DrumBeat: October 22, 2006

[Update by Leanan on 10/22/06 at 9:29 AM EDT]

Crude oil still racing towards $30 a barrel

Oil fundamentally is ready to go test the low twenties. However before that happens many people will buy the commodity and start false rallies. A quick correction through a sharp rally of 7 to 20% is possible anytime. But the oil market is in trouble.

Will the oil price go up before it goes down?

It was about four years ago that a respected local billionaire warned this correspondent that oil prices were about to turn down. Fortunately he is not in the oil business and has doubtless profited hugely from the boom of the past few years.

Yet how can you really be in business in the Middle East and not look at the oil price? And there is a new pattern emerging, which we can derive from analyzing two seemingly very different views.

Higher oil prices may be better

Uganda: Power crisis cuts Internet use

According to the survey, the majority of the households have no access to computers yet those with access have also abandoned ICT usage due to the perpetual power cuts.

Greens see red over Dublin’s energy efficiency ratings

A GOVERNMENT move to give Irish houses high marks for energy efficiency has caused a row with environmentalists, who say the properties merit only a pass grade and must do better.

Pluspetrol says losing $2.4 million/day in Peru protest

Argentine oil company Pluspetrol said on Saturday it was losing about $2.4 million a day in revenue after suspending operations this week because hundreds of indigenous protesters occupied its oil wells.

Iraq’s oil industry: Guarding a nation’s future Stars and Stripes goes to Basra.

U.K.: Energy subsidy plan for homes runs out of cash

The government's green credentials suffered an embarrassing blow yesterday after it emerged that a system of grants for renewable energy for householders has run out of money this year.

International Oil Companies Drawn to Untapped Oil Riches in Macedonia

Norwegian, Turkish and Kazakh oil and gas companies plan to come to Macedonia to see just how much oil is bubbling under the surface at the untapped Engilija field near Sveti Nikole in the east of the country.

Climate change forces farming innovation

DES MOINES, Iowa - Gary Larsen, a 63-year-old grandfather who raises corn and soybeans is among the growing number of farmers concerned with the potential effects of global warming. "We don't know how the world could actually turn out, but doing absolutely nothing and sticking your head in the sand is not an option," said Larsen, who lives near Elk Horn, Iowa.

Launch of Encyclopedia of Earth

A new electronic reference has launched that needs input from the energy community. With the recent public release of the Encyclopedia of Earth www.eoearth.org, scientists from around the world are joining to create a comprehensive, authoritative source of information about the environments of Earth and their interactions with society.

Big Oil's Big Problem

Despite record profits, the top multinational companies say they face a troubled future, and none more so than BP.

Business 'not adapting to climate'

British business is failing to adapt to climate change, according to a new report.

...while some sectors, such as insurance and some utilities, show an understanding of the likely impacts of climate change, and are taking some steps, most respondents provided little firm evidence that they are developing or considering "adaptation" strategies.

New hippies are fighting to replace oil

The generation of activists who fought for civil rights, against an unpopular war, and started the environmental movement is poised for one last hurrah, one more attempt to cure the ills of American society.

They're older now, and perhaps a little wiser. They're settled into their communities, some of them already retired. And they're scared as hell about the lives facing their children and grandchildren once the oil runs out.

Interview: Ciaran Hancock: Ballsbridge’s Big Oil ambassador

Chevron’s chairman and chief executive, Dave O’Reilly says there’s plenty of liquid gold to go round. It simply has to be found.

Sunny Side Up

...G.M. and a small but growing number of other companies and municipalities are getting solar energy from systems installed by others. Even though the installations are right on their own roofs, they buy the electricity much as they would from a utility’s grid. And because the companies that paid for the systems will get a steady income, they can provide power from the sun at competitive electricity rates.

Biofuels — the answer to the wrong question

Biofuels such as ethanol have been presented by alternative energy entrepreneurs and many environmentalists as a “clean, green” alternative to fossil fuels. But recently a growing chorus of scientists have warned of the dangers of biofuels.

