Drumbeat: May 13, 2013

Old Technology Fuels New Energy Boom

What’s happening today is not a new-technology revolution; it’s an evolution of new applications for existing technology. Oil companies are doing things that they’ve been doing for decades more efficiently, more effectively, and in much wider applications.

That may sound like a fine distinction, but it’s an important one: Silicon Valley has for years invested in sexy new technologies, from smartphones to social media to exotic solar power materials. The cleantech industry itself has not benefited from a fascination with the new, the exotic, and the high-tech. The technology for embedding sensors with fiber-optic connections in a drill head so that technicians on the surface can map a formation as they drill it is not all that sexy, and it didn’t come from a VC-funded startup in a Mountain View garage. It came from drilling engineers in the field figuring out, gradually, how to do things better, cheaper, and smarter. Often, as in the case of the 21st century oil and gas boom, imaginative tinkering can be more fruitful than reinvention or laboratory R&D.

WTI Drops a Third Day; OPEC Output at Five-Month High

West Texas Intermediate crude fell for a third day, the longest run of declines in four weeks, as OPEC boosted output to the highest level in five months.

WTI futures slid as much as 1.2 percent in New York, and London-traded Brent decreased for a second day. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries produced 30.46 million barrels a day last month, up from 30.18 million in March, the group’s secretariat said May 10. That’s the most since November. Morgan Stanley predicted that the spread between WTI and Brent will widen as U.S. supplies accumulate.

Singapore bunker fuel sales rise 8.5 pct in April on lower prices

The outright price for the Singapore marine fuels benchmark 380-centistoke (cst) between April 1 and 18 fell $42.50 a tonne to $592.50 a tonne, which was also the lowest price for the month, Reuters data showed.

This drop was triggered by a plunge in global crude oil benchmarks in April, following a slew of negative economic data from the world's largest oil consumers, the United States and China. Brent crude was down nearly 7 percent on the month, while U.S. oil was 3.9 percent lower.

Iran says $100 per barrel is 'fair' price for oil

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's oil minister says the country supports prices of $100 for a barrel of crude.

A Monday report by the ministry website quotes Rostam Ghasemi as saying, "For the price of crude to remain at about $100 is fair, and Iran supports it."

China Oil Refining Falls to Eight-Month Low; Power Output Gains

China’s crude processing fell to the lowest level in eight months in April as refineries shut units for maintenance and industrial production expanded at a slower pace than forecast. Electricity output increased.

Refining in the world’s second-largest oil consumer dropped to 9.36 million barrels a day last month, according to data published today on the website of the Beijing-based National Bureau of Statistics. That’s the lowest since August and 8 percent below December’s record.

Chinese Sneeze Startles OPEC

China has been the driving force behind oil-demand growth since 2008, when much of the rest of the world stalled.

Now OPEC has added its voice to the debate, warning that weaker-than-expected economic growth in China may dent oil consumption. OPEC may well be concerned—Saudi Arabia, the cartel’s kingpin, is the No. 1 supplier of oil to China and the Middle East represents some 40% of Chinese oil imports, according to the Saudi Gazette.

China's debt: a crisis in the making?

HONG KONG (CNNMoney) The world's second largest economy has a debt problem.

China's credit boom has saddled unworthy businesses with large loans, fueled the country's shadow banking system and put local governments on the hook for billions.

Swiss bank UBS calculates that central government debt was equal to 15% of the economy at the end of 2012. That number spikes to 55% when debt racked up by local governments and agencies is included.

If corporate and household debt is also counted, China's total debt load balloons to more than 200% of gross domestic product.

Indonesia to Seek Higher Price From China for LNG

Indonesia will send a delegation to China later this month to seek a higher price for its liquefied natural gas, the head of oil and gas upstream watchdog SKK Migas said Monday.

Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan Launch Caspian Rail Link

Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have launched a direct railway linking their oil-and-gas-rich Caspian Sea regions, bypassing Uzbekistan. The new line promises to benefit "tens of countries" in the region, opening the remote areas to major markets, says Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Mexico sees oil and gas theft upsurge in 2013

Hydrocarbon theft in Mexico so far this year has nearly doubled in comparison with 2012, with the worst hit zones corresponding to some of Mexico's drug war hotspots.

Oil Minister: Iran Plans New Petrochemical Hubs

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi lauded the eye-catching growth of Iran's petrochemical industry, and said that new petrochemical hubs will be created in the country.

British Columbia Vote Risks Oil-Sands Exports

British Columbia’s provincial election threatens to stymie efforts by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNQ) and other Alberta oil-sands companies to sell crude to Pacific markets.

Transocean Chairman Talbert to Step Down Amid Fight With Icahn

Transocean Ltd., the world’s largest offshore oil rig contractor, said Chairman Michael Talbert plans to step down as the company fights board nominees from billionaire investor Carl Icahn.

Chesapeake Ruling Shocks With $117 Million Loss: Credit Markets

Last week’s court ruling against a group of Chesapeake Energy Corp. bondholders exposes another risk for investors seeking gains in a market where securities valuations are already at record highs.

Prices on the second-biggest U.S. natural gas producer’s notes have fallen by as much as 9 cents on the dollar, erasing $117 million, after a judge ruled May 8 that Chesapeake could redeem the securities at par. Investors including the hedge-fund firm run by former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. President Bart McDade were betting the Oklahoma City-based company had missed a deadline and would have to pay as much as $400 million to retire the debt early.

Our Enron-style justice system

There is Too Big to Jail – and now there is Too Big to Keep In Jail.

This is the envelope-pushing precedent being set by the Justice Department in its dealings with convicted Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling – a.k.a. one of the hucksters whose rip-off schemes were responsible for, among other things, losing more than $2 billion of retirees’ pension funds.

Is Canada’s Oil Too Dirty for Europe?

As the debate over the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline continues in the United States, a Canadian trade delegation is insisting that Canadian oil extracted from tar sands — the product that would be transported by an expanded pipeline — should not be classified as being dirtier than other types of oil.

Last week Canada’s natural resource minster, Joe Oliver, threatened to take the European Union to the World Trade Organization over its plans to classify oil harvested from tar sands as “highly polluting.”

Cameron Says Oil, Mineral Companies Need Improved Transparency

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron set his sights on oil, gas and mining companies in his drive for greater corporate and government transparency ahead of the summit of G-8 industrialized nations next month.

Cameron, who will chair the summit in Northern Ireland in June, singled out the sector as he outlined his plans to forge an international deal to tackle tax evasion and avoidance and increase the openness of corporations.

Canadian oil company threatens the survival of Peru’s ‘Jaguar people’

The Yaquerana River in the Amazon rainforest marks the border between Peru and Brazil, but to the Matsés tribe, who live on both sides of it, this international border is meaningless. To them the streams, floodplains, and white-sand forests make up an ancestral territory that is shared by the entire tribe.

Today they are at risk of losing their land to a Canadian oil company which plans to cut hundreds of miles of seismic testing lines through their forest home and to drill exploratory wells.

Gas tax alternative drive takes wrong turn

Gas taxes are not perfect. Unlike transponders, they don't allow for peak-hour pricing to reduce congestion. And, as many states have figured out, they raise less money when people buy more efficient cars.

But they have the great virtue of being uncomplicated and fair. The people who pay the most gas tax are those who drive the most and use the most gas. Makes sense to us.

Mileage fee now

Congress has not raised the federal gas tax in 20 years, partly because gasoline is the only commodity Americans purchase with real price information supplied every time they pass gas station signs. Given the roller coaster of gas prices, it is no mystery that people don't like the gas tax, which half of Americans mistakenly think is increased every year.

With the purchasing power of the gas tax dwindling, the most promising funding alternative is a vehicle-mile-traveled fee (VMT), which Oregon is helping to develop as an alternative revenue source.

New taxes make electric vehicle owners pay their share

(WIRED) -- Electric vehicles use the same roads, the same bridges and the same infrastructure as the rest of us. But because they don't burn gasoline, they're immune from paying taxes at the pump to fund that infrastructure. That's going to change.

Tesla sales beating Mercedes, BMW and Audi

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) You know the Tesla Model S, the $70,000 (and-up) electric car that "nobody can afford"? Well, evidently, more than a few people can afford it.

In fact, in the first quarter of this year, more people bought a Tesla Model S than bought any of the similarly priced gasoline-powered cars from the top three German luxury brands, according to data from LMC Automotive. About 4,750 bought a Model S while just over 3,000 bought Mercedes' top-level sedan.

Dubai looks to rooftop solar power revolution

Dubai is finalising legislation that will enable property owners to feed solar power into the grid and may even allow them to make money from it.

The Government last year unveiled plans for a 1,000-megawatt solar park, but it believes that small-scale applications are important for meeting its renewable energy targets.

Better batteries could revolutionize solar, wind power

The battle to build a better battery is intensifying as the United States and other countries, faced with growing global demand for electricity and a need to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that worsen climate change, look to expand carbon-free renewable energy such as wind and solar.

The Hidden World Under Our Feet

There are numerous threats to soil life. Modern tillage agriculture is a big one, because it deprives soil life of organic matter it needs for food, allows it to dry out and adds pesticides, herbicides and synthetic nitrogen. Soil “sealing” from the asphalt and concrete of suburban sprawl destroys soil life, as do heavy machinery and pollution. Even long-ago insults like acid rain still take a toll on life in the soil by having made the soil more acidic.

Clock is ticking, slowly, on rules for coal-fired power plants

The fate of many coal-fired power plants may rest on how boldly Obama tries to fulfill his pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

India must develop own climate model: US expert

New Delhi (IANS) India is amongst the countries most vulnerable to climate change and must develop its own model to study changes at the regional level and take necessary mitigation measures, a senior US scientist of Indian origin said.

Anjuli S. Bamzai, program director of the Climate and Large Scale Dynamics Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF), a US government agency, said India has a historic database of 130 years of weather and it can be used for climate modelling. The country has a monsoon model but not a climate model.

Cities need the resilience to face future Sandys

Whether or not Hurricane Sandy had a connection to climate change, climate change will make future Hurricane Sandys more common, imposing enormous costs on cities.

Since we seem to lack the will to reduce this threat by cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, we should at least make ourselves more resilient to severe weather.

Thinking about Chinese overall debt, it seems to me that one reason for the huge personal/corporate debt part is that the Chinese are dealing with WalMart, Target, and the rest of the World's huge outlet stores by selling Chinese labor cheaply. Now that they have the mega's enthralled to them, what happens if they suddenly say, "we have to pay our laborers enough to end the debt problem," and stop selling cheap?

That, plus of course, at the National level they could simply sell off their US Treasury holdings . . .

Either way, creating that Chinese version of "interesting times."


Time-lapse map chronicles decades of global change as seen from space

NBC News had a great story a few days ago showing Google Earth's project of showing timelapse pictures of seven areas of the earth. They show time lapse from 1984 to 2012 of Columbia Glacier Retreat, Dubai Coastal Expansion, Saudi Arabia Irrigation, Lake Urmai Drying Up, Brazilian Amazon Deforestation, Las Vegas Urban Growth and Wyoming Coal Mining.

A side note. Saudi started shutting down their desert wheat growing in 2008 because the aquifer was drying up. The project will be completely shut down by 2016. Search: Saudi Arabia scraps wheat growing to save water

Ron P.

Thanks for the lead in Ron, I've been looking for a place to show these stats on grain imports from indexmundi...

Australia currently imports nearly 2/3 of oil used, a dislocation in oil markets will have us desperate for fuel. It will affect grain production. If/when grain production world-wide is reduced by tight oil supply, imagine the effect on the following grain importers...

Kuwait 2012...350,000T wheat imports
Iran 2012...5,200,000T wheat imports
Iraq 2012...3,700,000T wheat imports
UAE 2012...1,300,000T wheat imports
Saudi A 2012..2,000,000T wheat imports
Nigeria 2012..3,700,000T wheat imports

Climate, wheat and oil a few interesting feedback loops will develop here as the Arab Spring uprisings showed us.

You mised off Egypt

2012 8,500,000 T wheat imports

down from 11,650,000 T the previous year, because they can no longer afford to pay for it.



also Syria


I didn't miss Egypt as they are no longer an exporter of oil.

The above 6 countries represent ~50% of global net exports of crude.

If you put 'earth policy institute grain price index' into a google search, there is an obviously uncomfortable direction indicated by World Grain Stocks as Days of Consumption Graph over the last 20 years.

But it is Egypt, Yemen, and the other non-exporting countries that are going to melt-down. The oil exporters can keep exporting oil to pay for the wheat.

But ultimately, even for those oil-exporters, the game will eventually end. I suspect what will happen is that as these oil exporters no longer export, the rich upper-class that have been building up big bank accounts abroad will flee the countries. Left behind will be all the poor & middle class in an over-populated state that no longer has rich natural resources that can be exported for food. These countries will be reduced to poverty and perhaps even enter failed state status.

Let all people go to where the food is. We already have that natural right. 'Neo-hunting-and-gathering'.

(How does capital, for example, have the ability to flow, versus people?)

What is the weight of food that people eat, say, in a month or a year, versus what people weigh, on average, respectively? Comparative EROEI?

"We announce the birth of a conceptual country, NewTopia, citizenship of the country can be obtained by declaration of your awareness of Newtopia. Newtopia has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people. Newtopia has no laws other than cosmic. All people of Newtopia are ambassadors of the country."
~ John Lennon, film, 'The US vs John Lennon'

"I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries; a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you."
~ The Matrix

"Freedom of movement, mobility rights or the right to travel is a human right concept that the constitutions of numerous states respect. It asserts that a citizen of a state in which that citizen is present has the liberty to travel, reside in, and/or work in any part of the state where one pleases within the limits of respect for the liberty and rights of others, and to leave that state and return at any time. Some immigrants' rights advocates say that human beings have a fundamental human right to mobility not only within a state but between states." ~ Wikipedia

"Every daring attempt to make a great change in existing conditions, every lofty vision of new possibilities for the human race, has been labeled Utopian."
~ Emma Goldman

In an increasingly dystopian world, it seems that just about any positive change is practically utopian.

"Free the prisoners!" (That's you, too.)

It seems like history is rife with examples of humans feeling free to move where the resources are most plentiful. Alas these groups of humans typically feel that they are more free to exploit the resources than other incoming groups of humans competing for said same resources. Much death ultimately results. Welcome to The World.

That's why we need a GNU General Public License against proprietary BAU/Gov't! Stallman for prez!

You know... sending a manned spacecraft to Mars or even Titan or further seems infinitely easier compared with humans simply getting their acts together right here on Earth. Is it not rocket science? Are we that yeasty?

(Well then, maybe the nihilists have a point.)

That's why we need a GNU General Public License against proprietary BAU/Gov't! Stallman for prez!

Way to miss the point. Without the proprietary Government and its power of force the force of Copyright can't exist.

And also, right now, almost all Nations have laws on their books that are broken by the members of the Government in those Nations. If laws as exist are not enforced as existing, what makes any sane person think that a 'GPL' for BAU/Gov't?

It was some humour, Eric. I had a winky in a previous edit, but figured those reading would get that.

Eric doesn't do humour, ToP...

I've found border patrol doesn't do humour either.

Tell me about it... I had encounters with the US border patrol in the early 70's at the Mexican border, and another in the late 80's at the Canadian border, and both times it was pretty creepy.

The only run-in I had with them they were pretty cool. 1974, I hopped a freight near Las Cruces and rode it into Tucson. Pulled into the rail yard there about 11:00 PM and they were on me like,, well... Anyway, they asked for an ID and the first thing I grabbed was my passport; I had been to Europe/USSR that summer and it was stamped everywhere from Spain to Russia.

Them [strong latino accent]: "Man, you been everywhere, Russia, Poland... What's a 16 year old kid doing in a boxcar in Tucson??"

Me [strong Atlanta accent]: "Came to visit my sister, see the world I guess."

Them: [one big eye] STAY OFF THE TRAINS,, GOT THAT?

Me: Yes sir. Which way is UofA?

They took me up to the freight yard and got me a ride with some fella getting off the night shift; wished me well. They had pretty good people skills, IMO. Tough job.

And ToP has a thin connection to reality based on past back and forths over biochar.

But here ya all go - Given the below cited statements the aliens/visitors from the future watching over humanity will fix all of our problems and this who worrying the collective WE of TOD is doing is for naught.

In 1966, according to Shindele and others working to maintain the operation of the US Nuclear weapons arsenal, a vehicle of unknown origin hovered over active and armed missiles and disabled each of them one by one using what one scientist speculated at the time was some form of Electromagnetic-Pulse. The incident was eventually covered up and ignored in later Air Force public pronouncements which asserted that no UFO incidents ever resulted in safety concerns of a national security nature. Participants report that as recently as 2010, nuclear missiles have been disabled in incidents similar to those from the 1960s.

And with the aliens around the sun preventing flairs hitting earth:
humanity is safe because of these watchers.

(humorous enough for ya? Or arn't the above topics "funny"? )

I have thought a lot about this "people need to move where the food is"....does this mean places that are in the desert and can't grow their own food will be in trouble....Also there is climate change, I live in the rocky mountains and this is our driest spring ever and hot.....can't grow enough food for people up here...carrying capacity is going to dictate....Oh wait CNBC has a story on today that we have so much oil that the price of oil has plunged etc...and NPr just had a recent college grad doing a story this morning that oil prices will soon plunge due to supply...Americans just need to get out and go shopping and all will be o.k....

Americans just need to get out and go shopping and all will be o.k....

maybe if we all wear funny costumes and dance and sing while we are doing it it will rain... on the other hand if we overdo it we might invoke another Katrina or Sandy.

Yeast 10, Humans 0.

"people need to move where the food is"

People need to move near the rail depots and ports, but not too close to sea level.

The rail infrastructure is not prepared or capable of that...do you think they could ship grapes to Montana or apples to North Dakota? Enough food to supply those populations....yes they are small but the whole infrastructure is based on cheap energy...I think more food has to be grown and produced and sold locally....I think the rail will have to be reserved for necessities...

Or switch rail from oil to electricity.

The Russians converted the Trans-Siberian to electric.

I was in Deer lodge Montana and they had the old Electric Engine there up on blocks that had a sign that described the service etc...then said that cheap oil put this engine out of business...I think people's beliefs that we have tons of oil will keep us from moving forward so to speak. I am amazed at how many stories I read and hear about this huge abundance of oil in North American at least three a day...that will sow a lot of seeds in peoples heads. Oh well it gives me a little more time to prepare...

Young Americans Lead Trend to Less Driving

Mr. Mauney, 42, lives in an apartment tower in this city’s Uptown neighborhood, a pedestrian-friendly quarter with new office buildings, sparkling museums and ambitious restaurants. He so seldom needs to drive that when he does go to retrieve his car in his building’s garage, he said, “I always forget where I parked it.”

I don't think this one has been mentioned yet. Seems to kind of reinforce something I've been noticing for a while now - that TOD (no, not that TOD - Transit Oriented Development, in this case ;) seems to be catching on, however slowly and hesitantly. It's somewhat encouraging, none the less.

Here in the northern burbs of Chicago I definitely notice a correlation between gas prices (currently $4.06/gal in Grayslake) and Metra ridership. With prices remaining stubbornly high, despite all the MSM hype about Saudi America, I'm kind of expecting that trend to continue.

Well, I hope it will, anyway. Rail oriented civilization seems to hold some promise. Guess we'll see how far it goes. Mebbe, Sparky, others have the same idea you do? :)

And here was an interesting report from Transportation Nation on Central Florida and Orlando's buildout of Green Transit despite Teabag Gov Rick Scotts scuttling of the Tampa-Orlando High Speed Rail:


And there was another deceptive cornucopian story on NPR hyping shale oil as
an unexpected boom without pointing out that the US still imports half our oil or that production increases of shale oil and gas have very rapid decline rates.

The story DID warn that gas prices would not go down much if at all due to higher costs for getting this oil.

This is a window to push for higher gas and vehicle miles traveled taxes before
gas prices go up again as we know they will!

The good sign is people and some cities are taking at least baby steps towards Green Transit away from Auto Addiction. Especially the young!

Earlier this month for the first time I saw three BNSF trains on the Santa Fe-Pacific rail line pass through Flagstaff, Arizona, within a 30 minute period. Two were traveling east and one, west. Judging by my odometer, one was traveling about 40 miles/hour through the city. Usually it is one slow moving train every 30 minutes or longer. After double tracking a section in New Mexico, the scheduling seems to have doubled the number of trains on that rail line. I suspect the U.S. system is capable of moving considerably more rail freight than has been historically transported.

Better get out of the way of the trains....

Trains already carry the majority of freight in the US.

Much of rail freight is coal (as is the case with oil and water shipping) - eliminate coal, and that will free up a lot of rail capacity.

Maybe we should be selling our agricultural exports based upon energy content and buying our oil based on energy content?
We need to quit buying expensive oil and turning it into cheap grain for export!

You are not the first one with that admirable insight, see http://www.technocracy.org/study-guide

When all is said and done, EROEI is what matters in the long term.

If you google "seawater greenhouse", you'll find a technology that Saudi could use to grow crops in the desert.

