Midweek Open Thread and News Drop...

Just because the best community in the blogosphere deserves it...
Wow, what luck!  A virgin open thread for me to set the tone of discussion on!

OK, here's my topic:  Coal-to-Liquid conversion.  Just what is its EROEI?  How favorably or unfavorably does it compare to tar sands, heavy oil, oil shale, etc.?  How difficult and expensive is it to scale up the infrastructure necessary for it to make a significant contribution to pending US and/or liquid fuel shortages?  Etc., etc.

Addedum: In my haste to be the FIRST PERSON to post on this open thread, I left out a word in my last question.  It should read "US and/or world liquid fuel shortages."
I was planning on a weekend chat on this in about a couple of weeks, if you can wait.


I suppose I can wait - after all, I don't think that world civilization will collapse between now and when you post your thread even if the most extreme "apocalypticons" are correct, now will it?

Still, if there are any experts floating or "lurking" around out there, don't be shy!

Another gaffe: I meant to say "any OTHER experts!" :)
A short answer, while you're waiting for HO.  There is no CTL process that has been done on an industrial scale.  What's been done is coal gasification combined with GTL.

Some processes that have been done on small scale:

  1. Solvent refined coal
  2. H-coal process
  3. Various pyrolysis and hydro-pyrolysis

And all of them require more investment than your typical refinery.
Tbanks for the information.  What about the Fischer-Troepsch process that famously allowed the Nazis to hang on a bit longer in WWII?  I take it from what you say that that process also invovles some sort of GTL conversion as a component?
What the Germans did is gasify coal first.  They developed the Lurgi gasification process (which is the granddaddy of gasification if you ignore water gas generators) to produce synthetic gas, which is a mixture of H2 and CO.  Using that, they could produce methane or use Fischer-Tropsch synthesis to produce diesel (easy) or gasoline (harder).  You can still buy Lurgi gasifiers from Germany, though there now are other types.

Fischer-Tropsch is the only GTL process in large-scale industrial use today, AFAIK.

The Graf Zeppelin, the Hindenburg's older sister, was fueled with gasified coal. Blimps are an energy efficient form of transport of cargo that DOESN'T absolutlely, possitively have to be there overnight.
The Zeppelins had the one flaw: Hydrogen lifting gas. Of course, a mix of rust and powdered aluminium didn't help. Helium came from Texas gas wells and was stockpiled by us. For helium blimps, there is a limited amount of helium with none left in the ground since we Yanks had the monopoly.

While blimps are energy-efficient, you can't replace the planes with them due to lack of new helium reserves. We already had a full depletion cycle!

In fact, according to the EIA "by the end of WWII, Germany 's nine indirect and 18 direct liquefaction plants were producing approximately 4 million tonnes of liquids per year, satisfying 90 percent of Germany' s total petroleum consumption".

The direct coal to liquids process was used to produce high quality gasoline, while the FT process yielded diesel fuel. The 1931 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Friedrich Bergius for the development of the direct process.

I don't know of anybody using his process nowadays.

Looked it up om Wikipedia.  The process looks close to the H coal process that Exxon was examining once upon a time.  Looks like the Germans started from a syngas feedstock to get the required hydrogen.
Sorry to change the subject, but I've been waiting for an open thread to mention a few stories.

Green Car Congress points to a new tar sand technology which liquifies the oil underground where it can be pumped out. It's just a test at this point but it looks like it could be a significant improvement over current technology.


Petrobank, a Calgary, Canada-based oil and natural gas exploration and production company, is commissioning its WHITESANDS oil-sands pilot project using the proprietary in-situ THAI combustion process. Pre-ignition warming is scheduled to begin in February, with combustion initiating by May 2006.

The THAI (Toe-to-Heel Air Injection) process combines a vertical air injection well with a horizontal production well.

During the process a combustion front is created where part of the oil in the reservoir is burned, generating heat, thereby reducing the viscosity of the remaining oil. Gravity pulls the oil to the horizontal production well.

The combustion front sweeps the oil from the toe of the horizontal production well (the underground termination of the horizontal portion) to its heel (the transition of the production well from horizontal to vertical).

THAI promises recovery of an estimated 80% of the original-oil-in-place while partially upgrading the crude oil in-situ. Petrobank also holds the rights to a well-bore integrated catalyst (CAPRI), the use of which could further upgrade the syncrude in-situ.

Again, they keep calling this stuff oil when it is really bitumen.
Not when it comes out.  The fire-flooding process partially cracks the bitumen.  The coke stays behind to burn when the flame front reaches it; the other fractions are lighter than bitumen.
In that case, they should state that the process starts with bitumen-rich soil, partially consumes the bitumen and ends with synthetic oil.  There is clearly an implication that the oil is already there.
Halfin -

Interesting article. At least on a basic concept level, the THAI process looks like a major improvement over the conventional schemes, as it actually uses part of the bitumen as fuel rather than more valuable fossil fuels. Furthermore, the more in situ you can make the process, the better.

A major consideration that may not be sufficienly appreciated at this time is the composition and disposition of the combustion gases. Unless these are just allowed to migrate to the surface through the porous overburned, then they would probably have to be collected via some sort of a network of exhaust wells.

The disposition of these gases will not be a trivial matter.The article cites a combustion gas generation rate of 255,000 cubic meters per day for a system producing 660 bpd of bitumen liquid. That is a LOT of gas for a relatively small amount of production.

 Being that the combustion is underground and proceeds from a highly oxidizing state to an oxygen-starved state (i.e, near the face of the liquifying bitumen), it is a certainty that the combustion gases will contain a high fraction of unburned hydrocarbons, possible mixed with carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide. For a full-scale system I very much doubt that it will be acceptable to release a huge volume of such highly contaminated gases to the atmosphere without some sort of emission controls. A network of exhaust wells connected to a vapor incinerator would handle the unburned hydrocarbons and the CO, but additional controls would be needed to remove the SO2. I'm not saying that air pollution control is going to be a project killer, but it is something that will add to the complexity and cost of a full-scale system.  It is not obvious from the short blurb that I read that this requirement has been fully appreciated.

Don't forget that they're flooding with air, and the off-gases are going to contain a lot of nitrogen.

Flooding with oxygen and steam (and recycled CO2?) might improve energy recovery; it would certainly reduce gas volumes.

Engineer Poet -

I'm not sure I see the significance of the fact that the off-gases will contain a lot of nitrogen, other than that it increases the volume of the off-gases.  Certainly, it will not result in any significant NOx emissions, because you need very high reaction temperatures for that to happen. As such, the nitrogen is largly just going along for the ride.

True, using oxygen plus steam would reduce the volume of the off-gases several fold, but then you would need to build a very large oxygen plant on site. Depending on how the economics look, that might be a good way to go.

I know the whole reason for doing tar sands is to obtain liquid fuel, but I can't help wondering whether in some cases it might be a whole hell of a lot easier to just do in situ gasification of the tar sands and use the product gases (probably much like coal gas) as a substitute for our increasingly tight natural gas supplies. What do you think?

I think the people in the business probably know what their most profitable product is.
Another article on a new technology is unfortunately not online except for a brief intro:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&colID=5&articleID=00052DCC-FEF6-13CB-BC1C83414 B7F012A

If you find the February Scientific American on the newstand you could look for this article discussing new technologies to allow refineries to deal with high sulfur "sour" oil. More and more oil is coming out sour these days as the light sweet is getting hard to find. Desulfuring the oil will both let existing refineries use this oil and also help to meet new stricter air quality standards.

Removing sulfur is a stinky proposition for oil refineries. The U.S. and Europe are tightening limits on the sulfur content of gasoline at the same time the crude oil coming out of the ground is becoming increasingly "sour," or sulfurous. Desulfurization technology "has pretty much been wrung out," says Thomas Wellborn, principal consultant of Denver-based Hydrocarbon Exploration and Development. "We need new, innovative technologies." A few young companies with unconventional methods may soon answer that call.

Refineries separate crude oil by boiling point, which is related to density. Most desirable are the lighter (less dense) fractions, which include gasoline and diesel. Heavier fractions contain more sulfur, and too much renders the petroleum useless. Decades ago oil refineries adopted a process called hydrodesulfurization (HDS) to strip sulfur atoms from oil molecules. Sulfurous fractions are mixed with hydrogen and a cobalt-molybdenum catalyst, yielding hydrogen sulfide. Providing hydrogen for the process is expensive, and as oils get more sour, higher pressures and more stable catalysts are needed to break the sulfur bonds. Sourer oils also tend to be heavier, which requires further refining and brings along nitrogen and heavy metals, which foul the catalyst....

SA also had a couple of amusing blurbs in its recap of stories from 50, 100 and 150 years ago.  The two stories from 150 years ago were about how in Paris the fuel to cook your meal cost more than the food, and how in Egypt they were chopping up mummies to use as fuel.

I wonder how my BTUs per cord of mummy you get?

Speaking of sulfur in crude oil, how does it get in there to begin with?  It's been a long time since I took chemistry and microbiology in high school, but I don't recall that organic life-forms have much use for sulfur as a component of their metabolic processes.  Isn't the stuff poisonous, in fact?
I'm no expert either, but check here to learn about the sulfur cycle in biology

Good question !

I'm no expert but fossil hydrocarbons are generally thought to have formed in anerobic (lacking air) environments at the bottom of seas and lakes. In these circumstances certain bacteria can chemically process sulphur to produce energy, much as we do with oxygen, though the sulphur process is less productive. Sulphur products (H2S, SO2) are very soluble in water, more so than CO2, and would be likely to remain in situ within liquids in stagnant environments. Stir up the bottom of a stagnant pond and you may well get a whiff of 'bad eggs' - that is hydrogen sulphide (H2S).
There was an article or set of  finds concerning something like this.  I a cave system they found over 30 new species of animals, on the cell size levels, living off the sulfuric acid dripping from the roof of the cave.  Then later  the articles about the undersea Lava flows and smoke stacks that have such a high concentration of Sulfuric acid, that we would die in the water just by being there, but that a vast array of live seems to just use the chemical energy in the high sulfur content water, allong with the heat energy to live.  undersea smokers.  

So sulfur might be there because the earth is  full of life living where we are just now finding them.

This one's gotten a fair amount of attention on the blogosphere:


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is a highly respected, peer-reviewed journal, right up there with Science and Nature. This article is quite skeptical about Peak Oil but I didn't find it super convincing. Here is a blurb about the article, from Johns Hopkins:


We learn that the author, Roger Stern, is a grad student at Hopkins (an older student judging from the picture). So there is not a lot of reputation backing up this analysis, aside from the fact that it got published in a good journal.

Most of his Peak Oil skepticism relies on publications and analysis which will already be familiar to readers here, particularly Michael Lynch's work; also Maugeri's "Never Cry Wolf" Science article, http://phys4.harvard.edu/~wilson/energypmp/maugeri%20science%20may04.pdf
(Here is a link to a couple of letters responding and taking exception to Maugeri: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sci;309/5731/52 )

I need to track down a few more of Stern's references; I don't think the paper is worthless but he is definitely making very strong statements about oil abundance that would require more backing than I have found so far.


Both of your last two sites (1. and 2. below) are pranksters playing with a powder keg of rhetorical words.

1. This one: Forgetta-bout dat the Wolf ate the Wolf-crying-Boy (--Besides, we's Harvard) concludes that wood, coal and oil are interchangeable commodities and the only issue is price.

What wolf dung! Oil is a LIQUID. Can those Harvard graduates spell (spill) "liquid"? Coal and wood are SOLIDS.

Children in elementary school learn about the differences between solids and liquids. Solids cannot be easily pressure squirted through a fuel injector valve to be admixed with oxygen and to thereby create a highly combustible mixture otherwise known as the big bang inside your automobile engine. Solids cannot be easily pumped through pipelines. Coal and wood leave behind solid ash product when burned. It takes a lot of work (and human deaths) to cut the solid fuel product out from where it is found (i.e. West Virginia coal mines) and transport it to market. Duh, thanks there Harvard wise ones.

