Well none of this is particularly good news!

Well the winter is not starting off all that well.  Already the OGJ reports that the below normal temperatures already being felt in the eastern two-thirds of the country will, according to the National Weather Service, continue for this month.  The result is anticipated to be an 18% increase in the demand for heating oil through this week.  (From a base of around 4 mbd according to the EIA).

It is the relative immediacy of shortfalls, whether this year, or in the next two, that will start to test the true international collaboration on energy supplies, and for how long oil and gas will remain fungible.  It is well and good to drill wells in Kazakhstan but without the pipelines to get the oil to a friendly port, the availability of the oil discovered will remain in question.  

The recent experience where the UK had problems getting gas from Russia, because of German interests, is an early indicator of possible future problems for many countries.  And the newly announced Baltic Sea pipeline from Russia to Germany, but bypassing Poland Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, is already raising similar concerns.  (Note that the oil will be priced in euros). The increasingly restrictive political aspect of transportation is likely to be particularly true in the regions around the Caspian.  And the British Government are "encouraging" development by raising taxes.

Yep, I knew this was a Monday.

Michael Economides is predicting $20 natural gas in January.   In some areas, this will translate to spot prices perhaps far in excess of $20.   The biggest losers are going to be industrial users, and the people that work in those industries.  Furthermore, in areas that are heavily dependent on natural gas for electrical generation,  there is a high probability of blackouts this winter in some areas, especially in the Northeast.  

If we are seeing the beginning of a rapid climate change (i.e., a new "Little Ice Age"), these recent weather patterns---very active hurricane seasons and very cold winters in the Northeast US and Europe--may be with us for a long time.  The two factors together are going to:  (1)  reduce natural gas production, as hurricane after hurricane hits the Gulf and (2) cause natural gas demand in the Northeast to skyrocket.    In turn, this will result in an incredible demand for LNG.  

The irony for the Northeast is that they have been fighting two things that might save them from (literally) freezing to death in the dark:  (1)  greater wind power capacity and (2)  more LNG receiving facilities.  

I don't think that I would be buying ocean front real estate anywhere from Bangor, Maine to Brownsville, Texas, or for that matter real estate with 200 miles or so of the coast.

Just get this mug to use as a reference when considering land :/
I don't think $20 is unreasonable.  It's already been above that in the U.K.  
Re: "If we are seeing the beginning of a rapid climate change (i.e., a new "Little Ice Age"), these recent weather patterns---very active hurricane seasons and very cold winters in the Northeast US and Europe--may be with us for a long time."

That's a big "if". More likely, the winter weather patterns we've seen in the last few years are related to the North Atlantic Oscillation (pdf).
Climate variability in the North Atlantic is influenced largely by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which involves changes in the low pressure center near Iceland and the high pressure near the Azores. When the phase of the NAO is positive both pressure centers are more intense, we encounter both stronger westerlies at mid-latitudes and trade winds in the tropics. The shifting patterns of the NAO cause the mid-latitude storm track to shift north/south: high NAO to the north, low NAO to the south. A negative NAO and a more southerly storm track, such as what we have had the past two winters, leads to a colder, snowier winter in the Midwest and Northeast US, colder offshore waters, and a more southerly track of the Gulf Stream & a colder Britain....
Here's a good introduction to the NAO.
"I don't think that I would be buying ocean front real estate anywhere from Bangor, Maine to Brownsville, Texas, or for that matter real estate with 200 miles or so of the coast."

  1. Bangor is not on the ocean. It is inland, at an elevation of 58 meters.

  2. Why? Because of the tsunami risk? Rising seas? Hurricanes? Please clarify.

  3. Maine is not Texas.
The entire U.S. East Coast, not just the Gulf Coast, is vulnerable to hurricanes.

The Northeast U.S. may get hit with a triple whammy--summer hurricanes; more winter storms & colder winter weather and problems with heating oil and natural gas supplies.  

I'm a mile and a half back from the Pacific Ocean.  I figure the optimum time to move is when the shorefront floods and my house looks safe the the yokels. ;-)
Russian Oil

The chief of Lukoil told the german buisness daily Handelsblatt on monday, that Russia will not accept the present discount of 7 US Dollars for it´s Ural oil as compared to Brent  in the future. They see a discount of 50 to 70 cents as more appropriate. And with the developing pipeline infrastructure in the east, exports to China will directly compete with exports to Europe. Thus Russia will not be able to "oversupply" Europe as in the past.

