And it begins...the government says (more deeply this time, and with feeling): 'CONSERVE!'

Gas prices may last six months
By James R. Healey, USA TODAY
The nation's energy chief says it will take six months for U.S. energy production and prices to return to pre-hurricane levels, and he hints at energy shortages in the interim.

That's the most blunt and pessimistic estimate yet of how long the energy disruptions caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita will affect the USA. But it could help Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman sell Americans on a conservation campaign he plans to detail Monday.

"How long before we return to normal? It's hard to know, because we have not yet got an assessment" of damage from Rita, Bodman said in an interview with USA TODAY on Friday. He said it will be two to three weeks before the assessment is done.

"We're going to go through a very challenging time the next six months, is my guess," Bodman said. "Most of us have viewed energy availability as a kind of right of citizenship," he said, and might have to rethink that as refineries are restarted, pipelines repaired and natural gas processing resumed. "Both in terms of gasoline availability and (prices of) natural gas and heating oil, we're going to have some problems."

Hurricane Katrina swept the Gulf of Mexico and hit shore near New Orleans on Aug. 29. Rita followed Sept. 24, hitting the Texas coast west of Katrina's landfall. The two storms temporarily closed all Gulf oil operations and most natural gas operations, according to the U.S. Minerals Management Service.

Only 2% of Gulf oil production had resumed by the weekend, MMS reported, and 21% of natural gas production. The Gulf supplies 29% of U.S.-produced oil and 19% of U.S.-sourced natural gas.

The nationwide average for unleaded regular gasoline is $2.92, AAA said Sunday. That's up about 30 cents from before Katrina hit.

Gasoline supplies are being supplemented by increased shipments from overseas. But natural gas, the heating fuel for most Americans, can't easily be shipped. Industry and government forecasts say that tight gas supplies could result in heating bills nearly doubling.

Keeping prices down "could be challenging if we get exceptionally cold weather," warns Paula Reynolds, CEO of big gas supplier AGL Resources. That could use up the cheaper gas that utilities have in storage and require them to replace it with today's high-price natural gas, passing the increase to users.

The government conservation plan will ask Americans to turn off lights, change thermostat settings, drive slower, insulate homes and take other steps.

Ah, yes. Everything will be fine six months from now. Just hang in there. Sure it will. Uh-huh.

Mao Zedong used to tell the Chinese people to just hang in there for another Five Year Plan. And five Five Year Plans later, just one more. Always one more.

It's a crock.

Worldwide oil demand has permanently exceeded supply. Whether that is Peak Oil or not is moot.

What it is -- is the very livin' end of Cheap Oil. It will never be cheap again. Ever.

Six months or six years or sixty years won't see anything other than increasing scarcity, and higher prices.

Any fuel conserved by Americans will be burned by the American military's tanks, carriers and planes in order to get more fuel by force from other nations.

Arr. Welcome to pirate America. Raise a black flag, ye swarthy scum. Thee's oil a waitin' overseas.

The lost rigs and platforms can never be replaced, not with an existing backlog already extending to 2009. Oil and gas fields, which were close to the end of their useful life but that, were producing some oil or gas will anyway simply not be worth redrilling if the wellheads are damaged.
"Supply will be up and prices will come down in six months" will join "Yes, I'll respect you in the morning" as a meaningless promise.
Soon, as a temporary fix of course, look for a 55mph limit on highways and solar hot water to be re-installed on the White House roof.
Do you think the combination of hurricanes (damage/destruction of drilling/producing equip), peak oil (increasing prices, but also increasing scarcity/production costs) and a society certainly in decline (maybe not in totally collapse) could actually prevent "us" from extracting a decently significant part of the deep water oil in GOMEX? While there is no doubt people would drill for some near-the-surface light crude on land, going deep water might end up being impossible before too long? Or just financially unsound?
"Supply will be up and prices will come down in six months" will join "Yes, I'll respect you in the morning" as a meaningless promise.

This should be the quote of the day!

Also, anything that's older than about ten years probably has a book value close to the salvage value.  That means any replacement will be treated by the corporations as a new investment.  There will be a big temptation to just take whatever insurance money and run.
Not really. In World War Two the price of used cars zoomed (even with gas rationing) because they stopped building new ones and converted to war production.
The value of the oil rigs is greater than the insurance because the insurance was written when the price of oil was much lower than it is now, and rigs are far more valuable when the oil is more valuable.
The only way the value of the rigs would go down is if the oil companies expected that the price of oil would go down in the future, when the oil would be produced by the oil rigs. IE, that the oil company executives do not believe in peak oil.
I (somewhat hopefully) called Bush's conservation speech a tipping point.  This article gives me more hope, that conservation (or "efficiency" if that is the code word we must use) will take a higher long-term profile,

FWIW, Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, was on E&E TV again last week (webcast):

There is an interesting article in the WaPo this morning about attitudes about gasoline around the world.  I used to think it was only the U.S. where we were such idiots about the stuff, but the addiction is causing unrest around the world:

Of particular interest is the number of countries where the price to the consumer is subsidized - in the long run this is untenable and can lead to the governments bankrupting themselves, but the alternative of raising prices to market levels leads to civil unrest.

The Washington Post requires free registration, but the article is probably worth it. It notes that gasoline prices range from $.15 a gallon in Venezuala to $6.81 in France.

In such countries, where stiff gas taxes help induce motorists to drive small, fuel-efficient cars, the griping by Americans about high gasoline prices evokes little sympathy. Ruth Bridger, a spokeswoman for the AA Motoring Trust, a British consumer advocacy group, said Britons look at the sport-utility vehicles that dominate U.S. highways and think, "Serves you right."

The article notes some countries impose hefty taxes that help the state budget. They are under pressure to scale them back to make gas more affordable. Other countries subsidize gas and are getting their budgets hit hard.

In India, which imports about 75 percent of its crude oil, domestic fuel prices have risen less than one-third as fast as international prices, according to Hans Timmer, an economist at the World Bank; the government's failure to implement a system of market-determined prices caused state-owned refineries to lose $4.6 billion in 2004.


Indonesians have been paying about 90 cents a gallon for gasoline -- until this weekend, that is, when the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced that gasoline prices would nearly double and kerosene prices would triple. Officials said they had no choice, since fuel subsidies have swelled to about one-third of government spending. Word of the impending price hike sparked protests in many cities; on Friday, police were using tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators. The reaction was muted compared with the deadly rioting triggered by previous price hikes, but the government is bracing for possible violence as the impact sinks in.