The technology works best far from the coasts where humidity is too high to make the process work efficiently. However, generally there's not a lot of seawater far inland. Step forward the infrastructure Saudi has already built to pump seawater into Ghawar and other oilfields to maintain pressure. As production from these fields declines, there will be greater seawater capacity than is required...

Requirements, other than seawater, are lots of plastic and aluminium, both of which require copious energy to manufacture... seems to me that Saudi could grow a large amount of food by using some of its current energy surplus to build a crop-growing infrastructure for the future. Side-benefits of the seawater greenhouse system are that the moisture-laden exhaust can irrigate the desert beyond the structure itself, allowing for planting if date and palm plantations, thereby providing shade for foraging livestock. Over time the combination of manure, shade and moisture-laden air could allow for the build-up of soil and the greening of the desert....

Interested to hear others' thoughts on this?? Seems to me a better way for Saudi to invest in security of food supply than buying up huge tracts of farmland thousands of miles away. In a less-globalised, resource-stretched future world, I find it hard to imagine how Saudi can rely on these faraway farms they have been investing in...

It is a nice piece of technology and it works well if there is a lot of humidity coming in off the ocean and temperature gradients work in favour of condensation. (Life forms in Namibia IIRC for example work pretty much because there is sufficient condensation and dew-point collection.)
The problem is one of scale - a huge 'front' of plastic and some constant pumping energy and salt removal required, and a hope that the scale is enough to permanently change the local climate across a sufficient frontage with the ocean. My guess is there is not enough data to model the system properly in each situation. I wonder also what climate change disasters are going to do for the Gulf etc.?

1.Just because something is technically possible does not mean it is economically possible .
2.Just because I can make an explosion in the chem lab of my school does not mean I can also build a nuclear bomb .

Bayou Corne sinkhole, this happened Friday.

Texas Brine’s western berm encountered five breaches overnight. Two breaches have been repaired, one breach is small and has not been repaired yet and two larger breaches continue to fill the sinkhole and containment area. Texas Brine has indicated that repairs will occur once water levels have stabilized.

More info. and videos here: http://assumptionla.wordpress.com/

That excavator doesn't look good.

Is it my imagination, or is a new Drumbeat being posted daily once again? If so, thank you very much, TOD, especially Leanan. I realize this must represent a lot more work for you, Leanan, but I seem to visit TOD more often when there are new posts daily. Don't know why that is exactly. Perhaps it's knowing that I won't have so much to catch up on if I come late to the conversations. Don't know, either, if there are more or fewer comments when Drumbeat is posted daily, only that following the posts seems more manageable (to me) when the posts are daily.

Silly me. I should have checked the Drumbeat archives before posting the comment above. Still, my preference for more frequent, rather than less frequent, Drumbeat postings stands, as do the subjective reasons for my preference. But, again, let me thank Leanan for all her hard and conscientious work on TOD. And thanks, too, to all the regular conversation participants. I have learned a lot over the years I've been following TOD. Only sorry I don't have more to contribute.

Besides being easier on Leanan to compile, I rather enjoy the DB lasting a few days so that longer conversations can run their course before the DB fades into obscurity.

I second that. Ideas and additional thoughts may have some added time to develop/ferment, and fermentation can of course lead to alcohol, thus fuel. =D

Search: Global boom in tight oil production may be overplayed: BP's Ruhl

Some predictions of surging global production of light, tight oil from unconventional source rocks may be overblown, with a of number of environmental and political question marks still hanging over the industry, delegates at a London oil conference heard Monday.

While some oil market forecasters have predicted tight oil production jumping to 10 million b/d by 2030, many countries hoping to exploit their shale and tight oil potential will find it difficult to replicate the pace of success in the US, BP's chief economist Christof Ruhl said.

This is just the first of articles you will see in the next few months and years where forecasters start to back off those hyped up tight oil predictions. It won't be long before you will read words like: "The tight oil bubble has burst". It will be a big disappointment for all those guys who say the US will become another Saudi Arabia.

Ron P.

No. I'm pretty sure it will be the fault of over zealous environmental extremists.

Singapore bunker fuel sales rise 8.5 pct in April on lower prices

Bunker fuel should be banned, IMHO. But I guess that is me being an environmentalist. It is SUCH a dirty fuel that takes advantage of the lack of laws on the open sea. Bunker fuel basically uses the atmosphere as a massive garbage dump. It is great example of The Tragedy of the Commons.

Bunker fuel basically uses the atmosphere as a massive garbage dump.

And if you like bunker fuel you'll love petcoke, the solid sludge that forms at the end of the refining process. Every fraction of crude oil that can produce heat when burned is captured and sold, down to the dredges. It used to be refiners had to pay to get petcoke hauled away, but now it is a sold as a high-heat-content solid fuel that competes with thermal coal.

It used to be the same thing with bunker fuel, a by-product with no natural market. It was 'discovered' when Margaret Thatcher sent the UK scrambling like mad to find alternative fuels during Britain's coal miner strike in the 80s. Voila, a market was born.

At least with petcoke there are typically stack controls to clean up the flue gas -- less so with bunker fuel I imagine.

Funny how stuff works out sometimes. At the end of a post to the weekend DB at "theoildrum.com/node/9984#comment-961854" (copy and paste the text inside the quotes in to the URL box and add www. before theoildrum to go to the comment), I wrote this:

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!

Now I'm not presumptuous enough to think that Leanan dug up the story on the comparison of Model S sales to the Mercedes S Class, the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8, just for me but, it sort of supports my suspicion. What would be interesting, is to see if the Tesla is also outselling the high end of the lower bracket E Class, 5 series and A6, that are probably closer to it in terms of size.

I think the market strategy of Tesla, as outlined by Elon Musk himself is spot on. Go for the early adopters with deep pockets first and use the money earned to develop ever lower cost products for a wider market. According to Musk, it worked for mobile phones, why not cars?

Alan from the islands

I think simple number comparisons need to be used cautiously.

At the moment Tesla is selling in very few locations as opposed to the large numbers of Mercedes/BMW/Audi dealerships around the world.

Sales might be limited by manufacturing and purchase opportunity constraints.

At the moment Tesla is selling in very few locations as opposed to the large numbers of Mercedes/BMW/Audi dealerships around the world.

That makes the sales numbers even more remarkable! I would posit that, in the segment of the market it is targeting, the Model S is an extremely good value and the numbers suggest that a significant share of those who can afford the car agree.

Alan from the islands

One of the big things is what I'd call the "California HOV Effect" - this effect made the Prius.

Basically, California has allowed certain vehicles HOV access (via a sticker) without actually having people carpooling. So in the early days of the Prius they granted it an HOV lane access sticker good for I think it was 5 years or so and people in CA bought them like gangbusters. It was basically a free pass to carve literally hours off of some people's drive time. There were a hell of a lot of people who bought Prii in the early days just for that sticker.

So the Teslas, as BEVs, currently qualify for HOV access stickers as well as most of the PHEVs (PriusPlugIn, Volt, FusionEnergi, etc)...the standard hybrids are no longer given stickers and the older stickers have expired.

I did not know this. Seems like a pretty big incentive if money is no object.

IMHO battery technology needs to take at least another leap forward for EVs to really take off in numbers. It's very hard to know how long they last, and it's not a cheap replacement part yet. Sorry for stating the obvious, but that does add a lot of uncertainty to the ultimate cost per kilometer. In his book Green Illusions Ozzie Zehner states that battery costs per mile are still a multiple of the electricity cost.

Battery warranties...

Tesla, eight years with unlimited mileage

Volt, ten years or 150,000 miles

LEAF, defects and flaws eight years and 100,000 miles. Nissan will repair or replace a Leaf's battery within five years or 60,000 miles if it loses more than 30 percent of its charge capacity.

By the time those years have expired EV batteries should be a lot cheaper than now. Prices are coming down fairly fast.

That batteries get cheaper is what I'm hoping and I also believe so are the manufacturers because I think they're going to be doing a lot of replacing before those warranties are up. So I think EVs are a huge gamble for the companies in terms of profit (as noted by others, Tesla is still firmly in the luxury segment and charges accordingly so it will be interesting to see what happens there). I don't think companies would sell as "many" as they do now without taking over the risk of the battery failing. Time will tell how this plays out, lithium ion has been around for 20 years now and there will be at least marginal improvements in technology I'm sure.

What these tiny (so far) EV programs are doing though is boosting the "green" images of these companies in dollar amounts that are hard to quantify.

Just my opinion of course. I know most TOD posters that have a strong opinion on EVs pin a lot of hope on them for the future. I have an electric bike and live in the Netherlands so the infrastructure is there so I'm lucky. I'm not against electric by any means, it's scalability. I'm guessing the average bike battery uses less than 4% of the battery cells an electric car does. And what I know about bike batteries is a lot of people are needing to replace them after 3 or 4 years.

"And what I know about bike batteries is a lot of people are needing to replace them after 3 or 4 years."

Not surprising. I'm the only person I associate with (TOD not withstanding) that knows the first thing about batteries, and I still can't keep my own family from ruining all our NiMH cells. Maybe there's a lot of people flush with cash for LiFePo cells in your neck of the woods, but I suspect not - 3 or 4 years is probably an amazing run for a Pb battery. Also, next to no charge control on anything where battery replacement is the responsibility of the end user - everyone runs them until dead, then lets them sit overnight or for a week in a hot or cold garage, then fast-charges them to 105% nominal capacity. Don't know why consumers could possibly be worried about battery lifetime! Everything people want to do with a battery goes against the chemistry/physics required for longevity. Batteries last 'forever' when kept at 20oC at all times, and between 50-70% charge (am I close off-gridders?)

I'm surprised there haven't been exposes that the Leaf only appears to use half it's rated capacity under normal conditions - I guess there's not enough excess capacity for the car companies to program their computers to make the battery outlast the warranty. If cell capacity ever gets to a level where they can start keeping them from ever getting down to 20%, you can bet they will...state of charge is the single largest factor by far in longevity AFAIK. That has been true for every chemistry I've heard of (remember "rechargeable" alkaline? They should have called them 'top offable' - run them dead once, that was pretty much it).


It seems nowhere better than batteries to exemplify the adage, 'Moderation in all things.' .. which is a clear indicator for why it's often such a challenge to make them really thrive in our 'I want it all, now.' approach to commodities. Not saying that to point at you and yours any more than me and mine, to be very clear.. it's simply an attitude that is interwoven into the culture's narrative, and it takes a lot of fiddling around and fighting the prevailing winds just to extricate that mentality from one process after another.

As with the occasional pocket FM radio, I have had battery devices that had simply astonishing lifetimes.. it was probably just too much trouble to design them cheaper, or some brilliant combination just happened to get through the meat grinder that time.

That batteries get cheaper is what I'm hoping and I also believe so are the manufacturers because I think they're going to be doing a lot of replacing before those warranties are up. So I think EVs are a huge gamble for the companies in terms of profit (as noted by others, Tesla is still firmly in the luxury segment and charges accordingly so it will be interesting to see what happens there). I don't think companies would sell as "many" as they do now without taking over the risk of the battery failing. Time will tell how this plays out, lithium ion has been around for 20 years now and there will be at least marginal improvements in technology I'm sure.

What these tiny (so far) EV programs are doing though is boosting the "green" images of these companies in dollar amounts that are hard to quantify.

Just my opinion of course. I know most TOD posters that have a strong opinion on EVs pin a lot of hope on them for the future. I have an electric bike and live in the Netherlands so the infrastructure is there so I'm lucky. I'm not against electric by any means, it's scalability. I'm guessing the average bike battery uses less than 4% of the battery cells an electric car does. And what I know about bike batteries is a lot of people are needing to replace them after 3 or 4 years.

It should be easy to replace the battery....then if you can go another 100000 miles that is pretty good....a gas engine has about $1200 in oil changes in that time...

The EV with the longest real world record is the BYD e6 which is being used in some taxi fleets.

They use a lithium iron phosphate battery and are reporting no problems getting more than 100,000 miles. Their highest mileage EV has over 150,000 miles on the original battery.

Lifepo batteries are not used by bike manufacturers in Europe much if at all. There are some TOD forum members from the US and Australia (I believe) who use them though and are positive.

Now I'm wondering how much a replacement battery for the BYD e6 would cost and how that cost would average over 100,000 miles....

There's one thing that gets left out when talking about replacing a battery pack...cells vs. pack. This is one of the things that will be interesting when it comes to Tesla since they use a non-proprietary size and shape in proprietary arrayed packs. In theory the cost of the initial pack will be much higher than the replacement cost because you just need to replace the cells and not the battery box which contains the contacts, thermal interfaces, and cell management electronics.

I've been trying to find information on Tesla degradation rates and it's been rather difficult. With their SEC filing they quoted as a risk with the Roadster which used off-the-shelf LiCO2 laptop batteries that owners might have range 65% of new at 100,000 miles.

We currently expect that our battery pack will retain approximately 60-65% of its ability to hold its initial charge after approximately 100,000 miles or 7 years, which will result in a decrease to the vehicle’s initial range.

The Model S batteries are different (LiNiCoAlO2) and they expect less loss though this may have been a "bad case" scenario to not underplay potential loss.


Für die meisten Kunden ist der Tesla Roadster ein nettes Gimmick, mit dem man Eindruck schinden kann. Für Hansjörg von Gemmingen ist der Elektrosportwagen ein vollwertiges Auto. Er fuhr damit mehr als 200.000 Kilometer in vier Jahren - weltrekordverdächtig.

"Der Grund ist nicht der Stromspeicher, der mittlerweile 30 Prozent seiner Kapazität eingebüßt hat."

This guy put 125,000 miles on a Telsa Roadster in the span of 4 years and only lost 30% of the battery capacity...and the ModelS's batters are better.

What's strange is that there are other articles talking about now at 244,000km it's down to 100km of range - like it dropped off a cliff. (Amusingly this "unusable car" now has the range of a Leaf/iMiev). He's been trying to blackmail Tesla into giving him a free new pack or free Model S for promoting it in the manner that he has, and yet he supposedly refuses to bring it to Teslas Munich service center to be looked at. Tesla believes the pack has become severely unbalanced and offered to diagnose it as well as supposedly offering a refurbished pack. Very odd. No articles from 2013, like he fell off the face of the planet.

Interesting times.

Thanks for digging this stuff up Substrate. You can get bike batteries refurbished with new cells too, but I'm not sure if that will save you much money compared to getting a new battery. Refurbishing seems a lot of work but you do reuse the BMS and other parts I would guess.

What can used cells be used for? Can you extract some of the lithium and reuse? I would think that labour and energy intensive. Are they just toxic garbage? Can you smelt them into some kind of steel alloy? Crazy questions, but since it seems batteries are being used more and more everywhere I'd be interested to know what happens to them generally or specifically. Is there some unpleasant reality lurking on this front?

Doesn't look good for recycling lithium batteries.

For several years the single minded obsession of all lithium-ion battery developers has been reducing costs to a point where using batteries as a substitute for a fuel tank makes economic sense. Most of the progress has come from substituting cheap raw materials like iron, manganese and titanium for the more costly cobalt and nickel that were used in first generation lithium-ion batteries. Unfortunately, when you slash the cost of the materials that go into a battery you also slash the value of the materials that can be recovered from that battery at the end of its useful life.

Why Advanced Lithium Ion Batteries Won't Be Recycled

Petersen's not a reliable source - he's promoting a particular battery chemistry.

Thank you Turnbull. The link (and the links found there) were very useful for someone who doesn't know much about recycling batteries.

battery costs per mile are still a multiple of the electricity cost.

First, that's not necessarily correct. Li-ion battery cell costs range as low as $350/kWh, and cycle life can reach 5,000 cycles, giving a cost of 7 cents per kWh and about 2 cents per mile. That's well below electricity costs.

Second, that's not what's important. What's important is the ratio of the (battery + electricity cost) to the cost of fuel! The average cost of fuel per mile in the US is about 17 cents (average MPG is about 22). Night time power is about 6 cents, so that's about 2 cents per mile for power. That leaves room for 15 cents per mile for battery costs - that's pretty easily reached even if cell cost is $500, and cycle life is only about 1,000!

Now, start including externalities!!

The lithium ion packs for the bike are advertised to be able to handle 500 to 600 cycles. Though once again, I am willing to believe that lifepos can handle significantly more cycles.

Better data on car battery lifecycles and charge deterioration will be (heavily massaged one way or another no doubt) or should be available in the coming years.

Yeah, it was A123systems that tested their packs to 5,000 cycles.

Yes HOV access is a big deal for those who can afford the vehicles.
A trucker had to drive 120 miles to get a pump to offload the polymer he was to deliver to my plant. I told him the drive would take five hours, each way, while he was on the phone talking to the dispatcher about mileage and who is going to pay, etc.
Traffic congestion is just that bad in South California and highways are very rough and in need of repair.

I've been hearing that the US roads are bad, but are they truly so bad that driving 80 mph on them would be dangerous?

Conditions vary from county to county and city to city. Some are in quite good shape.

Virtually everywhere I go in Northern Calif the roads are deteriorating. Here in Sonoma county the govt has chosen to only maintain about 10% of the roads. That means the rest of the roads only get potholes filled. The freeways are getting bad but people still drive 80mph.

In the '60s and 70s it seems that everything in the state was new. But that was a long time ago.

National Atlas .gov reports that there are 3.9 million miles of roads in the US.

There are MANY very poor ones, and some immaculate ones as well. 80mph is not that uncommon on the interstate roads.. while we might appreciate what a luxury such travel represents and not take it for granted.

Here in East Central Florida, all the highways are in like new condition. They just repaved my road last month. The main highway last year, I-95 is being widened & repaved now. There is hardly a bridge around that hasn't been replaced in the last 20 years.

Some of the city streets are a little rough.

The power company is replacing poles too.

Tesla sales are tiny compared with the total luxury car market. Since the Tesla is mainly sold in the US, a valid comparison would be to US sales of luxury cars: www.goodcarbadcar.net/2013/05/usa-luxury-car-sales-rankings-by-model-apr...

The Tesla is roughly 2% of the US luxury car market. Worldwide, I would guess they have less than 0.5%.

Drumbeats serve as open threads? I hope I'm not going off topic here.

EROEI. How does it apply to solar panels? Does it?

When we're talking about the EROEI for oil we might find that we get out 5 units of energy for every one unit used. An EROEI of 5:1.

That one unit that was used was a non-replaceable resource (natural gas, coal-generated electricity, etc.)

Solar panels pay back the energy invested in them in less than two years, less than one year with thin film. They product electricity for at least 40 years. That means that solar panels have 20+:1 EROEI ratios, does it not?

But is that 20+:1 meaningful/important?

In 2012 more electricity was generated by solar panels connected to the grid than was used in the manufacturing of that year's solar panels. Essentially no non-replaceable energy was used in panel manufacturing.

Does that make the ERORI evaluation of solar panels irrelevant? We're no longer using any energy source that will run out for billions of years.

Or am I looking at this incorrectly?

Ok- get back to me and tell me more when just one single solar-cell manufacturer does the entire range of operations needed for cell production -- from the mining_op with transport, to actual manufacturing of PVs included finished installation and all in between.... solely produced by solar energy/electricity...
Also - to make it slightly more challenging - I demand you to include all energy needed to run the entire lives of the people working in this imaginary "PV task force" - included their kids energy-demands... yeah I know ...

Difficult, unfair ... or just EMERGY? Its very hard to bake a cake without flour

The solar EROEI of 20:1 is a hoax where I come from

That would be crazy and any company that tried to do that would quickly go bankrupt. There is nothing wrong with investing the fossil fuels we use today in order to build renewables for tomorrow.

Given that most of the post-mining work is done with electricity (aluminum smelting, glass furnace, etc.) at least a large part of solar panel manufacturing is electric.

If (just a speculative number)50% of the energy used was from fossil fuels (mining, transportation) then would the effective EROEI be in the 40+:1 range?

(Obviously the "run entire lives" part is not used in EROEI calculations.)

Is this the no true Scottsman attack? In any case it is an argument from purity, unless X has absolutely zero of Y, it is tainted and should be shuned. This can be especially defeating, especially when the goal is to escape Y, and X is the cure.

The number I want to see is PermanentPlanetDamagePerEnergyunit, PPDE, EROEI means zip to the future.

I won't be here then? Totally irrelevant- somebody essentially identical to me will be, and won't be happy if I have messed up his(my) world.

I demand you to include all energy needed to run the entire lives of the people working in this imaginary "PV task force" - included their kids energy-demands... yeah I know ...

Ridiculous! I guess no one was ever allowed to use a team of horses and a wagon to haul equipment out to an early oil well, right? Let alone use them to plow a field to grow crops to feed the people who were working on that well.

Only a complete fool would suggest that it is possible to switch from a 100% fossil fuel based economy to one based on solar and wind overnight!

Paal are you just trying to push buttons with your comment? Because you sure pushed mine!

It sometimes take some button-pushing to get some eye openings.
My comment has a philosophical hint that was supposed to make the receiver think a few notches harder / deeper. If solar cannot reproduce itself with its own energy (at some stage anyway -personally I feel this stage is closing in ...) - it will just prove itself to be a fad or a cool gadget from the fossil age.... which just clutter our energy focus.