Michael Economides makes a lot of predictions. Give him credit for his successes, but it's hard to come to a conclusion about his track record on NG. Some bold predictions he made in "The Color of Oil" have proved really wrong and somewhat naive.

Everything westexas says WILL happen in the Northeast this winter, WON'T happen unless Economides' prediction is accurate, AND a bunch of other worst case scenarios all coincide.

Already we are seeing people's expectations of home-heating bills up 50% infuencing their thinking and (slightly) their behavior. This small-scale, localized conservation should be enough to offset most negative factors - at least this year.

I'm sitting here at the base of Mt. Mansfield, the tallest mountain in Vermont at 4,393 feet. We had an early heavy snow last month as a result of the last hurricane, which destroyed a considerable amount of the maple sugar bush. Subsequent snowfall at our altitude means that everything is white and will remain so until May, unless we get a winter thaw.

Yesterday at Rotary a lawyer from NH told us that VT will not have the capacity to meet peak electrical demand within two years. She is an advocate for windmills. I am in favor of windmills but on a small, residential or community scale.

I lived in Holland for five years and in my experience today's windmills are monstrosities. They may be necessary monstrosities but they are monstrosities nonetheless. There is a fierce debate going on here about a wind project proposed for the ridgeline of a small town in the Northeast Kingdom. A slight, non-binding majority of the community has voted in favor of it, but two state agencies are still split.

Proponents say, "You don't have any natural gas in Vermont." I agree and think wind power is a good idea. However I am skeptical. Without safeguards, these things will tower over small towns throughout New England, and the power will be sold on the open market to the highest bidder, i.e. the population centers on the coast.

Until everyone has a windmill looming over them, consumption behavior will not change. I believe it is unfair for residents of small towns to have to live with modern windmills without assurances that they will be the direct beneficiaries.

Why should people in small towns have windmills looming over them, with blinking red lights illuminating the otherwise pristine night, just so someone in Boston can use a blow dryer or watch their big-screen TV at no greater expense than yesterday?

Withouth the windmills you would have a weaker grid and even higer electricity prices.  Energy producing parts of the grid wont be disconnected if there is need for rolling blackouts. If they disconnect the communities next to the windmills you have a good reason to be mad.
For a photo of the relative scale of these wind turbines and a town, see our earlier post on this .
Yes, its like living in a landscape full of animated Gif:s.

But it beats being cold in the dark. Or living next to a coal combinate. I would prefer to have a nuclear powerplant as neighbour.

To get the most money and energy out of the investment they need to be built where the wind is steady. It do hurt the neighbours, I do not know what a reasonable compensation would be.

A fair but not great ammount of windmills are being built in Sweden. There is zoning forbidding building next to densely populated areas. Most inland windmills are built on farmers properties and they usually own a percentage of the plant but they are now to expensive to be financed by a single farmer.
The larger scale projects are now planned out at sea or along scenic ridgelines in very sparesly populated areas. They are depending on subsidies for now a "greeen" certificate system that forces people to buy "green" power. Withouth them there would hardly be any since we still have more cost effective ways for generating additional power.

But if the electricity price would double they would be built everywhere, or rather tripple since the building cost will be higher.

To get the most money and energy out of the investment they need to be built where the wind is steady.

Nope.  They have to build them where they're allowed to.  

According to this recent study, the best sites for wind power in North America are on the coasts.  

But do you think they are actually going to build there?  No way.  Real estate's too valuable there.  Too many people with too much money.  They'll put them in small inland towns, far from where most of the power is used, because that's where it's politically feasible.

Here's a Dutch photo showing the scale against the landscape pretty well.


I would be willing to have one or more of these nearby IF I knew I was getting a steep discount on electricity. I think that's going to have to be how this is done.

They you are stupid and reality will hurt you.

The pre planning process in my home town Linköping in Sweden were mostly an overlay of two maps. One with the wind distribution and one showing population density and special buildings like old churces. The areas with good wind and low population density have been designated as recommended areas for wind power. This has been made to prepare for an eventual building boom for wind power. But the recommended areas turned out to be fairly small and other parts of the country have better wind. The same kind of planning has been made almost everywhere especially in areas with better wind resources.

