Weekend Open Thread...

Thread, thread, 'til you drop.  Thread, thread, never stop.
Random thoughts:
If abiotic oil is for real why hasn't any seeped out some where in the oceans and covered the shoreline with black goo somewhere on earth?  Perhaps because it occurs at such a low rate that it is currently all locked up from tectonic movement, or its all fossil fuel.
Did you know that about a 50 to 100 feet below the surface of land the temperature is equal to the average decadal temperature at the surface, and there is a temperature gradient there across the US that ranges from about 80 degrees in South Texas to about 40 degrees at the Canadian border? In the middle latitudes of the US this is the perfect temperature for heat pump AC in summer and Heat pump heating in winter.
Did you know that there is a positive temperature coefficient  with respect to depth below the surface that is equal to a little more than 1 degree F per 100 feet of depth? Of course it varies somewhat depending on location and the below surface rock structure.
Did you know that the porosity of oil bearing sandstone seldom exceeds 22% that is the volume of fluids by volume, and carbonates are much lower, because the pores are so much smaller.
Did you know  that the first ragline electrical data log of an open hole oil-well was performed in Russia in 1927?
Did you know that 29  states set there all time high temperature records in the 1930's and only 6 states have set new high records since 1990, however 7 states have set all time record low temperatures since 1990? Credit the 2005 world almanac for the data.
Record temperatures reported by a meteorologist or even an amateur naturalist doing continuous observations are one thing. "Record" temperatures reported in a newspaper are another.
On the other hand, the World Almanac doesn't have to go for sensationalism. If they got record temperatures from the US weather bureau then they are probably correct.
  1. assuming Stuart is correct that we are at peak.
  2. ditto for slow depletion
It seems to me that the economy or a geopolitical event( either causing high prices) will be the first problem in the eyes of the public, i. e. "this caused high oil prices". My concern is this actually allows avoiding the underlying  problem of peak oil leaving lots of room for other blaming/conspiracies/military interventions.
I'll probably write a post about this later this weekend, but I wanted to show people a good example of local ideas about how to change the transportation paradigm in large urban areas to be less dependent on cars, and therefore oil...Aaron Naparstek's powerpoint on 5 ideas to transform NYC to be more livable and less dependent on cars.

The more I read about the history of NYC, the more I realize we've regressed in transportation policy. For instance, Did you know that Park Avenue actually used to be a park?

And since they opened it to traffic, it's never really looked much different than this

The so-called "New Urbanism" is a day late and dollar short. The only thing new coming out of this culture of self-reflection and regard is denial. I used to live near 5th Ave. in NYC and really never spent anytime there. I considered the Village a relief from the monotomy of the midtown car culture. I had no idea that 5th Ave. looked like that. It would have depressed me even more.
  1. These are images of Park Ave. not Fifth Ave.

  2. The images and accompanying text have nothing to do with "new urbanism."

  3. How do you figure this posting reflects a "culture of self-reflection?"

If it's too late to make any changes in the way we design and organize our cities then what's your suggestion?
OilCEO asks:
"Oh, by the way...I've almost tripled my money on Halliburton in the last few years. HAHAHAHAHA. But it seems I want a little more. Any recommendations folks? I'm only asking cuz I know the best minds are here. "

Bubba had an article that I can not find now that spurred me to take action.  I had already started to conclude that my traditional 401k investments were going to take about 700 years to get me to retirement at their current return.

Here's my novice investing strategy, and people can critique as desired:
The traditional buy-hold advice of the past may not be the best for the future.  So I am taking a more active/aggressive role in my retirement planning.  I am a bit of an adrenalin junkie anyways.  Modest success so far, we'll see what 2006 holds:

  • Investments in tangible stuff: planning to add solar panels to house, 12-18 months; putting a plan together to get other family members to join on modest purchase of farmland.  This is a 2-5 year project; in the meantime I am trying to benefit from world trends as best I can.
  • Portfolio reallocation: I already had about 30% in foreign funds. Am increasing to 50-60%.  Am looking for Australia fund if anyone has suggestions.
  • Stock: Learning how to trend and swing trade to take advantage of sideways and downtrending volatility.  Learning how to short sell.  10-15%
  • Subscribing to an option play service with focus on increasingly volatile indexes.  5-10% allocation.
  • Downtrending dollar: precious metals & foreign currency funds, 15-20%
  • Bonds: 0%.  

My conservative advisor tells me I am insane.  I say it is a reasonably diversified approach to an increasingly insane world.

In addition to Bubba's energy company advice, track companies that will benefit from higher energy prices, e.g. WEBEX.  

I track one alternative energy fund PBW, that so far hasn't done anything.  

Augmenting Bubba's energy advice was a book on the downtrending dollar.  I'm sure everyone knows the drill on that, but here's their diversification advice to benefit, or at least not lose as much of your shirt as otherwise:

  • learn how to short sell mortgage pool funds  (#1 recommendation)
  • invest in energy producers who have something to sell and have diversified holdings not just in U.S.  (same as Bubba's advice)  This is the core of my swing trading portfolio, and I will both go long and short when there are speculative bubbles.  so far I am making money, but I've messed up some short sells because I'm still learning.
  • move a significant % of stock portfolio to foreign markets.  author was very bullish on Australia because of large natural resource base to sell to China.
  • Learn how to short the dollar index.  easier than learning a bunch of currency exchange plays.
  • Invest in gold.  The book goes on to list several ways to be diversified in precious metals.

I thought the book made more sense than alot of the books that just say dollar's going down, buy gold.  I'm curious what others think, basically, it's not enough to just do domestic energy company plays, you've got to combine that with an awareness of where the dollar is going, which is why Buffet and Gates have both moved alot of their capital out of America.

Sorry to go on so long, curious what others think; I'm just an amateur.