Pump volatility sparks electric car charge

With volatile gas prices and the release of the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?," plug-in auto advocates hope more people will come to see the electric vehicle as something that fits into their everyday lives.
alrighty then   i am wondering about the coming winter demand for nat gas     noaa is predicting a warmer than normal winter  based i believe  mostly on the soi (el nino')      while the old farmer's almanac is forcasting a significantly colder winter    up to 5 degrees in december    while 5 degrees dont sound like much    it will translate into a lot of natural gas   the farmer's almanac  relies on cycles of sun spot activity ( chart reading for weather)     this may be an opportunity to make (or loose) a lot of $$$$$$ on gas futures
Nymex has the Dec '07 contract at $9.176 and the Dec '11 at $7.592!

What is the consensus about the tail of the strip for energy futures?

dont believe you will make a lot of money in any market based on consensus       just my opinion    i have a brother in law  who reads every newsletter he can get his hands on    and he is in a constant state of confusion
Nymex has the Dec '07 contract at $9.176 and the Dec '11 at $7.592!

What is the consensus about the tail of the strip for energy futures?

By definition, the consensus is exactly the prices you indicate - the market is a dollar weighted aggregate vote of consensus, and given the distribution of size and shape of players, probably a pretty good people vote as well as dollar vote

Bulls will point to NA supply cliff, written about here.  They will also point out that a price floor seems to have been reached, as producers will willingly leave gas in ground if they cant make money on it.

Bears will point to the price elasticity of demand for moving industry offshore if prices get high enough. They will also point to a large increase in expected LNG imports. The more esoteric among them will point to global warming trends reducing the amount of gas needed for heat in winter.

Myself, I see gradually higher highs and higher lows with increased volatility over next 5 years, including periodic outages, brownouts and blackouts. The risk reward long term favors buying these contracts insofar as you can make more than you can lose - but a warm winter 2006/7 and you will lose money near term almost for sure.  Better to buy natural gas stocks with long term quality reserves which might have less volatility than the futures. But as always, depends on your risk parameters and objectives.

bears might also point out that some industrial users, eg fertilizer and plastic precursors, are moving offshore... or, to put it differently, the onshore producers can't compete against those producing from cheaper supplies. Moving these uses offshore is both cheaper, less risk, and more energy efficient that importing lng to continue doing these things here.
mmm yes but beware of false outsourcing analogies.

Manufacturing labour may be outsourced to places where wages are always going to be significantly lower.

But where are these places that have long-term cheaper energy prices for manufacturing?

... the moons of Saturn?

All of those places that are planning large lng projects, including qatar, as noted by alan below, plus australia, iran, even tobago.  The total cost of liquifying ng, transporting it in special ships, gasifying it, and finally selling it at current US prices of 7/mcf means the value in the exporting country is maybe half, say 3.50/mcf.  Naturally it would be cheaper to make fertilizer/plastic precursors with 3.50 input and then shipping the easily shippable products.
In relocalization news, the neighborhood next to mine has just dug up all their gas lamps. The builder had installed gas lights for street lighting in the development (about 6 or 8 'square blocks'? -- curvy suburban streets and cul-de-sacs aren't square) back in 1999 and they were so, so quaint. Every time a kid would hit one of the poles with a basketball, the mantles would break and when a car hit one, the whole thing would be smashed and leaking gas. That and the neighborhood association had to pay for the gas to be on 24/7/365, I presume.

They're probably going to install electric lights like we have. We got the faux-gas-lamp look in our electric street lights for a slight premium over the city standard, galvanized steel poles. And the city pays for the electricity; it doesn't go through our meters.

is that in San Diego or in the Phoenix area? I know a few areas have set up what they called "gas lamp" or "gas light" districts, walking-friendly and supposed to rejuvenate dead downtown areas, this was big in the late 90s.

Have they finally realized gaslight went out of style because better things came along?

I can just see the "LED light district" someday lol......

Yeah, or they could use those neon fake flame lights. You know, the bulb has a flame-shaped electrode and allows just barely enough current to light the neon with a flickering effect?

I hate those things...

is that in San Diego or in the Phoenix area?

And no, it's just a McBurb at the northwest corner of Austin. It was built in '98-'99.

Hello Everyone,

I would like you all to know that my favourite newspaper - the Financial Times - had a special, 12-page, report on energy on Friday 20th October. The report can be found here I suspect that it is behind a firewall but since I am a subscriber, I am not sure.

In any event, the important thing is that this report mentions "Peak Oil" paragraph

Troubled future: peak oil theorists are warning that the world's oilfields are on the decline and soon will be unable to match our insatiable appetite for energy
I need hardly point out that I cannot see the Wall Street Journal printing anything similar anytime soon.
I think you underestimate the WSJ. Their editorial page is full of wingnuts, but their news section is perhaps the best in the U.S.  They have covered the peak oil issue.