The planning process is slow although the legal costs are much lower then in USA. If nobody complains it takes a year to get a permit for a wind powerplant, if people complain it can take about 5 years, if a retierd lawyer complains it can take an extra year or so to get a final no or yes to such an infrastructure investment. The lenght of the process has at least cost us a paper mill or three as a nation. :-(

Municipal pre planning saves year or two for such a process.

How do it work in different parts of USA?

Bah, horizontal axis windmills are an obsolete design. Go with the vertical axis, save some birds, and get more power with less wind. Its all about design.

A few samples:

Those helices are COOL! Thanks for the link.

Yeah, having your view spoiled a little sucks, but so does having your view spoiled by all of the trees killed by acid rain.  Or how about mercury levels in the lakes that in some states have risen to the point where the DNR has to advise people as to whether they should eat the fish that they have caught from them?


Make no mistake - people need to conserve, but in the long run those coal burning power plants need to be replaced with something renewable.

Oh I agree. But we're now entering the phase when the talk about wind turbines is turning into action -- with permits, zoning, construction, equitable distribution and NIMBY concerns throughout New England.

Are we going to be able to take a comprehensive effort to renewables, or is the fragmented nature of the deregulated power industry mean that these wind turbines are just going to be built wherever someone thinks that they'll be able to do it and make a buck?

We're witnessing a transition to renewables now with these wind turbines. And it's a messy reality. My concern is that the people who will have to live with these things for the rest of their lives will not be the ones getting the benefits, and that they'll carry the "burden" while others far away continue to waste energy on a daily basis completely unaware of the consequences of fossil fuel depletion.

Change is coming, it's inevitable, but I doubt it is going to be fair or equitable. We don't have a regional or national plan that maps out how we're going to make the transition to renewables. Heck, most people in this country aren't even aware of PO yet. Europe is ahead of us in this regard.

I live in Boston. Half of my family has lived in from or has lived in Vermont for years. The other half - in New Hampshire. My brother-in-law's family apparently lives "off the grid" on the side of a mountain in NH. I know what it's like in the country and the city.

I'm not sure how the discussion turned to Windmills, but I love windmills. In fact, I myself grew up on an island in the Mediterranean famous for its windmills. Until the age of 7, I had one literally 50 yards from my window. These,of course were the more classic style, whitewashed, thatched roofs, used for grain processing. I doubt any of them were ever used for electricity and only a few are still operational for the tourists to see.

Back to Vermont. Nobody is saying you have to use windmills. And your area can't meet peak demand not simply because someone in Boston wants to buy a new big-screen TV, but because someone in Vermont does, too. While we can debate the relative amount of additional watts the city is adding to the problem versus the country(per capita) - the reality is we are all in the same boat. Would you rather build a nuclear plant or a smoke-belching coal one? Those are other options.

A modern windmill is a monstrosity, up close. From a distance there is a certain very futuristic elegance to them. What are our choices as a society? Look at Canada. How much of Alberta is going to be ecologically annihilated so that what? - so that Vermonters can drive their four-wheel-drive SUVs 40 miles to the nearest Walmart or local "trading post" every day.

No offense intended - I didn't mean to pick on Boston in particular. I've been in Boston many times on business and I like it just fine (except for some motorists!). I was just using it as an example. I'm from New York City originally so I'll use that as an example!

How many wind turbines (to differentiate them from the charming windmills you describe) will it take to power New York City as it is today? Does anyone know? I heard recently from a reputable source that a $20 billion investment would have to be made, and several hundred miles of ridgeline covered, just to meet Vermont's electricity needs alone. Of course once it is all built there are only maintenance and attrition costs to deal with so the investment itself would pay itself back eventually. But we're not doing this, at least not yet.

Let's face it, to build a few turbines here and there isn't really going to make much of a difference. But it will give someone in private industry the opportunity to make money. Chances are that the person building the wind turbines and making the profit does not have to live near the turbines. But people who already have their homes here will.

And where is that power being sold? Even if you covered Vermont with wind turbines, who's to say where the electricity from them will go? I suspect that in an unregulated market that it would go where the money is, to population centers like New York.

As a former New Yorker, I think I can say that few people there (except you folks here of course!) would alter their behavior and consume less energy willingly just because they have been told that Vermont's character has been altered and subsumed by wind turbines.