Making money from Peak oil has been realy easy since 1999 trading oil futures has been like taking candy from a baby. Now the market has shifted It is becoming more Peak oil aware. This means there is a lot more 'smart' money is looking for peak oil related investments. What this means is that finding a good investment is becoming harder due to competition.

I think there is a down side risk to the longer term future oil contracts if we get an oil induced depression or housing induced depression and demand destruction falls faster than the supply we could end up with cheaper oil in the future this is now a risk IMO. This will also affect any enery stock you own...

I think to make money now you have to look out side the box.

Gold is a great inflation hedge and even at its current price I think it is still a good buy.

Productive farm land if you can buy it at a good price.

Wheat, corn, oats etc are at record low prices considering the fosil fuel imputs required to grow this stuff. I dont think the market has made the connection yet between high energy and high food prices which means there may well be money to be made betting this industry will have a large price increase fairly soon.

On Currency hedging I think the market is being manipulated a few years ago there where some prosecutions I still think its a dirty market and will not trade the stuff again.

Good luck.


I was reading somewhere about how many overseas markets have had a real boom lately - I hesitate to use the word bubble, but that was the implication from what I was reading.  China in particular seems to have a bubble in their economy.

One danger of foreign stocks is that if it is a foreign multinational that sells a lot of stuff into the U.S., that if the dollar tanks then so do their sales.

I have been thinking about some of these issues myself, but the survival strategy really depends upon how things play out.  Will we see high inflation, for example (my guess is that we will)?  Is it even possible for the dollar to tank without taking down the entire world economy?

This comes back to a point that has been made here a couple of times about how there is simply too much investment money around the globe looking for things to invest in.  

I am almost inclined to think that the best strategy for survival is to eliminate as much personal debt as possible - including mortgage debt, and to make 'investments' in things like solar energy for your home so you don't get whacked with high utility bills in the future.

First, are you living where you will be safe should things go tits up in the next 5 to 10 years? Being close to large centres of population is unwise. It doesn't need to be in wilderness, a couple of places that looked promising to me are Galena and Quincy, both in IL.

If not, think of moving or getting a bolthole somewhere safer. When I looked 2 years ago decent 3 bed houses could be had in both the above places for $100k. Galena is minor summer tourist land, you could rent it out meanwhile. You need enough land to feed your family and provide heating / cooking fuel biomass.

Be competent at growing vegetables and DO IT! There is no substitute for experience, nor for food. Chickens are very worthwhile, too. Learn how to save seed.

Wood etc burning heating / cooking is the most resilient / flexible in all curcimstances.

Electricity is nice for lighting, refridgeration, accessing all the useful data on your PC (presume internet disrupted / gone). I'm not an expert, solar is probably easiest but water / wind might be more long term if you have convenient water / wind, especially if shared.

Short term...

Gold and the metals will correct downwards soon, you should take the opportunity to buy gold around $450 to $470, silver below $8. They will bounce much higher, especially when the US$ drops = soon since the overseas profit repatriation tax discount window is unwinding imminently.

If you can short markets and dare bet for a quick profit I would short gold Monday (it's about $530) and hold your nerve even if it goes up by $10 to $15, take half your profit at about $475, maybe risk the rest on it dropping to $550 to $560, but if gold starts bouncing back up at that time do close your shorts and buy.

Copper is funny atm, it could keep flying till 22nd December (a Chinese problem) but it should correct by 25% by March.

Stocks: I think this next week will see the top for the indices, for a few months at least, possibly several years, the stock markets have gone sideways for over 2 years and that is partly due to intervention, all the risk is to the downside. The Xmas rally happened early, I expect a 2 to 5% decline by yearend and a 5 to 10% decline by March.

Energy: should go up till late March. I see minimal possibility for price reduction in energy commodities before then and probably 10 to 20% increase. Thereafter it depends on your personal view - if you think CERA are right expect a decline to $50 oil etc, otherwise expect prices to keep bobbing up.

The US$ seems to be making a top. It might struggle weakly higher, possibly till as late as May if the Fed raise rates 4 more times (Bernanke will have to do at least one rise to show he has balls = 3 more rises, unless something dire happens before March). When it starts to trend down it will drop at least 5 to 6%.

I don't know enough about individual US stocks to advise on specifics, nor buying and selling commodities or currencies, I'm not an investor - I gamble by spread betting financials.

Hope my short term thoughts help with your plans. One last idea: if and when the US homogenises its auto diesel fuel regulations (until then diesel fuel is likely to be at an absurd price premium) get a diesel vehicle - you will be able to brew your own fuel from cooking oil ;)

Every time that oil has increased by 50% within 2 years the US has gone into a subsequent recession. Every time the Fed has raised rates 7 or more times consecutively the US has gone into a recession. This coming week the Fed will raise rates for the 13th consecutive time and the odds are they will raise them 2 or 3 times more thereafter (unless the recession happens first ;) ).

Keep your money in small denomination notes - they produce more heat per notional value.

This is my favourite finance site:

It has articles from all sorts of perspectives, often opposing, though there is a tendency towards peak-oil-ness and goldbugness. I particularly like the saturday audio files, once you get to know the regulars you'll pick up unspoken nuances, too. The site is HUGE, most of it is pretty good and some is excellent.

I have relations in Australia and in the market there, and will be taking a trip down under for the holidays. I'll post any info I bring back, for what it's worth.
The Chinese government has its own way of dealing with NIMBY's

"During the demonstration Tuesday in Dongzhou, a village in southern Guangdong province, thousands of people gathered to protest the amount of money offered by the government as compensation for land to be used to construct a wind power plant.

Police started firing into the crowd and killed several people, mostly men, villagers reached by telephone said Friday. The death toll ranged from two to 10, they said, and many remained missing."


They seem desperate to build those windmills for some reason.