People in oil exporting countries seem especially pissed because they expect plentiful oil within the country would translate to (perpetually?) cheap gas. The article doesn't make the point explicitly, but anger is directed not just at government but ultimately globalization and the largest consumers.

everyone should know about bugmenot.  Works with most sites that require registration.  I forget how I found out about it, but it is really useful.

DavidH wonders if "hurricanes" and other real-life impediments "could actually prevent "us" from extracting a decently significant part of the deep water oil in GOMEX?"

I think he's on to something.  If the intensity of hurricanes are indeed increasing because of global warming and if most of the current GOMEX infrastructure was built for hurricanes of much less strength than Katrina or Rita, I doubt that deep water drilling in the Gulf would be possible, both in real terms and in economic terms.

So, we not only lost New Orleans but we lost the upper bands of deep water oil that are found on all of those Hubbert curve graphs.  I don't really know how much of that curve is GOMEX oil but aren't other deep water expeditions also having trouble because of oceanic activity that could be related to global warming - typhoons and such in the southeastern Pacific?

This is a serious issue, obviously, but I don't think that oil or NG reserve on the GOM will ever be permanently locked in.  If oil goes to $200US/barrel, for example, that would make it economically feasible to extract oil under some very difficult (and expensive) conditions.

The issue is when oil gets so expensive, and we have enough alternative technology and infrastructure in place, that we simply stop using oil for most purposes.

When we "stop using oil for most purposes" - and I suspect that's well north of $200 - I suspect it will be too expensive (energy intense) to build the "alternative technology" intended to replace it.  The problem with an inelastic energy source like petroleum is that the price can also fall rapidly when the economy tanks (no pun intended).  Unfortunately the economy is geared to short term gains.  This strongly works against investment in alternatives.  Witness the 70's.

We are looking at a nightmare of a train wreck and we want to believe it's not really happening - emotionally speaking - no matter what our thinking parts may tell us.  Therefore, as soon as the coming killer recession causes oil to temporarily drop below $35 a barrel, pundits will rush in and start crowing "I told you so,", the Greenspan proxy will cut interest rates, the economy will come out of a nose dive, the situation will improve (comparatively though not absolutely) and Americans will breathe a big sigh of relief.  Oil will inevitably start rising again and we will repeat the sequence, each time economically peaking at a lower level.

European humankind faced an energy crisis in the 16th century - it was deforestation that time.  I don't know what the "peak wood" curve looks like but I do know that people could view their diminishing forests and see the problem.  That's a really different situation than trying to see oil 12 thousand feet down.  A normal person could make an assessment.

And coal entered stage left.  Like oil, the first coal seams were easy to mine.  They didn't require much in the way of capital investment.

What I'm saying, in a long-winded way, is that what we face now is unique and cannot be compared to what seem to be similar historical moments.  Mostly because of inelasticity, and sheer size of the problem.  16th century Europe was not an integrated economy in today's sense.

At some point quite soon now I think the sensible thing to do is simple acknowledge that we're screwed double time.  Number nerdism, scientific thinking and long contemplative chin pulls aren't going to save the day.  What's coming is far too turbulent to predict further than to say most of us aren't going to like it one bit.  I strongly doubt that many  fortunes will be made in biofuel.  Some, no doubt, but not like the fortunes made in petroleum.

Rejoice in the day, insomuch as possible.  We have been privileged to live in a unique period of human history that probably won't be repeated.  We have lived like gods we an entourage of 50 or more mechanical slaves to do our wished with no complaints.

All things come to an end.  Look around in wonder.

No, I'm not religious.

Methanol production gets cheaper every year.
"peak wood"  -- I love it!
Keep it clean everyone :)
"Peak wood" was faced even more dramatically in medieval Japan:  it just about destroyed the civilization.  A strong goverment program designed to restrict unnecessary consumption along with programs to replace what was already lost saved Japan from starvation.

I would suggest Collapse by Jared Diamond (author of Guns, Germs and Steel) if you want a good view of a society that looked into the abyss of resource depletion and took the steps necessary to save themselves.  He covers the near miss of medieval Japan in great detail.

If oil goes to $200US/barrel, for example, that would make it economically feasible to extract oil under some very difficult (and expensive) conditions.

The big question, the unanswerable question, is does this happen long before we are ready for it, or not...

Meanwhile, the latest MMS report shows a slight improvement - Friday's numbers were 97.85% oil / 79.41% NG for comparison.

Today's shut-in oil production is 1,391,926 BOPD.  This shut-in oil production is equivalent to 92.80% of the daily oil production in the GOM, which is currently approximately 1.5 million BOPD.

Today's shut-in gas production is 7.495 BCFPD.  This shut-in gas production is equivalent to 74.95% of the daily gas production in the GOM, which is currently approximately 10 BCFPD.

The cumulative shut-in oil production for the period 8/26/05-10/3/05 is 45,119,329 bbls, which is equivalent to 8.241 % of the yearly production of oil in the GOM (approximately 547.5 million barrels).

The cumulative shut-in gas production 8/26/05-10/3/05 is 219.567 BCF, which is equivalent to 6.016 % of the yearly production of gas in the GOM (approximately 3.65 TCF).

Do you think anyone planned for seeing what ultimately will be 10 - 15% of GOM oil output curtailed this year, it not more?

I think that if the cumulative shut-in for GOM NG gets up over 15% (650 BCF) this Winter, then the North American NG stockpile would soon reach its baseline.  
What's the difference between conservation and efficiency? When people hear conservation, they think sacrifice - "I'm just going to have to make due with less".

We need to turn this argument around. We can do the same with less if we invest heavily in more energy efficient infrastructure - water freight, rail, dense & mixed use housing, green buildings, energy efficient cars/appliances as well as a whole host of lifestyle decisions about how we entertain ourselves, how we commute, take vacations, how we eat, etc. We will only consider it sacrifice if we cling too much to inefficient infrastructures and lifestyles that will increasingly become extremely expensive to sustain at current levels.


I am in 100% agreement with you.  Most people I talk to can't comprehend the difference between saving energy by applying more efficient technology to do the same job vs just doing less.  Not all transportation has the same efficiency.  Not all building designs are equally efficient.  We need a national drive for energy efficiency now.  This will reduce consumption of petroleaum now and maybe get us so efficient in the future that we can substitute some less energy dense alternative.  

All the arguments to date say we can't substitute any alternative energy for diesel/gasoline because there isn't enough energy density  in those approaches.  I agree, if we assume current transportation technology.  The civilization saving question is how do we move the same mass of goods in essentially the same time frame using 30-40 less energy?  That might (still a big might) get us onto more renewable fuels or at the very least stretch our fossils until the next technological stair step innovation.