This story appeared on the front page of the WSJ two years ago.

This past week the WSJ had a great guest editorial by a Harvard professor presenting his case for a much higher gas tax.  I was sorry that I didn't have time to post it here.
I agree with Leanan about the WSJ. They are doing a good job covering peak oil on the reporting side. On the op-ed side, the official position of the editors is no peak oil anytime soon. However, that is the position of the unsigned editorialists, not necessarily the columnists and guest writers. I have been seeing occasional op-ed pieces acknowleging, or at least not dismissing, peak oil for at least the last two years. The recent op-ed piece you are referring to was by Greg Mankiw, Chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors from 2003 to 2005. It is on his blog here:

Raise the Gas Tax

One other comment about the WSJ. I am reasonably comfortable that their editorial views do not leak into their reporting. Although I am also a big fan of the New York Times, I can't say that I have the same level of comfort about the reporting vs. opinion separation there.

Many of us would like to see more PO stories in the MSM.  The problem is that the media are concerned with the here and now.  It's just the nature of the beast.  The media asks who, what, where, why, when and how.  They don't ask if, maybe or possibly.  Peak oil to the unknowing is a theory, unproven until it happens and it will remain that way.  Even once PO is five years into the rearview mirror there will still be pundits on CNBC saying we'll get back to where we were.  
I am impressed!
Thanks for the "Encyclopedia of Earth" link, looks like a great resource.  If I only had more time,  aarrrgh...
We tried out our new tankless electric water heater this morning. We were in some suspense but we had plenty of hot water for our morning shower.

Our previous water heater was the last natural gas appliance left, so we installed a PowerStar AE 115, made by Bosch. The AE 115 required two 240V/40A circuits. The AE 125 had a greater flow rate but would have required three circuits - too much for our panel. I mounted it on a basement post between the bathroom and kitchen, closer to the bathroom.

Now we can cancel gas service altogether. My ultimate plan is to bring in solar-warmed water from the porch roof and bring it to full heat with this unit.

wondering why you went with the electric when gas is available?
Me too. Even where I live, propane is much cheaper to operate than electricity. I've been glancing at this cheap Chinese tankless water heater. Off the grid folks I know also use propane refrigerators.
I have a bad feeling about NGas prices and want to get out now. Prices have come down a bit lately, but I think the long-term trend will be up. Also, the local company keeps billing us based on estimates, which are based on running the gas furnace, and run into hundreds of dollars. Since we refuse to pay that much, they now want a security deposit. I can live without them.

And as I wrote, I think tankless, which only runs when you need it, is a good match for solar-warmed water.

I'd sure like to hear how that works out for you...the plumbers in this area swear that these things are no good, for some unknown reason.  When I had my house built, the contractor's plumber absolutely refused to install one. I really wonder what the deal is...let us know, if you can.
Donal, Seadragon;
  When I was revamping our apts, I wanted to use instant electric heaters and was warned away by a local Plumber whose word I tend to trust.  He said he would never install another one (Sorry, Donal, hope this isn't your case..) since they would fail due to excessive thermal cycling.  Either the plumbing joints or the heating elements would be overstressed by the high heat flux that was asked of them, quickly and repeatedly bringing 45f up to 120f or so..

BUT,  and this is my theory only..  what Donal said about coupling with Solar Heat might be the system-saving workaround, since the degree/raise required when taking in Solar Preheated water would be considerably gentler on the tankless system, or so it seems.

Good luck!

I lived in Japan for about nine years. Tankless water heaters are all you see with most of them using gas. I suspect your plumber was using some cheap knock off.
No kidding.
I'm living in Japan right now.
I've never even seen a tank water heater here.

I've one of those gas tankless heaters for years. Works great. There's a little switch on the bathroom and kitchen wall. When I'm not using the hot water I can just turn the entire thing off.

That thing can get the water up to near boiling. Never once had a problem with enough hot water.

Bet that plumber just doesn't like newfangled thing.

No.  He's not a luddite.

His distrust was reserved for ELECTRIC instantaneous heaters, which he said he has seen fail far too often to be able to present to a client.  It would be his own rep on the line if the thing went south.  He never tells me to get the cheap stuff, either.. (boy, the assumptions you guys jump to!)