(On a deeper-think level, well beyond Harvard economist capabilities; oil and natural gas are fluidic compositions which Mother Nature has pre-filterd for us by passing these fluids through porous filter rock before it gets to the trap dome rock reservoir from which it is extracted --or "produced" as the oil companies like to pretend. In other words, Mother Nature has already done a lot of the hard hard work (as Harvard graduates refer to it) of separating out undesirable particles from the more desirable ones. Yeah we humans still have to do a final "refining" step with oil to separate out the various distillates, but think how much harder it would have been if Mamma Nature had not silver-spoon fed us by pre-filtering the stuff for us over those millions of years through the porous rock filters.)

2. This other one: When-oh-When Will the last drop of Maple Syrup Ungunk itself from My Dispenser? plays the old-and-tired game of: When Will the last drop of Oil Disappear?

It's a deceptive word game. It's pure rhetoric. The answer is never. We will never get to the last drop of oil buried somewhere in undeground rock. But what does that have to do with the price of gasoline at the pump?

Deceptive word games.

I have to say, I am astonished by your criticisms. They seem to have nothing to do with the links!  The first one:


you say "concludes that wood, coal and oil are interchangeable commodities and the only issue is price." But I see nothing about that. The only place wood and coal are mentioned is as examples of energy commodities that got replaced. 99% of the article discusses evidence that oil is abundant. You may or may not find it convincing but your comment about the difference between solids and liquids is a total non sequitur.

As far as the second link, I am even more baffled:


You claim this is a "deceptive word game" about "when will the last drop of oil disappear". But actually this is a letter criticizing the first link and taking a pro-peak-oil position. He accuses Maugeri of double-counting reserves and of ignoring demand growth. He concludes "Oil resources are running down, and the supply is inelastic."

I can only imagine that you failed to read the link and perhaps just responded based on the title. Your comments are totally off base.

Halfin, you're right. I did not read the links in detail & probably mixed the two.

However, when someone frames the question as "are we running out of oil"? --or allows others to do so-- that is a set up. We will never "run out of oil". There will always be a last drop of that gooey molasses stuck somehwere between rock particles underground.

The Harvard article states:

Although hydrocarbon resources are irrefutably
finite, no one knows just how finite.
Oil is trapped in porous subsurface
rocks, which makes it difficult to estimate
how much oil there is and how much can
be effectively extracted. Some areas are
still relatively unexplored or have been
poorly analyzed. Moreover, knowledge of
in-ground oil resources increases dramatically
as an oil reservoir is exploited.

The Harvard article also states:

The Age of Coal began when declining
supplies of wood in Great Britain caused
its price to climb. Two centuries later, oil
took the place of coal as "the king of energy
sources" because of its convenience and
its high flexibility in many applications,
but coal was neither exhausted nor scarce.
Oil substitution is simply a matter of cost
and public needs, not of scarcity. To "cry
wolf " over the availability of oil has the
sole effect of perpetuating a misguided obsession
with oil security and control that is
already rooted in Western public opinion--
an obsession that historically has invariably
led to bad political decisions.

The first block quote irks me because "they" don't know either. It could be much less than what the so-called "proved reserves" numbers say.

In the second block quote, maybe I'm reading it wrong, but the author appears to suggest that oil is a mere substitute based primarily on cost.

I didn't read the PNAS article that closely, but his only argument that oil is abundant comes in economic form, if it were scarce its price would have risen over time. This is a mistake we have seen before, believing that the market measures the absolute availability of finite resources. The counter argument, and one that comes from economists themselves, is that the market measures availability only at a particular point in time, and nothing absolutely. One has to wonder about the PNAS reviewers for this article. Were they wowed by his econometric tricks?
I have a question for Stuart or anyone who would like to help...

Do most fields in produciton use secondary or tertiary techiques, and how long after 50% of the reserve is gone, can they keep production at or near peak levels?

For instance, could most fields be 60-70% depeleted and still be producing at or near peak levels?


sorry for the typos, i wish i could fix them...
Good question - especially since this may be a factor in delaying the world peak of oil if these secondary and tertiary techniques are applied all-out to keep the supply of oil growing.  I recommend that you repost this question on the next open thread - preferably as early as possible! - since the present one is probably reaching the end of its useful life/organic growth.
Thanks Phil. Good advice. I got the first one on Thurday's!! :)
Oh, I almost forgot the most important one!


This is courtesy of Peak Oil Debunked, a rebuttal to Matt Simmons' "Twilight in the Desert". Apparently the article is normally not freely available but this shortened version is available free for now.

The author is Jim Jarrell, president of Ross Smith Energy Group, http://www.rseg.com , a Canadian energy advising group.

I won't try to summarize the whole thing here, but they take issue with several of Simmons' points. Of course, Simmons wrote a whole book, while this is just a few pages of analysis, so probably there is a lot that Simmons said that they don't address here (I haven't read the book). But they do give some reasons why Saudi analyses should be seen as credible, why water cut should be manageable, and why SA has great potential for future exploration and development. They also point out a number of errors in Simmons' book, although it's not clear how significant these are.

In any case it is always useful to see another side to the story. It's too bad that the full report is apparently only available to RSEG clients but this at least gives some of the flavor. Perhaps Simmons will someday post a reply, which will help to clarify the issues further.

That report quotes the USGS: "On the topic of remaining reserve potential, Twilight ignores a prominent, and in this case unbiased, independent opinion. In 2000, the US Geological Survey (USGS) ranked Saudi Arabia number one in the world, in terms of undiscovered resource potential, with a mean expectation of 87 billion barrels of oil and a range between 29 and 160 billion. The USGS figure also is conservative, dating from a time when the outlook for real long-term oil prices was much less bullish than it is now. Price expectations then were absolutely miniscule compared to Twilight's current forecast of $200 per barrel oil by 2010."

Isn't that the same USGS that predicts a vast amount of oil in Greenland?

Yup.  As Deffeyes put it, the USGS estimate is now one Kuwait behind in their U.S.predictions, and one Middle East behind in their world predictions.  

Gonna be tough to make that up...

Would a drop to 80 mbpd, cause $200? (didn't read the book either)
As a very rough rule of thumb I am using the calculation that: for each 2% shortfall in supply there will be a 50% increase in price (multiplicative). A drop to 80 mbpd would be a 6% approx shortfall, that would result in a price of about $220 given today's price of $66.

I've based the calculation on the response to supply shocks of the 1970s but not derived it in any scientifically meaningful way.

I think it is very dangerous to extrapolate price elasticity. What is less elastic at one price in one market is more elastic at other prices in other markets or other periods... For example I don't believe in us seeing $220 of oil sustained because at this price we'd already seen half the world gone bankrupt - maybe a theoretically possible scenario but in practice I'd expect the market to fall apart in segments at much lower prices.
Fair comment. I use the calculation to guess short term oil price spikes in response to a short term reductions in supply. Over that sort of timescale there is no real scope for demand elasticity or mitigation to come into play.

Typically the pull back from such a price spike seems to be about 20% to 25% over the next 3 months even when the shortfall persists, as those effects kick in. So, if supply was cut to 80 mbpd today I would expect the price to spike to over $200 within a few days and drop back to a bit over $150 over the next few months if the shortfall persisted.

Yes, there would be a massive shock to the markets but parts of the world wouldn't go bankrupt with that size of short term shock. Countries would typically introduce emergency measures to help cope if the situation persisted for more than a few days. However, economic reality will probably change fundamentally should such a shock occur now.

Also I am working off old data in devising the calculation, we haven't had that kind of oil shock for over 25 years and much has changed since then. My calculation seemed to work reasonably well for the hurricane spike at the end of August 2005 when about 1% of supply was disrupted.

Supporting evidence for my rule of thumb that I've just spotted:

The World Bank forecasts that a supply shock that reduced oil deliveries by 2 million barrels a day could push prices to more than $90 a barrel for more than a year and reduce growth by 1.5% the following year.

http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story.asp?guid=%7B5C8B4A57%2D37C0%2D4D55%2DBA52%2D1C388C7E1C71%7D&am p;siteid=mktw&dist=
Well found, Halfin. This is what we were searching for a few days back and couldn't find!

Jarrel does point out several inconsistencies in Matt Simmon's book. Those do undermine the thesis that Saudi production is about to tank dramatically but, IMO, Jarrell provides no argument suggesting that Saudi production can be significantly ramped up in future.

Apart from a couple of SPE technical reports Jarrell uses this presentation:
for several of his arguments. It is very well worth reading and is the most detailed statement from Saudi Aramco that I have found. One should read it critically, bearing in mind the presenter and audience.

Given Stuart's prediction that post-peak there will be a slow squeeze I would be interested in getting a measure of how much "pain" the price of oil inflicts on the world economy. How does the pain from the recent rise in price compare with what was inflicted in the 70s and 80s?

As a first cut, one could use the proportion of global spending accounted for by oil by convolving global consumption with the price and normalising by Global World Product, with all prices adjusted for inflation (US inflation?  Or does someone calculate a global inflation rate?). Does anyone have to hand the annual or monthly figures to calculate this?  I'll try to dig them out if not, but my guess is that Stuart has them squirrelled away somewhere!

I don't know if it makes any sense to try and calculate it that way.  There's already been a lot of pain, but people in western nations have not experienced it.  They've had riots over fuel prices in Yemen, Indonesia, Panama, and other Third World countries.

If there's a slow squeeze, this could go on quite awhile.  The poorer countries being priced out of the market, while we grumble about the cost but keep driving our SUVs.  Who knows, maybe we'll eventually be importing crops from Third World countries to make ethanol while they starve.


The "pain" is now:

Ford cuts 25,000 jobs, shutters plants.
GM cuts 25,000 jobs, shutters plants.

Airlines (Delta) go bankrupt.

The planes are falling out of the sky.
The cars are rolling off the economic shoulders of our highway to prosperity.

You don't see the pain?

If you were a worker at an auto factory in the USA, you would see the pain.

If you were a worker at an auto subcontractor company, you would see the pain

As they say, when your neighbor loses his job its called a "recession", but when YOU lose you're job, heck that is "pain". The pain is here. The pain is now.

(Didn't mean to pick on 'you'. I didn't mean you people.)

This is part of the economic problem to which I referred in another thread. Technologically, we can replace all those gas guzzling cars with other modes of transportation. But can we do it economically? That's far less clear to me. These people don't have money to replace the family gas guzzler. Hell, they might not be able to put food on the table either shortly. And this is going on in various countries throughout the world as the underclass grows. Do we actually expect the Bill Gates and Warren Buffetts of the world to politely fund the financial restructuring of the entire middle class? I find that notion preposterous.

When the crap hits the fan, we're all going to be saying that we know how to solve this problem with some combination of existing technologies. We may even be right in our beliefs. But technology is the least of our problems. The real problem comes back to political and economic willpower to actually do what needs to be done. I fear that anyone who believes 21st century man is going to meekly go to bread lines and live in tent cities as people did in the 1930s is in for a rude awakening.

And the choice for the hungry and homeless will be?  If I lose everything, I will still have to take care of my family as best I can.  Maybe that will mean soup kitchens and Hooverville - I don't know.  

We face political, environmental, energy depletion, and economic whirlwinds.  They are all related, of course, but which will manifest itself first?  I would have to guess the economic one will hit hardest next (I believe the political one is already well underway).  But as much as I dread it, I have to welcome it, because nothing will change until it does.  Although it's not at all clear it will change for the better.  

You are totally correct. I know where I can buy all the components I need to build an E.V. I would LOVE to switch to an E.V. I would LOVE to build one. However, there is one thing I do not have: money.

The U.S. came very close to a revolution in the 1930's. If things get that bad again, do you really think the establishments will stand without conflict? (Veterans Bonus March)

As I idled down the freeway early yesterday morning it occured to me that the person next to me owned a vehicle worth 25 TIMES the value of mine.