But if we don't start now the whole system just might grind to a halt in the near future.  Oh, and lest people think this is a free lunch we all will all need to do some sacrificing and cut back on wasteful luxuries.  I personally believe some luxuries are not energy wasteful.  A week canoeing in the boundary waters comes to mind!

Amory Lovins et. al. have some very optimistic and interesting things to say along these lines.  "Winning the Oil End-Game" is downloadable free at While I don't necessarily agree that we can achieve all they propose, we very much need to be engaged in a national dialogue that raises awareness of all possible mitigating steps regarding PO.
Finally, a bunch of people singing my song!  I think I'll join in!  I have been chasing BTU's in all forms for nearly 30 years.  I've been in every type of facility imagineable.  Every place I looked I found situations where at least 20% of the utility bill could be saved by applying simple, economically viable upgrades to the energy systems embedded in each process or facility.  This is the heart of the idea of "efficiency" as opposed to the "sacrifice" of conserving.

This process does not avoid the end of the oil age, just puts it off long enough for us to get our act together.  As a first time post I have to say I enjoy this site tremendously and appreciate its wealth of information.

OK, but we need to be careful about throwing a lot of money at efficiency technologies that cost more than the fuel they (will) save. I drive a Prius, but I don't know if it will ever actually pay for itself, even if gas goes to $5 or $6 before it wears out. I'm just hoping the battery pack lasts until batteries get a lot cheaper.

My impression is that windmill generators and solar water heaters make economic sense, but most "green" technology doesn't. I don't know at what point home insulation reaches a diminishing return.

But, you say, wait until oil hits $200 a barrel!

But, I reply, how much of the high cost of the technologies is from the energy it takes to build them? Enough to indicate that their EROEI is poor, maybe even less than 1? Of course it depends on the technology. And if energy is under-priced today, it may be a good investment to buy equipment that will become more valuable later... but if its construction uses more energy than it creates or saves later, it still wouldn't be good conservation.


Lifestyle choices are almost free from a EROEI basis, so living near work, eating more veggies/less meat, creating mixed use areas where residential/commercial/industry are all nearby.

The other infrastructure needs a market to develop, but I can imagine some very high EROEI returns on new small scale port facilities scattered around the country's rivers and coastal areas, more freight railroads, more mass transit. Agree that hybrids are only a marginal return if you are junking a new car, but if you buy a hybrid instead of an SUV, then that's just one less SUV on the road and that will pay dividends in the future. But this will take a long time given the size of the auto fleet here - 200m cars.

My feeling is that every btu saved by individuals will be instantly swallowed up by China, India, etc. or by wealthy people unconcerned by the cost of energy.

Six and a half billion people who all want to drive cars and have an industrialized lifestyle is the core of the problem.

Every kWh saved makes it easier for you or your company to outbid someone more wasteful.
And who can blame any single one of those 6 1/2 billion for wanting that lifestyle?  Certainly not any of the people writing into this site (myself included) who ALREADY enjoy such a lifestyle.
Me too.

I guess from an ecological point of view it's the tragedy of the commons taken to a global level.

The choice isn't Prius vs. SUV, it's Prius vs. Civic. What I'm saying is that it may be better for the environment, overall, to buy a Civic.

If you take cost as an estimate of energy use, then the car with the lower cost of ownership will likely be better, even if it gets lower mileage.

Of course, hybrid technology is new enough that much of the cost is probably paying for its development. That shouldn't count against the environmental tradeoff.

So I don't know which is better.

Just for the record, as most of us know, the price of oil in the US is also heavily subsidized - military protection of 'our oil' to the tune of $Billions, accelerated depreciation allowances and other massive subsidies to the OilCos, externalized health and environmental costs, highway construction costs far beyond gas tax coverage... Just including these costs at the pump would (and should have all along) provide a huge incentive for investment in efficiency and alternatives.

And there is a clear difference between efficiency and conservation.  Efficiency = doing the same task with less energy - getting 40 instead of 20 mpg, for example.  Curtailment is doing less to save energy - not taking a trip, or turning the T-stat down 5 degrees.  Both result in Conservation of resources.  Until, that is Jeavon's Paradox kicks in... We need both efficiency and curtailment with mechanisms to control Jeavon's Paradox to the greatest extent possible.

There is a big difference between encouraging people to drive slower and actually lowering the speed limit.  I just can't see shrub telling telling his fellow Texans that the 55mph speed limit is coming back.  

It would be interesting to explore the use of mandatory instruments that give drivers real-time feedback in fuel consumption (beyond the fuel gauge and speedometer).  If you could see your wallet emptying everytime you step on the gas, maybe more people would voluntarily slow down.  

I'm just dumbfounded watching people drive like maniacs, with jackrabbit starts and 80mph highway speeds, and then wait in line to save $0.10 on a gallon of gas.  Personally, I'd rather drive a little slower and spend the extra buck to fill up without a wait.  

Many new high end cars do have this and it is pretty much standard on all hybrids.  You are right in that these tools feedback to consumption and modify driving behavior.  But this doesn't do much for people that have sufficient money to not care.  They can afford to waste fuel at high speed so they do.
OK, but how large is the percentage of people that are rich enough to not care?  We tend to divide people into rich and poor, like a banana republic, but the US does still have a sizeable middle class (despite everything).  
Yes, but I was thinking more in terms of another meter on the dash, rather than a computer screen that you have to navigate to (as in the Prius).  Ideally, it would be as conspicuous as the fuel gauge.  

You're correct that the affluent will be affected less, but I believe it would still be worthwhile.  It's not a silver bullet, but nothing is with energy.  

The USA today version of the story omits a key paragraph that appeared in CNN:

Bodman warned he didn't yet know the extent of damage done by Hurricane Rita to offshore oil and natural gas platforms as well as Gulf Coast refineries and pipelines, telling the paper it would take two to three more weeks to complete an assessment. But he suggested there could be shortages depending on the extent of damage.

So it is 6 months of problems, not including hurricaine disruptions....


Damage estimates from oil and gas producers are trickling in as slowly as oil and natural gas are moving through Gulf of Mexico pipelines. One of the problems is the ability to transport offshore employees back to platforms and rigs because of damage to and a lack of transportation infrastructure. One exploration company executive told me last week that platform inspections would likely "take weeks" because it is currently "impossible" to get access to helicopters and boats.

Companies like Offshore Logistics and Tidewater, in the air and sea businesses respectively, will benefit greatly. Small work boats (200 to 220 foot vessels) are reportedly leasing for over $20,000 a day, more than double what the same boat could get for work just a year ago.

