Drumbeat: May 17, 2013

Avoiding the 'Energy Abyss'

John Hofmeister doesn’t call it ‘peak oil,’ instead he calls it the ‘energy abyss,’ the point at which the global economy ceases to grow because the oil industry can no longer meet demand.

Hofmeister is the former president of Shell Oil, the same Shell Oil that is preparing to drill the deepest hole yet drilled to reach oil and gas 200 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico in 9,500 feet (2,900m) of water, surpassing the working depth of Shell’s Perdido rig, also located out in the Gulf and producing around 100,000 barrels a day. The cost of that rig: $3 billion.

In his 2010 book, Why We Hate The Oil Companies, Straight talk from an energy insider, he wrote the following:

“It’s inevitable. The industry that produces oil can’t produce enough, unless the world doesn’t grow. It’s possible that we will have such expensive oil that we will stymie growth. How many people will suffer? How many poor will become poorer, while rich become richer because we have failed rational tests of creating alternative competitive fuels? We have a choice to condemn ourselves to an energy abyss in the name of the status quo and lack of enlightened leadership, or we can choose to develop alternatives.

Why aren’t we more thoughtful about the future? Why don’t we begin the journey towards a range of alternatives that delivers increased national security, increased economic security, and multiple choice for consumers?

I think in this regard, we are missing in the whole construct, a meaningful voice of government as an intermediary and an enabler to a better future when it comes to fuel choice. The US has been crippled for 7 years by high-priced fuel; the government has done nothing to speak of to address the issue.”

The Peak Oil Crisis: Supply Shock

A new phrase, “supply shock,” entered the lexicon of the global oil business this week when the International Energy Agency reported that unexpectedly rapid growth in tight oil production from North Dakota and Texas is leading to profound changes in the global energy markets.

U.S. oil production which grew by 800,000 barrels a day (b/d) last year is now expected to grow by another 2.3 million b/d by 2018. In addition another 1.3 million b/d increase from Canada’s oil sands is expected. This 3.9 million b/d accounts for nearly half of the 8.4 million b/d increase in global production of combustible liquids that the IEA is expecting to be available by the end of the decade.

Oil Price-Fixing Probe Widens as Neste Helps EU Inquiry

The European oil price-fixing probe expanded as Neste Oil Oyj, Finland’s only refiner, said it was asked to provide information regarding potential manipulation of global crude and biofuel markets.

The widening investigation comes as Pannonia Ethanol, a Hungarian biofuel producer, said it lodged a complaint with the European Commission last year after data-pricing company Platts denied requests to contribute to its price-setting process. Meanwhile, Statoil ASA, one of the European oil companies that has been ensnared in the investigation, said it has “zero tolerance” for breaches of rules.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc and Statoil, three of Europe’s biggest oil explorers, are being investigated by European Commission officials about potential manipulation of prices in the $3.4 trillion-a-year global crude market. Platts, owned by McGraw Hill Financial Inc., also is a target in the inquiry. The probe, which extends to undisclosed crude-derived products and biofuels, shows how some energy markets lack the transparency of stocks and U.S. corporate bonds.

WTI Fluctuates; Poised for First Weekly Drop in a Month

West Texas Intermediate crude headed for the first weekly decline in a month after U.S. consumption of gasoline and distillate fuels dropped.

Futures fluctuated in New York after rising yesterday by the most in six days. U.S. gasoline consumption shrank 1.2 percent last week and demand for distillate fuels, including heating oil and diesel, decreased 2.4 percent, Energy Department data show. WTI may drop next week amid concern that weaker economic growth will reduce fuel use, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

“We still expect renewed downside pressure,” Andrey Kryuchenkov, an analyst at VTB Capital in London, said in an e-mail. “Demand is yet to improve ahead of summer” in the U.S. and Europe, he said.

Refinery woes cause nationwide gas price spike

Troubles at several oil refineries are driving gasoline prices sharply higher in the Midwest, and the regional shortages are expected to boost pump prices nationwide.

While the USA may be dripping in new found crude oil deposits and early May supplies were at their highest levels since the early 1930s, issues at a handful of refineries that turn crude into gasoline and diesel fuel underscore how kinks in the supply chain can cause quick surges in what consumers pay at the pump.

Consumer prices take biggest drop in 4 years, thanks to gas prices

A sharp drop in gasoline costs led consumer prices to tumble in April by the most in over four years, while a gauge of underlying inflation was so weak it could worry the Federal Reserve.

The Labor Department said on Thursday its Consumer Price Index slipped 0.4 percent, the biggest decline since December 2008 when America was suffering some of the darkest days of its financial crisis. Analysts had expected a more modest 0.2 percent decline in last month's prices.

Canada’s inflation at just 0.4%, slowest since 2009

Canada’s annual inflation rate in April slowed to 0.4 per cent on declining gas prices and lower prices for passenger vehicles.

Does U.S. oil boom mean lower prices at the pump?

The International Energy Agency says the oil fields of North Dakota are turning the global oil market on its head. Canada's oil sands, too, to be fair. The agency's latest report on world oil supplies says North America's oil boom is turning out to be even bigger than predicted. Within five years, the U.S. and Canada will be meeting most of the world's new oil demand.

Whoa. Wasn't it just a few years ago we were fretting about "peak oil?'

Fuel Oil Rally to End With Europe Swamping Asia

The premium traders in Asia are paying for the earliest deliveries of fuel oil is poised to slide from an eight-month high as Europe floods the region with excess supplies and Chinese refinery demand wanes.

Global LNG-Latin America demand drives global spot market

PERTH/LONDON: Latin American demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) continued to dominate the global spot market this week, with Mexico's monthly LNG imports expected to hit a seven-year high in May.

Mexico's state-run power monopoly CFE will buy 18 LNG cargoes from energy trader Trafigura due to be shipped in 2013 and 2014 as piped natural gas supply from the United States fails to keep up with demand.

Nigeria LNG declares force majeure

Nigeria LNG has declared force majeure on its liquefied natural gas exports from at Bonny Island a day after Shell halted its supplies to the Bonny Island facility over a reported leak.

LPG Ship Rates Head for Biggest-Ever Weekly Gain on U.S. Cargoes

The cost of shipping liquefied petroleum gas headed for the biggest weekly gain on record as surging U.S. exports of the cooking fuel and chemicals feedstock sap vessel supply.

Rates for very large gas carriers already jumped 24 percent to $68 a metric ton since May 10, according to the Baltic Exchange, a London-based publisher of shipping prices on more than 50 maritime routes. That would mark the largest weekly rally in data going back to 2005 if costs stay the same today or rise, according to the bourse.

Making choices early gives room to move in the future

If we believe endless growth on a finite planet is possible, then it's all good. If we reckon the age of cheap oil will never end, we can party on.

But if we think the climate scientists are on to something, that resource use deserves special care and there may be some economic bumps ahead, then a rethink of our way of living is warranted.

China State Grid Buys Stake in SP AusNet for A$824 Million

China State Grid Corp., the nation’s largest power distributor, agreed to pay Singapore Power Ltd. A$824 million ($810 million) for 19.9 percent of Australia’s SP AusNet as part of its $50 billion global acquisition plan.

The Chinese state-owned company will also acquire 60 percent of Singapore Power’s other Australian energy and infrastructure assets held by SPI (Australia) Assets Pty, the Singaporean company said today in a statement. That closely held unit, known as Jemena, manages more than A$5 billion of assets and had A$1.7 billion in sales in 2012, according to its website.

Nova Chemicals to start using shale gas in Ontario

A major Abu Dhabi-owned petrochemical complex is due to become one of the first in the world to benefit from North America's shale bonanza.

Nova Chemicals, the Calgary-based company owned by the emirate's International Petroleum Investment Company, is due to start receiving gas from Pennsylvania's Marcellus field, a major shale deposit, by the end of this year.

Pertamina looks to Talisman’s expertise in Indonesian shale gas block

JAKARTA — State energy firm Pertamina is planning to tap into the expertise of Canada’s Talisman Energy Inc as it embarks on Indonesia’s first shale gas extraction project, a company official said on Friday.

Energy Future’s Woes Stunt Oncor’s Power Growth Ambitions

Oncor Electric Delivery Co., Texas’ largest power utility, may not be able to take full advantage of the nation’s fastest-growing electricity market because of capital constraints lingering from its parent’s 2007 leveraged buyout.

Oncor would have to cut dividend payments to Energy Future Holdings Corp. if the Texas electricity distributer wanted to fund another major project in the state where it serves more than 3 million homes and business, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Bob Shapard said.

Kuwait suspends executives over Dow Chemical payment

Kuwait City: Kuwait’s cabinet suspended on Thursday several senior oil executives over a $2.2 billion penalty paid to Dow Chemical for scrapping a joint venture and ordered a judicial investigation into the matter, an official statement said.

Green party has decades-in-making breakthrough in B.C. election

VANCOUVER - The British Columbia Green party made a historic breakthrough in the provincial election this week, powered on what appeared to be opposition to oil pipelines and concerns about global warming.

Andrew Weaver, a University of Victoria professor and climate change expert, defeated four-term Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong in the Vancouver Island riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head on southern Vancouver Island.

"It is very, very exciting," a tired, but elated Weaver said Wednesday.

But the reaction among environmental groups to the Green victory was tempered by the surprising loss of the B.C. New Democrats and their no-to-pipelines platform.

Harper Seeks to Build Keystone XL Support on U.S. Visit

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seeking to counter opposition to TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline, a project crucial for boosting Canada’s economy and Harper’s plans to make the country an energy superpower to rival Saudi Arabia.

Harper, at an event today moderated by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin for the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said there is a strong case for the U.S. government to approve the pipeline, citing the prospects for job creation and North American energy independence.

Keystone XL pipeline 'needs to go ahead,' Harper tells U.S.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told an American audience today that the Keystone XL pipeline "absolutely needs to go ahead."

Harper made the pipeline pitch while taking questions at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

Payout official set for surge in BP spill claims

New Orleans - The deadline for claims against BP Plc in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill is 11 months away, but the man responsible for paying the claims said on Thursday he is already bracing for a late surge in filings.

Study finds use of dispersants can increase oil penetration into sandy marine sediments

A Florida State University researcher working as part of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) investigated the effects of dispersants on the movement of crude oil through water-saturated marine sand and found that dispersants potentially facilitate penetration of oil components into the seabed, where oxygen concentrations may affect the degradation of the oil.

Fracking on Federal Lands Said to Get Scaled-Back Rule Proposal

Gas drillers using hydraulic fracturing on federal lands would be able to use an industry-sponsored website to disclose the chemicals they use and won’t need to perform cement tests on each well, according to a revised proposal from the Interior Department set for release today.