He was open to the idea that maybe the industry had worked through the bugs, but he was being cautious, after too many burns.

I know part of the reason plumbers are uncomfortable with tankless water heaters...

When preparing to put on a workshop about installing/using the Aquastar NG/Propane tankless heaters I contacted a number of local plumbers to get their comments.

They all discouraged me from using one. (I didn't tell them that I've been using the same unit for 7 years now after having self-installed it one home then removed and reinstalled in my next home when I moved - with no troubles at all) In chatting with them I found that few had ever been around a RESIDENTIAL unit and that they were remembering problems with COMMERCIAL units (like restaurants and such use). Most had only seen residential units in catalogs.

 The commercial units are practically flash boilers and heat the water very hot for use in commercial dishwashing equipment and such. When water is heated this hot the minerals in the water come out of solution and the tubing "limes up". Then they have to be cleaned out with acid. Also the high temperatures seem to be hard on the connections.

In talking to Bosch (manufacturers of the Aquastar) they knew of the bad opinion that plumbers had about tankless, and that it was based on the big comnmercial units. The residential Aquastar units CAN NOT get hot enough to cause liming problems because that would create a danger of scalding people in the shower.

I've installed three Aquastar 125 gas tankless heaters for myself and 2 other families. All are working fine. Unfortunately our American plumbers are behind the rest of the world in this area of knowledge.

Greg in MO

PS. with a 125 unit you can run a shower and sink at the same time - neither will be full heat, but they won't be even close to cold either. Probably no worse than running a sink after someone has taken a long shower with a standard tank heater and it is about tapped out. Do beware that once your teen figures out that a tankless heater NEVER runs out of hot water that you will have a hard time getting them to take a quick shower :o)

It depends on how hard you have the water on in any case.  If the water is running low, you can run hot water for hours without it running cold.  As long as the water heater can keep heating the water to keep up with the demand, or almost keep up, the tank can last a long time.  Of course, running the shower full blast will drain the tank in no time.  

In addition, it's obviously better just to have a tankless water heater if you want to take long showers, especially if you're going to run at low output.  A tankless heater will clearly be a lot better at keeping up than one with a tank.  

I actually think the whole concept of the tank waterheater is kind of idiotic.  

"I actually think the whole concept of the tank waterheater is kind of idiotic."

Kind of..
But don't forget that the tankless is fully dependent on having a ready supply of energy available to heat it fast, which gas and electric can do.  This technology (which I support, I have to add) still reminds me of the 'just-in-time' approach to inventory, which saves owners on valuable storage requirements and tax implications.. but its fully dependent on having an uninterrupted trucking infrastructure.

I don't think its foolish to have highly insulated storage areas for both hot and for cold in a home.  The hot water could largely be solar-heated, with Tankless to 'finish it off', and I would feel much more secure knowing I didn't have to have a meter spinning out front to have heat or hot water.  I know of a guy up in the White Mts who dug a trench off the north side of his house with a well-insulated lid, and he'd pack it full of snow/ice from the roof all winter and then shut it in..  it would stay frozen for months of summertime.  Thats a lot of refrigeration you could get for free.

Ultimately, I'm a horder.  I believe in Stockpiles..
coo coo katchoo!

I actually think the whole concept of the tank waterheater is kind of idiotic.

On the contrary, it's a crucial peak-load management tool. Prime candidate for load shedding during peak periods. Generally a household can get by with overnight water heating with an adequately dimensioned cylinder, and it makes sense for the consumer (differential pricing) and especially for the producer. A little bit of waste heat is no big deal compared with the huge demand surge when everyone takes a 3 KW shower at once.

In New Zealand, all water heating is (or was?) on a separate circuit, and routinely switched off through the network at demand peaks. During the energy crisis of the 70s, there was even a period of cool showers when the hydro lakes were down.

I have had a Bosch PowerStar for two years and have been very happy with it. I never run out of hot water and my electric bill has declined by about 25%. Since I live in the land of TVA I have an all-electric home.
but what is the source of your electricity     here in the midwest of a  much of the electricity is generated from nat gas    some coal and coal generated power imported from big wyoming    i am assuming that if gas goes up so will electric  i looked at a gas tankless water heater a year or so ago and decided that the extra cost would take a longer than the life of a tankful one to  pay  out    but cant you get off that budget billing thing ?  
Here in PA we're probably on coal, maybe nukes. I know electricity will go up too, but I'm guessing it will move up more slowly than NGas.