"Any company that tells you they will have all their production back in the next week isn't telling the truth," the executive said.
The government conservation plan will ask Americans to turn off lights, change thermostat settings, drive slower, insulate homes and take other steps.
Great plan. I missed the part where they called for a halt on roadway widening and a package of zoning recommendations to encourage transit-oriented development. I also missed the part where they commit to introducing a financing package to rehabilitate our national rail system. Oh, wait a minute, it turns out they want to do the exact opposite thing by halting all federal financing for Amtrak. Maybe it's because they hate spending money. Then again, in light of the $244.1 billion highway-heavy transportation bill that Bush recently signed, maybe they don't hate spending money that much. *Sigh.* I'm glad that we have a group of smart, forward-thinking people running our national government.
There are two sides to any debate. I would like to see the Oil Drum discuss this posting by a Nobel Laureate.

It's standard cornucopianism by yet another deluded economist.

Try this posting by a Nobel Laureate:

"There are two sides to any debate."

    This is called a "false choice" in the study of mental manipulations. No. There can be many sides.
   Moreover, the manipulation attempts to present the sides of the debate as deserving equal credibility irrespective of what is being debated. It sounds "fair", but it is wrong headed.
   The proposition about equally balanced sides can be easily disproved with hypotheticals that test the proposition. Example: a 3 year old child is "debating" a 30 year old mathematician. The child says 2+2=5. The mathematician says, no. Are there 2 equally balanced sides to this "debate"? No.

  As for the mathematically ungifted, econo-geniuses at your Becker-Posner site: wake up. The Earth is round. It has a finite volume: V=4/3 pi*R^3. "Matter" consumes volume. Malthus was right. The finite surface area and volume of the planet cannot support an infinite number of resource-consuming critters. We will not be the first "intelligent" species to die-off due to over-shoot. Sorry.  

"I would like to see the Oil Drum discuss this posting by a Nobel Laureate."

     People in the know understand that the "Nobel Prize" is a politically bestowed title. Quite often, the wrong person is awarded the prize because of his or her political connections and because of cronyism (sp?). I am less than impressed by the "noble" title.
    IMHO, economics is mostly a "religion" rather than a science. Economists too often filter out all the objective observations that disprove each of their theories. Example: New Orleans 2005. Why did free-thinking "rational" humans invest their scarce resources into building a city on the edge of hurricane alley despite the fact that scientists have for over 30 years warned that this is a recipe for disaster? Where is your free markets now, momma? Never mind. The human brain easily denies that which does not fit the religiously adopted model.

Another question I have, assuming that we have a gasoline crisis (which is somewhat likely IMHO) is how are we going to allocate what gasoline reserves we have?  My guess with the current admin, is of course by higher prices, but then what happens when the middle class with 20-30 mpg cars realizes they're subsidizing the price for the rich with 10-15 mpg SUVs who consume way more fuel and don't bat an eyelash at the price?  Certainly that seems unfair, if one is willing to increase their fuel efficiency, they should be rewarded, not penalized.

The most fair way of course would be gas rationing, but you can bet that will never happen.

I wonder if the wealthy will stop driving gas guzzlers out of shame -- or even fear -- if the country suffers an energy crisis and the middle and working classes are smoldering with anger.

I'm not sure I'd be prancing around in an Escalade when my countrymen are suffering ...

In Latin America where the divide between rich and poor is larger there is a cottage industry armoring the vehicles. Maybe in the future everyman will be driving a 2000 lb subcompact and the wealthy will be driving 12000 lb armored SUVs (and will be even more reckless).
In "I Will Fear No Evil", the wealthy drove armored Rolls-Skodas with security teams to shoot back at the inevitable attackers.
One can only hope for this result - we who are writing into this site ought to work on developing a culture of stigma for that type of behavior.
I'd rather not become an eco-asshole.  There must be some way to convince people without stigmatizing them.
What I had in mind was something more along the lines of attaching a stigma to being rich (hence also a voracious consumer of energy), and removing the stigma now attached to being poor.
I don't see any point in class warfare.  I'd just stick to the "voracious consumer of energy" part.  I've seen lower middle class guys that fit that description pretty well.
Falls Church News Post article on the Bartlett conference:

Sorry, News-Press, not News-Post.
Urban Survival Update: (Houston oilman's comments are shown as follows:  <<   >>.   Other comments are by George Ure.  Note that lots and lots of people in the oil patch--myself included--are talking about trying to become more food self-sufficient.  

Jeffrey J. Brown

Urban Survival:

What Goes Around...

 I have been asking both of our great resources in the oil patch the question everyone wants to know - will we have gas lines or just $4 gas before Thanksgiving?  The answer from

<<It all depends on whether they can get full power back to those refineries, and what flooding actually did to their control hardware. Saltwater flooding is not like freshwater flooding with respect to electrical equipment. For instance, if you take a common relay, and submerge it in freshwater, you can dry it out and it will go on switching and doing its thing. If you do this in saltwater, it leaves salt behind when it evaporates, and that residue corrodes the contacts, making it basically useless. You can drop your cell phone in the tub, take it apart and dry it out, and it will still work. Do it while you're in the surf, and it's junk.<p> I know things are all supposed to be in explosion-proof boxes at a refinery, but keeping air out and keeping water out are two different things. Lots of times the flammable gases/air are kept out by simply pressurizing a box with good air from a compressor. Once the compressor is down, then unless every single input/output of the box is waterproofed, it will be filled with saltwater, making it crap.

Also, sealing from normal water (rain, washing, etc.) is different from sealing for submergence. You have waterproof, water-resistant, and submersible. I doubt any or very few plants are built with submersible components.

As most of these refineries are old, they probably will have a lot of fits and starts getting back online. And with NOBODY wanting an accident, they will probably err of the side of caution.

If they cannot get them back up in the next two weeks, it could happen, as the remaining refineries switch to winter products. I don't know about gas lines - but I think $4 is not crazy. It all depends on how much and what kind of damage they have to repair. I have heard from several people that the majors are holding prices down so as not to get hit with gouging charges. What is more likely to me is that they can use this to muscle-out the independent stores, by keeping their margins down a bit. Never think that any retailer is out for anything except profit, especially when their corporate bonus depends on it...right?

I am refilling my yard tank right now, if that tell you anything. If gas actually gets scarce, even for a moment, there will be a run on it, and it will be gone. That's when things can get nasty. Rita showed us that in a big way.

One footnote - I had one neighbor who bitched about my gas storage tank (behind my garage), and tried to get the city to force me to remove it. When Rita hit and nobody had gas, this guy actually came down and asked if he could buy gas from me. I gave him a very long lecture, gave him 10 gallons of gas, and now he is hounding me to learn about my gardens.

