Saturday open thread

Your own virtual snow fort. Play away.

Also of interest: Grist reports that the government and environmentalists may be able to see eye-to-eye on "clean coal" and carbon sequestration.

Here is a web site for the Minnesota dept. of agriculture. The info posted on this web site is not only misleading or even BS, it comes close to being an out right lie. There is little possibility, they do not understand the deception of their post. Does any one agree with the validity of the web site data.

This is a USDA report on ethanol EROEI  (1995)

I have no way of knowing how the Minnesota DOA arrived at their EROEI of 1.34 for ethanol from corn, as they do not provide the basis of the analysis nor the assumptions used re byproduct values, etc.

However, their EROEI of 0.74 for gasoline looks like a bit of dirty pool to me. I strongly suspect that there is a conceptual sleight-of-hand behind this.

Having  to expend 1.35 BTU of fossil fuel in the form of crude oil to produce 1 BTU in the form of gasoline is NOT how you should compute the EROEI for gasoline.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the way it should be done is to first compute the EROEI for making crude oil appear at the entrance to the refinery, and to then multiple that number by the 'in-plant' EROEI for turning crude into gasoline. The product of these two EROEIs should be the true EROEI for gasoline going out the door of the refinery.  

For example, if the EROEI for getting crude oil to the entrance of the refinery is say 4.0 (I don't know if this is what it really is, but I'm just using it as an example), and if the 'in-plant' EROEI for gasoline is, to use their number, 0.74, then the true EROEI of getting gasoline out of the refinery is the product of the two, or 2.96, a far more realistic number.  

This is what I suspect is behind their dodgy number for gasoline EROEI. (Hey, would anyone expect a state DOA to cast ethanol from corn in anything but a highly favorable light?)

Yes, I do expect people not to lie on a web site, because it's too easy for people to use google, find out they've lied, and fink on them on their blog. Which will always live on in the wayback machine.
Information wants to live forever.
A question for the engineers out there:
Does high octane "super" gas require larger inputs of crude or energy at the refinery to produce? Is there a reason for its higher price other than supply/demand or marketing?

I've always heard that a gallon of gas contains the same energy no matter the octane, yet Super allows my engine to develop more horsepower. Presumably that's because it operates at a more advantageous thermodynamic condition.

There isn't enough difference in the heat content of regular and 'super' gasoline to make any noticable difference in the energy output from your engine. However, the super allows you to use an engine with a higher compression ratio without the engine experiencing highly destruction 'detonation' (i.e., the gas/air mixture igniting before it's supposed to). Also elated to the detonation  problem is the fact that the higher octane gasoline will allow your engine to operate with a more advanced ignition timing without experiencing detonation. In summary, the higher octane gasoline allows for a higher performance engine to operate safely in a higher state of tune that would be possible with the regular.  Again, thel relative heat content of regular vs super has virtually nothing to do with it.

I'm not sure if the higher octane gas requires more crude input or not, but I do know that it is a bit more difficult to make, which might be the reason for the slightly higher price.

From a refining standpoint, making high octane gasoline does indeed require more processing steps.  Since tetra ethyl lead was phased out some 30 years ago, various high octane blending components have come in and out of favor.  Currently, the blendstock of choice is "alkylate."  It is produced by reacting isobutane with C4 olefins using a corrosive liquid acid.  It's the type of safety-health-environmental concerning process that brings a lot of regulatory hassles and as a result there hasn't been much capacity addition.  And of course the demand-capacity inbalance is making alkylate even more expensive.
Higher octane gasoline operates at higher compression ratios without damaging the engine, so the peak temperature is higher, which is thermodynamically more efficient, so you get more miles per gallon if your engine will let you operate at the higher compression, which it won't because the nitrogen oxides produced also go up with peak temperature and that causes smog, which your engine is not supposed to do and why your chip set won't allow you to operate at higher compression.
You can buy chip sets for your car which will bypass the controls on your engine and allow you to operate at higher compression ratios, increase your pollution, and possibly wear out your engine faster as well. You won't pass smog while using those chip sets. You will win street races, though.
Earnings and profit.

Ideas regarding earnings and profit seems to often fall into two different cathegories in this forum:

  1. Large scale, nuclear powerplants, society needs to change to rail transportation, coal to FT-diesel, etc.
  2. The world as we know it has ended, grow your own vegetables, learn to live withouth electricity and how to deliver your neighbours children.

  3. Is usefull for a politician and policymakers and people with lots of money to invest.  And it is usefull when thinking figuring out where to find employment. But its no good for starting a small business.

  4. Is a good hobby and good for survival in extreme scenarions but dosent give anything in the moderate scenarios.

I think manny of us could profit on peak oil business ideas that do not need billions or millions and can be implemented with a few people and then perhaps grow. This will also help with solving peak oil problems.

I have a few example ideas here, what do you think about them and can you add more?

Dispatching services run on internet to plan travel and freight. The hard problem here is generating trust so that strangers dare to share cars. There is probably a whole set of possible social ideas with pubs, clubs, etc to form and profit from the build up of the social capital that people will need more of. (This is not my skill.)

Better modularised and series produced equipment for converting houses to biomass heating. (My detailed ideas are specific for the Swedish market. )

Electronic car speed controllers optimised for minumum fuel consumption with a built in drive efficient guide for the driver.

Design portofolios for splitting standard types of McMansions into two or three apartments. Design portfolios for reshaping "wrinkly" styles into flatter more easily insulated styles. (I am not an architect. )

Micro plants for combined heat and power.

Get to wallmart, Ikea etc bus services with equipment for easy loding and unloading of bags.

We should be able to both prosper and do somthing to help with the peak oil problems.

You left out white nationalist ecofascism.
Nationalistic fashism would work for generating social capital within a small group.  But it would become a hostile and for other people disruptive group. Not a good way to add to community building.

But it is important to know that faschism and other hate ideologies  can be usefull for some people. You idealy have to get to those people with better ideas before those who are receptive to them fall for them as easy solutions that for the short run makes their lives better.

It was wise of you to and an "eco". People have a harder time to recognice hate ideas when the are used togehther with "eco", "feminism", "god" or other ideas with positive values.