Drillers will be permitted to use a variety of methods to test the integrity of their wells, according to a fact sheet from the Interior Department, which was provided to Bloomberg by an outside representative.

Edison, Mitsubishi hit roadblock on San Onofre's future

A flurry of letters that went back and forth between Southern California Edison and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries late last year reveal the serious hurdles that stand in the way of the San Onofre nuclear power plant's long-term future.

The plant had been offline at that point for nearly a year because of unusual wear on tubes that carry radioactive water in the plant’s newly replaced steam generators, which were designed and manufactured by Mitsubishi.

Teenager Designs Safer Nuclear Power Plants

Do nuclear power plants need a redesign? Critics of nuclear energy seem to think so, and so does nuclear energy advocate, Taylor Wilson. A physics wunderkind, Wilson became the youngest person to ever create fusion at age 14. And since graduating from high school last year, he's devoted himself to finding innovative solutions to the world's biggest problems.

The now nineteen-year-old Wilson recently spoke to a TED audience about his design for a small, modular fission reactor that is both less expensive and much safer to operate than today's nuclear reactors.

Can an abandoned warehouse transform Ivy City?

A streetcar may be a longshot, and Lewis and Swanson are both skeptical that it’d help Ivy City residents. But up to now, the neighborhood has been taunted by transit it doesn’t benefit from: the Amtrak tracks that box in a neighborhood that lacks easy access to any Metro or intercity rail stations, and the whizzing cars along New York Avenue that rarely have occasion to pull off in Ivy City. Adding destination retail, a community-serving supermarket, greater transportation options, and jobs in the office building—Jemal says there could be up to 5,000 people working there—could change all that. Tregoning says the kind of retail the Hecht’s project might be able to attract would “allow that community to punch above its weight.” And Millstein hopes that it could motivate the city to find other locations for bus and truck parking as those Ivy City lots become more valuable as potential retail or housing development sites.

As auto sales rebound, so do repossessions

An increase in auto repossessions due to borrowers defaulting on their car loans is raising new questions about whether the auto industry is going too far selling new cars and trucks to those with subprime credit records.

According to Experian Automotive, the percentage of auto repos in the first quarter jumped 16.9 percent, and the average charge-off for bad loans jumped more than $600 to $7,401.

Tesla to Raise More Than $1 Billion to Repay U.S. Loan

Tesla Motors Inc., the electric-car maker run by Elon Musk, will use proceeds from a sale of shares and debt to repay its U.S. loan as much as nine years ahead of schedule, a victory for a maligned Energy Department program.

Tesla Motors As The 4th U.S. Automaker, And Why The Future Is Bright

Tesla Motors has been a fairly controversial stock ever since its 2010 IPO, as its critics and supporters argue over Tesla's profit potential, its relevance, and even the utility of its cars. For Tesla's critics, what is effectively Elon Musk's most famous venture is little more than a pipe dream, a futile exercise in unworkable technology financed by taxpayers. And to Tesla's supporters, the company represents a paradigm shift in the automobile business, and they believe that the company will emerge as America's 4th automaker, alongside the "Big 3" of Detroit. With Tesla's Q1 2013 results on May 8, we believe that Tesla will indeed take its place as America's 4th automobile manufacturer. Tesla has created a recipe for success in the automobile market of today, as well as the automobile market of tomorrow, with clear strategies for both.

A reality check on Tesla

Even after overlooking all the Model S' objective blemishes (the team over at CR mentioned its lack of certain high-end features, stereo issues and parasitic battery energy losses when parked), electric vehicles lack a national infrastructure of charging points, accessible cross-country range and remain cost prohibitive for most consumers. These are major hurdles, preventing tens of millions from even considering vehicles like the Model S. Don't feel sorry for just the electric crowd, either. The same hindrances are lodged at other alternative-energy vehicles, such as those powered by hydrogen and natural gas.

Tesla's high-scoring 85 kwh Model S, arguably at the top of its pure-electric segment, is limited to a range of about 265 miles. Even though it may be plugged into any common 110-volt electrical outlet for a slow charge, high-speed electric vehicle charging stations have only sprung up in major population centers or along busy highway corridors, meaning a lack of foresight before heading down a less-traveled road may initiate a tow truck encounter.

Used Fisker Karma EVs are the 'new Delorean' as prices tumble

As used car deals go, this is one to make you think twice. Used Fisker Karmas, which sold for $103,000 just a year ago as new models, are now being sold for roughly half price. In some cases, those trying to sell the luxury extended-range electric car on eBay cannot even get bids above $50,000.

World Bank's IFC agrees to support Masdar projects

Masdar and the International Finance Corporation have penned an agreement that could see the World Bank subsidiary provide as much as US$1.5 billion in financing to the Abu Dhabi investor for clean energy projects around the world.

In a memorandum of understanding (MoU) announced yesterday and signed in Washington DC, the IFC and Masdar agreed to look at projects ranging from solar plants to carbon capture and storage facilities.

SolarCity shares surge on news of financing from Goldman

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - SolarCity shares are shining once again.

The solar-energy installer surged 9% Thursday after announcing an agreement with Goldman Sachs that will finance $500 million worth of solar projects. The deal, inked last year, has already supported 26 megawatts' worth of new solar-generation power and will provide for 84 megawatts more, making it the largest agreement of its kind, SolarCity said.

Lithium Ion Starter Batteries: Will BYD Take The Place Of A123 Systems?

This contribution is about "Build your Dreams" - BYD, Warren Buffett's most famous investment in China. It's aimed at analyzing this company's possibilities of success in the introduction of Li-ion starter batteries into the micro-hybrid car market.

China says EU solar duties to "seriously harm" trade ties

BEIJING (Reuters) - China warned the European Union on Thursday that imposing duties on Chinese solar panels would "seriously harm" bilateral trade ties, upping the tone of its criticism a week after the EU said it would move ahead with hefty penalties in June.

The European Commission has agreed to impose average import duties of 47 percent on solar panels from China, according to officials, a move they say is to guard against the dumping of cheap goods in Europe.

Washington Is Outdoing California and Texas in Renewable Energy

California and Texas might be leading the nation’s rollout of solar and wind power, respectively, but Washington, where hydroelectric dams provide over 60 percent of the state’s energy, was the country’s biggest user of renewable power in 2011, according to new statistics released last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

A powerful use for spoiled food

Kroger Co.'s anaerobic digester in Compton takes unsold food from Ralphs and Food 4 Less and converts it into 13 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year.

Indonesia: A Logging Ban Is Extended

Indonesia has approved a two-year extension to a landmark ban on clearing primary rain forests and peatlands, an official said Thursday.

Senate Panel Advances Nominee for E.P.A.

WASHINGTON — A sharply divided Senate committee on Thursday approved the nomination of Gina McCarthy to serve as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Environment and Public Works Committee voted to clear Ms. McCarthy by 10-to-8 along strictly partisan lines, sending the nomination to the Senate floor where Republicans are threatening to filibuster unless the E.P.A. meets demands for additional information.

Escape Plans

Why do we need a space program? Because Earth isn’t going to be a safe place in the long term.

Planting the Seed of Sustainable Farming

The key question is: How do we get enough farmers to practice sustainable agriculture so that algal blooms and dead zones — whether in Lake Erie or the Gulf of Mexico — become a thing of the past? How do we actually win?

The answer lies in convincing farmers that sustainable agriculture is not at odds with high yields and profitability. In fact, practices like more efficient use of fertilizer and the creation (or maintenance) of wetlands and buffer strips, which filter runoff before it can reach streams and rivers, can save farmers money and help improve the quality of their soil.

Food supply under assault as climate heats up

American eaters, let’s talk about the birds and the bees: The U.S. food supply – from chickens injected with arsenic to dying bee colonies – is under unprecedented siege from a blitz of man-made hazards, meaning some of your favorite treats someday may vanish from your plate, experts say.

Warmer and moister air ringing much of the planet – punctuated by droughts in other locales – is threatening the prime ingredients in many daily meals, including the maple syrup on your morning pancakes and the salmon on your evening grill as well as the wine in your glass and the chocolate on your dessert tray, according to four recent studies.

Scientists: Climate change is real

An overwhelming 97 percent of climatologists endorse the idea of human-caused global warming

As if the backing of NASA, 18 independent American scientific societies, and an intergovernmental panel established under the United Nations weren't enough to quell the protests popping up in comment sections across the Internet, a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters confirms — once again — that climatologists almost unanimously believe that climate change is directly related to human-made carbon emissions.

Analysis: Obama climate agenda faces Supreme Court reckoning

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With a barrage of legal briefs, a coalition of business groups and Republican-leaning states are taking their fight against Obama administration climate change regulations to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups, along with states such as Texas and Virginia, have filed nine petitions in recent weeks asking the justices to review four U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations that are designed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

Africa: At UN Debate, Experts Weigh Clean Energy, Water Strategies to Halt 'Runaway' Climate Change

With dire warnings likely to match or exceed the worst fears about the effects of global warming, environment and development experts gathered today at United Nations Headquarters to debate the twin challenge of curbing climate change while sustaining economic growth.

"The fundamental challenge of our time is to end extreme poverty in this generation and significantly narrow the global gap between rich and poor without ruing the environmental basis for our survival," General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic said as he opened the Thematic Debate Sustainable Development and Climate Change: Practical Solutions in the Energy-Water Nexus.

EU Should Scrap Energy Subsidies to Fight Warming, Poland Says

The European Union should scrap fossil fuel and renewable energy subsidies and set a target to cut oil imports to remain the leader in the fight against global warming, according to Poland’s environment minister.

Poland wants to keep energy prices at an affordable level, Minister Marcin Korolec said today at a conference in Warsaw attended by EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard titled “A World You Like With a Climate You Like.”

“We have our ideas of how to improve EU policies and thus climate,” Korolec said. “Those are simple actions that would help us have the climate you like on a budget you like.”

Artist finds inspiration in Canadian government's attempt to silence her

Banned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government Censorship, released this week, shows how Canadian bureaucrats tried to silence James because her views on climate change clashed with the Harper government's push to develop Alberta's tar sands.

The story is told through visual essays as well as official emails obtained by James, in which government bureaucrats discuss the troublesome artist and her work.

It also relies heavily on humour – some of it provided inadvertently by the government bureaucrats discussing what to do about James.

James Hansen Says Greenland Melt May Cool North Atlantic

Greenland ice melting at an expanding pace may begin cooling the North Atlantic and increasing the severity of storms by 2075, said James Hansen, the former NASA scientist who raised concerns about global warming in the 1980s.