I'm wondering if CCS is the new WMD, in other words it ain't there.  The delegates at the Montreal climate conference are now bicycling back home happy that Carbon Capture and Storage will solve CO2 emissions. This is based on lukewarm  evidence from a few heavily subsidised and ideally located pilot projects.  We need it to work on tar sands, coal-to-liquids and to be able to retrofit large (500mw+) fossil power stations located near cities. It won't happen, even with punitive carbon taxes. We just keep stretching the delusion that all bases are covered.
Re: abiotic oil: As a high school math (sub) teacher it occurs to me that "adding" a constant function to a logistics function would yield a peak not all that far off from the peak of  the logistics function alone.  From that I imagine that a constant abiotic "seep" would not affect the fact of a peak, nor its timing.  This would be even more true for a peak function that looks like an upside-down "v".  Thus the abiotic argument is reduced, isn't it, to the notion that there may be oil somewhere else, anywhere else, and we ought to drill everywhere... ?
I'm not sure the analogy to various mathematical functions is entirely valid when it comes to grappling with the abiotic oil belief, which it is important to realize encompasses several different notions, depending on who the particular abiotic proponent happens to be and how technically sophisticated he/she is.  

To play pro-abiotic devil's advocate for a moment: to believe that abiotic oil is replenishing existing oil fields does not automatically require a belief that the abiotic oil is oozing to the surface everywhere on the face of the earth or doing so at the same rate. The fact that the surface of the earth is not swimming in abiotic oil is not necessarily proof that the abiotic theory is wrong. Some parts of the global may have no abiotic movement whatsoever, while other parts may have substantial amounts.

To use another analogy: let us say that we have a soda vending machine. There is a reserve of perhaps a hundred cans of soda stacked up inside the machine. However, we don't have cans of soda continuously falling out of the machine onto the floor. A can of soda only becomes available after the can of soda ahead of it has been withdrawn by a person using the machine. In the same vein, I suppose  it could be argued (not necessarily correctly) that the abiotic oil 'way down there' and the shallow oil in a known reserve are in a kind of static equilibrium, and that only when oil is withdrawn from the reserve is that equilibrium disturbed, thus causing the abiotic oil to migrate into the reserve. Fanciful? Perhaps, but from a purely logical point of view, it is a valid argument.

The other aspect of abiotic belief is that due to the orthodoxy of conventional petroleum geology it is presumed that oil can only be found in certain geologic formations and not others. Thus, they claim,  oil discovery is a self-fulfilling prophecy: you find oil where you do because that's where you were looking for it in the first place. The abiotic people are always saying that if we only looked in the right places, we'd find abiotic oil. While that sounds reasonable on the face of it, the counter argument (and I'm reaching here, as I'm an engineer and not a geologist) is that regardless of the origin of the oil, you only find oil where it is likely to be trapped. Oil, be it of fossil or abiotic origin, will tend to very slowly migrate to the surface, a process that can take eons. The trouble is that there are a variety of microorganisms that are capable of feeding on the various components of petroleum, so if the oil did make it to the surface, it wouldn't last long, at least on a geologic time frame.

That is how I see this whole argument shaping up. The important thing to remember is that not everybody advancing the abiotic theory has a technical backround  and that many of the arguments are of a more ideologic nature.

I think the abiotic oil advocates have not proved their case. Sorry I don't have a link but I read a paper a few months back that tried to put the abiotic oil theories to rest.

The points I remember:

At large depths the pressure and temperature would not lead to the formation of oil.

Isotopic analysis of oil indicates biological origin.

Holes drilled in atypical rock formations have not produced oil.

In a few cases where oil appeared in unusual cases it could be explained as leaking sideways from known fields.

How many ways are there to fix nitrogen?

Since NG is so important as a feedstock in the Haber process, and industrial NG is being curtailed (as I understand from TOD), how else could nitrogen be fixed on an industrial scale? I know of Haber and two others:

1. Haber:
 CH4 + 2H2O -> CO2 + 4H2
 N2 + 3H2 -> NH3 (high pressure)

2. Cyanamid:
 CaCO3 + 3C -> CaC2 + CO2 + CO (electric arc)
 CaC2 + N2 -> CaCN2 + C (?)
 CaCN2 + H2O ... ammonia, etc.

3. Direct oxidation:
 N2 + O2 <-> 2NO (extremely high temperature)
 2NO + O2 -> N2O4
 N2O4 + H2O ... nitric acid

These other processes do not require NG but are rather messy things requiring a lot of energy as compared to the relatively clean quiet Haber process. Are there any easy ways to fix nitrogen out there?

There are nitrogen-fixing bacteria -- for example in the root nodules of legumes.
on a micro-scale say for your lawn you could plant clover
I should have stressed "on an industrial scale". With NG usage curtailed, our ag industry is going to suffer, because it is very dependent on the Haber process right now.

Interestingly, we have catalytic converters on our cars to un-fix the NOx which results from air going through the car engine and being exposed to extreme heat and pressure. NOx is also created in any industrial process which heats air up to extreme temperatures. But as a source of fixed nitrogen, I believe it is too energy-expensive.

Hmmmm... a solar air-heating nitrogen fixer ?

It is possible to run a sustainable agriculture using legumes for fertilization.  For example, you could plant your field in clover on alternate years.  The clover could be used as animal feed.  Or, you could plant beans.
Nope.  Cheap ammonium nitrate fertilizer is entirely due to the Haber process and cheap natural gas.

It should also be noted that if ammonium nitrate is no longer cheap it is going to affect coal mining.  The reason blowing tops of mountains for coal is so popular is cheap explosive.

The world would probably be a better place without cheap explosives.

For the purposes of coal mining I wouldn't imagine that the cost of the explosives would be a large factor.  I could be wrong though - that is just my gut feel.

I thought that coal came from continous mining machines that just dug it out. I could be wrong.

There are a number of techniques.  Recent practice in places like West Virinia is to use explosives to break up the tops of mountains.  They push the rubble into the valley, and then scoop out the coal from where the peak used to be.