Probably with 1/25th the mileage.

There is no difference between "21st century" man and 1930's man. We still have just 5 fingers on each hand and a brain that is programmed by evolution to obey authority.

So yes, we will go meekly into that dark night.

My point was that the time of the Stuff Hitting the Fan (SHTF) is NOW.

Remember when a man could single handidly support a family of four with just one income? (The father knows best 1950's) Remember when they served you meals on airplanes? Remember when companies gave health benefits? Remember when there was some modicum of truth in governement and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) actually reflected the true cost of food, shelter, etc.?

All that is gone.
We are already on that downward silent slide along the oiless slippery slope.

Remember when oil was $30/barrel?
That was just 3 years ago.

Now we are at $55-$70/bbl and the minions of the power elite are trying to convince you there is some guy called "The Economy" and that "He" is adjusting just fine to these double-triple energy prices.

So obviously it is only YOU who is not adjusting. Obviously it is "only" all those out-of-work auto workers who are not "adjusting". Obviously it is "only" all those out-of-work tech workers whose jobs were efficiently "outsourced" who are not "adjusting". Obviously it is everyone around you whose husbands, wives and children have to work round the clock just to keep up, who are not "adjusting".

The lying liars are not your mamma's neo-cons.

This is a new breed.
These are the "Decepti-cons".
They are masters in the art of deception.
(Or maybe they are out-of-work actors from the "Transformers" movie, but never mind that.)

Bottom line is that the S is already H'ing TheFan (SH'gTF).
And what are we doing about it?
We are going meekly into the night.

step back, as a poorly adjusted under-employed tech worker, all I can say is YOU ROCK! It seems to be go meekly, or die before sundown (or maybe that's powerdown). I wish mamma had told me there would be days like these.
I'm no sooth see-er. me too, am an "under"-employed tech worker. The good old days of pre-2001 internet boom are gone. Now it's just scraping the bottom of the barrel and begging for work. Lately there has been a little boomlet around here, but I'm not sure how long this one is going to last or if i'll get paid for work I do. sometimes you don't. that's the nature of the "new" economy. sometimes you do work and you don't get paid. tough luck huh?
mamma couldn't have told you. she didn't know. everyone thought tech would be tops. it sure looked that way in 1995-2001. if you could just pronounce "internet" and HTML they would hire you. but now it's over. now GM and Ford are laying off. IBM is killing its pension plans. scary.
Remember when a man could single handidly support a family of four with just one income? (The father knows best 1950's)

One person earning a middle-class income can still support a family of four--at the standard of living of the 1950s middle class.  Of course, nowadays we would describe that standard as "living in poverty."

You don't start out with a family of four, of course.  First you live at  home (while working and saving).  Then you live with a roommate or two.  When you get married you move into a tiny one-bedroom apartment and stay there even after the first kid is born.  You don't go into debt at all until you have enough saved up for 20% down on a house--if you can't pay cash, you do without until you can afford it.

I'm not old enough to remember a 1950s standard of living (I was born in 1959), but I remember the 1960s and 1970s.  My family was pretty well-off (my dad was a college professor), but we never had as high a standard of living as lots of "poor" folks seem to have now:  We never had air conditioning.  We didn't get a second car until I was in high school.  We didn't get a color TV until after I'd gone away to college.  We never had a swimming pool.  We never took vacations overseas.  Eating out was for special occasions.

In America nowadays, even poor folks eat meat twice a day.

Of course, it's impossible to move back to a 1950s standard of living in some areas.  In particular, the medical care of the 1950s would be called malpractice.  Hand-me-downs are still possible for clothes, but not for expensive baby-care equipment (child car seats, cribs, etc.) because new items are so much safer than ones just two or three years old, that it would be irresponsible to use the old ones.

Putting aside a few such impossible areas, I think you'd find that two educated, motivated adults could support a family of four at a 1950s standard of living on a single income.  You'd just be surprised to see how low that standard of living is.

That's right.  The 50's middle class standard of living was WAY below what is regarded as necessary now.  I went through both high school and college in the 50's so I remember it well.  We were well off, but by present standards we would be regarded as living in poverty.
To some extent, apples and oranges, gentlemen. A two(+) income family is now necessary to provide the same basic essentials as were provided by one income-producing member of the household back then, that is, housing, food, clothing, transportation, etc. Volumes have been written on it, in fact.

Sure no one could afford a color TV in the 1960's, but can today. That is not due to higher living, that's a technological and economic change....color tv's are more affordable in real dollars, because it's old technology now, rather than cutting edge. You could substitue "we couldn't afford a plasma big screen until...." today, and it would be the same relative cost.  Same for air conditioning...it is as affordable today as fans were in the 1950's.  
We are not necessarily living higher on the hog, the hog just grew some.

Needs have also changed.  Non-negotiable needs, like employment and transportation to get to it.
In the 1950's, a typical American family had only one automobile, and it cost approximately 1/2 a year's average salary. But only one person needed to drive to work each day. Today, a typical American household has 2+, since most American households have 2+ employed members.  And a typical  automobile now costs as much as an average American's salary for a year.
Public transport was actually more readily available in the 1950's than it is today.  Anyone remember streetcars? Buses that were used by normal (non-indigent) people?  Sidewalks?   Businesses and housing were often within walking distance of each other.  Towns were pedestrian friendly (main street style), no 8 lane highways to cross.  50 mile/day commutes from the still-barely-affordable suburbs were not a necessity.  The number of Americans with commutes of longer than 90 minutes each way has increased 95% since 1990 alone.

On housing: From 1955 to 2005, the average price of an house sold in the US has soared 3600%!  Wages certainly haven't.
A generation ago, a typical wage-earner could buy a typical house; today, it takes two incomes to buy an average home in fully 75 percent of America's cities.  And that means housing is just as affordable as it used to be?  
The best way to understand the squeeze on families is to compare inflation-adjusted mortgage payments over time--not what families theoretically would pay, but what families are actually paying month by month. The data are relentless: from the 1970s through today, mortgage payments--what families actually spend--has gone up 81%.
Just since 1976, federal housing assistance has been slashed by 48%. Only 2.7% of San Francisco's teachers, 5.7% of its cops, and 4.2% of its nurses can afford to buy a home there.
Thats the problem right there.
To put this another way, in 1953, at the beginning of the National Security State, a skilled job gave a family a mother who could afford to stay home and raise children, with twenty percent down on a starter home that cost between five and six thousand dollars. Fifty years later, the median income, produced by both mother AND father working, generates only 3% percent of the wealth necessary to actually own the equivalent starter home. Any value generated by the home itself exists through increasing prices, not paid off equity, as was once the case.

An American family simply has less real wealth today than 40 years ago.
At the level of 'We the People', it's not something you're partying over.

excellent points.
Our population has grown since 1950's
meaning that some people are going to have to live farther away from centers of economic activity and commute to work

Advances in technology, like Moore's Law make it unfair to say that having a color TV today makes you way better off than having a vacuum tube radio in 1950

Some so-called luxury items, like internet connection are in fact necessities for earning a living in a high tech world.

Here's my anecdotal piece of evidence: My parents had five children, born between 1960 and 1970. My mother did not work. My father's income provided for the family well, including paying for college for all five.

Today, not a singe one of their five children can afford to buy the house they were raised in. All of us feel that we are members of the first generation to experience a drop in living standards. And all of us believe that our own children will fall even further.

The economic reality of housing coupled with the oil peak makes me gladder and gladder every day I never had any kids. Making $5,000/year, I can't afford a house or condo in the Chicago area. You'd need to make $100,000/year to even THINK of being a first time homebuyer. You'd need not just two incomes, but two GOOD incomes! Who is buying these sport utility homes anyways? For a home to be anywhere near affordable, it'll be a former meth lab house in "bulletproof snowsuit country" - a hazardous neighbourhood.

And the cars. I was riding a bus today, and it rolled by a used car dealer. I saw a 16-year-old VW going for $7,000! A car old enough to go to its own prom or join the military if it was a person! How long, seriously, can you expect it to last? Until it's old enough to drink ethanol? And not get carded at the pump? Of course, new cars have gotten so expensive (like the homes) that you pay top dollar for junk if you can't afford the new item. A new car could outlast the loan, but IF you don't drive it so much the odometer shows the distance to the moon when you trade it in! I have a coworker who logs 30,000 miles on his car a year. At that rate, it'll take 6.5 years to "reach the moon".

With these two patterns involving 10 percent of the populace with tons of money, oil prices can soar like a jet burning steroid-laced fuel and this lucky group can live "normally" while everyone else gets the crumbs at best. I'm just waiting for the housing market to crash like a jet running out of that steroid-laced fuel. The oil weapon can become a weapon of mass foreclosure. (WMF) Sheesh.

There is a HUGE mo-person's-land between working poor and middle class. $40,000/year is in that hysteresis zone.

I think that after the baby boom generation wave moves past, there must be a reconglomeration assets that are presently, shall we say, "overly-distributed" at this point.  Hopefully they will be redistributed to the relatively fewer heirs of the baby boomers and previous generation that built them rather than to those relatively fewer shareholders of Chase Manhatten and Citibank.
I don't disagree with much of anything you're saying.  Certainly not that the American family has less wealth today than 40 years ago.

I was just trying to make the point that we're living at a much higher standard of living, and that that's a large part of the reason that we have to have more wage earners (and even so, end up with less wealth).

According to Illusions of Opportunity by John E. Schwarz:  "in the early 1950s, fully two fifths of American households had no automobile, about a third did not have a private telephone or a television, and the homes of about a third of all Americans were dilapidated or were without running water or a private toilet and bath.  Only a small minority of families enjoyed such basics as a mixer or had a hot-water heater in the home."

If you don't mind living with no car, no hot water, in a dilapidated shack, you too can support a family of four on a single income, just like people did in the 1950s.

Staying with the analogy; Shouldn't you refer to "them" as the "Neo-Spin..sters"?
Warning - this is the kind of post I write when I wake up early and my brain is half-working:

I won't paste in my whole blog entry, but here's my open thread contribution:

As a hybrid driver, nay as a scientist and engineer, I've been annoyed by the "sloppy data handling" of the "hybrid hype" guys.  Too often they pick convenient numbers (the best non-hybrid mileage they've heard, and the worst hybrid mileage they've come across) to make their case.

I've always wanted to see an apples-to-apples comparison of real-world mileages, and yesterday I found one.  The EPA has a new database on-line.

Using these numbers, the Toyota Camry (2005, 4cyl, auto) gets a real-world average of 27.8 mpg, and the Prius (2005) gets an average of 47.6 ... an improvement of 71%.  That's certainly bigger than the rash of recent "hybrid hype" articles would have us believe.

I'm not writing this as a hybrid fiend (in many cases a diesel will do as well) ... but from a PO standpoint I think it shows the improvement that is possible.  Check out the real-world numbers in that database ... we have some of the proverbial "low hanging fruit" out there as we get the less efficient cars off the road.

(Be advised: Insufficient coffee consumed to be coherent.)

I agree that we can go a long way with hybrids to bring up the average MPG.  My concerns are: Time and Cost.

It takes several years for the national fleet of vehicles to change over.  The last car I had, had over 230,000 miles.  My latest has only 53K and I plan on keeping it a while.  And I am not the only one.  I saw a Ford Pinto last week going down the road!  It will take a minimum of 5 years for the hybrids to get more common just because only 2 companies are making them.  (Also, I saw yesterday GM is sticking with the hydrogen fuelcell tech.  If you have GM stock, sell it NOW!)

Then there is the cost of these things.  Look at some of the 'old beater' cars running around.  How many of them can afford a $5K to $10K markup on their cars?  Break Even analysis is not that hard to do when you don't have the cash for the alternatives.

I don't mean to say hybrids are a bad idea.  I am planning for my next car to be one (in about 4 to 6 years).  I just don't think they will be a panacea.  I look for scooters and motorcycles to make a big push.

