DrumBeat: October 2, 2006

[Update by Leanan on 10/02/06 at 9:19 AM EDT]

Bad roads drive up motorists' costs

ATLANTA — Crumbling roads and highways in the nation's metropolitan areas are imposing a "hidden tax" on motorists by increasing costs to maintain their vehicles, according to a survey released today.

...The survey comes as transportation policymakers debate how to pay for building and maintaining roads. The costs of materials such as concrete, asphalt and steel are rising sharply. Also, there is little public will to raise the federal gasoline tax, part of which is returned to states for highways, says Alan Pisarski, author of Commuting in America.

Many industry professionals believe the gas tax "has seen its best days and that new funding mechanisms are in order," Pisarski says. States increasingly are planning or considering toll roads as one such measure, he says.

Miners and utilities at odds over uranium price forecasts

Nowhere was it more evident of battle lines being drawn between suppliers and end users in the nuclear fuel sector than at the Platts Second Annual Nuclear Fuel Strategies conference on September 26th. Since April, various utility consultants and fuel brokers have routinely contacted StockInterview to 'talk down' the uranium price. Frequent is the mantra about how speculators and hedge funds are driving the spot uranium price higher. But spot uranium and long-term contracts march higher each month. While utilities appear complacent, there is now an underlying panic lurking beneath the surface.

...Had he not scrambled away from the conference, [Vice President of Nuclear Engineering for Florida Power and Light Rajiv] Kundalkar might have been shocked by the disclosures in the afternoon presentations which followed him. Had Kundalkar presented his thesis to a less savvy audience, he might have received something more than a polite applause when he stepped down. From the disgruntled audience, one long-time industry consultant asked Kundalkar point blank: Have you heard of peak oil?

Kurt Cobb: The infrastructure of the future

Bangladesh: Outages and outrages

ANGRY demonstrators rampaged through the streets in the city and elsewhere in the country on Wednesday and Thursday last attacking a number of power stations and clashing with the police in protest against power outages. Following huge power shortage, there have been frequent outages in the capital and elsewhere across the country causing great difficulties to the people who, obviously, have the right to lodge protest to the authorities concerned and to the government that should have a firm commitment in democracy. But all the unfortunate happenings in the last two days in and around the city by organised gangsters created rather much outrage among the citizens as vandalism reigned supreme in the name of 'agitation' programme almost in line with the opposition agenda as manifested through activities and slogans.

Giant Industries reports fire at Virginia refinery

Midwest farms reap benefits of ethanol boom

Ethanol plants are changing farming across the Midwest. The last time there was such a dramatic shift in agriculture was "when electricity came to the rural people" in the 1930s and '40s, says Dave Hughes, president of the township board and a farmer who invested in the plant.

British Expert Warns of Negative Outcome if Russia Buys Into Shell, BP

A former British government adviser has warned it is “only a matter of time” before BP or Shell faces a bid from a Russian state-owned group such as Gazprom which could threaten Western oil supplies. Professor Peter Odell called for creation of a new UN body that would police energy markets.

Odell, an energy economist, says ExxonMobil is also vulnerable to a Chinese takeover as the large UK and American stock-listed oil groups lose their influence in global markets.

America is living beyond its means

It's 2056. After a coup in Saudi Arabia, the new government announces it is cutting off supplies of its dwindling stock of oil to the United States. The White House responds by sending in the troops, but is forced to withdraw after Beijing says it will only continue shoring up the dollar if the military action is called off.

[Update by Leanan on 10/02/06 at 10:27 AM EDT]

BP was warned: Interviews with employees and a 2002 letter predicting 'catastrophe' show that BP's problems should have come as no surprise to management.

So...welcome to the 4th QTR...today could set the tone for the rest of the year.  Let's see how things look before the bell rings in NY.

  • Oil was up over $63 overnight, but has pulled back before the bell this morning to $62.50 (look for it to go back over $63 by EOD).

  • DJ Futures are down -14 before the bell.  Look for it to struggle up to positive for awhile and then fight to break even by EOD.

  • Gold strong over $600 and US$ keeps gaining ground.

Who's got the tea leaves to tell us what it all means?

All I know is that Elway has the ball on his own 20 yard line and there are 2 linebackers rushing fast.

I'm lookin' for that 63 but I keep seein' 61.

Well, there's another hour yet...

Haaa...I was waiting for someone to bite.  Ya...I was off on the oil price (my guess is since KSA wants support, they would get it...perhaps that will come by the end of the week).  But, I was right on for the DOW and gold.  There is really nothing there on the DOW side to be happy about and retail sales are going to be very SAD this 4th QTR.  Gold will still be a safe haven, so prices should remain up.

Good thing, I don't really "play" the market...I just like to see if I can guess where it's going based on redundant patterns.  

My own thought is that oil could go to $40.

There is shut in capacity out there (Iraq in particular) and new discoveries coming on line.

meanwhile higher prices will reduce demand, it just takes time.

There has been a degree of political fear and financial speculation in the oil price, which could rapidly dissipate, especially in a mild winter.  US oil stockpiles are at record highs.

In a nearly 100% fixed cost industry, when prices start to slip, they really slip.

On the dollar, I think it could fall 40%, alongside a US housing crash.

that would correct the US trade deficit.  In fact, either that happens, or the US has a really nasty recession.  Or both.

Warning: very stale bear on USD.

Regarding the article on crumbling roads and their effects on cars:  Crumbling roads are also a major problem for bicyclists (as I can attest from ample personal experience).  If roads really do crumble into oblivion a la Kunstler in coming years, then this will be a major impediment towards making the bicycle a viable substitute for motorized forms of transport.    

This is an important aspect of the infrastructure situation that I have not seen addressed at all in the Peak Oil/sustainable society literature.

Well, in Germany, a large number of the sidewalks are actually flat brick/cinder blocks - laid by hand, pounded in over sand, generally staying level for years. If the underlying pipes/cables need to be accessed, the 'bricks' are simply picked up, piled, and then placed again. In some areas around here, asphalt sidewalks are being actively replaced with this older style - it costs less, and lasts longer,

Though a newly paved asphalt stretch is certainly more comfortable to ride over, the difference between it and the brick (when well done) is not that great - especially considering the number of paths which people ride over fields or through forests - those tend to be a bit harder going.

Such simple solutions are the sort of thing which people need to think about - the bricks seem to last decades, whereas asphalt has a much shorter lifespan. Of course, we all know that only asphalt or concrete, handled by heavy equipment, is the only way for humans to build roadways - even for bicycles or walking.

They made the sidewalks like that here in Arlington, Va (pavers), only they never seemed to be able to figure out how to keep the pavers from settling and becoming uneven which drew complaints - largely from the elderly and disabled.  I think one of the benefits was also that the pavers allowed rainwater penetration and reduce impervious surface runoff.  However, due to the settling problem, they started putting down a concrete foundation for the pavers which of course eliminated the water penetration and made the construction cost a lot. Now, we are going back to simple poured concrete.      
I have wondered about that in general, since the idea works so poorly in America, and here are a couple of general theories -

  1. The weather is more extreme, especially in terms of water/ice. European weather is more temperate (boring) than the weather I grew up with in Northern Virginia.

  2. The Germans do a much better job building this way. For example, a good number of Aldi parking lots here are made like this, and even after years of cars and the regular 18 wheel delivery trucks, the parking lot is still in fine shape. The various brick shapes, tools, equipment (compacting the soil and sand especially), training, etc. are well tested in practice.

  3. Unlike in America, the German emphasis tends to be on the long term - in other words, the job is done right since it is supposed to last, not merely save money or be attractive. This also includes maintenance.

Personally, it is a good bet that the weather is a solid reason for the difference, but the other two factors also play a major role. All the work I have seen in America wouldn't be acceptable here for even the most casually done homeowner job.
To add to this I understand the Germans include maintenance as a part of the state bid process.  This is where real money can be made.  If you are bidding a project and screw up the maintenance estimate, it's on your company.  If you overestimate what it will cost and you make some extra cash, it's yours - you did a hellavu job!  I like this a lot!
Weather might be an issue, skilled labor certainly, and attitude (long term vs short) - I think you hit them all.

Although I have been to other European cities (not German) where they had pavers hundreds of years old, only they did have slight uneveness to them.  This is one of the reasons that sturdy walking shoes are helpful.  We now adhere to ADA (American with Disabilities Act) that I think requires a certain smoothness to all surfaces and it was this requirement also that I think drove Arlington to go back to concrete.  

Certainly there is a lot of variation between recently laid, consistently produced bricks and things done hundreds of years of ago - there is a lot of variation in Germany too.

But with some experience in pushing people in wheelchairs here, I can say that the German sidewalks definitely stand up well to comparison.

It also occurs to that Germans use fairly heavy and largish bricks in general, while the stones I have seen in American are quite small.

There is a German company, Uni (or Uni-eco) that has patented a paver with a small spacer that leaves a gap between laid pavers, to allow more water to infiltrate into the soil. Neat idea, they are sold worldwide now I believe.
The key with pavers and indeed any pavement is the base. I think inproper base preparation is often the reason you see them fail.
They are going down my street now and tearing up and repouring 5-20 foot lengths of concrete sidewalk where the sections have heaved, mostly due to tree roots.
<q>there is a lot of variation in Germany too</q> You can say that again. The roads and bikeways in Kreis Koblenz are mostly awful for a road bike compared to the roads in Niedersachsen (or for that matter southwestern Indiana).
My city has removed asphalt to restore some of our original brick streets and is trying to restore others or redo with new brick.  They determined that although the cost of asphalt in the short run is much cheaper, with the cost of maintenance the break even point is roughly 18 to 20 years with the traffic we have.  Brick was deemed beneficial on all but the most heavily used roads.  I live on a brick street that probably hasn't had more than 100 man hours and a few hundred dollars worth of sand as maintenance since it was laid a little over a hundred years ago.  When you go the speed limit (25 mph, residential) it doesn't feel rough at all.

The downside is that the number one expense of making bricks is energy.  so the cost of bricks will rise in lock step with energy.  The energy source, however, is flexible.  Electric heat or direct burning of coal or gas are most common, but gas from landfills is also being used.  Some brick factories are placed next to sawmills and burn sawdust and scrap wood as the energy source.  Many brick factories close during winter months due to high NG prices.

i heard a story on npr about a new type of asphalt (or paving concrete) that uses less of a binder such that it allows water to drain through it.  this is not exactly a peak oil topic, though it is important for sustainability post collapse b/c one thing that is going to screw us in america is drout and falling water tables/aquifers.  paving every inch of a region as we are wont to do tends to cause rain water to run off into not-useful places, like flooded streets or the sea, rather than seep into the ground.  this is why i am going to lay brick where i park the prius, rather than concrete (tabby, really, a concrete sea shell mix).
Yeah, but the problem with Germany is the giant bugs.  

Seriously, one issue we have with concrete pavers is aesthetics.  They look nice when you first install them, but after a few weeks or months, weeds start growing between the cracks.  Property owners find this very unattractive.  The solution?  Spray herbicide regularly.  

But probably the main reason we don't use pavers more often is the expense.  Asphalt is a lot cheaper.

WTF is that bug anyway?
Big-ass earwig?
New question. What is an earwig?
Oh...those are the bugs that crawl in your ear at night to eat the wax.

No, no...just kidding.  Harmless little buggers that grow no more than 1/4 inch.

Come on, earwigs I've seen around California get up to an inch or so, they have big pincers on their rear ends, and like to live under logs and leaves and things. I think they use the pincers to bluff with, they can't pinch very hard with them, maybe to grab onto each other in mating or dominance battles or something too, They're really harmless. One time I accidentally rolled one up in my rifle shooting mat and took it home, went back the next day and unrolled the mat, and there was Mr pincher bug, looking a little woozy but ok.
Two kinds of earwigs here in the US; American and European.  Care to guess which one is responsible for most crop damage?  That's right, the European earwig is a crop pest.  

BTW, they are called earwigs because they infest corn ears; specifically the silks, which they will eat.  This leads to ears missing rows of kernals.  Sometimes, if there are enough earwigs, there is a complete absence of kernals...pretty poor eating, that.

Damage to roads is directly related to the weight of what travels on them. A 4000 pound vehicle causes 64x as much damage as a 1000 pound one, if I remember correctly.

Bicycle paths need hardly any upkeep, if built well, whether asphalt or paved. Spivak and Hart's The elephant in the bedroom states the example of university campuses as good use of roads. Negligible maintenance.
There are cobblestone roads in Europe that are 100's of years old. Zero maintenance.

Decrease traffic, and it makes little difference what you make the road of. But then comes stormwater runoff. The idea that screwed up everything, especially in urban areas, is 'facilitating traffic', making them move as fast as possible. The opposite is much better: make it hard to go faster than a bicylce, that should be the speed limit. There is research that says that in areas where 25 years ago kids could move freely around the house at age 5, now it's age 9 or 10. That's 5 extra years of TV and video games. And fat.

Cobblestones are definatly not ADA compliant! Not those bulgy ones I walked on in Germany anyway. But, supposedly they're really good for horses, allow horses' hooves to get good traction even in the wet. While still allowing most humans to walk along OK.
Again, the differences between here and the mid-Atlantic play a role. It is not that common to see plants growing between the stones in my experience (this includes my driveway, my sidewalk, and a large number of other sidewalks, parking lots, and streets).

I think there are two different explanations for this -

  1. The German brick paving style is very, very tight (though obviously not waterproof) - water does not soak through well at all (though there are designs for parking which are intended to allow maybe 50%-80% of the space to be used for plants - in a sense, these create a hardened lawn parking space)
  2. Germany simply has a less aggressive environment for plants, along with tmperate climate
The expected life of paving is normally dependent on:
  • The paving base. Clays and soils containing organic matter are bad. They allow the base to slowly compress over time. Virginia, if I remember correctly, has a lot of clayey soils. Drainable gravels and sand, when well compacted, are very strong bases. Roads built on solid rock last the longest.
  • The size of the traffic that goes over the paving. Large vehicle like trucks damage the base and the paving materials far more than small vehicles.
  • The weather. Freeze thaw cycles and de-icing materials such as salt can deteriorate a road surface very quickly.
  • and finally high traffic volume of traffic also increases wear-and-tear.