An ecological disaster, but we do get the coal.

It called mountaintop removal.

What is mountaintop removal/valley fill?
Mountaintop removal/valley fill is a mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal.  Mountaintop removal can involve removing 500 feet or more of the summit to get at buried seams of coal. The earth from the mountaintop is then dumped in the neighboring valleys.

i'll have to try and find a link.  i read in an article in Harpers that the economics of open-top mining wouldn't look good compared to deep mining if ammonium nitrate wasn't so cheap.
The source of hydrogen for ammonia production could come from water via electrolysis. The electricity could come from renewables. Wind farms could be dedicated to this job since the variability of wind energy is negated because the hydrogen can be stored for long periods until needed. Hydro in remote locations has been used this way because transporting a high value product was more economical than stringing 100s of miles of wire.
Windmills could provide power for ammonia synthesis when they are producing more power than is needed, say, at night.
They also could change the economics of mineral processing and synfuels. Hydrogen for ammonia or methanol is the primary cost of the output. Since electrolysis of water is so cheap from a capital cost point of view it is the ideal sink for very cheap power. That's offpeak windmill power. Call it .1 cent power when it is not needed, and 10 cent power when it is needed for consumer or industrial use. So the 'waste' power would produce hydrogen and we might store up to a week's worth of production at a time.
We could also use the hydrogen in gas turbine or fuel cell plants for peaking power. So .1 cent and 10 cent power is contradictory. Maybe .5 and 5 cent power? On a KWHr basis?
With the ending of the climate change talks in Montreal this past week, it seemed appropriate for a small rant on the subject.

If you've followed Revkin's reports in the NY Times (here's the latest), the United States and China have once again behaved disgracefully. The Kyoto process is toast. Here are some interesting bits from the the article.
James Hansen, director of the NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told a conference in San Francisco this week that a continuation of "business as usual" would result in so much warming as to "constitute a different planet."

"Even if everybody adhered perfectly to Kyoto, China could wipe that out in maybe six months, nine months," Dr. Smil said. "We're cooked."
Peak oil issues, dangerous anthropogenic climate change and the concomitant necessary lifestyle changes are inextricably linked up. The optimistic view is that recognition of oil depletion leads to less fossil fuels-dependent solutions in providing the energy we all need to live. Denial of the one (depletion) and denial of the other (climate change) go hand in hand. The reason for this is simple: we're running out of cheap oil--even this is denied--but worldwide supplies of other sources (natural gas and coal) are still ample, at least for the time being. Fuel switching is all well and good looked at from a strictly oil depletion point of view but from the larger perspective that climate change provides, it is an unmitigated disaster. Peak oil provides the motive and opportunity to make substantial changes in ways we use energy and the sources of that energy.

This is one of the reasons why I get so annoyed by remarks by CERA (as I quoted here) that we can look forward in the next decade to a 19% increase in fossil fuels production to meet world demand. Not only is that an unsubstantiated projection but from the the climate change point of view it represents a "business as usual" disaster that future generations will never stop paying for.

How is it possible for us to counter this kind of narrow ignorance and wishful thinking? I wish I knew.
They were talking on the news about carbon sequestration again.  The claim is that liquid CO2 is a good solvent, and the theory is that you can pump it down into somewhat depleted oilfields and use it to increase the amount of recoverable oil.

The thing I don't know is whether there is any solid basis behind this thinking or not.  Is this some sort of untested wild scheme, or is there any reason to believe that it would actually work.  And for that matter, if it does work, which kinds of recovery rates would be reasonable?

This wouldn't do squat for global warming, of course.  The people who are behind it would claim it to be a great advance, but if you are using the CO2 to recover more oil which we burn in cars, I don't see that we have gained very much.

It is in use and does work.

CO2 has more bulk than the oil it comes from, so the oil extracted from a reservoir with CO2 will add net CO2 to the atmosphere.  It also costs money.  However, it cuts the net atmospheric burden by about half and will offset the declining production (it might even revive some abandoned US fields and extend the production of North Sea wells).  This could be used to prevent the worst crash scenarios by both bringing foreign exchange back to the US and allowing more time to convert to other energy sources.

I've been to Weyburn; its an impressive project - has been going on for years. EnCana has been a leader in this area, which rather makes sense since they are the biggest NG producer in North America, and also happen to hold leases on more oil sands land than any other firm. While they are not the largest oil sands player today, they have the dirt.

EnCana has been in the news this year re a CO2 pipeline consortium.

I wonder how long it will take before enough projects using this technology to make a difference will be on the go.

I guess the question is how CO2 injection changes recovery rates, but with a sample of one, this is probably not well know yet.

On the news they were saying that they could produce CO2 for about 30-50$/ton.  They thought they could get it down to 20$/ton or so.

It works better than water injection, but also costs more.
I live in upstate New York in the Binghamton area. Gas is up by about $0.05 from earlier in the week to $2.29 ... first increase in quite some time.
Up from about $2.07 to $2.15 around here.
I missed this when it was released on 1st November, apologies if folks here have seen it already...

"If humans continue to use fossil fuels in a business-as-usual manner for the next few centuries, the polar ice caps will be depleted, ocean sea levels will rise by seven meters and median air temperatures will soar to 14.5 degrees warmer than current day"


There was an interesting story on NPR's Living on Earth today about cellulose ethanol.

The transcript is here:

and the site of the company doing this is here:

Instead of fermenting corn or other grains into ethanol they use cellulose as the feedstock. This could come from corn stalks, straw or other agricultural and lumber waste. They use an enzyme produced by a bacteria to break down the cellulose into glucose. This is the key idea. Once they have glucose it can be fermented in known ways to make alcohol. Along the way the lignin in the feedstock is separated out and used as fuel.

It all sounds intriguing. The feedstock is something currently unused. The use of lignin as fuel reduces the need for fossil fuel to drive the process. Cellulose is readily available from all plants. There is no need to grow something energy intensive like corn in order to produce fuel.