“If we stay on this path where the rate of mass loss from Greenland doubles every 10 years, we would get to a situation by about 2075 or 2080 where the mass loss is so fast that it causes the whole North Atlantic to be colder,” Hansen said in London.

Tar sands make climate change 'unsolvable': Hansen

Exploiting oil and gas trapped in tar sands and shale threatens to make climate change “unsolvable,” said James Hansen, the former NASA scientist who raised concerns about global warming in the 1980s.

Conventional reserves of oil, gas and coal already have more carbon embedded in them than is safe to burn without causing “dangerous” levels of warming beyond a rise of 2 degrees Celsius since industrialisation, Hansen told a U.K. panel of lawmakers today.

Leaked Papers Show UK Government Will Backtrack on Tar Sands Extraction Being Classified As Highly Polluting

The UK government has come under fire this week from both NGOs and scientists for rejecting an EU proposal to classify tar sands under the European Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) as ‘highly polluting’ – despite the fact research has shown that oil produced from the Canadian tar sands emits 3-4 times more greenhouse gases than does conventional oil.

E.U. Considers Emission Fines on Chinese and Indian Airlines

BRUSSELS — The European Commission said Thursday that Air China and Air India were among 10 Chinese and Indian airlines facing the prospect of fines and exclusion from airports in the European Union for refusing to comply with rules aimed at regulating greenhouse emissions.

The carriers are accused of not providing emissions data, as required by the European rules, and not participating in a permit system that entitles airlines to emit greenhouse gases in European airspace.

America’s first climate refugees: Can a baked Alaska deny climate change?

There is no disputing the real-time effects of climate change. Alaska is warming faster than anywhere else in America, setting off a circumpolar scramble for oil and other resources given up by the melting ice and threatening the livelihood of those who still live off the land and the sea.

“Up here in Alaska, I would say most people do not have an argument that climate change is happening because we see it,” said Douglas Causey, a wildlife biologist at the University of Alaska at Anchorage. “The debate is not whether climate change is happening. The debate is over what’s causing it.”

But those debates, and the fierce politics surrounding climate change, compromise efforts to deal with the causes and protect the people who will bear a huge part of the consequences.

Glacier melt causes third of sea-level rise

Water from the world's shrinking glaciers was responsible for almost a third of the rise in sea levels between 2003 and 2009, shows new research.

As North Pole Melts, U.S. Arctic Policy Needs to Heat Up

Behind the Arctic’s intensifying geopolitics are some powerful geophysics. Climate change is causing Arctic ice to melt at an accelerating rate. Last summer, the area of ice covering the Arctic Ocean was about half what it was, on average, from 1980 to 2000. The thickness of the remaining ice had diminished by 80 percent over the same period. The late-summer Arctic could regularly be ice-free as soon as the 2030s, according to some estimates.

Although these developments portend ominous changes in the jet stream, ocean currents and global climate, they also promise great opportunities. With less ice will come more access to oil and gas: The U.S. Geological Survey estimated in 2008 that the region holds 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil.

Canada must rule its Arctic waves

To declare and enforce our sovereignty in the huge archipelago we claim, an area the size of Western Europe, we must have ships and sailors in those waters in sufficient numbers, and with sufficient capability, to let no nation doubt our commitment. But even with the government’s highly-touted shipbuilding program, the worry is that our will shall fail, and the resources wither below what was promised. We may lose our voice around the Arctic Council table, with new members clamouring to join, to stronger, more robust nations, because of Nelson’s “want of frigates” — or their modern equivalent.

Half of oil burnable in 2000-2050 to keep us within 2 degrees warming has been used up as we hit 400 ppm

This article shows CO2 emission profiles from oil, analyses how regional peak oil events shape emission curves and calculates that an annual 6% oil decline rate after 2012 would be needed to satisfy the boundary condition to keep global warming to 2 degrees C, with a 25% probability of exceeding this target.

Re: Does U.S. oil boom mean lower prices at the pump?

The International Energy Agency says the oil fields of North Dakota are turning the global oil market on its head. Canada's oil sands, too, to be fair. The agency's latest report on world oil supplies says North America's oil boom is turning out to be even bigger than predicted. Within five years, the U.S. and Canada will be meeting most of the world's new oil demand.
by Sarah Gardner
Marketplace for Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I believe it was just yesterday that we were discussing the mathematical and scientific illiteracy and lack of critical thinking skills displayed by most journalists... Way to go Sarah Gardner! Your motto must be: "Never question anything!"

Someone needs to unpack that statement because what does "new demand" even mean. If all this oil almost meets new demand, what about existing demand? Further, this statement is rather nebulous since it lacks any quantitative definition.

Regardless, I think all these "optimistic" articles should be accompanied by a disclaimer to the effect that it is not all good if climate change ruins the ecological support mechanisms of the planet.

This reminds me of an island that is being inundated by sea level rise but has plenty of resources to sustain itself for generations. Or, what is the use of all this oil if we don't have a tolerable planet to burn it on?

Sure, there is a lot of analysis that says that these so called new sources of oil are not sustainable but nevertheless they create the illusion that it's all good and there is nothing to worry about. Thank goodness, peak oil is dead, long live peak oil.

The U.S. and Canada may well be able to most of the world's new oil demand - if demand is defined by one's ability/willingness to pay for it, there may not be much "demand". New demand would be only a fraction of that - those who are newly able/willing to pay for oil?

Meaningless drivel, but don't lose sight of the fact that broadcasting this drivel works, and works very well. The public buys this stuff hook, line and sinker. Combined with what I'm seeing as a very strong strain of anti-intellectualism, those of us egg-heads who try to tell them otherwise will not be well received.

Combined with what I'm seeing as a very strong strain of anti-intellectualism, those of us egg-heads who try to tell them otherwise will not be well received.

Not surprising since someone posted the other day that Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency is actually a creationist and this Sarah Gardner the author of "Does U.S. oil boom mean lower prices at the pump?" attended Carleton College where she received her bachelor’s degree in religion.

So anti-intellectualism would be an understatement in this case...

I can see it now a large bonfire of physics, chemistry and geology textbooks with a few witches intellectuals and scientists tossed on top for good measure to ward off the evil spirits. BTW, am I the only one who thinks we are rapidly descending into a new dark ages?

BTW, am I the only one who thinks we are rapidly descending into a new dark ages?

No, not at all Fred. I've been thinking a lot about Greer's comments concerning a Green Wizard's group. I'm thinking now is the time to preserve valuable knowledge and start making provisions/connections for moving such conversations and discussions underground.

There are so many angry, ignorant people who never learned critical thinking or introspection. They will be so easy to direct towards blaming. I think part of this is due to the long term failure of the US education system, and part is a backlash against the failure of the religion of progress. It's priests may well be hunted down.

The US education system has not failed. It turns out precisely what it has long been designed to - drones who will heel to authority, and not think for themselves. IOW, good worker bees, nothing more.

*(as a beekeeper, I know I garbled the analogy... but the point stands)

Well, yes, but that is a bit of a failure in comparison to the original intent.

Going by John Taylor Gatto's writings the original intent of all modern public school education systems (which originated in Prussia) was to breed disciplined soldiers and clerks. It all started with the battle of Jena 1806.

The most important immediate reaction to Jena was an immortal speech, the "Address to the German Nation" by the philosopher Fichte—one of the influential documents of modern history leading directly to the first workable compulsion schools in the West. Other times, other lands talked about schooling, but all failed to deliver. Simple forced training for brief intervals and for narrow purposes was the best that had ever been managed. This time would be different.

In no uncertain terms Fichte told Prussia the party was over. Children would have to be disciplined through a new form of universal conditioning. They could no longer be trusted to their parents. Look what Napoleon had done by banishing sentiment in the interests of nationalism. Through forced schooling, everyone would learn that "work makes free," and working for the State, even laying down one’s life to its commands, was the greatest freedom of all. Here in the genius of semantic redefinition1 lay the power to cloud men’s minds, a power later packaged and sold by public relations pioneers Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee in the seedtime of American forced schooling.


I think nationalism and public schooling go hand in hand, how else are you going to get massive number of people to do your bidding under inhospitable conditions for paltry sums of money.

"work makes free"

Somehow its meaning is more obvious in the original German:

"Arbeit Macht Frei"

Didn't I see that on a sign somewhere?

Whenever I look at the state of the world I think of Asimov's Foundation series. I think one of the greatest concerns is another take on the Red Queen scenario in that all of our technological developments now seem to be aimed at keeping us where we are instead of moving us forward.

In energy we're not shooting for massive amounts of more energy (not in a big way anyway) but are instead trying to switch over to another equal supply if we can. It's the same with food supplies, if we weren't facing climate change and problems with supply of fertilisers then a switch to GMO's could see an increase in production but as it stands an introduction of GMO's worldwide would again maintain things at a similar level. Another big problem is antibiotics, I think we'll actually be looking at a step backwward on fighting common diseases in the near future.

I personally think all the big jumps have been made and now we're fighting as hard as we can just to keep the status quo. Eventually a decline will begin in which standards are reduced little by little.

I the only one who thinks we are rapidly descending into a new dark ages?

It is nothing new. It waxes & wanes. The so-called Moral Majority had its big push back in the 80s but today we have gay marriage, creationism is banned from science classes, gays are in military, and abortion is still constitutionally protected right. I think the anti-intellectual forces are actually losing ground these days, but they are just corralled and supported by various big industries in order to protect their own interests such as endless fossil fuel burning, no-taxes, no-regulations, and other protections for their industries.

But the strategy is falling apart. Gay civil rights is winning and will continue to win if you look at the age demographics. The GOP lost a lot of races because of anti-abortion extremists and their non-scientific views of rape. Even gun laws, a topic which was verboten for years, is at least up for debate now.

Sure . . . we still burn fossil fuels like crazy. But that is because that is a real tough issue because it hits people's pocketbooks. No one but small group of environmentalists and energy policy wonks want gasoline taxes to go up. That is a tough sell.

I do agree that we're on the verge of a difficult, if not darker, age.

But I'm concerned when we intellectuals cast aspersions through ad hominem comments.

    Such as: "someone posted the other day..." (who, and where?); "... is actually a creationist..." (what evidence?).

    And, "... attended Carleton College..." (which turns out to be an independent non-sectarian, coeducational, liberal arts college. Doesn't sound like a hotbed of anti-intellectualism to me. Can you offer evidence to convince us otherwise?).

    Where she got "...her bachelor’s degree in religion" (Why is that the only relevant part of her background? Perhaps she wrote a thesis critiquing the role of religion in human affairs? Or do you have evidence that she's a narrow-minded bible thumper? Perhaps she did a comparative study among religious and non-religious mindsets? After all, at Carleton "...religion is understood as a field of inquiry within the humanities and social sciences...".