The one thing that can make suburbia work is when people stick together...>>

OK, that confirms it: We we get back to the ranch, it'll be once a week to town (26 miles round trip) and we'll be working in the garden getting in some fall crops.  Maybe a freezer and some protein to go in it...

Gary Becker represents the economist/ cornucopian viewpoint as well as anyone. Of course he makes some strong points. Our higher value economic sectors are knowledge based, and the more educated people you have, the more income -- all other things being equal. As he correctly points out, Japan has few natural resources but remains wealthy because of its energetic and educated population. Hence Japan has prospered by making goods with high knowledge content and selling them in order to obtain the food and energy it imports.

As Becker says, we have had increasing income in most countries worldwide over the last 150 years as population quintupled. No argument. But it only worked because we were able to substitute energy sources smoothly as the population grew: from wood to coal, and coal to oil.

Becker would say: we have managed the energy source transitions smoothly so far; therefore peak oilers bear the burden of proof to say it will be different in the future. Peak oilers would say: is that the bet you care to take, given the horrendous potential downside if you are wrong.

Peak oilers would also say: there exist a number of countries that are trying to succeed by going the knowledge based route (which appears best to me, as far as it goes). Yet sooner or later, all of them will be bidding up the price of oil -- unless we substitute something for it.

Becker would say,  the substitutes have always been found, and that "human ingenuity" will "always" find them. And so it has been in the recent history of "western civilization." On the other hand -- we can find any number of civilizations that failed for lack of resources. It has happened before.

"... we were able to substitute energy sources smoothly as the population grew: from wood to coal, and coal to oil."
This is not true. All energy forms are used more than ever before - oil, coal, natural gas, wood and other biomass. In the world scale we have only added one energy source to another, not substituted any.

And the transitions have not been very smooth. There has been deforestation, coal and oil crises and they have been solved mostly by adding new energy sources and importing energy from somwhere else. The fact is that the world has not really experienced a situation where some important primary energy source has depleted.

It is not possible to get more for less. We only get less for less. Even if we can get the same miles with half the gasoline in a smaller car, we are driving in a smaller car ant that is not the same as in a SUV. This sounds trivial but if we have a truck it is not a trivial matter if we get only 5 tons instead of 10 tons goods to the destination. In fact modern cars and trucks are already very energy-efficient and there is not much room left for improvement. The energy-efficiency means here tons x miles / gallons. A smaller car is not always more efficient, it is just smaller.

It is not possible to start huge investments for improving energy eficiency or rearranging urban areas in the middle of an energy crisis. This kind of investments are very energy-intensive and will make the situation even worse. We have real life examples of something like this. It means that a lot of investments cannot be completed and a lot of energy is wasted, not saved.

If there is less energy the only way is to use less and get less. It is not enough to set mpg norms for cars. Why not set norms for housing - how many heated or air-conditioned rooms per person? What temperature range? Something has to give.

Regarding setting norms for houses:
  These already exist, albeit at the local and state level and not the national level.
  State and local building or energy codes often specify that a house is to have wall and ceiling insulation of a given value (R-13/R-30 for example) and even the fixtures in the bathroom (eg low flush toilets, and low flow showerheads).

Rearranging urban areas to make them more amenable for walking/biking/transit will take many years and considerable energy, as you state.  The big holdup will be the political will to actualize such a plan.

Individuals investing in energy efficiency could be one way of sustaining the economy, assuming they still have jobs to purchase the goods/services to make their homes more efficient.

Unfortunately, low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads are the first things owners replace.  Cheap low-flow showerheads are just a drizzle and cheap low-flush toilets take two or three flushes to do the job.
You're right on the money.  A GOOD low flow shower head works great.  A GOOD low volume toilet is also great.

A cheap shower head or toilet is miserable.

The catch is that you must be willing to pay more up front to reap longer benefits.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture of instant gratification.  Americans will choose a longer feature list over better quality almost every time if the prices are the same.  Just look at cell phones -- how many phones have polyphonic ringtones, web access, and downloadable games but also feature truly AWFUL reception?

This is one place we could learn from the Europeans.  They generally prefer quality over quantity.  Fewer things built to a higer standard rather than a house full of Wal-Mart cheapest-price crap.

Without a change in our culture to value quality more than quantity, Americans will keep buying cheap, feature-rich items that work poorly rather than long-life, efficient, reliable items that do one thing really well.

If you can come up with a way to change our cultural values for the better, you'll be sainted by our descendants.

All energy forms are used more than ever before - oil, coal, natural gas, wood and other biomass.
Is that so?  Why has the USA reforested so nicely, to give just one example?
It is not possible to get more for less. We only get less for less. Even if we can get the same miles with half the gasoline in a smaller car, we are driving in a smaller car ant that is not the same as in a SUV. This sounds trivial but if we have a truck it is not a trivial matter if we get only 5 tons instead of 10 tons goods to the destination.
If that's true, do please explain the following conundra to me:
  • Why can't we streamline all those squared-off semi-trailers and move more tons with less fuel?
  • A truck getting 59 ton-miles per gallon pales in comparison to our Class I freight railroads, which use a measly 345 BTU of fuel per ton mile (roughly 420 ton-miles per gallon).  Looks like there's lots of room to get more for less there, and if the railroads can get their scheduling and switching act together they could eat the trucker's lunch.
  • If I could buy a plug-in hybrid car, I could eliminate my motor fuel consumption on local runs and still reduce it on longer trips.  More miles, less fuel.
  • If I cogenerate the electricity for said plug-in hybrid, I get more useful energy out of less input.  (It's thermodynamics, I don't expect you to have studied that - perhaps .4% of the US population has.)
  • Anyone who substitutes a 30-watt circle-tube lamp for a 100-watt incandescent is getting about 50% more light out of less than a third of the energy.  That's not more for less?
There does come a point of diminishing returns when all the low-hanging fruit has been picked and you need to grow more.  We've got plenty of untapped energy potential in wind and solar; calculate the amount of energy that hits your roof every year.  If you're like most people you're using exactly none of it.
It is not possible to start huge investments for improving energy eficiency or rearranging urban areas in the middle of an energy crisis.
That means it's time to tell Bush to shut up and get out of the way, and get started.
Engineer Poet:  I agree with most of what you say, but wanted to comment on this:

A truck getting 59 ton-miles per gallon pales in comparison to our Class I freight railroads, which use a measly 345 BTU of fuel per ton mile (roughly 420 ton-miles per gallon).  Looks like there's lots of room to get more for less there, and if the railroads can get their scheduling and switching act together they could eat the trucker's lunch.

