricity. I would hate to grow food without it! Finally, my house is heated with wood I cut and split with electricity (though I use gasoline on my woodlot, I sometimes buck logs with an electric saw, and my splitter is electric). My tillers are fairly easily converted to electric, but are gas at this point. Where I live, in the summer it is daylight until about 8:30 PM, so most power for gardening and food processing can be used during the day.
A PV system owner should not set up a system that cannot operate either without the grid or without batteries IMO.

We currently have 47 PV panels doing various functions; some will have been in continuous service for 19 years in October. Not a single failure to date. None. Longevity/reliability is a sorry excuse for taking PV off your list. A $10,000 roof? That new car? Refrigerator? HVAC system? TV? Computer? The road to your home? Your dog? I wish all of these things were as maintenance free and dependable.

One long terms study I found looked at a fairly large array over 30 years. IIRC they had a 2% panel failure rate. A small number of panels delaminated or had connector failure.

Data from several studies, including a 40 year old panel, finds that PV panels loose about 0.5% output per year. A 40 year old panel should still be producing 80% of its original output. We have no idea how long panels will last past 40 years.

It bugs me with people claiming that the resilience of 25-50 year old panels imply current panels will be just as tough. Aside from manufacturing quality issues (which I suspect are limited), we are learning to make them with much thinner silicon, replacing thick silver conductors with other stuff -some of it transparent (which avoids blocking light etc.). So we really don't have decades of experience with current production methods. Although we do have labs, torture testing panels, and they generally hold up pretty well.

I agree that there is a very real possibility that we'll see duds come out, not just from particular batches or brands that pushed the boundaries too far, but in entire chemistries and module types. We know that there is an abundance of Planned Obsolescence in the manufacturing sector, and that philosophy of 'thinning out the Scenery Walls' has probably been a key factor in much of mfg's (apparent) growth in the last few decades. Even if the advancements of PV Mfg have introduced real improvements in their makeup, it's certainly possible (and somewhat appealing to MFRs) to take such efficiencies to unhealthy extremes.

This has been giving me pause ever since my few months at Home Depot revealed to me just how much the LED could really tip the economics of the Light Bulb Aisles of home goods suppliers. I was looking at light bulbs that appear now to be the last lamps that will ever be put into a great number of the fixtures they were heading towards. Not that they're immortal, but they seem to be reaching well into the life expectancy of the fixtures or even the buildings they are in.

SO... manufacturers aren't dummies, right? Are they really going to start creating a product that is going to upstage one of the great 'subscription' products of the electrified house age?

At least I'm reassured to know that we have made durable PV, and that it will still be possible to create them again if the latter-day panels start to give up their ghosts..

Some factors affecting PV longevity and performance:


I remember Millenium NiCad rechargeable batteries - they were by far the best. They were quaranteed to last until the year 2000, back in the early 90's. I noticed no other brand came close in quality so I bought a bunch - they were bought out by Eveready and discontinued, IIRC, in the late 90's. The yellow evereadys did not improve after the buyout. I still have one last Millenium C cell I can get a charge into, but it is on it's way out. It is nearly twenty years old. Amazing - if only all our products were like that. eg there is no reason, physically, that a car frame and body cannot be permanent, with quick detach mounts for the drive train. With standardization, there is no reason that a car owner could not pull six pins, detach a wiring harness at a single point, punch out a pin in a u-joint and drop an entire drive train - and replace it with a similar size train from any brand, any year. While still allowing for any body style and varied interiors. All that is needed is standardization across the industry. Such waste of resources could be prevented, and our productive capacity as a society could be used truly to the betterment of our lives. Car maintenance is another race with the Red queen in a sense - the industry supports a few royally and taps out the majority, like many things in our society.

There is a distinct possibility that some poorly made panels will have made it to market as failing manufacturers try to make as much money as possible on their way under.

At the same time the solar panel industry is setting up a system of standards and ratings. It's necessary in order to obtain funding.

Buy recognized brand name and you should have no problems. You might check to make sure that manufacturer is among the 'likely to survive' 300 and not the 'likely to fail' 150.

I expect I'll continue to be a bit suspicious of there being a chemical Trojan Horse being planted in Panels and LEDs, just like I feel has been the fate of most of my operating systems.. so I'll likely be keeping my portfolio diverse. (Still not on linux, but I do have a few Puppy CDs standing by for emergencies..)

It's just the way a lot of business is designed.. tho' I am also prepared to be pleasantly surprised at being proven wrong in as many cases as possible. There are actually some generous and truly great people out there, doing their best to help. That's why I like it at TOD. I think that side shines well here.

Still not on linux

I recommend Debian, from personal experience.

Just download the netinst image, and if a PC is usb-bootable, set bios and run with it. Otherwise burn netinst ISO image to a CD, and enjoy.

PV's may make quite a large difference in the near future to home owners

Agreed. I live in suburbia, the city of San Gabriel, about 11miles from downtown Los Angeles. Already within walking distance to where I live, I see that five houses now have PV.

If households slowly but steadily continue to put PV, then there is already a 'real' movement happening. It is happening slowly and stealthily, but perhaps Google Maps reviews of zoomed in satellite and aerial data will show there will be more PV installed than previously estimated.

I've searched for domestic PV on Google Maps and seen very little. I suspect I'm looking in the wrong places. You need an area that is
- rich enough to afford PV,
- poor enough to need PV, and
- progressive enough to want PV.

I just did a back-of-the-envelope assessment on the impact of completely and immediately de-carbonizing the world’s electricity supply (via renewables or any other means, so long as the replacement source is 100% CO2-free).

Data from teh google indicates that the world uses about 80% of its coal consumption, 67% of its natural gas and 6% of its oil in the generation of electricity.

Data from the BP Statistical Review translates this into 40% of the world’s fossil fuels going to electricity production, with 60% being used in transportation, heating and industrial processes.

The implication is that if we totally de-carbonized our electricity supply tomorrow, we would cut CO2 emissions from fossil-fueled electricity generation by around 40%.

A reduction of 40% would get us back to the CO2 emissions we produced in 1985. In other words we would set the carbon clock back less than 20 years. In 1985 world CO2 levels were already climbing by 1.6 ppmv/year - compared to just over 2 ppmv/year today and rising.

My conclusion is that even shutting down every coal and gas generating plant in the world today wouldn't remove the existential climate threat of CO2. In fact, it wouldn't even reduce the threat significantly. And of course we won't completely de-carbonize the global electricity supply, ever.

This is why I’m so dismissive of the potential of renewable energy. Renewable energy works, it is growing fast, and it can be incorporated into electrical grids without too much problem. But it’s just not enough. No electrical source – even if it is 100% carbon-free – can address the carbon emissions of the world's non-electrical uses of fossil fuels. We can and will nibble around the edges with electric cars, but nibbling is all it amounts to, given the rate at which CO2 levels are increasing.

Our civilization has simply outgrown and trashed its home here on planet Earth. Unfortunately, we can’t leave. As our species moves from carefree adolescence into sober, responsible adulthood, collectively we will have to do what each of us has to do as an adult – accept the consequences of our previous actions.

There are two ways to look at it. One is to look at PV as a way to significantly slow the onset of global climate change - too late in my opinion. The other way is to look at PV as a way to increase personal and family resilience in the face of this change.

Imagine a world of 30% unemployment, where food costs 50% more than what it does now. Imagine you own your house, but property taxes have been increasing due to increasing cost of resources required by cities and towns. Imagine the cost of electricity is increasing in many areas due to increasing cost of new power plants, and increasing worldwide demand for coal.
Now imagine you've just lost your job because your getting old, and Social Security has not come even close over the years with keeping up with the cost of living, and cannot possibly support you. I think in this circumstance, a PV system that will provide power for the rest of your life, along with a few electric and manual gardening implements, and whatever else you have managed to do to plan ahead, will at least double the chances of affording your property taxes, feeding yourself and remaining in your home.

Just a thought. Clearly times will be tough ahead.

It's been done. Find and watch the 70s movie "Soylent Green."

Hi guider,

As you say:

" collectively we will have to do what each of us has to do as an adult – accept the consequences of our previous actions."

So what is the chances of finding enough adults out there? I can't see them for all the SUV's on all the roads all over the planet going hell bent for election.

If some are ready to die before their guns can be pried from their dead or dieing hands, for the sake of owning a gun, what would they do if they were threatened to with car key confiscation. Forget the past, how about our present actions?

We'll see, won't we? Personally, I've found that very little matures a person like a massive dose of undeniable reality. We may not grow up much before TSHTF, but we're pretty sure to do some rapid maturing afterwards.

I'm more optimistic then that. Most of those non electrical uses are replaceable. Much is space heating, and industrial process heat. This could be replaced with a combination of heat pumps and/or solar thermal. Its all doable, but it will take a lot of will power.

I think PV (and other renewables) will succeed, but they will be 20-40 years too late. We shoulda started a hard sustained push 40 years ago, not fiddled until 2015! [Yes 2015, I think we still got a couple of years before we get serious]

Written by Hide_away:

2013....35% pa, estimated addition of 35Gw..end of year total..135.0Gw

At current rates of increase it will be in at least 10 years time before we add 75Gw in a single year. Assuming we add an average of 75Gw/a over the next 20 years the world would have a total of 1600Gw of capacity by 2033. 1600Gw is 1.6Tw, times 4 hours sun a day (33% above current rates world wide), times 365 days, gives a total solar generation of 2336Twh in 2033.