You lost me here. What is white nationalist ecofascism?
Apparently the poster is concerned about white Sierra Club members taking over the government.  This is about as likely as the White House being taken over by a herd of giraffes.  So this is what the old fashioned fascists that are presently running the US worry about?  I just snarfed beer through my nose!
Actually, the neofascists have glommed onto peak oil, unfortunately.
It's inevitable that all manner of quacks will sign up where they see the possibility of the present order changing, from the left and right and all the way around the back.  But we have far more to be worried about than them.  Given the source, the BNP debunking of the six points on the site you link to is done about as well as you could expect.  

Glomming Eco and Fascist together to imply that there is some real threat from ecologists is absurd.  Should we not talk about ecological issues for fear the ecologists will take over and force us all to wear Birkenstocks and eat granola while hugging trees?   There is more than enough threat from those who hold the reins of power now.  It is hard to imagine a crew that could have done worse, both by their actions and their inactions - and they're not done yet.  I'm not too worried about some imaginary monster under the bed - there are plenty of real ones at the door.

I don't think the phrase "white nationalist ecofascism" is intended to suggest that your typical environmentalist is a fascist. I think instead it refers to a particular ideology (to which I don't subscribe) that says, roughly, "There are too many people on the planet, the environmental problems and peak oil are real, not all these multitudes are going to live, people of different races will not be able to get on with each other once the post-peak stresses get extreme, we need to get all the non-<insert ethnicity here> out of <insert homeland here> and impose a fascist state, restrictions on childbearing etc, in order to reduce population down to a sustainable level and manage the powerdown." I think of William Catton (author of "The Rapid Growth of Human Populations"), as an examplar of this kind of thinking.
And you may be right, but the "eco" part is not needed - adding it in there implies an agenda.  Taking advantage of some particular disaster (or making your own) in order to further a xenophobic hate filled agenda is not necessarily even fascism - good old-fashioned dictators do that.
There is not an outright agenda for a genocide.

But one could argue that the anti-agenda of opposing nuclear power and actually almost all other achievmenst of modern industrialism that don't "fit", is a hidden agenda for genocide, or should I rather say extermination. I can't help the thinking that many people are welcoming the overshoot idea because it will get rid the nature from human species. My expectations are that if it gets to there we will become so desperate that there will not be a biosphere left after us.

At best it is naivety.

If most everybody was nice to his family and friends and sometimes a stranger it could all add up to a peacfull and nice world. (I do believe this, at least it gives larger and larger icelands of stability. )

If most everybody had some solar cells, a mini windmill and an earthhouse it could all add up to an enviromentally sound world withouth pollution.
Wrong!  People forget the infrastructure needed to produce all kinds of raw materials and products, the infrastructure needed for a wide range of culture and the number of people living in cities producing these things.

A naive formula for building a civil society do not work for building an energised society. The wind mill and earth home people living on the countryside do need to care for a couple of 5 MW windmills each, then it starts to add up. But then it isent cute anymore and you can all day see that you are part of a larger technological society. svish svish svish

Like some other people have said the worst things on this planet have been made out of good intentions. When you think about it our resource and biosphere depleting, selfish and materialistic society is the logical result of the nobel idea of us people living a better life.
If you accept that the present population was only achievable through large quantities of cheap, easily transportable energy (mostly petroleum, but also NG and coal), then you pretty much have to conclude that it cannot be sustained without a substitute of somewhat similar characteristics.  And a more equitable distribution would help, but I won't hold my breath.  If one cannot be found, or cannot be implemented quickly enough, then it is obvious that people would have to die (it does not take long for this to happen if sufficient food is not available, however temporary the problem might be).  Certain people will take the obvious next set, which is that by golly if a big part of the population must die, well then they should be the ones to decide whom!  I could not ever go there, I believe we have an obligation to help out those who live now, even if we are trying for a lower population in the future.  

Personally, I don't think the present population levels are sustainable, but I cannot imagine a process by which it will decrease in an orderly, controlled fashion.  In fact, "controlled" almost by definition means somebody decides who stays and who goes.  So I'm left with hoping we can find transitional energy sources and that our numbers will reduce naturally.  But I suspect that these will be environmentally disastrous, and that ol' Jevon's Paradox will probably mean that any such temporary respite will only allow people to keep on keeping on, thus negating the benefit.  Frustrating.

I think the only sensible plan is to educate people about the problems of population growth (like ZPG back in the 60s), embrace birth control measures, then hope attrition will suffice.  Again, I'd also discontinue anything that looks like a financial incentive to have more children.
OMG, Stuart, you were driving me mad!! It's not William Catton, but William Stanton! For a moment I thought you were accusing William Catton (Overshoot) for being a Nazi!!!
You're right - mea culpa for the name slip.
The major parties left a void.  Someone filled it.  This is a surprise?

What's really amazing is that Labor didn't grab this issue when they knew that their North Sea production was on the decline.

Well found that link, Stuart. But what, pray tell, led you to find it?

Actually most of the article is saying what we, here, are generally saying (without the in depth questioning, data and analysis). Where it differs is the long anti-jewish diatribe which occupies about half the article.

I personally think the BNP are racist filth and might be better converted into soap. But there are stupid bigots in this world and I think it is better they are aware of peak oil than not.

Peak oil can be hijacked by white neofacists or their like? That seems a silly concept to me, but, maybe, sillier things have happened, GW.

I don't see that same dichotomy, Magnus.

I want some investment in new nuclear plants, increased investment to make fusion power commercially viable as soon as practical, investment in clean coal implementation, improved mass transit etc. All these things will help ameliorate PO but I think we are running out of time to implement them.

Renewable energy supplies, local minigrids and generation, household generation are even more important IMO. They can be implemented more rapidly, on a more widespread and distributed basis, and should boost the economy more than the large scale projects above. Besides being more environmentally sustainable. I see woefully insufficient action on these, too.

Massive conservation efforts are essential. Increasing house and business insulation, improving vehicle gas consumption, using energy efficient appliances and lighting. Where is this initiative?

Some people are screaming at the politicians to get moving on all these before it's too late.

But I also say: the signs of enough being done in time look minimal, so: learn to grow vegetables, make yourself less dependent on fossil fuel energy, be prepared. These things will benefit you regardless of whether the outcome is dire or moderate.

Here's a set of links I sent to the DK mostly about local electricity generation...

The UK DTI Energy Group has just published a report on microgeneration that concluded "by 2050 micogeneration could potentially provide 30-40% of the UK's total electricity needs". I've not read the report yet, you can find it and related links here:

The main DTI Energy site is here:
That and the DEFRA (dept of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) site:
are worth scanning.