I think the problem for the railroads is that shipping by truck is much cheaper than by rail in spite of energy concerns.  When railroads deliver you still often have to move the cargo to a truck to ship it across town to your business location.  You probably had to ship it via truck to the railroad at the point of origin as well.  That's a big increase in labor costs -- and you still had to have trucks in the mix as well.  Also, railroads require a hub-and-spoke distribution arrangement while trucks are point-to-point.  For example, here in NC a shipment from Statesville to Kannapolis will likely go to Charlotte (well to the south) only to be attached to a train heading NE to Kannapolis.  Cheaper per mile, but my shipment has gone several times farther than on a truck.  Finally, even with good scheduling, a manufacturer's just-in-time inventory system must be thrown out along with all the efficiencies the system had entailed.

Of course, if energy costs go high enough the energy costs might become the primary concern.  Until then, I don't think better organization on the part of trains will let them beat trucking.  Note that I say that with great sorrow -- transfer trucks, to me, are a blight.  Trains, however, have a romance that warms my heart!

Don't forget the greatest advantage that trucks have over freight trains. Freight trains travel over privately built, privately owned, privately maintained, tax-paying railroads. Trucks travel over government built, government owned, government maintained, tax-supported roads, highways and freeways.

Can you imagine if trucking companies had to build their own road systems?

For that matter, can you imagine if airlines had to build their own airports and air traffic control systems? We'd all still be taking the train.

If you want sanity in transportation, first thing you do is get government out of the transportation business.

I had this very debate with a person from a department of transportation person over the weekend.  IMO just about everyone discounts the huge subsidies given to trucks via the interstate system and sharing the road with cars.  Even the DOT people don't run the numbers on energy efficiency.  They are politically constrained to a certain framework.  They do not have the same influence of track location as they do to new road location.  They also don't work on behalf of the trains to gather statistics for commerce flow, economic benefit, jobs creation, etc. that allow rezoning by state and local government.  EVERYONE is invloved in locating extra lanes and off ramps but try and put track in and it is the freight company and business that owns the land that have to do it alone.  No land ownership, no track.
I would say the reasonable thing would be to get the government involved in the railroad business(tracks only). I seriously doubt a privately owned highway or airport system would be functional
Highways are paid for by diesel taxes. Railroads were given the land free, and then given half the land on both sides of the railroads for ten miles out, also for free. Other way around for highways vs. trunklines.
Local roads are paid for by taxes on your house and your place of business. Local railroads were paid for by the railroad company, except for the spur lines which are paid for by the companies they connect to the railroad.
"Highways are paid for by diesel taxes."

Not in  full, at least not in the U.S. Federal and state income tax revenues also go toward highways. States regularly have to conform to federal mandates (e.g., legal drinking ages and BAC limits) in order to avoid losing matching federal funding for highways.

It is true that the railroads we all read about in our high school history books often had land grants -- the Central Pacific, the Northern Pacific, the Union Pacific, and so forth. But the overwhelming majority of railroads in the U.S were constructed without land grants.

And for the past 150 years, all railroads, whether land grant or not, have paid corporate taxes, including property taxes on their lines. Ironically, these taxes were used by the government to build the competition. Today railroads still pay taxes, and roads, airports and waterways still consume taxes paid by the railroads.

In the past, I tried to figure the total cost of government owned transportation, everything from electricity for traffic signals to foregone property tax revenue to budgets for local traffic courts. It's virtually impossible to do (unless you had unlimited time). So we can't know whether total costs are covered by taxes or not. Most Americans hold it as an article of faith that their taxes cover all the costs of government transportation, but I very much doubt it.

Imagine how efficient railroads are that they can still deliver freight at a profit despite all the subsidies enjoyed by the competition.

From what I understand cars and trucks each pay about 80-90% of their road costs in taxes (20% of Federal Pie goes to Mass Transit which is good and neccessary, so the net funds from fuel taxes and Excise taxes probably covers less than 80%).
Train right of ways privately owned? Well, they are now, but many of them are owned because they were given away to rail companies by the government. Not only that, but IIRC the transcontinental railroad was also given a lot of land bordering the line, so that they'd own the towns that sprang up.

That was long ago, and it's easy to forget history. But I don't see that rail is any more subsidy-pure than road.

I think the problem for the railroads is that shipping by truck is much cheaper than by rail in spite of energy concerns.
It definitely depends what you're shipping, its weight/bulk, how fast it needs to get there and how close you are to a rail terminal.  It would make little sense to ship coal by truck, while rail would need much timelier deliveries to make it good for fresh vegetables.

Trains used to be the fastest way to move cargo, including inter-city mail.  It would be useful to know how much it cost in labor, and what it might take to do it again.

When railroads deliver you still often have to move the cargo to a truck to ship it across town to your business location.  You probably had to ship it via truck to the railroad at the point of origin as well.  That's a big increase in labor costs -- and you still had to have trucks in the mix as well.  
But those can be very short runs compared to the rest.  If you're shipping oranges from Florida to Gary, it might be 50 miles from the farm to the train and another 50 from the railyard to the warehouse.  In between you've got many hundreds of miles which can be covered on a railcar.  The labor savings are immense; three people driving the train can move dozens of semi-loads of goods.

One of the reasons we still use diesel trucks is that so many of them need to be able to make long hauls.  Railyard to destination is likely to be much shorter, which opens an opportunity for electric trucks.  The zinc-air fuel cells tested by Electric Fuel appear to be sufficient to run a semi-truck for 400 miles or so; if you're only making runs within 50 miles of a railyard, the range limitation isn't a factor.

Also, railroads require a hub-and-spoke distribution arrangement while trucks are point-to-point.
There will certainly be trips for which the extra mileage, loading and unloading costs more than a direct trip, but rising fuel prices will make the crossover shorter while also making the economics of short-haul electric trucks better.  At some point you lose the middle ground where diesel trucks are the low-cost option.  Or you get something like the Blade Runner intermodal system where the truck itself runs on rails, and you can lay rails down expressway medians....

Many businesses use hub-and-spoke anyway.  Putting a distribution warehouse on a rail spur would allow them to get the best of both worlds.  They could pull ISO containers off flatcars, store them if necessary (plugging the refrigerated ones in), then drop them onto trucks for the final trip to the destination.  Short-haul trucking eliminates a lot of interstate semi shipments and the associated traffic.

I'm not a transport analyst and I have no idea how high fuel prices would have to be for this to pay.  However, the feasibility is undeniable (it's how things used to be done) and we should be looking at the idea to see what kind of attention it merits.

You also have to factor in the crane operators, gate personnel and yard jockeys at the intermodal hub at each end in addition to the 3 people to run the train.