Total world energy consumption is about 150,000Twh/a

Starting from a base of 135 GW, a growth rate of 35% per year for 20 years would produce:

135 GW * 1.3520 = 54.6 TW

54.6 TW * 4 h/day * 365.24 day/year = 79,700 TWh/year

Assuming 2% annual growth rate in demand, the minimum growth rate for PV would be:

135 GW * r20 * 4 h/d * 365.24 d/y = 150,000 TWh/y * 1.0220
20 ln(r) = ln((222,892 TWh/y) / (197.2 TWh/y))
r = 1.421

So an annual growth rate of 42.1% for PV is the minimum needed for a 100% build-out over 20 years with demand increasing at 2%/year. According to your data that rate was exceeded during 5 of the last 6 years.

There are many faulty assumptions in this simplistic calculation:

1. It neglects the efficiency of conversions between fossil fuels and electricity.
2. PV will not provide all the power. Wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass will do their share.
3. Over time, exponential growth in demand will outstrip the supply of any energy source. Demand can not continue to increase indefinitely.
4. PV panels last longer than 20 years. Assuming lifetimes of 30 or 40 years would be more realistic and decrease the minimum growth rate.
5. A full scale build-out of PV might require an overbuild of between 2 and 4 times.

In places where the most energy is used we are starting to see a leveling off, if not drop, in demand. Efficiencies are starting to have an impact.

Even places where people are adding energy-using goodies to their lives are adding less energy hungry goodies than what had been happening. It's much easier to light a house with PV/wind if the house uses CFLs or LEDs rather than incandescents. Appliances, TVs, computers, pretty much everything is getting more efficient.

Ontario is an interesting case in point. Total electricity sales in 2012 declined to 141.3 TWh, a level not seen since 1998. Quite remarkable, given Ontario's population during this time increased by 2.1 million, and provincial GDP is almost 1.7 higher (2007$).



I don't think you read what I was saying correctly. The growth rate of PV has fallen from 67-73% pa down to 35% pa for 2013. They are not "my" figures, they are from wiki, or PV.org or any other source on PV. My contention was that the last 3 years the additions have only been 28, 32 and 35GW, a vast decline in the growth rate which is likely to continue.

Even if we had additions of 38Gw for 2014, 42Gw for 2015, 47Gw for 2016 and 53Gw for 2017, the 2017 growth rate would be down to 20% pa. I don't believe we will add that much as it is not the current trajectory.

The really simple question for all the cornucopians is ;Given that PV are at historically low prices, then why has the growth rate been declining and not accelerating?

BTW, Looking at your math we get 135Gw X 42.1% pa growth would give a total 152Tw capacity with an addition of 45Tw in year 20, a ridiculous number. That would need 2.2 billion tonnes of flat glass, current flat glass production is ~56mT, so we would have to multiply glass production worldwide by a factor of 40.

The important issue, is why the slowdown of the year on year growth rate. Was it GFC, or was it the inevitable end of rapid exponential growth. I think it is more the former (worldwide GFC) than the later, solar is now too big to grow fast. You think it is because the rapid growth phase is over. This is analogous to the above ground versus below ground factors debate in oil production. "Above ground" factors (financial climate) distorts the PV data.

Here are EOY world totals for solar in GW and the percent growth over the previous year.

2007 09.7 33.8%
2008 16.1 67.0%
2009 23.3 44.6%
2010 40.3 72.9%
2011 63.4 57.2%
2012 101.0 59.3%

I don't see the slowing you claim. As annual installed volumes increase we will see a flattening of the curve. We can't maintain extreme exponential curves long term.

I can't tell you what 2013 will turn out to be, but with many countries greatly increasing their solar installations I wouldn't bet on a slowdown.

(I'll take a look at your math stuff...)


The wikipedia page on photovoltaics gets its information from here....

European Photovoltaic Industry Association (2012)

The numbers...

2013...135, estimation
I worked out the percentage growth on those numbers, the 2013 number came from an estimation by PV-tech dot org. put "PV-tech 2013 IHS" into google, first article.

What is your source for the information?

Oh, not my math. Someone else's.

Written by Hide_away:
BTW, Looking at your math we get 135Gw X 42.1% pa growth would give a total 152Tw capacity with an addition of 45Tw in year 20, a ridiculous number.

Yes, it should properly be modeled with a Gaussian curve, not an exponent that goes to infinity. I think such a build-out would more likely occur over a 40 year period.

What a long batch or replies (so far) to this claim:

Solar will never play a major role in the industrial civilization we have created, though on a small scale we can all have the good feeling of doing "our bit".

That statement assumes that PV will be the main solar source and that the energy required in future will be rather like that in today's industrial world. But, that industrial world is geared toward producing stuff for the consumer market and that isn't likely to continue as people begin to experience the impacts of a decline in the ratio of wages to prices, that is to say, as everyone's "standard of living" declines.

Also, there are other types of systems which can capture solar energy, such as solar thermal for space conditioning and hot water uses. PV isn't needed for these uses and the low conversion efficiency of PV implies that a larger area of collection would be required for PV compared to solar thermal panels. Ultimately, the cost of the cover material presents a limit in reducing the cost of the PV panels, if glass is to continue to be the material of choice. Solar thermal systems using plastic are available, which presently costs less than glass and weigh less, thus are cheaper to ship and install than glass covered panels. Given that perhaps 1/3 of the energy used in developed countries could be provided by low temperature thermal, it's rather amazing that most folks posting so far have ignored solar thermal.

Humanity appears certain to be headed toward some major changes at all levels. I'm convinced that renewable solutions can be found for our energy problems, but not until politics changes to admit that we have a problem (or two) and institute the fundamental transformation of society which will be required...

E. Swanson

Passive solar heating and passive cooling don't get discussed much these days. With no experience, but careful observation and design, I pretty much nailed it at our place. The cost difference was near zero; return, huge. I'm not sure why passive design doesn't get more respect. Most of our active heating and cooling is just tweaking what occurs naturally.

Another foolish comparison.. raw energy content(usage) verses projected PV (electrical) energy production.

It would be absolute stupidity to swap a much higher order energy source (electricity, ergo mechanical) for a much lower order energy (thermal) on a one to one basis.

We waste at least 90% of energy content of all oil, coal, gas through avoidable losses and conversion inefficiencies. How much is wasted finding/digging up/transporting those inefficient fuels? How much of our infrastructure is devoted to these old FF industries, now imagine all those resources re-tasked to something else.

Renewable energy already provides 13% of that energy usage(18,500 Twh)(2008), it's just a matter an scaling up renewables and displacing wasteful energy use.

Lastly.. we don't have a choice.. FF industry ERORI is steadily dropping.. It just a matter of time before it will be a net energy saving to leave it in the ground.

Also, away from the 'oilface' that is the usual focus of the drum, the news that CO2 passes the 400ppm mark is cause for reflection. There is a user-friendly 7 slide show on the following press link. Slide 4 puts recent increase in CO2 into perspective.


It's amazing how little news is being made around the 400ppm number by climate activists. It could have been a fairly powerful psychological tool.

We've baked some major changes into the cake already ...

Ice-Free Arctic May Be In Our Future, Says Research

... Cores from Lake E reach back in geologic time [Present to 3.6 million years BP] nearly 25 times farther than Greenland ice cores that span only the past 140,000 years.

"One of our major findings is that the Arctic was very warm in the middle Pliocene and Early Pleistocene [~ 3.6 to 2.2 million years ago] when others have suggested atmospheric CO2 was not much higher than levels we see today. This could tell us where we are going in the near future. In other words, the Earth system response to small changes in carbon dioxide is bigger than suggested by earlier climate models," the authors state.

Another significant finding is documentation of sustained warmth in the Middle Pliocene, with summer temperatures of about 59 to 61 degrees F [15 to 16 degrees C], about 14.4 degrees F [8 degrees C] warmer than today, and regional precipitation three times higher. "We show that this exceptional warmth well north of the Arctic Circle occurred throughout both warm and cold orbital cycles and coincides with a long interval of 1.2 million years when other researchers have shown the West Antarctic Ice Sheet did not exist," Brigham-Grette notes.

The new Lake E paleoclimate reconstructions and climate modeling are consistent with estimates made by other research groups that support the idea that Earth's climate sensitivity to CO2 may well be higher than suggested by the 2007 IPCC report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

You have to give them a couple days to sober up. Well.. it might be months, actually.

I second that.... really strange actually.

Yeah, even the open thread over at realclimate it's almost a non event. What's wrong with the climate scientists these days have they all turned into a bunch of wusses?! Sure seems like it lately.

450 ppm or bust!

I'm actually pretty concerned by this. I haven't been a direct climate campaigner, but had generally assumed that the best & brightest are working on a strategic coalition... since, y'know, our future existence and that of most existing ecosystems and food webs is at stake.

Instead, it seems like there's nobody really driving the bus. The main climate activism has made a large deal about 350ppm. Which is reasonable framing. One would then assume that if there was ANY plan to ratchet things up a notch, it would have been logical to coordinate it around hitting 400. Not like it was hard to see coming, it's inexorable. But it's like they didn't even swing at the ball. Random media stories are left to decide by which criteria to announce 400 has been reached. Daily? weekly average? Monthly? Annually? Which hemisphere? So it arrives not with a bang but a whimper.