The UK Sustainable Development Commission has some microgeneration info:

They're planning a mini-grid in Ireland:

The US DOE NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) has info:
The most pertinent to minigrids and the like are found here:
The whole set of links on left of that page are probably worth perusing as is the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy site:

Austria is a world leader in renewable energy use, this is the Austrian Energy Agency site (english version):
and its renewable energy section:

This page about Upper Austria:
gives some background info and an impressive list of achievements since 1994.

Some other links which may be of interest:  (CHP)  (microCHP UK)  (microCHP NZ)  (CHP)  (wind)  (wind)  (hydro)  (some UK electricity data)  (World Energy Council)  (UK green energy)

I've recently written an article (Aviation White Paper Disaster) on the UK government's aviation white paper which contains the key forecast that air travel will double by 2030. This forecast is the key justification for a whole raft of airport expansion projects with costs running into billions.

My issue is that the forecast is based on flights getting cheaper, GDP growth averaging 2.25% both unlikely and the real clanger, that oil price will stabilise at $25 (2000 dollars).

Since the forecast traffic growth is wrong, the justification for airport expansion is gone.  How can we get this message out and in so doing avoid the country misallocating billions on completely unnecessary construction?

You've got it backwards.  They started with the doubling by 2030 part and thought up reasons why it would be so.  As such it's going to be hard to talk them out of it.
I suspect that the trend is to have the same number of flights or a falling number of flights but bigger aeroplanes with less empty seats. This is logical since it gives less fuel consumtion per passanger.

This ought to mean that you do not need to expand the number of runways but the terminal buildings and public transportation to the airports.

Why not go ahead and do that in a large scale even in an early peak oil scenario?  When they no longer are needed you will if you build with good quality have a lot of exelent roomy buildings with good public transportation that can be used for other things.  

If they realy want to invest, encourage them to do so in a way that gives a reasonable plan B for their investment.

I've been saying for some time that sufficiently post-peak we'll have a lot of industrial parks, malls, etc. with very long, narrow parking lots.
Nah, what'll happen is that airliners start looking more like the piston aircraft of the 1950's, only built out of composites instead of aluminum.  Long straight wings, prop-driven (~300 knots cruise), small engine nacelles, ultra-smooth surfaces and extremely high L/D (50:1).  They'll have the virtues of being quiet and able to climb and descend relatively steeply, so they'll be better neighbors than today's aircraft.

If you consider what kind of technology is required to build a 10 megawatt wind turbine (blades 70-80 meters long), you'll realize that it's but a tiny stretch to have the same plants building wings for those ultra-economy liners.

North Sea gas drying up faster than hoped

NORTH Sea gas reserves are being used up faster than anticipated, MPs said yesterday, warning that energy shortages will be impossible to avert in the event of the predicted harsh winter.

I found two things worthy of revisiting in this article.  (1) The rapid inclrease in reliance upon imported gas going forward.  (2) Domestic competition among different economic sectors (inclduing households) for the gas that is available in the near term.  Both portend a shakeup in the status quo for the UK internationally and in terms of domestic politics.  Can North America be far behind?

It will be VERY interesting to start paying attention to both domestic energy talk (not the ubiquitous 2030 blather, but the ongoing management of crisis after crisis)  and the same for international trade meetings (pay attention to the lower level talks here, when world leaders get together, it's a safe bet that they will only discuss publically variations of the 2030 BS narrative.)

Another fun task...Anyone been keeping track of the 2030 storylines that emerge from time to time?  Seems that this is the latest version of: in the future people will...fill in the blank (that I remember from my childhood).

Oh my god!!!

Google "2030".  You will be surprised by what you find!

I did "2030 energy" to try to filter it down some - about 1,850,000 hits.  Looks like the world will be much different in 2030"  Kinda like reading an old Popular Science - only more fantastic.
2030? Sorry folks, things don't even stay as good as bad that long. And those of you pinning your hopes on 2012 and the Mayan calendar will be disappointed too. Try 2009-2010. If we can do a roll call here on 1st January 2010 (fairly arbitrary date) there will be many who've suddenly disappeared in the prior year or so. Then it will get worse.

Hopefully you will have realised before now that I'm totally deranged. I don't mind, they used to chain us to trees (or worse) and misinterpret our babblings in past times, it's safer nowadays - so far, at least.

While I'm on a roll here's the next few months economically (did you catch gold going down Monday as I forecast? There's another $20 to $50 downside to go but get out of gold shorts by mid-Feb at latest)...

16th December 2005, 14:00 GMT notes.

Next couple of weeks to 31st December 2005

Stocks will peak today (Friday 16th December) with the DJIA failing to top 11,000. Gold should decline a little into yearend. Oil should climb a little, the US$ should climb a little. Yearend predictions: DJIA 10,720,  Oil $66, Gold $493, US$ 90.3%. Nothing significant.

Quarter 1 2006

Things will start to go bad in a very noticeable way somewhere around mid March, I expect most economic data to reflect this soon thereafter. There will be significant increases in inflation, unemployment, oil, gold and commodity prices; stock markets and US$ will fall. I'm not sure yet whether geopolitical events will partly trigger these problems nor what events those might be. I expect US GDP to slow markedly to below 2% growth in the first half of 2006. The unwinding of the profit repatriation discount which has supported the $, stocks, mergers and indirectly the US economy during 2005 will begin to have a significant downside impact.

The Fed may not do the expected on interest rates, they may skip an increase on January 31st, Greenspan's last at the helm (markets currently put a probability of 98% on an increase so I am out on a long limb here). Helicopter (money) commander Bernanke needs to raise them at his first FOMC meeting in charge to establish his credibility. If Xmas retail is poor a pause in January may be helpful to allow that. They are also wary of prompting a 'rate inversion' that will likely happen with 2 more Fed rate increases (rate inversions have preceded all but one of recent recessions). However, Bernanke's first FOMC meeting as chief will be on 28th March and things could look bad by then, he is likely to be pulled in different directions by inflation, economy, stocks and $.

US$ is quite hard to predict, it will go down soon but has already taken a near 3% drop in mid December 2005 (which was just a correction) so should bounce up a bit first. I expect perhaps a 1.5% bounce within the next few weeks then a steady decline into March when it will drop quite suddenly by maybe 5% to around 82% of its index value (currently it is between 89% and 90%).