Today - to me - PVs are just "a solidified fossil fuels box" seeping out already used / embedded energy/eMergy that could be used in other ways by society. Whether PVs are EROEI positive or not is to me unclear. Fossil feuls we already know can reproduce themselves -- but can PVs ? I doubt it.

In 2012 existing solar on the grid produced more energy than was used to make new panels during the year.

The energy payoff period for silicon panels is less than two years. For thin film solar it is less than one year.

A solar panel made with 100% fossil fuel inputs would return that amount of energy in less than two years and then return another 40+ years of energy. That's a huge 20x plus multiplier effect.

We know that fossil fuels cannot reproduce.

We can use a smaller amount to obtain a larger amount, but that ratio is closing as we have to go further and deeper and refine lower quality product.

... yes - and 'Jesus walked on water'. BTW ,your urban legend on PV-solar's EROEI bores me. Happy now?

EDIT: "REproduce" substitute with "REextract" or something to that effect.

BTW ,your urban legend on PV-solar's EROEI bores me.

What would be an acceptable level of proof for you?

The proof is in the pudding- and the name of the pudding is "PVs reproduce PVs" - solely with it's own solar energy. That would be a proof for me.
And with claims of EROEIs in the 20's to 1 it should be a "piece of cake "to go ahead --- and in particular today with so much solar around..

Put up this production line in Yuma - Arizona - worlds most sunny place also within borders of USA and use the nearby desert sands for raw materials -- best of luck.

The proof is in the pudding- and the name of the pudding is "PVs reproduce PVs" - solely with it's own solar energy. That would be a proof for me.

That's a strawman argument. Just because it isn't being done yet doesn't mean it can't be done or won't be done at some point in the future. Yeah, if industrial civilization collapses completely in the near future it probably never will be. But what you are asking for is a systems and engineering solution. I think we are still up to that challenge. To be clear that solution means life will be very different and nothing like BAU. We will certainly need to reset our expectations, and reassess what our needs are. A lot of our current wants will need to be reexamined as well.

I think your problem paal, is that you want solar to be able to maintain things as they are now. And that my friend just isn't going to happen. Change is in the air whether you like it or not and whether you are ready for it or not. While I can't predict exactly how the future will unfold I can guarantee it will be drastically different than what we have now, my suggestion is to keep your mind and your options open.

BTW, anyone who has been around here for a while should by now be aware that our reliance on fossil fuels is a dead end and depending on options such as nuclear is uneconomical if we include external costs, so what options do you suggest we explore other than renewables such as wind and solar?

My few lines up here is no more strawman argument than the "PVs EROEI is at 20:1" is ... so there we go.
Although I don't reply much anymore here on TOD it seems I've been around here for longer than you- I'm very aware of the dire fossil outlooks ahead, and that is actually why I challenge the PVindustry here 'on paper only' to make bold moves into the sunny desert to render their products viable - and display proof of concept to the whole wide world - in not riding the back of the Fossil Juggernaut, anymore.
--- instead ,of course,I get a heated headwind from solar-believers here on TOD :-) Nothing new here.

Paal, you want the PV industry to avoid the built-up infrastructure, such as roads and mining equipment, build-out a completely new infrastructure based on electricity from PV apparently without any storage and do it competitively with the established fossil fuel industry that gets the advantages of the built-up infrastructure. You are demanding that the PV industry start from scratch while demanding that it keep the current system running. You want them to build electric rail to access and electric excavators to extract raw materials with the steel used in the equipment smelted using electric furnaces. It is a plan, a strawman, intended to doom PV. One must use the existing infrastructure and equipment to convert to a new power source otherwise the conversion will be too slow to keep the current system running and utterly fail economically. It is like saying they could not use dirt roads and horse drawn wagons to deliver supplies to the drilling team at the Drake Well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. You are requiring them to begin with asphalt roads and gasoline powered vehicles. Steel must have been smelted using petroleum instead of coal, etc. The fossil fuel industry of 1900 could not compete with the fossil fuel industry of today because the scale and technology are vastly different.

Instead you should do a theoretical analysis about whether steel can be smelted and necessary equipment manufactured using electricity. Are people able to build electric railroads to a mine and use an electric excavator powered from the same power line that powers the train? Because they built rail lies in the 1800's without petroleum, it seems to me the answer is yes, but if there is some choke point where electricity is a technically or economically impossible power source, then point that out so it can be debated.

Also requiring the power source to come only from PV is another component of your strawman. The criteria should just be electricity irrespective of the source because electricity can be produced from many sources and a variety of sources will produce the best future electric supply. There are other renewable power sources that should all work together to create the whole.

By your reasoning it was a completely wasted effort to eliminate my last remaining use of propane by purchasing an induction cooktop because I delivered it to my house using a gasoline powered vehicle. Please, take one problem at a time.

BT I'm impressed- Did my small writing get you to think all them big thoughts ?

Let me make it easy for you >> my proposal is to fence in a suitable area of the Arizonian desert and call it The_PV-to_PV_spawn-industrial complex. Inside its fences there are a gigantic PVsolarfarm, and some sort of energy-storage (heat for-instance, to run some large Sterling-engines nighttime), a lot of sand and a regular large PV- manufacturing plant and of course a cafeteria ....

I like to see this complex churn out PV panels 24/7 - with energy to spare - and with a minimum of help from existing tech's. Is that to hard to grasp? This is namely all I'm asking for, cuz if it wont work today - it sure wont work in the future either.
Remember your mentioned gravel roads, horse-wagons still exist today - they are namely part of the preTech-world. PVs are not, they have to prove themselves, so why not try this at "the top of oil"? I approve to allow using fossils to build the complex - with roads inside. Im not that rude :--))

"cuz if it wont work today - it sure wont work in the future either."

Prove it. The Drake Well was serviced equally adequately by horse team and later Model-T.

I have not doubt it *would* work today technically, as do others, perhaps even yourself.

I have no doubt it *would not* work economically today. Do you then suppose tomorrow's economic considerations vis-a-vis available infrastructure and competitiveness will be identical to todays?

If you want it to happen today, many here will certainly pass you some startup capital when your kickstarter project goes live, otherwise your thought experiment is the one that's getting tiresome. I'll buy my panels from anyone who'll make them by any means available, and today that's FF's. My kids will still be using them in 100 years, output% irrelevant.

If you need to argue that any use at all of FF is going to cook us, so we're better off moving to the jungle with our bow & arrow and forgetting the panels, go ahead and make that argument, I'm not very open to any other reasons to skip the FF PV here & now. Far as I'm concerned, someone's going to burn them all either way, and my money is 'voting' to divert that FF from something even more destructive like building a car with it.


There certainly is no necessity for people to work the graveyard shift to manufacture PV. It might be hard to find any local area small enough to be reasonably fenced and that would have the needed raw materials, sand, silver, aluminum, water and the elements needed for doping. The cafeteria would have problems finding a food supply in the desert.

If the fence encompasses the entire state, then one could get hydroelectricity from Hoover dam and wind power from Perrin Ranch to supplement the solar power in the desert. The Colorado River would provide water. Food could come from the farms and ranches along the Mogollon Rim. Arizona has copper and silver mines. Because there is not much bauxite left in the U.S., there probably is not any in Arizona. I can not locate any manufactures of silicon ingots in Arizona, so lots of desert sand may not be helpful. Arizona manufactures inverters. Raw materials not present in the state could be delivered via the Santa Fe-Pacific rail line and PV panels could be shipped to customers by the same route. Work hours would be the normal 8 am to 5 pm shift. Their homes would be within the fenced area. You could count all of it as embodied energy.

Then again, it looks like the fence needs to encompass Earth to get enough raw materials. I wonder if First Solar could manufacture their thin-film PV keeping everything within the state.

"U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing: Industry Trends, Global Competition, Federal Support," Congressional Research Service, Michaela D. Platzer, June 13, 2012

Drumbeats are open threads, though comments should be at least tangentially related to "energy and our future."

However, we have a "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" rule. That means don't bring old discussions forward into new threads. Keep the discussion in the thread where it arose. One, that makes it easier to reference, and two, it serves as a firewall to keep the same old arguments from eating up thread after thread. People who still want to discuss it are free to do so, while giving everyone else some space to discuss other things.

Don't forget that you are welcome to go back and visit prior Drumbeats, and for a while at least to continue to comment, argue and the like. You are not restricted to today's rants.


I guess I haven't been around here long enough. In the few Drumbeats I've read people seem to revisit old issues quite often.

Posting to an old, buried Drumbeat would seem to have no value.

I assume renewable energy is part of "energy and our future"? Or is there the discussion to be limited to fossil fuels?

You will notice quite a bit of climate change, as it is related to renewable energy sources. So... just about any energy related topic seems to be fine.

I don't visit old DBs too much. Sometimes when a topic is still going it is good to go back, or if it is particularly important to you. I have had a few where I continued to revisit for a week or so.


Edit: Or where I have asked a question, and it has not yet been answered. Once and a while the answer will appear after the beat is closed.


Renewable energy is certainly relevant to Drumbeats. You should not worry at all that your posts on solar are inappropriate in any way, as long as they are unique and not just a repetition of earlier posts.

I don't even think there is any problem with revisiting old issues. There are probably a finite number of issues out there and we would have hit peak issue a long time ago.

The problem comes when people actually link to a discussion in an old Drumbeat and keep it running, or just repost old topics that can't be resolved. Certain issues (religion, politics, etc.) can go on forever without any progress or resolution.

Plenty of topics get reposted. What usually happens is a new bit of data comes out so that gets posted. Or some new name shows up with an old idea and the attempts at persuasion from or support of that old idea.

The "our future" part allows for a broad topic base with only a few topics forbidden/deleted as they just lead to yelling past one another.

The time to payback does matter. If we try to grow the market faster than the payback period (e-folding to be exact) then as long as we are in the exponential growth phase we have not yet created any net energy. One reason (aside from lowering payback times), 2012 made PV net energy positive -is the growth rate slowed.

Yes, production was down some in 2012. From about 37.2 GW to 32 GW of silicon solar plus some amount of thin film solar which I haven't identified.

Actually the break-even point at which on-grid panels produced as much energy as used per year was reached in 2010. Before the slowdown.

Projections are that all the energy used to make all solar panels will be paid back by installed solar by 2020.
eta: I reread the source. The last sentence should read "all the electricity".

I think your comparison is interesting, encouraging and well worth noting, (that of PV power production vs power used in mfg of PV) .. but ultimately, I don't think that does anything critical to undermine PV's relationship to EROEI.

The comparison does serve to show that the power that's come online from PV is significant, even if it still looks paltry next to our total consumption, whereas almost anyone here has a sense that our total consumption of energy is simply a phenomenal amount of power anyhow, and likely is not one we'll see challenged in a good long time.

EROEI that shows enough of a net serves to suggest to us that we'll be able to use the excess to manage our affairs and keep going, etc.. but while it's a key metric that way, it's still largely beholden to its context. PV remains just a small parcel of our global systems, and it's far from certain that the balances we see now won't be upset by the much heavier effects as the real leading energy players have to face their sunsets, and our whole system is less and less treated to both the actual surpluses of fossil fuels, and also the subsidies and willful blindness that has left us living with invisible elephants that will start to appear.

In short, it's going to take time before we really know how much of our current durabilities are still hanging on unacknowledged bounties from the juicy days of 100:1 oil, and may or may not be as roundly supported in the future by the humbler profits of Solar Electricity.

I can't see how the relative amount of energy provided by solar, be it 0.1%, 10% or 99%, has a bearing. But let me set that aside.

"EROEI that shows enough of a net serves to suggest to us that we'll be able to use the excess to manage our affairs and keep going, etc."

Let me suggest we think in terms of EROnrEI, in which nrE is non-replaceable energy.

If oil was unlimited (or essentially unlimited as is sunshine) then we wouldn't be concerned if oil's EROnrEI was 1.1:1. We could use a bunch of oil in order to slightly increase our supply of oil and that would be fine because we'd never run out of oil. We'd live off that 0.1 and be happy.

We worry about EROnrEI because we recognize that our supply is limited. We've used the cheap and easy to get stuff. The worse the ratio for oil, the faster we use up our supply in order to meet demand.

As we use up our supply of oil at a particular price/ease point (nrE) we have to move to the next most difficult source and use more energy to extract that oil.

With solar (and wind) we can use and use and use. We could power 100% of the world at first world energy levels and the amount of sunshine left would be enormous and constantly replenished.

(And there's CO2, but that's a different conversation.)

"With solar (and wind) we can use and use and use. We could power 100% of the world at first world energy levels and the amount of sunshine left would be enormous and constantly replenished."

Albert Einstein - "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not."

In other words, just having a positive EROEI is not the only factor that will determine whether this 'Use and Use and Use' fantasy can come true. Careful what you wish for..

Why is the statement that we have an essentially unlimited supply of wind and solar energy a fantasy?

Because you're extending a solar potential into the 'we can use and use and use it', as if getting from A to B is a fait accompli. It's not.. PV has great possibilities, as do Wind and other 'clean' sources, but it's a long way from here to there, and we're already facing limits with ecology, economy, water, climate and reckless corporatism.

I don't think it's even a useful goal, personally, as we're seeing the results of being spoiled by so much power.. but that's ok, since it seems that even the power itself is creating enough rot to help it's recipients head back towards a more normal balance at some point.

'Essentially Unlimited'.. it sounds like a Treasure Chest dream.

Clearly there is far more than enough energy from sunshine and wind to power the world many, many times over.

The limits would be the 'machinery' needed to harvest that energy. Steel, aluminum, glass and silicon clearly aren't limits. Water is not required for electricity generation with wind and solar.

Getting from A to B is not a fait accompli. It would take years/decades of hard work. But that does not limit the resource, it just delays full implementation.

Steel, aluminum, glass and silicon clearly aren't limits.

Yes, they most definitely are. I foresee, as per Prof Guy McPherson, a climate crisis within 10-20 years that precludes further use of FFs, and a drastic reduction if not total cessation of mining. That puts the kibosh on your fantasy future.

Big machines run on electricity. They like that stuff. We already mine coal using electricity.

We already use electric hearths and furnaces.

The vast majority of climate scientists seem to not see that 10 to 20 year catastrophe you and Guy are predicting.

Guy McPherson is pretty much as pessimistic as anyone on climate change though. If things are as bad as he thinks then we are pretty much all screwed no matter what we do. But I doubt the situation is that dire.

Then again, if it is then maybe that will be something that gets us to change things a bit.

Written by Bob W:
Water is not required for electricity generation with wind and solar.

Distilled water to add to flooded lead-acid batteries.

Water to wash off bird dropping and dust after months of no rainfall.

Water to manufacture the components.

Water to suppress dust during construction.

Water to mix with concrete for the foundation.

Water to wash the workers after a hard, dirty day of work.

Just because PV and wind use 200 to 300 times less water per kWh of electricity generated than a fossil fueled thermal plant, does not mean they use no water. Be mindful of incorrect, sweeping generalization because the anti-environmentalists will use your errors to defeat you.

Lead-acid batteries will play no significant role on a renewable energy grid. BTW, I use about three gallons a year in my lead-acid batteries.

Solar arrays are seldom washed, if at all.

During construction is weeks. Coal and nuclear thermal plants use immense amounts of water for decades.

My statement was "Water is not required for electricity generation with wind and solar."

Neither solar panels nor wind turbines use water while generating electricity.

How much water is used washing cars? It's all relative to our priorities.

"BTW, I use about three gallons a year in my lead-acid batteries."

Doesn't sound like much. We use quite a bit more. How big is your battery? What's your charging set to? Just curious; we charge ours hard since I read the (now famously "lost") Sandia study.

I've got 12 'golf cart' batteries. Run a 24 volt system. Equalize once a month and find I need to top up the water about every three months.

I've gone to doing a mini-equalization every good solar day; running'em hot. Twelve 2200 AH industrial (forklift) batteries (2 volt cells), so most days they're getting cycled much less than 10%. On a good day they'll be held at 29.5 volts for an hour before the dump loads kick in. (hot water >> AC in summer, radiant floor in winter >> extra water pumping). "Boiling" the electrolyte really reduces stratification and sulfation, especially for the big/tall 2 volt cells. Uses more water, but we have plenty of that here (using an RO filter and watering system). We started dumping amps to hot water 2 hours before solar noon this morning; a good feeling ;-)


 photo 5-13-13output_zpsffb25bfc.jpg

You can see where the dump load kicks in (making hot water) about 11:00 AM. Even while dumping amps to the hot water tank the accumulated output to the system continues to rise nicely, even though the battery was at full charge at 11:00. This went to hot water, two loads of laundry, dish washer, table saw, grinder (sharpening mower blades), other things... 41 KwH produced yesterday. Voltage is an average.

Electricity is needed is needed to recycle steel, a special grade of coal to create coke needed for new steel. New aluminum requires huge amounts of electricity. Both products, whether new or recycled require vast transportation infrastructure in place. It is unclear to me how future limits will impact availablilty and affordability. The effects of a declining economy and declining markets, and declining investment capitol, and ultimately declining marketplace competition will impact prices also. Thus I wonder if PV will continue to get cheaper. In real terms, at some point it may begin to increase in price for the average working person, who will simply have to make do with less.

a special grade of coal to create coke needed for new steel.

Coke isn't essential. Electrolysis, directly or via H2, will work well, albeit at a modestly higher cost.

In 1929 Ireland was run 100% on renewable electricity from one hydropower plant.

When first built, the 86MW plant was adequate to meet the electricity demand of the entire country. Today, Ardnacrusha represents c. 2% of ESB's total installed capacity.

However much we have, we always want more.

Jevons' Paradox: Increased efficiency leads to higher rates of resource use, not lower. Greater efficiency is expressed by civilizations as a higher standard of living, not a reduction in resource consumption. Civilization must be modeled as a higher order living organism, not a machine, and no living organism voluntarily leaves food on the plate.

- paraphrase of Captain T.A. Kiefer, CJCS Chair of the U.S. Air Force Air War College

Increasing our ability to use every part of the resource, eliminating waste, and finding cheaper ways to do more with less - these are all strategies for failure. Living organisms are naturally biased toward growth. The only way to actually conserve is to use less - stop growing. That implies our debt based monetary system ceases to function. It's going to be a 'New World Order' alright; just not the kind the architects of society are planning on.

It's so counterintuitive to basic human nature, though. That's why we are going to run BAU until we finally hit the hard spot on the other side of the cliff.

It's not clear that Jeavon's applies to electricity prices to any important extent.

Few people significantly lower their electricity use to the point where they deny themselves in order to save electricity. Certainly there are some on tight budgets, but that's probably not a large percentage of the population.

If the cost of electricity drops people aren't going to add another room on their house so that they can burn more lights or put another big screen TV in their living room or refer in their kitchen.

If they replace their TV or refer with one which uses less energy they aren't going to buy additional TVs and refers just because replacements are more efficient.

We do not need to limit our growth because we are going to hit an energy limit. We simply need to change our energy sources from finite to essentially unlimited ones.

Every energy source, when it was first discovered, was considered 'essentially unlimited'. This is unreasonable. Everything has a limit. That's the reality of our existence. It's necessary to accept this as a basic premise, in order to actually perform engineering.

I think of this concept as 'The Magical Tree that grows Forever' - it's the basis and root of every unsustainable practice mankind has ever engaged in. Believing in this chimera is how we got where we are now.

But I won't argue the point any further. I also believe it's impossible for 'true believers' to change their opinion on this without some kind of external force impacting their lives. That's what it took for me, anyway. Your day will arrive, I suspect, soon enough.

Energy from the Sun isn't unlimited.

It's just increadibly immense and expected to last for billions of years so we wouldn't be out of line to treat it as unlimited.

There are other limits which we must take seriously. We're getting into trouble with water in several locations, for example. But having all the energy we want/need should not be a concern.

It depends on what the concern is.

If the cost of electricity drops people aren't going to add another room on their house so that they can burn more lights or put another big screen TV in their living room or refer in their kitchen.

As we have more supplies of energy we fall in to the premise that we can constantly increase our consumption of energy. When I was born my parents had had the same tv for 10 years, they kept it for another 10 years. In the last decade they have had 2 new tvs to replace that one and added a second to the house. Equally when I was born, my parents had one car. They now have a car each.

Energy is the concern because it allows us to do what we like and humans tend to not be good at limiting themselves. If we switch wholesale to another energy source be it PV, wind or wave we will be required to completely switch our infrastructure to a new system which will require producing pollution in one form or another. The planet is already showing signs of not being best pleased with the levels of pollution and I doubt a nice new dose of it will help matters.

We will probably go through with the attempt to keep our current living conditions and energy supplies as they are, whether we'll enjoy the world we are forced to live in afterwards will be another matter.

Energy from the Sun isn't unlimited.

Its availability to use on Earth certainly is, though, by many factors.

Written by Bob W:
Energy from the Sun isn't unlimited.


Written by Bob W:
It's just incredibly immense and expected to last for billions of years so we wouldn't be out of line to treat it as unlimited.