Despite a lot of "twittering", the CO2 issue seems to have very little deep support and not much in the way of coherent activist strategy. The passing beyond 400ppm in relative silence is a litmus test for the vigor and imagination of climate campaigners, and I'm not heartened.

Seems some folks aren't passing up the opportunity:

Relax! Celebrate 400 PPM Of CO2! Bloomberg News features Climate Depot’s Morano: ‘The Earth has had many-times-higher levels of CO2 in the past. Americans should welcome the 400 ppm threshold. This means that plants are going to be happy, and this means that global-warming fearmongers are going to be proven wrong’.


Yes, the Earth has seen it much higher. Humans . . . no, we haven't. All of the infrastructure we've built? It is going to take a beating over the next few hundred years.

I do too. It's a good blog post. And it's a good thing to point out.

Question is, does a blog post or a press release from one of the larger groups count these days as activism? Even in the latter-day quasi-wankerish GP sign-hanging days, one would think they'd have had a huge "400" banner to hang off some strategic target.

Generational difference, perhaps. To be honest, your idea of activism never even occurred to me. I was thinking Facebook, Twitter, maybe hacking someone's website.

To be clear, my idea of activism is not hanging signs on large objects. It's coming up with a plan, even if a longshot, and trying to win it. Admittedly not an easy thing to do in this situation; Frodo had it easy by comparison.

I've been exposed to a number of climate campaign efforts in the last few months, and all of them are trying to figure out what kind of website will save the world. I may simply be behind the times, but I'm sensing unexamined assumptions.

My idea of activism is anything that might work. Things that have never been tried, applied with audacity and a level head.

The problem with high-concept cyber-campaigning is that you never really transcend your own mental models, you don't interact with the gritty granularity of real-world events, the subtleties of bluff and brinksmanship, of unexpected opportunity. Most of our brain doesn't even engage.

This may indeed be a generational thing. Ubiquitous computing may now be speeding a transition toward more specialized ultrasociality, however temporarily, as a sort of hive species. However, the uber-organism is not conscious, self-aware, or sapient; nor has it had a chance to evolve a survival instinct.

But be that as it may, my notion is that we shouldn't give up.

For starters :
Americans put Obama in the White House for a second term >> Obama is a true believer in AGW >> and still there are millions of SUVs rolling off of the assembly-lines every year --- and herein lies a simplified example of the problem slash challenge we face! We are NOT giving up our cool gadgets or gizmo's.
Obama is probably a fun person to party with - but he will NOT be remembered as a great President in the history-books of the future- quite the contrary I postulate.

To ban excessive petro-guzzlers seems to me to be a no-brainer , but it is simply not happening- is it? A SUV-ban would 'mentally' help to start remedy the two confluencing mega-issues of this century, namely AGW and the energy-squeeze. A SUV ban is the most simple starting point I can think of.

A no-brainer? Come on, Paal. We know that it is essentially the right thing to do, but we need to be cognizant of what an American President is and is not capable of putting before the American (business)people and the world because it's 'the right thing to do'..

Look at his first project, Health Care. They tossed out any mention of 'Single-payer' which was by far supported by a majority of the country before the whole battle even flared up, and even then look at how this compromised muddle of a Health Care policy has gotten him tarred as the new Karl Marx.

Now, even mentioning fairly watered-down handgun and assault-weapon controls and we've got Open Revolt in the air.

Noone should make assumptions about what it's like to be a shepherd over 300 million scared and insane sheep.

Yeah I know - your reply just underscores my point - nothing meaningful will ever happen to mitigate "Climate Doomsday" before it is too late - nature will handle this , not politicians I'm afraid. Consequently the sheeple will chase the lemmings over the cliff in search of the car wreck from "Thelma and Louise"... which they will not find because it is already beamed up to the carwreckheaven....in the shape of rust and dust.

EDIT : Just saw a James Hansen TED-talk again yesterday - and like to recommend it to Obama and the rest of the ostriches on Capitol Hill and all the worlds 'Capitol Hills' for that matter. James Hansen: Why I must speak out about climate change

Given the incredible level of "Obama's gonna take away our guns" craziness within US culture, I can't even imagine the anti-government/president tsunami that would erupt, if an outright SUV ban were broached. It just ain't gonna happen -because it would be political suicide.

Initially the SUV ban would obviously start to imply new SUV-car production -- when or if already existing SUVs would be banned is obviously in the tealeaves.... If at all anything is to be done - we have to start somewhere.

Start by doing away with the 'light truck' gameplaying, making them hit the same standards as all cars, with the same tax treatment. Mind, the performance of the 'crossover' vehicles has been pretty good recently - so maybe the best thing would be just to up the tax on fuel by implementing a 'ratchet' tax on fuel. That would hit the poor fuel economy vehicles most.

Considering how they seem to be able to hide things like the "Monsanto are guilty of nothing" wording in unrelated bills, I would have thought it would be easy to obscurate such a tax in a bill by now - the politicians never seem to read them.

SUVs and light trucks are now part of CAFE standards. They were included in PBO's deal with the auto industry to greatly increase average fuel mileage.

I suspect we'll see PHEV SUVs/light trucks soon.

But be that as it may, my notion is that we shouldn't give up.

I agree.
If we can't beat the religion of Progress and its internal contradictions, maybe we can learn from it?

Back in the days of coal after the population had trebled in 19thC Britain, urban cholera was a commonplace epidemic. In my local town, rent-seeking private landlords had a dozen to a room and there were open sewers and contaminated water. Investment in a large new prison had proved a worthless financial burden - and was converted to local government offices - still there. Gradually the intellectual argument was won among the growing middle class. A middle class development in the Scottish Borders - a Spa Town linked to the new railway - for example advertised its righteous cleanliness compared with places of cholera outbreak!

Vast investment though in costly urban infrastructure and medical science & technology was needed if unstoppable epidemics (not just cholera) were not going to plague the said middle classes and the whole civic and commercial structure that supported their notions of advancement. The trick though seems to have been to disguise this huge real cost as an ‘investment’ in a liveable protected future; more important even than a 'decent' middle class house in an upmarket neighbourhood. There had to be a foregoing of profit. So far such an approach to Climate Change Disaster (and environmental disasters generally across Oceans and Continents) has conspicuously failed. The gradual tailing-off of industrial civilisation roll-out will intersect with the still rapidly rising 400ppm but while there is still some scope for structural change 'US' intellectual middle classes across the world had better win the argument for foregoing some of our profit. The irony will be that it is likely that such investment to "cope with climate change disaster" will be the only enduring service our descendents are going to inherit to underpin life in a declining industrial core.

I am personally not expecting successful middle class adaptation but it could be advantageous perhaps globally to win some of the arguments.

Yes, but it was fun to take sheets donated by Marriot employees to the anrcho homeless shelters and ride bikes to interstate overpasses and banner "Remember Hiroshima" Of course that was 1985. Things have changed. Powers that be would let it stay up all day and we would take it down. Things have changed and we have changed.

The passing beyond 400ppm in relative silence is a litmus test for the vigor and imagination of climate campaigners, and I'm not heartened.

They are probably worn out trying to get the point across. It's sort of like the opposite of the boy that cried wolf who got everybody's attention. In this case the climate campaigners keep warning about what will happen followed by a chorus of deniers resulting in very little action being taken.

Let's face it, nothing's going to happen to stop CO2 emissions from rising. If the weather goes nuts even then people will say, "Ah stop complaining and get some storm shutters. If you live too close to the coast during this time of rising water levels, then move inland." And carbon emissions will continue even then because the world economy runs of FF.

Earl, I greatly respect your comments here, thanks.

But here's the thing... of COURSE they're worn out, but they don't get to take a pass. They're young. The world is at stake. This is Frodo slacking off before he gets out of the shire. It's comfort-zone campaigning. It's is so far removed from actual dedication and innovation that it leaves me slack-jawed.

Likely nothing will stop CO2 from rising, and if anything does, it won't be nice. But that's beside the point I'm making: it hasn't happened yet, and we have no right to give up. If for no other reason that we're taking down a lot of other species with us.

This isn't the best we can do. It isn't even the worst of the best, we're phoning it it. And if twittering doesn't work, what, that's the end of the story in saving the world? Sorry, I can't buy it.

Maybe the American environmental movement has been co-opted by the corporations that support them nowadays? It seems like the larger groups would not want to anger their largest sponsors. A side of human nature at work - human nature, good and bad.

Large environmental groups, in getting that way, generally go through the same sort of progression as other human institutions. By the time they get fairly large they're staffed by career people and bean counters and become very risk-averse. Really it'd be foolish to expect anything different, and I know whereof I speak. Still, the human race should be cranking out new activists, fresh faces, new energy; groups that have not yet evolved to a secure mediocrity. The earth as we need it to be is in danger; the species is in danger.

Hey hey greenish,

I have bad news my friend and it pains me to say it. It is summed up by the quote that appears in the upper right hand corner tolerably often:

Any coward can fight a battle when he's sure of winning, but give me the man who has pluck to fight when he's sure of losing. That's my way, sir; and there are many victories worse than a defeat. - George Eliot

In 1865 William Stanley Jevons wrote The Coal Question. It made him famous in his day. In it he concluded that all of England's economic greatness was founded the exponential increase in the production and use of coal. He looked at the alternatives, what we might style renewables, and concluded that none of them were adequate to the task. He deduced that economic and military might would move west to the much larger coal deposits in the USA.