It will be interesting to see how it breaks out.  It will depend on fuel prices of course.  If prices climb another notch we'll get to see people react to the economics (calculating payback of a new vehicle) or if they respond out of simple frustration (not wanting another $50 fill-up).

I think you're right about scooters.  I started to see a few when prices touched $3 (California).  The great thing about them is that they don't force you to sell your car ... you can just use it less.

The hard thing about predicting what the "bulk" of people will do is knowing where the bulk of people will have their heads - prices and the reaction to them.

Anecdotal evidence here- last year a friend in Charleston, South Carolina received an electric scooter as a wedding present.  While that may seem strange, the oddest part came a few months later when my friend received his third unsolicited offer for the scooter.  This friend runs a kayak touring company and rents bikes and surfboards.  He decided he would see if he could sell scooters as well and within a few weeks he had sold 5 using only word-of-mouth advertising.  Now the flat topography and moderate climate of Charleston lend themselves to scooting but I was amazed at this development.  One more item to pass along to you on this topic, I have another friend in medical school at Duke University.  He's a big technology fan and a big free market fan and believes the 2 together will save us from a global peak in oil production- no worries!  He drives a gas guzzling pickup truck so I asked him the other day how gas prices were treating him.  He informed me of his purchase of a scooter.  I guess he's right, everyone will be able to take advantage of the technological advances in scooting and purchase one on the free market.  Smaller roads and fewer emissions and millions of scoot-commuters buzzing to work- can't wait!        
I'm not convinced about scooters. Welcome to suburbia (Omaha NE). I have a one way commute of 8 miles via the highway. Not exactly safe on a scooter. Add in winter trying to ride on icy roads or in the summer amid hail storms or year around heavy wind. Again not safe. (oh yeah, and in a business suit)

Then on the weekends when I go to the grocery store I can't exactly put a weeks worth of groceries on the scooter. Just some of the realities of switching.

He still has his gas-guzzling truck, though, right?

Most people seem to be buying scooters in addition to cars, not instead of them.  While that can cut down gasoline use, it still makes scooters an option for the wealthy rather than a solution for everyone.

There was a local shop selling Chinese four-stroke gas scooters for under a grand.

But we're back to price and customer response.  The very poor are looking for a car for less than a grand.  On the other hand, the higher you go in income the less gas prices will matter.

Some middle segment (especially in warm states with safe roads) may go the scooter route.  Conservative soul that I am, I think I'd wait until there are a lot on the road and other drivers are used to dealing with them.

But heck, for scooter distances my bicycle works pretty well.  (Geez louise, it cost more than a Chinese scooter anyway.)

While based on fact, my comment included some sarcasm.  I don't think electric scooters are the answer to peak oil.  Even as a supplement to traditional automobiles scooters have their issues.  These include safety, electrical grid capacity, limited resources available for battery production, limited geographical range and terrain restrictions, weather complications and the ability to carry passengers as well as cargo- groceries for example.  I was more interested in the sociological aspect of the decisions made by the new scooter owners.  Did they make the purchase out of a sense of necessity in the face of rising gasoline prices?  Was it security in light of fuel shortages post-Katrina?  Was it a planned response or simply an immediate reaction?  Why not just get a bicycle- just couldn't stand the idea of using one's own muscles?  I think the difference between whether we respond to peak oil (implying rationalism) or simply react is paramount to how well we will live on in the post-petroleum era.  I look to examples like scooter purchases and the reasons driving them to gain some useful insights into our future action/inaction.

There are inexpensive methods of scooting.  Once again I think proximity to daily needs will affect the usefulness of such devises.    


I've been considering buying an electric bike for awhile now.  Electric, because the hills are positively brutal around here (and I live on top of one).  I like peddling, but I need some help on the hills.  I don't mind walking up hills, but I hate peddling up them.  Especially pulling a load of groceries on a trailer.

Also, electric bikes are considered bikes if they don't go faster than 20 mph, which means you can use them on the sidewalks here.

There's another interesting site here:


I'm intrigued by the "pedal-activated" models.  The more you pedal, the more the electric motor helps you.

If you consider the per-mile electric consumption of scooters, their limited daily range and the fact that they would mostly be charging overnight, the grid load from even a hundred million of them would be quite small.

Charging EV's at night would allow bigger plants to run more steadily and avoid the need for gas-fired peaking generators.

What is the issue with small diesels in the US?  I understand that they will have a tough time meeting coming emissions regs - does anyone know if this is due to the sulfur content of our fuel, or are the US regs just more stringent?

I really liked the diesel Fiesta I rented in the UK, it was a perfectly nice car.  The cost of production has to be less than the electric hybrid.

New diesel cars have been illegal to sell in California, and several other states, for a few years now because of emissions related to sulphur content. Mercedes and VW do sell some in the other states. Most manufacturers did offer small diesel cars and pickups in the 80's. But, they didn't sell well. I once went looking for a Fiat-diesel powered Ford Ranger to test drive but none were available.

I think that poor acceleration and self-service stations were probably major reasons they didn't get better market share. I'm sure hoping more companies give it another try.

Yes, I know they were miserable things then, but that's not true anymore.  Microprocessor engine controls have revolutionized diesels too.  But my question was more concerning the emissions issues in the US, and whether this is due to the sulfer content of our fuel, or just tighter regulations compared to the EU.
I seem to recall reading that it's tighter regulations.  
Tighter regulations, certain, coming in this year. But another aspect is the way that the different US states have handled it - many have insisted on slightly different formulations of diesel fuel. As you can imagine this will lead to extra costs in refining, distribution, marketing, etc. Unlikely that US regulations are stricter than EU regulations. Weird that in EU land we are happy to agree a common standard yet in US land the states have got funny and set different standards, worth investigating I'd say ;)
From Slate.com, Oct. 2005:

While Americans are decrying high gasoline prices, those prices would be far higher if not for foreign refiners. The United States is now importing about 1.4 million barrels of gasoline per day to meet demand. But it's unlikely that foreign refiners will be able to supply enough diesel -- particularly of the low-sulfur variety -- to help meet rising U.S. demand. That's because the EPA's new standards are far more stringent than those in Western Europe, a leading consumer of diesel. Furthermore, the entire European market currently has a shortage of diesel-refining capacity.

Odograph's blog will whet your appetite for blue highway restaurants.  

The EPA database seems accurate wrt the closest matches for our two vehicles.  You have to decide if you are driving enough to earn back the premium on the cars.

Those darn "Jevons paradox" guys would tell you I'm only eating barbecue because I have a Prius ;-) ... and not dream that I'd, like, plan ahead and buy a high mileage car before I began my (semi)retirement road-trips.
While based on fact, my comment included some sarcasm.  I don't think electric scooters are the answer to peak oil.  Even as a supplement to traditional automobiles scooters have their issues.  These include safety, electrical grid capacity, limited resources available for battery production, limited geographical range and terrain restrictions, weather complications and the ability to carry passengers as well as cargo- groceries for example.  I was more interested in the sociological aspect of the decisions made by the new scooter owners.  Did they make the purchase out of a sense of necessity in the face of rising gasoline prices?  Was it security in light of fuel shortages post-Katrina?  Was it a planned response or simply an immediate reaction?  Why not just get a bicycle- just couldn't stand the idea of using one's own muscles?  I think the difference between whether we respond to peak oil (implying rationalism) or simply react is paramount to how well we will live on in the post-petroleum era.  I look to examples like scooter purchases and the reasons driving them to gain some useful insights into our future action/inaction.

There are inexpensive methods of scooting.  Once again I think proximity to daily needs will affect the usefulness of such devises.    



I also drive a Prius (2004) and yesterday's 35 mile commute home, which is more uphill than down, was into sustaned 35-45 mph winds on rural interstate.  I set the cruise at 68 like always.  I passed 5 times as many people as normal.  The other 4 cylinder cars and tractor trailers were having a tough time holding 65.  The speed limit is 70.  My gas milage really took a hit.  I only averaged 40 mpg for the trip instead of the normal 47 in winter.  

In summer I average over 50.  Oh, and I car pool so there are multiple people not just me.  I used to do the same commute alone with a 4 cylinder Toyota pickup and 24 mpg was tops.  Bill Ford is on the right track in focusing on hybrids and green technology for transportation in the future.  I am rooting for him to catch up to Toyota.

I'm also a hybrid driver (honda civic), but lately I have been finding myself in a rush or running late and I end up not making fuel economy the a priority. I end up with about 40 mpg or sometimes less. If I drive with fuel economy in mind, I can get around 45. In the summer closer to 50.  I'm driving a 35 mile commute up and down hills and realize that the cruise control doesn't optimize fuel economy on hills. Your speed profile has to be more like that of a pendulum, speeding up down hills and slowing on the way up, similar to a heavily loaded tractor trailer.
Ageed.  Honda has a slightly different drive train than the Toyotas and Fords.  Hybrid drivers tend to be looking for ways to improve mpg to optimize efficiency for a particular situation, cold, hot, traffic, etc.  I value the feedback the hybrid displays give on hunting for fuel efficiency if you want to do that.

I also have to focus on time versus mpg at times.  The hybrids still deliver great fuel economy under those driving conditions, but you know what you could be getting!  

I have tracked milage (tank to tank fill ups) in my vehicles for 25 years and I know what agressive driving does to conventional power plants as well.  There is easily a 10-15% swing based on driving style for all vehicles.  With conventional this is 1-3 mpg when you start under 20 and most people can't see it.  For hybrids a 10-15% swing is 5-8 mpg and that you can track easily even without careful records.

Odograph - My Nissan Sentra (05), gets me 32-35 mpg around town and 35-38 mpg highway, depending on terrain.

What helps me get better milage is the feedback from a dashboard  computer. I think this innovation is an excellent conservation tool as it has changed my driving habits.

So far as hybrid vehicles it seems the cost of battery replacement should be written into the lifetime cost of the vehicle as well as with diesel vehicles injector/pump overhaul for those who hold on to their cars for long service.

I am waiting to see what will be out after the clean diesel fuel appears in the US after 07. Then I will make my choice of a car as my Sentra has good resale value.

Also, I am looking into a bicycle for my 6.5 mile work commute. What makes me hesitant is the 3 mile uphill grade but a unit with a rear wheel (weed eater) gas motor booster would help get my 235 lb body over that hump until I acclimate to this alternative.

Just do it Richard. It's worth it just for the high-and-mighty feeling you'll get.

For a 6.5 mile commute, a bicycle is very practical. Don't worry about the 3 mile uphill grade. That which hurts one-way is a blessing on the other. Once you get in shape, you're looking at a 20-25 minute commute and you'll probably end up time-ahead if you factor in time you should have spent in the gym. Budget lots of rest-days (ie. car-days) for the first two or three weeks and buy a cushioned seat-cover (just trust me).

My bike commute is about twice the distance as yours and quite hilly. I was about 205lbs my first bike-day in November and it was painful for the first couple of weeks. I'm on the good side of 200lbs now. Unless one of our olympic speed-skaters passes me (they train on bikes) and I decide to give him a run for his money (it happens), there's no pain.


"So far as hybrid vehicles it seems the cost of battery replacement should be written into the lifetime cost of the vehicle [...]"

On the Toyota Prius, battery life is already a known non-issue. There are many thousands of Prius with over 150,000 miles, and a few have passed 200,000 miles. Battery failure remains extremely rare. More and more, Toyota's claim that the battery should last for the car's lifetime appears accurate.

Honda hybrids allow deeper cycling of the batteries than the Toyota hybrids - especially on manual transmission models - which can shorten battery life. That's a major reason that the '06 Civic hybrid is no longer available with manual transmission.

A couple of hybrid/fuel mileage thoughts from a Prius driver:  Most important societally, IMHO, is that we get a much larger fuel savings from the same mpg increment at the lower end of the scale than at the upper end.  Over a typical 15k miles/yr, going from 15 mpg to 20 mpg saves 250 gals, whereas going from 40 to 45 pg saves only 42 gals.  Hybrids (and hypercars etc...) are great, but to help us bear peak pain {can I copyright that? :-)} we'd do better to focus on replacing the multitude of gas hogs with even modestly better mileage vehicles.  