Most corn stalks, straw and other agricultural & lumber wastes are naturally returned to the soil as organic matter. After harvest, much of this organic matter is left on the surface of the soil to reduce wind and water erosion. As this organic matter decomposes, nutrients are recycled into the soil to be made available for successive generations of crops. Decomposed organic matter forms humus which is essential for soil structure and health.

Without humus and the nutrients that it provides, ever increasing amounts of artificial fertilizers are needed to produce abundant crops, fertilizers that are becoming increasingly expensive and in increasingly short supply. Returning organic matter to the soil is a immensely important way to remove carbon dioxide from the air and return it in the soil but not near enough to compensate for the carbon expelled to the sky by the combustion of fossil fuels.

The U.S. and much of the world is long past 'peak organic matter'. Burning ever increasing so called 'waste material' will only increase global warming, increase soil erosion and continue to decrease our ability to produce food.

"Organic" may be a laughable word to many of you but it is an essential process for the continuation of most life forms on this planet.

Sorry, there just aren't any easy answers for perpetuating our consumer way of life.

I'm not sure about lumber wastes being returned to the soil. Where I live (Tasmania) the offcuts and shrubbery left after logging are burnt. This puts huge amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere and disperses other nutrients. If the waste was turned into ethanol or even clean burned in a power station it could replace fossil fuel. Maybe some ash and charcoal could be sprayed back on the forest.
I certainly agree that if the 'waste' wood is burned anyway, converting it to methanol and/or burning it in a power station could be a valuable contribution to an area's energy needs. Sad to hear that all this lumber 'waste' is wasted.

I burn firewood as my primary source of heat so please don't consider me a 'treehugger' that advocates never making use of this sustainable resource. I was attempting to say, "use resources wisely and maintain soil health for future harvests as well as for environmental health. Waste nothing."

Corn stalks need to be partially removed in order to allow warmth to reach the soil in spring, and some byproducts such as rice straw are burned.  Roots of the annual plants remain in the soil, and IIRC it is the matter left several inches down (not on the surface) which contributes most to soil carbon content and tilth.
I agree that plant roots certainly contribute to a soil's organic matter content as well as providing pathways for air and water to move through the soil.

Here in the northern Great Plains of the U.S.A., topsoil erosion as well as organic matter depletion has had a significant impact on the agricultural productivity of this region (artificial fertilizers are essential for productive crops in depleted soils). 'No till' and 'low till' farming practices (high use of herbicides) have been advocated by the the soil conservation service for many years.

Most farmers in this region either plow under the crop residue in the fall if they have heavy soils and little elevation change that reduces soil erosion---or till in the organic matter in the spring as part of seed bed preparation.

Biomass production for fuel may be the lesser of two evils as compared to burning fossil fuels but ultimately soil stewardship will make or break ANY civilization.

I don't know about abiotic oil, i can understand seepage of oil in a well over time, once production has stopped. but aside from that. I just read a brief summary from The following testimony that was given on the 7th December 2005 to the Committee on Energy and Commerce in a hearing entitled Understanding the Peak Oil Theory in the US House of Representatives:

as noted right here

Basically? the show is over. We are doomed. We are out of time.There is not enough time left to maintain the status quo.
When you look at new oil field discoveries and projected production requirements and compare to world demand. Is this a challenge? or what? I think it's a no brainer. There is not enough time to bring an alternative energy source on board to help save the day.

 i am not an engineer, but i try to keep up. I love a challenge as much as the next guy, but this is beyond my capacity to fix. I throw my hands in the air! We need fixes, and getting them now seems a little too late.

The show is far from over, geewiz, but will soon get cursedly interesting. I'm in broad agreement with Aleklett and in near total disagreement with the complacency of Esser and CERA.

IMO there is a very low chance that the status quo will continue for many reasons, I think peak oil is probably the killer problem.

However, there are fair odds that 2 or 3 billion humans will survive and that we can retain much of our knowledge and technology if the 'messy period' isn't too long or too deep. I'm inclined to agree with this Richard Heinberg Museletter from 2001:

Sometime soon I'll post my 'levels of collapse' scale and we can have fun debating that.

I'm looking forward to that debate. Interesting read by the way, thanks!
I enjoy Richard Heinberg's articles and lectures, though I haven't read any of his books yet. His assessment of probable apocalysm seems similar to mine but he does try quite hard to be positive too.

'Levels of Collapse' is posted in this thread:

I just bought a 3-cylinder 1991 GM Metro (for $1,000) which easily passed CA smog tests and am getting 42 mpg in the city.  It's a marvel of simple engineering, and I'm wondering how the EROEI (for say a 15-year life cycle including manufacturing) of the Metro compares with the EROEI of a Honda Prius for the same period.  Basically I'm wondering if the complex Prius is a significant advance EROEI-wise over the simpler Metro.
There's no such thing as a Honda Prius.

The Prius will outlast the Metro by many years.  It is much bigger inside, and has heaps features the Metro does not.  The Prius can be converted to partial grid power with relative ease.  I'm in no position to consider life-cycle energy consumption, but I'd rather have the Prius.

Sorry, should have said Toyota Prius.  In any case, the Metro has already lasted 14 years and according to my mechanic is still quite sound, and I'm not convinced that a Prius would outlast a Metro, given equivalent levels of maintenance.

I'm 6' 4" tall and (amazingly!) fit nicely into the Metro. My personal experience of the Metro vis-a-vis the Prius is that the Prius has marginally more room.  The heaps of features you mention do reflect the fact that the Prius is much more complex than the Metro, and I am concerned about the diminishing returns of increasingly "advanced" technology.

I'm still wondering if the Prius is really a significant improvement over simpler technology like the Metro from an EROEI perspective.  I'm intentionally being a bit provocative, having become quite suspicous of the decreasing marginal return from increasingly complex solutions to energy problems. So my question remains, is there a way to evaluate the EROEI of the two vehicles?