These days Jevons isn't famous for The Coal Question. These days if Jevons is known at all he is known as one of the founders of the marginalist revolution in economics. It was the precursor to neoclassical economics which now dominates the world. Much as Adam Smith made his name with The Theory of Moral Sentiments (which nobody reads) and is now famous for The Wealth of Nations (which nobody reads).

In 1896 Svante August Arrhenius published On The Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground in which he asserted that human industrial activity would eventually lead to a doubling of atmospheric concentrations of CO2 which would cause a 5-6 degree increase in global mean temperature. He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1903.

The point is that we have known most of the details of our predicament for over a hundred years and we are still driving toward the cliff. In fact we have continuously increased the speed at which we are driving toward the cliff over those hundred years.

This is a battle that we are going to lose. Yet I find it hearting that you, in particular, and your ilk, in general, are still fighting.

We are, in fact, starting to do something about our CO2 emissions. We have the technology in hand to stop the increase of CO2.

The unanswered question is how bad will it get, how fast will we work?

We will get hurt, it seems we already are. We still have a decent opportunity to avoid the worst of climate change.

The battle is not yet lost. At least climate scientists do not think it is.

tim -

I like the G. Eliot quote & would agree... with a slight reservation. If you're sure of losing, adjust your plan so you have the possibility of success, even if it's one chance in 1000. Then, if it's the best you can come up with, give it your life.

The destruction of the earth is well along, but CO2 is at 400 now, not 600. It hasn't happened yet, though the trends are dire. And at this point there's no fight to lose; who's fighting? I see different flavors of rationalization from different demographics but it mostly boils down to not rocking the boat much.

Got ilk? I'm not sure.

CO2 levels have stopped rising in the US (2005 peak) and in Europe (the EU27 part, early 1990s). China has said that they don't think they can stop their rise by 2020, but certainly before 2030.

I don't know that India has made a prediction, but they are ramping up wind and solar installations and they just canceled a new large coal plant.

Clearly we should have stopped the rise long ago, we could have avoided a lot of pain. But it does look like the CO2 "aircraft carrier" is starting to turn.

I hope you're right. In the world I live in, the CO2 levels seem to be rising fast and not slowing.

But it does look like the CO2 "aircraft carrier" is starting to turn.

Yep, the stern is sticking up in the air and the bow is pointing straight to the bottom of the sea... but I do admire your optimism.

Leveling off, no longer increasing, does not drop the level of CO2 produced. It simply slows acceleration.

The next step is to start making significant cuts. That's what will cut the ppm increase. But you've got to stop the growth before you can reverse.

The fact that we are able to level off means that we're probably on the right track of efficiency and lowering fossil fuel use.

CAFE standards just increased a couple of years ago. It will take a few years to work the oldest, most inefficient vehicles off the road and realize a meaningful cut in oil use.

Solar and wind only recently became affordable generation. It takes a little while to build the infrastructure needed for rapid installation. Both are growing exponentially.

In the US we've got over 100 coal plants scheduled to close and almost no new ones planned. Utilities are just starting to realize that wind and solar mean locked in generation prices for decades and are a great hedge against rising natural gas costs.

The most likely route of reduction in fossil fuel use is economic. When fossil fuel production costs raise the price higher than renewables, rapid change will ensue. For this to happen in a timely way, we need to price externalities into the price of carbon. That is a political problem as the there is great resistance from fossil fuel producers who have quite a bit of clout. The general populous and their representatives are not currently concerned enough to be interested in paying any increased prices for energy, especially when imposed by government. Will that change? Very likely. Will it be in a timely way? Very doubtful. That is the difficulty. And the nexus between climate change and peak oil makes change that much more difficult as there is less maneuverability due to their intersection at a very bad time.

There are numerous instances of rapid change in the body politic after decades of inertia, at least in the US. As a gay man living in Minnesota, I am floored by the way resistance to gay marriage has given way to strong support in ways I never dreamed possible in my lifetime. I came out when there were very few people who knew anyone who was gay and apparently believed that gay men came from other planets (lesbians didn't really exist as far as the general population was concerned). Now young people have lots of gay friends and have no idea why gay people should not be able to marry. There are still many people who disagree with this proposition, but the change in my lifetime has been dramatic over the last 40 years, taking us to political positions never known before to the best of my knowledge. Unfortunately, we need a sea change now if we are to prevent climate change which is catastrophic. We don't have 40 years or 20 years to wait.

We sometimes forget how quickly a new technology can replace a well-established technology.

Few people drove cars when Henry introduced the T in 1908, most used horses. Looking through city street photographs from the 1930s one doesn't see horses except in parades.

Two years after the first scientific calculator was introduced the two major manufacturers of slide rules shut down production.

Computers replaced typewriters, ledger books and typesetters in about a decade.

Film was kicked to the corner by digital in about a decade.

In each of these cases the entry cost/purchase price of the new technology was higher than that of the replaced technology. Often much higher. But the operating cost, convenience, etc. brought about very rapid changes.

Give buyers an EV with a 200 mile range and priced not much more than an equivalent ICEV and the market will likely flip extremely fast. Within a decade gasmobiles will be a niche product.

I suspect we are less than five years from a 200 mile range EV.

Sorry to disagree .We have also reached "peak technology". The last great and life changing event/trchnology was the internet and that in the public domain since the last 30 years + 10 years with the military before that, so that makes it 40 years . Nothing after that .I know things like DNA mapping, etc are there but nothing life changing or society changing like say air conditioning,refrigeration,radio,the electric bulb,computers etc .But most important we are now on the downside of the energy and the resource slope and so chances are bleak . By the way betterment of technology (say TV's from CRT to LCD,radios to transistors,audio recorders to walkmans) is not new technology , it is better technology .

"We have also reached "peak technology". "

Do you really believe that?

If you mean we've reached a point at which technological advances are happening so fast that there's no way to increase the rate, perhaps. Unlikely, but remotely possible.

If you mean that everything important has already been invented, possibly, but highly unlikely.

If so, it doesn't matter. If we keep on developing new technology at the rate we've been developing we're fine.

Besides, we already have adequate technology to let us cut our fossil fuel use to just about nothing. Right now we could cut our personal transportation use of oil to less than 15% of what it now is and cut our use of fossil fuels to less than 5%.

Yes,I do .Tell me of any life changing/society changing tech after the internet ? Yes, tech changes are happening but they are all in the domain of diminishing returns .If my chip loads in 3 seconds instead of 4 seconds after spending millions, is not a big deal . No, we cannot continue to devolp at the current rate because we are on the down slope of the resource curve . We can do a lot to cut FF use but if you bring it to "less than 15%" the economic system collapses .There are unintended consequences of actions .By the way 6.7 billion people in the world do not take orders from you ,they do what they think is right and they will burn FF until it runs out or we fry the planet .Wanna bet??

I think there really is something to the idea of "the end of science." The low-hanging fruit is picked first, and that applies to science/technology as well as oil fields. More knowledge is still out there, but it requires more and more effort to extract it, for less and less benefit. That's why you need a bunch of degrees and a bunch of funding to make a significant contribution these days. The days when you could make great discoveries by growing peas in your garden and keeping careful notes are long gone.

The Slowing Pace of Progress was written 13 years ago, but it's still pretty relevant. There are some areas where there's still big changes happening - genetic analysis comes to mind - but we're very far from the Jetsons world many imagined we'd be living by now.

Sounds like that classic, possibly mythical 'punchline' from around 1900..

"Everything that can be invented HAS been invented.."


Claiming peak technology takes some chops there. Do you think there's any sort of deep truth in the old adage that "Necessity is the Mother of Invention." ? It seems to me that there's a lot of necessity heading our way, plus a lot of existing process and technique that has seemingly been under-applied, since we've had enough spare energy around to fill in the gaps for a few decades.

Careful with those predictions..

"The past is not the future ". I think we can live with more than half the things we currently have(it has worked in my case) .Ask Ghung etc .Where is the necessity ? We had what was necessary even for a comfortable living way back (I would say the 60's and 70's).After that it is all luxury or the power of advertising or crap(facebook) . Oh, and as you say "where is the spare energy " to do new things to fill in the gap ?? We are already seeing the end of growth worldwide and remember "The end of growth is the beginning of collapse".

Just because we don't need more Sharper Image gadgetry and home Fru Fru clutter doesn't mean our needs have stalled out. In fact it's just the opposite.. our need to get away from all that is enormous, our need to have a simpler and less consumptive society and lifestyle, to be able to have resilient and well-thought out housing solutions, food, transportation .. we have to reinvent entire realms of what we have started questioning from the 'old normals'.. THAT requires people stretching their imaginations and their workbenches out beyond the old boundaries, it enables Einstein's 'not the same level of thinking'..

This 'End of growth worldwide and the beginning of collapse' is a didactic frame that some of you are putting forward as if it's a clear and discreet entity. We're heading into a slew of unknowns, and while many things look prone to be boiling down in size, it doesn't in any way mean that there will not also be growth going on at the same time. Nature will grow, regrow, reseed and reinfect; our experience and perspectives will grow, hunger and desperation will grow, inspiring a whole range of new experiments, attempts and desperate stabs.

You really can't know what people will come up with as the fields start to tip. To suggest that you can is awfully proud.

I suspect we are less than five years from a 200 mile range EV.

The 2015 Nissan Leaf will have a range of 160 miles for the same price as today. That is just 2 years from now. I don't want to put a link here and offend the spam filter software. You can easily google it yourself.

I suspect we are less than five years from a 200 mile range EV.