False. Exponential population growth would cause humans to consume every bit of 1366 W/m2 of solar radiation incident upon Earth's atmosphere in less than 1000 years. If there is unlimited, cheap energy, then human civilization can refine increasingly ratified deposits and desalinate water at will. Gasoline can be synthesized cheaply from water and CO2 with free electricity.

Bob Shaw's question from Phoenix, Arizona: Are humans smarter than yeast?

Some are.

I encounter the occasional one who does not seem to be....

Some are not enough. They are lost in the crowd.

That's unrealistic.

OECD energy consumption has already plateaued.

Jevons' Paradox: Increased efficiency leads to higher rates of resource use

That only happens early in the course of development, when there's enormous unmet demand. Right now, it mostly reduces consumption in the OECD, as we've seen lately.

finding cheaper ways to do more with less - these are all strategies for failure

I hope no one in the military still believes that. "The military travels on it's stomach" applies also to fuel, and reduced fuel consumption is a prescription for better fighting.

Do these numbers look right?

Solar Parity Arrives Early

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When asked when the cost of solar power might equal that of other grid power, I used to say it would happen in 2015 or 2016. Turns out I'm wrong. The correct answer is now. The continuing shakeout among Chinese solar panel makers will drop the price of panel power to 48 cents/watt this year, according to GTM Research. It's assumed that grid parity is found at 50 cents/watt.

As I have said many times, you ain't seen nothing yet. The GTM report estimates costs will drop to 42 cents/watt in two years. That's not counting the many breakthroughs being found in other materials, some of which could reach the market by that time. All this is enabling the production of solar "mega projects" like one SunPower is building for Berkshire-Hathaway's MidAmerican Energy in Antelope Valley, Calif., which will be delivering 579 Mwatts to the grid.

The Reiner Lemoine Institute in Germany, which has backed a number of solar projects in the past, adds that when wind and solar projects share space, barely 2% of the potential solar power is lost, twice the amount of total electricity is generated, and that this power is complementary -- wind power is primary on winter nights, solar on summer days, as CleanTechnica reports. This architecture limits the amount of storage required for around-the-clock power, the Institute says, meaning that reliable, low-cost and abundant power is here to stay. It's big news for General Electric , which makes wind turbines. Solar and wind energy can live and work together.

Well, I'm skeptical that the price can keep dropping. It was one thing when just the western PV makers went bankrupt. But Chinese PV makers started going bankrupt as well so I don't think PV prices can keep dropping at rates they have been.

What we really need now though is some unification and simplification of the PV building codes in order to make installation faster & easier to do.

First Solar states that they will be producing panels for $0.42/watt by 2017.

Once we get through the current industry shakeout in which the least efficient panel manufacturers are being forced out of business, competition among the survivors will ramp up.

Apparently there is a new, more automated generation of machinery ready to be installed. That will cause a drop in panel cost.

At this time the balance of the system - permitting, labor, racking, sales cost, profit, etc. - is much greater than the cost of panels. That's the opposite of a few years ago when panel prices were well more than 50% of total system cost.

Germany now averages installed solar at $2/watt, the US averages $3.10/watt. (Those are weighted averages for residential/non-residential rooftop and large utility-scale installations.

The UK just brought a new large array on line for $1.60/watt. We're averaging $2.36/watt in the US for large array.

Bringing down these BOS costs is where real savings will occur.

The DOE is aiming for installed solar at $1.50/watt by 2020. It's looking like we'll get there, perhaps early.

When installed prices get to $2/watt we're making electricity for under ten cents per kWh in almost all parts of the lower 48. (The foggy Seattle coast, no.)

In the US we do need to work on permitting costs. A couple states are experimenting with more efficient systems. That will likely spread.

Solar for $0.05/kWh is looking quite possible.

The $/watt figure does not reflect a key point. Consider what is needed to provide the electricity needs for panel manufacture and assume that those processes are constantly in operation. If given the choice today on how to provide that electricity then you have to recognize that solar and wind are intermittent and diffuse sources. To provide the same electricity as fossil fuel power plants with a 90% capacity factor, then 15% solar capacity factor plants need six times the watt capacity and 30% wind capacity factor plants need three times the watt capacity. Throw in some amount of extra money for storage and extra money to for transmission to collect the diffuse power and renewable power for manufacturing even at $1.50/watt is nowhere near competitive.

The way one compares the cost of electricity from different sources is LCOE, the levelized cost of electricity.

The median LCOE of:

Natural gas burned in a combined cycle plant - $0.05/kWh.
Onshore wind - $0.06/kWh.
PV solar - moving under $0.10/kWh.
New coal - greater than $0.12/kWh.
New nuclear - greater than $0.12/kWh.

At $1.50/watt the LCOE for solar will be close to $0.05/kWh.

Old coal, if we do full accounting, is around $0.20/kWh.

All generation technologies are less than 100% 24/365. All generation technologies require backup and transmission. The largest headache for grid managers is when a coal or nuclear plant suddenly goes off line with no prior notice. Wind and solar are more predictable.

The task of grid managers is to find the cheapest power sources in the amounts needed to match demand. Grids which have significant wind and solar installed are doing fine and their power prices are dropping.

I am not the only one who disagrees with you.

Abstract from Comparing the Costs of Intermittent and Dispatchable Electricity Generating Technologies (http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/59468) by Paul Joskow: “Economic evaluations of alternative electric generating technologies typically rely on comparisons between their expected life-cycle production costs per unit of electricity supplied. The standard life-cycle cost metric utilized is the “levelized cost” per MWh supplied. This paper demonstrates that this metric is inappropriate for comparing intermittent generating technologies like wind and solar with dispatchable generating technologies like nuclear, gas combined cycle, and coal. Levelized cost comparisons are a misleading metric for comparing intermittent and dispatchable generating technologies because they fail to take into account differences in the production profiles of intermittent and dispatchable generating technologies and the associated large variations in the market value of the electricity they supply. Levelized cost comparisons overvalue intermittent generating technologies compared to dispatchable base load generating technologies. They also overvalue wind generating technologies compared to solar generating technologies. Integrating differences in production profiles, the associated variations in the market value of the electricity supplied, and life-cycle costs associated with different generating technologies is necessary to provide meaningful comparisons between them.”

The problem I wanted to address in my original comment is whether you repower an old inefficient coal plant with a natural gas combined cycle turbine or try to replace it with renewables. Although all generation technology is not available 100% of the time, the problem with wind and solar if you are using them to replace existing power is that their availabilities are so much less than what can be expected from a gas turbine. The problem is not only the daily issue but the seasonal one as well. Wind is strongest during the summer and fall when load is lowest. How do you store the excess in those periods to cover the high energy demand days of the summer and winter? Solar has an advantage over wind in that we expect it to be available at peak levels during the summer high energy demand day whereas we don’t expect much wind. If we force ratepayers to convert from natural gas heating to electricity then the winter peak will be much higher and then solar will be much less effective. In the replacement case renewables are just too expensive whatever the LCOE estimates are.

I'll dig through your linked study later today. In the meantime let me introduce you to a more recent study which was done to determine the feasibility of a 100% renewable grid.

The authors took on the question of whether it would be possible to run a real world grid on only wind, solar and storage and do it for a reasonable price. They found that they needed to include a tiny bit (0.1%) of natural gas to keep it affordable.

A summary of the paper...

Researchers at University of Delaware used four years of weather and electricity demand/load data in one minute blocks to determine 1) if a combination of wind, solar and storage could meet 99.9% of demand and 2) the most cost effective mix of each to meet demand.

The data for 1999 through 2002 came from the PJM Interconnection, a large regional grid that services all or part of 13 states from New Jersey west to Illinois, from Pennsylvania south into Tennessee and North Carolina. This is the world's largest competitive wholesale electricity market, serving 60 million customers, and it represents one-fifth of the United States' total electric grid.

They used currently available technology and its projected price in 2030. They included no subsidies for wind and solar in their calculation. They did not include hydro, nuclear, tidal or other possible inputs. They also did not include power sales to and purchases from adjacent grids. They used three existing storage technologies - large scale batteries, hydrogen and GIV (grid integrated vehicles).

They found that by 2030 we could obtain 99.9% of our electricity from renewable energy/storage and the remainder 0.1% from fossil fuels for about what we currently pay “all-in” for electricity. The all-in price of electricity which includes coal produced health costs currently paid via tax dollars and health insurance premiums.

During the four year period there were five brief periods, a total of 35 hours, when renewables plus storage were insufficient to fully power the grid and natural gas plants came into play. These were summer days when wind supply was low and demand was high. The cheapest way to cover these ~7 hour events was to use existing natural gas plants rather than to build additional storage. Adding in hydro, tidal, etc. would further reduce this number.

After 28 billion simulations using differing amount of wind, solar, storage and fossil fuels they found the best solution was to over-build wind and solar and at times simply "throw away" some of the produced power. Building "too much" wind and solar turns out to be cheaper than building more storage given the storage solutions we have at this time. Finding markets for the extra production, selling electricity to offset natural gas heating for example, further reduced costs.

Budischak, Sewell, Thomson, Mach, Veron, and Kempton Cost-minimized combinations of wind power, solar power and electrochemical storage, powering the grid up to 99.9% of the time Journal of Power Sources 225 (2013) 60-74


The 2030 projected prices for wind and solar that they used - wind has already dropped to their 2030 estimate and solar has dropped considerably lower. We also seems have more affordable storage coming on line than what they used.

Now, no one suggests running a grid on nothing but wind and solar. This study was a "worst case, could it work?" consideration.

Add in hydro, geothermal, remaining nuclear, biomass/gas, tidal, power exchanges with surrounding grids and load-shifting and the price of electricity would fall considerably.

I am not going to argue that it is not technically feasible.

Economically and life style changes necessary to implement I disagree.

The only way the economics works is to claim negative externality costs and, with all due respect, I do not trust those numbers. If those predicted costs are correct then the improvements in air quality since the 60's should have lowered today's health costs. If you back calculate the impacts against history then air pollution would have been the leading cause of death in that earlier time frame.

Life style changes has to include huge penetration of grid integrated vehicles.

I remember the mid nineties when memory cost $50/MByte. Today it costs around $1/Gbyte!!! The price has collapsed by a factor of 50,000 in 15 years !!! I don't think even the most wild eyed cornucopian predicted this.

I think the same thing is now happening to solar. In a few years it will be so cheap that we will cover all roof tops with it. Sidings for home will come covered with thin film solar. We will cover all electric cars with thin film solar and utilize the trickle of charge you get when you park in the sun. All backpacks, briefcases and jackets will be covered with thin film solar.

10 years from now no one will want to buy a gasoline car because electric cars will be cheaper.

I think you are missing the fact that progress in digital electronics is not anything like what can happen with solar PV. Remember "Moore's Law", which claimed that the number of transistors on a chip would double (roughly) every 18 months. That was the result of continuing developments which resulted in ever smaller transistors, thus more could be packed on a chip. So, over 18 years since 1995, that would result in 12 such doubles, for an increase in transistors of 2^10 or 4096 per chip. Also, desktop computer memory today runs about $10 per GByte retail in the US, not $1. Those cheap memory sticks weren't available in the mid-1990's, so your comparison may overstate the cost decline.

Sad to say, the cost of solar cells can't decline that fast, since the size of the cells will remain the same. It's likely that the easy cost reductions have already occurred...

E. Swanson

I didn't mean that the installed cost of solar will drop by a factor of 50,000. What I meant was that we will see a rapid drop in price of solar panels analogous to drop in price of DRAM chips. It has already gone down to 50c/W. If price drops by another factor of 10, solar electricity will be too cheap to meter.

I suspect that 10 years from now new houses will be built with solar shingles because it will be cheaper than buying power from the grid.

That $.50/w represents a collapsing manufacturing base rather than a decline in manufacturing cost. I purchased my panels for what the plate glass alone would normally cost me, because the manufacturer had gone bankrupt. For the price of PV to decline as much as people are hoping, the product may have to be cheapened in unacceptable ways. For me the long warrantee and potential 40-50 year life comes first and foremost - give me a used, quality product if I cannot afford a new one, rather than a 5 or 10 year throw away panel. In the long run I would be better off.

No, manufacturing cost for solar panels is somewhere between fifty and sixty cents per watt.

The solar industry states that they can continue to make a high quality product at a lower price over the coming years.

People who closely follow the panel industry find this likely.

The price of solar panels has fallen from $100/watt to just above $0.50/watt in 30 years.

That may not be as rapid as Moore's "Observation" and computer chips, but it's still smokin' fast.

The solar panel manufacturing industry predicts another ~33% price drop in the next four years.

Memory and electronic logic got cheaper per unit, because we made it smaller. We could do the same with PV, panels that are 1 micron by 1 micron ought be be less than a penny. Only problem is you won't get much juice out of them.
So PV is a bit like electronics, but we need a large surface area of them to do the same task. Hard to make a panel cheaper than the cost of glass!

USB flash drives: $16 for 16 GB = $1/GB

The first computer hard drive I purchased (30 megs for about $8,000 in 2012 dollars) figures out at $266,667 per gig.

About 30 years to 26,667x.

In only the other things I want would do as well....

I think the same thing is now happening to solar.

Not at all. It is not close to the same.

It is far closer to advances in plastics and plastic making but not at all close to the advances in making microchips.

(And there's CO2, but that's a different conversation.)

But is it really? To me at least it is quite clear that we can't continue to release any more CO2 into the atmosphere. Therefore we must cease all use of fossil fuels immediately. This is not some academic point.
This is the reality we need to deal with.

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

All that extra energy in the system has known and many unknown consequences. Our support systems are non linear chaotic systems that can and do pass tipping points. People can pretend that ecological destruction and flora and fauna species extinction can continue to be swept under the carpet. I think those people are going to be in for a very rude surprise!

People can pretend that ecological destruction and flora and fauna species extinction can continue to be swept under the carpet. I think those people are going to be in for a very rude surprise!

Part of the reason this is possible is that most people never, ever see or interact with most of these plants and animals that are going under. I snorkel regularly, so I can see what is there or not there, but many people simply never have any interaction with wild things. Even the suburbs are different now; in my youth, I played in the woods, though video games were getting popular... Now, the woods I played in have turned to houses, and video games are "more real than reality".

When the majority of humanity is urbanized, the majority of humanity is cut off from nature. What you never see and never know you can never love. Will anyone protect something they don't love?

Ultimately, though, natural systems support our life. You can't eat money or electricity. Most people really don't understand that.

"What you never see and never know you can never love. Will anyone protect something they don't love?" Very good expression and understanding of human motivation.

"What you never see and never know you can never love. Will anyone protect something they don't love?"

This has nothing to do with love. Like adamx above I scuba dive and snorkel and have been doing that for over 35 years so I too have seen a non stop degradation of reef habitat during that time. I also understand logarithmic scales and pH. There was a time I might have framed the discussion in terms of protecting what I love, that time has long long past. I now simply deal with physical, chemical and biological realities and how they relate to survival!

What's love but a second-hand emotion?
What's love got to do
Got to do with it?

Tina Turner

I really don't have time for 'LOVE'!

Dr. Hannibal Lecter: No. We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don't you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don't your eyes seek out the things you want?...

Like cars, smartphones, whatever's on the TV?

[kuhv-it] verb (used with object)

1. to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others: to covet another's property.

There's a lot of that going on these days...

Fred, I commercial dove for 28 years and stacked up ungodly bottom time - my 4 top years were between 800 and 900 hours bottom time for each year - hours, not dives (I wish I still had the ability to do that). The ocean is a different place now. The water temp is too warm where I am - a very noticable difference - the boreal species are under stress, there are invasive species in abundance,and the bottom is changing to what the biologists call an alternative stable state in many places. Its sad - I bring my kids to the sea shore, and locally there is an invasive species that looks like green slime and fills the tidal pools - my kids don't realise that tidal pools aren't supposed to look like that. Sad. The changes underwater are phenomenal in large areas and the public is so unaware of it - out of sight, out of mind. Neither are they aware of the complexity of the underwater world - a small region has areas as different as a mountaintop from a valley from a forest from a prairie and then some.
People have no idea what we are doing to the world.

Seagatherer, I wish it wasn't so... but wishing doesn't change reality. Back in the late 70s I was doing saturation diving on oil rigs off the coast of Brazil. I dove some really incredible places. If only I knew then what I know now.

Take care brother!

"For us, the world was full of beauty; for the other, it was a place to be endured until he went to another world. But we were wise. We knew that man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard.”
― Chief Luther Standing Bear

TOD: The Energy Return of (Industrial) Solar - Passive Solar, PV, Wind and Hydro (#5 of 6), Nate Hagens, April 29, 2008

TOD: Nine Challenges of Alternative Energy, David Fridley, August 19, 2010

Do a Google search for "life cycle assessments" and "Alsema."

Written by Bob W:
Does that make the ERORI evaluation of solar panels irrelevant? We're no longer using any energy source that will run out for billions of years.

Energy is not the only thing needed to manufacture photovoltaic panels. If the amount of energy needed to extract, refine or recycle the raw materials changes, then the ERoEI will change.

It depends on where that energy comes from.

As we move our extraction and refining processes to electricity and away from oil/coal we lock in inexpensive electricity.

Generally as a resource depletes, more energy is need to extract and refine it.

OK, I spent some time with Fridley's 9 challenges. The article was about liquid fuels, but let me apply it to electricity since that's the issue under discussion.

1. Scalability and timing. No problem for renewables.

2. Commercialization. Done.

3. Sustainability. Not a problem. At least for a few billion more years.

4. Material Input Requirements. Not a problem.

We might have to build wind turbines without rare earth magnets but that's something we've already done. It just means that the turbines would be a bit less efficient and electricity prices slightly higher.

5. Intermittentcy. I posted the summary of a paper which show this to be a solvable problem.

6. Energy density. Not an issue. The important issue when it comes to electricity is LCOE, not the density of the input energy as the input is free.

7. Water. Neither solar panels, wind turbines or batteries use water during operation. If we use pump-up hydro storage that is a closed loop system and we need replace only evaporation losses annually.

8. Law of Receding Horizons. Wind and solar can be manufactured and installed with little to no fossil fuel inputs. Not a worry.

9. ERI/EROI/EROEI. Not a problem.

Wind turbines return the energy it takes to manufacture, install, maintain and recycle them in 3 to 8 months depending on wind strength where they are installed. Add in some more months to extract and refine the materials. Call it a year on average. With an expected life span of 30 years, so 30:1.

Solar panels return the energy it takes to manufacture them in less than two years and perform for at least 40 years. Call it 20:1.

And since the input energy will largely be unlimited the concept of EROEI doesn't particularly matter.

The Hall (not Hagens) paper is badly out of date.

Solar panels have increased in efficiency. More watts per pound of aluminum/glass/whatever. Silicon wafers are sliced much thinner with low kerf saws so that wafer waste is much less. Manufacturing processes have improved, reducing the amount of energy required....

Wind turbines have become much more efficient. Today's turbines are not 2008's turbines. Average turbine output capacity has risen from the low 30% level to well into the 40% range with some turbines hitting 50% capacity. Gear trains have been eliminated. Blades are manufactured more efficiently.

Nice job for the time. Doesn't hold today.


"There is one thing that we know for sure in this strange period when bankers have tried to manage reality in the absence of truth: that advanced industrial-technological economies designed to run on $20-a-barrel oil can’t run on $100-a-barrel oil, and that is why the US economy was subject to financialization in the first place - to offset declining productive activity by an attempt to get something for nothing. Notice that this macro-trend coincided exactly with the rise of legalized gambling all over America. That is how the idea that you could get something for nothing got to be normal. The world is about to find out that you really can’t get something for nothing. It will be a harsh lesson."


The word is getting out...

Large cars and need to use them is a real problem.

The Fed ventriloquists who speak through Hilsenrath at The Wall Street Journal suggest they would accomplish their exit from the current $85billion-a-month QE policy in a set of “halting steps” by irregularly dialing down QE issuance month-by-month to fine-tune the results on-the-fly, as markets may require.

If there are more buys than sells, stocks go up and why not at anything near 85 billion a month filtering into the markets. But at some threshold of the 'Halting Steps' slow down in QE, there will be more sells than buys. Because most investors are aware of Fed policy to end QE they will drop those stocks so fast the panic will be palpable. Look for a one day record cliff drop, not in the high hundreds, but in the thousands.

The questions then get harder. How to get the economy moving again without the crutch of QE and after the markets have crashed similar to 08? We're all going to feel like we've driven into deep mud with a 2 wheel drive vehicle, because if the velocity of money was slow before, it will crawl after this coming debacle.

Bill Gates was on 60 Minutes last night. His reading list includes books by Vaclav Smil and the cornucopian Matt Ridley. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50146679n
He is also interested in nuclear power

Gates will bring a new meaning with the blue screen of death, when he gets into nuclear.

I have read three books by Matt Ridley, Genome, The Red Queen and Nature via Nurture. They were really good. I have never read his political/cornucopia book, "The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves" and have no intention or reading it. But I have read articles by him on the subject. It really shook me when he started writing that crap. He was one of my heroes. So sad.

Ron P.