The latter did not write a quality piece of investigative journalism (and that's an understatement). But perhaps we could aim a little higher in our own commentary.

"someone posted the other day..." (who, and where?); "... is actually a creationist..." (what evidence?).

You talking to me? I'm not making this stuff up.

It might come as a surprise, then, that the Dutch Minister of Education, Maria van der Hoeven (pictured left), has a different view. In March (in her personal weblog), she remarked that she was personally attracted to the concept of Intelligent Design (ID) in relation to science education. Van der Hoeven, an active Roman Catholic who is well known for her practical approach to the problems confronting education in the Netherlands, said that she didn’t believe in ‘coincidence’1—she clearly rejects atheistic naturalism. Furthermore, she states: ‘When we succeed in joining scientists of different directions of faith, maybe Intelligent Design might at the end be applied at schools and in lessons.’2 These purely private remarks caused parliamentarians at that time to question her view on the separation of Church and State.


I was replying to FMagyar.

This was discussed in the previous Drumbeat. The comment simply assumes that people have been following the discussion and read yesterday's comments.

It may not be an accurate assumption, but it is how discussions tend to go in blogs like this. You can't write each comment as if it will be read by newbies who have never read anything here before. That just gets tedious beyond belief.

Fair enough. (Normally, do follow closely. But not online these days, what with the garden-farm taking up my time.)

However, a mention that it was in a previous Drumbeat would have me checking there. While saying that someone "posted the other day" is, I trust you'll agree, a bit vague given that we all read more than TOD. But I'll dial down my LI (literal interpretation).

But then there's the second part of my comment. Any thoughts about that? After all, ad hominem comments are our own form of anti-intellectualism, no?

It was in fact posted in the previous Drumbeat, the other day.

After all, ad hominem comments are our own form of anti-intellectualism, no?

Not sure that applies in this case. I think questioning someone's credentials is legit, if you are talking about how qualified they are to do a job.

Yeah, I don't see what the alternative is - assuming that anyone is qualified for any job regardless of their formal education or public statements?

I agree that questioning someone's credentials is appropriate. But I guess that we'll disagree on whether it was done appropriately above. If it was done to your satisfaction then you and I have very different criteria.

What FMagyar wrote was, " ... and this Sarah Gardner the author of "Does U.S. oil boom mean lower prices at the pump?" attended Carleton College where she received her bachelor’s degree in religion. ... So anti-intellectualism would be an understatement in this case...

If you want to judge someone's credentials, you've got to go further than just list the department they got their undergraduate degree in and then state as-if-a-fact that it's an anti-intellectual endeavor. There is absolutely nothing mutually exclusive about studying religion on the one hand, and being mathematically and scientifically literate and having critical thinking skills on the other. For all we know she may have critiqued religion using her scientific literacy and critical thinking skills.

Gardner wrote a piece that, if researched at all, was poorly checked. That assessment is based on the facts that I've learned here on TOD and elsewhere.

But to write, Way to go Sarah Gardner! Your motto must be: "Never question anything!" is an argument against the person and not against their facts.

How would we feel if someone wrote "Way to go TODers! Your motto must be: "Never believe a non-engineer!"

But to write, Way to go Sarah Gardner! Your motto must be: "Never question anything!" is an argument against the person and not against their facts.

I assume you are familiar with George Mobus' blog 'Question Everything' sort of the opposite side of the coin as far as critical thinking skills go. My comment was an admittedly oblique reference to that.

My comment was also a direct reaction to what I found to be a straightforward regurgitation by Sarah Gardner of the IEA's line that within five years, the U.S. and Canada will be meeting most of the world's new oil demand... Really now.

Admittedly it might have been a bit of an underhanded remark to comment on the fact she had a Bachelors in Religion but she was clearly swallowing hook line and sinker the statements put forth by an agency whose Executive director is a known creationist. Perhaps you are right and that just happens to be a total coincidence. So my sincerest apologies.

I should have just called a spade a spade and said she was a completely ignorant and uncritical journalist who didn't even try to do some basic research on the actual facts before writing what she did. Though I'm willing to bet that she thought that if the IEA (A know authority on energy) said so, that was more than good enough for her. So she wasn't doing her job as a journalist.

Therefore my comment that she questions nothing!

Fair enough. (And I missed making the connection to Mobus' blog. My error. Since your comment is humorous in that light).

But, still, wouldn't it be better to write, ...she [wrote] a completely ignorant and uncritical [piece of journalism].

In time, she may establish herself as an ignorant and uncritical writer. Then I'd be skeptical of her next missives, unless or until she redeemed herself.

But, still, wouldn't it be better to write, ...she [wrote] a completely ignorant and uncritical [piece of journalism].

I thought I just admitted to precisely that?!

Having said that, this particular example of her writing goes a very long way, in my book at least, towards establishing her as an ignorant and uncritical writer and I'm just going to leave it at that.


I thought I just admitted to precisely that?!

But you wrote:

I should have just called a spade a spade and said she was a completely ignorant and uncritical journalist...

Being involved in education I've always been told that things go better if I focus on the product. So, if I write: "You are a completely ignorant and uncritical journalist," I infer that you are incapable of writing well (there's less of a chance for learning). But if I write You wrote a completely ignorant and uncritical piece of journalism," I leave open the door to improvement.

A trivial difference in words. But I'm told it has a non-trivial effect on the outcome.

I think that we're actually on the same page here since you also wrote she, "...didn't even try to do some basic research on the actual facts before writing what she did..." which is telling her what to do to improve. And there's no better place to do that than here on TOD.

I think the only reason I care to write any of this is that we may be being watched.

(Maybe it's a stretch?) but she may Google who is mentioning her article. If she comes across our TOD thread saying she's ignorant and incompetent, she might not dwell here long. That would be a damn shame since (I think we agree) this is just what she needs. And, in the future if someone mentions a TOD posting to her, she not even consider it. That too would be a damn shame.

Now we might hastily say that it's her loss, not ours. But that's wrongheaded. We do want to influence these writers; the energy descent may go easier if more of us agree on the facts, early and often.

So, Ms. Gardner, if you're reading any of this, please stay awhile. We play nicer here than on most of the web. And there is no better place to cut through the noise and nonsense about peak oil, EROEI, energy descent, ELM, CNI, etc.

The term 'ad hominem' doesn't apply in this case, as it is only used when personally attacking your opponent in an argument. As Maria van der Hoeven is not posting here, it can not be an ad hominem.

But I take it that you mean that we discredit the person, instead of discrediting their theories. Unfortunately, it is much easier to make false claims, than to refute them. To save time, instead of refuting every false theory someone has, you can discredit the person by showing s/he has a tendency to make false claims.

We humans cannot understand everything ourselves, at some point we need to trust the judgment of others. Choosing which people to trust and which people not to trust is not anti-intellectual.

Firstly, I do agree that one needs to be careful not behave and become what one is criticizing. But I think your examples are poor choices.

For arguments sake lets say she did all the things you feel she could have done. Is that kind of background - a religious critic- what you would want from somebody reporting on energy matters. Seems to me whether you are a bible thumper or critic isn't the issue.

I also think that you place to much of burden on people- do we have to start out by giving everybody the benefit of the doubt- or does it make sense to go with what is the most likely outcome based on a set of facts. As the old expression goes - if you hear hoof beats think horses not zebras.

For arguments sake lets say she did all the things you feel she could have done. Is that kind of background - a religious critic- what you would want from somebody reporting on energy matters.

If I was looking for an investigative journalist (and I think that is what the issue here is about) then, yes, having a background in critique, critical analysis, rhetoric, etc., the skill and willingness to get help in areas in which they are not competent, and plain old writing skill, are all critical. Having competence in the topic area (i.e., energy issues) also is useful, but that can develop from critical analysis.

I don't know if Gardner has this latter competence but based only on the one report of hers that I have read, I'd say its doubtful. It's more likely that she's a newbie who needs our help with the facts.

The issue here is simple. Initially, stick only to the facts, avoid focusing on the person. Over time, if a clear pattern emerges, then be skeptical about the next piece they write, but focus on the facts of that piece.

This is a modified version of tit-for-tat: start out by giving everybody the benefit of the doubt, learn from your experiences, keep track but be ready to forgive (and, don't be played for a sucker).

And, yes, quality discourse is a burden on those involved.

Thank you. I would like to second all of that..

I happen to know something about that school - I spent 4 years there. Your description isn't a bad one. There were few if any bible thumpers when I was there. If I recall correctly, Religion wasn't really a huge department. But what do I know - I was Physics (BTW, there were no book burnings). Most of the incoming students were either Chemistry or Biology (pre-med, really). If you go to the trouble of using google to find the Religion department website to see a list of the classes offered, you might get a sense for the sorts of things that they study.

As for the person who wrote the article cited above, I *believe* that I knew her (she was 1 year behind me, and if I recall correctly, she lived just down the hall from me one year). If it is the person I am thinking of, I don't recall anything at all negative.

I get that some here might not like the piece that she wrote. And while jumping to conclusions and throwing out ad-hominem attacks seems to be the norm on the internet these days, I would agree with Aspera that we should aim higher here.

I get that some here might not like the piece that she wrote.

Her background aside this isn't about liking or disliking the piece she wrote. What she wrote is blatantly false! She is just repeating the IEA party line. As a journalist she is shirking her duty to check the facts and that was my real point! The secondary point was that she comes across as gullible, and lacking any critical thinking skills. Plus she certainly isn't demonstrating even basic knowledge about resource depletion. Care to guess if she has any understanding of Westexas' ELM? Do you think she has ever looked at Jonathan Callahan's Energy Export Databrowser? On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate her level of Peak Oil awareness? Yeah, let's all party on because the IEA is telling us that in a few years the US will be energy independent.

Thank you for standing up for common decency as well as for intellectual integrity. Those descending to such ad hominem attacks very clearly show that they have very few facts or no evidence and very little expertise in debate.

Directly casting aspersions on a person's beliefs rather than their arguments is most definitely ad hominem, whether said to their face or to others about them.

Definition of AD HOMINEM
1: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect
2: marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made

In this case, criticizing a person's religious beliefs is guilt by association. or the genetic fallacy

Criticizing a person for being a Christian reveals an exceptional ignorance of how the scientific revolution was led by Christians. See
List of Christian thinkers in science

"...reveals an exceptional ignorance of how the scientific revolution was led by Christians."

...and fought by Christians as well. That this little shootout at the fantasy factory hasn't erupted into name calling says a lot about the forum. Shalom..