IMHO: It is not. Toyota Echo also gets mileage in the range of the 40-s.

Anyway hybrids are the first step to electrify the cars (where the future is), and that's why it is so important to support the idea. I think we'll see 100 MPG plug-in hybrids is 4-5 years or less and that would already be a significant advantage.
We just need to create a network of paid recharging stations (you park your car, swipe your card and plug it in) which should be relatively easy.

The future of personal automobiles may well be a plug in hybrid.  Such a vehicle would be far closer to a series hybrid, where the IC engine has no mechanical connection to the wheels, and can be optimized for running at a single RPM for charging only.  These look nothing like the parallel hybrids out today.  They would need more powerful electric motors and larger battery capacity, as well as upgraded charging/electronics to handle the increased electrical power throughput.  If the battery and charging systems are the expensive parts, which I expect they are, then they will be more expensive too.  They will take some time to develop, and I suspect there will be issues to overcome.

Meanwhile, we could crank out small engined subcompacts that get even better mileage than the old metro (direct cylinder injection, maybe little diesels, etc.) very quickly.  It's a clasic case of being able to extend the old technology more quickly than developing the new, and usually for a time you can evan beat the performance of the new.  

IMHO, I would rather see us tool up the little cars now, and spend our primary transportation efforts on rail for frieght and passenger transport.  I've driven little cars most of my life, and I enjoy them a lot.  They don't have to be shitboxes, they can be very nice.  There will be resistance from supersized american families, but that's mostly preconceived notions, not reality.

I'm going for pragmatic solutions.

We may see a mix of rail and electric buses and vans, which offer added flexibility over rail, as primary transport. Since we have built up a massive vehicle infrastructure, we might as well use it, no?

Then again, all the hidden costs should be considered for various modes of transport, including the wear and tear especially from larger, heavier vehicles and resulting increased roadway maintenance. Of course, such costs will basically be ignored - the major factors will simply be who will be able to make money given what the future cost and availability of particular energy resources are, and who will be able to influence the politicos in whatever direction "seems" to make the most sense for funding of public projects to voters and business interests.

Yeah in the short term that's what I also expect will happen.
My fear is that the old technologies will very soon fall short of catching up. In Europe, Asia and most other countries where gas is 5-6$/gallon efficiency is long past the inflection point to the asymptotic maximum. Basicly we've tweaked that technology already much too much; at most we could get 40-50 gallon per miles compacts but that will not be much more than the current average which is already in the middle 30-s. Basicly if we succed to push average efficiency from 32-3 to 40MPG (quite ambitious goal actualy) total oil consumption will decrease by some 7% -assuming 40% of oil is used in personal transportation. This is probably 2 years  of moderate oil production decline, during which everyone will have to get a new car. What do we do after that?
Well, it is clear that it has to be coupled with a significant decrease in miles driven to have an effect.  One could then argue about which has the bigger impact.  It's all a way of saying that if gas gets really expensive, we could start driving the kind of cars already in production in Europe and Japan.  The advantage of course is that this could be done very quickly, with only minimal design changes required.  

What do you really need for transportation?  To move yourself to work and back requires only a tiny vehicle.  Less steel, less plastic, less rubber, less fuel.  A family of 4 fits in most small cars just fine.  If you have a large family, it could be a problem - but large families could well become a liability in other ways.  It's not really cheaper by the dozen!  The big car/truck/SUV thing is an attitude issue - having one is mostly a desire, not a requirement.  I don't know how we would transport the horses without my old Jeep, but if things get difficult I would expect transporting them will not be a problem anyway - they'll either have to go, or we will be riding them near home.  

'Tis changing expectations that is the hard part, and these will not change until it either hurts bad enough, or some enlightened, proactive government forces it (that sound you didn't hear was me not holding my breath)

> I don't know how we would transport the horses without my old Jeep,

One at a time with a light trailer equiped with brakes.  Its a solved problem but the solution might not match your needs.

I've been doing some work on the relative prices of Natural Gas and Oil/Gasoline when compared using BTUs, which I will post soon.

I was wondering if anybody knows what the relative efficiency of a bus using compressed NG(CNG) versus one using diesel fuel or knows where to get this information.

Specifically,I could use straight mpg or miles per compressed cubic foot for similar busses or gallons(cubic feet) per passenger mile.

correction:  Did you know that 29  states set there all time high temperature records in the 1930's, should read 24 states, my note pad had a 4 looking like a 9. BTW  data was acquired from National climate data center, NOAA  US D commerce thru Dec 2000.
Cornstalks, straw, or crop debris are not partially removed, They are left in the field over winter to catch snow and retard wind and water erosion. Just before planting in the spring the field is disked perpendicular to the previous rows, with a double row of sharp bladed discs that cut the debris in to shorter pieces and roll them under the soil. Then the field is planted to a new crop. If wheat, oats, or alfalfa field is rotated to corn, then the field is plowed and the debris is rolled under 4 inches of soil. Any farmer that burns crop debris is either an amateur, a fire bug, or has sold the land to a developer.
Syriana: New Topic for movie now playing everywhere

Post Carbon Institute is launching big push off this movie:

Have you seen the movie?
Do you think it will succeed in raising public awareness?
Seen any pushback from Big Oil in terms of PR campaigns?

The cauldron is bubbling.

I hate to be a spoil-sport, but movies usually don't change much of anything.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but plan to. I saw a good making-of-the-movie, with the CIA people involved in the script.

Check this interview  with screenwriter and director on NPR, you just need realplayer.

I just noticed there are about four other stories about movie on this link, including one about Robert Baer. Primo stuff.

BoxOfficeMojo(who are usually right on the money) is predicting Syriana's weekend take to be about $13 million, which is semi-lame, especially since I know it probably cost at least $50 million to make. This is an adut movie, I think you need to be a comic-book adaptation these days to get anybody's attention.