I suspect that German paving stones last well because of good base preparation and favorable traffic characteristics.
Yes, the soils around Northern Virginia tend to have a very definite clay layer a couple of feet down, whereas the soils in this region of the Rhine Valley tend to have a sand layer.

Though the truck part seems to be obviously true, it is surprising to see how well different parking lots hold up under the 18 wheel (more like 12 wheel, but still the same size tractor trailer) trucks - possibly, that section of the parking lot is built to higher standards, or the trucks drive carefully, to reduce the impact. Or simply a couple of trucks a day doesn't really play a role.

Felicity Street in New Orleans is two blockes from my home and is cobblestone, still in good condition (one can see the two block section where they took up the streetcar tracks and laid new stones).  Smoother than the Euro version, made from stones brought in as ballast from urban legend.  As were the granite curbs in front of my house.

My street, St. Andrew, is 28 feet wide (~8.3 m), one way, with cars parked on both sides.  The speed limit of 25 mph (40 kph)and common sense keeps traffic slower than that :-)

Narrow streets with rare off-street parking also keep urban density high.  More area for people & parks & green, less for autos.

Best Hopes,


I'm doing ok on trails with my Bianchi Vople and my Klein Attitude.

Bad roads probably would mean a fatter tires in general.

As expat pointed out, its much easier and cheaper to build roadways for bicyclists (or horse and buggy -hey it could happen) than for cars. I don't expect this t be too much of a problem for quite a while, especially once cars start dropping off the major roads.
Problems start when a society invests its resources to serve only the needs of a narrow, affluent minority, i.e. when a sum of money is spent fixing a 10-mile stretch of road in a wealthy suburb instead of building a 100-mile city-wide bike trail network.

I really wish the Ivy League schools provided high-quality classical education. Any "person of means" has a lot to learn from the history of city states in ancient Greece...

There's a book I wish I'd grabbed when I had the chance at the local used book store. It was about the Roman tourism industry! Obscure subject but in telling about it they had to explain how the empire had enough affluent people and specialization of trades to create the Roman equivalent of "Cook's Tours" and talk quite a bit about conditions in the inner parts of the empire and out at the fringes, where the tours went - like today's modern tours to the edges of our empire like Hawaii, etc. The book had lots of neat photos too.
Fascinating. I have been thinking about what would happen to tourism in the event of a non-dieoff, low energy future. My best bet is that the "global hospitality industry" will only survive in its ultra-high-end form and some of the more "ordinary" tourists will mutate into more involved travelers (what proportion this will be is a very interesting question). Travel time will be longer which will make trips longer as well. Pure leisure will give way to commercial, educational, charitable and missionary trips. Wherever railway infrastructure is (re-)developed, intra-continental travel will gain at the expense of overseas journeys. Security situation will shape travel patterns as it does now since flows of information will be largely preserved.
I can imagine house-swaps developing big time, as people take longer, cheaper, consolidated holidays to compensate for greater travel costs. The internet is a great enabler for this.
I think that reserving more pavement for bikes will become more common, as the wear-and-tear from bikes requires less maintenance.

Meanwhile, really fat tires work well for me on the trikes with trailers.

We have some bad roads here in Minneapolis.  We also have chunks of ice and ice ruts in the winter time.  These make for some rough riding!

Much depends on how much the upper and middle classes try to maintain the easy-motoring lifestyle at the expense of everyone else, and how that class wrfare plays out.

If we work together, we might create a more sustainable transportation system.  If we move into even greater economic stratification -- whoch is the current trend -- we will not create a better, more sustainable transportation system.

If we continue to follow the path we are following, we will end up with bad roads and increased violence occuring on those roads.  That will be as big a consideration -- or bigger -- than potholes.

Begger that is certainly where we are going - take present trends and extend. Downward social mobility, good roads in the affluent areas and poor roads for the rest of us.

The front page of the local paper here talks about San Jose having the worst roads in the country, and I agree, in the city center / older industrial area and the older neighborhoods. At least traffic speeds are lower there, meanwhile out on the sprawly edges, the streets are long, streight, and smooth, and new.

The conclusion of the local paper's writer is that the roads are worst in San Jose and a bunch of other California places because of all the large heavy vehicles, trucks and yes they mention SUVs by name, er, acronym.

In the West Bank, when Israel was blockading all the towns, donkeys temporarily became more valuable than cars.  Since they could go offroad and around the roadblocks.
Mountain bikes work fairly well even on single-track, rutted trails.  China had the money to maintain their roads well enough for hundreds of millions of cyclists, even when China was a dirt poor, third-world nation.  Finally, you can send two streams of cyclists in opposite directions on a single 8' wide lane.  As long as they stay single file, that works fine.  That's even enough room for some passing.

The problem would be if we attempted to maintain the entire road network with only the resources for a much smaller system, so that the whole system turned into pothole rubble at the same time.  In that case, I would expect to see crews out there with hot patch filling in just enough for the 9' single-lane that the bicyclists and buses use.

Which more or less happened?

New York City, from its financial breakdown in 1976, well into the 1980s.

I assume (but don't know) that Detroit is pretty close to that, now.

If bicycles do not have to share the roadway with vehicles, then the heavy deterioration from all those heavy vehicles does not impact the bicylist. Bicyclists should have access to elevated paths for all major urban roadways for safety and convenience purposes  

Let all these urban roadways deteriorate and provide light rail in their place.  Those who choose to persist in experiencing the American dream/nighmare can put up with the roadway conditions. Alternatively, they can choose to pay the full costs of maintaining those roads with some kind of toll arrangement.

One of the obvious reasons for the increased deterioration is the increased use in passenger miles and weight of vehicles. We should be heading the other way --- decreased use and decreased size.

Ultimately, we need to dismantle the whole system and exclude cars from urban areas.

tstreet writes - If bicycles do not have to share the roadway with vehicles, then the heavy deterioration from all those heavy vehicles does not impact the bicyclist. Bicyclists should have access to elevated paths for all major urban roadways for safety and convenience purposes

The League of American Bicyclists recommends that the road is for all travelers. Cyclists belong on the road. Roads generally go everywhere people need to go. Bike paths don't and won't ever. My memory of Munich is a good one. Good public transportation, some off road bike lanes and striped on-road bike lanes almost everywhere else.

tstreet writes again - Ultimately, we need to dismantle the whole system and exclude cars from urban areas.

Excluding cars from urban areas isn't going to happen. But good planning and implementation for improving cycling in major cities is occurring at this moment. It's achievable and happening now.

Cyclists can and should work together to improve their cycling experience.

I would generally agree with the sentiment here and, in fact, benefited from this approach in Frankfurt and now in Boulder. However, I was addressing the concern that bicylists would be impacted by road deterioration.  Regardless, I think off road bicyling should be encouraged where possible. I ride mostly on off road paths in Boulder and find it much more pleasant and less scary than sharing the road, even with a bicyle lane.

It's nice to think we should all share the road but then there is the problem that some in vehicles are not so good at sharing.

While I don't think we will ever experience widespread traffic free cities in my life time, I think peak oil will certainly encourage efforts to make the goddamn auto less ubiquitous. When I lived in Frankfurt, the quietest and most traffic free part of the city was downtown in all those wonderful pedestrian only areas. Maybe if more people in the U.S. could experience this, they would get behind it.

And, oh yeah, the car free downtown Boulder Mall is another tribute to smart and far sighted planning. The only shame is that is has not been made even more extensive.

The reason the League recommends sharing the road is probably that practically all of the accidents happen at intersections. And one of the worst things you can do on a bicycle is to approach an intersection from an unexpected direction. Where I live, somebody is killed once in a while due to riding on the sidewalk, or on a sidewalk-like path, counter to the direction of the traffic, usually by someone making a turn. Car drivers often simply do not see someone approaching that way.

Now, if you can have an off-road path that goes for a very long distance (some miles) without intersections - especially intersections at corners - that's better. There are a couple of those in my area. However, the tendency is that if an area is rural enough for a long stretch to be possible, the volume of traffic (bicycles and cars) is unlikely to be seen as high enough to warrant the path.

Another way to partially solve the problem is to do what seems to be done in some new areas in Holland - the bike paths go down the middle of the blocks and meet the streets there, rather than at the corners. However, that gives two stopping-points per block. It would probably be a political non-starter anywhere in the U.S., and it might bring traffic to a standstill in some places.

Excluding cars from urban areas isn't going to happen.

One of the political parties has advocated banning private cars from central Copenhagen and depending upon their Metro, bicycles and buses.

Best Hopes,


Regarding the article on crumbling roads and their effects on cars:  Crumbling roads are also a major problem for bicyclists (as I can attest from ample personal experience).  If roads really do crumble into oblivion a la Kunstler in coming years, then this will be a major impediment towards making the bicycle a viable substitute for motorized forms of transport.    
This is an important aspect of the infrastructure situation that I have not seen addressed at all in the Peak Oil/sustainable society literature.

Thats what mountain bikes are for. :)

In my suburban California town, a lot of people (both children and adults) ride on the sidewalk, even though there are bike lanes.  When traffic is moving at 45 mph+ with many drivers in large SUVs talking on cell phones, people don't feel safe in the bike lanes.
I sympathize, but see what I just wrote up above. There are no guarantees in this wicked world no matter what you do, but do remember that feeling safe is not always the same as being safe.
The same thing occurred in Washington, DC when I was there. People didn't want to ride bikes with dangerous cars moving at 40 mph, so they made pedestrians share sidewalks with dangerous bikes moving at 20 mph.

Bikes on sidewalks should be restricted to walking speed. Bikes on streets should be immune from some regulations that apply to cars. I am pro-bike rights, but think they should be on the street. Food delivery by bike should be restricted to streets.

I don't think young kids should have to ride in traffic, but neither do I think they have a right to terrorize and potentially injure elderly on sidewalks.

In many US cities (extrapolating from the ones I've been in) there are virtually no people using the sidewalks. In these places it makes sense to use the sidewalks for biking and give the very occasional pedestrian the right of way.
"People didn't want to ride bikes with dangerous cars moving at 40 mph, so they made pedestrians share sidewalks with dangerous bikes moving at 20 mph."

It's one thing to get popped by 200lb bike going 20mph and another to get popped by a 4,000lb vehicle going 40mph.  Get hit by a bike and you're looking at some broken bones and a concussion at the most...get hit by a car, death.

But it's not safe to ride on the sidewalk for bicyclists, either.  This has been proven by study after study, and it's not just inexperience.  

The problem is that drivers don't look for bikes on the sidewalk.  They're looking at the road.  Many a bicyclist has been killed on the sidewalk by a car coming out of a driveway, or when coming off a sidewalk into an intersecton.  

"The problem is that drivers don't look for bikes on the sidewalk.  They're looking at the road.  Many a bicyclist has been killed on the sidewalk by a car coming out of a driveway, or when coming off a sidewalk into an intersecton."

Oh definitely...it's like a multiplication of 1,000 by the number of intersections that you cross by riding on the sidewalk and like you say, no one looks there.  I've almost wiped someone out that was doing that before...I was pulling out of a side street, looked left - clear, looked right - clear, looked back left and just before I started to go I caught the movement out of the side of my eye.

My point was just that the comparison of the danger between car and bicycle and bicycle and pedestrian is just leagues apart.  Where the car is likely to kill and almost certain to do serious hurt, a bicycle is more likely to bruise egos than anything else.

"Crumbling roads are also a major problem for bicyclists (as I can attest from ample personal experience).  If roads really do crumble into oblivion a la Kunstler in coming years, then this will be a major impediment towards making the bicycle a viable substitute for motorized forms of transport."

I'm guessing you've never heard of a mountain bike.  These mystical bikes can actually travel on gravel roads, down creek beds, over roots, broken pavement, over curbs and across many other surfaces that would instantly pop the tires/bend rims/break the frame of a skiny tired road bike.

/end sarcasm

Seriously though, rough roads are sucky when you're used to smooth pavement but bicycles have been around for about forever and unless they're a whiz bang roadie azz-hatchet with skinny tires and a light frame, they'll do just fine.  If you ever notice places where societies used/use bicycles as daily transportation, most of them prefer the more upright and wide tired bikes we refer to as "comfort bicycles" or beach cruisers.

It's pretty amusing that they opened that story in 2056.

If this energy thing hits (and I think it will), it will be in a much shorter timeframe.  One way or another, by 2056 this will be old news.

Maugeri says in Newsweek:

...the specter of rising Asian demand is largely a myth--China has huge potential to reduce its oil consumption.[..]

Indeed, alarmists began screaming $100 oil when Chinese demand registered astonishing increases of 12 percent in 2003 and 16 percent in 2004, only to slide back to 1.5 percent in 2005. It is now on pace to reach 6.1 percent in 2006, according to the IEA.

China has huge potential to reduce its oil consumption is a completely empty statement. The US, and all other countries, have that same potential. Just stop driving cars, you'll see, it works wonders. Stay home!

What's more, an economy that grows at around 10% for years on end, may have that potential, but it will always remain just that: potential.

From a static point of view it might seem to make sense, but 10% growth is not static.

Anyway, People's Daily sets the record straight, and we really have to wonder where Lenny and the EIA get their information. Not from the Chinese themselves, that much is clear:

Maugeri says:

Chinese demand registered astonishing increases of 12 percent in 2003 and 16 percent in 2004, only to slide back to 1.5 percent in 2005. It is now on pace to reach 6.1 percent in 2006, according to the IEA.

Now compare that to these numbers:

China oil imports up 15.3%

China has imported 95.8 million tons of crude oil in the first 8 months this year, up 15.3 percent from the same period last year, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), on September 29.

NDRC said China has produced 122.93 million tons of crude oil, 1.8 percent more than in the same period last year. It has processed over 199 million tons of crude oil, 5.7 percent more than last year; 3.8 percent more gasoline and 5.7 percent more diesel fuel was processed.

Between January and August, 1.3 billion tons of coal were mined, 12.1 percent more than in the same period last year. China exported 42.26 million tons of coal, down by 13.3 percent.

NOTE: China mines 12.1% more coal, but exports 13.3% less. That's a lot of coal. That would be a 15% increase in domestic coal use??