Do you mean a cheap one?

The Tesla S already has a 265 mile range.

I've enjoyed your comments today Bob. Thanks for posting.

Yes, a 200 mile range EV for the rest of us.

Make mine 4wd. I've got special needs....

Special Needs, or Special Wants?

Sidney: Is it true that God answers all prayers?
Cpt. Chandler: Yes, but sometimes the answer is no.

~ (From M.A.S.H.)

Well of you look upmarket, the Tesla Model S is a 200 mile range pure EV. Performance and handling have been compared favourably with the BMW M5 and the 2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 BiTurbo both of which are supposedly in the same price bracket. It has also been compared to the Audi A8 which is also supposedly in the same price bracket. Consumer reports recently gave it a score of 99 out of 100 and gave it a glowing review and one publication called it the most important car ever built in America.

They are building them at a rate of about 500 a month and it appears to be sold out well into 2014. If I were in the market for a 90 grand luxury performance sedan, I'd be hard pressed not to buy a Tesla and without the benefit of the numbers of BMW M5 and Audi sales, I'd say the market is flipping extremely fast. I really doubt that there are 500 of those luxury gasmobiles being sold every week!

Alan from the islands

I think your the only true activist on this list. At least whose been in the thick of it for decades. Many of us are tinkerers. I figure I can put off retirement for a few years and use the excess cash to fund/invest in PV. I don't know how to properly motivate the younger generation, which is what you are talking about here. Calling them slackers, is probably counterproductive. Telling would be prospects that its going to be really really hard, probably doesn't help either.

I think a lot of people -younguns especially, think politics is too corrupt to even mess with anymore. And standard old fashioned in your face demonstrations are probably counterproductive. Its hard to know how to get traction.

Are you aware of the divest movement happening on campuses?

The move to get universities to ditch their fossil fuel investments. Part of the solution is to start getting people to look at fossil fuels with the same disdain as tobacco.


Well I'm not an activist at the moment, I'm ranting on the internet, and that irony isn't lost on me.

I'm actually not trying to motivate the younger generation. To assess them, maybe. I agree that politics (as most people try affecting it) is a poor mechanism, and demonstrations are a pretty blunt instrument.

I'd just like to see my species mount more than a token fight for the world and systems which created it. I don't see that.

The fear of being labeled an "eco-terrorist" and treated like Bradley Manning, Thomas Drake, Maher Arar, Julian Assange or the completely innocent and non-activist college student thrown into a cell and forgotten for four days by the DEA is certainly part of our calculus. Gitmo is kind of a warning.

Likewise the brutal suppression of Occupy groups in 2011. I'm doing volunteer work but you won't find me at a street protest.

Almost forgot to mention that the innocent college student survived. Barely. http://slatest.slate.com/posts/2012/05/02/student_forgotten_in_cell_dea_...

greenish, I always enjoy reading your observations.

I don't think you have to really look very far to understand this sort of calm, almost everyone involved in climate science is a scientist, and are deeply and liberally rewarded by the system they work for. It's a totally killer (as in great) job, good vacation, respect/status, really interesting research, fun trips to cool spots in the world, security, stability, actual real job security too once you get tenure. The 'system' doesn't offer such perks to anyone that actually would pose a serious threat to it, on any fundamental level. This to me is a fundamental thing, going deep into what makes us and the system we are stuck in tick. My view of the role of climate science has for years now been this: you have lab, you have a gun, you have a guy's head across the room, the role of the researcher is to setup as much high speed real time observation equipment as possible to determine as accurately as possible exactly how the bullet enters the brain, then exits. This is an interesting problem, but if the researcher were to suggest we simply stop the experiment and save the person's life, he/she would instantly be out of a job.

So the climate people aren't going to really really push the point that the only way to get out of this issue is to stop the system that is producing the problem, even though it's becoming painfully obvious that's the only actual real solution, but no modern industrial nation is going to opt out like that, and even if it did, it would almost immediately be taken over by a larger nation with no short term scruples, like China buying out more and more of Greece or rich investors buying up foreign farmland or resources or whatever. It's clear enough that the system itself as a global entity has exactly no interest in stopping itself from anything, being a barely conscious blob of activity spread across billions of actors, each carrying out their little part.

So you'll have researchers flying up or down to the poles, flying around greenland, driving to work, living in their nice suburban university towns, going to conferences, talking and writing, distributing works across an energy sink that is the internet, ie, in every single aspect of their lives, acting to reproduce and confirm the value of the system that is causing the problem, so how on earth can they be expected to actually take a look at their own behavior and stop it?

This isn't to criticize the quality of their work, which is getting better by the year, just to note that everyone is embedded into this particular logic, and this logic was not designed with a plan b in place for a change of course.

It is however odd to see 400ppm get hit when just recently 350.org is talking about stopping there, it's totally obvious we as species are not stopping anywhere until the hole we are digging caves in around us, I would defy anyone to locate any culture in post-agricultural human history that pulled back from a previous high consumption course and returned to a sustainable one as a conscious cultural action, not a forced re-assertion of the fact that the non-sustainable cannot be sustained.

It's particularly irksome to realize that it would probably only take a few hundred to a few thousand mr/mrs greenishes per country to make the change happen, if your description of yourself is accurate re your strategies.

Even bolivia recently announced they are going to start exploiting some oil or gas resources in the jungles, despite their balyhooed 'rights of nature and native peoples' document, which apparently doesn't include overpopulation and greed as things to be stopped in order for nature to have some rights. And Bolivia was one of the best hopes there was, but the pressure of population and that weird brainless organism we create that drives us onwards to produce ever more of ourselves, sucking in all the resources we can in the process to achieve that end is just too relentless at this point.

Keep up the great work on your side, again, if we had only a few thousand more it might make a difference, hard to say though.

So, let me get this straight... these people have been crying out for years about CO2 levels and climate change, but the fact they didn't give a shout-out at symbolic odometer reading means they don't want to jeopardize their cush jobs. They actually want it to get worse, because it means job security.

What an insulting analysis.

No, you missed the point. The system has no problem gathering data, paying people to gather it, as long as that does not challenge the system that is expanding and growing. If anything these guys were doing were truly a challenge to the system they wouldn't get paid to do it. It also does not care if those people wave their hands around, within reason, and yell and shout, since they have no actual power, that doesn't matter.

This is what the tod shows you every few days on the upper quote, if you read it, re your work/pay/questioning.

The point is they are free to do all the studies of the issue they want, that's good data and useful for many possible purposes, like learning how to exploit the arctic etc, or whatever.

A professor of science has one of the cushiest, most privileged jobs in the world, if you haven't been around it it's an eye opener to realize just how cushy it is compared to real world jobs. There's a reason for that, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

You can yell as loud in these positions as you want if it's not an actual threat to the core system or power or whatever else you want to look at. That's one way you knew how non challenging Chomsky was, for example, he continues on in his comfortable life, year in and year out, no reall problems. While you might find this 'insulting' I really don't know why, it's totally obvious just looking around that this is exactly what is going on.

The first guy to note the issue of co2 heating our atmosphere was a Swede if I remember right in the early 1900s, very early, I want to say 1905. You can't say stop/change behavior if you do all the behaviors, that's just absurd, nobody is actually going to listen to anyone who does that, nor will any actual change come out of that.

Try to see the big picture, not the little one. The big one is where you count how many ppm co2 there are, global population numbers, power plant construction, emissions, resource extraction rates, coal, oil, etc. Ignore all the chatter, just look at that picture. It's good data to have to know how things are changing in the ecosystem, that has value to the system, and military interest as well now increasingly, so the work has actual use, that's why it's being paid for. These people do get paid you know, and they get paid because the work has value to the system that pays them, it's not some clever trick they do to get away with something nobody is noticing.

this is by the way what makes the climate change denialists so pathetic in their views, they simply do not grasp at all how this stuff works, believing as they do in some secret cabal trying to trick people and make them believe something that is not happening is happening.

I don't comment here much but I find the 400ppm a real datapoint, a meaningful event, a crossroads of sorts, and just skimming today's newsbeat items, there is simply no doubt we will dig ourselves down as far as we can get, as a species, globally, then the stuff will start failing and breaking apart, while we study the process with increasingly sophisticated tools, waving our hands around in consternation while we do in our every day lives as a group exactly the same thing as everyone else, consume, buy, useup, travel, etc. Just as I find astounding the increasingly rapid attempts to find solutions then having them fail, whether they be shale / tight oils/gas or hydrogen economies or whatever, it's fairly impressive actually to see how quickly attempts to generate non sustainable outcomes fail at this point in history.

I'm not talking about who is right or wrong in a tod comment thread, but just looking at the numbers, which are moving in only one direction, regardless of how many off the grid high tech places people make for themselves in the process, something I'd do too by the way if I were in a position to do it, seems fun. If you just ignore all the day to day chatter and look at the consumption numbers and population, that's the entire story. Rome I'm sure had lots of interesting people in it doing interesting things and was probably also possessed with a group or class that was warning non stop about the issues that were about to break it apart, but nobody remembers those anymore because they didn't matter at all in history.