Remember 'The Day After Tomorrow' - that was supposed to raise awareness about Global Warming. I suppose evry lit bit counts. At least Hollywood is thinking of us peakers once in a while, for that we should be grateful.

...movies usually don't change much of anything. ...  At least Hollywood is thinking of us peakers

I think these are two (2) separate issues:
(1) Can a movie change things?
(2) Will "Syriana" in particular change things?

As to issue number (2), I saw the movie over the weekend and did not spot any mention of "peak" oil. At one point Damon's character screams out that you guys (the Arabs) are running out of the stuff. But that is split second fine point that I doubt lay members of the audience will pick out. The movie is more about power, greed and corruption than anyhting to do with PO. The Director chose to do so many story line interlaces that it is hard for anybody to keep up with what is going on. Nonetheless, like Oil Storm (which also was not about PO), it does inject the importance of oil/gas into the public's mindset. Think of it as a first step in programming the Sheeple into even thinking about oil as being a topic of significance.

We Peakers have our antenna ears pop up everytime we hear the buzz noise "oil". To the Sheeple, it's just another commodity noise. Radio voice speaking: ... Pig bellies rose on the future markets today... ((big deal)) ... copper is up ... ((big deal, who cares)) ... oil is up ... ((yeh yeh, another boring commodity item ... when does the sports news come on?))

((xxx)) = a Sheeple thought bubble

As for movies that changed the world, I don't agree with this guy's list:

But certainly, "Jaws" made you think twice about stepping into the water.
"On the Beach" may have made you wonder about the sanity of the MAD strategy, or maybe "Dr. Strnagelove"?
"Star Wars" has all the kids joining the Rebellion to fight against the Evil Empire. Didn't these change the world?

Syriana's weekend take was 12 million domestically. Looks like BoxOfficeMojo hit the nail on the head (again).
By comparison, "Narnia" scored an impressive $70 million.
It's all about the money.

Money talks.
Clooney's ghost of Christmas next only stalks.
The next wave of consummer children will remember their happy times inside the closet.
None of these Witch-enchanted Lamb-kins will be aware of of the PO drop off cliff that looms just ahead of them.
Maybe it's better this way?

My oldest is 11, and she hears some of the conversations my wife and I have on these topics, but there is no need to burden her with it at this age.  My 7yr old is mostly oblivious.  Both of them are aware that our lifestyle at home is diverging somewhat from that of their freinds, and that Mom and Dad don't believe much of what is said on the news.  My goal is to help them learn the skills they will need in their future, as best as I can determine what those will be.  At least they should come away with the idea that one has an obligation to try to understand what is happening in the world, and not just accept what is said.  

I think there's a good chance their lives may be considerably harder than mine, but I see no point in sharing our stress over this with them now.  The best I can hope is that someday they will look back and see that we planned as best we could, and hopefully guessed right.  

All my kids know daddy is a "peak freak" and mommy doesn't believe in it at all. I see no reason to hide information from our children and to isolate them from the real world.

Peak oil is going to be a way bigger problem for them than for us. We've lived a good portion of our lives and can remember the good ole days when the Esso man came running out to give us free drinking glasses and full service pumping if only we bought the gasoline from him. We can remember the long gas lines of the 1970's. Our kids were born after. They know none of this first hand. They only know days of plentitude. They need to know the era of plentitude may be over for America. They need to learn how to survive in a world of less.

Harry Potter magic may be cute, but the dark days loom before us. Do we merely sit still and watch the storm approach, or do we prepare?

Fortunately, My wife and I agree about peak oil.  We are also well out of the mainstream when it comes to many other topics, so our kids are well used to the idea that Mom & Dad don't think like "normal" folks!  They think being different IS normal, which I hope will serve them well in the years to come.  They are focused on the animals (horses, chickens, goats, dogs, cats, etc.), and will be learning about gardening again come spring (we haven't had one since we moved about 3yrs ago).  

OT - One of the things I am very worried about, and have no solution for, is the constant threat of Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses.  My family has all been ravaged by these diseases, which are epidemic across the whole east coast, Mid Atlantic and New England especially.  While we are very much into holistic and naturopathic treatments, these have not been effective against Lyme and Bartonella.  When we were kids we would pluck off the dog ticks with little thought - once in a while someone would get rocky mountain spotted fever.  Now there is a menace that lurks in the woods and tall grass, and we have little effective defense against it.

My 12 year old son is doing his annual speech at school on peak oil. He said he'd been listening to me for so long that he might as well try to explain it all to his friends. My other children are also well aware of the situation as we've never tried to hide it from them. They're as psychologically prepared as I can make them.
"They're as psychologically prepared as I can make them."

That is great.

I'm not sure how my kids are psychologically handling the deep divide between mom & dad on peak oil here. It is not a number one topic of conversation. I think they feel that bad things may be coming our way if PO is indeed true, and if that's the case why bother working hard in school? party now and enjoy --clearly a childish response to crisis, but I think I've seen that kind of response by supposedly older commentators on TOD. So it's understandable.

BTW, Peak Oil is not the number one reason they don't want to try hard in school. The number one reason is they see the economic demise here in Silicon Valley particualarly for high tech "engineers". It's not just in their immediate family, but all around them that a mom or dad studied hard to become an "engineer" and now the big companies are laying them off and sending the jobs overseas. Here, in Silicon Valley, almost every other person is an "engineer", a nervous one awaiting his pink slip from HP, Lockheed, Apple, Intel, Sun, or some other valley biggie. And I guess if you are in Motor City, you're just waiting for your post-XMAS pink slip from GM or Ford (both announced huge layoffs). Kids know that kind of stuff. They feel it in the air. They feel the wheels of the trolley car coming off.