Oil will creep up till early March, expected $70, then spike higher by 10% if no major geopolitical event or supply disruption. If something significant happens I expect a spike to $95 or more.

Gold should trade in the $470 to $520 range until it makes a significant move up. This time, apart from a couple of brief and not large retracements, it will get very close to $600 before any significant pause. The move up will probably start before mid March.

Stock markets will be lethargic and mostly trending down until March. I expect the DJIA to have dropped to 10,000 by then and occasionally below. There will be a drop to 9,000 or below in late March or early April.

I have a tendancy to be a bit ahead of events with my prediction timings, so slippage of one or two months on the above would not surprise me.

17th December note: stocks made a poor fist of going higher yesterday, I expect another attempt before yearend now, but they will fail below critical levels (including DJIA 11,000) again. That's probably the last hurrah for stock markets this side of a long, long time.

"If we can do a roll call here on 1st January 2010 (fairly arbitrary date) there will be many who've suddenly disappeared in the prior year or so. Then it will get worse."

In all seriousness, where will we be going?  Dead?  Too poor to connect to the 'net?  Too bored to do so?  This is NOT meant as sarcasm--I really want to understand what you're predicting.

First I must say that I do not believe or think that the future is fixed. Given that, any prediction of the future is bound to be in some wys inaccurate and probablistic at best. Some think otherwise and pay attention to propheses like Nostradamus or the bible code, I actively avoid knowing such propheses and predictions in case they distort my perception.

Imagine being somewhere where all your normal senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell, skin) are non functional. There are still impressions about the place that you can be aware of. Given enough of these you can piece together some semi-coherent idea of 'how things are'. Then try to make sense of that in the context of what you see in your current world.

I expect the US to be quite chaotic in 2009. Considerable anger, violence, despair (much higher than now); some significant structural breakdown. As things happen over the next few years it will be easier for me to feel what's coming more accurately. Sometime not many years thereafter it feels like the US isn't in one piece any more, like it has split into regional entities. But that is getting too far ahead and very vague, much happens first.

The roll call: some will be prematurely dead, but not many, I don't expect many millions of Americans to die violently in 2009, just hundreds of thousands. Infrastructure, like electricity, will preclude some; more are likely to have much more important things to do than discuss things here, events will have overtaken the peak oil debate.

I'm sorry, I shouldn't have started this, much will change before 2009. But the mentions of 2030 as if things might even be remotely similar to now irked me like the EIA and CERA fantasies irk many of us.

No need to be irked - the posts about 2030 that preceeded yours were derisive.  If someone tells you what the future will be like in 25yrs, the one thing you can be most confident of is that you know one scenario that WON"T happen!
No need to apologize, Agric. Please continue. I'm inclined to agree with many aspects of your scenario. I suppose I must be similarly deranged :)
Um...My point was to point out that policy makers have chosen this arbitrary 25 year date for an awful lot of planning lately.  It is wiedespread and present across many government domains.  That is the empirical reality.  I thought it interesting because, as we have noticed in the past, for some reason people have chosen this date, modeled things out to that point, and that work backwards to see what sort of resources would be necessary to meet this prediction.  THEN, argue that this WILL be the resource picture in 25 years.  We've noticed this reasoning in IEA and USGS models, but I was surprised to see it all over the place (at least for english speaking governments).

As for Agric's posts......

LOL, Tedman, and I'd be inclined to agree from the outside looking in, so your perspective is well taken and respected. I hope I am deluded, too.

They are sneaky like that, these official fantasy generators. 25 years hence is too far for a rational mind to worry about, let alone an American consumer. Heck, i probably wouldn't worry either. When I read 'Limits to Growth' in 1972, a callow youth of 18, I thought: hmm looks like it might get iffy about 2016 but we humans are smarter than that, we'll solve it. Ah, youth's optimism. I didn't even begin to seriously re-look at these things till 4 years ago.

Thanks Stoneleigh and Twilight, though what you say troubles me more, I really would prefer to be mad than correct. In a sense I am scratching around in the present to find explanation for the maybe future.

Heigh ho. There's something afoot in next March / April that topples a cart or two. Best I work that out before bothering about beyond then.

On a different subject... I watched GWB's Saturday briefing. Struck me he looked and felt like Nixon in about 1971 in the first half. How is the "I'm president, I can break any laws / constitution that I feel necessary to 'protect America'" spiel running over there?

Precisely why 25 years out is chosen.  Any problems will be someone else's job.
I could agree with many of the probable things you predict, but I am not sure that the timing is not a little bit affected by "wishful expectation".

IMO there is a lot of flexibility within the current system that will allow us to get by for a decade or two without significant breakdowns. For example a significant dollar depreciation and/or recession might give us 5 to 10 years before energy shortages become problems again. Things will feel bad but will not be as bad as we are probably imagining now.

Agric, I am most intrigued with your prediction timings. Are these your gut feelings? Wild ass guesses (WAG's), or just based on what you see/hear? In other words you play things by ear, so to speak.
I did sortof explain a little: "Imagine being somewhere where all your normal senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell, skin) are non functional. There are still impressions about the place that you can be aware of. Given enough of these you can piece together some semi-coherent idea of 'how things are' [there / then]. Then try to make sense of that in the context of what you see in your current world."

Time and space are not entirely as they appear to us in 'normal' life, I think. It seems that aspects of one's consciousness, stripped of 'normal' senses (for me, at least) can move forward and back in time as well as space. Think of it as a different 'out of body experience'. But the impressions got 'elsewhere' are tenuous, nothing like viewing a photograph, so it takes quite a lot of those impressions to piece together some idea of what might be. Then I use my own reading and thinking of current events to put those impressions into a context and guess at what might be in the future.

Whether I am really doing something like this must be open to very serious question. It is much more reasonable and sane to think I am imagining it. The only evidence that something real might be happening is the reasonable accuracy, especially of some out of the blue events, that I seem to get. If it were only fairly obvious and statistically likely predictions coming true then I would dismiss these absurd thoughts out of hand.

I must admit to being very puzzled by time. It seems to me that either the future is not fixed but probablistic or there are multiple futures as in Everrett's (sp?) multiverse theory. I have real problems knowing when future things are and that seems to be the major source of inaccuracy in my suggestions of future happenings.