One dirty little secret is many companies will use their sleeper cab tractors to bring a driver from a low wage high driver availability area (Midwest or South) to a high wage low driver availability area (Northeast) and basically run the truck as a regional truck for two weeks then route the driver back home. So in some areas there are not enough local drivers available at market price (at some point it becomes cheaper just to have lower wage driver haul the thing directly).

A lot of the freight is more than 50 miles from a hub. I remember hauling a load from Maine to Pennsylvania to catch a train to illinois. 200+ miles is not unrealistic.

As far as rail spurs go, a lot of freight that goes intermodal now would be a lot more efficiently handled in a boxcar. I've hauled a lot of paper rolls from a facility with a rail siding to a facility with a rail siding (often both are abandoned). I don't know that most distribution centers would be able to efficiently run an intermodal yard. Big specialized (and dangerous) equipment.  They are scattered in small towns where the big corps can get cheap labor and generous incentives for city and state govt's. If you could get a consortium together maybe you could set up a railyard in the center of a half dozen or so DCs (but by the time you built the complex I don't know what the net energy savings would be).

As far as the "Blade Runner" scenario goes, toll truckways have been a hot topic lately. VA wants to set one up on I-81 and several others are in the talking phase as well. The idea is a private company would build and operate the truck only toll road for the state. One carrot that has been and is used to entice trucking companies to use toll roads before is allowing Long Combination Vehicles (usually 3 short trailers or two long ones).

Back in the late 70s the truck gross weight limit went from 73,280 to 80,000 in response to a sudden increase in fuel prices (the fuel used per ton of cargo goes down as you increase the size of the truck). So I wouldn't be terribly shocked if another bump occured (probably to 90,000, some of the industry is hoping for 97,000). Perversely 97K might make container freight work better. Some other nations run 97k or higher so the box is overweight when it gets here. Some states will give a divisible load permit but others require the container to be unloaded down to legal weight. Of course the models I've seen show the 97K truck taking some freight from trains so it'd probably be a wash or a negative (though it would also stretch intermodal capacity since all those boxes could have a bit more freight put in them before being put on the train).

Re-afforested but as what?  Bio-diverse succession forests or monocultural plantations?

All the other things you mentioned take time, money and willpower, both personal and political, to implement.  In an affluent, largely egalitarian, politically aware and motivated society already long on a path to using less and wasting less these may work to smooth out the effects of oil depletion.  But in a country like the US which pays lip-service to the concepts of egalitarianism, political pluralism, the public's right to know etc.  Where the whole economy relies on the availablity of cheap abundant fuel and derives a good chunk of its income from the creation, re-distribution, and disposal of waste how is this going to be brought about without a lot of pain and misery?

Bio-diverse succession forests or monocultural plantations?
It's been some of both, but the abandoned farms of Vermont and elsewhere have reforested naturally.  I've also seen something about work to return low-lying land from ag use to oak forest.  The overall forest area of the USA increased 0.2% in 2000.

Not that we can't do more to encourage this and put old growth off-limits (engineered lumber can use trash trees and is more consistent anyway), but things aren't so bad as they are.

But in a country like the US which pays lip-service to the concepts of egalitarianism, political pluralism, the public's right to know etc.
I think you'll find that the US is actually not so bad in those respects; contrast, e.g. the centralized and unaccountable bureaucracies of the EU.
I don't believe that the US has reforested, and certainly not very nicely.  What has happened is the deforestation has slowed to less than 0.5%/year.  That's a far cry from reforestation.  Up here in the Pacific Northwest there are plenty of clear cuts.  They leave a row of trees about 50 feet thick on either side of the road so that drivers don't see how much the landscape has been altered.

Most everything is cut down in the US, that's why there isn't much more deforestation.  Its estimated (National Geographic) that 80% of world's natural forests are now gone.  The human race is definately using up the world's resources.  Peak oil is just one part of the whole economic discussion.

Your .5% decrease and the official 0.2% increase could hardly be more at odds.  The USA has a land area of 5,984,685 square miles, so a 0.7% difference is 48,893 square miles.  That's one helluva lot of difference, amounting to almost 5 times the area of Massachusetts.  Do you want to explain how you got that number?
Up here in the Pacific Northwest there are plenty of clear cuts.
And elsewhere there are forests regrowing.  I regret the loss of the old growth, but bottomland oak growing in Tennessee and maple returning in Vermont count too.

It's probably feasible to have a fair amount of cutting while forested area remains the same.  Our fire-suppressed forests have built up a lot of fuel, which needs to be removed either by fire or by thinning.  If the forest was thinned by removal of small trees and it was processed immediately into small-dimensional lumber, wafer board, cellulosic ethanol, charcoal, etc. you'd still have the same area covered by trees; they'd just be fewer trees and eventually bigger ones.  And would it be a tragedy to log some of the regrowth in New England?

I had done some searching and found some old numbers based upon 1980's deforestation.  A 0.2% increase is certainly better than a 0.5% decrease.  My hat off to you sir.

On the pessimistic side of things, once you've hit bottom, there isn't much place to go but up.  Like oil, the US continues to log, but we get most of our trees from Canada and hard woods from the tropics.  And like oil, there isn't many trees left in the US - check the price of hard wood lately?

Its sort of like being happy that Georges Bank is making a comeback (a fishing ground off of New England).  After they closed it down because there was nothing left, of course it started to make a come back.

Sorry about the bad statistics, I'll check numbers more carefully from now on.

I was hoping you had more accurate or detailed information; it would be quite possible to have e.g. a .2% increase in area and a .5% decrease in biomass, and that would be an extremely important thing to know.

Ah, well, I got to be the tutor instead of the tutee this time.

A tutor who tooted a flute
To tutor two tooters to toot
    Was asked by a tooter,
    "Is it harder to toot, or
To tutor two tooters to toot?"

T1, if you have read my other posts you know that my sympathies are toward peak oil. Someone asked for us to debate Becker and I did that while trying to give his arguments a fair hearing. Having said that, kindly pay attention to the last paragraph of my post:

"Becker would say,  the substitutes have always been found, and that "human ingenuity" will "always" find them. And so it has been in the recent history of "western civilization." On the other hand -- we can find any number of civilizations that failed for lack of resources. It has happened before."

Yes, of course you have quite right, Sunlight. I just wanted to point out that the quite common idea of "substituting" "old" energy sources with "new" ones is a misunderstanding. Also Becker seems to think that we just have "moved on" from energy source to another and will go on "moving on". But as I said this is not so. There has been some substituting locally, but not globally. And not all societies have found the solutions for energy or environmental problems. We really have no guarantees.