On the hybrid front, the Prius, at least, can achieve even better than EPA ratings, if driven with the pulse and glide technique.  I'm still learning, but it works.  Check out this site:

And these, for other hybrid "stuff"  This Prius palm pilot is really intriguing:



"going from 40 to 45 pg saves only 42 gals"

Yeah but ... ;-)

Sorry to "yeah but" you, but those 40 mpg guys probably aren't the ones buying a hibrid right now.  We've got some room to pull sub-20 mpg guys ... and double their mileage.

That's really what I mean by "low-hanging fruit."  If we were already at a fleet average of 40 mpg (instead of what, 21-22?), we'd have less room for improvement (with current technology).

Absolutely.  The fastest way to improve the fleet milage is to drive out (pun intended) all the sub 25 mpg vehicles.  Even heavy duty pickup trucks can go hybrid and get into the 30's IMO.  Ditto for 4x4's and vans.
Just traded in a SUV (12-15 mpg) for a 2004 Prius at $16,500. First go round was 49 mpg with the new car, mainly street (not freeway) driving. I'm pleased with that, BUT...

my daughter drives a restored 1972 VW Superbetle, which cost her $3500 and which is currently getting 37 mpg.

If you look at the complexity of the two vehicles, the cost of maintenance, and finally the cost of replacement parts, I cannot say I am very impressed with the Toyota. With all the whiz-bang computer controls, synergy drive, regenerative braking, etc., it's only 25% better mileage.

If you figure in that the average cost of a tuneup for the Prius will be $500-$1000 (when was the last time any of you got a car out of the dealers shop paying less?), that the batteries will go at around 5 years ($12,000 to replace), the economics aren't there really to even support my purchase of this used one (Prius) yet.

But the VW, on the other hand, will burn anything that resembles gas, costs $150 for a tuneup, $1200 to replace the whole engine, and can flexfuel as well when E85 or something begins to show up again.

So rather than Prius #2 for me to commute in, I am thinking about a restored Karmann Ghia maybe??

Which truly makes more sense - buying this ultra-high tech Toyota for 25% of what I paid for my home? Or buying a restored and personalized oldie and tweaking the tuning for much less than $9000??  Just the maintenance and parts cost of the Prius have raised my sphincter factor significantly...I hope the wife enjoys it while she can!!

I guess the basic question is should we really be buying new in the face of what we all know? Or should we be recycling and upgrading?

The problem with complexity is that it's partly legislated.  There's a lot of weight (and cost) in 5 mph bumpers, air-bags, etc.  Of course, no one is making us have 6-cd changers, & etc.

I've got my favorite fly-weight, 100 mpg car:


but as I say there "they" won't let me have it.

I'm with you - there have been some very efficient cars sold in the US.  3cyl Suzuki swifts, Honda CRX varients, etc.  If my Hyundai Accent died, I'd look for a used economy car - and save the world from spending a large amount of energy to produce a new vehicle.  

Much as I think hybrids are cool, I'd rather we applied the existing technology and started selling any of the really nice, already existing designs sold all over the world here in the US.  We could do this in a year (given time to get them certified, etc.).  A big tax incentive to trade in a fuel pig (along with assurance of it's destruction/recycling) would go a long way.  

There are legitimate uses for a large vehicle - towing being one of them, but it's insane to be commuting in them.  I can only imagine what the depreciation on a new Explorer/Yukon/Hummer/etc. will be after a few years.

I'm afraid I don't believe you bought a Prius. Either that or you didn't do your homework. Your comments don't make sense. Batteries are not $12,000 and do not have to be replaced at 5 years. I don't see why you would buy one under those circumstance. The parts price for the Prius battery is around 3,000 and will probably decline, but to my knowledge, none of the battery packs of old or new Prius' have had to be replaced. The battery warranty is 8 years for a prius, but we all know that Toyotas run far beyond the warranty, and most expect the battery to last as long as the car.

I don't get where you're coming from.

The VW Golf TDI is a pretty good car. Maybe you can get one coming off lease. I'm averaging 45 mpg... with bike racks on top. I am putting more milage on the bikes than the car but neither require tuneups.
Fortunately, GeoPoet, your numbers are way off. Routine tone-ups are cheaper on a Prius than on a conventional car, since its internal combustion engine leads an extraordinarily easy life. (I don't have the manual in front of me, but my recollection is that you don't even CHECK the spark-plugs until 120,000 miles.) Instead of a transmission, it has a power-split device that's actually simpler and sturdier. A new battery pack lists at $2,995 - not $12,000 - but the odds of your ever having to replace it are remote. (See my previous post.)

Your final paragraph falls into the "should we be having kids?" category. Technically, we probably shouldn't, but if responsible people stop procreating, then the next generation will consist entirely of the offspring of irresponsible people, which seems like a recipe for disaster.

It's the same with our purchases. In general I agree with you about recycling and upgrading, but in capitalism, you vote with your money, and my wife and I decided that purchasing a Prius was the most tangible way of telling the market that people indeed care about fuel efficiency and pollution.

I wonder about the "average" fuel efficiency of the vehicle fleet.  For example, suppose that 45 mpg hybrids had taken 50% of the market, but the other 50% was 15 mpg guzzlers.  Assume that everyone does the same amount of driving.

What is the average fuel efficiency of the vehicle fleet?  I'll bet the government would tell us 30 mpg, the arithmetic average of all vehicles on the streets.  

BUT, if you weight the average according to how much fuel each vehicle consumes, the average fuel efficiency is only 22.5 mpg!  Each guzzler in my example uses three times the gas as each hybrid, and on average each gallon of gas consumed takes a vehicle only 22.5 miles.

Get rid of the guzzlers!

Could you run through the actual math for me? What you are saying doesn't make sense to me. In other words, I think you are wrong, but maybe I'm missing something. At a 50-50 split, the vehicles are already weighted by how much fuel they use - that's their efficiency rating.
Here's the math:

                 half      half     avg   
mpg        45.0    15.0  30.0 apparent fleet avg mpg

1k miles 22.2    66.7    44.4
                                       22.5 actual fleet avg mpg
 Over 1000 miles, a vehicle at 45 mpg burns 22.2 gallons.  Over 1000 miles, a vehicle at 15 mpg burns 66.7 gallons.  Their total 89 gallons burned to drive the total 2000 miles is an average of 22.5 mpg, even though the apparent average between them is 30 mpg.  Deceptive, but key.  This is why I like to point out that improving the mpg of the bottom end of the fleet by a little is more valuable than improving the top end of the fleet by the same, or even much more.

I getcha. And you have a valid concern, but the thing is, I'm pretty sure that average US mileage is actually reported at between 23 and 25mpg, and I really don't know how they figure it.

To be accurate, we would have to know the number of every single model on the road and how many miles each car/SUV actually drives. This being fairly hard to gather all the data for, we basically need to survey how many vehicle miles are being travelled and divide by the amount of gasoline used (which we know). Which of course, leads to all kinds of other issues.

I'll be the first to opine that US vehicle efficiency is the biggest problem in our struggle against the effects of peak-oil. I'm just not prepared to believe the Government is willfully lying to me for some conspiratorial reason. Call me gullible. The US auto industry, or "Detroit," now that's where I think some shenanigans may be happening. If you've read the book High and Mighty, you'll know what I mean.

What is the actual average fuel efficiency of the country's fleet? What is the government telling us? If there is a discrepancy, you have a point. But you seem to assume we are being lied to without presenting a case.
If they are not guessing (ok, making assumptions), the best data they have available is car registrations.  They could data-mine all car registrations across all states and correlate them with the "combined" mileage figure from the EPA (which we know is wrong anyway).

I've thought about this, and I think the best way to get an actual working mpg number would be to set up cameras at a few gas stations - record make and model, along with gallons purchased (nothing else, preserving privacy).  Then you could calculate a weighted average.


    The prius number you cited is still unfair. I do not know how one can drive a prius at a MPG as low as 47.6. I also drive a 2005 prius and I always get above 60 MPG, averaged over a whole tank. If I want to really stretch it I can get up to 65 MPG on the tank, and when I get sloppy I get just slightly above 60 MPG. It all depends on your driving habits.

I'd point out that you are within the "range" given, just above the "average."  Good job though.

Ideally, I think what we'd see is a bar graph showing the number of respondents getting each (say) 5 mpg increment across the range.

From what I've experienced, I think I'd have to improve my technique a bit to get 60+, but also take longer trips.  My car starts cold averaging 30+ for the first 5 minutes or so, and then "stair climbs" up from there.

I had a great time yesterday, coming down toward the beach with the Santa Ana winds behind me (70-80 mpg).

So anyway my question is what's your typical trip length?


Actually, Odograph's mileage is near the middle of the GreenHybrid range - which if anything skews high. From your mpg, I'm betting you live in a temperate climate and have a relatively long average trip. The Prius doesn't get 60 mpg when it's 20 degrees outside; nor does it get 60 mpg if you're only driving it for five minutes. (For non-Prius owners: The engine runs a lot at start-up in order to warm up the catalytic converter. This minimizes emissions, but mpg takes a hit.)

Something to consider: if you have air conditioning / climate control / cooling in your car it can affect fuel consumption by perhaps 10% to 25%, occasionally more. Don't use it unless you really need it and drive the car for a couple of minutes with the windows open before turning the cooling on (to get the hot air out).
I've heard that on the Prius I don't need to worry, since the AC is driven electrically and uses little of that.

FWIW, driving down the I-5 past Fresno (etc.) through 105F heat, AC on, 70mpg, two people, luggage, and with a mountain bike on a rack hanging off the back ... I got my usual 50mpg

I see lately that I shouldn't use AC ... but I never use "max" and rarely even use "auto" ... just low fan speeds + AC.

Cold weather gives my mpg much more trouble than hot.  If anything, at this point I'd say the Prius likes heat.

Re: Imminent Oil Export Crisis?

You might want to check out the Kuwaiti thread, where some of us have had some detailed discussions regarding Russia's remaining recoverable reserves, based on some very interesting plots that Khebab posted.  

The top four net oil exporters, accounting for the majority of net world exports, are:  Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway and Iran.

Based on Hubbert Linearization, the stages of depletion for these four countries are as follows:

Saudi Arabia, 55%
Russia, 85%
Norway, 67%
Iran, 50%

The stunner is of course Russia.  Everyone assumed that the collapse in production following the collapse of the Soviet Union was purely related to political problems.  It may have also been related to depletion.  The recent rebound may have just brought cumulative production back to where it should have been at this point in time.

In any case, the P/Q versus Q plots indicate that all four top net exporters are at or beyond the 50% depletion mark.  This in turn suggests that we may be facing an imminent crisis in available net export capacity.

Not everyone would be surprised.  There are people who have been claiming for a long time that the reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union was peak oil.  
The following link takes one to a table showing top world oil producers and top world net oil exporters for 2004 (all liquids--crude, condensate, NGL's, refinery gains, etc.):


Note that if the US and Russian consumption numbers were reversed, the US would be the world's second largest net oil exporter.  

The P/Q versus Q plots both show that the US and Russia basically have each produced about 5/6ths of their recoverable reserves.  No one finds this implausible for the US.  Why should we find it implausible for Russia?  

After the Soviet collapse, Russian production dropped at an annual compound rate of more than 20%.  I think that we have all been misled by the recent increase in production, which probably just brought cumulative production back up to where it should have been at this point in time.

Up until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Hubbert Linearization plot was probably the most perfect plot I have ever seen.  BTW, the P/Q intercept for Russia is suggesting a much sharper decline rate than the US.