Very occasionally I take a look at the predictions of psychics, astrologers and the like. But mostly for entertainment purposes, I don't take them seriously, lol. They seem woefully inaccurate, usually vague and often statistically probable when they do come true. So I am very definitely a skeptic, even when it comes to my own predictions.

Note that my $500 oil scenario was exactly that, a construction of possible events not based on what I talk about above. I am troubled by some things from mid March 2006 though. Now that Israel will have an election in late March I'm even more troubled because Israel seems part of what I sense happening then. Hopefully I'll have a clearer perception before anything happens.

On a related note, there was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday concerning US LNG imports.  The article stated that despite the high prices here US LNG facilities are only operating at 50% capacity because US facilities are getting outbid by facilities in the UK, Spain (where a drought has diminished hydropower availability), S Korea and Japan.  The article finished with a couple anecdotes:  recently a shipment of Nigerian LNG made it all the way to the GOM before turning around and heading for Europe because the owners got a better price at the last minute, and the first ever LNG shipment form the Caribbean arrived in Europe - usually supplies from Trinidad and Tobago feed the US exclusively.  Definitely a sellers market.  As bad as the NG situation looks here it's definitely a lot worse for the UK.
What's up with the Russian state oil company, Rosneft, reportedly offering former Sec of Commerce and Bush confidante, Don Evans, its chairmanship?

I thought the prospect of non-fungibility had prompted a mad scramble to line up resources; witness, China's activity over the past year.  Has Russia really now thrown its lot in with the U.S.?  Is it now Russia and the West vs. China in the final scramble for oil?  Or is the possible appointment of Evans a only a short-term (and possibly desperate) measure to, as is reported, restore investor confidance in Rosneft?

I'd like to ask the question:  where is the money?  

America apparently has huge resources of coal.  It logically follows that 'big oil' will see coal gasification and "clean coal" technology as their and our  solution to peak oil. If so, then how much investment is actually occuring worldwide to make these specific production methods a functioning reality?  Where are the oil companies investing their current outlandish profits?  Hydrogen?  Nuclear? (I would presume not on solar).  

Everyone that supports these 'world-saving' technologies seems to be making claims that we can produce oil and gas from coal at a cost lower than $60/barrel equivalent.  If that's so, then why isn't it being done?  All of us here have seen this coming for quite a while, and surely big oil and the powers-that-be have seen it as well.  

Follow the money trail to a vision of our future.

My guess (and I stress the word "guess") is that because the oil companies have been burned in the past by betting on higher oil prices, they were hesitant to jump into coal-to-liquids technology and other alternatives.  As a result, we had a relatively quick run-up in the price of oil, much quicker than investment money could build an entirely new section of the energy infrastructure.  In other words, in economics as in love, timing is everything.

Like you, I've seen those reports of coal (via CTL) being price competitive at a price of $50 or $60/barrel, but I've always been highly suspicious; those numbers feel low to me.

I think that high oil and natural gas prices will make 2006 the year that the US, in particular, really gets moving on at least some energy fronts.  This will show up as implementing existing technology, funding new R&D (like cellulosic ethanol), and policy moves, like increased tax rebates (above the current levels) for adding insulation to buildings, installing solar panels, etc.

We're just entering a phase where the whole planet has pretty much figured out that The Rules Have Changed (even though most of us here saw it coming years ago).  All the pieces are in play, and it's going to get VERY interesting.

I'd like to believe that 2006 could be the year that the US gets its butt in gear. But sadly I don't think so. Right now, the controlling factions are still thinking of the game of one upmanship and control. There's also got to be some fear over what the results would be of a sweater wearing president/congressman.

In theory the Mayans offered up human sacrifices to hedge their bets about the sun continuing to rise. Currently people don't want to sacrifice to support the troops helping to continue their consumeristic lifestyle. While I don't doubt that with a bit of political wrangling and the media jumping in that things could be turned around, I don't see that happening. Who pays for the media controls the media, and J-random corp is paying more than the government and private citizens do.

So the message will continue to be that most things are all right, hey look at this bloody tragedy, and only 275 more shopping days until xmas 2006! Next up, a special report on how you're sexually undesirable, and your spouse will leave you if you don't buy product Xyzzy. But first a few words from our sponsors.

Sadly I think that most of 2007 is also going to be more of the same game. We'll likely be showing great signs of being on the plateau, but the stocks we've been building help help us ride the wave out. Maybe in late 2007 or early 2008 someone might put the cards down on the table and try to push for great change with the hope of getting a lot of senate and presidential votes.

But right now, I don't think that all the cards are down on the table, and even those which have been played are obscured by that annoying media chattering about xbox 360. Consider what the recent news has been about natural gas. The US is being out bid for lng, but quite shortly it's going to be back at $5-6 and the party shall continue. Peak oil might have gotten a fraction of the collective mindshare, but I think peak north american natural gas will have more dramatic events sooner in North America than peak oil. But maybe I think that because I've only lived in homes heated by natural gas and hate electric stoves.

Somehow I have a feeling of 2007 of being a reconciliation/turning year. I can not support it with a lot else than that UK would already have become the first canary in the mine as people begin to freeze and industries close. Well Bushies can very well beat me up by attacking Iran next year, but I don't truly belive scenario. They can as well attack SA or Russia or simply kill themselves.

P.S. If USA swithes from NG to electricity for heating then we'll probably need one more electric grid to handle it.

The US government, Wyoming, and BTU are apparently close to building the first large coal gasification plant in Wyoming. THe problem for oil companies, whether looking at coal or nuclear, is the time factor; will oil be cheap or dear ten years out?

Peak oilers are quite sure which is right, but those deciding whether to invest billions lived through, and keenly remember, the various times OPEC messed up, over produced, and prices collapsed. Many in the oil business, and their companies, did not survive these dips, explaining why there are few skilled workers available in the current boom. These experiences teach caution, not boldness.

Oil companies owned all the Wyoming coal companies at one time.  They were going to turn the coal into oil back in the 70's.  The oil companies got out after the prices colapsed in the 80's.  Now all the low strip ratio coal is gone and what the coal companies are mining now takes lots of manpower and equipment to uncover.  With a worldwide shortage of large mining tires, adding incremental tonnage is getting harder to do.
I have heard about this problem before. Could you talk about it some more - i.e. why would such a shortage persist to the point where it affects production, and not just be a temporary issue?