Are they the same person? I had assumed they were different people with the same name.

They are definitely the same person. Go to Amazon.com and type in "Matt Ridley" Then click on "Amazon's Matt Ridley Page". This will bring up all his books including the ones I listed above.

Actually he had published one such cornucopian book before "The Rational Optimist". He published "Down to Earth: Contrarian View of Environmental Problems" in 1995.

Dr Ridley is one of a number of environmentalists who are seeking to counter the inaccurate and misleading opinions of 'mainstream environmentalism'. This volume brings together a selection of 30 of Dr Ridley's 'Down to Earth' columns which appeared in The Sunday Telegraph.

So if I had been a regular reader of The Sunday Telegraph I would have been aware of his environmental optimistic views. But somehow I was totally ignorant of this side of him.

What really floors me it he is a biologist. A biologist should be aware of what is happening to the environment. And it is all caused by human overshoot. A point that he must be unaware of:
Search: Paul MacCready on nature vs. humans | Video on TED.com

10,000 years ago humans and their animals represented less than one tenth of one percent of the land and air vertebrate biomass of the earth. Now they are 97 percent.

A biologist should be aware of this fact. One cannot possibly an environmental optimist when he contemplates the full weight of that statement.

Ron P.

Matt Ridley is certainly an "interesting" character. Somehow, between writing his books on popular biology and economics, he also found time to become the chairman of the UK bank Northern Rock, leading it into dramatic collapse and the first run on a British bank for 125 years. Then, after having his skin saved by a huge govt. bail out, his next book denounced the evils of government bail outs!

Google for "george monbiot" and "the-man-who-wants-to-northern-rock-the-planet"

I have to wonder what draws tech types to nuclear so strongly. Is it the "wow, big power!" factor, like a big truck or sportscar? Is it a complete lack of understanding and connection with biological systems? A view of time that can't grasp that this stuff is still poison a thousand years from now, while we've only been using electricity for a little over a hundred years? Is it the religious belief in progress?

That "cute" solar and wind is being built, right now, and powers homes and businesses. At some point we may have to change our patterns to fit when energy is available rather than fitting energy entirely to our percieved 24/7 "needs". Isn't that preferable to making yet more waste and courting disaster with nuclear?

How stupid would we have to be to move from one dirty energy source to another?

There seems to be a love of the complex. It extends to not only nuclear but also to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

I think we're really close to affordable storage which will allow a 24/365 renewable grid with very little adjustment in our lifestyles.

"...with very little adjustment in our lifestyles."

There's the rub. It's our collective lifestyles that must change. Some of these threads indicate that some of us are focussed on maintaining a surplus of energy and all that it enables. But it is the surplus that has driven growth, especially in human population. Growth must be stopped, and reversed, if we are to survive ourselves. In short, overshoot must be countered by stewarship; limits to growth must be recognized and honored, or it's same story different energy source. What's the point?

The intermittancy and seasonality of solar has enriched our lives in some unexpected ways. That this is the paradigm in which we evolved has become more clear.

If we move to renewable energy and use sustainable feedstock for our manufacturing why would we need to reverse our growth?

Gosh, Bob, if you think that energy and 'manufacturing feed stock' are humanity's only limits to growth, I strongly urge you to broaden your assessment of our situation. Arable land, water, climatic cycles, etc., have all been major factors in limiting the growth of civilizations, long before fossil fuels and industrialism. It's clear that, somehow, you think this time is different. The only significant difference this time is the shear scale of the level and rate at which we've exceeded our environment's carrying capacity.

No, what I am saying is that we can continue to lead comfortable lives as long as we change to sustainable inputs.

Our population does seem to be limiting itself. We are on track to top out at around nine billion and then start a gradual decline. Much of the developed world is already experiencing population decline.

We can feed nine billion. We are feeding seven million while wasting a large percentage of our food production (around 50% for both the US and Africa).

We will need to make adjustments as climate change makes it harder to grow food but we should be able to do that.

what I am saying is that we can continue to lead comfortable lives as long as we change to sustainable inputs.

This may be true (to some extent), but it does not logically follow that achieving this allows for endless growth. If everyone on earth immediately adopted a low-input, low-consumption, permaculture lifestyle, people would have a reasonable quality of life and there would be growth in some sectors. However, there would be MASSIVE contraction in other parts of the economy (retail, manufacturing, finance, fossil energy) and overall, GDP's would decrease (probably pretty dramatically, especially if population peaks as you expect it to).

This outcome does not jive with the current economic system, so the current model of infinite growth must and will end. We have to accept this and figure out a way to switch from the debt-based, infinite growth system to something that meshes better with natural systems and limits. If we try to keep growing, we'll eventually collapse, as has happened every other time in history.

We can feed nine billion. We are feeding seven million while wasting a large percentage of our food production (around 50% for both the US and Africa).

I wrote up-thread with search link: 10,000 years ago humans and their animals represented less than one tenth of one percent of the land and air vertebrate biomass of the earth. Now they are 97 percent.

Why not go for 100 percent of the land and air vertebrate biomass of the earth. If we hit nine billion human beings, then with our cattle, pigs, chickens and other domestic animals and pets, we could easily be at 99 percent of the land and air vertebrate biomass of the earth. It should be very easy to stamp out the other 1 percent from that point. We should shoot for no megafauna left in the wild. We have zoos and that is what they are for.

Ron P.

That's one heck of a fact. The implications are staggering.

Imagine if your body was so riddled with cancer that 90% of your body's mass was cancer cells.

That an overwrought comparison in some respects but not in others. In any event, while I'm not a medical doctor, it's pretty clear that you'd be dead.

However, as a fraction of biomass on the planet, the fraction that is humans, their crops, and their animals is only about 3% (based on some quick Googling). That's still a MASSIVE fraction of all the biomass on Earth. We're only one species and yet we directly or indirectly compose almost 3% of all biomass on Earth.

Okay, a clarification is needed here. It is not 97% of the biomass of the earth but 97% of the land and air vertebrate biomass of the earth. That is off all the land and air animals with backbones on the earth then 97%, by weight, are humans and their pets and domestic animals. That excludes all plants, invertebrates and water borne animals.

But we went from less than one tenth of one percent 10,000 years ago to 97 percent today.

Ron P.

As empty as the sky is of birds now, and the local forests of game, compared to when I was young, and as much as the worlds cities have expanded, I don't doubt that figure. It is no wonder we are quickly coming up against resource limits.
It is a shame that such vast amounts of energy dense fossil energy sources exist, and that we had the smarts and determination to use it so quickly. It really does remind me of addiction - when I was young, I worked in a private detox hospital for a couple years. Physical withdrawal can be unbearably painful for a very long time, and if unmanaged, can kill the patient (as can addiction when the patient chooses not to stop).

I don't know where you live but every morning the birds wake me up at 5:00 am and there is no way I can get back to sleep. From robins to great horned and barred owls, swallows, juncos,...you name it. On the chuck the seabirds are more than prolific. The elk are so numerous I had to construct a 7 ft high gate to keep them out and fence in all gardens. We have to watch out for cougars and bears.

Maybe it is simply time for you to move and leave barren cities and urban landscapes to those who know nothing else or like to shop. There is a big wide world out there full of wonder. There are very good places to live in the US and Canada. While we are very happy in our home, I have a mental list of where I could move to and why I would do so. When we left our town that turned into a 35,000 pop. city, all my friends laughed and said they couldn't believe we would leave. Now, they all say they would move in a minute but their wives like to shop or go to plays. There are always choices and compromises in between the statements of how the world is and there always has been. You may have to take a pay cut or work away, but there are always options.


Paulo - I lived 3 yrs in Taddoussac, Canada - still tons of birds - I visited Texas recently - still tons of birds. The lat few times I visited the Everglades, a few years ago, there were maybe 5% of what there was in the early 70's. Back then it was astounding. Unfortunately, where I live, the birds have taken a beating - not scarce, but nothing like the 60's and 70's - and I live in rural Maine. Woodcock, once plentiful, disappeared for over a decade from my sight - the last couple of years I've started seeing them again. Eagles and hawks are doing fine. Ruffed Grouse were numerous, now I might see one now an then on a woodland hike. Mallards have noticeably declined, though Canada geese are now on the increase. Deer will never return to what they were since the Eastern coyotes showed up - some years it seems like no fawns at all make it. The eastern cottontail used to be plentiful near my home, now it is gone and a threatened species. The snowshoe hare tracks around my house have dissappeared for the past few years - I used to watch them on my lawn at times - with the coyotes, they won't return in prior numbers. The songbirds have declined in my feeders over the years - maybe its the housecats? Or maybe lost habitat somewhere along there migration? I guess its all where you live, and whether you've lived there long enough to notice a change.
Some urban environments will have the birds - Quebec City in late March - drive northeast toward Montmorency Falls and look to the right - the huge St Lawrence tidal mudflats (hopefully your driving by at low tide) at first look like they are covered with snow - look closer - hundreds of thousands of snow geese. Several migration routes converge at this food source.

Ninety seven percents just sounds way too large. Does this include seabirds? What about smaller critters. Just thinking about my suburban neighborhood their are: raccoons, squirrels, rock lizards, several varieties of birds, mice, moles, toads. Many of these in terms of numbers outnumber humans. Admittedly most of these are associated with humans, taking advantage of the unnatural environment, which includes artificial ponds (ducks/geese/toads), lots of irrigated flowering stuff -many birds, discarded food, etc. etc. I could believe 90%, but 97% just seems unachievable.

I heard once the tonnage of ant flesh outweighs humans.

Okay, ants are not vertebrates and we are talking about mass, that is weight, not numbers. One cow in a pasture will outweigh all the other vertebrate critters in the pasture combined. And you will find many cows there and hardly anything else. Perhaps a field mouse or two and a few toads. There are dairy farms and beef farms. There are pig farms with thousands of pigs and There are tens of millions of chickens and one chicken will outweigh how many sparrows?

Hey search the link: Paul MacCready on nature vs. humans | Video on TED.com It will be the first link that appears. And those figures are less than 2 minutes into the video.

And yes I can believe 97%.

Ron P.

why would we need to reverse our growth?

AHRG##@%&*!!! I can't stop slamming my head into my desk! Are you kidding me?!

Put on your bike helmet.

It will protect your desk from damage.

We can feed nine billion.

Right! Can you back that statement up with some hard data or is that just some gut feeling of yours? Climate change notwithstanding.

Google: 'Global Footprint Network' Be sure to spend some time in the Footprint science and methodology section.

Data and Results

The National Footprint Account 2011 developed by Global Footprint Network, provide comprehensive data on humanity’s demand on nature. They track how this demand compares across several over 200 countries, territories, and regions, and how it relates to the planet’s biological capacity to meet these demands.

We are in deep overshoot with 7 billion, this is not just some idle speculation. We have the empirical evidence and data to be able to make that statement with 100% certainty.

So please provide data to the contrary if you can.

I'm not going to spend time digging up the data right now.

My understanding is that the US wastes roughly 50% of the food we produce. We simply throw away a tremendous amount of food.

My understanding is that approximately 50% of the food produced in Africa is lost to vermin and spoilage due to inadequate storage and transportation infrastructure.

Agriculture practices in many parts of Africa are well below optimal. Production could be increased a great deal by moving to more effective farming methods.

We use a very large amount of our produced food to raise livestock. That results in large amounts of food lost which could be feeding people.

Now, from seven billion to nine billion is a 29% increase in mouths to feed. I think I've shown you where well more than that amount of food can be found.

You can also add in the fact that we are developing crops with higher yields and methods of more intensive production. New rice planting techniques are roughly doubling production.

Bob - spend some time with the Global Footprint Network website - it is very interesting and well documented. Insights to be had there.

Here, I looked it up a little. This is from the Wiki 'Food Waste' page. You can check the references to see where the data came from...

As of 2011, 1.3 billion tons of food, about one third of the global food production, are lost or wasted annually.[1] Loss and wastage occurs on all steps in the food supply chain. In low-income countries, most loss occurs during production, while in developed countries much food – about 100 kilograms (220 lb) per person and year – is wasted at the consumption stage.[1]

That 1/3rd lost would feed 2.3 billion.

And here's a site that covers increased rice yields. I stripped off the triple w stuff in order to avoid modland.


You can find this on the Cornell University web site...

"If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million," David Pimentel, professor of ecology in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, reported at the July 24-26 meeting of the Canadian Society of Animal Science in Montreal.

That's another 0.8 billion. 3.1 billion, not counting the rice increase.

Bob w .One has to look at the complete picture . Just because 1/3 is wasted does not imply that the 1/3rd could have been delivered or got to by the hungry 1/3rd in some other part of the world . You have to take logistics in account .Is there enough refrigerated shipping capacity to send the cooked meals from USA to Africa or say Afghanistan ? Are there good roads ,distribution systems in the recipient country to distribute this ? Just figures are deceptive . Some years ago the monsoon in India was above normal , the only problem was that most of it was over the desert area and not in the wheat belt leading to a shortfall.

In some cases we will end up moving people to where the food is found.

We will improve both agricultural practices and infrastructure in Africa. The Chinese are working on that right now.

And they lived happily thereafter .???

"We will improve both agricultural practices and infrastructure in Africa. The Chinese are working on that right now."

For the Chinese.

Actually their agreements take care of food for the other countries as well.

In addition, the roads they build for their use will be usable for all. The ag techniques they use will be learned. The storage they will build will reduce spoilage and show locals how to build good storage.

As a kid I remember being able to limit out on wild caught chinooks and coho. Limits went down, availbility too. Now I hope the fish they raise in pens in Chile isn't too full of mercury and various organics to be a health hazard. The roads being built in South Amercia and Africa are used by all....big business and bushmeat hunters. How does that tip the scales as we eat teh last few large vertebrate species?

Yes...perhaps the planet could feed 2 billion more, but I would prefer real food, not tofu burgers, not solyent green.

If we make it to 9 billion and the proverbial wheels are still on the cart, do we talk about 10 billion? Will we control our destiny, or will we step back in time and try to outbreed our [fellow human] competitors?

Good luck getting all those 'hard working' people to give up their 'entitlements'. People like the narrative that they are hard working bla bla bla and that they deserve the financial compensation they receive. You'll find the people who earn say 3* the typical income will likely consume about 6* the resources because a lot of what the poorer people spend money on isn't exactly resource intensive. I rent a room in a house and I take a bus as a student so my personal footprint is only as big as what I eat pretty much, and I live in New Zealand so we aren't exactly over-populated either.

Written by dr_dr:
If we make it to 9 billion and the proverbial wheels are still on the cart, do we talk about 10 billion?

We will be talking about maintaining 9 billion people to infinity at the peak of population. That talk will continue long after the population begins to decline. Optimists and denialists can not handle bad news.

Roads mean ecological destruction of areas there were not previously accessible.

Can the hungry mouths afford the food? Why not?

Why didn't the Green Revolution feed everybody and end poverty worldwide?

Are humans smarter than yeast?

Are humans smarter than yeast?

I gotta print that on a T-Shirt.

I want one.

will improve both agricultural practices and infrastructure in Africa. The Chinese are working on that right now

But, will the food be left for the Africans? Or, exported to China?

Everything I've read states that some of the food will stay and some go to China.

China has been doing quite a bit to help African countries. Here's a bit from a white paper on China-Africa economic and trade cooperation...

Conducting multiform agricultural cooperation. Food security is important for stable development and poverty relief efforts in Africa. Agriculture is the pillar industry of most African countries and a priority field for China-Africa economic and trade cooperation. China always regards helping Africa solve its food security problem as its ultimate goal in China-Africa agricultural cooperation.

The major fields of China-Africa agricultural cooperation cover infrastructure construction, food production, the breeding industry, exchange and transfer of agricultural practical techniques, and processing, storage and transport of agricultural products.

By the end of 2009, China had helped to build more than 142 agricultural projects in Africa such as pilot agro-technical stations, stations for popularizing agricultural techniques and farms. China has launched 14 agricultural technology demonstration centers in Africa, and provided a large amount of agricultural materials and equipment. The Chinese government also encourages its enterprises to invest in agricultural product processing and agricultural development projects in Africa.


At the same time there are reports of the Chinese and Africans not getting along all that well at times. I suppose no one should expect everything to go smoothly and at times one side or the other will take advantages.

I'm reminded of What's the Matter With Africa?

Jared Diamond has argued that Africa actually did have a perfectly good civilization for its environment. The system that works in Europe cannot be supported in Africa. The problems are different, and have different solutions.

The problem with Africa today is the attempt to impose the ill-fitting European "toolkit" on it. It just didn't work. As a result, Europeans gave up trying to colonize it, as they did with the Americas, and instead built "outward-facing" infrastructure dedicated to extracting resources.

Maybe China will somehow be better than the rest of us...but I doubt it. I think there will be more Darwin's Nightmare scenarios. And situations like the child slavery in Côte d'Ivoire, where people who don't have enough to eat are forced to grow luxury foods for export.

That's another 0.8 billion

The livestock fed some fraction of that 800 million people. Your vision of the future is everyone eating bread and no one eating meat, a reduced standard of living all for the sake of packing more people on the planet. That is the choice people made in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh: 1257 people/km2 of land
11,833 people/km2 of water
2345 people/km2 of arable land
Canada: 3.8 people/km2 of land
38.5 people/km2 of water
88 people/km2 of arable land
Australia: 2.9 people/km2 of land
378 people/km2 of water
47 people/km2 of arable land

I'm not in favor of packing more people on the planet.

People reproduce and at the moment we're reproducing too fast. The rate of reproduction has been slowing and it is expected that the world's population will peak in the latter half of this century and then start to drop.

Were we smart we would look at the factors that lead to high birth rates and work to make the peak lower and sooner. That's an option we have.

I don't think many of us would support either letting a very large number of people starve to death nor would we support intentionally killing off a large portion of the population. That means that we're going to be feeding more people.

As/if populations rise faster than food production the price of food will increase. Meat will likely increase the most as it is the most expensive to produce. Many people will choose to eat less meat in order to lower their food costs.

Eating less meat will result in less meat being raised. That, in turn, will free up some of the food now going to livestock.

I've spent some time in Bangladesh. People aren't packed in there as much as they are in most American cities.

That said, you can't make a sensible comparison between Bangladesh, Canada and Australia. Both of the latter have very large areas where people would find it very difficult to live. Were Canada tropical and Australia not a very large desert surrounded by a rim of habitable land their people/km2 levels would not be nearly so low.

Abundant, cheap energy, whether it be fossil or renewable, would allow population to resume increasing instead of slowing toward a peak. When there is a bad crop year in food exporting countries, they halt exports of food which leaves people in importing countries with high prices and inadequate supply creating civil unrest. That is how capitalism starves and kills people. It is an easy policy. Thus Egypt is a teetering domino vulnerable to both peak oil and climate change because they used the revenue from historical crude oil exports to grow their population beyond their local carrying capacity. Now there are no more exports and no more revenue to buy the food.

The population densities relative to water and arable land make the comparison sensible.

We just need to convince society to become largely vegetarian - or at least chickenarians - the feed conversion factor of Cornish crosses is very high.
WRT beef insofar as feed conversion goes, society would be fine with beef that has been limited to rangeland, which historically includes a lot of land that is not useful for agriculture, rather than fattening up the beef critters with perfectly good grain. In fact such beef can make sense.

Good stuff - thanks Fred - huge amounts of cites, low hundreds by the looks, in major peer reviewed journals in their Academic References section, lots of documentation.

Looking at their charts I should move to Canada. Or maybe New Zealand.

Because the Earth is a finite bottom of a gravity well and only so many people can be at the bottom of this gravity well.

Ghung said,

In short, overshoot must be countered by stewarship; limits to growth must be recognized and honored, or it's same story different energy source.

This is one reason I don't post much anymore. Many TODsters seem to believe that a tweak here or there will allow BAU/BAU Lite to continue in some form off into the future and I don't have the time nor feel it's worth the effort to debate the issue.

Few people want to talk about new paradigms/alternative societies. Further more, unlike the hippie days, few are even trying possible alternatives to BAU. At best, they play around the edges.

Granted no one has a crystal ball but given the science background of many of us it strikes me as ridiculous that people can't at least look at the data and recognize that our current society is not going to last into the future.


Hear hear!

I think there is more engineering background than science background here, much less ecological literacy.

Hey - some engineers do get it!


Of course some do - and are making appropriate efforts. I was grossly generalizing. There are engineers who think ecologically, and ecologists who think only of engineering "solutions", and everything in between.

Some years ago I had a reply to Aniya about "post-peak education". Following that I prepared a key post for Campfire but Campfire was cancelled before I submitted it.

I'm beat to heck after doing "necessary work" outside all day and don't feel like doing a search. My point is that some of us have spent significant time considering radically different societies that, on the surface at least, might provide both a sustainable society as well as a satisfying one. Mine sure as heck wasn't BAU.


"The Permian–Triassic (P–Tr) extinction event, informally known as the Great Dying, was an extinction event that occurred 252.28 Ma (million years) ago, forming the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geologic periods, as well as the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras. It is the Earth's most severe known extinction event, with up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct... The end-Permian is the only known mass extinction of insects..."~ Wikipedia

What kind of extinction event(s) knocks out insects?