Hmm, there have been many more stories like the one in Newsweek popping up in the last few weeks. I wonder how many of them are 'false flags' meant to distract the public on the oil issue?

There is no such thing as peak oil, go back to sleep, go buy your hummer and your 10,000 square foot dream Mcmansion, and go on a shopping spree at the mall this weekend. That's it...

I'm not 100% sure that bit is flying like it used to with the US public.

I'm starting to think that people are smelling that they've been lied to a bit recently (they think it's recently, but in fact probably much longer).

Foley scandal doesn't help the GOP's attempts to paint themselves honest.

We'll see, but the BushCo tricks of two years ago may not fly in Peoria this time around.

The issue in China (and much of Asia) is prices for energy held below market levels.

China doesn't have a full market system.  Inputs like electricity and petrol, are priced by the State governments (which control the refineries and power plant companies) at below market levels.

Retail Petrol in China is 4.9 Yuan/ litre, this translates as about 60 cents US per litre. or $2.35 per US gallon.  (this was in August ie when US prices were c. $3.00).  But my impression is state users get a discount.

The Chinese have made it a mandate to adopt energy efficient technology wherever possible, however enforcing that across a whole country is difficult.

The issue in China (and much of Asia) is prices for energy held below market levels.

It is not an Asian or Chinese issue. That is a false impression.

The US subsidizes a gallon of gas at the pump to the tune of about $8.

The Chinese don't come anywhere near that.

According to WHOM!!  You cant compare the price of a gallon of gas in the US to the price of a liter of gas/diesel in europe.  They have taxes enacted to specifically make their fuel cost 2-3x as much as ours does.  Thats not a subsidy on our part, though perhaps its prudent planning on their part :P
and your point is?
I couldn't link through your link.

What's the argument?

Simply that gasoline consumption is an unpriced externality?  True just about everywhere.

Link is active. Milton Copulos' testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee March 30, 2006. Worth reading.

Your argument is that China subsidizes oil.
Mine is that the US does so too, and a lot more.

Your argument is that China doesn't have a full market system.
Mine is that neither does the US.

You say China's state governments, which control the refineries, price oil below market level.
Same in the US, with the exception that here it's upside down, the refineries control the state.

- I'd have to read the whole report to get a feeling for his estimate, how he comes up with it.

In particular, he talks about the cost of imported oil from the Persian Gulf.  He doesn't talk about imported oil in general, or indeed oil in general.

I assume what he is doing is dividing US Persian Gulf imports by the Defence Budget, but I don't think this is a particularly good calculation (too many assumptions).

  • as to US subsidies, therefore see above

  • US has pretty close to a free market system.  There are distortions, but it is pretty close.

  • your last point is interesting vis-a-vis political science, but isn't relevant to the debate about Chinese oil consumption (and might not be true, what is true is that US fossil fuel producers have political powers, as do many forces in US society)
a/ He does talk about oil in general. Yes, do read the testimony. I don't know why you comment in it without reading it, but hey...

b/ If you think the US has a free market system, I suggest you read on that too.

c/ You don't address the point of US vs China oil subsidies. So I have to guess you still feel that China distorts pricing more than the US.

We're not going to learn much talking to each other.

I did read his testimony: I told you without reading his underlying report I can't really assess it.

You can't name these subsidies you are referring to.

I refer to Copulos. And you avoid answering the simple question: does China subsidize its oil/gasoline more than the US?
Maybe Copulus could do a study on how much China subsizes oil to make comparison easier.

But how do you value UN vetoes for Iran, political cover for Africa's dictators, etc. How about potential income for its citizens lost because its oil dependant ruling clique consolidates power for itself. Then put it all in purchasing power parity terms to equalize the impact on the citizens. Very tricky.

I guess it is just much easier to assume the rest of the world is perfect.

Think of it this way.

There is a global market price for oil, which incorporates all supply and demand factors, including politics, corrupt dictators, the US Centcom etc.

The further a country is from that global price for oil, the more distorted its internal use of oil as an energy source.

As far as I can figure out, the internal price for oil and oil products in China is not the world price.  The difference being accounted for by a lack of profitability in the state-owned refining and marketing sector and possibly explicit state subsidies.  In addition, China may underprice its own domestic oil production when it sells it internally.

That gap represents a subsidisation of consumption for political and economic ends.

Conversely certain types of oil use in Europe are highly taxed.  Also a market distortion, but in another direction.  Europe pays that price because 1). it's a good way of raising tax revenue and 2). Europe imports c. 80% of its petroleum energy, so it is at strategic risk of future supply disruptions.  But note it's not universal: we don't tax oil for the plastics industry, or the aviation industry or power generation industry, but for the ground transport industry.

You don't need to worry about whether the US runs some complex politico-economic system 'subsidising' oil-- that plays out in the world price for oil, and in the US economy.

Actually, I was making a similar point. I agree that broadly speaking there is a global oil price that all countries pay and internal deviation from it consitutes a subsidy. There is no doubt in my mind that the gap between the world price and Chinese consumer price is much greater than is the case for the US.

To some degree, I do think it could be legitimate to include unique costs that the US does bear in supporting the global energy infrastructure - for better or worse.

However, I think this is extremely difficult to calculate and highly subjective. And since these constitute part of the global price, they extend to all consumers - so they should in theory be grateful.

If one were to try to calculate these externalities, one would have to do the same for China, who also expends resources in pursuit of oil.

At the end of the day, I think you are right. China and Asian countries, including the one I live in, provide a far higher level of subsidy than the US does.

We are agreed on Asia ;-).

Moot point about whether one should be 'grateful' to the US re oil prices and strategy.

The US consumes 1/4 of the world's oil supply.  Ergo it has no choice but to secure that oil supply.  So it is acting in its own interests.  Is the world 'grateful' to the British Empire for ruining the Indian textile industry, or for smuggling opium into China?  How about the slave trade?  Or the massacre of the Australian aborigines?

Looking at it in economic terms, the world is offered a free ride on US security spending but conversely the US doesn't spend that money out of altruistic goals, it does so because it sees it as its best interest to do so.

To the extent that prices of oil are lower than they would otherwise be, due to US action, this may not be a good thing:

  • contributes to overuse of the resource

  • overuse implies more CO2 emissions than would otherwise be the case

  • if we believe in Peak Oil, then overuse is the last thing one would want to encourage

In all countries, domestic political realities overtake international or long term interests.  US presidents have an inverse popularity correlation with oil prices (gas prices fall, GWB rises in the polls).  Chinese leaders have an absolute mandate to sustain economic growth and keep creating jobs.

When you get to Thailand, Indonesia and other prominent offenders in the subsidisation of energy consumption, the problem is even more chronic: to raise kerosene prices is to trigger riots.  And many people would literally starve if you raise the price of their cooking and driving fuel.

From a story previously posted on this site:

"What are the hidden costs of America's imported oil? The answer is complex. It may ultimately be unknowable. But this hasn't daunted the likes of Milton Copulos.

A tenacious economist with the National Defense Council Foundation--a right-of-center Washington think tank--Copulos spent 18 solid months poring over hundreds of thousands of pages of government documents, toiling to fix a price tag on America's addiction to global crude. He parsed oil-related defense spending in the Middle East. He calculated U.S. jobs and investments lost to steep crude prices. He even factored in the lifelong medical bills of some 18,000 U.S. troops wounded in Iraq as of March. (About $1.5 million each.)

Copulos is a highly respected analyst in Washington. And his exhaustive findings flabbergasted the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this spring.

The actual cost of gasoline refined from imported oil, according to Copulos?

Eight dollars a gallon.

When he isolated the hidden costs of Middle Eastern crude in particular, the price jumped to $11. This included a war premium that swelled the Pentagon's spending to protect all Persian Gulf oil to $137 billion a year. In a truly transparent economy, by Copulos' math, filling up Rodriguez's Jeep would run about $230.

Consumers don't dodge the bill for all these masked expenditures. Instead, they pay for them indirectly, through higher taxes, or by saddling their children and grandchildren with a ballooning national debt--one that's increasingly financed by foreigners. The result: Unaware of the true costs of their oil habit, U.S. motorists see no obvious reason to curb their energy gluttony.

"Gas isn't too expensive," said Copulos. "It's way, way too cheap."

Or, as he put it to senators, quoting the cartoon character Pogo: "We have met the enemy and they is us."

In fact, many experts think Copulos' Olympian feat of accounting is still much too conservative. Nobody can really calculate, they say, the future security cost incurred by funneling petrodollars to regimes that have incubated Islamic terrorism, such as Saudi Arabia. Or tally foreign oil's role in global warming.

The story is here.

Cupolos' testimony before the Senate is here.

And, a relatively recent interview with Cupolos is here.

Valuethinker, I'm just dipping into drumbeat and won't be back tonigt - but maybe you could clarify this point at a later date.  I read somewhere that the Chinese economy actually runs at a huge loss - they have massive surplus capacity and companies operate in a cutthroat environment.

This combined with only pseudo capitalism, and a massive state system in China - I really wonder where the world economy and poilitical system is heading - I see the pendulum swininging away from capitalism and democracy - but to what?

I haven't got my head round their shadow pricing system.

It's like the old Soviet Union, but it's not.

Basically, the State (or to be precise, the regional governments) own the industry, but the industry compete as capitalist enterprises.

The result is ruthless competition, domestically and internationally.  No one finds it easy to make profits.  No foreign company that has gone there would say that competition was anything other than brutal.

If you go there, the attitude to foreign business is 'teach us what you can, then we will do it ourselves'.  Don't be surprised if your colleagues and employees set up in competition down the road in 6 months.  Something like 95% of all Microsoft software is pirated, for example.  VW was the largest car producer, then its joint venture partner launched the same model without VW's help or ownership.

They invest 45% of their GDP each year in fixed assets.  The US, by contrast, invests 15%.  So inevitably they get higher output (a 10% return on 45% is going to give you 4.5% the next year) BUT there is always the risk that capital is deployed inefficiently and doesn't make a return*.  I saw plenty examples of that (5 Star hotels with shoddy workmanship etc.).

On prices, prices of exports and consumer goods seem to be set by the free market.  But the prices of inputs such as land, natural resources, energy, are still to some extent state-controlled (ditto things which would cause political unrest such as petrol, utilities, for the consumer).

The Central Government dictates these, but the State governments don't always obey central edicts.  For example the CG recently told the States to shut down some rural steel mills-- they are worried about overproduction.  But the States won't, because they can't lose the rural employment.

When you have a country with 800 million peasants, many of whom are nearly starving, you will do anything to keep the masses employed and happy.

The bottom line from an energy price point of view is that they haven't been charging full prices for energy.

* in a Western economy, the banking system is supposed to prevent that happening, by allocating capital efficiently.  We can see what happens when that breaks down: Japan over the last 15 years (the banks owned the industrial companies, so they kept lending even to companies that were bust), Germany (the state banks lending at no profit to local businesses), US (the $200bn Savings & Loans bust in the early 90s), UK (the 'once and future?' property smashes).

In China, the banks are all state owned, and basically lend money to their friends.  They are working their way through a 'Non Performing Loan' crisis, at one point as much as half the commercial debt in the Chinese banking system was delinquent.  But if your economy is growing at 10% pa, then the problem will (and has) shrunken.

When you have a country with 800 million peasants, many of whom are nearly starving, you will do anything to keep the masses employed and happy.

The masive Chinese population is one of the countries biggest assets and one of its biggest liablities. On of the things I think we (TOD) need to try and follow more closely is world food production, exports and imports - flows of food - and how food to fuel programs may affect starvation in countries like China.

I've been to a couple of presentations by BHP Billiton and they described some of the advantages of the Chinese political / planning system when it comes to making decisions that would be tough to make in "the West" such as their nuke power building program.

I'm going to move on to look at BRIC energy production / consumption trends soon.

ps I've read the paper by Sinden and find it quite impenetrable - vast amount of data displayed in a very abstract way that tends to average and smooth variance.

Food is something that always gives me pause.  Because the supply of, and demand for, food is massively price elastic.

Basically if grain prices go up, we stop eating meat.  There is more than enough food to feed the world, but not for the world to eat meat.  But mange tout doesn't have to be flown to Tescos from Zimbabwe or Zambia.

China is not 'starving' in the way sub Saharan Africa is starving.  The latter you have 7 years of drought, a collapse of food production, and now a collapse of the political system around it (no surprise there).

China is 'starving' in the sense you have a rural labour force that is no longer needed to grow food, that is being thrown out of work as the local rural industries are out competed by the modern factories being thrown up in urban areas.  They starve because they don't have enough money, not because there isn't enough food.

The Chinese basically keep putting people to work on 'make work' jobs like sweeping streets, crossing guards, to stop them being unemployed.  And to get a resident's permit in a major city is no mean task, especially if you have no education.

They are sitting on a time bomb, desparately trying to defuse it by economic growth.  The problem is that the economic growth increases the perception of disparity and hence the tension.  The average urban wage is something like $1800 pa, the average rural wage $400.

There isn't really 'local planning' in China.  In the sense that you bribe the right bureaucrat, and permission gets granted and the Public Security Bureau moves in.  There have been riots over peasants turned off their land by industrialists.

See the Industrial Revolution in Britain, the Enclosure Movement and then the Highland Clearances.  That took place over 150 years, and led to mass migration from Scotland, Ireland and the West of England to the New World (but also to London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham).  The Celtic diaspora that has left Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand English-speaking nations of the Celtic world (in Cape Breton Island they still speak gaelic) as much as the English world.


That former option of global emigration is not open to the Chinese peasant.

BRIC is interesting:

Brasil - US model - agricultural growth (subsidised)-- almost the world's largest exporter of agricultural products.  Bloated government sector.  Brasil now looks remarkably like the USA in about 1870 (if it was run by Tammany Hall) but there is no vast frontier to settle (without destroying the ecosystem, and the Prairie is inherently far richer).  Industrialisation is following, but can they compete with the Chinese?

Russia - collapse and now recovery.  Eastern Europe, but 20 years behind. A sort of Slavic Canada, some day.  Collapsing demographics, but highly resistant to large scale immigration from the Turkish moslem regions adjoining.