Thanks - just curious.

Right now basically every comodity in the world is at or near it's all time high, everything from copper to coal.  As a result every mining company in the world is running at full capacity.  At full capacity the companies will go through their tires faster, on avervage one tire will last between 5,000-6,000 hours or alomst at full year and cost $25,000 to replace.

Several of the large tire manufacturers are adding capacity but that takes time.  Everything I am reading from the mining publications say that a shortage will persist until at least 2007.  Even though the coal companies in Wyoming are some of the largest in the world and could have some sway with suppliers, they too are limited by the tire manufacturers.

While very real these fabrication constraints (tyres, rigs, steel, refineries... ) are just precursors.

Very soon the constraints will switch to raw materials (oil, copper, silver, food, water...) and there is no way out of them.

Ultimately there are too many people requiring too much wealth and goods. Things will hopefully move towards the most efficient and fair use of remaining resoursces, but the 'easy' solution is population dieoff.

They are already raw material constrains. The fabricated products are not keeping up with meet demand usually because some key resource in the supply chain is already strained. Consequently nobody invests in expanding production that depends on unreliable supplies.

A much more possible outcome is a world-wide inflation and poverty. Otherwise, except maybe in nuclear war scenarious the number of "displaced" people per year will not be enough to lower demand with the same pace as we are eroding our production capacity.

If tires wear down their treads, companies can do things like wrap them in belts of woven steel cable ("tire chains") and keep driving.  They may not be as efficient, but they'll go.
Tire chains are only practical on slow moving equipment like front end loaders.  They wear out rapidly on haul trucks and are uneconomic in such applications.
The trucks used in open-pit mines are exactly that kind of slow-moving  equipment, no?
No, not really.  Even though their speeads are realatively low 10-20 mph, that is still too fast for tire chains.  Generally the tire chains are used to reduce tire cuts and the loaders can't be driven much faster that 10 mph or it will damage the chains.  Most of the time loaders are just going back and forth from the working face to a truck, basically the only application where the chains can be used.
If you can't get a new (or retread) 25-foot mining-truck tire, your options may be limited to driving on some sort of chains or parking it.  So driving on your woven cables wears them out; that's what they're for.
Coming in World Watch Magazine: January/February 2006

Table of Contents

Oil: A Bumpy Road Ahead -Kjell Aleklett
Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas

Global Oil Production About To Peak? A Recurring Myth -Red Cavaney
American Petroleum Institute

Over The Peak -Christopher Flavin
Worldwatch Institute

Planning For The Peak In World Oil Production -Robert K. Kaufmann
Boston University Center for Energy & Environmental Studies

Peak Oil: A Catastrophist Cult And Complex Realities -Vaclav Smil
University of Manitoba

Since I am always happy to know upon awakening on a Saturday morning that I am a member of a Doomsday Cult, I thought I'd find out a bit more about Vaclav Smil. It turns out he is a frequent contributor at TechCentralStation (where Climate Change doesn't exist either). Lo and Behold, Vaclav took the opportunity to smack us around a bit on December 5th in Peak Curiosity from which (sigh) I now quote.
Predicting the end of oil era has been a venerable (albeit fruitless) pseudo-intellectual pursuit for most of the 20th century. This Nostradamian pastime regained new vigor during the late 1990s when (mostly retired geologists) Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrère, L.F. Ivanhoe, Richard Duncan and Kenneth Deffeyes -- and their groupies gathered under the WWW umbrellas of,, and --- flooded the media with catastrophist tales of imminent peak of the global oil production to be followed by a precipitous decline of oil availability resulting in the demise of modern civilization. As self-appointed prophets are want to do, these wholesalers of fear have not been cautious when outlining the consequences. In Ivanhoe's rendering "the inevitable doomsday" will be followed by "economic implosion" that will make "many of the world's developed societies look more like today's Russia than the US." In Duncan's telling there is massive unemployment, breadlines, widespread homelessness and a catastrophic end of industrial civilization.
The man can write! I've got to give him that. Naturally, I am very insulted that TOD is not mentioned. But are we groupies? Often, I find myself staring, dumbfounded, at BP production data or IHS (owner of CERA) slide presentations (as I am now) and other trivial pursuits. But clearly, all I really need is a Chrystal Ball and some faith in soothsayers. And now, the man himself.


Does this mean I need to return the hooded robe that I just had made special order!  I hope they take it back.  But, I am keeping the purple Nike sneakers....

I will also remove the Colin Campbell shrine (or at least move it to the garage)...My little Buddha will be happy to come back into the house though...

More seriously, after reading his article, it is clear why he doesn't mention the Oil Drum.  Because if he did, he would realize that every single point he asserts that we in the PO community assiduously ignore so as better to fit out "theory," has been rigorously debated here, with careful examination of the evidence pro and con.  Rather than a monolithic group of likeminded Apocalypticons, he would find a mixture of both optimists and pessimists, but, all with enough of an open mind to serious debate the particulars.  Prof. Smil wouldn't do well here because he is willing to believe even the most rediculously optimistic scenarious (e.g., USGS predictions) while assiduously ignoring both the methodological flaws of that report (e.g., mathematical monte-carlo simulations do not create oil in the ground, particularly with laughable probability thresholds) and oil patch expertise associated with exploration and the likelihood of discovering large numbers of megafields.  He is correct that we cannot predict how the economy will adapt to higher price signals, but he needs to do better than assert, with absolutely no evidence that technology will always save the day.

That is if he doesn't want people thinking he is just another pie-in-the-sky Polyanna.

I suspect this guy is a slick operator and angling to find his way into the Czar's good graces...

Here's the closing paragraph from Kjell Alaklet's piece (sounds pretty much like a cultist to me...!)

"Animals that face food shortages have a hard time adjusting,
and usually their populations decline. Some believe that
we as human beings will face a similar situation. I can't accept
that.As human beings we can think and come up with ideas,
and I believe we can find solutions. The road will be bumpy
and many people will be hurt, but when we arrive at the end
of this road it must be as a sustainable society. It will not be
possible to travel this road without using part of the existing
stocks of fossil fuels and, for industrial countries, nuclear
energy as well, but we can do it in a manner that will have minimal
impact on the planet.We should have started at least 10
years ago.We must act now, as otherwise the bumps and holes
in the road might be devastating."