Nothing was said about Sarah Gardner's religion. She could be a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Christian or a curious atheist. Whichever is the case is irrelevant. More of issue here, by mentioning her training in religion, is what that training lacks: anything formal in energy or economics. Combine that educational weakness in the field with her demonstrably uncritical and poorly researched article, and suspicions about her fitness in the subject area are well founded. No comment that I've seen from anyone on this site pertained to Sarah's intelligence, character or faith. So no, the comments are not ad-hominem. You might say they're harsh, but the comments are on point concerning her ability to write about energy. If a religion major wrote a well-thought-out, well-researched piece on a topic about energy, then I think you'd see a different tenor of reaction. Unfortunately, Sarah's piece doesn't come too close to hitting that standard.

"Criticizing a person for being a Christian"

It's about "Red Flags" more than anything else. Your generic "Christian" who is not fundamentalist probably adheres to some basic logic in typical life. When someone identifies themselves as a "creationist" - particularly Young Earth Creationist - huge red flag. You have to have a serious disconnect with reality to process that and it will, by necessity, bleed into everything else. This applies to certain sects - like Christian Science (different you will note from 'Christians who do science'), Southern Baptist to a large degree, Hasidic Judaism, apparently most flavors of Islam, crystal worshipers...should someone self-identify as these things, it's essentially an admission of deeply ingrained illogical thinking.

"I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences reject God, I want to know why 15% of the National Academy don't." - Neil DeGrasse Tyson

"I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences reject God, I want to know why 15% of the National Academy don't."

To add to that most rationalists don't have an issue with the concept of a personal spiritual god, that concept is beyond the scope of science. They do however have a problem with the "man in the sky" god. I am guessing that the 15% from the National Academy believe in some kind of personal god or life force not the "water to wine" god.

Thank you for standing up for common decency as well as for intellectual integrity. Those descending to such ad hominem attacks very clearly show that they have very few facts or no evidence and very little expertise in debate.

From what I have seen so far neither the neither the IEA nor Sarah Gardner seem to have a very high regard for intellectual integrity. As for expertise in debate, that might work in a court of law or in theological discussions but it is anathema to how science works.

Perhaps OT to this disscusion's main focus but a really great example of a real scientist's solution to being put into a position of debating as opposed to discussing scientific merits. Climate scientist Gavin Schmidt of realclimate on FOX news. Really worth watching. This is what true scientific and intellectual integrity looks like in the real world! : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V96k4BO2sBw&feature=player_embedded

What I find quite fascinating is that suddenly all these supposedly intelligent, educated, rational people are going out of their way to defend someone who is writing what basically amounts to falsehoods and propaganda!
Neither of which are defensible in my book.

Studies of religion, to my mind does not contradict anti-intellectualism. On the contrary, it may include careful studies of new technologies that religions employ to manipulate masses in these days. Isn't that ironic?

And of course, this exchange could be an example of a meme defending itself.

Zoominfo: Sarah E. Gardner

Employment History

Reporter: Marketplace
Senior Correspondent: American Public Media
Reporter: American Public Media
Reporter: Sustainability Desk


M.S. , journalism, Columbia University
B.A. , religion, Carleton College

There are some links to some cached articles of hers at Zoominfo.

The robot in the garden -- coming soon Dec. 4, 2012

Climate change comes to the cranberry bog, Nov. 19, 2012

So she swallows the optimistic projections of the IEA, thinks that the sustainable solution to climate change messing with cranberry production in the U.S. is to move the farming to Canada and Chile, and thinks it is sustainable to replace workers at a nursery with robots. She is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk while writing about things that are unsustainable. This is most likely propaganda.

Belief is everything and it can take you a long way. Eventually reality will poke it's head through but until then all is fine and well.

At the 1981 to 1988 rate of increase in Alaska's North Slope crude oil (presumably C+C) production, they would have been up to 2.6 mbpd in 1995, versus 2.0 mbpd in 1988 (EIA). Unfortunately, here in the real world Peaks Happen as new wells are no longer able to offset the declines from older wells, and actual North Slope production in 1995 was down to 1.1 mbpd. But maybe our visitors from Fantasy Island are right this time around, and a production base built on the highest overall decline rate wells we have ever seen in the US will show a virtually perpetual increase in crude oil production.

Of course, arguably the recent increase in North American production--given the level of US refined product exports--has largely gone to satisfy increased demand in developing and net oil exporting countries, and it seems likely that this trend will more or less continue, as developed countries like the US are gradually outbid for access to net exports of crude oil and refined products in the global net export market.

Re : US Boom, Supply shock

To what extend do TODers consider this as "financial communication" from the IEA, for the benefit of oil companies, especially regarding tight oil investments needs ? (or related wall streets interests)

That article wasn't really totally bad. It included this:

"Oil prices probably don't go up a whole lot more from here," says Pursell. "They probably don't go down, either, because it takes a high oil price to achieve this kind of growth. But what it says is you don't have to worry about $6, $7, $8 gasoline, and that should be a big relief."

That is a very important point that most of these articles completely miss.

Yes but it only still spells half truths...supply is so strained that you could have a number of possibilities....1) Another Economic Recession- dropping the oil price to $50 a barrel
2) Arab Spring in Saudi Arabia
3) Shale deposits declining rapidly
4) All of the above
None of those scenarios will play out very good and will sling shot gas prices to $6,$7 or higher for gasoline....all very possible in the next 5 to 10 years....When you don't tell the full story...it is the same as lying; and you are a reporter for a major media outlet?

Consumers, especially the affluent, feeling fairly upbeat

Consumer sentiment rebounded in early May to the highest level in nearly six years as Americans felt better about their financial and economic prospects, particularly among upper-income households, a survey released on Friday showed.

But lower income shoppers were not as optimistic.

Among retailers,Wal-Mart reported a 1.4 percent drop in sales at Walmart U.S. stores open at least a year, and gave a profit forecast for the second quarter that missed Wall Street estimates. The world's largest retailer expects same-store sales at its namesake U.S. discount chain to be up 2 percent at best in the current quarter.

...Wal-Mart has many shoppers who live paycheck to paycheck. The company's CFO Charles Holley said his customers' top concern is still jobs, followed by food costs and gas prices.

I actually found Wal-Mart seeing a drop in sales a bit of a shock. As consumers have less money those who once shopped at higher end stores switch to cheaper alternatives so you'd expect to see stores like Wal-Mart doing better.

There could be a couple of factors influencing the drop at Wal-Mart.

1. Middle income shoppers have not switched their habits as yet or
2. Middle income shoppers are actually doing ok and haven't felt the need to switch

The article suggests that consumers are actually feeling pretty good, so have no reason to trade down.

But another possibility is that Wal-Mart is just poorly run, and people who want to shop there don't, because they can't find what they're looking for. There have been several articles about that recently.

Consumer confidence does not always connect with reality.

The U.S saving rate is down by about 1% compared to last year but discretionary incomes have increased by about 2% so a small recovery has happened.

As posted below the colder weather may have had an impact on sales as well as the tax-hikes. I still think that a switch to lower priced items must be occurring somewhere in the economy and that the tax-hikes will ultimately play to the lower cost brands favor.

If Wal-Mart is not benefiting from it then someone else is.

But another possibility is that Wal-Mart is just poorly run, and people who want to shop there don't, because they can't find what they're looking for. There have been several articles about that recently.

From firsthand experience at Walmart locally, I can tell you what changed here was a complete reorganization to offer fewer of the lowest priced products. Our family and many others we know complained amongst ourselves and to Walmart, but to no avail. Since then most of us shop less at Walmart, finding products in other stores or ordering via Amazon.

What probably began as an effort to upscale the product line to get higher profits may have backfired. Even if they change their minds and go back to the way it was, once customers find other sources they may not be quick to return.

Another - the more affulent have the kinds of income, jobs, life-skills of planning, and fixed location that allows them to have things ordered and shipped to them from on-line retailers like Amazon.

Thus they don't 'need' to go to wal-mart.

When I picked up my order last week, I went to the pick-up service area. The cash register was gone and a sign directed me to the photo department at the other end of the store. While there was no one at the photo department, there was a sign directing me to the electronics department for assistance. An associate in the electronics department walked me back to the photo department and took my order information. While he was walking back across the store to the pick-up service area to get my order from the stockroom, he stopped to help three other customers. About 30 minutes transpired from the time I walked in the door to when I walked out with my item.

Poorly run indeed. They do not have enough employees anymore.

A quick search: 73% of Walmart shoppers make over 30k.

I think that the majority of Walmart shoppers probably do not have much discretionary income regardless of their income level. Walmart probably knows why their sales have fallen in the US this year.

While consumers remained under pressure, nothing drastic had changed in their economic state in the quarter, said Charles M. Holley Jr., Wal-Mart’s chief financial officer, in a call with reporters. Instead, the lower-than-expected sales in the United States were because of colder weather than last year, the payroll tax increase, tax refunds that came in later than usual and little inflation in food prices.

I avoid it like the plague, but shopping there for work (getting paid) I noticed gaps in the aisles as had been posted here previous. Difference here is that posters had been at USofA Wallyworlds and this was in Canada. Here it is $10 an hour minimum for pay and of course there is provincial health care for the basics and maternity leave for full time.

Previous posters metioned WM's crap pay, no sick leave, hideous expensive insurance, unpaid overtime, supply kinks at the sales stock in back and push back from vendors who WM has been (insert verb, mine is a ridged metallic fastener) their suppliers for years.

Read elsewhere about how Walmart in US now has a surge when food stamps and AFDC cheques are cut. Don't forget also that the Dollar Generals, etc., are taking away from Walmart sales and many of them are closer.

and/or Middle income shoppers have caught on that Walmart quality is not a bargain after all.

I concur that in my area the consumer boom is back with a vengence. Housing is going gangbusters and people are almost giddy in their spending. I still maintain that this will continue until people hit their debt maximum on the new lower interest rates. In 2008 we hit a maximum at then-interest rates around 5-6% for housing. Now with 2-3% rates, people can afford to pay more, and everywhere you look at autos there is 0% financing at 72mo. Once this saturates, and the interest rates cannot be lowered further this time, I think that's when things get interesting. But for now...I'll continue to arbitrage the mindless consumer and siphon off their monies for my own portfolio earnings, while continuing to pay ahead on my mortgage so I can be 100% out of debt.

So there's no reason to up your blood pressure when you see mindless consumerism at every corner. Nothing you can do about it, just arbitrage it and use it to your own personal advantage.

Raining on Tesla's Parade

Dear Michael Harley,

if Consumer Reports had named the Aston Martin Vanquish as the best car they had ever tested, would you have written a critical article calling it: "cost prohibitive for most consumers"?