As we move into this brave new world, people may need to develop energy closer to home and rely less on industrial scale electricity production. I'm hoping to put in a small and charming "windmill" myself on our windy 10 acres here someday for my own power. Stoneleigh recently posted some great information about batteries.

I subscribe to a smaller scale, residential or community model for wind energy, and not giant wind turbines scattered around the countryside out of site of those who consume their power or make money off of them.

This is unlikely however, as the power generators and utility companies have a lot invested in the power grid, and I've read that they don't want everyone making their own energy, because their bankers would not get the return on their investment.

I totally agree. There is some decent discussion/analysis of large-scale windpower in Paul Roberts' "The End of Oil."

You are right,New Yorkers, and in fact most people will not change their behavior unless they are forced to by regulation or squeezed/incented by economic factors.

Regardless, if peak theory is correct,the collective "we" have to do something. That is what makes this a great site, for hashing out the differences in the alternatives, and discussing a path forward.

New York is an easy target because it's huge, but we New Yorkers don't even drive cars (let alone SUVs). Instead of huge detached houses to light and heat, we live in compact boxes attached to other people's apartments that keep us snug in the winter.  It's important to remember that if the rest of the country lived like the eight million New York City residents, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in.  That's where the Smart Growth movement is so critical.
Excellent point. I knew it was those people in Vermont and Idaho that are causing all the problems :)
I had the good fortune to be in New York last week, and to enjoy its culture, communal spiritual energy and at least one great steakhouse.

But please, New York as a model of energy efficiency? Snug apartments?

What powers those elevators that you depend upon? Have you looked at all the Christmas lights? Without conventional power generation, what's going to keep the subways going, not to mention heating the massive office towers that so distinguish Manhattan?

Do you really think that we can install fireplaces in every office in a 50 story office building? Or that a few new style vertical windturbines will keep these things warm and lit at night?

When I lived in New York, the heat would go out in our walk up from time to time. There was nothing snug about that. It was freezing cold.

And where is your food coming from, Times Square? It has to be grown far, far, away and shipped into town. There is a huge energy investment required to keep New York humming and fed.

No one is picking on New York. I love New York. But just because you don't drive (lucky you by the way), it doesn't mean that you don't depend on other people driving large tractor trailers day and night to keep you warm and fed.

> I subscribe to a smaller scale, residential or community model for wind energy, and not giant wind turbines scattered around the countryside out of site of those who consume their power or make money off of them.

This means that people living in cities need to abandon them.
That wastes a massive ammount of capital.
And they should move to numerous small communites.
They would need massive resources to build and would use areas that could be used for farming and they would have less efficient logistics.
And then you propose a massive ammount of small and cute wind turbines that do not reach high enough to get good wind and use more resources to build per produced kWh.

Your proposal would give an utter disaster. One of the few things that could make it worse would be to abandon the grid and use millions of tonnes of accumulators instead using up the resources needed for plug in hybrids.

I would myself like to have a small and cute wind turbine or preferably a small hydro powerplant. But that is not the scale needed to supply whole populations, if you need wind power for that you need lots and lots of giant pylons.


I totally agree with your viewpoint.  People don't seem to grasp the magnitude of what is coming.  Industrial scale wind power is essential - as will industrial scale solar, industrial scale geothermal, nuclear, coal-to-liquids, etc etc. We may not like it, but its going to happen.

Between now and the next 2-5 decades the world will likely be dealing with  a 1970's level of oil and natural gas production spread globally over more than twice as many people.  

For people in the US, we will have to get used to paying a very large portion of our annual incomes for energy.

That coastal property may not be as valuable for its asthethic value as you think.  Maybe those who own it will find that their best way to a reasonable lifestyle will be to put up giant wind turbines.

This whole NIMBY crowd will change their tune when their electical bill is the same as their mortgage.

The wind thing is a bit off topic, but what the heck - Yes, wind turbines will be a part of our energy solution, but they do belong at sea.  I fully expect that wind will make up a significant part of our electrical energy supply, and that will need to grow to pick up a large portion of the heating load as people switch over to electric from oil and NG.  However, we need to keep in mind where we are using most of the oil - transportation.  How do you transfer the wind power to transportation?