So what we are really dealing with here is a guy who believes that Providence will always reward the faithful, so no need to really DO anything (Smil) and a guy who believes that one must keep your eyes open and be willing to work hard if you want to build a better world (Alaklet).  Hmm..wonder which guy I want to go forward with...

He is turning into a politician. :-/
I recognice some symptoms since I have local politics as a hobby. :-)

It can be quite irritating. Have had courses for a professor with good ideas and reasoning and experince from manny years. But he oversimplifies needlessly and call some of his sound bites for "natural laws", they are good sound bites but not good science.

Think if we could have some kind of signal system:
Waving ears, listening for criticism trying to be scientifically correct, scientist role.
Frowning, got to tinker till it works, engineer role.
Long nose, I am oversimplifing to get a point across, politician role.

The big question is: how come Vaclav Smil isn't already on the White House payroll advising on energy?

Perhaps GW has a prob pronouncing his name.

I find TCS a good place to validate my thinking - if they decry it then it's probably correct.

One doesn't need a crystal ball.

"Also of interest: Grist reports that the government and environmentalists may be able to see eye-to-eye on "clean coal" and carbon sequestration."

I read this article much differently.   Environmentalists have our backs up against the wall here.  Grist makes clear that coal is happening bigtime and the scheduled plants worldwide are simply frightening.  "Some" enviros are cautiously looking at CO2 capture/sequestration--because coal is a fait accompli whether we like it or not. [And careful here about which groups are most favorable.  Better check out their corporate funding!]

I say "Show Me."  It aint gonna work.  Maybe technically viable but with an ERoEI that is prohibitively low.   What poor country (or China or the US for that matter) is going to "waste"  2 units of coal to obtain 1 unit of clean energy when they could have 3 units of desperately-needed dirty energy?

But even "technical viability" on the grand scale required strikes me as laughable.  Pumping super massive volumes of a gas into leak-proof reservoirs?  Manical laughing.  Ha ha ha.   "And now monster, when the lighting strikes the pole, I, Dr. Frankenstein, will give your bride life!!"

Queensland in Australia contains massive Coal Fields (it almost is a coal field). About two years ago the Government set up a task force to plan the building of a small Electricity Plant with full carbon sequestration. The plant was going to coast $500 AUD.

A friend on the task force says that so far the size of the power plant has been haved, the estimated cost has still doubled and that he expects the Government to pull the plug soon and drop the idea.

geo, you say "Show Me", I say "go look for yourself". Try a google search with "CO2 capture coal" or "CO2 separation coal" and you will find that a huge amount of R&D is going on. Here is one example.

I think that you are much too pessimistic regarding loss of efficiency. The least efficient process based on amine solution seems to lose 20-25% of the electricity output.

It's just wishful thinking.
Help.  Where can I find numbers for off shore oil reserves in California?  The debate about drilling is re-igniting here, but not one article offers anything on proven or possible reserves or possible production.
I think Clean Coal is like a pyramid in a Cecil B. de Mille movie set. Big Energy and DoE are the guys whipping the slaves to build the pyramid until it is a sight to behold. A fanfare of golden trumpets announces the dawning of a new era. Only when the dust settles do people realise the pyramid is made of cardboard.
Heh heh... I can't wait to see the greedy money-grubbing British Chancellor backpedal on his massive tax increase!!

Shell cuts North Sea exploration

Excerpt: Shell said it took the decision after a review prompted by the chancellor's decision to increase a charge on profits from 10% to 20%.

Full text at:

Unintended consequences baby!

I'm pleased, it will be useful for UK to have some oil left in the ground in future years when the price is $1000+ bbl. Hopefully it will spur more sustainable energy use and conservation measures. Besides, rig costs are outrageous ATM due to Saud and others frantically drilling so they can hide their depletion ;)

Tax on, Gordon, and increase the taxes on petrol and carbon emissions while you're at it, it will get UK ahead of the game.

I doubt that there's anything which can be made from oil which can't be made from coal or biomass at a small fraction of $1000/bbl equivalent.
But oil will hit $1000 before you can do them. Yes they are economically viable now, but you won't see any serious moves to implement them until oil is over $100 for the foreseeable future (rather than just a spike). That is too late, geopolitical events will step in and oil will get to $1000.
Alternatives are happening now.  Rentech is repowering a fertilizer plant in E. Dubuque IL (from gas to gasified coal) and adding a Fischer-Tropsch synthesis block and a power block to turn the spent syngas into electricity.  They're planning a pure CTL plant in Natchez, MS.

The only way oil will hit $1000 US is if the dollar inflates by at least 5:1.

Regarding dipchip's initial comment referring to a MN website with info on the EROEI of vehicle fuel ethanol. That website's stated EROEI looks OK.  

I work with a renewable energy (principally landfill gas and other "silver bb's") nonprofit. One of our nonprofit's directors currently assists in building fuel ethanol plants.  That director is the very credible and astute, now retired, senior energy and environmental engineer of Coors Corporation (of Golden CO and beer ethanol renown).  We have disussed these fuel ethanol plants rather extensively.  The MN website EROEI of 1.34/1 for fuel ethanol plants is consistent with what he tells me for best state-of-the-art plants for fuel ethanol from corn.  

Well, I have no problem with the 1.34 EROEI for ethanol from corn that is cited by the Minnesota DOA.  What I DO have a problem with is their using an EROEI for gasoline of 0.74, which, as I explained in an earlier post, is probably the refinery 'internal EROEI' for gasoline and not the overall well-to-gas-tank EROEI for gasoline, which is more like 3 to 1. Big difference, and I think not an accident on their part!

While on the subject, how can anyone be terrible impressed with an EROEI of only 1.34 for ethanol from corn? Seems like we're increasingly spinning bigger and bigger wheels to get less an less good stuff out the other end. Will we eventually end up with a system having an overall EROEI of 1.0001?  I think this is but another example of Entropy being its old cruel self (to put it in figurative anthropomorphic terms, which I generally dislike).  

But my main point is that the Minnesota DOA appears to have deliberately mislead its website readers into thinking that ethanol from corn is a far more efficient way of getting energ from petroleum.  Just ain't so!