Silicon valley might be laying off engineers, but I bet there'll be a demand for power system engineers in the future as we try to prop up an overloaded grid and keep old generation capacity going well beyond its design life. Learning to be a general 'Mr Fixit' might be a good idea as well. That sort of practical skill should be able to put food on the table.

I seem to have convinced my kids that they need to take every educational opportunity that comes their way while public education of reasonable quality is still available. They work really hard in school (formal education) and on the farm (informal education), because they know they'll need to be able to look after themselves and teach others to do the same. Safety nets are likely to be a thing of the past and the price of ignorance could be punishingly high. An education won't guarantee employment by any means, but a lack of education is almost guaranteed to reduce one's options drastically.

In our case it helps (IMO) that I won't allow computer games in the house, or anything more than minimal television watching (channels like BBC World). Those things are a colossal waste of time that could be spent either learning something useful, playing a sociable game, or having a lively family discussion round the dinner table for instance. As my kids haven't had them growing up, they don't miss them. When you live out in the country, it's possible to live a very non-mainstream life without having it undermined by standard unthinking consumerism next door.

I just saw this this afternoon as well.

(minor spoiler alert)
At one point in the movie, a suicide bomber takes out what I took to be a large LNG tanker, with a weapon that could supposedly "penetrate 30 inches of steel with molten copper" or some such.  We didn't get to see what happened, though.

So, what would happen?  I would think that the thing would explode.

I wonder why we're not seeing more of this already.

Typical Hollywood.
In order for NG (methane) to "explode", it has to be in a gaseous state, not "liquified" (The L of LNG) and it has to be well mixed with oxygen, and heated enough so that it can combust.

So probably what happens next in that scene is the young man blows up, his boat sinks, & a little dent is made in the side of the steel tanker, and maybe a tiny fissure of freezing methane escapes.

The question to be asked in the movie is who are the bad guys, who are the good guys, and is it only "them" who are being brain washed? (praised be to Adamma Smitha, the truly acbar one)

Based on how the charge was described, it seemed like it would make a pretty fair hole.  I'm not a physics guy, but I imagine a lot of liquid would escape through a one- or two-inch hole.  Now, supposed the attack boat was loaded with  lots of liquid oxygen set to be explosively dispersed in a timely way...  Still no big bang?


He had what I initially took to be a Stinger but after looking at one more closely doesn't look too much like it. Anyway, the madrasah guy said it had a shaped charge warhead, which seemed pretty far out for what looked like a surface-to-air missile.


Wouldn't the gas start boiling off as soon as the containment was breached? If the boat was burning or the lips of the hole were hot enough, maybe that would set the gas off? Who knows.

A shaped-charge explosive should easily penetrate the tanks and insulation on an LNG tanker.  These tanks don't really need to contain much pressure, so the walls are not thick, and are not armored.

After a breach of an LNG tank, the liquid pours out and starts vaporizing as it hits the air and surfaces of the ship and ocean. If some of this vapor is confined by the structure of the ship, and reaches an explosive concentration (5% to 15%), then there could be a detonation  that would blow the ship apart.  

From the perspective of world markets, the LNG fleet is reduced by 0.5% if a tanker is destroyed.  It might not be so unrealistic to see 5% of the LNG tanker fleet destroyed by a determined group.  

Pardon my naive physics, but wouldn't a liquid that was boiling off necessarily have to pass through a concentration of 5-15%?  And if millions of gallons of the stuff were slowly pouring out, I'd think this explosive "boundary aura" would be present for a long time...
He appeared to be attempting to attack a LNG tanker with an RPG, optimised to knock out old style iron tanks. This is going to penetrate the hull metal and cause no damage. Sinking the ship in shallow water just off shore with a small, 100 pound bomb that you drop overboard alongside would eventually cause a methane release as the LNG warms up, but that would take days. If it was farther out and the ship sank instead of just settling into the harbor mud, that would release the methane faster but do no damage because it was far away from everyone else. Dropping it off the back of the tanker would knock out the props and cause the tanker to drift aground unless there was a tug around, which there was.
Knocking out the pipelines carrying LNG into a tanker would be effective at causing a local release and might kill a few people. Knocking out a compressor in the LNG liquifaction train would delay shipments, too, and be harder to fix. Or take out the power supply transformers to the plant, or the electronic control board.
That was amateur hour.
They said it was American, but it didn't look like a LAW, an AT-4 or a SRAW, so I don't think it was an antitank weapon.

They probably just mocked it up, not bothering with accuracy.

Negative.  An RPG-7 variant, assuming that is what it is (the most commonly available 'rocket' launcher in the world) fires a fin-stabilized 85mm or 70mm rocket assisted HEAT (high explosive anti-tank) shaped charge warhead. The have an effective range of up to 500 meters, and the directed molten copper jet produced by the shaped charge will penetrate 1.5m of brick, 1m of steel reinforced concrete, or 330mm of hardened steel armor plate, literally incinerating anyone inside.  I've seen the end result on modern armored vehicles, and it is impressive.
It would easily ignite LNG exposed to ambient atmospheric conditions.


Well, again, they said in the movie that it was American and it didn't look one damned bit like an RPG-7. What it looked like more than anything to me was a Redeye

Of course, the Redeye fired a fragmentation warhead, which you would expect of an anti-aircraft missile, not a shaped charge. I think we do indeed need to chalk this up to Hollywood. It would be interesting to read the Baer book to see if the incident is drawn from that and if he names the system there.

Ah, then it is probably as you say, artistic license, perhaps. Typical Hollywood.
The Redeye did indeed use a blast fragmentation warhead (think ww2-era flak).
The ship has spherical vessels for the LNG and they are set back from the hull of the ship. Once the explosion and the liquid metal jet penetrate the hull, the jet will expand and disperse. The spherical LNG containers inside the ship are easy enough to penetrate, but they are back from the hull of the ship and won't be penetrated. It's the submergence in water that will cause the LNG to rapidly boil off and perhaps catch fire.