Consider that there are no plug-in hybrids now.  Coming from the product design world, I can tell you that making a plug-in hybrid takes more than dropping some batteries in the trunk of a Prius.  To make a viable vehicle requires designing it for that purpose from the outset.  So that will take some considerable design and development time, and there is the battery issue too.  Initially, the technology will be more expensive to make than the old IC automobile.  So what all of this means is that it will take a lot longer to get a significant number of plug-in hybrids on the roads, and that assumes the economy will be such that people can afford to buy them.  Personally, I don't see any new cars in my near future of any kind.  I'm also having trouble imagining that the developing world won't go for the established automobile design.  

So all of this leads me to think that the wind turbines will not be able to help with the largest part of our oil consumption for a long time.  About the only other way I can see to shift a big portion of our transportation energy use to electric would be electric powered trains, but that requires a huge infrastructure investment.  

Electricity can be used to produce hydrogen for upgrading heavy oils into gasoline and diesel. It would use the carbon from heavy oil and the current infrastructure with refineries etc to distribute the wind power to cars as energy stored in the added hydrogen.
An aspect of peak oil that this thread touches on is the rapid pace of change and associated dislocation that this is all going to cause.

Every new technology brings with it disruption and dislocation, but the rate of change makes a big difference. For example, not too many people want to live next door to refineries or coal-fired power plants, but those things didn't pop up overnight, either. In the past most people with the means to pick up and move have had enough warning time to do so.

What worries me about the changes coming is that they are going to have to happen both on a vast scale and at a relatively rapid pace. We don't have much practical experience with this kind of thing as a culture.

Our grandparents have had that practical experience, that is fairly recent in our culture.
They did not live in societies that were dependant on cheep energey.  
Why should people in coastal communities suffer rising water levels on account of blow dryers and/or big screen tv's used by inland people using coal-generated electricity? Everybody will have to make some adjustments to ameliorate peak oil and GW.
Those new vertical turbines look incredibly cool, and could be a great addition to the tall buildings in many cities.  They would be able to provide both energy to off set the usage of these large buildings, and also create a back up supply that would be useful for blackouts like we had in the northeast.  They could either be used to to create a battery backup for the buildings lighting or when the battery gets worn down could be used to power emergency lighting making it safer to evacuate and move around if need be.  During the last blackout the apartment building I was in had pitch black stairwells at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.  
These buildings could also sell back their excess supply, especially during the peak daytime hours if they are residences, or during the evening if they are office buildings.  
Could work well with photovoltaic on roof tops.

It looks like these vertical windmills are designed for a smaller scale.  Mainly so that a building or a house could generate on average roughly the amount of energy that it uses.  The things aren't large enough to generate 2MW of power - they are trying to solve a different problem.

The 8 foot model is roughly the sort of size that I could use for my house for example.  Don't know how the neighbors would feel about it - prices may need to climb a bit more and they will start to come around to my way of thinking :-).

In seriousness I don't know how good the wind would be right where I am, and for that matter I don't know how heavy this rascal is so I don't know whether the roof could take the load or not.

Well, as a rule of thumb the apartment building areas have 20% of the US population and use 10% of the US energy, the rural areas have 20% of the US population and use 30% of the US energy, and the suburban areas have 60% of the US population and use 60% of the US energy.
That's because apartment buildings are much larger and have surface-area affects for heating and cooling, and because rural areas use more propane and fuel oil for heat and cooking, and gasoline and diesel for transport both personally and to get stuff shipped to them.
In terms of windmills you should just tax them for the irritation and give it to the nearby neighbors who are the ones being irritated. That means those who live near the windmill, like within a kilometer. Not just the property owners and the local taxing district.
Nothing wrong with this, but not much precedence. To be fair, all those near major utility generators and transmission lines would then require compensation. Then, we could extend this concept to include airports, LNG terminals, refineries (of which we need more), gas stations, walmarts, liquor stores, freeways, high schools, - I suspect the list is actually longer than this.
NIMBY is everywhere, and does not like anything.
If we assume an average of 1kw electricity use per capita then New York city would need 8 to 10 Gw supply. At a typical 30% duty cycle that comes to 25 to 40 Gw installed. Using 5MW turbines that works out to 5000 to 8000 turbines spread out over 1000 to 1600 square mile. 1600 sq mi is 40 miles per side.
Tapping into the powerful ocean currents along the east coast maybe the most reasonable option for the the tens of millions who live there. Being under water means "out of sight out of mind."