Also, please rectify your gross error about cost "preventing tens of millions from even considering vehicles like the [Vanquish]. Why low ball the figure? Billions of people are factually prevented from considering vehicles like the Vanquish. Face it, tens of millions are prevented from even considering the Tata Nano by the high price alone.

Would you have pointed out the Aston Martin's dismal 11 mpg fuel 'economy' and cautioned: "a lack of foresight before heading down a less-traveled road may initiate a tow truck encounter.?

would you lambaste it's ICE engine by pointing out that: "I don't need to remind anyone that [premium] gasoline for [high-performance] combustion vehicles is [more expensive than] pasteurized milk"?

Since pasteurized milk is the sensible analog by which energy carriers should be compared by the driving public, please point out in your Vanquish article that while 220V electrical outlets for charging electric cars exist at nearly every building in the industrial world, and even some chicken coops, a similar distribution system for milk does not yet exist.

Also, make sure to include your point that it's ridiculous that the Vanquish could be considered the Best Car, as, you know, some people need a truck.

I know, you're a journalist, you must publish or die, but c'mon at least fashion your straw men so that they appear to be standing.

Here was my favorite part of the article: "Tesla's high-scoring 85 kwh Model S, arguably at the top of its pure-electric segment, is limited to a range of about 265 miles."

I wonder how many times per year, on average, that Americans drive more than 200 miles per day? (To be conservative, I would ignore the fast charging options and assume that one needs an overnight charge.)

The range of a Bugatti Veyron is about the same - 10mpg with a 26gallon tank.

It's unlikely that a person making a mere $100. per hour could afford a Veyron, but it is interesting to think that it would take such a person one hour (ignoring income taxes) to earn enough money to fill their tank, which is pretty much identical to the amount of time it would take to completely recharge a Tesla S at a Supercharger station, which is free.

"The range of a Bugatti Veyron is about the same - 10mpg with a 26gallon tank."

Unless you're going top speed...then you'll make it about 30 miles. And you'll need new tires after about an hour.

None of which would matter in the least to a Bugatti Veyron owner. Why on earth are we discussing these? How about we use a 5 year old Honda Civic or some such as a comparison?

13 year old Honda Accord, 16 gallon tank, 30 mpg highway, 20-24 mpg city, typically 400 miles per tank.

It accelerates fast enough to get on California highways (short on ramps) without too much difficulty.

Yes, 14 year old Hyundai Accent, 30mpg in mixed driving, goes quite well actually and has required very little maintenance/repair work over that time.

I well remember when I bought it in 1999 how out of step I seemed looking at fuel mileage!

22 year old Honda CRX HF, synthetic oil for 130,000 of 160,000 miles, brand new tires 35psi front 32psi rear per spec, mileage checked by refilling at the same pump. Odometer and speedometer reasonably accurate, checked with manual stopwatch/tachymeter.

Date of Test: Early March this year, one of the few days my health permitted skiing.

Type of driving: Mixed highway, mountain, and city, including 6,500 feet of elevation change. 50% highway, 25% mountain, 25% city, including many short, steep, brutal hills and stop-and-go traffic.

Average highway speed: 70 MPH

Typical cruising speed: 80 MPH

Top passing speed: 90 MPH (and plenty more where that came from, felt like it could still break 100)

Mileage: 38 MPG

Emissions: Don't have the numbers, but at the last smog check, the technician just shook his head, and said I was doing as well or better than a Prius.

Many might wonder how well I would do at 55 MPH, but strangely, I think it might actually be worse. The car seems to be most efficient at about 78 MPH, must have something to do with aerodynamics. My best run when the car was new and had smaller tires was 52 MPG, well over EPA spec. It's hard to believe that it would have gotten 60 or something if I'd had the patience to drive 15 miles per hour under the speed limit.

I think it is likely that I will die before the engine does, or gas will become prohibitively expensive by then, etc., so I have no plans to buy another car.

What might be interesting would be to convert the car to an EV at some point. With a platform so lightweight, the results might be really impressive. It has so many options you can't find in a car today... no air bags, passive venting on driver's side with a manual lever, no air conditioning, no ABS, no traction control, no navi, even the windows are manual. So is the moonroof-- I just pop it out and stick it behind the seat if I'm driving on the coast or something. (Moonroof was on for the test.)

Yeah, the whole fetish about long range is ridiculous. I'll admit that the current crop of low-cost EVs have ranges that are not quite good enough. I think the EVs need to bump it up to around 100 miles before they'll get much broader acceptance. But 200 miles is much more than enough for a typical daily driver. Rent/borrow/carshare or fly/take-train for those few times you are further than that.

The shorter range is an issue but people also have to take into consideration the advantages of EV such as very low cost of fuel. In addition . . . no oil changes, low maintenance, no noise, no vibration, no smells, reduces trade deficit, less emissions, less pollution, more torque, etc.

I think a solid 150 miles is the ticket to broad acceptance. Allows you some "forgot to charge it" mistakes, or to not bother with recharging most days, and allows for a 60 mile radius without having to even be concerned about recharging. I think most people would still consider 60 miles as being "local" driving - in the very least "regional" if you want to give it a better name. One of my favorite hiking areas is 50 miles away, another is 33 and up steep terrain, the closest recreational lake is about 60 miles. I don't make these journeys often but I know people who do travel that far every other weekend. If you make it so that they can do the things they love to do without having to plan every inch - to just make sure the car is charged before they leave for the day and go out and enjoy the day - and you've got a winner. If you have to worry every weekend about finding a plug at the lake because there's no way you'd make it back if you don't, or have to spend an hour or two charging after leaving the trailhead - you've lost. I'm sure many would be fine renting a gasser for cross-country trips...but fun weekends? Nope.

Meh, maybe 110 or 120. 150 will price the vehicles out of reach for most people unless there is a great battery technology breakthrough. But I think we will only get incremental improvements in batteries.

If you regularly travel longer distances then a PHEV is what you want not a pure EV. That is unless you are willing to pay a very large amount.

I would consider buying any new car to be paying a very large amount.

Each time you increment you're going to catch more people - the century mark is both a psychological and logistical one and there are probably a pretty large number who would jump on board at that point. 150 miles seems to me a true, regional solution, which should encompass ~99.5% of people's needs inducing only rare instances of "range anxiety" while having the capability of medium-long range travel (though with a little difficulty).

Battery and aerodynamics. Though I have to insist on pointing out again that the Leaf should be able to get a 100 mile range for the same price that it originally sold for if the battery pack is around the $500/kWh range. You'd need an extra 30 miles at 270 Wh/mi which is around 8,000Wh...call it 10kWh or $5,000 added to what is now $22,000 after tax incentives - $27,000.

Within certain bounds of reason it often costs as much to make things crappy as it does good - an aerodynamic car is not going to cost $5,000 more to produce than a box. So what would happen if they put $2,500 towards aerodynamics and the other half of that into more battery for a car that still would cost $27,000. If they improved the Wh/mi to 200Wh/mi and added 5kWh...you'd have a car that would go 26kWh/200Wh/mi = 130mi

Over the past couple of days I've seen a Smart Fortwo, Chevy Spark, and Mazda Miata...people do buy small quirky cars.

The Miata is similar in size to the VW XL1...

Miata (1st gen):
Wheelbase 89.2 in (2,270 mm)
Length 155.4 in (3,950 mm)
Width 65.9 in (1,670 mm)
Height 48.2 in (1,220 mm)
Curb weight 940 kg (2,100 lb)

Wheelbase (in.): 87.6
Length (in.): 153.1
Width (in.): 65.6
Height (in.): 45.3
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.): 1,749

Different by a couple of inches at most - the Miata is a little heavier (later models topped 2,600lbs - similar dimensions). XL1 has more tail and less hood. Raise the height to make room to put the batteries in the floor, push the rest of the dimensions out a little, add a third seat and you'd have something with 3 seats, range near 120 miles and cost the same as the Leaf.

Take a look at the different ways cars are marketed or perceived - a lot of SUVs, ironically, are often portrayed in pristine though rugged country - camping, fishing, sports, same thing with Subaru's wagons/crossovers...sports cars are shown with people smiling, smoky drifting around corners...luxury cars portray the elegance of styling, plush ride, quality of interior. So what do you see with the Leaf...people going to work. They might get hugged by a polar bear on the way to work, but they're going to work...either that or "Its um different!" What do car reviewers say..."Most urban commuters in markets where the Leaf are sold drive far fewer than the 45-50 miles the Leaf can post in actual summer or winter driving." Woo hoo! Urban commuting and gridlock - that's passion! There is an interesting one with Lance Armstrong where he's talking about being behind tailpipes his whole career.

There's some fruit in a fairly low position to be plucked from crossovers and heavier low tow-rating vehicles to go to PHEV. To get any decent engine-off range and power they're going to have to have Leaf-sized packs though. But doubling or tripling the fuel economy of a vehicle that gets 20mpg would do more than doubling of a platform already getting 40 mpg that should probably just be fully electric anyway. I've been running across a few articles lately saying that the next gen Volt may be $10,000 less...I'm not sure what they could have up their sleeve unless they've just gone through and reduced the complexity of all the subsystems and possibly taken out some "standards" like the Leaf did. If they don't drop to at most 3 cylinder they're fools. A 1 liter twin is really the ticket for the Volt (magic happens around 500cc/cylinder) - but unlikely to happen.

150 miles and then a solar roof that could trickle back into the battery when you are parked....people might be fighting for the sunny spot rather than the shady spot...

That was the first thing I thought when I started to read as well - hell 265mi is what my motorcycle gets on a tank, I'd be more than happy for a car to get that sort of mileage on a "tank" of electricity.

Recharging the car becomes a daily chore with a short range battery pack, and no one wants to do the chores. Why spend a lot of money for something that will give you more work to do?

where I come from, plugging something in to recharge is not a chore. You don't really do anything, you just plug it in.

A daily chore? What are you talking about? It takes about 5 seconds to put the plug into the car. Is turning off the car and opening the car door a 'chore' too?

Maybe you were being sarcastic?

Yeah, sorry Aardi, but I'm piling on as well.

One of the things EV owners repeatedly revel at is no longer having to do the chore of driving over to the filling station and going through that bizarre old ritual. That you can get that recharge off and running right when you get home, or to the parking lot at work, or maybe glom onto a plug at your brother's or pal's if you're so equipped.. and can just do your thing while the battery does IT's thing.. and even paying for it has been consolidated into the presumably automated monthly electric bill or some such.