Note that the most recent EIA data show a continuing fall in oil imports.  I wonder if the release from emergency reserves last last year obscured the rapidly developing shortage of available exports?
So much for the theory that Brazil is only using waste from the sugar business to make ethanol:

Brazil Needs to Invest $10 Bln to Meet Ethanol Demand

Brazil's sugar-cane industry needs $10 billion of investment by 2012 as rising demand for ethanol leaves sugar makers short of cane and drives up the price of sugar to record highs, the country's agriculture minister said.

Brazil, the world's largest sugar producer, needs to build 73 new mills to convert sugar cane into ethanol and to plant an additional 2.5 million hectares of cane, an increase of almost 50 percent, Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues said today in Brasilia. Brazil produces 5.5 million hectares of sugar cane, about half of which goes to produce ethanol, a motor fuel.

Concern that more of the world's sugar-cane crop will be used to produce ethanol and less for sugar sent raw sugar prices to a 24-year high in New York today. In Brazil, ethanol is cheaper than gasoline.

bio fuels from the third world?

and i was starting to think the playing field was going to even up re:localisation&land use.

this is really upsetting, I wonder how much pristine rainforest is gonna get chopped...

maybe the cost of pesticides and fertilizers will make it unviable in the years to come? or mabye a serious climate disaster...

how much can mother take??

Yeah.  If there's a "slow squeeze," I fear it will be mostly on the poor who suffer.  

It seems downright evil for poor people to starve while they grow ethanol for us.  But then, the sugar industry was always like that.  People who barely had enough to eat growing a luxury item for the wealthy.  Maybe ethanol will be the new chocolate.  

I've been a regular ethanol user more than all my adult life, hic! It's much more fun than chocolate, but is the cause of much harm and abuse.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, you'd hear stories about alcoholic Soviet fighter pilots who drank their jet fuel.  
Uhh, not jet fuel, I think it was de-icer.
Can you provide any examples of people dying from a sugar deficit? Particularly in the US? I think producing sugar is a bigger waste than producing energy. It's not exactly food.
Not a sugar deficit.  What happens is that wealthy landowners kick their farming tenants off the land so they can grow luxury crops like sugar, cocoa, and coffee to sell to us.


And why should it stop with sugar?  You can make ethanol out of anything.

reminds me of movementio sem terra


supporting the peasants who are looking for land

Sugar is safe calories. No carcinogens like most fruit and vegetables. You do need fiber, fats, vitamins, and proteins, though. Sugar is also cheap calories.
Hi, I'm new... to posting anyway...

Since we are talking about post-peak transportation, couldn't resist.

First of all riding a scooter with a suit on isn't that big a deal, just wear a coat over your suit.  I sure beats bicycle + suit.  You don't get sweaty on a scooter.

Scooter CAN carry groceries or could anyway.  I know for bikes (and motorcycles) there is a wide variety of trailors available, I am sure the same is available or could be available for scooters.

Really scooters aren't that great yet in terms of energy savings.  Many scooters only get around 50mpg.  This is a great entry point to efficient transporation for lower income individuals but still rather inefficient in terms of passenger mpg compared to putting 3 or 4 people in a prius.  I am sure a scooter could be made that gets 120mpg.  Also, watch out for those Chinese scooters.  There may be some good ones but all the cheap Chinese scooters I have looked into were junk.

Okay, this is really exciting.  Checkout Bionx a bicycle power assist system.  The motor is actually inside the hub so it doesn't look tacky.  It truely assists your pedal strokes rather than just powers you.  Very cool.  Commuting via bike just got practical.

There is some really innovative bike engineering coming out to.  Seems like the Germans and the Dutch are way ahead of the game.

Check out Greenspeed and Tripendo and Go One

So imagine bionx technology on one of these bicycles.  I am excited.

Oh and here is my current transportation lineup..

  1. '87 Mercedes 300D with vegetable oil conversion
  2. gary fisher mountain bike
  3. golf cart
  4. mazda miata (gas / ethanol)

Once I get that bionx system, I should be ready for peak oil (at least in terms of transportation).
I want a folding electric bike.  One, so it fits in my small car, and two, so I can get it up and down the steep, narrow stairs of my apartment easily.
Check out greenspeed.  They have folding recumbant bikes that are compatable with the bionx power assist system (I checked with them)


I don't know if I can get used to a recumbant bike.  I know they're supposed to be comfortable, but I hate being that low.  And I find the position really awkward.
I didn't like recumbents either:


I'm looking at that Montague folding e-bike tomorrow, but it costs over $2,300!  I'm also looking at a human-powered folding Brompton.  

There is a folding Birdy BionX and a folding Xootr Swift for sale here:


The Lashouts aren't folding, but they're supposed to be fast and powerful.  You can add up to four batteries for longer range.

I don't have a good feeling about the eZee brand.  They look cheap.  The Giant e-bikes seem to have disappeared from their website, but may still be for sale.

Thanks!  Those look promising.

Not cheap, but promising...

Check out Electric Bikes NW, which I found after a search triggered by your comment.  They have a cool semi-recumbent and two folding e-bikes.  Also this site for lots of info and links on e-bikes.  I'm charged up (sorry) about this!
The Hase Lepus is a folding recumbent, too.  I'll ask my dealer if that works with BionX.
Check out this $199 conversion kit:


Sounds interesting. If you can't afford the Bionx motor thing, one could improvise. After all, a belt sander could push a bike. The catch is amassing 120 volts worth of rechargeable batteries. They can have a small Ah rating, and put in series.  The innovation is to control it. An astable flip-flop circuit controlling a DC-capable solid state relay will work. I would build it, but Illinois moped law is murky about homebrew mopeds. I could afford the Bionx thing, but I'd like the challenge of the homebrew.

A major problem of getting good mpg occurs among lower-income people. While the affluent can afford hybrid cars the working poor must settle for motorcycles - with the lower living standard represented by added danger and exposure to weather. (these two things deter bicycle use too) Bikes are great for short-range, but a lot of working poor have long commutes. If you can't afford a hybrid in that case, it's either a motorcycle or public transit if possible. This with the poor and practically mandatory motorcycle use illustrates the lowering of living standards due to energy shortage. Another example is using a snowsuit in an underheated home due to the natural gas problem.

I'm fully sure others can come up with similar small examples of what the problem is we all face.

The Riviera Folding Electric Bicycle  

Item #: RV0165
Ship Wt: 85.00 lbs.

Package Type: Full Retail

Our Price: $549.99

http://www.rvtoyoutlet.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=RV&Product_Code=RV0165&am p;Category_Code=

I wonder what its actual weight is?  85 lbs. seems kind of heavy.  

I wish more stores would give more details about their bikes.  The power of the motor, the height and weight of rider its designed for, the weight of the bike, etc.  

I like the Dahon folder, which weighs only 37 lbs., but the motor seems a bit underpowered.

Product weight is listed at 71.5 lbs.  
This is what I do.

Bike when whether allows, 25miles - 45min, go into shower at work instead of at home.
Bus in winter and in bad wheter when timetables are suitable (office hours).
Drive my CNG powered volvo v70 BiFuel when time is short or in difficult hours (eg when I'm on call). Its possible to get renewable CNG from waste in my area, Sweden. CNG is close to half cost vs gasoline, burns clean and when produced from waste doesnt add CO2.


sorry 25km that is
I note that oil as of now is back around $66.  So all of Friday's gains have been given up Monday-Weds of this week.  Thus the news that PIW came up with about Kuwaiti reserves has had no real impact on the oil markets.  In my way of looking at things, this suggests the market had already priced in that they didn't believe in OPEC's inflated reserve estimates.
Or maybe they don't believe PIW?  Kuwait did deny the story, after all.
Or some of both maybe - those that didn't believe had their disbelief confirmed, and those that did believe were reassured by the Kuwaiti denial, and few had their minds changed so the price didn't move much.
From Commodities: Record oil futures prices show some supply worries

"It's meaningful that there are people who are prepared to buy oil at that price" [New York Mercantile Exchange futures contracts for December 2010 ended last week at $64.45 a barrel], said Ian Henderson of J.P. Morgan's Natural Resources Fund. "It's almost politically unacceptable to admit that supply isn't going to grow as fast as demand, but it's already doing that"
I suppose we should be happy that oil future traders are willing to buy contracts in 2010 at that price but it's lower than the price today. And today's prices are based on various fears since no supply shocks have even occurred yet. As you say, the Kuwait revelation had no affect. Oil market prices do no reflect reality and diverge more and more from the price outcomes of likely events as the futures trading date goes further out into the future.

Maybe I'll make a late New Years resolution to never pay attention to anything but today's price.

If you believe the Hubbert Linearization plots, the top four oil exporters in the world have consumed 67% of their combined ultimate recoverable reserves, and the most recent EIA data show declining imports into the US.  It's possible that the release of emergency reserves last year obscured a developing shortage of net oil export capacity.
I must differ on that Stuart. More likely the market didn't believe or didn't understand the implications of the PIW news, or gave more creedence to the Kuwaiti rebuttal. If they had priced it in the price of futures several years ahead would be at a higher premium. Oil was due a correction, it had increased over 10% in the last 3 weeks on relatively little real news.

The price has corrected due to nothing bad happening this week (Iran, Nigeria, US weather, today's petroleum stocks data). I would say it's a buying opportunity but Friday's preliminary Q4 GDP might change that. Approx +3.0% is expected, if below that oil may drop further, next support is about $62.50, if that holds I would buy then. Cold weather is expected to hit the NE USA at the end of next week, that may well influence price once we're past the GDP release.

Which weather forecaster is predicting cold weather? I check BBC forecasts but that is only good for the next 5 days. The BBC seem to be implying a warming of weather for the next 5 days or so for NE USA.
Accuweather, which has both US and UK sites now, they do a 15 day forecast. Here's the main US site:
and here's an arbitrary specific place (Albany, NY state) 15 day forecast:
The UK site is here:

Their forecasts over about 3 days ahead do tend to change quite a lot, so can't be taken as reliable but do give an indication of what might be up to 2 weeks ahead. The cold snap is such an example: when I checked 24 hours ago the Albany forecast had high temperatures below freezing and lows around 10 F for 4 days from Friday 3rd Feb, they have since changed and the cold weather is forecast to arrive about Feb 6th.

Thank you
You know... I love the Drum.  

Read it everyday.

The threads are thought provoking.  The commentary sublime.

What makes the Drum truly outstanding IMHO, however, is the extent to which the site dedicates itself to the logical if not outright scientific methodology employed by Stuart, Prof et. al.  A virtual blackboard if you will, upon which inquiring minds from around the world may post their thoughts/theories re: cause and effect relationships on the local/global stage vis-a-vis a permanently declining hydrocarbon resource base. Circumstances I submit, not unlike those found in Los Alamos circa 1942 when that 'other' Manhattan project was underway.

That said, I pose the following question:

"Can someone here at the Drum provide some insight as to why Biodiesel made from HEMP, is not the obvious solution to the predicament we face?"

From what I can ascertain:
Hemp grows on a 90-120 day cycle.
Hemp yields roughly 10 tons of feedstock per acre.
Hemp requires small amounts of fertilizer input.
Hemp doesn't require the application of pesticides.
Hemp uses less water than other suggested biofuel crops.
Hemp grows practically anywhere under almost any condition.

Seriously guys...

If the primary threat facing North American society is a declining supply of liquid fuel for mass transportation of goods i.e. delivery by semi-truck in Kunstler's easy motoring way of life, how is HEMP not the answer???

awww, Stryker, you sure do know the way to an academic's heart.  

Let me do some digging.  I know we've talked biodiesel a lot, but I can't remember any hemp specific biodiesel conversation.

I get high with a little help from my friends.

ahhh...was waiting for this to appear on TOD. I would love to see a full thread and let the great minds here have a whack at the "hemp for food fuel and fiber" argument. Well, at least the fuel part.
I think you've got an idealized view of hemp.  

It's a crop, like any other crop.  Growing a few plants in your backyard or basement is an entirely different thing from growing it in monoculture.  