Ethanol has been subsidized in the US for quite a few years, including when oil was around $10/barrel in 1998. Now that oil is $60, why is a subsidy still needed? Shouln't the producers be rolling in profits now, and paying taxes like most profitable corporations?  I sure hope the operations don't need higher subsidies as energy costs go up - some might suspect a negative EROEI might be involved.
Corn ethanol's 1.34:1 EROEI explains this rather well.  The cost of the inputs has increased almost as fast as the value of the product, so it still needs subsidies.

This is exactly why I proposed taxing petroleum and getting rid of subsidies at my SinceSlicedBread proposal; the EROEI issues shake out naturally, and investment and production would flow to the best options.

A specific question: what are the relative ERoEI for ethanol from corn or similar versus diesel from various oil seed crops? Also production per agricultural area used. I've never seen a proper comparison. My gut feel from reading data on both is that oil seed / diesel has a fair edge, am I wrong?
Sorry, just read Dipchip's post below, Biodiesel is way ahead on his Minnesota dept of Ag. data. But I would still like to see raw numbers.

So why all this corn ethanol nonsense when it should be biodisel? Most likely agri-protectionism, as usual, rather than anything valid, methinks.

It is a known process, there is currently a surplus of raw materials for it (In a large part due to protectionism) , ethanol is mixable with gasolene and it works for Brazil.

It is better in a combined process when the left over protines are used as animal feed or fermented to methane.

BOLIVIA (largest natural gas reserves in the Americas with significant oil):

Does anyone have an update on Sunday's election?  Evo Morales is a native American running against big oil's candidate, a Harvard-educated elite with an American wife.  If he wins, it would be yet another Socialist Latin American leader.

Pretty sad. Did you know that when Peron took power, Argentina had the sixth highest standard of living in the world? And, that within a decade, they fell to the third world? Impatience with capitalism has reduced its popularity in Latin America, but remember that they turned to it because of socialism's worse results.

Chile is the example of what a prosperous Latin country can look like - unfortunately, Morales is not likely to emulate them.

"From 1880 to 1930 Argentina became one of the ten wealthiest nations. Conservative forces dominated Argentine politics until 1916, when their traditional rivals, the Radicals, won control of the government. The military forced Hipólito Yrigoyen from power in 1930 leading to another decade of Conservative rule."

"Post-World War II
The period between 1914 and 1945 devestated the Argentine economy. Foreign investment disappeared during World War I to finance the European war effort, and following the devestation of the Old Country it failed to return after the peace. While the U.S. and Wall Street began to feature prominently on the international stage, the 1929 stock market collapse marked the end of Argentine hopes for a return to the export-led growth model."

"Political change led to the presidency of Juan Perón in 1946, who aimed at empowering the working class and greatly expanded the number of unionised workers. The Revolución Libertadora of 1955 deposed him."

"In the 1950s and 1960s, military and civilian administrations traded power. When military governments failed to revive the economy and suppress escalating terrorism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the way was open for Perón's return to the presidency in 1973, with his third wife, María Estela Isabel Martínez de Perón, as Vice President. During this period, extremists on the left and right carried out terrorist acts with a frequency that threatened public order."

"Perón died in 1974. His wife succeeded him in office, but a military coup removed her from office in 1976, and the armed forces formally exercised power through a junta in charge of the self-appointed National Reorganisation Process, until 1983. The armed forces repressed opposition using harsh illegal measures (the "Dirty War"); thousands of dissidents were "disappeared", while the SIDE cooperated with DINA and other South American intelligence agencies in Operation Condor."

"Since the late 1970s the country piled up public debt and was plagued by bouts of high inflation. In 1991, the government pegged the peso to the U. S. dollar and limited the growth in the monetary base. The government then embarked on a path of trade liberalisation, deregulation, and privatisation. Inflation dropped and GDP grew, but external economic shocks and failures of the system diluted its benefits, causing it to crumble in slow motion, from 1995 and up to the collapse in 2001."

As you say... it was all socialisms fault.

It is interesting to compare Chile's economic progress over the last thirty years (albeit with their free economy begun with a murderous, dictatorial regime), with the rest of Latin America, not just Argentina, including gdp growth, poverty, productivity, and unemployment.
gives you wheat prices from 1913 to now, and illustrates what happened to Argentina, Saudi Arabia of wheat, when nitrates from hydroelectricity, coal, oil, and natural gas doubled crop yields and switching from hay burning horses to oil burning cars and trucks halved farm area dedicated to fodder crops.
My family was in agriculture at the time and we were some of the okies, arkies, and texies that moved to California in the twenties.
Oh, yeah. If the oceanic global conveyor belt slows down and food shortages hit, will the new Argentine wealth occur because of [sarcasm on] their brilliant economic policies of the last few years? [Sarcasm off]
Minnesota Dept of Agriculture data

Fuel * Energy yield Net Energy(loss)or gain
Gasoline  0.805   (19.5 percent)
Diesel    0.843   (15.7 percent)
Ethanol   1.34     34 percent
Biodiesel 3.20     220 percent

Pomona96: What I have a problem with is that ethanol and biodiesel are not presented in the same context as Gas & diesel. If I use all their numbers, I come up with the following results.
To produce 805 btu's of gas  requires 1000 btu's of energy in, so you use 195 Btu's to produce 805 btu's of gas for an ERoEI of 4.13 or a net loss of 19.5 % of 1000 btu's.          =413% gain
To produce 843 btu's of diesel requires 1000 btu's of energy in, so you use 157 Btu's to produce 843 btu's of diesel for an ERoEI of 5.37 or a net loss of 15.7% of 1000 btu's.    =537% gain
To produce 1340 btu's of ethanol requires 1000 btu's of energy in, so you use 1000 Btu's to produce 1340 btu's of ethanol for an ERoEI of 1.34 or a net loss of 74% of 1340 btu's.     = 34% gain
To produce 3200 btu's of biodiesel requires 1000 btu's of energy in, so you use 1000 Btu's to produce 3200 btu's of biodiesel for an ERoEI of 3.20 or a net loss of 31% of 3200 btu's.     =220% gain

You are not using the formula consistently. For gasoline and diesel you are using  R/(1-R) and for ethanol and biodiesel you are using 1-R.  I'm working on some formulas to connect energy return, thermal efficiency and plausibility limits for different types of hydrocarbon conversion. One of them is obviously that petroleum derived fuels have a return >1, otherwise we wouldn't bother.