As I said, find me one single large scale, not island, civilization/culture as a whole that made a conscious and successful decision to move from non sustainable to sustainable, just one. Considering our culture now spreads across most of the planet, in one form or another, that makes it even harder to find any examples. There are I'm sure lots that had people noting the issues and problems at hand while they were failing, noting with great vigor too I'm sure. If you can name one such culture, with some good sources, I'll happily read up on it, I promise. If you can't find one, then maybe you will understand what I wrote. Or not. People as individuals have always been smart enough for some to note coming problems, but it appears that no culture per se has ever been smart enough to do anything about the issues, probably because the weird way power and wealth actually work in our type of system, where the most sociopathic are given the highest rewards and positions.

And off I go, to weave some more webs in this system of ours, try to move a bit of wealth from point a to point b, just like the rest of us I guess. My role is not to argue here, just to a make a point, nothing more. I do believe there is a solution but I don't believe we are on track to reaching it, we haven't even taken the first step, and nobody knows the second so that's not even a question at this stage, but stopping is certainly the first step we have to take, not reform, not adjustment, but stopping. And that's not happening.

The first guy to note the issue of co2 heating our atmosphere was a Swede if I remember right in the early 1900s, very early, I want to say 1905.

Svante Arrhenius in 1896.

He wasn't first. Initial experiments that concluded some heat trapping gas was in the atmosphere were done as early as 1824. Then a paper was published in 1861. Svante Arhenius tied it all together in the 1890ies. Pretty much the Isaac Newton of climate change. IN was not the first one to spot what was going on, but the one who completed the puzzle. Svante was doing the same thing.

I think you misread him. The people who successfully make a career as academics are NOT people who get upset easily, rock boats, etc., because those people don't succeed in grad school. To be fair, a number of climate scientists have become much more vocal as time has gone on, but they aren't raising as much hell as possible. He is pointing out the system doesn't encourage hell raising. I would love to raise some hell about what is happening to the oceans, and in fact I hope to set up a website that shows people what it really is like (the best videos of the places people are actually at are mostly by spearfishers, and I can hardly find people to get in the water with me to go snorkeling), both good and bad, but what can I do if I'm busy working? What can I do when I don't have money? Once I have money, house, car, kids, whatever, am I likely to give it up to work everyday telling people they're literally destroying the only home they have?

How many people have done that? Does society reward them or censure them?

I have watched videos of scientists talking about the reefs here in Hawaii and they mostly are very fatalistic. These are people who ARE doing something. They talk to people and get "but I like to eat the fish and I won't let you stop me", is my guess. Or they talk to politicians who never get anything done. They could be much more theatrical, perhaps, but they might lose their job, or get targeted by enemies, or whatever.

If they were economists, they could shout their views from the opinion pages of New York Times and such, but scientists don't get that sort of press.

Thanks for your kind words.

My comments here were intended to describe "activists" dropping the ball; those who have taken it upon themselves to be spokespeople and advocates for the issue.

The inherent timidity of academia is a separate beef.

It's particularly irksome to realize that it would probably only take a few hundred to a few thousand mr/mrs greenishes per country to make the change happen

There is a qualitative difference between campaigns which can be framed in terms of simple, reductionist changes which simply rearrange wealth; versus changing the metabolic basis of society. If I could think of a way to fix things, I'd be doing it. So saying, perhaps I need to be getting into this issue as a steerer of events; I'm old but most of the niches seem to be empty. Unfortunately.

I doubt climate researchers are getting rich. I probably make more than 95% of them. Not so sure about the job security aspect either. How safe do Canadian scientists feel their jobs are right now?

Remember these are basically grown up nerds. They weren't the guys getting dates with the prom queen. They didn't have persuasive personalities. They were/are geeks. They are doing the best they can. It takes all sorts of people, and all sorts of efforts. People will contribute as best as they can, in the manner that they can best do.

I hope climate campaigners are doing the most radical thing possible in the circumstances - quitting.

The notion that avoiding climate chaos is the job of certain specialists has had pretty limited success so far, maybe its part of the problem.

Instead of campaigning for change we could start gloating and profiteering.
Next anomalous disaster, mass "We Told You So" parties, and ruthless profiteering on drinking water, food and medicines for survivors (based on US healthcare model). If you can't beat 'em, bleed 'em.

I think the real activism is by the fossil fuels forever crowd. They have the media pretty cowed. The media doesn't like hate mail -especially if some of their big advertisers join in on the hate-fest. $00ppm -thats been drowned out by that guy who kid-napped three women to keep as sex slaves. And I'm sure the media PTB were happy that that came along.

400 ppm is sorta out of the frying pan into a slightly bigger frying pan. Nothing dramatic happened to focus one's mind.

The Economist is giving the 400 ppm story top-of-the-site space, bless their meritocratic hearts.

The curve for atmospheric carbon dioxide is a rising sawtooth with an annual period. The concentration will rise above and drop below 400 ppm for the next 3 or 4 years. Deniers will undoubtedly latch on this oscillation to disseminate more false information. Climate activists should be cautious.

There's a problem with time lags as well. I do wonder how many people see the 350.org and think "Oh, we're past that now and the world is still here" so they just ignore it and keep going.

The CO2 conc. varies a lot over time and space. Gradually it goes higher, about 2 PPM a year, but one can not say that "the CO2 conc. is so and so in the world today". It is only so much here, now.

If I understand the data correctly, this is just a temporary visit above the 400 PPM line. It will go down again. Next year we will spend more time above the 400 mark, and 2015 we will have passed it permanently. My point is that on average, we are not at 400 yet, we need to wait a year or two before we can say that.

But as a first time event, it is a powerful milestone.

My point is that on average, we are not at 400 yet, we need to wait a year or two before we can say that.

The real point jedi, is that we passed 350 ppm a long time ago! And almost nobody understands what that means.

Google James Hansen's TED talk

Researchers Present Causal Evidence on How Markets Affect Moral Values

Many people express objections against child labor, exploitation of the workforce or meat production involving cruelty against animals. At the same time, however, people ignore their own moral standards when acting as market participants, searching for the cheapest electronics, fashion or food. Thus, markets reduce moral concerns. This is the main result of an experiment conducted by economists from the Universities of Bonn and Bamberg.

"In markets, people face several mechanisms that may lower their feelings of guilt and responsibility," explains Nora Szech. In market situations, people focus on competition and profits rather than on moral concerns. Guilt can be shared with other traders. In addition, people see that others violate moral norms as well.

... in markets with many buyers and sellers, subjects may justify their behavior by stressing that their impact on outcomes is negligible. "This logic is a general characteristic of markets," says Prof. Falk. Excuses or justifications appeal to the saying, "If I don't buy or sell now, someone else will."

As ROCKMAN would say ... "it's just business". In other venues in history the expression ... "I was just following orders" justified immoral acts.

Morals are also gonna get weakened by neccessity. I usually buy cage-free eggs and try to get chocolate that isn't from Hershey's and other brands that buy slave chocolate. Well, I've been in a rough patch lately and guess what gets economized? I mostly try not to buy chocolate lately...

With eggs at least there is "cage free", with chocolate there is fair trade but otherwise you don't know what goes one behind the scenes. And that's just as true of tomatoes, clothing, everything. You can't make a moral choice if you don't know - the end retail buyer generally doesn't, so for the other retailer it is easy to be immoral.

If everything is buffered by corporations who have no oversight then yeah, the worst possible outcome is pretty much guaranteed. History can tell you that, you don't need a study to prove it. Though I appreciate adding on the evidence that capitalism as now practiced is a sick system.

Another unanticipated effect of suburbia ...

High Home Ownership Can Seriously Damage Your Labor Market, New Study Shows

Rises in home-ownership in a US state are followed by substantial increases in the unemployment rate in the state, a fall in the mobility of its workers, a rise in commuting times, and a drop in the rate of new business formation. The authors are careful to check, and they replicate, their findings for different periods of US history. The release of their work coincides with a new European study, done independently, which draws the same conclusions.

... The Warwick research is agnostic about some of the underlying mechanisms, but the authors believe that high home ownership in an area leads to people staying put and commuting further and further to jobs, thereby creating cost and congestion for firms and other workers; to NIMBY (not in my back yard) activities where home owners block new businesses; and to an ossification of the mobility and dynamism of an economy.

PDF: Does High Home-Ownership Impair the Labor Market?

Is this tightly related to HOUSE ownership - that is, single family dwellings? How do condos stack up?

I wonder if there is the additional effect of people who have housing being less willing to take really bad jobs. If you rent and are living paycheck to paycheck, you will put up with anything - but if you have a house (or are staying with your parents) then maybe that minimum wage job becomes less neccessary. Certainly if you are living in the suburbs, in your parent's basement, and don't have a car, a job has to either be close or has to pay enough to defray the cost of getting and keeping a car. Viola, unemployment!

> Arctic hot spot...

... while Economic interests slobber over the chance to exploit nature, Mother Nature may have another agenda...

> Arctic methane emergency...

Brain Diseases Affecting More People and Starting Earlier Than Ever Before

Professor Colin Pritchard's latest research published in Public Health journal has found that the sharp rise of dementia and other neurological deaths in people under 74 cannot be put down to the fact that we are living longer – the rise is because a higher proportion of old people are being affected by such conditions, and what is really alarming, it is starting earlier and affecting people under 55 years.