If hemp doesn't require much fertilizer or pesticides, why do they find evidence of the use of hundreds of pounds of fertilizer and pesticides at illegal marijuana farms in national parks?  That stuff is expensive; they wouldn't use it if they didn't need it.

This is the problem with any crop - switchgrass, algae, corn, whatever.  Growing in the lab or in a backyard garden is one thing, growing it in large quantities is something else entirely.

the illegal growers dont need pesticides or much fertilizer, the growers of illegal marijuana are maximising there profits, a marijuana plant could be worth 1,000-3,000 USD depending on size (thats where the pesticides an fertilizer come in)

unfortunatly it is the THC that makes marijuana/hemp not need pesticides, so growing the no/lo thc hemp that is grown in UK would certainly mean using pesticides.

another problem is that you could not sustain the national fleet, but it would certainly work on a small scale post peak.

as for food, it would be an ideal source of protein, and would mean a lot less energy wasted on cattle feed, why feed cows hemp when you can eat it yourself??

a freind told me on his holidays in hungary a small farmer had an entire veg crop surrounded by hemp to create a solid barrier against pests!! and stopping the need for pesticides

 I'm no expert, but hemp and marijuana are two different, closely related crops. TPTB want us to think they're the same.  Look for a doc film called "Hemp and the Rule of Law".  It appears from time to time on FSTV and Link - available via satellite and some cable systems.  Very eye-opening as to the squelching of industrial hemp in the US by entrenched and emerging industrial lobbies in the '30's - oil co's, of course, chief amongst them.  We're the only industrialized nation not to grow hemp commercially, much to our detriment.
I got no problem with growing hemp.  I just don't think it can save us from peak oil.  If it could, those other countries that do allow it should be sitting pretty.  

It's the same problem with any crop.  Once you plant huge amounts of it, you have created a heaven on earth for all the pests of that crop.  You have problems with disease and pests that you would never see in the lab or in a small patch.  You can grow corn organically in your backyard in, say, New York,  without too much difficulty.  Try that in Kansas, and it's impossible.  Your corn will be devoured by pests, because you're surrounded by cornfields.  

Leanan, I certainly didn't mean to imply that I think hemp can "save us" from PO.  But it does seem that it can play a role, and in several ways - as biodiesel, fiber, and foodstuff.  Again, I'm not an expert, but apparently it's much less reliant on inputs and naturally more resistant to pests than are the monocrops we do let our farmers grow.  Now, I can be very cynical, so that probably has little to do with the fact that the oil co's then lose a revenue stream of fertilizers and pesticides on top of the competition they get from the resulting hemp products.  But it is tragically ironic.
Again, I'm not an expert, but apparently it's much less reliant on inputs and naturally more resistant to pests than are the monocrops we do let our farmers grow.

I suspect that that's just a myth.  Industrial hemp tends to be grown in pretty small patches.  It's not grown the way corn or wheat is.  If it was, I suspect we'd see the same problems.

Canada allows hemp to be grown and eaten (the parts that don't contain THC).  If it's the wonder plant its supporters think it is, it will quickly become evident once TSHTF.

its no myth, its for this reason that it is one of our oldest crops.
Hemp was an important part of the emerging British empire for sails and ropes even the uniforms, that was a long time before fertilizers, there was even a skirmish over access to russian hemp because of its preferred strength (thats material not THC!)

But for the sake of Fuel how about this link

Fords Hemp car, built and run on hemp..


and here is someone attacking said car with a sledge hammer

as an aside, Hemp seeds are 20% protein and are the only plant to have all the required amino acids for humans. It has been successfully used to treat malnourishment, one to remember :)

It's one of many ancient crops.  I see no reason to believe it would be significantly better than the ones we are currently growing.  

Pests are a problem for hemp, just as for any crop.

Weird trivia: a retired couple was murdered on Palmyra Island for their yacht, and especially the food on it.  The couple who committed the murder had planned to grow marijuana on the island, and earn money by selling it.  But insects ate the little plants to the ground.  Hence the need to switch to "plan B" to get food to live on.

Leanan -

You are quite correct. With the intensive growing and harvesting of any crop, one simply cannot get around the simple fact that the portion of the plant that is harvested and removed from the field contains significant amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and a variety of minerals generally referred to as 'micro-nutrients'.  

These substances have to come from somewhere. While top soil, over the millenia, has built up a large reserve, it will eventually become depleted by not all that many years of intensive farming. Hence the need for various fertilizers to replace what was removed. Some plants are more fertilizer intensive than others, but any large-scale, high-intensity biofuels program will necesarily involve the production and use of large amounts of man-made fertilizers.

The other thing that bothers me a bit about biofuels is that, like any crop, your yield is dependent of the weather, pest control, and a variety of other factors that have plagued farmers since antiquity. So if we go heavily toward biofuel, a strategic biofuel reserve will be all the more important to carry us through the lean years.

I personally feel that biofuels will never be anything more than a minor contributor to our net energy supply. This fact will become more evident when biofuel agriculture starts competing with food agriculture, as appears to possibly be starting to happen in Brazil.

Regarding hybrids: keep in mind that ordinary (non-hybrid) cars can get similar mileage:

from wikipedia:

A reasonably modern European subcompact car may manage highway travel at 5 litres per 100 kilometers (47 mpg US) or 6.5 litres in city traffic (36 mpg US).

An average "car-shaped" US car produces circa 27 mpg (US) highway, 21 mpg (US) city; a large SUV usually gets 13 mpg (US) city, 16 mpg (US) highway.

(I got a cheap Toyota Echo a few years ago that gets 37 mpg highway.)

People in the U.S., for all their complaining about the price of gas, act like they don't care. If they cared, 1 hour commutes and SUVs wouldn't be so popular. When oil gets less plentiful, the U.S. could easily use a lot less of it without much change in our lifestyle.

It seems that US cars are just grossly inefficient. I have a VW Corrado 1991 vintage, slow version 1.8L, 0 to 60 in 8 sec, yet I get about 35 mpg (UK gallons = 28 mpg US gallons) with no prob. Be aware that a US gallon is 80% of a UK gallon when comparing, probably wise to use litres.

Automatic transmission (presumably prevalent in the US cos they haven't evolved dual function feet) probably makes quite a big difference. I much prefer cars with a manual gearshift except in stop / start traffic. It (auto) typically increases fuel consumption by about 10%, especially when accelerating hard from a stop, and you can make a much faster getaway with a manual shift car.

Driving a stick-shift makes it harder to hold your cell phone, gun or 64 oz Big Gulp in your non-driving hand.


Or all 3, as the case may be! ^_^
LOL, at least two of those, possibly all three, are illegal in UK, even if you are driving an automatic. No doubt they will ban smoking in cars over here soon.
I think the Echo is a great car.  That said, the strength of the "database" approach to MPG is that it averages over all driving conditions, and not just road-trips or highway mileage.

It might surprise you given that I own a Prius that I don't trust "all hybrids."  I have a bias toward the smaller and more efficient ones (and think their main benefit comes in city driving).

I've got to admit that the new EPA survey/database numbers show me something interesting:

2006 Toyota Highlander 4WD: 16.5 mpg
2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 4WD: 24.8 mpg

They've only got one non-hybrid user in their database so far, but if that holds up ... a 50% increase in mileage real-world?  That's pretty good.

Apparently, AAA collected real world mileage from vehicle owners, and there results were quite telling, especially on the hybrids, which tended to fair much more poorly than non-hybrids, with regard to published mileage numbers.  Toyota Prius's only averaged around 38 mpg.

Consumer Reports had an article (behind a subscription firewall, unfortunately) back in September on the same matter.
"For years, automakers have been criticized for producing vehicles that get so-so gas mileage. But as gas prices climb and consumers seek more miles per gallon, it turns out that fuel economy is much worse than it appears--50 percent less on some models, a new Consumer Reports analysis reveals."

Here's a few links.

Well, the thing that many of us Prius owners have wondered, is if it's so hard to get 50 mpg, why do we get that tank mileage so often (essentially every tank for me).

The Green Hybrid database tackled it by tracking a great number of users and their tank averages.  Over 19,690,120 mi · 17,110 tanks · 1,379 cars, the Prius averaged 48 mpg:


The new EPA database has data from 77 cars and gets a very similar average (47.6 mpg):


So, I guess I look at those databases and think "yup, that's what we are getting."

There certainly are "fliers" either higher or lower than that.  Look up the thread and you'll see talking about 60 mpg and even higher.  That's not typical, but just like the low CR numbers, it's possible.

You know, I'm tired of being 'peaked out'.

Peaked out, is a term I will use to describe that panicky 'what will we do, how will society ever cope?' feeling that blossoms into planned run away to the hills to start a survival farm mentality.

Peaked out is that very same doom and gloom emotive which gets you absolutely no sex for a week should you bring it up just one more time : )

In short, you become a Debby Downer.

And yet, despite the social perils of being peaked out, if we as a society don't heed Team Defcon's words and face the oncoming energy crisis head on, how will we ever solve it?

Team Defcon's right. Buy a farm. Grow HEMP. Because I got to tell you folks, the more I look into it, HEMP as a Biofuel (coupled with conservation efforts of course) is the answer.

First off, Industrial HEMP and Cannabis are NOT the same.  You can smoke an awful lot of HEMP and you might get a headache, however, you won't get high.

Second, HEMP has been a part of sustained agriculture for centuries. By, 1850 there were 8,327 HEMP plantations in the U.S. alone.  

Third, HEMP does not take away nutrients from the soil, it REPLENISHES the soil, it fertilizes itself.

Fourth, HEMP actually kills other weeds due to the speed and density of growth and as far as I can tell so far, does not incur a pest problem.

Fifth, environmental benefits of GROWING our fuel.

For you science guys check the following:

 - According to a 1984 report by the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, of the clean renewable energy alternatives, "only biomass energy holds promise to provide liquid fuels for transportation in the near future."

 - The Institute's 1990 report concluded that thermochemical (pyrolytic) production of methanol from biomass is the most economical alternative for transportation fuel. They also confirmed Stanford Research Institute's conclusion from the late seventies that woody or low moisture herbaceous plants are the most efficient biomass source for thermochemical conversion into liquid fuels such as methanol.

 - It is the cellulose in low moisture herbaceous and woody plants that provides the hydrocarbons necessary for fuel production. Hemp is 80% cellulose and is both a low moisture herbaceous and a woody plant.

 - Hawaii Natural Energy Institute projected a cost of $280 million to build a facility capable of processing 7000 tons of biomass per day into 760 million liters per year (MLPY) of methanol. With a total investment of $335 million, the facility could more than double methanol production to 1700 MLPY from the same amount of biomass.[10] Approximately 3300 MLPY of methanol can replace the 1200 MLPY of gasoline and the 640 MLPY of diesel fuel consumed in Hawaii today. And bio-methanol can be produced at a price competitive with regular low lead gasoline on a cost per mile basis. (this report was made in 1987)

 - Hemp yields an average of nine dry tons per acre. This yield could be even greater in a warm humid climate such as exists in Puerto Rico, and in this climate hemp can be harvested at least three times per year. Therefore, using the University of Hawaii bio-methanol facility production and cost estimates: 95,000 acres planted in hemp will supply a facility capable of producing 1700 MLPY (449 Million Gallons Per Year) of methanol,[13] with the total investment in building the facility at $335 million.
. . . . .

From what I can determine, the cultivation of Industrial HEMP has been blocked in the U.S. for decades by the petrochemical industry, forestry, paper producers, cotton growers and a host of other corporations and special interests.

I think it's time to do something about that.

"First off, Industrial HEMP and Cannabis are NOT the same.  You can smoke an awful lot of HEMP and you might get a headache, however, you won't get high."

--They are the same plant just different strains. But the problem is that authorities cannot tell them apart so if hemp were legalized, it would be impossible to police growing of the THC-producing strains.