India - expanding demographics.  A modern nation of 250 million people rich in human capital.  And a primitive one of 800+ millions.  Decrepit infrastructure and politics which serve to absolutely resist development (opposite of China).  Can they hold it together- - rich v. poor, north v. south, Hindi v. other languages?  And there is the risk of nuclear war with Pakistan.

China  - see above.  Demographic change has come early. The work force stops growing after 2025ish.  Can they develop enough to get to that point, and then handle the demographic change?

Mexico is the interesting one to watch.  It has crossed the demographic divide, with a falling Total Fertility Ratio and the economic and social influence of the migratees in the US is becoming really important.  Mexico could be the world's next developed country.

On wind:


the technical annexes are pretty good.  I have to get hold of the Dale (2004) article on the costs of wind power to the UK grid.

I'll go with George Monbiot.  Everyone has modelled 20% wind, because no political entity has stated a higher goal.

Spain has made huge strides with wind. We have an inherently better wind resource.  It can be done, and it must be done.  The dictates of global warming tell us that.  But can we find the will to do it?

Looking for our Churchill, and not finding him (or her).

Everyone has modelled 20% wind, because no political entity has stated a higher goal.

New Zealnd has stated a limit of 35% wind "without further study".  Once that limit is approached they will revisit the issue.

Contact me Friday or Saturday.  I am in transit all day today (going back home to New Orleans ! :-) and no links available.

Best Hopes,


No, it's more like 12.8%. Exports are only about 80 million tonnes while production is 2.2 billion. What they didn't state is that imports are up too (to the southern provinces where northern coal is too costly to ship to.)

Newsweek seems to assumes all the oil in China is used to drive around in cars, like we do. Actually, oil for all forms of transport (car, air, rail, water) accounts for only 39% of total oil use in China (compared to 63% in the US). Chinese cars are already over 30 mpg in average efficiency now, and stricter efficiency standards come into force in 2008 (and no fleet average stuff either--this is by vehicle). Try telling the farmer who uses diesel to pump water for irrigating his crop that he has a lot of potential to conserve!

Good info, thanx. But links to that same info is appreciated.
Production statistics are from the National Bureau of Statistics. Latest month monthly and cumulative are here (doesn't work with Firefox when you enter the site from www.stats.gov.cn and go through menus, only with IE).

Trade statistics are here (second report on the page, Chinese only)

As for the breakdown of oil consumption by end-use and vehicle type, that's my own work in conjunction with China's National Bureau of Statistics, Sinopec, and the National Development and Reform Commission.

Try telling the farmer who uses diesel to pump water for irrigating his crop that he has a lot of potential to conserve!

Rural electrification.

Best Hopes,


Indeed. Or solar water pumps where the grid does reach. That's what they did in Thailand.

You don't even have to tell the farmer he will be conserving oil.

By the way, electricity subsidies to agriculture in many Asia countries and India in particular go to a very small set of large land owners, so it is often not simply an issue of the poor.

If they use solar pumps for irrigation in Thailand, please tell us more about it.  AFAIK solar pumps are used for some wells, but certainly not center pivot irrigation here.  And there has been a big movement already converting from diesel pumps for these center pivots to electrical, because of cost, here in the midwest.
Hi kalpa,

Actually I don't know too much about this issue. I learned a solar water pumps from this company:


The website and annual report mention solar water pumps, but I am not sure they are used for agriculture. I certainly doubt they are used for large scale farms.

Thailand has an extensive electricity grid. As far as I know, the solar water pumps are used exclusively for off grid applications.

The Thai government has some fairly good information available at:


Yes, provide the grid, provide the electricity, provide the subsidy to replace the pump, provide the subsidy for the electricity matching that of the diesel fuel, etc. etc. Simple one-line "solutions" are simply that: facile. Multiply your answer by 300 million farmers. You might as well suggest we all buy plug-in hybrids tomorrow. Time and scale matter enormously.
And if the farmer is not paying full price for his diesel, or he has already bought the diesel engine, then he is going to run with that.

There isn't enough PV solar capacity in the world, I don't think, to meet the Chinese rural demand (potential).  It will come (I saw PV solar in the desert) but not in a hurry.

They are publishing lots of edicts about energy use, conservation etc.  The gap between edict and action in a country of over 1.1 billion people is sometimes quite large.

One of the things I understand is that the Chinese have been building huge national oil storage reserves.

once the tanks were built (steel), they had to be filled.

So there is a one-shot inventory shift.

Found a bunch of stuff around the net....


Hedge fund interest in commodities `growing'

Barclays Capital said the 53-month upward trend in the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index had been broken, as institutional investor inflows into commodity product indices slowed. But it said hedge fund activity in commodities was still growing, as was private investor interest.

The fall in the oil price below $60 a barrel this week prompted talk that oil could be heading for the mid-$50s. Such gossip was enough to spur some ministers of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries into action to bolster the sagging, but still relatively high, oil price.

While other Opec members said they would not formally cut output, they have been quietly lowering production this year. [FOLKS THIS IS HOW IT WILL BE SPUN!]

Saudi Arabia is estimated to have produced an average of about 9.1m b/d in September, down about 200,000 b/d from its August output, and about 400,000 b/d lower than the same period last year.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-na-pensions2oct02,1,351907.story?page=1&coll=la-headlines-bus iness

Private-Sector Anger Builds as Public Pension Costs Rise

"We don't get anything nearly as generous in the private sector" as public pensions, Adams said.

Public employee pensions, one of the last bastions of guaranteed retirement plans in America, are under assault as cash-strapped state and local governments struggle to cover rising costs and as resentful taxpayers refuse to pay more to cover them.

"More and more New Jerseyans find themselves without pensions and become resentful of the double whammy that they face: fewer benefits for themselves and higher taxes so that the public-sector workers can receive generous benefits," said David Rebovich, managing director of the Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University in Lawrenceville.

I'm curious as to how many here feel about public workers pensions getting trashed a long with private sectors?  It's kind of like if I can't have it, then neither should you, all the while we both ignore the fact that the whole ship is sinking?


America's real-estate boom may be over now, but millions of homeowners who thought they were borrowing their way into wealth find themselves instead holding a ticking time bomb, a toxic mortgage with a potential payment far larger than they can afford.

In some instances, according to regulators, the lenders knew that the only way the loan could be repaid was to either refinance or sell the home. Such "collateral-dependent" loans fit the classic definition of unfair and deceptive lending practices under federal consumer protection laws, the regulators reminded lenders on Friday.

Under current conditions, lenders are showing no signs of slowing down their marketing methods -- and may even be stepping up their efforts while they're still allowed. The most recent survey of senior loan officers at banks showed that most were still loosening their standards for mortgage lending as the second quarter ended.

Federal regulators say they don't want to stifle innovation in financial services, especially for new products that make the American dream of owning a home a reality for many families.

"We tell them to be careful, but we let them run their businesses," Gramlich said.

Today, a near-record 68.7% of U.S. homes are owner-occupied, up from 63% in the early 1960s.

Second, the subprime market has exploded, rising from under 9% of the market in 2003 to more than 20% today.

So to get from 63% to nearly 69% total home ownership, we've doubled the sub prime market?  So creditors have been getting trashed at an increasing rate?  I'm merely pointing out the GIANT marginal costs to getting a 6% increase in home ownership.  Does anyone really believe this ends nicely?  Now CONgress will play scapegoat and we will get a period of regulatory hell.

Lastly something to chear you up...the micro ecomonics of Baghdad!

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=inDepthNews&storyID=2006-10-02T125817Z_01_MO U425114_RTRUKOC_0_US-LIFE-IRAQ-CHAT.xml&pageNumber=0&imageid&cap=&sz=13&WTModLo c=NewsArt-C1-ArticlePage2

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - In the endless daily battle against the fear and isolation of life under lock-down, the people of Baghdad have found a way to keep their city alive: moving it online.

"I only go out on emergencies like attending a funeral or visiting a doctor," said Zainab, 35, an office secretary who asked to be identified by her first name.

Perhaps the hardest part is electricity. Much of Baghdad had electricity for 12-18 hours a day before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Most neighborhoods now get electricity from the grid for just four to six hours a day.

It means ordinary people have to know their ohms from their amperes and their megabits from their kilohertz.

Most middle class households now have cables snaking down the street to a neighborhood "generator man" who gives them diesel-generated power for a monthly fee of about $10 per ampere. Six or seven amperes are usually enough for a computer, a TV and a fridge. An air conditioner costs more.

A neighborhood Internet cafe will sell a subscription for wireless Wi-Fi access to its satellite broadband hookup for about $40 a month.

Most Iraqis have only experienced the Internet since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

One of his providers has a two-megabit-per-second connection -- a similar speed to a single home's broadband link in most Western countries -- which costs about $7,000 a month over satellite.

It sells access to 200 subscribers across three Baghdad neighborhoods, earning a total of about $8,000 in revenue.

Private generators power the Wi-Fi hotspots during the day, with batteries offering up to 200 amperes of power to keep them running without interruption through the night.

That generator man is making some BANK!

PS I dont know how to get rid of the yellow highlighting!

George Ure, over at Urban Survival, is doing a non-scientific poll, to-wit, how is your business doing?  

An excerpt from today's post:

From an historical perspective the reason I'm asking this is obvious.  When the USA headed into the first Great Depression, there was evidence that something was horribly wrong because auto sales in August of 1929 mysteriously dried up.  No one in September was making a "big deal" about it, but by late October, after the Crash of '29, it was perfectly clear in retrospect. No one seemed to notice in advance that auto sales went kaput - just like people don't make a big deal about the tide going out extra far just prior to a tsunami hitting shore.
LA Times on pension plans:

The real problems will start in 10-20 years, when poor younger people realize they have to pay for the more luxurious lifestyles of pensioners, without ever having the chance of attaining that same level. That will piss them off. Royally.

They'll blame the older people for other stuff as well, like climate change, pollution and oil depletion/skyrocketing prices. Growing up in America and realizing that you will never have the money to own and drive a car. Coming to a town near you soon. That takes a little adapting. Lots of fun to be had. Hard to see any retirement funds making it past 2015.

Marketwatch on exotic mortgages:

Very good piece. All those politicians and Fed regulators should answer why they didn't do anything until the horse has been flogged to death. How many trillions of debt have accumulated over the past 6-7 years? Tony Soprano couldn't have done more damage, excuse me, contributed more, as "Comptroller of the Currency".

People needed protection when this started, not now it's over.

Only 40 years ago, the US and Western European societies thrived on single-income households. It's been a fast ride down the slope.

Middle-class families in worse shape than ever

... less than a third of all American families have accumulated income equaling three months of their wages. The trend is particularly pronounced among the 60 percent income distribution that makes up the middle class: those with dual incomes earning from $18,500 to $88,030 a year.

From 2001 to 2004, the proportion of middle-class families that has saved three months' worth of income dropped to 18.3 percent from 28.8 percent, the study said.

Higher prices for a range of things - including health care, energy, transportation, food and education - have put Americans in this position as corporate profits have risen, the study said.

To maintain day-to-day consumption, families have taken on a record amount of debt, equal to 126.4 percent of disposable income in the first quarter of 2006,

 "Of the total amount of our economy and income, we have the greatest share going to profits in modern history and the least amount going to wages in modern history."

"For most working Americans, things are far worse than any time certainly in recent history and at a time of an incredibly growing economy."

Comments from our accountant -
"I learned early on that those people who look like they are worth milions ussually are not. It is the conservative farmer/roofer/etc. in blue jeans and a work shirt that drives and old car that has the money."
...and after the dot.com bust...
"Most people have a negative self worth"
to which I said "I like numbers most = more than 1/2?"
"More like 60%"
So I said "Well I guess mentally spent thier stock options"
He said "they did more than mentally spent it. They spent so much money that they will have to drastically change thier life style for several years or file Ch 11."

Is this what are "economic recovery" is built on?  People using thier increased property value to maintain or increase thier lifestyles apperance.  Jesus we are in for a "hard landing" this time.

What will get here first - economic problems or oil problems or both

this is normal when you get an asset bubble.

The Dot Com boom was localised.  The US real estate boom has been pretty much general.

When people feel richer, they spend more.  They have higher net worth, so they have been happier to spend their incomes.

This has been seen before: Britain in the late 80s, and now.  Sweden in the late 80s.  In those cases (except Britain now) it ended with a severe housing slump.

The flip side is Germany and Japan, now, 10 years plus of falling property prices and rising unemployment, and consumers simply won't spend.

The magnitude of the fall in consumption depends on the magnitude of the fall in asset prices, and how general its effects.  Also on the rise in unemployment.

I've seen estimates the US could lose as much as 5% of GDP in a bad housing slump.  Since the 2001 recession was relatively mild, the next one could be a lot worse.

I'm more frightened by the idea that our masters have a plan for what to do with us once they've ruined us than that they just did this out of shortsighted greed.
Midwest farms reap benefits of ethanol boom

I think farms will continue to reap benefits. Investors, on the other hand:


I think corn growers will continue to do well. But ethanol capacity is being overbuilt. It may be tough to make money selling ethanol in the next few years.

Did you see the article about the glue guy?


he could have found a good business model for himself

if there's a big enough market, it could change the economics

and then, EROEI is always calculated with defined boundries.  if there is truly an existing market for these glues, and they displace glues made with higher oil/energy input, it could be a net win

... i say all that recognizing that it is a bit of a longshot at this point, it's just interesting that a game-changer could come from a direction i didn't expect.

Does the USA need millions of gallons of glue per day?
Does the USA need millions of gallons of glue per day?
Yes, for road repair.
The internet is just so fun:

As stated in the June 1993 issue of this report, natural adhesives account for over 40 percent, or roughly 2
million tons annually, of total U.S. adhesives demand.
Furthermore, the demand for natural adhesives was
projected to exceed 2.2 million tons by 1995196. This
translates to an additional 600 million pounds of starch by

Interestingly, that comes from a paper called "Future Demand for Ethanol and Adhesives Depend on Environmental Regulations"

Anyone with a longer attentions span than I, tear it up:


I have been listening to a continuing story on the NPR station broadcasting out of Champaign Urbana, Illinois about resistance in Central Illinois to building ethanol plants out of concern that the water requirements of these plants might destroy the Mahomet Aquifer.


http://www.dailyillini.com/media/storage/paper736/news/2006/09/13/News/Atkins.Balks.At.Citys.Ethanol .Program-2268163.shtml?norewrite200610021112&sourcedomain=www.dailyillini.com

The Mahomet is the major aquifer in Central Illinois and was formed after the ice age. Very clean water, but apparently not a renewable resource. Ironic that ethanol is touted as renewable energy the production of which destroys the most important non-renewable resource - water.