We're already in an extinction event.

You Could Feel The Sky

Happy 400th.

Amen. However if one has the energy to point the way to decent documentation it may really help out the readers who are using the website to develop their knowledge. People largely are not to blame for the amount of bad info fed to them by media sources, and careful documentation may really help someone out in their personal choices. Note the good work done by Heading Out in his Tech Talk series, for example.

They say a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged well I've met survivalists who think nuclear is OK. A place near me is off grid and has tracking solar, a battery bank, an emergency generator and at the bottom of the hill is a microhydro. Trouble is it breaks down all the time. The owner told me 'I'm getting too old for this sh*t' and wished everybody had access to low cost nuclear electricity.

Yeah, I have a lot of admiration for the people that run their own off-grid systems. But let's be realistic. Most people can't even change their own oil or change a tire. They certainly won't be able to run their own off-grid systems unless someone really idiot-proofs them.

I've been off the grid for over 20 years.

If I could hook up for a reasonable amount of money I probably would. It's the backup generation that's a PITA. Going out in the snow to fill/start/stop the generator.

(I'd still put panels on my roof in order to minimize the hurt.)

Bob W or others who are obviously solar-savvy...

I've decided to get serious about installing some roof-mount solar PV on my house. In the past I have gotten quotes ranging from $60-$80k for microinverter systems that were quite large. Frankly it isn't worth that price to me, and I'm figuring I could just do it myself in a scaled fashion for much cheaper. I'm an EE power systems engineer for a living so the electrical portion of it doesn't scare me.

I'd prefer an inverter system that is grid-tied but allows for battery backup in the future vs. the microinverters which don't work if the grid is down (happens fairly frequently around here with storms and hurricanes). Mounting them is going to be a pain, but if I start on the garage portion of my roof then it is safer and more easily accessible. Even if I can find someone to physically mount the racks to the roof I still think it would be quite a bit cheaper if I did the rest.

My problem is figuring out all the regulatory and incentive BS for my state (Maryland). Trying to wade through the government sites is near impossible, and I'm hoping there is some sort of website or resource out there which basically lists what is available for each state. I'll have to work with my electric co-op for the grid-tie portion of it, but I think I can do that. It's jumping through all the various legislative hurdles that gives me pause.

Soooo, anybody know of any handy resources that can assist someone who finally wants to get off their ass to start building a scalable grid-tied PV system?

... anybody know of any handy resources that can assist someone who finally wants to get off their ass to start building a scalable grid-tied PV system?"


Pick your state. Scrool down for loacal requirements.

Search HomePower.com for past articles. Many don't require subscription and include diagrams/schematics. Lots of good stuff on codes as well.

Home Power Magazine

Look for local green agencies and ask them for leads.

Sun Electronics has some very good prices on panels, inverters and system packages. They have grid-tie systems (less racking) for under $2/watt.


You might want to consider grid-tie with batteries, but only a small amount of battery storage.

Rather than spend a lot on batteries which would spend a lot of time waiting for a grid outage, consider using a EV or PHEV as your emergency storage. Have enough batteries in the system to keep you powered up for a few hours. Use your ride as a big mobile battery bank rather than spending a few thousand on batteries to carry you 2-3 days.

The LEAF comes with a built in inverter which you can use to power your house.

You could always go gurella and just do it, damn the permits. Sticking with 48vDC and lower avoids inspection in more than a few locations. 48vDC used to be common in Telco's and you can still get power supplies for 48vDC so your computers can run.

As long as you don't touch the power grid you might be able to get away with it. And if you follow what the NEC says you'd be OK if the locals come by with the inspection team.

In some locations wiring it yourself does not require a permit unless you sell the house, at which time it would need to be signed off by an inspector. Where I live the utility is only concerned with the inverter - the rest is up to the town.

DSIRE and homepower hit the spot! Damn my county for not offering any tax incentives whereas the rest of Maryland seems to get them. I spent some of the evening scoping out charger/inverters and they actually aren't as expensive as I was figuring. Even an 8kW unit can be had for under $5k pretty easily. And the panels themselves are pretty cheap. Now I need to start forming a realistic budget. I'm not too worried about adding batts right away since they're not uber-critical. My main priority is just to get the panels and grid-tie performed, then I can worry about adding batteries at my convenience. I'm starting to get pumped!

Take note that there is a difference in grid-tie and grid-tie with battery backup inverters. Make sure you get the type you want from the get-go.

You could start small and add to your system as you go. Best to make sure your wire runs, breakers, etc. are sized for the system you want to end up with.

Batteries need to be added all at the same time. If one battery is older and not working too well it will bring the rest down to its level. Panels, you can add a few at a time.

"Take note that there is a difference in grid-tie and grid-tie with battery backup inverters. Make sure you get the type you want from the get-go."

I believe they're referred to as grid interactive. Outback and Xantrex/Schneider are the only companies I'm aware of that currently offer models that do this. For just power-outages sake the battery bank should be able to be sized very small as even a deep cycle will not mean too much only a few times per year.

If you are going to install a grid-tied system yourself, be sure to find a certified electrician in advance who will connect it to the grid for you. There are stories that some unionized electricians will not connect DIY systems to the grid even when all the codes were obeyed. For an off-grid system you can skip the electrician and solar power meter, but you have to buy the batteries.

You will need a document from a certified installer to get the rebates.

"They certainly won't be able to run their own off-grid systems unless someone really idiot-proofs them."

It just ain't that hard. Our system has been largely idiot-proof for years, beyond ensuring the batteries are full of water (automated at our place) and checking the "fuel gauge" during cloudy periods... and newer systems aren't nearly as complicated as ours:


Fact is, many folks don't even want to be bothered with mowing their own lawns or raking leaves. They feel entitled to 'out of sight, out of mind' lifestyles, which is a big part of the problem. User participation begets conservation and an eye on efficiency. People need to get closer to their energy sources rather than take them for granted. If folks paid as much attention to (and spent as much on) their energy systems as they do to their cars, we'd be well on the way.

If there was such a thing as low cost nuclear.

New nuclear is quite expensive. And about one-fourth of our existing, paid off reactors are flirting with bankruptcy. One went out of business last Tuesday.

No, it is not the size of the system that attracts people to nuclear. It is the fact that it has amazing energy density, it is pretty abundant resourced, and there are no CO2 or pollution emissions. Everyone realizes that fossil fuels are finite . . . and the CO2 is dooming us as is. But we really could run on nukes for a long long time.

Granted the waste issue is a big problem. But the amount of waste generated is physically not that big.

And to some degree there is a thought of "Well, this Uranium and Thorium we use as fuel was out there in nature so obviously nature can handle the material to a degree." Of course that ignores the fact that we create new elements that really are not out there in nature now since they've mostly decayed away already.

Energy density is not the important metric. It's LCOE, the overall cost of electricity.

And the externalities. We think of coal from a paid off plant as cheap but if you add in the external costs then you find coal is our most expensive generation method.

As a hardware guy I like nuclear. Super energy density!

Um, Wait a minute, doesn't Murphy apply here -"If it can go wrong, it will"? Right, it can, and so it will, big time, that's what energy density means.. Very bad news.

Sure, Murphy applies to solar and wind too. So? A blade flies off, kills a couple of cows. Quick! take a tiny fraction of the juice being generated by those 100 other windmills and make a big cow barbecue. Fun for one and all- except the cows.

Yes, that "accidents happen" part gets swept under the rug with various excuses. It's like Chernobyl and Fukushima never happened. The people forced from their homes by these disasters, or the people with the "chernobyl necklace", never seem to matter.

In my experience, people tend to to talk about 'nuclear' as if it were a generic technology and that cost and energy density calculations were simple. But unlike a wind turbine, there are dozens of completely different types of nuclear reactor, each with their own fuel cycle, power cycle, different core energy density, etc. Other decisions on plant layout, physical system design choices (i.e. passive vs active DHR) and containment philosophy as well as regulatory hurdles that push up build times, all have an enormous effect on economics.

This makes nuclear fundamentally different from wind turbines and solar power systems, in which the technological options and regulatory factors are far more narrow. When we talk about nuclear, we could mean any of hundreds of different technological options, each with their own economic, political and environmental pros and cons.

You are right of course. I used "nuclear" to mean all of above.

Actually, I sorta like the put-put reactor. You dig a big hole, keep dribbling hydrogen bombs down the hole, hose it down with water, and run your steam engine with the result. Fusion power at last!

Neighbors might be annoyed by the put-put, but they'll get used to it.

Apology to Freeman Dyson.

But all have a couple of common problems: Complexity, the possibility for failures with catastrophic consequences, and a waste output that is incredibly dangerous and which we have never developed a way to deal with. All of these equate to enormous costs that are externalized/passed off to future generations/ignored, which is how nuclear is made to look like a good idea. Naturally, very wealthy industrialists/technologists are very used to passing off/ignoring costs they have not been made to pay for, so it is appealing to them on the field they are used to playing on.

Nuclear systems are complex to a degree, but the basic equipment is no different to that of other energy conversion sytems - turbines, pumps, generators, steam raising equipment and concrete structures. Complexity is a problem that drives up costs if you only have a few units, but scale economies rapidly bring these down - the French have demonstrated this with their N4 reactor and it is demonstrated with a lot of other complex technological products - cars, TVs, computers and mobile phones - all of which are highly complex but cheap thanks to scale economies.

Nuclear waste is a problem, but in fact quite a small one compared to our other industrial waste problems. Deep repositories have been on the drawing boards for years, and repeated studies have shown that the residual risk of nuclear waste so buried is tiny. The factors preventing their construction are political and ideological; the practical problems were solved decades ago. In Gen IV reactors with closed fuel cycles, the long-term radiotoxicity of wastes will be reduced even further, by orders of magnitude.

As for catastrophic risks, the cancer risk from using fossil fuels is thousands of times greater than as a result of an accident in a nuclear power plant. It doesn't make sense delaying nuclear construction for a single day if we would be burning coal in its place.

It is always possible for a nuclear reactor core to overheat releasing radioactive pollution. Accidents in fuel manufacturing and reprocessing are also possible and the risk will never be zero. As we learned in Japan, such accidents are more likely if the design basis of a plant is insufficient. The risk from these types of accidents is already quite small. With the advent of passively safe reactors and increasingly sophisticated probabilistic analysis, the risk becomes vanishingly small - literally one chance in a million per year for a modern reactor.

A large nuclear accident may release enough ceasium-137 to cause thousands of cancers if no other action is taken. But it is something that might happen very rarely, if we are careless or unlucky. Fossil fuels cause tens of thousands of cancers every year in Europe and the US. They do this routinely and we ignore it.

What is that makes the nuclear risk unacceptable, but the fossil fuel risk so easy to ignore, when the second is literraly thousands of times larger?

A large nuclear accident may release enough ceasium-137 to cause thousands of cancers if no other action is taken. But it is something that might happen very rarely, if we are careless or unlucky.

It is something that has happened several times, and is ongoing right now, and includes far more than just ceasium-137.

Further, I am not interested in fantasies of what we might do in regards to the massive amounts of waste. We did that experiment for the last 40 years, and we know the answer. Through the peak of prosperity of the industrial world, we did nothing with it. There is no evidence that we ever will, and no programs to do so.

Your comment is a perfect example of the kind of thinking that makes nuclear seem appealing - soothing fantasies of what might be done some day by somebody else, paid for by somebody else, along with low-ball guesses of the consequences of failure (burden assumed by nameless others), all so we can have our luxuries today.

+1 to that. I would add that using a 60000000000C decay process to make steam at 300C is a ludicrous waste of a finite resource. Let's live sustainably in a congenial environment for a couple hundred years and work on improving the thermodynamic efficiency.

Economies of scale do not kick with a few dozen units produced. Nissan estimates that EVs need to hit 500,000 units per year in order to bring the price of EVs down to that of ICEVs.

The choice is not nuclear or coal. That is a false choice. If you ask "Nuclear or coal?" the answer is "Neither".

There are no Gen IV reactors. There are ideas that might work but have yet to be tried. Those ideas might fail just like pebble bed reactors failed. And we have no expectation that Gen IV reactors would produce affordable electricity. They would be plagued with the sorts of high capex and long build times of other reactors.

Nuclear is simply too expensive. The people who own and operate our existing nuclear plants are telling you that if you care to listen to them.

We're seeing existing, paid off reactors going into bankruptcy. One was shut down last Tuesday.

Both reactors that I worked at were considered cash cows - ie highly profitable - electricity was sold at a hefty profit at a penny and a half a Kwh at one of them ($15Mwh) at the same time as some newer non nuclear power plants were selling power at $35Mwh.
Nuclear plants are still considered low cost producers. This article explains why some are experiencing financial difficulty. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-11/nuclear-industry-withers-in-u-s...
In a nutshell, wind is forcing some nuclear plants to sell at negative rates while the wind is shielded from negative rates and simultaneously given a $22Mwh federal subsidy. A large amount of money is in effect being transferred from nuclear to wind. The financial stress of these nuclear plants has nothing to do with the technology as you misleadingly infer, but instead is a result of an unusual regulatory scheme.

Natural gas at $0.06/kWh is also a reason that some reactors are going bankrupt.

Nuclear has received many, many times more federal subsidy dollars than has wind.

Wind isn't shielded from negative rates. Wind receives a tax credit for every kWh it sells. Wind has a low operating cost and that means that wind can sell for about zero per kWh and still make a small profit. Even without the 2.3 cents per kWh wind would still force nuclear into losing money during off-peak hours. Somewhere around zero/kWh wind curtails, drops out.

Since nuclear can't shut down for brief periods it has to underbid both wind and natural gas, forcing them to curtail.

Now with solar dropping below a dime the peak demand ceiling price is getting fixed. That means that nuclear can't earn the sometimes very high peak hour prices and make up for the off-peak loses.

Take away wind's and solar's subsidies and some of our reactors would fail anyway. Natural gas, which isn't receiving subsidies, is killing some of them.

The reactor that shut down last Tuesday was in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has little wind on the grid.

Wind isn't shielded from negative rates. Wind receives a tax credit for every kWh it sells.

??? The tax credit is $0.22 Kwh - That is twice the going rate of wholesale electricity on a good contract! Your being misleading again. I have no more time for this.

I think most Western nations have painted themselves into a corner when it comes to nuclear power. With the notable exception of France, there has been little in the way of construction of new nuclear power plants in the last few decades. With so little new construction, the number of engineers/scientists capable of designing and building new reactors has been ruthlessly downsized. Efforts are focused almost exclusively on refurbishing and extending the life of existing reactors instead of designing and building new, safer reactors.

In regards to complexity, I think part of the problem is the trend towards building even larger reactors. The new Areva reactor under construction in Finland is rated at 1600MW. It seems to me that the complexity could be reduced and safety increased by building smaller reactors. It would also help improve scale economies.

France can't build them either fast or cheap.

The French are the ones building the Finnish reactor that is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

They're the ones telling the Brits that new nuclear electricity can't be had for less than $0.15/kWh.

The French are installing wind and solar and planning on closing some of their own reactors.

Bob W, are you sure about the $0.15/kWh? I can't find that number anywhere when googling news re EDF, nuclear, UK. Seems like the number is secret and/or still being negotiated?

Japan and France are offering Turkey a bid for reactors (Turkeys 2nd set).
20 billion for 4-5 GW (press release was not more precise), so say 4$/W. If we write this investment off in 40 years (roughly, maybe a bit longer, but cancelling that with no interest below) it becomes:
0.015 $/kWh capital
0.05 $/kWh operational
0.01 $/kWh waste cost (20 % goes into a future fund)
Total cost, good case, $0.075/kWh.

The running costs are from Swiss nuclear plants, varying around 4.5 to 7 cents per kWh today. Old plants.

So an estimate for new nuclear in investment cost in western world, $4 per W.
$0.07, up to maybe $0.15, per kWh.

Offer for home solar (after subsidy) $3.8 per W and $0.2 per kWh. This is for retrofitting my roof in Switzerland, this is why expensive. Still not too far from nuclear.

As for catastrophic risks, the cancer risk from using fossil fuels is thousands of times greater than as a result of an accident in a nuclear power plant.

Got proof?

I have to wonder what draws tech types to nuclear so strongly.

They have watched 'problems' get 'solved' with technology and while smashing an atom and capturing that energy is a large technology problem that has technical solutions, what they do not understand that people have to interact and implement that technology and some of these people are going to make mistakes or 'cheat' to put money in their pockets or avoid being called out for mistakes.

Solar panels and wind turbines are also technology.

Nuclear has a group of individuals who passionately defend it as if it was their castle which they were defending against the unwashed hoards.

Many people advocate solar because they find it ideologically appealing. The economics of powering large cities that way are always going to be poor, no matter how strongly you want it to work.

I for one would like to see practical solutions to the world's problems. That means affordable energy and not ideologically appealing pipedreams that can never scale to size needed to power western civilisation. Nuclear energy is power dense and potentially very cheap and the risks appear to be small. It is advocated because the fundamentals are good.

Energy policy is not about ideology, it is about the need to eat.

"Energy policy is not about ideology, it is about the need to eat."

Nice.You are wearing your ideology on your sleeve.

Energy policy is also about what is possible, and what is morally and environmentally acceptable. Neither of which nuclear is. That's not ideology. It's reality.

My energy policy includes controlling MY costs, and controlling most of the impacts of my OWN energy use. Advocates of nuclear energy usually skip the part about how the nuclear industry has utterly failed to contol their long term waste issues and their full-cycle costs, which remain unknown, but are surely growing. Some of us grew tired some time ago of broken promises and waiting for the industry, government, and society in general to get its collective sh@t together. Add to that the ongoing and continuous gaming (rip off) of the system/commons by the industry and financial sectors, the only conclusion I can possibly come to is that the energy industry/culture you seem to be advocating for is hopelessly corrupted and unworthy of my support.

Not sure what the rest of you are going to do, but in my case, ideology and pragmatism mesh nicely. I simply don't like the Faustian bargains being offered these days, especially when I see energy being squandered mindlessly on a massive scale.

I know of no one who advocates a 100% solar grid. The practical limit of solar is probably around 20%. Perhaps as much as 40% if we get cheap storage.

The bulk of our future grid supply is likely to be wind because the wind blows more hours of the year than the Sun shines. The more energy we can use directly from the source rather than storing, the cheaper our electricity.

The economics of a 100% renewable grid are significantly better than a nuclear powered grid. (And do remember, a 100% nuclear powered grid would require building a large amount of storage.)

Let me give you a simple grid model based on getting 50% of our electricity from wind at five cents per kWh, 20% from solar at 7 cents, 10% from hydro and geothermal at 7 cents, and the final 20% stored wind at seventeen cents.

(0.5 x 5c) + (0.2 x 7c) + (0.1 x 7c) + (0.2 x 17c) = 8.0 cents per kWh.

Right now the UK is offering a guaranteed 12.4c/kWh, 20 year price for all the electricity that a new reactor can produce. The builders have turned that offer down. They state that they cannot produce for less than 15c/kWh.

8.0 < 12.4

Whatcha think of synthetic natural gas plants (synthesized from CO2 + water), as a way to store excess energy from solar/wind sources? The synthetic gas could be put into storage, via the pipeline system, and taken out as needed. Power companies, with gas fired generators, could then pretty much guarantee a level electrical output from solar + wind + gas fired generators (as needed).

Conceptually it makes sense. Storing liquids is fairly inexpensive.

I don't know how expensive it would be. We've got some battery technology coming out of the lab that looks like it could be dirt cheap. Much cheaper than what is going on the New York grid in a few months. If Ambri's liquid metal battery makes it to manufacturing then I doubt that syngas would make financial sense.

The other thing is, I've seen no syngas from CO2 that didn't need to sit beside a fossil fuel plant and suck from it's waste stream. For syngas to be a really good option it would need to be made from atmospheric CO2. We need to quit burning the fossil stuff.

Another idea is to use extra renewable energy to crack water into hydrogen and oxygen and store the hydrogen away for future use in a fuel cell.

That turns out to be not very efficient, you lose energy cracking the water, more when you compress the hydrogen for storage, and more again in the fuel cell. But it might be worthwhile for some long term storage if we really need any.

Probably what makes the most sense for long term storage (when the wind and Sun don't cooperate for more than a couple of days) is to use a bit of natural gas. There's good paper I summarized elsewhere on this thread that studied the largest grid in the US over a four year period and looked at weather records to see how much wind and sunshine was available on an hour to hour basis.

They found that we'd need to use natural gas for only 0.1% of all our power. We'd need to turn on the turbines about seven hours a year. Since we've already built the turbines and they're pretty much paid off that would be a cheap way to take care of the "deep storage".

This is what the US Navy is working on:
Same concept, slight variation. I wonder if, done in sufficient size, would offset acidification.
One could use (stranded)(wind/solar) power as the energy source instead of carriers with excess powergeneration.