But I think there is more. All our energy sources are pretty old now. Biomass was the first one, peat probably almost as old. Coal use started in China at least two millenia ago, in Britain before the year 1300. Oil history is over one and a half century long, in Middle East oil has been known since ancient times. Natural gas is a about a century old, but it has been known as long as oil. Even nuclear energy has a half century behind it. Water and wind are very old, geothermal also in some forms. Tidal power was used already in Tudor England.

All these energy sources are still in use and all of them are still needed for the energy supply of the humankind. And only nuclear power is really "new" among all these. So finding a new energy form has been a rare occasion. All the others have been known for a long time. They were taken in use when more growth was needed, not when the older ones were depleting. The renewables don't deplete but they won't grow either after they have been fully exploited. The fossiles were needed for additional growth. And all these are technologically build on each other. Oil rigs and pipes need a lot of steel and steel is made with coal. Oil moves coal. Natural gas makes oil from tar sands.

Oil is only 35% of the global energy consumption. The most important single addition to the world energy supply right now has been the increase in Chinese coal production - not any new oil field. The coal mines in Inner Mongolia are just as important as Saudi-Arabia. All the energy sources has contributed to the exploitation of each others. That is why we are getting nearly simultaneous peaks of all the main fossile fuels. We have not substituted anything and not left unused resources behind but only accelerated simultaneously the use of all of them. Yes, this makes very bad news. But this is the problem we have to manage somehow - with the least damage.

Coming up with new sources of energy and more efficient usage of energy is largely a matter of scientific progress. What has held us back over the eons are the unpredictable things in life combined with hubris, greed, lust, ignornace, fear, and other character flaws of humanity. We can find solutions for technical problems, history is clear about that. What is more concerning in the current situation is that it's clear that the overall consciousness of humanity hasn't evolved. If we're going to survive long in this universe we need to figure out how to live together in a balanced way. So while I have hope, I also realize that things may get a lot worse before they get better.

I basically agree with you. My point is that far into the past civilization hadn't developed enough to take advantage of many known sources of energy... and even at points where they may have developed quite a bit, there were religious and other factors that held progress back for a long time. Look at how much progress the Greeks and Romans made... just to have invasion, disease, and corruption end it all.

Light shines most brightly in the midst of darkness.

I'll disagree with one thing:  it's not scientific progress, it's mostly going to be engineering and manufacturing.  We've pretty much discovered every source of energy we're going to be using for the next 50 years; radioactivity was discovered in 1896 by Henri Bequerel and we didn't have commercial nuclear reactors for more than 5 decades.  We knew about fusion since the equation E=mc^2, but we have yet to make it workable except in bombs; if we discovered a physical manifestation of the hypothetical cosmic dark energy tomorrow, it might not be accessed on a breakeven scale for another century.

Basic science is going to have some influence in things like biofuel crops, semiconductor physics and dye-activated PV, and a few other things.  But wind power's progress just depends on engineering bigger, more-efficient turbines; silicon PV would be a lot cheaper if the sales volumes justified the investment in more automation to make it with less fuss.

We should keep funding the basic research, but our biggest dependence is always going to be directed to prospects which are next door, not at the distance of the blue sky.

Technology will not create energy, it can help to use it more effciently or enable using of new primary energy sources.

I seemed to trigger a discussion about rails and trucks. Nobody noticed that this was just a case of less for less: railway freight goes only there where there are railways. It is not same thing as having a door-to-door delivery with a truck. You move freight with less energy per miles x tons - but you get less service. This is not to say that using more railway transport will save energy - but not without cost. The same applies for co-production of heat and electricity. It is efficient but to use the heat for heating you house you need a pipeline network. But if you live within this network, this may be a case of more for less!

And using external electricity as additional "fuel" in a hybrid car doesn't increase total energy efficiency. On the contrary. The energy losses in power production and use are considerably larger than burning equivalent (energy) amount of gasoline in an engine. By the way, increasing use of electricity has considerably increased energy losses in the US. This is not insignificant.

I don't deny that a truck or a car can be made somewhat more energy-efficient but there are physical limits to this. There is not so much to gain this way any more.

I think that I could claim that the world - note that we speak here about the world, not the US - uses more wood than ever. But I count in here all uses of wood like we usually count oil used as a raw material in the overall oil usage. I might be wrong but it is very likely that the total volume of the world forestry production combined with the mostly developing world firewood use has grown all the time along other fuels. The developing countries use huge amounts of all kind of woods and bushes and other comparable biomass and have a serious deforestation problem. Besides modern forestry (fertilizers, drainage etc.) has increased the amount of wood available in the developed countries so also there the volumes have grown.  

The idea that fuels have substituted each other is understandable. In individual countries they have. But only the world scale matters. Importing steel means in fact importing coal. Importing energy-intensive products is equivalent of energy imports. Americans use a lot of Chinese coal in form of Chinese products. Of course this is not seen as coal imports.

"The energy losses in power production and use are considerably larger than burning equivalent (energy) amount of gasoline in an engine."

This claim surprises me. I could easily believe it for hydrogen, but for electricity? Transmission line losses are pretty small, and I find it hard to believe that a car engine could be anywhere near as efficient as a modern power plant.

Hard or not, it's true.
See page 76 of the 2005 Scientific American:

(Actually, as usual, Amory Lovins exaggerates a bit. Power plants lose only about 67% of energy as waste heat, not 70%.)

According to the article, power plants are 30% efficient, and you say they're actually 34%. It also claims 10% transmission line losses, which I think is also high. But in cars, "only 13 percent of its fuel energy even reaches the wheels."

That was a long article for a few semi-trustworthy numbers that don't seem to make your case anyway.

I hope people following this thread have looked at the legislation pending on new refineries, etc. cited in the previous TOD discussion.

Also, does anyone know what percentage of national oil & gasoline usage is used up by our ever-busy military?
How much does the military spend on energy?
perhaps this link will help.

Another article just found:

One electricity saving trick would be having the FCC turn off all television stations including cable and sattelite.  The typical over the air TV transmitter power is around one megawatt. Most TVs draw about 350-500 watts. Multiply that by the nearly 250 million TVs and we are talking serious amounts of power. Of course people could still buy or rent some programming but certainly not enough to fill the 10-14 hours a day many TVs are now used. This could save significant amounts of natural gas used to power prime time television. This is such a politically dangerous idea that it's definitely not going to be done no matter how many of our neighbors freeze this winter.
Sounds good, but what would people do instead of watching TV? If even a fraction went out driving, they'd burn up the savings pretty quickly. A car uses about 10,000 to 100,000 watts.
I put out the idea as a way too insure an adequate supply of nat gas for home heating. Very few nat gas powered cars in my town. Much of the new electrical power plants use natural gas.