Bruce from Chicago, splitting time in Cumberland county.

With farming, economic success is never assured. There might be a short term opportunity, as demand pushes corn prices up, but farmers' margins might eventually get squeezed by increasing input costs (fossil fuel, fertilizer. Risks due to drought and untimely weather increase, and government subsidies (designed to support prices at a lower level) might not soften the blow from swings in grain price.
From a NY Times article about a Kansas farm:
Large corporate farmers are taking over. Mr. Warner doesn't understand the ins and outs of the international trade policies and government subsidies that are changing the landscape, only that to make it nowadays "you work harder -- sunup past sundown."

Next year, Mr. Warner believes, there will be even fewer farmers here, in part because of fuel costs.

DO NOT read this if you are a doomer - it might be too depressing:


Sorry if this has been posted before.
Writer has some interesting things to say - not that I agree with all of them. But at least he is optomistic about the future.

Beechdriver, I read the article you linked to. So you think there will be a price war within OPEC, everyone ramping up production and prices collapse. Don't be daft!

Of course Saudi is doing everything within their power to ramp up production. But still Saudi production is falling. Kuwait oil engineers have been in Saskatchewan recently trying to figure out how to milk more oil from their tired old fields.

For example, Kuwait's Burgan oil field -- the world's second-largest -- is "exhausted'' after six decades of production, according to the Bloomberg news service.

But you think, as the article suggested, that OPEC production is about to break out on the upside. OPEC members will start to ignore their quota and begin producing every barrel they possibly can.

I don't think you realize that this is exactly what they are doing right now!

Ron Patterson

I like this quote, which perhaps summarizes the level of the article:
The first production run the all-electric Tesla Roadster super-car has been sold out - 100 cars. This car will have optional solar cells that you can put on top of your garage to charge it up at night.
No problemo:  you just turn the dial from the SUNLIGHT setting to the MOONBEAM setting.
If you can run infernal combustion engines on "moonshine", why not electric cars?  :-)
There's another quote in the article that I like even better:

<b>The Saudis are afraid of the hydrogen-powered Chevy Sequel</b>!!!
What a goon.

ROFL? (Can't find it in acronym guide. Sorry if it's common knowledge, this is the only discussion site I visit.)
Never mind, I figured it out.
ROFL = Rolling On Floor Laughing
They must be using those new Russian PV panels powered by starlight :>)


They must have figured out how to harness moonlight - or starlight from the milky-way!  We are doomed saved!
Actually, the solar panels collect and convert solar energy to store in a capacitar giant battery, usually located in the garage or a garage closet.  They plug it in at night an drain the battery to help recharge the vehicle.
Using up two battery packs for the milage of one...
Actually to be useful, there would need to be a serious amount of solar panels on a roof - probably close to 30sqm of polycrystalline cells. Am am scared top even calculate what that would cost.

On the other hand couple of 20ft turbines on a couple of  rather tall towers rated 5KW max each (say 500W each average power as the wind is not constant) might do the trick and would be nowhere near as expensive as the solar.

If you had decent sized land you might get away with it!

Also you would need a bank of lead acid batteries in your garage weighing in at around 2 tonnes. I checked the website for the car and they are claiming the battery capacity is around 50 KWH.

They claim the vehicle does 110 W/km for 400KM at 90% efficiency which works out at 48 KWh so their battery capacity claim seems o.k.

Did some digging around and this baby charges at 240v 70A.
Thats like running 7 electric showers - for 3.5hours. That will pull a few grids down. Bring on fusion generated energy! Not to mention the fact that if you tried to use wind/solar you would need to use a 16KW inverter. Correct me if i'm wrong but i dont think they commercially exist yet! This is all presuming you want to charge in one night.

Just some back of the envelope calculations.

The average U.S. car does something like 15,000 miles per year. I think we can assume the electric car will do a little less due to the nature of the market, so let's assume 15,000 km per year instead. Call it 50 km/day. At 110 W/km that is 5.5 kWh per day. This can be handled with 10 130W (peak) solar panels (in sunny areas), which will run about $15K-$20K with installation, depending on local rebates and such. Compared to the $80K car this is not an outrageous expense.

As mentioned, with the right hookup you can feed the grid during the day and charge your car at night, making money on the deal since daytime electricity is more valuable than nighttime.

So it's not wholly unreasonable to run your Tesla car on solar, although of course you would not literally charge it from the solar panels at night.

110 Wh/km is in the right ballpark.  With both seats filled that's 55 Wh/passenger-km.  The most efficient light rail vehicle figure I know of is 1.53 kWh/km for a vehicle with 67 seats (and plenty of room for standees - up to 180 passengers in total).  The break-even point for the LRV relative to the Tesla would be at 28 passengers, which would leave 39 of 67 seats empty and no one having to stand.  There are LRVs half as efficient, though, so the Tesla is doing quite well in terms of efficiency, especially considering it has to lug its energy storage around with it whereas the LRV doesn't.

100  km @ 110 Wh/km would be 11 kWh/100 km, or 39.6 MJ/100 km.  The energy density of gasoline is about 32 MJ/L, so that energy is equivalent to 1.24 L of gasoline.  That's many times more efficient than the most efficient internal combustion engined cars on the road in North America today (which are on the order of 4-6 L /100km).

As an aside: can we use correct units, please?  It's clear from context that when you say "W/km" you mean "Wh/km".  110 Wh/km * 50 km = 5500 Wh = 5.5 kWh

W is a unit of power, Wh is a unit of energy.  (Power is energy/time, (energy/time)*time -> energy)  1 W = 1 J/s, so 1 Wh is 3600 J.  1 kWh is 3.6 MJ.

Thanks, JZG, for the try on units.  Watching this site for some time gives me the feeling that for most people, units are hopeless.  People just don't care or don't know.

However, is it fair to compare the thermal energy/liter stored in fuel to the fully available energy (electricity) stored in a battery?  Given that fuel thermal energy  is ruthlessly chopped by the carnot limit congenital to  heat engines?

Of course, if you use a perfect chemical reaction, then the fuel energy is freed of carnot ratios- ( a fuel cell- nice but we ain't got).

As for me, I shudder to visualize the whole internal combustion gadget strung out on a dissecting table; its supports flopping over the edges drooling  puddles of stygian gore- truly ghastly sight not to be contemplated at bedtime.

In contrast the same scene for an electric motor-elegant simplicity  in its gauzy robe of maxwell's eqns- and its supports- graceful windmills doing pirouettes in the black hills; lovely stirling engines glittering in New Mexican sunbeams.

And so to bed.

"Thanks, JZG, for the try on units."

You're welcome.

"However, is it fair to compare the thermal energy/liter stored in fuel to the fully available energy (electricity) stored in a battery?  Given that fuel thermal energy  is ruthlessly chopped by the carnot limit congenital to  heat engines?"

Yes, I think it is fair.  32 MJ is 32 MJ, however the energy is released.  The fact that electric propulsion is typically triple the efficiency of internal combustion engines is the reason why that energy is more useful in an electric vehicle than in an ICE-powered one.  Look at it this way (using made-up but in-the-right-ballpark numbers):

electric: 32 MJ -> 28 MJ expended doing "useful work" (overcoming rolling friction and wind friction), 4 MJ heating up electrical components and motors and bearings and making little whining noises

ICE: 32 MJ -> 8 MJ expended doing useful work, 21 MJ lost right off the bat as heat in the engine, 3 MJ lost heating up the transmission and gears and automatic transmission fluid and running the cooling system and the alternator and ...

(In the case of electric propulsion you can even have a return of energy when regenerative braking is in use).

Result: for some reason the ICE car uses a whole lot more energy to get from A to B.  Duh... wonder why?

Now, this is all viewed from the point of the energy being available at the vehicle.  The issue of how the energy gets to the vehicle can be viewed independently.  On the electrical side there is the inefficiency of the generator (which is a moot point if it is a renewable resource), plus electrical transmission losses of as much as 10%.  On the fossil fuel side there are all the energy costs of oil exploration and extraction including construction, operation and maintenance of drilling rigs, towing and servicing of offshore platforms, construction, operation and maintenance of tankers, pipelines, refineries, etc etc yadda yadda.

Since I've gotten started: this is where the hydrogen proponents generally fall down.  Sure, if you start with the premise of the hydrogen being in the vehicle a fuel-cell powered vehicle looks quite efficient and is clean.  But the generation of the hydrogen and its transportation to that point is necessarily less efficient than the electrical generation and distribution system.  Hydrogen is not a source of energy, it is an energy carrier.  The only possible reason I can see for the promotion of hydrogen vehicles is to preserve the viability of gas station corner stores.  It's a huge industry.  If everyone re-energizes their private vehicles at home, that industry loses its competitive advantage.

In much the same way I think car dealerships and the entire automotive maintenance industry is scared silly of battery-electric cars.  There's just very little to fix in them - another industry bites the dust.  No more engine oil and filter changes, spark plug changes, coolant system maintenance, etc.

But, as you say, it is time to stop typing and get some sleep.

JZG.  Very good reply!  I am with you all the way.  

I am probably not alone when I confess that I have been an IC engine nut for a long time, starting with make-and-break bangy-bangy things on a farm in the 30's, until recently when the angels finally descended upon my hoary head to lead me to enlightenment.  

Electricity is the only true way!

Nah!  Really, I mean it.  I hope that I, and the world, are not too late for salvation.

Thanks, yes, of course I meant Watt-hours, as my later calculation showed. I had quoted the 110 W/km typo from the posting above mine without thinking. My Caltech engineering degree did leave me well acquainted with the meaning of units...

It does seem a bit odd to have measurements like "5.5 kWh/day" (instead of 230 Watts) but that's how solar panels are quoted.

I'm trying to imagine how those turbines would work on the "luxury condos" going up near my house. They come complete with two car garages.
Using additional battery pack would be stupid in the presence of electric grid (which I assume is true in 99.99% of the cases). Better recharge from the grid and use the solar panels to sell electicity separately.

Both cases using solar packs specifically to recharge a car at night is a ridiculous idea.

I am glad to see the Tesla having some success, because I honestly believe electric cars are the future. But I did some back on the envelope calculations regarding battery replacement, and I have had several people confirm that I am in the ballpark. You can expect to spend around $50,000 replacing the batteries on your Tesla after 100,000 miles. So, it's a start, but we still have a ways to go before this is economical for the masses.
Unfortunately, as we saw in Leanan's first post of the day, by the time these quirks are fixed, we won't have any roads left to drive the Tesla'a on.
The EEStor ultracapacitors might solve that problem, if EEStor has truly found some revolutionary ultracapacitor mass production techniques. I'm still in wait-and-see mode on EEStor but of everything else I've seen, theirs seems closest to being possible.
which says that battery technology ain't there yet.
A few comments/questions on the Tesla:

  1.  The 50 kWh battery action equates to about 70 hp hours, so given the range of this car at highway speeds, it needs only 17 hp to maintain 60 mph on the freeway.  I'm not a tremendous gearhead, but my 06 Honda Civic needs about 30 hp to maintain the same - hard to see how this technology scales even to small passenger cars, as that level of power usage reduces the effective vehicle range to about 125 miles.

  2.  Fully charged lithium batteries permanently lose charge quite rapidly, as anyone who owns a laptop knows - roughly 20% per year at room temperatures.  Woe to those who would run this car during summer - at 140 degrees Farenheit (not unheard of in summer over asphalt), lithium ion batteries
permanently lose 40% of their charge in only 3 months!  It seems 100,000 miles to replace the batteries might be optimistic.  My laptop lithium battery explicitly says not to store it in a car during hot weather!

3)  I wonder how long it will take some celebrity to crash one of these things and start a good fire - my guess is that the haz-mat folks will want to be on site to clean up!

Your mileage figures make sense. It's hard to see how they can get that kind of distance with that battery. The only thing I can think of is that maybe they're assuming a lower average speed. I've seen estimates of 20 HP for modern cars at 50 mph, so probably with some careful engineering to reduce rolling resistance (which dominates at that speed) they can get it down somewhat below that. But it doesn't seem possible at 60 or 70 mph.
If your civic has an automatic transmission you are probably losing 20% of your horsepower there, even a manual transmission can eat up to 10%.  You will also lose some power to the alternator, the water pump, the fuel pump, the air intake & filter, etc.  None of this stuff exists on the Tesla.

But most of the power lost at 60 mph is due to aerodynamics.  I bet the Tesla saves a few hp by not having a radiator and for having a smooth flat underside without an exhaust system and the various other stuff found under your civic.  I suspect they also put more care into the aerodynamics of the rest of the body as since this would be crucial in getting good range out of the car.

For an example of aerodynamic efficiency improvements, it takes almost 20 hp to push a typical mountain bike with rider 81 mph.

But Sam Whittingham has pedaled his way to this speed while putting out ~500 watts, ie 2/3 of a hp, in a specially constructed streamliner bicycle.

I believe the best solar race cars are doing 60 mph on less than 3 hp although I haven't seen hard numbers on this but guesstimate based on the output of their solar arrays and their sustained cruising speeds.  If they didn't carry a solar array around with them I expect they could be redesigned to cruise 60 on far less power.

So I find it a bit surprising that the Tesla takes 17 hp to do 60.  If efficiency and not performance (acceleration, top speed, etc.) was their goal I'm sure one could build a practical electric car that does 60 on far less power.