We've tried reasoning with Dominion Gas, but they're behind a wall of bureacracy.

Have you thought of generating your own power?  A PV system, or a windmill (depending on your location, not sure if you can have them in the city) could cover most, or all of your energy needs.  If you're really worried about the future of energy prices, don't go half way, go all out.  Granted the initial expense can be a bit high.  
PV is beyond my budget, but I have thought about a small windmill. The next house is only twenty feet away, so I wonder if people would complain about noise, etc. I could mount it on our backyard shed.
Here, in Thaland, tankless water heaters (on demand heating) hold about 80% of the market. I use a 220V/1400W unit in the shower and it is plenty enough power to heat the water to mid to high warm. I can not see any reason that this method of hot water heating is not advisable. We only heat the water we use and only when we use it.
Now we can cancel gas service altogether.

Congrats, that is on of my goals as well.

Cool! Switch to strip mined coal, why not?
Wow, you can tell a lot from two sentences.
What's your solution?  Or are you one of those guys who goes around criticizing everyone else for trying to do better, while doing absolutely nothing yourself.  
Did you mean to respond to what I said? How do you draw this conclusion? I said I was trying to go to total elctric at some point and the response was, yeah strip mine coal instead. To which I said, how did you come to this conclusion? Now you come along and say that I criticized him? How did you draw this conclusion? I would be willing to bet that I use less energy than my neighbors, or the average American, or even you. The sheeple waste energy, they always will. I have solutions which are right for me. There is no solution which will keep us going the way we do things now.

For instance, say I declare that I am putting pv solar on my roof at home and buying a GEM electric car to get around. The immediate response I would get would be: "Those things have no range, solar won't work for everyone because it isn't reliable, how am I going to get to work in one of those gloried golf carts?" You know what, anything I suggest I might do for myself would be shot down by someone here because it won't work for everyone. Well, you know what my answer is to that, THEY'RE SCREWED. I didn't invent this mess and it's not my responsibility to clean it up. Even if I proposed an answer which would work for everyone, they wouldn't follow it. So there, :P.

BTW, currently my local power plant uses natural gas, residential gas infrastructure and delivery systems leak sometimes, they use a lot of gasoline reading meters, etc., the method that I use to determine what is best for me and the environment are very complicated and I don't have time to go into it here.

I googled to find out more about tankless water heaters, but most of the sites are devoid of basic information. How does the water get heated so quickly? I always thought you needed a tank because it takes time for water to get hot.
Physically, I am not exactly sure. There have always been instant water heaters, sometimes installed at sinks or far away from the heater on a large house, but these were considered very energy ineffecient. They usually used electrical elements, like running water through your stove? I think the savings on the whole house model is because you are not heating 40 gallons all day long.
Tankless water heaters are merely highly effient heat exchangers.  Open one up and typically there is fin tubes (on gas demand heaters) or tubing coils (electric demand heaters) The water flow rating is based on a temperature rise and is simply the result of the basic BTU concept.  (BTU= one pound of water raised one degree Fahrentheit).  Instead of gallons you may consider pounds of water flow rate.

I am a fan of gas demand heaters but not necessarily electric.  Imagine the utility grid demand if everyone had electric demand water heaters at 6-7 am in a region.

One thing to look for before using a demand water heater for solar backup is whether the unit has proportional water temperature control...  for instance if the control is based on a temperature rise or a set temperature.    This is a safety issue since solar thermal systems will have temperatures above the given groundwater temps.  With a proportional heater the output will only be what is required to raise the temp to a setpoint, say 130 deg F.    

A fixed temp rise heater however will produce  output to rise above whatever the incoming temp is.  This can be dangerous as solar temps will seldom be below 90 deg F.  The consequence would be blown P/T valves or in the case of P/T valve failure - a pipe explosion.

Just one consideration when teaming solar thermal and demand water heaters.    They are a beautiful combination however.