... When asked what he thought caused the increases he replied,

"This has to be speculative but it cannot be genetic because the period is too short. Whilst there will be some influence of more elderly people, it does not account for the earlier onset; the differences between countries nor the fact that more women have been affected, as their lives have changed more than men's over the period, all indicates multiple environmental factors. Considering the changes over the last 30 years – the explosion in electronic devices, rises in background non-ionising radiation- PC's, micro waves, TV's, mobile phones; road and air transport up four-fold increasing background petro-chemical pollution; chemical additives to food etc. There is no one factor rather the likely interaction between all these environmental triggers, reflecting changes in other conditions. For example, whilst cancer deaths are down substantially, cancer incidence continues to rise; levels of asthma are un-precedented; the fall in male sperm counts - the rise of auto-immune diseases - all point to life-style and environmental influences. These `statistics' are about real people and families, and we need to recognise that there is an `epidemic' that clearly is influenced by environmental and societal changes."

Nations Agree to Phase out Toxic Chemical HBCD

The conference agreed to ban the production and use of HBCD from next year, albeit with a five-year grace period for its use as a flame-retardant in polystyrene building insulation.

HBCD, or hexabromocyclododecane, is also used in interior textile fittings for vehicles as well as packaging materials. It is considered a "persistent organic pollutant"—chemicals which linger in the environment, enter the food chain and thereby pose risks to human health and nature.

Health campaigners say that among its ills is that it undermines the ability of children to learn and grow because it can harm thyroid function and brain development.

...fall in male sperm counts

Hey at least there is some good news in there.../sarc

Side issue on dementias. There are at least three major variants. The most common variety is quite similar to the "qoute unqoute" Downs Dementia that afflicts individuals with trisomy 21. Basically all individuals with trisomy 21 over age 50 who die and are autopsied have the same neural micropathology as individuals autopsied and diagnosed with Alzheimers. Haven't read up much on it lately, but there was some interesting preliminary studies suggesting that at least some of the mechanisms of Alzheimers involved an amplification on parts of chromosome 21. The earlier onset and oftentimes very fast progression of dementias in individuals with trisomy 21 is not proof in any way shape or form that this is so, but is interesting.

Any one who has been reading up on this recently, please comment.

Me, some of my best friends have extra chromosomes. Very much a bummer when walking with a friend and then one day they become frightened of shadows, mirrors another day, ... Then all we do is talk about the past (my verbal friends at least), and then later they lose verbal ability.

The Lewis body dementias have a different progression, sigh.

Yes, there are more than one type of dementias, and tracking what influences the evolving chemical inputs into our environment does to immunology, developmental neurology, geriatric neurology, meiosis, etc is so utterly complex that possibly the best rule of thumb is to drastically reduce all poly-aromatics, especially the halide varieties. And be nice to each other.

Video: Timelapse Satellite Views Of Human Destruction of the Biosphere Over Three Decades

...The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), has accumulated a stunning catalog of images that, when riffled through and stitched together, create a high-definition slide show of our rapidly changing Earth. TIME is proud to host the public unveiling of these images from orbit, which for the first time date all the way back to 1984.

... Over here is Dubai, growing from sparse desert metropolis to modern, sprawling megalopolis. Over there are the central-pivot irrigation systems turning the sands of Saudi Arabia into an agricultural breadbasket — a surreal green-on-brown polka-dot pattern in the desert. Elsewhere is the bad news: the high-speed retreat of Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska; the West Virginia Mountains decapitated by the mining industry; the denuded forests of the Amazon, cut to stubble by loggers.

These Timelapse pictures tell the pretty and not-so-pretty story of a finite planet and how its residents are treating it — razing even as we build, destroying even as we preserve. It takes a certain amount of courage to look at the videos, but once you start, it’s impossible to look away.

Shell To Drill World’s Deepest Offshore Oil Well in Gulf of Mexico

Shell is preparing to drill 9,500 feet — nearly two miles — beneath the surface of the sea to suck oil out of a reserve that was discovered eight years ago, 200 miles southeast of New Orleans. The deepest oil well currently in operation, at 8,000 feet deep, is operated nearby in the Gulf, also by Shell.

The quest for deeper wells reflects advancing technology and increasing desperation as shallower reserves dry up.

... “Ultra-deep” wells, drilled in water at least 1.5 km (4,500 feet) deep, and often into several more kilometres of rock to the reservoir below, accounted for around half of all the world’s new discoveries in the first half of last year.

Chesapeake Boosts Oil Production Target

Because of severely depressed natural gas prices over the past few years, the Oklahoma City-based company embarked on a strategy to diversify its commodity mix away from the out-of-favor commodity and toward more profitable opportunities, such as oil and gas liquids.

Highlights from Chesapeake's first quarter show that this shift in strategy will continue for the foreseeable future, or at least until gas prices recover to a level where the company's gassy assets start generating rates of return that are competitive with its oilier assets.

Regardless of available reserves this smell higher prices.

How Big Oil Uses the Republican Party to Subvert American Democracy

In a surprise move, the eight Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee yesterday blocked a floor vote on President Obama's nominee, Gina McCarthy, as EPA Administrator. In doing so the Republican senators broke their earlier promisadditione to move McCarthy's nomination if she answered an unprecedented 1079 written questions, a quest she completed. Political observers assume the Republican roadblock is meant to derail or delay the implementation of a new EPA rule, promised by President Obama to finally regulate carbon pollution. The Republican ranking member, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, orchestrated the double cross.

Vitter is an unabashed mouthpiece for the petroleum industry and record breaking receptacle for petrodollars having received $1.2 million in oil company largesse during his public service career. With cash gushers of oily money cascading down their open gullets, the Republican leadership's mercenary devotion to Big Oil shouldn't shock us. However, the boldness of the party's most recent assault on the public interest might cause us to ponder how GOP's honchos' knee jerk slavishness to petroleum interest has infected its rank and file.

... If the oil industry had to pay the true costs of bringing its product to market, gas prices would be upwards of $12 per gallon at the pump, according to economist Amory Lovins, and most Americans would be running to buy electric cars.

The oil dollar nexus explains alot about what's happened to America.

Basically, America stopped governing the country and gave up its hard earned moral leadership of the world, because it assumed that there is infinite oil out there to serve as waste collateral, and, thereby, that dollars can be printed at will and recycled into Treasury bonds, enabling the interest rate to drop to zero.

It's the biggest abuse of power ever concocted by the mind of man, and it's leading to an epic collapse that will make the British and Soviet ones look like walks in the park.

energyblues, that happened already a while ago and it seems to get worse.



In 2006, President George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer answered a press query about whether President Bush believed in fuel efficiency standards for automobiles saying, “That’s a big ‘No.’” The President believes that it’s an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one. Fleischer’s use of the term “blessed” [a] notion that God wants us to burn oil.

When a House Oversight Committee summoned Ronald Reagan’s first Secretary of Interior, James Watt, to explain his caper to sell off American’s public lands, waters and mineral rights to oil, mining and timber companies at what the General Accounting Office called “fire sale prices,” Watt, a former mining and oil company lawyer, retorted, “I don’t know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns.”

Drought, Late Freezes Cut Wheat Estimates

USDA forecasts Oklahoma’s wheat harvest to total 114 million bushels, down from 154.8 million bushels last year. The prolonged drought and several late freezes are to blame for the decrease in production, according to experts.

Kansas, the nation’s biggest wheat producer, is forecast to harvest 299.7 million bushels, down 22 percent from last year’s 382.2 million bushels. It’s also below the forecast of 313 million bushels estimated by participants in the Kansas wheat quality tour earlier this month.

Nationwide, USDA expects the winter wheat crop to be down to 1.49 billion bushels, a drop of 10 percent from last year.

How did we miss this article, originally posted at OilPrice.com on May 5th? It was then picked up and reprinted about half a dozen times by other outlets including The Christian Science Monitor.

Search: OPEC Falling Apart at the Seams

The story is basically about violence in the Middle East and Africa causing oil companies to have second thoughts about operating there.

Four months on and energy companies working in the region are expressing concern that the cost of doing business in the region may be too high. BP suspended an oil contract in Libya when civil war descended on the country in 2011.

And the article ends with this note:

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, in a much publicized speech last week, said there are no major plans to increase production capacity. Saudi Arabia will "be lucky" if it breaks the 9 million bpd mark by 2020, he said. Taking Iraq as a bellwether of how long it takes to sort out a post-war mess, he made need more than a bit of luck to revitalize the once-dominate OPEC cartel.

Ron P.



Creative Nonfiction and Arizona State University’s Global Institute
of Sustainability are looking for remarkable true stories that
illuminate and present the human side of environmental, economic,
ethical, and/or social challenges related to the state of the planet
and our future. All essays submitted will be considered for publication in a special “Human Face of Sustainability” issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine. One writer will be awarded the $10,000 Walton Sustainability Solutions Best Creative Nonfiction Essay Award. Deadline May 31, 2013.

Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,000 words.

Infiltrate, subterfuge, sabotage?

The full name of that is: The Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions

Samuel Robson "Rob" Walton (born October 28, 1944)[5][1][2] is the eldest son of Helen Walton and Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, the world's largest retailer. He is currently (as of 2012) Chairman of the company, worldwide. According to Forbes, his net worth was $21 billion as of 9 March 2011.[1] As of October 2012, Rob Walton was listed as the 11th richest person in the world according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index

Spouse(s) Melani Lowman-Walton (div.)

11th richest person in the world...and a $20 entry fee.

Wow, what a family these Walton's are, giving of themselves to make money on an essay when they are already multi-billionaires. Tirelessly squeezing cheap labor selling sweat shop Chinese junk to pile up the dough stratospherically higher than the poor followers that will spend countless hours trying to figure a way around resource limits to magically achieve 'sustainability'. The winner's essay will shine a bright light of beauty upon a greedy business family's pathetic attempt to look philanthropic. It's America where anything goes. Wouldn't it be great if an independent source determined the winner and it included the idea of getting rid of the big box chain stores?