A thing that will help a lot if/when this thing takes off is an infrastracture for replacing and recycling batteries. I imagine a future in which auto manifacturers team with battery producers to offer regular battery replacement for minimal cost.
I'd guess it will take quite a few years to put 100,000 miles on one of those cars. They'll probably see less than average mileage due to their limitations and the market segment. I wouldn't be surprised if most drivers do 10,000 mi/year or less. At that rate it will be 10 years before battery replacement, and in that time chances are battery technology will have advanced considerably. So I don't think owners are necessarily looking at that kind of bill.
I think George Clooney is one of the first owners. I doubt these initial buyers will be driving a two-seater 10,000 miles a year. You're right, too. At $100,000, or whatever, I doubt these people are looking at any bills. Early adapters. I guess we will have to wait a few years to know.
I'm sorry if my opinion comes across too strongly here. The guy that wrote that crawled out of a crack in the ground somewhere just to write that bull***it. I won't waste my time quoting and refuting his misinformed ramble.

Alright one quote then:

"Iraq's oil production is only a third of what it could be"

I now need the toilet.

He could almost say the same for all the PO doomers that poped up over the last 5 years or so...
He could! But i'd still be laughing.
Good quote but this, in my opinion, is the best one:

And what if it turns out that oil is a never-ending resource produced just like rocks in the core of the Earth as the Abiogenic Theory holds? Just because this theory is politically incorrect doesn't mean it won't turn out to be true.

Yeah Boy, what if that happens. What if oil is produced in the core of the earth, just like rocks are? Bet you didn't even know that rocks are produced in the core of the earth.

- Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And hain't that a big enough majority in any town?
- Mark Twain: Huckleberry Finn.

Ron Patterson

He's waiting for the Abiogenic fairies to come and replenish GOM, north sea, lower 48, Norway...........

Maybe someone forgot to put a coin under their car!

It's true that oil is naturally replenished.  (And so are rocks.)  Problem is, you need to sip that oil lightly, and wait for millions of years...  It's our infinite greed that is the problem: nothing is ever enough.
They need to work on some definations.
Goosestepping around town in a white sheet and hood is 'politically incorrect'.
Hoping that somewhere, deep in the Earth, is a magic spring that gushes out oil is just plain silly.
huh huh...you said goosestepping...huh huh...
Just out of curiosity, does anyone know what the explanation for the methane atmospheres of some of the planents and moons in this solar system is ? I doubt that it was dinosaurs or plant material being shoved deep under the planet/moon surface.
Maybe the answer to our future fuel needs is as simple as figuring out how that methane originated - Or heck just going out and getting some of the methane from out there?
Science fiction? Well, look at all the things that were "science fiction" over the last 100 years that are reality now. Like computers, Internet and world wide web !
That methane formed inorganically, likely before planet formation, from hydrogen and carbon in the gaseous nebula from which the solar system formed. Also, carbon is formed in the sun, hence some methane forms in the outgoing solar wind.

Your best bet is Jupiter. Feel free to go there and bring some back. If you do, though, be sure to take appropriate amounts of CO2 with you and bring back some oxygen.

EROEI = 0.0000000000000001

It is interesting that a few small hydrocarbons can form photochemically from methane in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, which have lots of hydrogen at high pressures. Too bad there probably isn't oil as well, or CERA could add that to our reserves too. Should come online in 2050.

EROEI = 0.0000000000000001

<...47.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot...>


Too bad methane breaks down in the atmosphere in a relatively short ammount of time.  Ergo, that methane would have to produced either by microbes below the surface, or by an inorganic process.  Methane is the least complex of all hydrocarbons...
Actually, it's a good thing that it does break down, as it traps more outgoing IR than CO2 or water (per molecule).
Presumably it 'breaks down' into CO2 though?

CH4 + 02 -> CO2 + H20 ?

Good point. I don't know which side of that equation has the higher IR absorption.
In solar terms, methane is 20 times CO2.

So the breakdown into CO2 is 'good' news.  All you have left is CO2, another Greenhouse Gas!

Plus, the product H2O has a sink (it rains out of the sky), so it doesn't contribute to the problem.
Helium 3 is the thing.  Apparently it might make controlled nuclear fusion a lot simpler.  And it is common in the gas giants, but not at all in the inner solar system.

There is plenty of methane on planet earth: under the permafrost and at the bottom of the ocean (methane hydrate deposits).

The real problem is that it is more likely to kill us (rapid release due to greenhouse warming) rather than that we find a controlled way to extract it (as it is very dispersed).  At the end of the Permian Era, this is what happened-- 90%+ of all animal life died quite suddenly.

The age of carbon has to end.  Long before we run out of burnable carbon (coal, natural gas) we are going to run out of ecosystem to burn it in.

~Electric Super-Car Sells Out

The first production run the all-electric Tesla
Roadster super-car has been sold out - 100 cars.
This car will have optional solar cells that you can
put on top of your garage to charge it up at night. ~

Please, please, please; tell me where I can get some
solar cells that charge at night!   We all be saved.  
Saved I tell "ee.  

Those would be Lunar cells.
I think you misspelled looney.
I'm not a morning person, but some people I know, who show up at work while I'm still snoring, leave around 2pm and say "good night".  Perhaps THEY can recharge their e-cars with South-West facing PV panels when they get home?  :-)
 I work nights. When I get to work at 5PM, I say "Good Morning".
This is the situation, nice and succinctly:

Peak oil is, like, so over. Not!
Jerome a Paris, European Tribune
Quite simply, prices dropped this month because a number of people had bet on these prices going much higher this summer on the basis of various plausible scenarios (hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, tension with Iran, a longer war in Lebanon). None of these things happened, and those that had speculated had to unwind their positions and take their losses, which accelerated the fall.

That drop was a short-term, market-driven event that changes nothing to the long term perspective. Even a recession in the US will not be enough to curb worldwide demand growth: demand may stagnate in North America, and grow less quickly in emerging countries, but 5% growth in China, Russia or Saudia Arabia (instead of 10% growth) still means a lot of new oil demand each year.

So don't expect me to give up on my series yet.

In fact, the fierceness of the attacks on the peak oil theme, which was beginning to get traction in the media earlier this year, shows how unwilling our societies are to undertake any change in that respect. Which simply means that prices WILL have to go up much higher to force the inevitable changes on us. It'll just be more painful for us, is all. So we should not rejoice that energy gets off the radar screen for a while again.

via energybulletin.

"Peak Oil theme" rather than "theory".  I like that...

According to UK Green James Martin, in his new book, it's back to the drawing board for The Oil Drum. We worry about the wrong problem. Even transhumanism is worse than resource depletion, which deserves no mention.

Martin also claims that resistance to new nuclear reactors endangers the earth. He likes pebble-beds.

The Times introduces him as "Britain's leading thinker about the future."

See, now that scares me.


The environment:
Global warming threatens to wreck the planet. Water is being used unsustainably and is running out. Animal and plant species are being wiped out.

War and terrorism:
Weapons of mass destruction make it possible for humanity to wipe itself out. Terrorists are becoming more likely to gain access to these weapons. Both the means and causes of war need to be addressed, with measures to tackle nuclear proliferation, poverty and environmental inequality, especially access to water.

Transhumanism and the singularity:
Genetic engineering, robotic implants and cognitive enhancement drugs will enable the transformation of the human species. Computer intelligence will improve to reach a "singularity" where it matches that of humans.

Wealth and lifestyle:
Overall wealth should increase dramatically beyond inflation. There will be more leisure for more people, with opportunities for enhancing happiness. Population, though, will grow to 8.9 billion, and it will not be possible for all these people to enjoy sophisticated lifestyles.

Creativity and wisdom:
Few people fulfil their creative potential. The pursuit of wealth and knowledge is often conducted without reflection on what this means for the future. "Science and technology are accelerating furiously, but wisdom is not," Dr Martin writes.

Wanted to buy: Massive dose of wisdom

Please deliver to James Martin.

Address: Unknown, somewhere in the UK.

According to the article he can afford to buy some wisdom:
...Dr Martin, a computer scientist and physicist [..] is himself a prominent green who has spent much of his large IT and publishing fortune on research into global warming and environmental science.

Last year, he donated £60 million to the University of Oxford to found the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation..

Too bad some things are still not for sale. Though that just means the market doesn't yet function as it should, if I've understood correctly.
Damn! I so much wanted to enjoy a sophisticated lifestyle and thought I could get rid of my outhouse.

Overall wealth should increase dramatically beyond inflation. There will be more leisure for more people, with opportunities for enhancing happiness. Population, though, will grow to 8.9 billion, and it will not be possible for all these people to enjoy sophisticated lifestyles.

Yeah, top 1% of top 1% will gain and everyone else will find it "not possible". He hit that right.

cfm in Gray, ME

Matthew Simmons pointed out that oil is cheap, compared to, say, whiskey at $4,000/barrel.

That's nothing -- HP printer ink costs $453,795.17 per barrel.

Details: I bought a cartridge (type 02) containing 3.5 ml for $9.99; that's $10,804 per gallon. I know, most of the money is for the container; there must be a level sensor in there, but no print head nozzles.

No wonder they give away the printers.

Without Renewable Power, U.S. Army Could Fail in Iraq

In a July 25 memo to the Pentagon, U.S. Marine Corps Major General Richard Zilmer made a "Priority 1" request for solar--and wind-powered generators to help with the fight in Iraq. "Without this solution, personnel loss rates are likely to continue at their current rate," Zilmer writes. "Continued casualty accumulation exhibits [the] potential to jeopardize mission success."

The "thermal signature" of diesel-powered generators currently in use can enable enemies to detect U.S. outposts, experts say. And missions to supply the generators with JP-8, the standard battlefield fuel, are vulnerable to ambush. Without "a self-sustainable energy solution," Zilmer notes, the U.S. Army will "continue to accrue preventable... serious and grave casualties."

So instead of a compact diesel generator, they want to set up a giant wind turbine to provide their electricity at night?


Is anyone else as confused as I am?

I think they are assuming solar panels, coupled with huge battery packs.
Some years ago I ordered some technical manuals from Siemens Solar.  Before they would ship them I had to sign a statement that I would not share the technology with certain countries.  As I remember Libya and Iran were on the list.  That is a long time ago, but there are definitely military applications for solar pv.

I would not be surprised that there are solar powered robots that are armed by now.

An armoured force always has fuel as its achilles heel.

It stopped Rommel. It stopped Guderian in Russia.  It stopped Patton.

The US Army is the world's most highly mechanised force.  I think an M2 Abrams Main Battle Tank burns 2 gallons a mile.

All of that fuel comes by truck, up roads from Kuwait and the port outside Basra.  It's one of the reasons why the Iran war, if it comes, will be so difficult-- the Shia could cut the US Army's fuel supply line (during the Sadrist uprising in the summer of 2004, there was at least one story General Casey looked at short rations for the troops).

Aerial resup doesn't really work-- you burn so much fuel fueling the planes and helicopters to get the fuel to the troops.

Valuethinker -

This is the problem I've always had with the concept of  permanent (excuse me: 'enduring') US bases in Iraq.

 If things continue to degenerate in Iraq the way they have been, then these bases are going to be a collection of 'Fort Apaches' in the midst of a permanently hostile environment.  While isolated garrisons can be supplied by airlifts for a short period of time during an emergency, it become extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive over the long run. If there is a constant problem in keeping the bases supplied, it becomes increasingly difficult for the bases to perform their intended mission, and after a while just maintaining the existence of the bases becomes an end in itself. At that point the bases cease to be an asset and become a liability that weakens rather than strengthens.

Regardless of how heavily fortified the base, it is the logistical chain that is most likely to be its downfall. This  is as true now as it was with medieval castles under siege.

I guess the plan is the Iraqi armed forces to carry out the ungrateful task of securing the bases supply lines. I feel very suspicious about what this will evolve into, but if I am right then the idea of a military actions against Iran becomes even more ridiculous.

In all cases these bases will be built and defended - they need them against the possibility of an anti-american switch of power in Baghdad.

There is a (Democrat) Congressional Bill banning permanent bases in Iraq.  It won't pass this Session, but with the Foley thing, it's no longer impossible (although very unlikely) that the Republicans lose the House.*

There is no way the US public will support their sons and daughters dying for a country that opposes their presence (although apply that logic to Afghanistan!).

So I think the next President will take the US out of Iraq, and our next PM certainly will (the Army has already requested it, to try to address the collapse in Afghanistan).  The only uncertainty is Kurdistan, where the Kurds would welcome a permanent US presence (makes them uninvadable by Turkey or Iraq or Iran).

* given the Democrats absence of a strong image, and the Republican electoral machine, in midterms where less than 30% of those eligible vote, I think the odds still favour the Republicans hanging in there.

Saudis push anti-militant line in Ramadan TV shows

TV soaps ridiculing militants... clerics crying foul at the way their religion is depicted

- is this liberalism breaking out in KSA, or an attempt by TPTB there to postpone the islamic takeover?

Fuel shortages and spreading violence in the developing world

Ove the weekend a few of us were contemplating what symptoms we might expect to see on the lead up to peak oil.

I have been promoting the idea of peak consumption for some time now, with peak consumption occurring in the poorest countries first.

So I would like to add to my list, fuel shortages leading to break down of law and order spreading through the poorest countries.  So my list so far:

  1.  Falling production correlated with rising price
  2.  Fuel poverty spreading through poor developing countries
  3.  US fuel stocks falling
  4.  Governments getting serious about promoting fuel conservation
  5.  Gun fights at gas stations
  6.  US forces fighting everyone
Speaking of holding down oil prices before elections:

During a meeting in the Oval Office, according to Woodward, Bush personally thanked Bandar because the Saudis had flooded the world oil market and kept prices down in the run-up to the 2004 general election.


Thankyou Prince Bandar!  You are a tribute to democracy!<sarcasm>
tugging airplanes to runways

Richard Branson, Virgin Airways, has a simple, neat idea to save literally tons of jet fuel...


The "new" landing approach is 10 years old. And in the meanwhile he still supports new runways at UK airports. Branson should meet up with Khosla if he hasn't already.
nothing new under the sun

For me the fact that it's not a new idea (biodiesel was done over a 100 years ago) is not significant and that Branson supports new runways is not relevant.

It is an excellent example of how relatively minor adjustments can have a significant impact on consumption. In the article he notes that typically a plane might carry up to 2 tons of fuel to accomodate taxi and wait time.

The new runways will add much more fuel use than the taxiing saves. Wait, that's irrelevant.
No, it's not that new which makes it surprising that it's not done more.  I had this idea when I first started by air traffic control career.  The first time I saw it was at Charles de Gaulle.  Air France does it beaucoup.