Nuclear power for 15c/kWh? This is an example of what happens when you eliminate your in-house expertise on constructing nuclear power plants and only have the option of entering into a PPP (Public Private Partnership) with someone else who still does. Of course the private company considers every possible risk that could occur over the next 20 years and sets their price so they make a profit regardless of what actually happens. We're plagued with these bloody PPP contracts in Canada for building and operating hospitals and other public infrastructure because the politicians like the fact that the money borrowed to finance them doesn't show up on the public books. It certainly costs the taxpayers more over the long run than if the government just contracted the construction and took care of operating the facilities themselves.

In the last few years we've seen open bids for new reactors in Ontario, CA, San Antonio and Turkey in addition to the present UK opening.

In the three previous cases the lowest bids were so high that all three entities decided to not build new reactors. I think it was a total of seven reactors altogether, might have been eight.

Perhaps you might ask yourself why, if it's possible to build affordable nuclear, no one chose to. Big opportunity to make billions if nuclear is actually affordable as some claim.

(You don't think that by using taxpayer money to build and operate reactors the actual cost of electricity is cheaper do you? All that happens is that people pay some at the meter and the rest with their tax bills.)

China has 28 reactors under construction with more planned. It looks like they plan to become more uniform in design based on the AP1000.

Of course, a uniform design is only great if it's repeating a great design.. if it's flawed or too many corners are cut, well.. "I lose a little on every sale, but I'll make it up in volume.." is the line that comes to mind.

At least you have 1 problem to solve N times, rather than N problems to solve 1 time.

Besides simplifying and making manufacturing more efficient, site designs, standardized operating procedures, and regulatory compliance all benefit from fewer unique types of reactors.

Canada is one of the jurisdictions that has lost the ability to design and build nuclear reactors. Canada had a very active nuclear research (for peaceful purposes only) program after WW2 centered in the Deep River/Chalk River area near Ottawa. Some of the top physicists and engineers in the world came to work here. With a population of only a few thousand, Deep River at one time had more residents with advanced degrees than any of the large cities in Canada. The end started in the 90's when the last reactors built in Ontario were completed and there was no need to add more generating capacity. Ontario Hydro laid off thousands of employees, many of which worked for their nuclear division. The Canadian government gradually downsized their Atomic Engineering of Canada Limited crown corporation and recently sold what was left of their power reactor division to a private company, SNC Lavalin. SNC Lavalin doesn't have any interest in designing and building new reactors -- their interest is only in maintaining and refurbishing the existing fleet of CANDU reactors and once that work ends they will be out of the reactor business.

Ontario had a publicly owned and operated hydro utility until the provincial government decided we could have cheaper electricity by creating an electrical market and let private suppliers bid on supplying power. This hasn't worked elsewhere nor has it worked in Ontario. Most electrical suppliers have negotiated agreements where they are guaranteed a certain rate regardless of the market rate and/or are able to sell their power even if it isn't needed. The market derived price for power is therefore a complete joke and a much more substantial cost called the "global adjustment" is required to cover the actual cost of purchasing power.

Nuclear power in Ontario is far cheaper than wind or PV. Well over half our power comes from our nuclear reactors. All of our CANDU reactors have either had expensive refurbishments or will need to be refurbished in the near future. The cost of refurbishing a reactor is high but once back in service they are producing a large amount of power 24/7.

If a concious decision had been made to retain the ability to design and build nuclear reactors we would have been able to do so at a reasonable price.

Another example where Canada has lost the technology is naval ship building. We go through a cycle where there is a great flury of activity to build new ships and then the ship building industry is starved to death. Just recently the Federal government announced a $280 million contract just to design a new Arctic patrol vessel. Other countries have designed and built similar vessels for less cost. We need to spend such a staggering amount of money just for a design because we need to reacquire the expertise needed to do this.

I know of no one who advocates a 100% solar grid. The practical limit of solar is probably around 20%. Perhaps as much as 40% if we get cheap storage.

And what if the consumption habits change?

Instead of 24x7 demand, demand moved with energy flows. What then?

Load-shifting is part of the solution.

EVs will be great for this. The average driver will need to charge only 1.5 hours per night. Plug in when you get home and let the utility determine when you get charged, as long as you're charged by the time you set.

If the wind is going to be strong starting at 2AM, then do a lot of charging then.

Some people will need only a few miles per day, perhaps want a minimum of 50 when they leave for the day. If it's going to be windy tonight then charge them all the way up and then you can pass them by for a couple of nights if supply is tighter.

Dishwashers, washer/dryer combos, pool filters - stuff like that can be run when supply is high or at least turned on a few at a time in order to avoid demand peaks when supply is low.

Cool refers and freezers down a bit extra before the morning demand surge. That will let them drift until the morning coffee making/showering is finished and people are on the road.

Use "cool storage", containers of water or salts and cool them down/make ice at night when supply is high. Use that stored cool to assist the AC unit during high demand hours.

All sorts of tricks will be possible with the smart grid.

Don't want Big Utility Brother deciding when to dry your clothes? Fine, don't participate. Don't enjoy the price break players get.

I really do think that were renewables are concerned we have been looking at the wrong end of the telescope- rather than setting 24/7 as the standard we should be spending time figuring out how to adjust demand to meet the variable electricity. I have lived in countries without 24/7 electricity and civilization didn't end. The inconvenience of not having 24/7 could have been reduced considerably if we engineered products to cope with less than 24/7 electricity.

A simple first step would be to install smart meters and have utilities price electricity based on what their hypothetical pattern of renewable generation would be . They would charge more when there theoretically was no wind or solar (or at least not enough) and less when there theoretically was abundant solar/wind. In aggregate their total revenues would be the same. If nobody changed their habits then everybody's bill would be the same. However, those that did change their habits to meet the renewable cycle would find their bills declining while those who didn't would find them going up.

"I for one would like to see practical solutions to the world's problems. That means affordable energy and not ideologically appealing pipedreams that can never scale to size needed to power western civilisation. Nuclear energy is power dense and potentially very cheap and the risks appear to be small. It is advocated because the fundamentals are good."

You cannot be serious??
Fukushima is still a smoking mess. Chernobyl a radioactive wasteland after wreaking unknown havoc on the health of millions across Europe.
Dog knows how much toxicity spread around the world from unannounced and secret spills and "problems". Strangest use of the phrase "fundamentals are good" I've ever seen!

Energy policy is not about ideology, it is about the need to eat.

Funny, you can't eat electricity. Human civilization got along just fine without electricity for thousands of years.

And when something goes wrong with nuclear, what is lost? Land area that could be used to produce food (in Fukushima in particular this was deeply felt).

If you're suggesting we focus on needs instead of wants, I think we could easily get enough power for those with renewables.

Funny, you can't eat electricity. Human civilization got along just fine without electricity for thousands of years.

Yes but 7 billion people did not get along without electricity and 7 billion people did not get along without the food provided with the aid of fossil fuels. And they will not do so when fossil fuels are gone.

Ron P.

Nuclear energy is power dense and potentially very cheap and the risks appear to be small. It is advocated because the fundamentals are good.

Do you have actual demonstrated proof for these claims?

If so, why not show them?

Engineers solve problems by moving dirt and building machines.
When this becomes the problem, they obviously have to let go of assumed reference points, and most will not do so, even as the scream in a fetal position as reality comes into view.
That is why so many of our engineer friends are also Climate Change Deniers.

Stereotyping a bit, are we? Not all engineers are specialists ;-/

Point well taken.
But have you noticed the politic?

I have not noticed it.

I am an engineer. Most of my colleagues are not climate change deniers. Quite the opposite. Climate change is seen as a threat that demands attention for all kinds of reasons. If you design for a hundred-year flood but are getting 1000-year floods every few years...that's a problem that cannot be ignored.

The engineers I know are also very aware of climate science.

I can see that perhaps people who work for the fossil fuel industry might stick with the party line.

A couple of civil engineers I know are very aware of what is happening. They're having to deal with heavier rainfalls and the stress that's putting on systems.

"I have to wonder what draws tech types to nuclear so strongly. Is it the "wow, big power!" factor, like a big truck or sportscar?"

Partly. As a former submariner (nuclear) it is very different. No shriek of forced draft blowers, no roaring burners. No thundering of big diesels. The power is just there. Open the throttles and the dials move along with the rev counter on the shaft. If you are standing near the reduction gears you can barely hear them whine as they pick up speed. My usual watchstation at the boiler feed pumps was much the same; I could only tell how fast we were going by watching the steam pressure gauge.

Controlled power is sexy. That much power silent and on demand was very sexy.

People who have worked with radiation and nuclear power, and many other hard science and engineering subjects tend to be comfortable with math, comfortable with the concept of relative risk, and understand that all activities entail risk. They may understand the vast amount of people who are likely to suffer and die if industry does not have a viable substitute for fossil fueled electricity that is capable for the 24/7 power necessary to run an aluminum smelter etc etc etc (iow an industrial economy capable of supporting everyone who is currently alive with food and necessary goods), in the many, many areas that lack sufficient hydro power. They know that mercury oxides and many other chemical species released into the environment by fossil fuels are often as dangerous in a thousand years as the day they are released into the environment, and that once emitted from a coal plant's stack your not going to retrieve them. On the other hand, they know that spent fuel can be reprocessed and the actinides burned, and that the risk of spent fuel in any case immediately begins to decline upon removal of the rods. They may have leaned up against a dry cask loaded with spent rods, and seen for themselves how much radiation their dosimeter is picking up (its not much, and you're only a few inches from the rods.)They may know people that have commercially dove in the reactor pool, and seen how non-radioactive primary coolant is (its completely non radioactive, its the hot particles that may or may not be in it that are extremely dangerous). They may have seen what dangerous radiation is, (one form can be extremely dangerous, while another form is harmless - it is mind boggling to see the stir that tritium can cause).
They know that the linear no threshold model of biological response to radiation is uncertain and indeed unlikely in the opinion of many trained scientists (google and read the recent American Chemical Society statement re LNT) - n.b. residents of places akin to Ramsar, Iran (Google it), where background radiation exposure has been calculated at up to 26,000 mrem (260 MSv), who have been studied, but physiologic and health changes for the worse have to date been statistically unmeasurable. (260 MSv is more than an average US nuclear worker will expect to receive in 70 years, here in the US natural background is about 3 MSV/year, med x-rays are about 3 MSv/year, other sources are much less - see Wikipedia re background radiation. Yes, natural background radiation is essentially the same stuff everyone is frightened of, ie atomic components and electromagnetic emissions.
I could go on and on, but I just want to let you know that inquiring minds can differ - oh - one more thing - technical types may believe that based on the science they have read, climate change from fossil fuel emissions will ultimately, when combined with diminishing availability of concentrated energy, result in enormous hardship, death, enormous environmental damage from the change and people's ongoing attempts to feed themselves and survive, and that it is at least conceivable that a runaway climate change can occur, per such science luminaries as Stephen Hawking, Sir James Lovelock, and James Hansen, which could result in our total extinction. Furthermore, they may believe based on what they know of human nature that world industry will not give up coal if there is not a substitute - regardless of what you or I think. They will not give it up without a cost effective substitute. They are too powerful and politics is too entrenched in their favor. And I know that I can imagine cost effective PV and renewables for the home, but I cannot imagine PV and renewables as cost or resource effective sources of power for energy intensive industries in any sort of timeline that makes sense. Can you imagine PV's powering Haber-Bosch in the near future?
You can be well trained in science, and see enough fundamentally flawed, deeply conflicted, biased work to make you feel ill - yet when you go through the work to clearly and effectively show that that is the case(aren't you capable of changing your mind with good data?) time and again, you find the same person on another forum using the same data, then the next month he is using the same laughable cites in the original forum again - then you learn in our society truth doesn't seem to matter so much anymore, that our country, that really depends on an informed electorate, does not have one, that various groups feel they can manufacture the truth, and most people can't tell the difference.
You asked.

edited for punctuation and to repair a run on sentence

We seem to go around and around on nuclear here from time to time. Heck, it's how I jumped into the debate on TOD, I admit. Seagatherer I tend towards your point of view here (though a full space between paragraphs would have made it easier to read ;) I'm not an engineer, nor a scientist, nor a worker in the nuclear field, but I can read a peer-reviewed research paper and I can occasionally do a bit of critical thinking.

At the end of the day I just don't think folks in the U.S., Japan, or Europe will be considering nuclear for a while, if ever. Fukushima and Chernobyl have been etched in the cultural consciousness. For whatever reason, the folks in Saudi Arabia, Russia (!), China, Turkey, and India don't seem to have quite the same perspective, though I'm sure they might think twice about things from time to time, and there are vocal minorities who think twice about it pretty much all the time.

I imagine nuclear development will probably take place in the latter. It won't much matter what we think. So I'll just follow along to see how they do.

In the larger context upthread, in terms of changing paradigms and lifestyles, I'm hedging my bets. I've joined a gang of locals who are looking at sustainability initiatives and transition towns. I'll be visiting Viroqua, WI sometime this summer, to see one up close. But I'm also hoping to attend a presentation by Kirk Sorensen over at Flibe Energy. Just in case there's something to those Gen IV Thorium-Flouride reactors. First request I'd have: demonstrate we can actually recycle spent fuel rods using one of the things. Assuming it ever gets built, of course.

Just like to keep my options open ;)

China has given nuclear a second thought. They've decreased their nuclear goals by about one third.

They're no longer going to be building any new reactors inland. I suspect that might have to do with the availability of cooling water during heat waves which they expect to increase.

They're only going to build reactors in more remote parts of the coast where they have an ability to evacuate the local population if necessary and where no fresh water sources would be contaminated.

78,000 vacant buildings; $15 billion in (mostly unpayable) debt; "the population of the city has fallen by nearly 30% since 2012" [!,,2002?]:

City of Detroit is financially 'insolvent'

The report from Kevyn Orr, the bankruptcy attorney appointed by the state in March, lays out a bleak financial position for the city.

"The city has effectively exhausted its ability to borrow," he writes in the report, adding that the city "is clearly insolvent." To avoid running out of cash before the end of its fiscal year on June 30, it must "defer payments on its current obligations," including more than $100 million in pension payments that are due.

"No one should underestimate the severity of the financial crisis," Orr said in a statement. "The path Detroit has followed for more than 40 years is unsustainable and only a complete restructuring of the city's finances and operations will allow Detroit to regain its footing."

...but the unemployment rate has "fallen to 18.3%". That's something..

NYT: Student Debt and the Crushing of the American Dream

A CERTAIN drama has become familiar in the United States (and some other advanced industrialized countries): Bankers encourage people to borrow beyond their means, preying especially on those who are financially unsophisticated. They use their political influence to get favorable treatment of one form or another. Debts mount. Journalists record the human toll. Then comes bewilderment: How could we let this happen again? Officials promise to fix things. Something is done about the most egregious abuses. People move on, reassured that the crisis has abated, but suspecting that it will recur soon.

The crisis that is about to break out involves student debt and how we finance higher education. Like the housing crisis that preceded it, this crisis is intimately connected to America’s soaring inequality, and how, as Americans on the bottom rungs of the ladder strive to climb up, they are inevitably pulled down — some to a point even lower than where they began.

Officials promise to fix things. Something is done about the most egregious abuses. People move on, reassured that the crisis has abated, but suspecting that it will recur soon.

That's why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established, so that there was one agency given the task of constantly looking out for the interest of consumers. One of their jobs is to identify developing problems, another is to help people when they get hurt.

Republicans in Congress are fighting this new agency tooth and nail. So far they've been able to block the appointment of a permanent agency head in an attempt to weaken consumer protection as much as possible.

To date the CFPB has returned $425 million to consumers who were incorrectly billed by credit card companies.

Republicans are trying to overturn those judgments and give the money back to credit card companies by claiming that PBO used the wrong process to appoint a temporary agency head.

From the book review:

The orthodox answer to the question, the authors write, is “Of course it is. Though the cost of attendance is ever increasing, those who go to college make more than those who don’t. And while the job market is bad, it is worse for those without a college degree.”

“Is College Worth It?” provides a thoroughgoing deconstruction of the “of course it is” delusion. It turns out that for too many, and maybe even most of our young people, the answer to this central question is, sadly, “no.” “Whether the standard of excellence for higher education is cultivating the mind and the soul or maximizing financial return on investment, most of higher education fails most students,” the authors write . . .

The authors also make the case for the return of vocational high schools. We can’t outsource the repair of a boiler or a natural-gas pipeline, the wiring of a home or office building or installation or repair of an elevator to India or China. These are great-paying careers that are in high demand, but we are doing nothing to encourage young people toward these high-paying jobs. The mismatch effect of robbing our economy of a master plumber in favor of another run-of the-mill B.A. ought to be considered educational malfeasance.

I wonder what the difference is between the unemployment rate for recent (frequently heavily indebted) liberal arts graduates versus recent vocational graduates, e.g., two year associates degree from a community college?

I think higher education does not necessarily need to be financed by debt. It often is in the US, but that is part of the culture in the US (to pay everything via debt).

Germany has a good vocational system, which seems to work well, but German universities are also basically free, so young people can make the choice between the two based on personal preferences vs. financial constraints.

Even The Daily Show had recently had a segment on the new realities of college education:


Q: I assumed that there was a college major for bartending.

A: There is one, it's called English Literature.

Cracks in the house? Climate change dries the ground we stand on

OTTAWA — We learn from Saturday’s paper that carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is at its highest concentration in the atmosphere in three million years.

Over shouts of “We’re No. 1!”, it might be opportune to mention an unexplored consequence of climate change: our houses are cracking up.

Ottawa is built, with some exceptions, on a vast stretch of what the experts call “sensitive clay soil”, usually referred locally as leda, the old basin of the Champlain Sea.

During a prolonged drought in an urban area, here is the shorthand version of what happens: the band of clay dries out and shrinks, thirsty trees go deeper and further looking for water, buried voids begin to form, the footings of houses begin to slip and sag, and the hapless homeowner arrives home one day asking: “That’s funny, wonder why the front door is sticking?”

Here is a more scientific description from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

It isn't just Ottawa and Ontario. Google Glacial Lake Agassiz. Winnipeg, Grand Forks and Fargo all have quite a few elms (minus 40C equals minus 40F which slows the Dutch Elm disease transmission). Elms go deep and lateral, but my view is a lot of the damage is merely the first part of the equation - the deep band of clay dries out and shrinks.

Of course what if the offending elms 6 meters from your house are from the church next door, planted 2.5 meters apart on the property line of your licensed residential home 30 years prior. No luck with city compensation there.

doesn't mention about when you sewer line is decades old clay tile and the tree roots burrow into to get at the nitrogen and water source during droughts, saw that at FM Dorothy Day House back in the 80's. RotoRuter every 2-3 years and a 25 meter snake to the back property line fixes.

Other sites with more info are




without charging a car – we are already into Tier 3. In my neighborhood, at this time of year, the baseline use is 330 kWh, and you enter Tier 3 when you exceed 130%, or 430kWh per month. My routine use runs about 480 kWh/mo, and according to PG&E’s site that’s below average. Therefore, every watt I put into my car is costing the Tier 3 rate of $0.31114 per kWh – not the $0.11 generally mentioned. If my charging kicks my use above 660 kWh/mo, (which it will) my costs will increase to $0.35114/kWh.

Them's Jamaica prices! Apparently there are some people getting pushed into a higher electricity price Tier with their electric cars in CA making the economics look a little less good.

The results of my analysis are shown below, and reflect a single typical morning and evening commute. I have included the cost, for comparison, of gasoline for my Audi A8 which is a comparable car in terms of size, weight, power, and luxury, and a hypothetical alternate car which gets 28mpg and uses regular gas. The cost/mile for Electricity for the Tesla is $0.156, and for gas for the Audi A8 is $0.183, and for the alternate car is $0.139

These results came as a surprise – perhaps even a shock, as they severely impact on my bragging rights. There’s hope, however: Solar panels. I don’t now have solar, but after this analysis I’m signing up for a 6kW system immediately, which will drive my electricity use back down to the lower tiers and result in all of the economic benefit, greenhouse gas reduction, and bragging rights I’d hoped for.

I like his conclusion there. At $0.31/0.35 kWhr solar should make sense to everybody.

He seems to be using a lot more Wh/mi than I've been seeing from others - but apparently he's calculated out the full losses - charger, etc. While it's plugged in there's also apparently a high vampire load (which is supposed to be made better with a software update). There are people who suggest TOU pricing, separate meters, and even some sort of specialty EV pricing the electric company offers. From what I understand TOU+Solar is a super winner since you can sell the PV production for high daytime price and then use cheap off-peak later.

One of the other comments is interesting:

Kleist | May 13, 2013

@steve - so you didn't do your homework before you signed the dotted line. So now you are in shock ! Shame on you !
I am paying $0.36 and it was clear to me from the beginning that this rate the fuel savings will be minimal. Big deal... I went and spent $600 on LED lighting throughout my house - saves 200-300 kWh per month (= $70 to $100) and that pays 2/3 of my MS bill. There is more opportunity in my house to save ( TV, PC, etc ) about another $300 kWh per month... the MS is a blessing because it makes you aware of all the electricity you wasted without even thinking over the years. CA utilities just rip you off, become more smart how you use the electricity. TOU rates are not that much more attractive...in CA solar is the only option.