In leiu of installing a demand heater, adding foil backed insulation to reduce standby tank losses is a good idea.  Especially on electic tank water heaters.   Care has to be taken keep the insulation well above the burner area on gas water heaters- this is due to a possibility of flame roll outs or blocking combustion air.  This is why my most utilities do not recommend adding insulation to gas water heaters.  Also the economics are not as good.  (elec appx $25 mbtu gas appx $10-15 mbtu)

I'm pretty sure most tankless heaters that are available all heat the temperature proportionally.  I haven't actually seen one that just heats a fixed rate, although I am sure they exist.  Most come with thermostats you set, which would be pointless if they always heated a fixed amount.  

One of the issues in integrating one with a solar water heating system is getting one that can just not run if the water is already heated above the set temperature.  This is more to not waste gas/electricity than to keep the water from being overheated.  For example, some tankless heaters always have to run at a minimum output when water flows through them.  This minimum heating level is not going to make the water that much hotter (not enough to cause a pipe explosion unless your solar water heating system has already overheated the water to a dangerous level), but if the extra heat is not needed then you're just wasting gas.  

In regards to insulating water heaters, another reason I suspect that insulating gas heaters isn't as effective is because gas water heaters have a flue going straight out the ceiling anyway.  You can insulate the tank, but a bunch of heat is still going to be lost straight up the flue.  In this one way, gas tank heaters are a bit less efficient than electric tanks.  Unfortunately, the extreme inefficiency of the "toaster style" heating element means that electric heaters are still going to use a lot more energy than gas heaters ever will.  

Our unit is limited to inlet temperature of 86 degF. My hope was that I could use exclusively solar water in warm weather, and save the tankless for winter if the solar water is only lukewarm. That's a project for next summer, though.
Everyone in brazil has these on their shower head.  The heating coil has to be replaced from time to time, and you are only supposed to take short showers mine is rated 5500 watts.
OilRig Medic,

Which city are you living in?  

I am in Salvador.

Campinas,SP my wife is in Unicamp.
When North Americans go down there to see the sights, we call those "suicide showerheads" :)
They employ especially high-powered heating elements. The gas ones are probably a little slower to come up to temperature. But from the original post:

The AE 115 required two 240V/40A circuits. The AE 125 had a greater flow rate but would have required three circuits - too much for our panel.

Notice that they had to install a circuit or two just for the heating element -- apparently it's almost a dead short across the mains. It may use less power overall, but it's all in brief bursts while you have the hot water running.

In the AE 115, there are two heating elements each about the size of a beer can, but all copper. Not much else in there, though.
you probablly allready know this but fwiw,
if you want hotter water just choke down the flow rate, ie open the hot water valve 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 ect. the water stays in contact with the heating element longer.
I got a letter a couple of days ago from the local electric company (Southern California Edison) which talked about why they were raising rates. The first reason given was unusually high natural gas prices. Unfortunately for this letter, gas prices have of course fallen dramatically in the last couple of months and are now the lowest they have been since early 05.

I felt like writing a letter back asking if they were going to lower our electric rates now that gas prices have fallen. Somehow I doubt that is going to happen.

California electricity is some of the most expensive in the U.S. The latest SCE tariffs have it at 36 cents/kWh for anything over 200% of baseline (and at my house we go well over that level). Pretty tough to go all electric with those kinds of costs. OTOH it makes solar a much easier sell around here.

I have an electric whole house(don't believe it)
water heater myself and I love it; has paid for itself in energy savings over
the last couple of years. Problem is if someone turns on the
hot water in the kitchen while you are showering, you are going
to get a quick cold shower. These are great, but are only for
a single outlet at a time.
Just to clarify; my unit is 100amp with four
heating elements, on demand hot water unit. It
is a little larger than two cigar boxes side by
side. I have had it for five years, the only trouble
I have had was with a board in the computer and
the company replaced the whole unit with a newer
model no charge. It has a lifetime warranty.
I have also heard of resistance from the plumbing
people in my area to on demand water heaters, but
they also resisted moving in the past from cast iron pipe to pvc, and from copper to cross-
link polyethelyne pipe.
From the link above Crude oil still racing towards $30 a barrel

The unexpected supply from oil companies, lack strategic reserve requirements from America, China and India, hedge funds capitulation -all are working towards making oil cheaper.

What unexpected supply from oil companies? According to the IEA's Oil Market Report, world oil supply (all liquids) is down .8 mb/d in the last two months. They have it 86.2 mb/d in July, 85.8 mb/d in August and 85.4 mb/d in September.

At any rate, the oil supply has been flat for almost two years now. Prices rose, as one would expect, then they have fallen by twenty dollars per barrel in the last two months.