But the article makes it sound like the savings will be huge.  The 90% figure for NY must refer to the amount that could be saved on the push and tax (not the whole flight).  So it's something that will enable airlines to save some cash, at best.  

This, of course, would lead to cheaper airfares (all other things remaining the same).  Cheaper airfares generally leads to more flights.  This is the trouble I have pursuing any of my ideas for saving airlines fuel; ultimately it just improves bottom lines for some airlines.  The planet is indifferent.  

I have been monitoring the Natural gas storage situation for some time now and it continues to look stranger. At teh end of last winter inventories in both canada and US looked robust.
Now at the ned of summer something strange has happened. Canadian storage is now 6% below last year and continues to lose ground week after week. Whereas US storage is still very high. I continues to believe canadian gas is in very rapid decline. More than the official figures are showing. Also oil sands demand is ramping up significantly as has been discussed numerous times. I think if we have a cold winter this may be the first massive crisis we will face.
How much oil was produced in the Alberta Oil sands projects in total?  Next we would have to know how much of an increase in production has happened and somehow figure the marginal increase in NG use just to make oil.  I wonder if the 6% is somehow tied into increased NG use throughout the Alberta Oil sands projects between ALL those involved.

Statistics Canada's most recent data (preliminary) shows marketable gas up 1.7% ytd (jan - july).

Exports down ytd and domestic consumption down ytd.

Natural Resources Canada shows a fairly healthy storage situation through July.  

You seem to indicate that you have more recent information. I'd appreciate a link.

The statcan table also shows a marked increase ytd in oil production and even larger increase in oil exports.  Still it seems a long way to the "energy superpower" status that appears to be PM Harper's wet dream.

CLick on this
and then choose the natural gas update link that comes up. The direct link does not work for some reason.
Let me know what you think.
Thanks for the link.  Aside from questions about the meaning of Canadian Enerdata's term, 'working gas' vs 'marketable gas' used by Can gov't officials, there does seem to be a significant change over the 6 weeks from the end of July vis-a-vis stored gas in Canada as reported in the official data.  This could mean that the July downtick in production has accelerated, or changes to exports or consumption in recent weeks.  
August well completions were way down (minus 48%) from Aug 2005, and given the production profile of gas plays nowadays, this could show up quickly in production.  So maybe the lower price is leading operators to leave more gas in the ground for now.  I suppose a lot of prospects aren't interesting with gas under $7-$14.  Definitely, worth watching.

I tell all who will listen that gas production is going to slap the slippery slope someday soon.  Nonetheless, new housing is still getting gas exclusively, as far as I can determine.  Brrrr.  

It's a pity more people aren't installing ground source heat pumps, although with electricity increasingly sourced from gas, they will take a hit, too.  But for those who air condition also, they have very quick paybacks (less than 10 years, in the case of my relatives north of Toronto).

Maybe solar household heating will finally have its day.

The Germans build houses that don't require an external heat source (small programme, a few hundred homes).  Lighting and human activity, plus passive solar, meets the entire demand.  Construction costs are not outrageously high.  We are going to see this as a lost opportunity, I predict.  Canada has the R2000 home programme which is similar.

Heating degree days are also falling, at least in Canada-- the weather seems to be changing.

Canada will be an oil 'superpower' of a medium-ish sort.

To wit, 3-5m b/d of tar sands oil.  In 15-20 years.

That oil supply will be virtually infinite, for all practical purposes ie probably 70-80 years production at that rate and perhaps 100 years+.

0.8mcf of gas per barrel of oil sands (source: Income Trust financial statements).  There is enough gas around to make that oil (although Total was talking about a nuclear reactor) especially if we factor in the Mackenzie Delta.

What won't happen is 10m b/d.  I don't think, under any feasible scenario, there is enough 1). water 2). skilled people 3). physical infrastructure 4). mining sites and accessible deposits to make that kind of effort possible.

At a 5% real interest rate, $50/bl selling price, $30/bl production cost, 4m b/d in perpetuity is a present value of about $580bn or about $160k of present value for every person in Alberta (assuming Alberta has 5m people, which it doesn't yet).

What was that bumper sticker they used to have in the 80s:

'Please God, give Alberta one more oil boom and I won't blow it this time'?  ;-).

"That oil supply will be virtually infinite, for all practical purposes ie probably 70-80 years production at that rate and perhaps 100 years+."

You must be a teenager.  I don't know who else equates 100 years with infinity.  My father who died in 2000 was born one hundred and three years ago.  At the end he was still complaining that life was too short.  I suppose if he had been as miserable  as some of the doomers on this list, his life might have begun to have taken on the feel of infinity towards the end.  Instead, he chose to find joy in the light of the divine gifts of sunshine and self-reflective consciousness until his personal entropy maxed.


Let's put it this way.

If the world is still meaningfully dependent upon Albertan oil in 100 years, the Oil Era will be 250 years old by then.

If Alberta has 250 bn barrels extractible, then at 5m barrels per day, that is 136.98 years.

If we are still pumping out carbon into the atmosphere at a rate similar to what we are doing now, then the best recent scientific evidence is that the planet will then have CO2 concentrations ppm of at least 780ppm.  Higher than ever recorded in atmospheric history, other than perhaps during the Permian meltdown.

At which point it is very unlikely that civilisation as we know it will exist.  If certain positive feedback cycles kick in, animal life above the very simple won't exist.

The age of Carbon is about to end.  It will certainly end in the next 100 years, whether due to depletion or to CO2 induced global meltdown.  The open question is whether we find a way to end it quicker than that.

If there is a civilisation post 2050, it will most likely be based upon solar energy in some form or another (PV, Solar Power Satellites, etc.).  In fact coal, oil and natural gas are solar energies, just historic solar, and we will have moved to current solar.  There may be other technologies eg controlled nuclear fusion.  Or some radical departures on the laws of thermodynamics. But we already have a nuclear fusion source with 4 billion years of operating experience, hanging above our heads.

A caveat: we might still need the petrochemicals.  But oil for transport, heating, power?  If we're still burning oil for those purposes in 100 years, we aren't here, and we aren't burning oil.

There is a book.  Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modelling for a Complex World by Jon Sterman

on p.91 there is a graph (3-5) adapted from Hubbert (1962) which shows fossil fuel energy production against the lifetime of human existence since 10,000 BC to 5,000 AD-- so since the cave paintings and the agricultural revolution.

Oil is just a blip on that time line.  Even coal (in quantity) is less than 1,000 years on that timeline.

And in the geologic history of the planet, humans are an even smaller blip.

If I could wave a magical wand, I would shut down the tar pits today.
Human beings short term optimise, they don't look at the long term/ total picture.

Think Easter Island- cutting down all the trees.  Or the Mayan Temples, ever higher until the whole civilisation collapsed in one bang.  Or Roman soil exhaustion.  The deforestation of ancient Athens.

Anything to do something about the tar sands would be seen in Alberta as more eastern jealousy and autocracy, and really would cause Western Canada to separate.  Global Warming just isn't going to be top of the Alberta agenda for a long, long time (if ever).

The best we can hope for is at some point, carbon sequestration.

The Heathrow Flying Circus aka British Airways has revealed that its pension fund for current staff is £2 billion in deficit - almost $4 billion. The new Chief Executive is asking staff to work longer for lower pensions. He wants pilots and cabin crew to work another  years (to 60 and 65 years). He hasn't a prayer since pilots typically spend the years between 55 and 60 flying as captains for Asian airlines. There is no Uk equivalent of chapter 11 bankruptcy so BA are stuck with their pension contracts unless staff agree to changes , which they won't. Combine losing about 80% of current annual profits to the pension fund with rising fuel costs, economic slowdown and competition with heavily subsidised US carriers, and the result is an airline in "terrain impact mode".
While flying won't be given up at all, mass availbale flying will be leaving us.  At some point only businesses and the well to do will afford the luxury of air travel.  Unless you consider blimps, but that's a new can of worms to fix.
1. that calculation of pension fund deficit is a bit specious.  It is a crystallisation of future liabilities here and now.

It's not like the fund has to pay out that money any time soon.  Returns may be higher than actuarial estimates, or liabilities lower (eg if the airline downsizes, and lets go a lot of pilots early).

That said, there is a real problem.  The government is giving companies 10 years to close their deficits, and for BA that is £200m pa for the next 10 years.

2. in the end, with pension fund disputes, all the union can do is strike.  If they strike for long enough, then eventually BA goes broke, and the pension fund becomes a government problem (but no new pension rights accumulate to employees, and the government guarantee scheme favours lower paid employees, the pilots won't get their full whack).

So I expect a strike, at some point, but I also expect both sides will settle in a package that spreads the pain between pilots and company.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/01/washington/01cnd-book.html?ei=5090&en=beb29e8f20ad8f76&ex= 1317355200&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=print

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 -- Members of the Sept. 11 commission said today that they were alarmed that they were told nothing about a White House meeting in July 2001 at which George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, is reported to have warned Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, about an imminent Al Qaeda attack and failed to persuade her to take action.

While we're at it, let's dig up some more stuff that appears to be "missing."

So what has changed in Woodward?  Wasn't he being labelled the GOP lap dog not too long ago?
Perhaps, he's been playing them all along in order to get into the private conversations...that sly dog.
I always wish there would be a president, just one guy who secretly has a dual agenda that goes against TPTB or at least benefits all of us at the expense of the uber rich.  This agenda would be something along the lines of satsifying all the arguments here for the greater good.  The problem is if this person were somehow able to be inside(WH), telling anyone on the outside of what it's really like would be like the pot calling the kettle black.  So I would think everyone would ridicule him and not believe anything.  Woodward, while not this guy, may have been in on the game, but the rules changed and he didnt like it.  
Ya...and see if he ever gets invited back to a WH dinner again.
The more I read about JFK, the more I think this was already tried and we can clearly see what happened.
just one guy who secretly has a dual agenda that goes against TPTB or at least benefits all of us at the expense of the uber rich.

Tater friend, your youth is showing.

The way the guy at the top gets there is by being more ruthless than all the other ruthless creeps --by climbing up on top of more dead bodies than the others; by lying better than the rest, all so he can be king of the pile for a while.

It is only in the movies that the nice guy gets even close to the finish line. In reality, the Mob Boss does not run for the Miss Congeniality prize.

Look at what recently happened in the HP board room. Ruthless maggots, all of them; even the sweet lady that can't seem to remember anything. Poor thing. And Kenny Boy Lay, why he was an angel --may his soul rest peacefully in whatever dung heap of history accepts him.

Dear me. I can't seem to remember those naughty things you think I did. It must have been the alcohol. Surely not me. Hee. Hee.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man (or woman).  Churchill was a disaster as a peacetime politician, but for the period 1940-44, no one else could have led us, prevented a peace deal with Germany, cosied up to FDR.  Until Hitler invaded Russia, the war was essentially lost.  But we held on long enough for that to happen.

LBJ was a crooked, twisted man.  But the moment for the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act, had come, and he drove them through.  

I don't know if John McCain has it in him to do something about Iraq.  I don't know if Hilary Clinton has it in her.

And to tackle global warming.

I respect them both.  Both are ruthless politicians who can morph to meet the electorate's expectations.  What I don't know, can't see, is whether they will divert from the party line once in power, and whether Congress will let them do it.  McCain will most likely be a one term president, that might make him determined to make history-- with a Democratic Senate and/or Congress, he could make history.  Clinton may be too much of a politician- -but then her husband thinks global warming is real.

It turns out Al Gore most likely would have done some of those things.  But that is history's lost opportunity.  And Gore lost because the other guy was more disciplined, more ruthless-- Ken Lay uses an Enron plane to fly party operatives to Florida to block a recount, the 'yuppy lynch mob', that is a measure of how tough these guys are.


Woodward talks to the courtiers.  He is there mouthpiece.  His second book was almost a ghost-write of Colin Powell.

The courtiers are now trying to protect their reputations in history.  

So the story has changed.  Bush is the fall guy for Iraq, for everything else that has gone wrong.  And Bush's loyalists will try to pin it on Rumsfeld.

The guilty party, I am fairly sure, is Cheney.  Bush was detached, Rumsfeld would do nothing substantive without clearing it with his oldest friend in government.  Donald Rumsfeld gave Dick Cheney his first job in government (in the Nixon White House).

The bodies are being tampered with to protect Dick Cheney.  Even if that costs Donald Rumsfeld his job, and GWB his reputation.

Woodward is just reporting what his sources want him to report.  Because he doesn't speculate, dig, take sides, they trust him as a mouthpiece.

He's part of the system.

This makes sense to me and explains Woodward's actions better than I have heard elsewhere.
The interesting guy to read is Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker eg his book 'Chain of Command' which said that Rumsfeld was doing what Woodward now says Rumsfeld was doing, but said it 2 years ago.

Hersh has a distinguished record (blew the cover on the Vietnam My Lai massacre in 1971, and on Abu Ghreib).

But he is also being talked to by his sources: high level intelligence officials (military and civilians also retired) who are very worried about the way the Administration is conducting Iraq, and Iran.  They are trying to get the debate, eg the use of Nukes against Iran, out in the open.

Once you accept that this is 'the opposition within the government' and understand that bias, his stuff is pretty informative.  Apparently intelligence officials go so far as to meet him outside the USA, to give him stuff.



by Sacha Feinman
Post date: 09.27.06

It isn't a secret as to who might come. Venezuela is oil-rich, and the imperialist countries have kept an eye on our natural resources for some time now," explained Captain Jose Nuñez of the Bolivarian Naval Police. It was eight o'clock on a Wednesday morning in June, and I was seated, sweaty and barely awake, along with a group of 20 other journalists at a naval base in La Guaira, Venezuela. Packed into a sparsely furnished conference room, we listened to the captain explain why the government of President Hugo Chávez had decided to invite the press to a week's worth of war games. The military wanted the world to know that Venezuela was ready to greet the "imperialists" should they decide to stop by for a visit. This day's demonstration had been billed as the largest and most action-packed of those scheduled. A mock invasion was set to take place on the beach, with the government using tanks and companies of "elite amphibious fighters." "Seven hundred and twenty-five professional naval combatants and approximately 2,200 civilians will be involved in the day's activities, and we will show how we have integrated the people with the military," the captain stated.  