"Third, HEMP does not take away nutrients from the soil, it REPLENISHES the soil, it fertilizes itself. "

--This is only true if the plant is left to die and decay - if it is removed for use, gradually the soil depletes -this is commonly overlooked by hemp supporters (which I am)

Hemp is one of the silver BBs. Those who think its a silver bullet are smoking too much of it.(Though I will say that the serotonin feel good of pot is much more environmentally sustainable than the dopamine rush from caffeine, sugar and other 'legal' narcotics. For the planet, we could do much worse than have a bunch of non-ambitious singing hippies with the munchies (for example, compulsive shopping three house ownin coffee chiggin stockbroker and family....)

Sasquatch... there is a BIG BIG difference between an Industrial HEMP plantation and a grow-op.  

Industrial HEMP is grown together as dense as possible - not so in a grow-op.  

HEMP growth focuses on the stock of the plant, not the leafy buds a la grow-op.  

Unlike a HEMP field, a grow-op will utilize a strict environmental regieme in terms of both heat and more importantly light (think bonzai) which is why the vast, vast majority of grow-ops are indoors.

In Canada, Industrial HEMP growth is regulated under a permit/inspection system.

And again, HEMP replenishes the soil.  

As HEMP stocks are harvested, the roots (loaded in nitrogen) are left behind to give back nutrients to the top soil.

I think its very sad that you stereotype HEMP supporters as singing hippies with the munchies.  

That said, you are right in that we could do much worse.  I suppose plan A then, would be to just invade the countries that have oil and take it rather than seriously contemplating other alternatives.

> As HEMP stocks are harvested,
> the roots (loaded in nitrogen)
> are left behind to give back
> nutrients to the top soil.

Yes, "fixed" (useful;-to-plants) nitrogen can be synthesized by various plants, using the nitrogen in the air & energy.

What about phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sulphur, magnesium, manganese, boron, iron, copper, cobalt, molybdenum, and zinc?  At least some of these must go with the top portions of the plants.

Great discussion of cars, scooters, a bit of bikes...all that, and hemp, too!

Here's a thought. Not to discourage hybrids or hemp scooters or anything, but I do observe a tendency amoung many of us to preserve the transportation status quo, but also to preserve much about our way of life that may not make sense to preserve.

What do we keep, and what do we leave behind?

I imagine that typical office wear will be as outdated as Hummers in a few short years.  I imagine that fewer people will work in offices.  Some will do so always, but more "white collar" workers will telecommute more of the time.  Also, i think we will need more local farmers everywhere, and perhaps more people providing skilled labor in smaller localised manufacturing and repair work and such.   I imagine that many people will live much closer to work.

I imagine, too, that our cultural norms will change dramatically.  With global climate change and peak oil, we will see water supply and other issues as well.  I think that overconsumption will be seen as grotesque and repulsive, while a lifestyle of thoughtful stewardship may come to be seen as more normal.

I suggest that we will smell different in a few years.  I say this with some humour, but also seriously.  We will generally excercise more and probably spend less on gels, creams, makeup, fragrances, and deoderants.  (*Now* how does peak oil sound, eh?  Pretty scary, now, eh?)  We may be clean, but probably not tubbing or showering every day.

Finally, a word about active transportation and our plans to move around post-peak.  Active personal transportation is healthy.  Passive personal transportation is generally unhealthy.  We will need to balance investment in cool efficient cars with simply using cars a whole lot less!  We will need to figure out how to cut the pollution car use makes, and to cut the energy consumption that driving a car requires -- no matter the power source.  While designing cool more-efficient cars may be important, arranging our lives so as to mostly not need cars may be even more critical.

I think that our imaginations are a bit too bound to the "car culture" as the only way for humans to organise life, and that this will change.

Oddly, I think about this every time I pedal past churches or other houses of worship.  The most distinguishing feature is almost always the huge parking lot or structure very much like that of our American shopping malls.  Our lives do not seem to me to be ordered by any of the professed Gods of various religions, but rather by the Great God Petroleum.  Our imaginations are as bound by this God whether we are consciously religious or not.

It is the premises that we hold so closely that we do not see, and it is these that generally trip us up the most.  Do most of us posting here share key assumptions about energy, transportation, and organising human settlement and economy?

Do these assumptions keep us from considering better ways of addressing peak oil than trying to build more efficient cars so that we can wear suits and ties and dresses to office-ville and back again?

So, what do we keep, and what do we leave behind?

Nice posting. As far as my own transportation, I presently use public transit (cab, bus, or train) or I walk, often speed-walk. I don't use a bicycle becuse I get startled easally which only adds to the hazards of that method.

One thing's for sure. The obesity problem will solve itself as food gets expensive! I personally have one awfully food-efficient body, so I'm set. If you had a car as efficient as my body, it'll get about 80mpg if not better. And lately during my 2 years of dieting, my matabolism slowed itself yet another notch. Time to throttle down on calories a bit more to start losing weight again after a month of steady-state weight. It's 25C/77F in my flat and I'm COLD! as of now. 2237 and 27/1/2006. The big problem is toerating hunger on purpose to keep a lid on the weight/mass. Sure won't be a problem as food prices soar like a Lear Jet burning steroid-laced diesel!

Fun note here: Diesel, jet fuel, and No.1 heating oil are nearly the same. The US Navy uses heating oil to fuel steam-driven ships (in boilers) and is used in diesel engines they own. And the JP-5 can be used in all three, jets, boilers, and generators. In fact, in Michigan, heating oil is laced with a red dye to catch No.1 heating oil users if they put it in a diesel road vehicle. I'm sure it'll work in a jet too. What matters is the cetane rating of diesel, and jets and furnaces are continuous-burn. A contunous burn device cares not about cetane or octane rating, only Calories/BTUs. Thus, a rich character could put heating oil or diesel in his Lear Jet (or Cessna Citation). And mostly, it works the other way.

Now, just for real fun about biodiesel: A liposuction plastic surgeon could, in theory, take the fat sucked out of clients, make it into biodiesel and use it in a Hummer, corporate jet, or heat his home! And run a diesel generator to run the A/C in summer. I call this "lipodiesel". For worst results, drive through Skokie or overfly Skokie or live there with the lipodiesel, and anyone who is Jewish will smell a grim reminder of the Holocaust. YECCH!

Isn't Jet Fuel simply kerosene? The same kerosene you can buy in your hardware store as lamp-oil?
Yep, with the only possible difference being hardware store kero is refined an extra step to cut smell. The two are otherwise the same thing. Filling up a Lear Jet with hardware store kero will be EXPENSIVE though, given how one takes 880 gallons to fill 'er up. (literally, your mileage may vary!)
So how does that make Jet fuel the same as deisel?
Maybe being plump will be considered attractive again.

As far as office wear, I'd expect that dressing up, as if you can still afford to drive to work, will once again be a class indicator.

The town I live in, Linköping in Sweden is fairly steadily growing with 137 000 people in the town and surrounding countryside.

The key to the transportation problem is to have several parallell systems that complemet each other. There is a fairly dense walkway and bicycle lane network. There is a fairly good network of busses.

We have grown past the point where we need the busses to offload the road network. If 1/3 of the people using the busses used cars instead we would start to have capacity problems on manny roads. Now it is regarded to be a queueing problem if people regularly have to stand still for 5 min with their cars and it is actually used as an argument for investing in more roads and the investments solve these bottlenecks. People from Stockholm laugh at this.

Smaller towns and sparsely populated areas have a harder time to motivate busses. Bus services usually start with the need for transporting schoolchildren and if the bus anyway is needed it is made available for everybody and a few extra tours are usually added at a loss. Some of this rural bus traffic do not make sense and should be replaced by cars.

The majority of new local transportation infrastructure is roadbuilding. All of the larger roads built inside the town are built with narrow parallell bicycle/walkway road with tunnels under the car lanes. Adding such tunnels after the road is built is very expensive. New roundabouts and tunnels are built on the older roads to get higher capacity and better safety. Roundabouts are slowly replacing traffic lights. We need more roads around the core of the town and they are slowly being built. Another major public car investment are new parking garages in the central parts.  The mall area with IKEA etc is an area originally planned for light industry that is within easy bicycling distance from the town center and within walking distance from the area where I live. It is so popular that the roads recently have been upgraded with new roundabouts and tunnels.

The next most expensive transportation investment is a slow build up of new high speed rail links between larger towns. Hopefully this will reach Linköping in a few years.

The streets among the houses are allways built with sidewalks and are slowly often rebuilt as car cul-de-sacs (spelling?) to slow down traffic and steer it to the larger roads. The goal is to get the speed down to 30 km/h or less where people live and 50/70 km/h on the larger roads with 70 km/h where there are no crossing pedestrians. The bicycle and walkway network is then built to connect these cul-de-sacs in fairly straight lines. And there are also some such streets for busses only to make it easy for them to circulate.

The recent additions to the town are planned with separate straight and fairly narrow bus roads with ideal geometry for trolleys. The idea is to use them for busses and then if the town grows enough and the traffic gets large enough or the fuel expensive enough the busses will be replaced by trolleys on a roadway built for tracks.

The urban parts are mostly planned with 3-6 and sometimes higher houses with flats and space for businesses in the ground floor of higher houses. It is hard to change the horisontal zoning tradition into vertical flexibility. Some builders actually ask to not have their houses zoned for living/offices/shops/etc and some have been sorry for getting what they asked for when the office market had a downturn but plenty of people wanted apartments. In my party we have actually talked about forcing such flexibility onto people to try to encourage the long term vitality of our town. The byrocracy is very rigid and it is very hard to change the plans when they are set. :-(

This is interspaced with areas with small individual houses on small lots for those who want to own their own house fairly close to the central parts. It is dense enough for district heating etc and the dencer parts with apartments gives customers for local services. They often get more expensive then building in the more rural area but the average family only need one car even if two are working since there is a fair chance that bicycling or the busses work for at least one parent. Public transportation do not work well for gettig kids to daycare etc, its often ok for point A to point B but seldom for  A-B-C  within a limited travel time.

There is plenty of houses built in the outskirts, often in the forested areas. Since they mostly are built by people that like to be for themselves we get manny km2 with houses 500m apart separated by forests or fields. There are then clusters of houses near roads.

I do not see this denseley packed one car per family or sparse two cars per family as a suburbia problem. But some greens do, probably due to US cultural influence, they  try to make it hard for people to build their own houses wich realy irritates me. Neither the mall area have been a problem for us but manny shops in the old central part are slowly being converted into pubs etc. But it is hurting smaller towns within driving distance to it, they are slowly being outcompeted by my home town who together with the close by equaly sized Norrköping is a regional center. Those of them who have good roads and public transportation suitable for commuting are prospering together with the regional centers, the rest are slowly dying.

I think the point is that multiple lifestyles coexist and people also move between them. It is very common that older people who are retired move from their own house to an apartment they buy in the city center. Their old house is often bough by young parents with little kids who rented an apartment that became too small for them and often they want to have some country surroundings for their kids.

Being able to chose between walking, driving, taking the bus, bicycling depending on your current priorities and economy gives more freedom then having a car as the only alternative. But keeping the car option for as manny as possibel is quite important but can be done in a much more economical way and its is mostly up to the market to make the cars more efficient. I also think we will get more of a middle ground between cars and bicycles with scooters etc.

I think we get the same kind of benefits when it is easy for people to move between different sizes of houses and apartments. If we only had apartments or only had small villas or only had large Mc Mansions people would not have the same freedom and flexibility.

A curiosity is that all of the local busses since several years are run on methane from biomass, mostly from food industry waste. It is also starting to be popular to buy gas/gasolene flexifuel cars. I have not seen any gas/E85 flexifuel plug in hybrids yet but it is probably only a matter of time and obvious engineering. ;-)

I do not expect peak oil to have a large inpact on my home town as long as we find customers for our industry. Anybody need some Griffon fighters...?

Should I copy this to the Oil-Free Sweden thread?  It could be relevant since it describes normal city planning and zoning that happen to lessen the need for oil as a side benefit from trying to make a town attractive.