This is the kind of thing that I like to talk about. Electric cars get people thinking - they feed the drivers information constantly, it changes a bill that most people have an idea of what they pay every month so they know where it's going. They have to think about range, how far they're going which might get them to think about why they're going there. Whereas a petrol car they just pull up to a nozzle when the gauge gets near "E" and then go on with their lives.

I know PG&E had a call us if you are gonna get an EV number. I think it is to offer cheap nighttime charging rates. In my case the PiP (Plug in Prius) only takes 3KWhours, and with solar my marginal use is tier1, so I haven't bothered them.

I ran across this article yesterday.

"Adding an Electric Car Cut the Payback Point of Our Solar Panel Investment in Half"

Well written and lots of useful numbers. Probably worth a read for those who are considering cutting their fossil fuel dependency. A paid off solar system in about six years.

Many years of free electricity and driving to follow. A great way for someone to help protect themselves from economic upheavals.


Where we live in No. CA, we get very high PG&E bills in the Summer due to running the AC unit (90-105f) easily entering tier 3 rates, but in the winter they allow much more usage before hitting tier 3, I guess because it's more ethical to help someone not freeze to death than to let them die of heat stroke. Unfortunately I'm tweaked to not be much bothered by the cold, but overheat easily above 85f. Just my luck. Currently without solar (which is next on our list) it wouldn't make sense for us to have an EV (except in Winter). Told my wife the next thing is solar - got to get it! Busy compiling info., because I know in the not too distant future EV prices will come down and it will make economic sense to use one for local driving, but still keep an ICE for long trips.

I live in the same climate possibly a bit worse. I got our July electric consumption down from 35-40KWhr/day to about 16. It did take several steps:
(1) Added attic insulation plus attic foil -also PV panels give part of the roof shading.
(2) Thermal curtains.
(3) Keeping sun off exterior walls/windows. Plants, vines, wooden awnings, a big deck "pergola" .....

This is much much cheaper than PV. Although that is great as well. Only if you dramatically cut your demand, you can install a much smaller PV system.

3 more anti-Peak Oil articles. As always, very few numbers, no charts, no tables, no own calculations, etc.

What If We Never Run Out of Oil?
New technology and a little-known energy source suggest that fossil fuels may not be finite. This would be a miracle—and a nightmare.

New Technology Propels Old Energy Boom
By Associated Press | May 9, 2013

The Illogic And Folly Of Peak Oil (Or Is It Peak Gas?) Alarmism

Iraq Oil Exports Suspended after Attack

Iraq normally exports an average of 300,000 to 350,000 barrels a day via the pipeline, which carries crude from the Kirkuk oil fields to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

"The attackers blew up part of the pipeline using six bombs planted underneath the line," a person familiar with the matter told Dow Jones Newswires.

Second bombing of this pipeline in one week. I think we can expect this sort of thing from now on in Iraq. I have serious doubts that peace will ever break out in Iraq.

Ron P.

Amazing that this garbage keeps getting recycled, on the pages of The Wall Street Journal no less. (Well, it's not really that surprising.)

Harrison H. Schmitt and William Happer: In Defense of Carbon Dioxide

In reply, from the Columbia Journalism Review:

The WSJ editorial page hits rock bottom

From ClimateProgress:

Not The Onion: Wall Street Journal Hits ‘Rock Bottom’ With Inane Op-Ed Urging ‘More Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide’

Bottom link does not actually link to anything.

go to thinkprogress org and search for "wall street onion"

Saudi Arabia to "relax" production at older fields as new ones start -FT


The "lower plateau" of production at the fields, including Ghawar and Abqaiq, will ensure they continue producing into the next century, said Mr. al-Falih.

He denied the ratio of water to oil produced at these fields was rising--an indication they could be in steep decline. The water content at the fields is stable at 30%, he said.

The only way they can keep the water cut stable is if they keep shutting down wells that pull oil from lower down the anticline. And I read a few years ago that this was what they were doing. That is, as the water crept higher and higher toward the summit of the anticline, the water cut in the lower wells would start to increase pretty fast. And as the cut started to rise above a certain percentage, they would shut that well down.

But this would simply cut the production from that field. And I would bet big money, if I had any, that this is exactly what is happening.

Ron P.

And of course, as you know a recurring question is whether horizontal wells (for maximum reservoir contact in thinning oil columns, above the encroaching water) results in an increase in URR, or just produces pretty much the same remaining reserves at a faster rate, which is a question globally, and not just in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's water injection capacity for oil fields is 14 million barrels per day compared with oil production of less that 9.5 mb/d


Simple arithmetics show that if they inject 14 mb/d of water to extact 9.5 mb/d
of crude, water cut should be 60% rather than 30%.
Am I missing something?

Approximately 9.5 Mb/d of water replaces the 9.5 Mb/d of oil that is extracted. So if one injects 14 Mb/d of water, out comes about 4.5 Mb/d of water and 9.5 Mb/d of oil for a water cut of 32%. The densities of sea water and oil are not identical making the numbers a little different than my simple calculation.

Yes, you are missing something. The amount of water injected has little relationship to the water cut. Water is injected to keep the pressure high and to sweep the oil toward the well. The water is injected at the perimeter of the reservoir and well below the well intake.

And not all the water ends up in the reservoir. Some of it is pushed out in the opposite direction or downward instead of upward and toward the center of the reservoir. They always must inject more barrels of water than barrels of oil they pull out.

However I do believe the water cut was well above 30%. Either that or they were taking oil only from the very crest of the anticline. If that was the case then there is not a lot of oil left in the reservoir. It would be well into a shark fin decline.

Ron P.

Ron, thanks for clarification.
Anyway, Saudi Arabia is not even planning to increase crude production capacity, which they claim, is 12.5 mb/d (although they never produced more than 10mb/d). It seems that Manifa is just replacing falling output at the old fields.

Relaxing their production?? I highly doubt it, not when they're selling the stuff for $100/barrel. It appears that they're now producing flat out, so any bump in production will come from Manifa, which is coming on line as we speak. If Saudi production does not significantly increase over the course of this year and prices stay at current levels, I would say that's a pretty good indication that they've peaked.

Here's the original source from FT.com to for the article in the originating thread...

Saudis welcome US shale boom

By Ed Crooks in New York, May 13, 2013 7:07 pm

Saudi Aramco has drilled shale wells in the northwest of the country, and although testing is at an early stage, Mr Falih says, gas has flowed at healthy rates.

Shale production in Saudi Arabia faces challenges including the lack of infrastructure to collect the gas and deliver it where it is needed, and the lack of water used for hydraulic fracturing to crack the rock so the gas will flow. Even so, Mr Falih believes the first unconventional gas could be delivered to a power plant in two or three years.

If Saudi Arabia can make its shale production work, then its potential contribution to world energy supplies would be even greater.

“Typically unconventional resources are twice the conventional resources that are in a certain basin,” Mr Falih says.

“So just that rule of thumb will tell you that we have a huge resource base, theoretically.”

Huge resource base... and no water!

P.S. you can access FT.com for free, but you have to register.

The International Energy Agency today released its new Medium term oil market report (for the period to 2018).

Summary and presentation in pdf format can be found here:

Key changes from last year's report:

1) Global oil demand projections are marginally reduced

2) Non-OPEC production forecast was increased by 0,5 mb/d for 2013 and by around 1 mb/d for 2014-18. The key factor is higher projected production of light tight oil in the U.S. The IEA now expects U.S. LTO production to increase by 2.3 mb/d between 2012 and 2018.

3) OPEC capacity forecast was reduced by slightly less than 1 mb/d, mainly due to expected capacity reduction in Iran as a result of the sanctions.

OPEC crude oil capacity is predicted to increase by 1.8 mb/d by 2018. No way they can miss with that one. If their actual production drops by 2 mb/d they can still say: Yes but their capacity to produce oil actually increased by 1.8 mb/d.

Non-OPEC conventional crude is supposed to increase by 1 mb/d in those six years between 2012 and 2018. That ain't very much but I believe it is far more likely to fall by 1 mb/d than increase by 1 mb/d. But non-OPEC tight oil is supposed to increase by 2.8 mb/d and it all will come, they say, from the USA. Mind you, that is 2.8 mb/d more than we have right now, or at the end of 2012. That would mean the Bakken should have at least 1 mb/d of that increase. No, that just ain't gonna happen.

The Daily Ticker is having a field day with this, poking fun at all those crazy peak oil folks of just a few years ago.
Search: U.S. Oil Production to Shock Global Energy Markets: IEA Report

Ron P.

So it goes:

U.S. oil boom causing energy upheaval

LONDON (CNNMoney) - Booming North American oil production is reshaping world markets and will help satisfy the growing thirst for oil in the developing world, according to the International Energy Agency.

"North America has set off a supply shock that is sending ripples throughout the world," said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven. "This is helping to ease a market that was relatively tight for several years."

Growing North American production will help the U.S. begin to meet its own energy demands, leading it to cut back on imports that will instead start flowing to emerging markets.

Burn it,, burn it all... Was somebody upthread insisting we're not really screwed?

Growing North American production will help the U.S. begin to meet its own energy demands, leading it to cut back on imports that will instead start flowing to emerging markets.

It's scary when you realize the world economy runs as fast as it can. There is never an attempt to find a comfortable (long term) pace, instead opting for charging full speed ahead even if it means bulldozing to make islands to get to Manifa, scooping up oily sand to process oil using NG in Alberta, attempting to drill for FF in the sensitive ecosystem of the Arctic, fracking for NG in people's backyards or expensive deep offshore drilling. It's as if there is a collective panic that if we slowed for a moment all would be lost, and maybe that's true as the size and complexity has reached a zenith in which energy must be consumed at a certain rate or the whole system seizes up. But here's the question; how long before scraping the bottom of the barrel cannot maintain the flow rate needed at an economic price to continue BAU?

When the U.S. surge declines, the U.S. will be left looking for importers that it abandoned a few years earlier. Canada to the rescue, or maybe ongoing demand destruction caused by the high price of gasoline?

This Fuel Cell Startup Has Now Raised $1.1 Billion

Silicon Valley venture capitalists like to crow that it’s now cheaper than ever to establish a startup company. While that may be true for internet firms, the amount of money required to fund a Silicon Valley green tech startup can be mind-boggling.

Case in point is fuel cell maker Bloom Energy, which Fortune today reported had taken its total raised to $1.1 billion, thanks to a new $130 million round.
In contrast to the usual Silicon Valley practice of announcing a coming product, Bloom spent nearly a decade developing its solid-oxide fuel cell technology while saying nary a word. Over the past year and a half, it has quietly sold and installed 100-kilowatt Bloom boxes at Google, Bank of America, Wal-Mart and other big companies. The boxes cost $700,000 to $800,000 apiece.

Such fuel cells have been something of a holy grail as they can operate at extremely high temperatures to maximize efficiency and can use a variety of fuels, like natural gas and biogas. Since the heat allows the fuel to be directly transformed into electricity through an electrochemical process, the expensive precious metals and rare-earth elements used in other fuel cells to act as catalysts could theoretically be eliminated. But finding cheap common materials as substitutes and ensuring fuel cells don’t crack and leak under such conditions have stymied scientists for more than 30 years.

Googled but have not seen any updates about the Suncor Edmonton area refinery shut down. Previous shutdowns there had been related to the hydrogen portion of the refinery, but this early May one apparently was in the cracking unit. Noticed that they had brought in KBR to help them with maintenance awhile back. Any info would be appreciated.

Around May 4th I saw on CN rail not only a 80 sequential run of tankers going east over the Red River but a 80 sequential run going west on the other track, possibly a little gasoline for Petrocanada stations.
Twas mesmerizing. I have not seen any long stretches of tankers going west since, just groups of up to 10 scattered throughout the 100 to 200 total cars.

But the 80 car tanker bunches going east continue to increase on both CN and both CPR routes goin east and south-east in Winnipeg. Will post more when I start catfishing.

Amtrak replaces 30-year old locomotives with high-efficiency 8,600 hp electric models

Amtrak is getting some nice new high-efficiency toys. They will replace locomotives that have been in service for 25-35 years with 70 new Amtrak Cities Sprinter (ACS-64) made by Siemens. The company writes: "The new locomotives will operate on Northeast Regional trains at speeds up to 125 mph on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) along the Washington – New York – Boston route and on Keystone Service trains at speeds up to 110 mph on the Keystone Corridor from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pa. In addition, all long-distance trains operating on the NEC will be powered by the new locomotives."

Nuclear power is a good idea because when you have waste you lust dump it into the sea.

[...] Nishimoto said, the relevant international laws proved to be nonbinding. In particular, he noted, the London Convention on marine pollution, although it expressly prohibits ocean dumping of radioactive material, limits these restrictions to vessels at sea. Release of materials from land is not considered dumping.

“When I tell this to people outside the field of international law, the reaction I get is, ‘This is absurd,’ ” Nishimoto acknowledged. [...]

Just like how the release of radioactive material on a golf course was "owned" by the golf course and not the responsibility of TEPCO, right?

How Is Fukushima's Fallout Affecting Marine Life?

On the 2011 cruise, he and his team measured cesium in everything they sampled. “These were primarily zooplankton and some fish,” he reported. As expected, concentrations were higher in organisms sampled closer to shore. Radioactive silver (110mAg) was also detected in all zooplankton samples. In all cases, however, the amounts of cesium and silver isotopes were much lower than those of naturally occurring potassium-40 in the same samples.

“The radioactivity of the fish we caught and analyzed would not pose problems for human consumption,” he said. Which is not, he noted, the same thing as saying that all marine organisms caught in the region are perfectly safe to eat.

This is from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. They have several other articles on Fukushima that are linked from this.

Solving the mystery of the ongoing radioactivity will require a thorough analysis of the seafloor off Fukushima’s coast, he stressed. “Local communities are concerned. They want to know ‘When can we resume fishing?’ We scientists will have to answer this question.”

The key may be how long cesium stays put and the pathways for its uptake into the food chain. Given the 30-year half-life of cesium-137, the sediments could be a possible source of contamination in the food chain for decades to come.

Just part of the fun of reading about Fukushima (or Chernobyl for that matter). Everything is contaminated for decades but would not pose problems.

Cognitive dissonance. I guess one sees what one wants to see. If Cesium 137 is as bad as folks make out, I'm having a hard time understanding how a blue fin tuna can swim all the way across the Pacific Ocean and not notice it it too much.

In all cases, however, the amounts of cesium and silver isotopes were much lower than those of naturally occurring potassium-40 in the same samples.

And I'll say a big darn "SO?" to "gosh gee, there is more of this OTHER radioactive substance so why are you worried". Put a frame of the amount of decays per time unit along with the energy and particle size and then the reader will have a better idea on how concerned to be about a biological system. In a generation of humans the radioactive Silver won't be an issue. In a few generations, neither will the Cesium.

decay energy 1.176 [2] MeV 30 years 1/2 life

Ag-110 24.6 seconds 1/2 life (So finding that one would be terrifying)
Ag-110m 249.8 days 1/2 life
beta- energies (MeV): 0.53
(becomes Lead or Cadmium)

Potassium-40 (40K) is a radioactive isotope of potassium which has a very long half-life of 1.248×10^9 years.


The Potassium-40 is naturally occurring. It was there before the nuclear accident. It was there before we ever existed. It'll be there after we're gone.

The plankton, the fish, and the entire ecosystem have been functioning quite well with it being there. They're still functioning quite well, it appears, even though we've added some additional isotopes of varying types, forms, and energies.

Perhaps the new additions will have some catastrophic effect over time. I just tend to doubt it. That doubt is based on an extensive review of the data available in the peer reviewed literature, which itself is frequently contradictory and based on varying types of statistical analysis. In reading the literature I think there is enough in there to support either perspective - low dose radiation is gonna kill us all, or it's not terribly harmful at all.

One has to come to one's own conclusions. I lean heavily towards the latter. Can't fault you for leaning towards the former.

Perhaps the new additions will have some catastrophic effect over time. I just tend to doubt it.

And your doubt is based on?


Do you now doubt "no effect" if you've looked at the link?


European Commission investigators raided the offices of several major oil companies yesterday as they launched a far-reaching probe into price manipulation.

They fear prices have been driven up at the pumps for millions of motorists. The AA responded to news of the swoop by declaring: ‘The lid is about to be blown off.’

The commission said it suspected firms had ‘colluded in reporting distorted prices’ to agencies that publish the data used to set the price of oil and petrol.

Price fixing by large companies? Say it ain't so Joe.

Government investigates BP/Shell for 2 pence per litre for pricefixing at the pump.
Government charges 85 pence per litre in tax.

This has got to set a new precedence for irony surely?


I have experimented and cooked with my new induction cooktop for the last week using my off-grid photovoltaic system without using the propane. Four of those days were mostly cloudy and the others mostly sunny. My inverter is a Trace 2012 modified sine wave inverter. Unfortunately the power modes correspond poorly with the actual power consumed. The measured power in the following table includes the power consumed by the cooktop, wiring and inverter and is the power that my batteries and photovoltaic panels must output to cook.

mode | power
 (W) |  (W)
1300   1137 to 1213
1100   1104 to 1127
 900   1052
 700    930
 500    824
 300    669
 100    529

With a 742 rated watt PV system, only the 100 W mode consuming 529 W can run without discharging my batteries. This mode takes 10 minutes and uses 88 Wh to raise 2 cups (473 ml) of water from 40 C to 94 C, creating a slow boil at my elevation, in a 7.5 inch diameter cast iron skillet with a glass lid tilted sideways to insert a thermometer. The 500 W mode does the same thing in 4 minutes and 45 seconds consuming 65 Wh. Less than a minute later this mode boils the water rapidly. I did not perform this test using the higher power modes because I do not plan to use them. In the 100 W mode the cooktop consumes about 500 W which makes the inverter and wiring ~94% efficient.

An egg fries on the 300 W setting.

Frying a taco requires switching between the 100 and 300 W modes.

Simmering meat balls for 30 minutes on the 300 W mode while rotating the cast iron skillet 4 times burned the meat balls in the center of the skillet but not around the parameter. They needed to be turned over while simmering unlike on other stoves. The induction cooktop creates hotspots on the pan which require new cooking techniques compared to a gas or wood stove. Stainless steel cookware that spreads the heat around the base is likely needed.

This particular brand of cooktop has a microprocessor which monitors and is very particular about the quality of the power supply. It stops cooking when certain other appliances are running in my house. When my battery voltage is above 13.2 V, the coil will not energize making it difficult to start on a sunny day. Twice it has turned off the heat in the middle of cooking food and took me about 10 minutes to get it restarted. When idle, it reflects a reactive pulse back at my inverter which consumes about 60 W and strains reflecting it back to the cooktop. I am not sure whether these failings are characteristic of all induction cooktops or just my particular model.

This induction cooktop definitely boils water faster using less power and energy than my 600 W microwave oven that consumes 1270 W of electricity (using the same system of measurement that I used on the convection cooktop). It has the potential to eliminate my use of propane for cooking and boiling water, but some competent engineer needs to design its power supply making real world assumptions about residential AC power, not an idealized assumption that the circuit consists solely of a transformer on a pole, a perfect 120 VAC sine wave and the cooktop.

Copper, I think. Stainless doesn't distribute heat very efficiently.

I've got a set of Revere stainless steel with a copper plating on the bottom. Been working great for me for over 40 years. They also make a style with an all-stainless exterior and copper insert on the bottom, between layers of stainless.

Revere shows up in thrift stores fairly often. That would be a cheap way to give one a try.

Induction cooktops require that the cookware be feromagnetic. Stainless, copper and aluminum either won't work or will have lower efficiency (stainless), depending on what alloys are used. An induction disk can be used between the cooking element and a non-feromagnetic pan, but this also bypasses the whole idea of using induction for efficiency. Using purpose-built induction cookware is much more efficient (or cast iron). I love my vintage RevereWare, great on a gas stove and virtually indistructable, but pretty useless for induction (old Revere's stainless has a lower magnetic factor). They're making versions with a more ferromagnetic layer in the bottom now ($$!).

If a magnet sticks to the bottom of the pan, it should work.

Expensive induction compatible stainless steel cookware: All-Clad (made in USA) and Tri-Ply Clad (made in China). The outer layer is probably 18/0 stainless steel which is magnetic where the heat is induced. There is an inside layer of aluminum to distribute the heat around the base and side more uniformly. The inner layer of the pot is 18/10 (18% chromium, 10% nickle) stainless steel which is not magnetic and easier to clean. There is also the cheaper type that Ghung mentioned with the 18/0 and aluminum layer attached to the base of an 18/10 stainless steel pot.

All-Clad: $150 for a 2 quart pot
Tri-Ply Clad: $50 for a 2 quart pot

I am able to heat water in an aluminum pot to about 195 F by placing it in the iron skillet with some water to transfer the heat into the pot.


Councilmen race through Asheville on bike, bus, car
City leaders participate in the Strive Not to Drive Crosstown Rumbler, a multi-modal commuter race through town

Video. Car won by 5 minutes over the bus and 6-7 over the bike (a trifling amount between them all). Note that they took off when the bus arrived - so they didn't count the wait time for the bus. About a three mile stretch.