Apart from that, you've also removed so many of the other ongoing chores; changing the oil, the plugs and distributor, the air filter, the coolant, probably the serpentine and the timing belt.. you don't have to wonder what shape the Muffler or the Catalytic Converter is in, or the filler tube, the fuel pump, the starter and solenoid. Almost all of the seals and gaskets are no more, no valves or rings or cylinder walls to start blowing blue or white smoke any more.. An EV can be a far simpler machine than an ICE. They'll be playing with a kludgefest of electronics on them, no doubt, but a great many fussy old GasCar components have been thoroughly eliminated regardless.

Yes, many of the issues go from being hardware problems to software problems. In which case, you have to pay for the fix, but you don't have to replace a physical component.

Well, I'm also left to wonder how many of the complexities that are being added in will remain and be necessary. Certainly you want a robust and thorough Battery Management System, which ties back into both the Charging and the Motor Control, but those areas would seem to be moving targets, and probably will see lots of experimentation and evolution, particularly as Battery Types and approaches are given a thorough going over.

Sometimes it becomes a very complex project to find that elegantly simple solution.

As Churchill evidenced the principle.. “I’m going to make a long speech because I’ve not had the time to prepare a short one.”

*ducks missiles* At least an ICEV doesn't use up fuel while it's parked.

Also, insurance is expensive. $1000 - $1500 p.a.

Because the Tesla needs to save weight to improve range it is made of fancy materials which are difficult or impossible to fix after a crash. They have to be replaced.

Not to mention the six week waiting time for parts according to the Tesla owners' forum, but that presumably will shorten as they work off their backlog of orders for the Model S.

Make no mistake, I admire Elon Musk and what he's done at Tesla and SpaceX, but I'm not convinced EVs will achieve the mass market penetration necessary to make a difference.

'Uses fuel when parked..'

How do you mean? Battery Drain while standing? Compared to the energy used by virtually ALL ICE vehicles when they're idling at a light, or using their engine to keep the power on in the car when the driver is sitting parked for other reasons, I have a hard time thinking that the ICE has any advantage in this area.

Of course, some of your objections are particular to the Tesla, and other issues you ascribe to EV's in general. It's clearly a bit too early to say much about either with the limited time and miles either category has put on the roads yet.

'Purchase Only' Replacement parts is an issue that goes to a great many Autos and Trucks.

As with PV, EV's have been called Elite-only, but of course they're still really being introduced, and hence will have to be pricier unless greater numbers allow economies of scale to help, yet this is still pulled into the discussion as the obstacle TO greater penetration. It is simply the threshold this market sector has to overtop in order to get to more common penetration. To compare EVs to an efficient little Gas car is kind of the point of this site. That gas car is a better deal, until it isn't any more.

Because the Tesla needs to save weight to improve range it is made of fancy materials which are difficult or impossible to fix after a crash. They have to be replaced.

I have a friend who services Ferraris do you have any idea what it costs just to replace the brake pads?
Let alone to repair a fender bender. Hint Ferraris are probably not going to achieve the mass market penetration necessary to make a difference either. Does that mean no one buys Honda Civics?!

Try building a slightly more robust strawman next time...

I'm having a hard time following the logic here - if we comparing the Tesla S to toys like Ferraris and Bugattis, well then who cares and why waste the time? If we are comparing it to actual vehicles used for transportation then issues of repairablity and parts availability are relevant.

The exotic materials and high price of the Teslas is not just a marketing issue or a choice to go after a small volume high price market. These things are what you must do to compensate for the low energy density of the on board energy storage. That means you cannot build it like you do a Civic, nor can you sell it for the price of a Civic. Likely it also means more parts must be optimized and attention paid to making them lighter and smaller (also to compensate for the energy storage bulk and weight), so more typical commodity parts cannot be used, driving up costs and creating a spares sourcing issue.

I'm having a hard time following the logic here - if we comparing the Tesla S to toys like Ferraris and Bugattis, well then who cares and why waste the time? If we are comparing it to actual vehicles used for transportation then issues of repairablity and parts availability are relevant.

The point I was trying to make is that neither a Ferrari or Tesla S are vehicles for the mass market.

That doesn't mean that there can't be a Honda Civic equivalent to an EV. The existence of the former doesn't mean the later can't exist. Furthermore you probably don't want to run your Ferrari or your Tesla on a dirt road but you might drive your solar powered golf cart on one... So to be clear while I don't really consider a Tesla to be a toy it is not intended to be a mass market vehicle that J6P can drive to the corner store to pick his favorite brew.

That doesn't mean that there can't be a Honda Civic equivalent to an EV.

OK, but its existence doesn't show that there can be either. And that is exactly how I look at the Tesla - it is irrelevant, and shows nothing about the viability of the EV as a replacement for the ICE automobile.

As a plug in hybrid owner, plugging in is a minor chore. Only visiting the gas pumps twice a month makes up for it.

"I wonder how many times per year, on average, that Americans drive more than 200 miles per day?"

Last year for me, three times. Two of those trips were hauling camping gear and a boat, so would not have used a car (gas or electric) anyway.

This year so far, once. Two, possibly three more such trips planned for the rest of the year.

You might ask how many times a year the average American has a passenger in every seat, or fills up the trunk, or drives at top speed.

You don't buy what you need. You buy what you want. And you want, Mr Average American, is a vehicle you and the whole family can jump into and go anywhere and not have to worry about fuel or luggage space or being crowded.

Well, to be more accurate, that's what Mrs Average American wants. And probably her biggest nightmare is being stranded on a lonely road at night with no fuel. And a friendly stranger can't fill a battery from a 5-gallon can. She'll have to get a tow.

I would be pushing it to get 300 miles out of one tank of gasoline in my pickup.

You don't even have to go as far as the fairly exotic Aston Martin. All you have to look at is mid size to large 5 seat sedans that can accelerate from zero to sixty in under five seconds. You probably won't find (m)any for under ninety grand.

I'm visiting Miami at the moment and took the liberty of a test drive around the area of the store at Miami Beach. The car is very civilised until you put your foot down, at which point it takes off like a bat out of hell!

I will repeat my opinion that it is very competitive in it's market segment as long as the intended use is not cross continent touring.

Alan from the islands

I will repeat my opinion that it is very competitive in it's market segment as long as the intended use is not cross continent touring.


that may be technically the case at the moment, but the planned Supercharger network, which is being built out rapidly, will provide blanket coverage of the continental U.S. Interstates, which will make it ideal for cross country touring, as what other car manufacturer will provide you with a lifetime supply of road trip fuel for free with the purchase of your car?

It was a light bulb moment for me when watching an interview with Elon Musk when he stated that Tesla has no expectation that owners will spend an hour charging their car every 300 miles on road trips. They expect that they will recharge for 20 minutes every 150 miles.

This would have been a godsend to my comfort on family vacations as a child, as my dad wouldn't stop for nuthin' but a brown event.

It will be interesting to see what approach Tesla takes on the free Supercharge policy when they introduce the planned mass market model. I wouldn't want to drive a high status car like the S even if I could afford it, but the notion of zero fuel cost road trips anytime you have the time would be a definite game changer for me personally. I'd be outward bound every weekend if that power was renewably produced.

I think the Supercharger network is just a marketing ploy.

My local Wawa gas station has 16 pumps filling cars non stop. Let's say it's 5 minutes per fill-up...so the Supercharger network, if it was supposed to handle the same number of cars at 20 minute charges, would need EIGHTY outlets! And there are 100,000+ gas stations in America. How many Supercharger stations will there be in relation to number of EVs and cars? While the count of cars is low it might be okay, but once there are too many, 20 minutes will be too long of a wait.

Imagine driving your EV up to a single Supercharger station and finding 5 people in front of you. Oh, that'll be a 100 minute wait in your high priced luxury car.

I'm all for EVs but people will be stuck charging them at home and work and a long road trip will not be practical.

That's not the way it works. 98% of the time, you charge your EV at home. On those rare long-distance trips only then do you use the super-chargers.

That's one of the secrets about the whole charging network debate . . . the public chargers are mostly to give people confidence. But in reality, EVers rarely ever use them unless they plan out a long trip or they just do opportunity charging if it is free.

Apples and oranges. The idea of a DC Quick-charge station is different than a gasoline filling station. EV's would continue to recharge at home at night for every day use, which is most of the time. It is convenient and would probably be a lot cheaper, as Quick Chargers (other than those subsidized by Tesla) would charge a premium for the power. QC stations would only be used by EV's that are on long trips or otherwise need a "boost" charge to get to their destination and back home. With an EV with at least 200 mile range, like a 65 kWh Tesla, the "average" driver may only have to QC a few times per year. How many times per year does the average ICE-powered car driver have to re-fuel? Even once per week is 52 times per year.

Full confession - after driving an ICE for the last 40 years, I got a Chevy Volt a few months ago. It has changed my mind on the practicality of EV's. Even with just 40 miles EV range, I only have to run the engine about once a month. It really can be done. Plugging in at night is SO much easier than re-filling a gas tank, not to mention about a quarter the price per mile. Frankly, you get spoiled. When I do have to stop at the Arco every 6 weeks or so to get 6 gallons of gas for a long trip, I first have to think twice to remember which side the filler cap is on. While filling, (if getting 6 gallons is "filling") I then watch all the other cars in amazement, being reminded what a dang hassle it is to make a special stop to fill up every few days, spending $50 or more, swiping CC's, hands smelling like gas, etc. If I do go all-electric in the future and have to use a QC station every 6 weeks for that "long trip" and occasionally wait an hour for a charger, I'd still be way ahead both time-wise and dollar-wise of the "old" way of pumping gas....

There are reasons why Consumer Reports found Volt owners the most satisfied car owners ever, two years running, and just rated the Tesla S the best car ever, and it doesn't just have to do with energy or the environment...It's just different...you have to live with it for a while to understand it.

"It's just different...you have to live with it for a while to understand it."

Kind of like living off grid, especially the point where you realize it actually works and you'll never, ever have a power bill again.

These are the kinds of stories that really make things happen - like the stories of people living happily off-grid or having no electric bill because of PV.

"I first have to think twice to remember which side the filler cap is on."

A little OT, but on most modern cars there will be a little triangle next to the gas gauge which points in the direction of the side of the car that has the gas-hole.

JPS, crime and poverty

A news report in The Gleaner of Wednesday, February 20, carried the face of the JPS president, Kelly Tomblin, under the headline 'Revenue, profit plunge at JPS.' The report stated that "Monopoly power distributor (and very senior oligopoly power producer), the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) has reported a two-thirds drop in its annual net profit to US$12.7 million (J$1.18b) following flat sales last year." Those results formed the basis of Mrs Tomblin's press conference on May 9, which had the Daily Observer newspaper run this front-page banner headline, 'JPS facing death' in its Friday, May 10 edition.