We were taken to the docks, where the captain announced that he would first demonstrate how the Venezuelan populace might smuggle arms past an occupying force. Three statues of the Virgin Mary lay on the ground, each nailed to the top of a long, slim, rectangular box. A pair of machine guns and a spare clip of ammunition were hidden inside each box. Sets of sanded wooden poles sprung from the sides of the boxes, so that the civilian participants could hoist the statues over their heads as though they were carrying Cleopatra, not chipped plaster. The civilians who had gathered for this exercise were an unexceptional bunch. Most wore fresh jeans, clean white t-shirts, and red hats embroidered with the acronym for Chávez's political party, the Fifth Republic Movement. At the captain's signal, they picked up their assigned Virgin Marys and marched forward, slowly but surely, covering the 50 paces down the docks toward the waiting motor boats. At the head of the procession marched a woman chanting Hail Marys and crossing herself while cheap fireworks were shot into the air, exploding 30 feet above our heads in a simulation of cannon fire.

We left the docks and piled into boats: a guerrilla armada of gringo journalists, Venezuelan naval reservists, and chipped plaster statues. It was a short boat ride to the next beach. The Marys would be unloaded during the mock invasion; the procession would continue into the poor neighborhoods of the city, where the boxes would be dismantled and the weapons handed out to the eager populace. Or so we had been promised. In fact, we were out to sea for just under 90 minutes. Our small motor boat had no potable water, no shade, and stalled out twice. When we finally arrived at our destination, there were no tanks and no military personnel. Instead, the beach was packed with sunbathers who marveled at the spectacle as the boats circled and the captains argued among themselves. No one, it seemed, had bothered to notify the pilots that the beach was both rocky and lacked a dock. "Man, if you guys do decide to come," said my Venezuelan photographer, "it's going to take ten minutes to kick our asses."

Finally, one of the skippers exercised some initiative, shouting at the sunbathers to jump into the water and help. A group of well-tanned teenagers waded up to the boats, lifted the statues over their heads, and carried them to dry land. As each one was set down, the onlookers applauded and crossed themselves. "And what about us?" asked my photographer, nervously fingering his camera. Our captain nodded to the side of the boat. "Jump," he said.

It would be easy to write off a day like this as yet one more example of the absurdity of Chávez's antiimperialist rhetoric. To do so, however, would be to miss the point. Like Fidel Castro before him, Chávez's support is largely dependent on whichever enemy he presents as an imminent threat. When he assumed power in 1999, that threat was the Venezuelan political establishment. In the last seven years, however, Venezuela's opposition has crumbled. Enter George W. Bush and the specter of a U.S. invasion, a subject Chávez spends far more time discussing these days than the possibility of an opposition candidate running against him in this December's elections. The American president's preemptive, unilateral invasion of another oil-rich country is all the evidence Chávez needs to convince his most ardent supporters that U.S. intervention in Venezuela is a real possibility.

And the United States has completely underestimated Chávez, playing into the Venezuelan president's hands time and again. When Donald Rumsfeld compares Chávez to Adolf Hitler--or Condoleezza Rice calls for the creation of a regional "united front" to contain his influence--they are merely adding fuel to the fire. In the last few weeks, Chávez has simply taken to saying that the only person running against him is Bush.

There was no other choice than to follow the lead of the teenagers and wade for shore. Barefoot and soaked to my thighs, I marched up the beach in an angry, thirsty, and sunburnt huff. Nuñez was there, his expression grim as he watched the whole affair unfold. I asked him what had happened to the the elite amphibious fighters, the tanks, the 2,200 civilians. He seemed tired; his arms were folded across his chest and his hat was pulled low over his eyes. Without looking at me, he answered as if by rote. "The tanks came by when you were out to sea, and the civilians, they are hidden all around you, watching, learning, taking notes," he said. "This is guerrilla warfare, after all."

Sacha Feinman is a Venezuela-based freelance journalist.

Alright, it's the end of another fun day and I have just one question.  What is going on with our frickin (US) schools right now?

I say it's time to start arming the janitors with Tazers.  How many school attacks have we had in the last week?

It's almost like we have a bunch of copy cats out there.

Symptoms of a cause IMHO.  Collapse of families and social connections that are face to face would be the cause.
And the cause of this cause is...
Be that as it may, why always in schools? Why never a hospital?
Symptoms yes. I think family collapse is overrated (but exists in various forms) as a cause, but certainly lack of civic and societal connections contribute.

Primary cause is the kids see that the world they are inheriting is completely screwed up and some have difficulty dealing with it.  

Hello Dinopello,

Agreed.  Hans Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome [GAS].  From Reg Morrison's website is a good article called "Hydrogen:Humanity's Maker and Breaker {pdf warning}" that discusses GAS.  IMO, we haven't seen anything yet.  

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Thanks! Looks like some interesting reading.
But there is.

Check out Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point.

When there is a major, well publicised plane crash, the number of light plane crashes goes up.  So does the number of motor vehicle accidents which are ruled as suicides.

Human beings communicate, and act, at an unconscious level.

The kick-off for this US thing was a Montreal man storming into a CEGEP (pre college) and shooting six people-- about 4 weeks ago.  His inspiration, no doubt, was a previous incident in which 14 women were killed (16 years ago, but it is legend in Montreal) and a shooting in which a professor killed 3 of his colleagues (also in Montreal, in the mid 90s).

The guy in Montreal had 3 guns and shot 21 people, but still only killed one, a girl that he shot 6 times. Talk about lousy target practice.
Or he wasn't using particularly lethal bullets.

I'd wait to the Coroner's Inquest before making judgements.

synchornicity combined with mass psychosis due to deteriorating conditions of society, exacerbated by copy cats and the mass media
OK...in that case...give the custodians two Tazers.  

Sorry, this crap scrares the hell out of me (I have two little guys in school) and last year there was a lock down due to a stranger lurking at the doors after school let out asking kids to come outside.

Look at the magazines in the checkout line.  "Brad and Jen" "Johny Deep and ?" ...Lose weight...Look sexy...power diet...Anna Nichole..."Petco - Get your dogs picture taken with Santa Claus."
Do we deserve to be hated by the rest of the world and our kids know it?
Yet another late breaking story released after the NYSE closed for the day.

Officials: Energy diversification needed

http://futures.fxstreet.com/Futures/news/afx/singleNew.asp?menu=economicnews&pv_noticia=11598199 36-a0a30f08-34737

NEW ORLEANS (AFX) - Oil and gas will be central to the energy business into the foreseeable future, but tapping unconventional and alternative sources will be necessary to meet growing energy demands, industry officials said Monday

"The easy oil is gone," Russ Ford, technical vice president for Shell Exploration & Production Co., a unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, told a gathering of geophysicists in New Orleans

"We need to continue developing technology to deliver new energy," he said. "That's where the brainpower in this room comes in." Evolving technologies will be crucial to developing trickier oil stores -- those deep in the Gulf of Mexico or in western U.S. rocks, officials said. Shell is testing technology that sinks heaters underground to warm the rock trapping the oil and get the oil to flow, a process that can take years

Reuters is reporting US to Delay Buying Emergency Oil through Winter

The U.S. Energy Department said on Monday it will hold off buying replacement oil for the nation's emergency petroleum stockpile through the upcoming winter heating season in order to keep more supplies on the market.

To help make more oil supplies available for producing gasoline over the summer and help lower then-soaring pump prices, U.S. President George W. Bush in April ordered the Energy Department to delay deliveries and purchases of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve until this autumn, which began on Sept. 22.

The department will again delay replacing the 11 million barrels of crude oil that it sold last year from the stockpile for $600 million to oil companies who needed help after Hurricane Katrina disrupted petroleum supplies.

WTF???  What happened to "we will never use the SPR to affect prices" bullsh*t?  Someone find that link for me would ya?
The rule is that the SPR will not be released to lower prices for non-emergency reasons. That does not mean that the government has to buy oil to refill it at any time. I think you are shooting at shadows.

Would you really want the government to drive up heating oil prices?

Hello Dragonfly41,

I suggest reading everything on this link to get the full context, but it appears that the SPR has been a political tool from the outset.

Excerpt taken from link above:
Verbatim quote: BUSH: [W]e will not play politics with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That petroleum reserve is in place in case of major disruptions of energy supplies to the United States. The idea of emptying the Strategic Petroleum Reserve plays -- would put America in a dangerous position in the war on terror. We're at war. We face a tough and determined enemy on all fronts. And we must not put ourselves in a worse position in this war. And playing politics with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would do just that.
To me, this reads that Bush and Homeland Security should always be exerting maximum efforts to keep the SPR topped off.

Older link, but good info:
Well-known economist Robert J. Samuelson, writing on the opinion page of The Washington Post, stated the obvious. "Only the innocent could believe that President Clinton's decision to release (SPR oil) wasn't driven mainly by politics. Whatever the stated justifications, the essence of this act is to provide a roughly $1-billion federal subsidy to Al Gore's campaign."

API cites error of targeting price. The American Petroleum Institute left no doubt about its view. "The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was established by Congress to address supply disruptions. It was not intended--and should never be used--to manipulate prices. History has shown time and again that government interference in the market place will lead to negative consequences such as the long gas lines of the 1970s."
This is taken from a recent white paper from the API itself [PDF Warning]:
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) generated a great deal of discussion both regarding its role in preventing or mitigating oil crises in the last 30 years, and how best to use it in the future.
A number of attendees argued that the SPR plays a deterrent role by leaving open the option of using oil from the reserve in the event of a price hike. The Saudis seem to have been eager to release supply rather than see the Department of Energy capture the rent from selling oil on the market.
Some participants countered that the role of the SPR in regulating markets has not been demonstrated, and furthermore that the SPR can only be an effective deterrent if there is a belief that it would indeed be tapped. Unless the deterrent is credible, its costs outweigh its benefits, and the only way the SPR becomes credible is if it were used. The recent crisis in Venezuela was the type of event that the SPR was designed to offset, and yet the US government opposed tapping the reserve.
While most attendees noted the decrease in private oil stocks over the last decades, there was disagreement on the extent to which the existence of the SPR was displacing private stock to public stock. Some participants stressed that the structure of the industry, particularly the larger number of smaller players, financing constraints, and a focus on reducing asset bases to improve company balance sheets, have reduced the incentives for private companies to hold more than bare minimum oil stocks.
Discussions also covered whether, and what, rules should be developed on when and how to use the reserve. Some participants recommended that specific guidelines be developed that would define the price and supply conditions that would justify releasing oil from the reserve. This, they argued, would set clear conditions for the market and effectively serve as a price cap on oil prices. On the other side of the argument, some suggested that such conditions were complex and difficult to predict. They instead suggested that policy makers would recognize the moment to intervene, "if and when it occurred". The SPR, they said, is more a political and strategic instrument than an economic one. It serves to reassure policy makers that they could intervene were market conditions to severely deteriorate. The SPR should thus be justified using criteria beyond simple economic costs and benefits.
Note: I bolded the key sentences above.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

One more verbatim Bush quote from CNN transcripts:

Excerpt from Sept. 21,2000
The Strategic Reserve is an insurance policy meant for a sudden disruption of our energy supply or for war. Strategic Reserve should not be used as an attempt to drive down oil prices right before an election. It should not be used for short-term political gain at the cost of long-term national security.
Clearly, Bush understands the political power of manipulating the SPR, but this link clearly states he wants the SPR filled up to its 700 million barrel capacity:
President Orders Strategic Petroleum Reserve Filled
Statement by the President

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is an important element of our Nation's energy security. To maximize long-term protection against oil supply disruptions, I am directing today the Secretary of Energy to fill the SPR up to its 700 million barrel capacity.

The SPR will be filled in a deliberate and cost-effective manner. This will be done principally through royalty-in-kind transfers to be implemented by the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior.

Our current oil inventories, and those of our allies who hold strategic stocks, are sufficient to meet any potential near-term disruption in supplies.  Filling the SPR up to capacity will strengthen the long-term energy security of the United States.

But this link to the DOE SPR inventory page shows that he has been awful slow to refill it.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Thanks, Bob.  That was a wealth of information and great perspective on the SPR.
Just don't believe Robert Samuelson.

He is a journalist and one with a mixed reputation.

Paul Samuelson (no relation) won the Nobel Prize in Economics, and is probably the most published economist of all time.

They are not above using the SPR to manipulate oil prices but it's not big enough to meaningfully impact prices (although announcements can be used to manipulate expectations of prices).

Yes - and while you are at it - send an email to KSA that we have a potential buyer for their surplus oil....oops - I forgot they already closed the taps.
Hello TODers,

Nice to know that Arctic storms are helping to break up the ice in Antarctica.  Now that is long distance climate change!

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hello TODers,

Mexico Update: Reuters reports small bombs hit banks in Oaxaca, but don't report who was responsible.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hello TODers,

The Tooth Fairy will want your teeth for making PV panels:
Alternative energy: A new way to take a bite of sunlight!

Flash those pearly whites in a dazzling smile and you showcase a natural light collector mechanism hidden inside the internal structure of dentin - the hard, bone-like material that forms the main part of teeth.

Scientists in Germany are reporting that the photonic crystal structure of dentin was their inspiration to propose a new method for harvesting sunlight to produce electricity.

Andrei P. Sommer and Michael Gente say tooth structure bears similarities to photonic crystals, which allow certain wavelengths to enter their internal structure, but block others. Applications of the effect include harvesting sunlight for photovoltaic cells.

"The light-collector mechanism in dentin could serve as a model for the design of solar concentrator arrays," the researchers write in their paper, published in the current (September/October) edition of the bimonthly ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

"Arrays of tooth-like structures mounted on silicon permit collection of sunlight virtually independent of the angle of incidence of the sun, which could be vital, for instance, in Antarctica."

Source: American Chemical Society
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Sorry, folks.  I was in a rush this morning, and accidentally hit the wrong button and deleted the newest DrumBeat. It appears I have the power to delete threads (without so much as a "are you sure you want to do this?" warning), but not the power to post any.  So I can't post a new DrumBeat.

PG?  Somebody? Fix it, please...

And if it's possible, change my rights so I can't delete anything.  :-P