My guess is that the purpose of the entry fee is for filtering not financing.

It will ensure some small level of seriousness in the submissions.

Galileo, Copernicus etc. examples of science bashing. Status of one present example.


It took a solid year of outrage from Canadian researchers, the international science community and the public to force the Harper government to finally agree to transfer the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) to a non-profit organization.

45 years of research invested, ground breaking research on Hg, acid rain, phosporus, blah blah, blah.

Why did Harpo spend $10^6 to ship his armoured limo to India, but peanuts for the environment is subject to a diktat of "nein, nein, verboten" from Herr Harpo and his muddy shirted political thugs.

Still not a done deal yet and many of the previous Canadian (however not the US) researchers are hamstrung from remaining involved.

EDITORIAL - It's more than electricity theft

Cheaper fuel is essential

The fact, however, is that the electricity produced from expensive oil at US 41 cents per kWh is unviable for Jamaican firms and domestic consumers. Cheaper fuels and modern power plants are essential. Procrastination by the Government in giving policy directives on the former, and JPS's failure to act on the latter when that was in its purview, helped to create today's crisis.

Further, Jamaica's perennially weak economy, with its high rates of joblessness and underemployment, means that electricity, at its real cost, is beyond the effective demand of many consumers, who nonetheless have expectations of it. So, they steal it and have, in the process, been enabled by the Government, as was all but admitted by Roger Clarke, the agriculture minister, in relation to whole communities on sugar estates that were allowed to tap into government entities for their electricity.

I find it ironic that, this newspaper continues to advocate that changes have to be made in order to encourage growth, IOW, maintain BAU. Meanwhile, the population control debate continues on:

Move beyond persuasion to Chinese-style law - Brakes on babies

Decades of irresponsible reproductive behaviour has depleted Jamaica's resources and brings to centre stage the need to legislate procreation. Substandard living conditions in many communities demand a tough response to control the reproductive behaviour of the poorer socio-economic class.

and on: (bold mine)

Jamaica needs culture shock

There are some critical attitudinal and cultural problems acting as brakes on development, no matter what 'macroeconomic framework' might be provided. The high levels of indiscipline, petty lawlessness and proneness to violence, poor work attitudes and school attitudes, the soon-come attitude to time, the attitude of entitlement and dependence and freedom 'fi tek'. The 'bly' culture. The bling attitude and the infantile attitude of instant gratification. And the biggest and hardest to fix, the endemic animalistic attitude towards sex and having and raising children.

Alan from the islands

PS. I will be out most of today, working at a mothers day event so, please forgive me if I do not respond to any comments till very late.

Our entire civilization is based upon escaping the limits imposed by our natural environment. We strive to further our distance from death and discomfort by whatever means our engineers and industrialists can contrive. Our complexity and successes come at the expense of the ecosystem. A human cancer tries to escape too, devouring glucose, growing willy-nilly throughout the body, disrupting existing relationships, killing other cells and dismantling structures. One of the greatest perversities of "civilization" is that our minds have allowed us to escape the realm of natural organic chemistry to become not only physically assaulting but to also become highly toxic. Imagine your body riddled with aggressive tumors that not only physically disrupt the existing order but also ooze highly toxic metabolic by-products.

Unfortunately, due to human competitive nature, the technological neoplasms are also competitive and must eat the host at the most rapid pace just to stay ahead of competing clones. The biggest tumor wins so to speak, but perishes when the ecosystem collapses. All of those college kids are getting their degrees to help engineer and maintain order within a neoplasm that will continue growing systematically until the ecosystem collapses and/or its primary energy source (fossil fuels) is depleted. Civilization will never "fit" within the ecosystem unless it is carefully planned and controlled and all other growing, metastatic neoplasms are destroyed.

Did you ever consider the reason your kids are "schooled" in the arts of reading and mathematics? Just to make them smarter, better people? No. They are systematically "educated" to manipulate information and tools and work in the factories/offices that produce the infrastructure/order for a growing neoplasm. If additional growth/innovation cannot supply the energies needed to support the complexity of the expanding cancer you will see the emergence of disorder and formerly vibrant centers of growth will become necrotic. The massive amount of energy we have entrained has resulted in our high level of complexity, something that could previously happen only at a molecular level. We are the system that fossil fuels built and unfortunately that complexity has enabled things like chainsaws and nuclear weapons to be invented and deployed.

Here's to wishing Mother Earth a happy mother's day and may we eat further into her tissues as she lies exhausted upon her death bed.

"Here's to wishing Mother Earth a happy mother's day and may we eat further into her tissues as she lies exhausted upon her death bed."

I don't think she's on her death bed,, just being forced into abandoning her children.

Dopamine, you know, it's possible to talk yourself into a very dark place. Maybe it's entirely your right to do that, and even to do that to us, since this conversation has apparently asked for it.. but there's also something to the idea of managing your thoughts and words so that you don't just paint yourself into the darkest and most irretrievable corner possible.

As it is mother's day, I would ask you to observe some of the mothers and see how they approach life. I don't recall if you're male or not, but I do notice some ways that my brothers and myself can get so inundated in the ideological and theoretical (*really a nice way of spinning what is so often the traumatic), that we lose contact with the very life we are living.

I'm going to keep walking down the isle of Manhattan, and when I get the chance, I'll get down on hands and knees and give our mother a kiss.


From the moment we are born, we will die.

Death is the Answer. What to do while alive is the Question.

Or in older verse,

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." -Ecclesiastes 9:10

Wot? You mean all those stories about lounging about on clouds and playing the harp just ain't true? Better get on with living in the here and now then, eh?

That's all just to scare the kids!


Let us survey the landscape while the light of day still shines, the darkness soon falls. Observe Manhattan in the year 2042, the necrosis has become well advanced.


And depending on the age, time and system, the necrosis can seem particularly advanced.

CBS 'Sunday Morning featured (on Mother's Day, no less) a lead story,
Just the two of us: Childless by choice


While it was suggested that NOT having children is a selfish decision (worker bee replacement and all that) there was no mention that the last thing the planet needs is more humans. Probably deemed inappropriate for Mother's Day...

I was appalled by Mitt Romney's commencement advice to have lots of kids early in life:


Wow! Man, we really dodge a bullet there. Romney is more theocratic than I thought. "Quiverfull" is a code word for the 'have lots of kids' Christian movement. Or maybe Romney is just dense and didn't know the code word, could be that too.

NOT having children is a selfish decision

I'm been on the receiving end of this comments for several decades now, and have had trouble arguing against it. Lately, I have come to the conclusion that having children is just as selfish as not having them.

I don't see how you have trouble arguing against it. The only support for it is personal superstition. I see being childless and blowing lots of money on yourself with wasteful toys as selfish. But there is nothing selfish about not having child on its own . . . having lots of children is selfish. People with lots of children are selfishly demanding more of the world's resource to support their personal DNA strain.

The strange part is that I don't blow a lot of money on toys, way less than the parents of these children, and I do like kids.

Having children when you know they won't see the prosperity you've seen seems pretty selfish to me.

How can having children be a blessing, if not having them is selfish?

Since there don't seem to be a lot of women who comment here I'll add to this thread--in honor of Mother's Day. I'm a mother of two and grandmother of three, and I have plenty of concern for the future lives of my beloved grandchildren. Yet - these children have been and are the absolutely best part of my life without question. It is a terrible conundrum. I was a midwife for over 30 years and I know in great and intimate detail how strong the human drive is to reproduce. "Baby lust" is an unstoppable force of nature and if you haven't felt it or seen it in action you would never believe the incredible power of this drive. I'm pretty gloomy about what is ahead for us and our world, and if this had been obvious long ago when I had my children I might have made a different choice - but maybe not. My sons and daughters-in-laws are very well educated and environmentally aware people and they made a conscious choice to have children - of course very few. I have no answers to our overpopulation disaster - I used to belong to Zero Population Growth but realized it was futile. I support Planned Parenthood, and in my many years of work made just giant efforts to help each woman find birth control that worked for her. So - this is some insight from my life's experience for what its worth....

Thanks, Outwash. It's worth a lot.

(Grandma) Lizzie

Will just chime in with a comment from a couple who made the decision to not have children. The wife and I have felt the social pressure others have mentioned, no doubt about it. We also probably fall into the category of selfish, so far as owning a few toys.

However, I don't personally feel overly selfish about either. I do feel the resources which will be available to the children of the world in the not too distant future will make the decision to have children more selfish than the decision to have toys. And most of our toys are durable - our house being the biggest toy we have, really. I'm hoping to improve it's energy and thermal efficiency, before ultimately handing it off to someone who can use it on into the future. Some of our other toys perhaps not so much, but it's hard to say at this point (dang computers go out of date so quick! And I'll have run my 1999 Saturn into the ground by the time I shuffle off this mortal coil).

By not having children I feel, in some small way, that I'm contributing to the chances of some other child. Perhaps one of my nieces or nephews. Or a child of one of my friends. My offspring will not be competing with them for an ever shrinking pool of the resources we all discuss here on TOD. And since we live in the U.S. the resources required by a child we might have had are truly staggering. I'm only too happy to bequeath those resources to another.

Every time I see a young person walking down the street I whisper softly to myself.

Good luck, my friend. You are going to need it.