Well, headline writers do aim to sell papers, but the tone of Mrs Tomblin's comments may have evoked the cataclysmic headline. After we discount the hyperbole, Mrs Tomlin had a very salutary lesson for Jamaicans, our business leaders and especially our policymakers.

To Jamaicans, she says we have to get rid of that insatiable desire to live above our means. Her position is crystal clear - "We have a goal in this country that 100 per cent of Jamaicans should have access to electricity ... but everybody cannot afford electricity so what is the stopgap or the bridge?" she is quoted as saying. Her comments to the press make it clear that the evidence she possesses identify many Jamaicans as thieves and that such thievery is widely accepted and condoned in many communities - "There is also the community acceptance of theft because we don't see persons being arrested in droves."

A fairly good article that outlines the financial background of the electricity market in Jamaica from the perspective of the monopoly utility.

Alan from the islands

Energy-Positive with Natural Ventilation

Buildings can be air-conditioned using entirely natural means, without mechanical ventilation systems. This is the claim made by 78-year-old Benjamin Bronsema, who will be awarded his PhD for his thesis on the subject at TU Delft on Thursday 7 June. He wants to create an energy-positive office environment using sun, wind and cascading water.

The Earth, Wind & Fire system has three main components: a Ventec roof, a 'climate cascade' and a 'solar chimney'. The Ventec roof uses underpressure and overpressure to draw in fresh air and expel stale air. Air is drawn in via the climate cascade and expelled via a solar chimney.

Thanks! Very cool >;-)

Refinery woes uptop.

extended maintenance has curbed output at refineries in Joliet, Ill., Whiting, Ind; Tulsa, Okla, and Eldorado, Kansas.

No mention in article of the Suncor refinery in Edmonton. Very difficult finding news about the Edmonton refinery anyhwere, except a May 10 article stating they were "in process" of restarting portions of their refinery.

News is when a sudden glitch happens, but not when the resumption occurs or the basis of the glitch.Still interested in why months ago Suncor had to call in KBR to aid in the maintenance of it's Edmonton refinery.

If I was Petro-Canada-Suncor I might have gotten my spot gasoline fuel from the refinery in Superior WI. They must be making beaucoup $.

Side issue, would be interesting to me (maybe not others) positives and negatives of using fluorine versus chlorine in various catalysis operations in refineries. Possibly with the Superior refinery as an example. Not Drumbeat per se but a seperate article.

Also negative versus positive void coeffiecients in nuclear reactors.

Engineers Design, Test Taller, High-Strength Concrete Towers for Wind Turbines

... Could assembled concrete towers be a viable alternative to the steel towers now used for wind turbines? Could concrete towers be a practical way to raise turbine towers from today's 80 meters to the steadier winds at 100 meters and taller? Which of three ways to connect the columns and panels works best for wind turbine towers?

... "We have definitely reached the limits of steel towers," Sritharan said. "Increasing the steel tower by 20 meters will require significant cost increases and thus the wind energy industry is starting to say, 'Why don't we go to concrete?'"

The concrete tower design offers several advantages over today's steel towers:

- increasing steel's 20-year tower life by using ultra-high performance and high-strength concrete
- easier transportation because pieces are small enough for standard trucking
- precast concrete industry is established across the country
less reliance on imported steel for turbine towers
- smaller precast pieces can be assembled on site in multiple ways
- the concept is versatile and towers can be tailored for any turbine size or even a height beyond 100 meters.

also TU Delft Spin-Off Windchallenge Launches Noiseless, Affordable ‘Plug-And-Play’ Wind Turbine

The Windchallenge 1.7 weighs only 10 kilogrammes and has a blade span of 1.7m. It generates around 500 kWh per year at a wind speed of 4m/s and 900 kWh per year at 9m/s. 'No crane necessary for installation, the turbine is not fixed permanently and easily moveable. As soon as the installation is ready, just plug in and play.”

The turbine costs from € 5,100, excluding VAT and subsidies.

I like the looks of that plug-and-play wind turbine, and ease of installation saves a bunch of money. But they need to bring that cost down by a factor of 10 to get into the retail renewables space. Even then, it will take a back seat to where PV is today.

I don't have a good sense of the wind speeds; is 4-9 m/s a lot of wind, or about average?

Even if the costs don't pencil out today, it is good to see more green tech put actual dollars to their offerings. A hopeful sign for the future.

4-9 m/s converts to about 8-20 mph. Whether that amounts to much is a regional thing. There are places where 20 mph is an unusual amount of wind. Across the Great Plains, it's fairly routine, even at ground level. In parts of Wyoming, where the terrain funnels the downslope winds from the Rockies, 20 mph hardly counts as a breeze. People who live in those parts of Wyoming make jokes about having to use a logging chain as a wind sock.

Wyoming is one of the extreme cases for the downslope winds, but they happen up and down the Front Range. Denver's western suburbs get 40-45 mph (low end of tropical storm range) straight-line winds regularly. NCAR, located at the south end of Boulder, at the mouth of one of the canyons that funnels wind flows, has recorded gusts as high as 147 mph.

Concrete towers would face the same principal challenge that concrete production platforms in the North Sea: cracking due to tensile stress. (Corrosion of the steel reinforcement would be a problem too, but not as bad as in the salt water.) The taller and skinnier those towers are, the worse the tensile stresses would be. Compression, whether by internal pre-stressing of units, or by the very heavy superstructure, are the main means of offsetting that problem in the ocean. Pre-stressing would be the order of the day for wind towers. Per cubic meter per second, a two-knot current has more power than a 50-knot wind, though we're talking about a much smaller profile in the wind tower. Still, a slender concrete tower with only a relatively small mass at the top would present its share, or more, of difficulties.

(Corrosion of the steel reinforcement would be a problem too, but not as bad as in the salt water.)

And why use Steel? Why not Basalt rod?

Very interesting, had never heard of Basalt Rebar.

This crowd should ring up ENERCON in Germany they have been building concrete Wind turbine towers for years
From their website

"Precast concrete tower

ENERCON concrete towers are not manufactured as a monolithic construction. The towers consist of separate, pre-fabricated concrete elements with diameters up to 14.5 m. Segments with large diameters are produced in two or three half shells so that they can also bet transported to locations difficult to reach. After assembly the segments are linked to each other as inseparable units by means of prestressing tendons centred in the tower wall. The precast segments are manufactured and quality-controlled at a precasting plant. The high quality of the individual concrete segments is guaranteed through the use of unique steel moulds with very low tolerances"

Had the same thought. Enercons strategy is quite simple: If the new market is large enough, the first local production site is a concrete factory, so they avoid expensive transport or unreliable local suppliers. The nascells and rotor blades are still hault over longer distances.
The second step is then to establish a rotor production. You can observe different stages of this strategy in Portugal, Canada and Austria. My guess is that Poland will get a concrete tower production in a few years.

Enercons clear advantage is that they grow only as fast as their own resources allowed (Enercon is not a stock company) and maintained at the same time a very high production depth and technological leadership in some fields in combination with high service quality, they get much more money for their products than competitors like Siemens or GE.

Quick google...
ENERCON were building plant in [edit]Austria last year for constructing concrete towers and this year a 2nd plant in Canada. Seems to be the way the wind is blowing...

Enercon expects to open an Ontario factory in 2013 for production of precast concrete segments for towers to support wind turbines at heights between 85- and an eventual 140-metres...

Siemens has shut down a type of wind turbine worldwide after failures in Iowa and California where blades were flung from their hubs.

ECM photographer and aerospace engineer Jim Pelley discovered the fallen blade before dawn this morning when he looked out from his front porch eastward and saw the enormous blade, which has a span the length of a football field, lying on the desert floor. “It came down on its point and then fell over, about 150 feet from the turbine,” Pelley told ECM.

During the night, wind speeds ranged from 9 to 19 miles per hour, with gusts up to 29 miles per hour. “The blades are supposed to withstand gusts up to 56 miles per hour for up to 10 minutes,” Pelley said


The incident happened at Pattern Energy's recently completed Ocotillo wind project in California, the second incident of its kind in the past six weeks.

"These turbines will remain curtailed until it can be determined they are not at risk of a similar malfunction," Siemens said in a statement today.

The stories from East County Magazine and Wind Power Monthly.



“The blades are supposed to withstand gusts up to 56 miles per hour for up to 10 minutes,”

That doesn't make any sense. They should be rated by a catastrophic number - if it's reached, it blows. To say "56 for 10 minutes" would suggest a fatigue factor that if it ever accumulated 10 minutes in its entire lifespan at 56 miles per hour it would fail. Which would further suggest to me that there's a number some amount below that which it could accumulate before it fatigued and failed, and a number higher that it would fail even faster. 56 miles per hour is really slow in the grand scheme of things.

Almost everybody will be better off with PV solar than with small-scale wind. Few areas have consistent wind at sufficiently high speed; when the wind speed is low, wind turbines produce little. Wind power usually requires a tower, and it has moving parts, requiring maintenance. PV just sits there silently and works.

... 500 kWh per year at a wind speed of 4m/s and 900 kWh per year at 9m/s.

... turbine costs from € 5,100

$6,547 for a little turbine! 900 kWh/year from an average wind speed of 9 m/s (20 miles/hour) is 102 W rated with a capacity factor of 100%. This is like an Air-40 (160 W rated) only 7 times more expensive. Isn't the power output supposed to be to the third power of the wind speed? So how does a 2.25 times increase in wind speed only create 1.8 times increase in power output? Might 9 m/s, which is a bit low, be the minimum wind speed that produces the maximum power output? Maybe 500 kWh/year should actually be 50 kWh/year.

Is the cost analysis below correct?
500 kWhr * $0.10/kWhr = $50 of electricity
5100 Euros = $6550
ROI = <1% (with no maintenance considered)

What is going on with Mid-West gasoline prices?!?! I just looked at the gasbuddy heat map and North Dakota(!) and Minnesota have higher gasoline prices than California!

What is causing that?!

In Minnesota, regular, unleaded gas averaged $4.15 a gallon heading into the weekend -- an all-time state record. That makes Minnesota the priciest state in the continental U.S., overtaking California, averaging $4.06 a gallon. In oil-rich North Dakota, prices average $3.98, also a record-high.

"It's amazing what problems refinery issues can cause,'' says Patrick DeHaan, senior analyst for price tracker gasbuddy.com. "If another refinery went down, all hell would break loose.

It's just amazing the incredible profits being garnered from all those refinery 'problems'. You just got to give it to them for coming up with so many creative ways to reduce production, which raises pump prices.