So the big question is; why is the price of oil falling. Well, I can tell you one thing, it is not because of an increase of oil supply on the market. But the article does get one thing very right:

The economy is falling fast. The great Asian depression has started. US economy is about to cool although currently in a mode of slight acceleration.

That, dear hearts, is, in my opinion anyway, the reason oil prices are falling. And if they fall further, and they just might, that will be the reason. We are on the cusp of a major world recession. And the high price of oil is part of the reason.

Ron Patterson

wont the ongoing deficit spending in the us of a  (sort of a keynesian orgy of debt and deficit) keep the economy afloat  like it has since at least 2001 ? ( for the short term anyhow)  
This is the first that I heard about a great asian depression. Are you sure that article isnt from back in 1997?

For you peaker-doomers:

Notice all of the similar peaks and dips since the late 80's. Try not to cry wolf just yet!

It occurs to me that now OPEC are trumpeting these production cuts its going to be nigh on impossible (or more so than usual) to come to any conclusion as to whether we have indeed hit world peak for a wee while longer. It has been espoused here that the cuts being talked about are merely a smoke screen behind which OPEc countries can hide their already peaking produvtion. Well that might be true, but then again it also might be true that OPEC is indeed reducing production in response to a decline in demand. The latter is only going to get more important in the next 12 months IMO - it is clear that the US housing market is in deep trouble, and wither that goes likley goes the US economy as well. Folk say that ah well, China and India demand will keep expading in the meantime, but personally I dont see the scenario of a US recession NOT impacting severely on global demand.

If indeed this turns into a major recession (and it is possible given the confluence of other factors such as the debt mountain in the anglosphere etc) we could then see the situation where demand falls/stays low for 3 or 4 years - a mini counterpart perhaps to what happened in the 70's.In the meantime oil could fall much lower than any of us thought even a few months ago.

It would only be at the end of such a recession when pick up in demand comes again that we would be able to see anything clearer about true peak. We tend to treat the IEA and other figures on supply with some reservations - but I think it is time to treat their demand projections with similar scepticism (for the period 2007-2011 at least).

Not that any of this is greatly surprising - in essence we have just probably seen the first in a series of oil-induced recessions. Its taken a wee while to grind its way through, and the chif instigator this time has turned out to be oil induced inflationary presure causing the Fed to raise interest rates which has holed the US housing bubble (with knock on effects about to be writ large), but the smoking gun is the oil price nevertheless.

Hothgor wrote:

This is the first that I heard about a great asian depression. Are you sure that article isnt from back in 1997?

Hothgor, all you had to do to find out was to click on the damn link. If you had gone to the serious trouble to do that you would have seen it was dated October 22, 2006.

Check it out.

Ron Patterson

An India Daily article, Indian Outsourcing Industry is Headed For a Crash And an Outright Depression, from May 22, around the time the Indian stock exchange, Sensex, crashed, sees that depression ahead.

But there's hope. Lots of hope:

India and China will eventually in the next ten years reinvent itself. They will create a free trade zone in Asia and make their domestic economies grow. India and China are destined to become sustainable super powers by 2030.

The golden era of India and China will begin in 2015 and stretch from 2015 to 2085.

However, for now things have to correct itself in the great Asian depression of the early twenty-first century.

Bobots are going to replace cheap forign labor?  I need more convincing.
I think you got that right Ron.  I see demand falling - at a time when the industry was getting itself tooled up to produce as much as it could.  So lower price may stave off interest rate rises and property implosion for a few months / years.  But it will also kill of OECD production.

The $30 / barrel stuff from India is wishful thinking - I suspect the Indians are having real energy supply problems - out drinking with a friend last week who said power cust were regular occurence in India.

Compare and constrast: natural gas, liquid propane and methane (if this is the gas that is produced from landfils and other such facilities).
You forgot the methane from flatulence! The rumour is thaT King George II used to light his farts when he was a cheerleader at Yale.
Aggghhh! C'mon, oilman. This is unfair. Tell us about your own success trying to light your farts. Full details, please. Eveybody has tried it once. Did you get lift-off?

I'm much more impressed by the serious conversation regarding different hot-water heater design here on another thread.

Martin Rosenberg, editor-in-chief of EnergyBiz magazine, a national bimonthly published by Energy Central in Aurora, CO, has written a suprisingly frank article about inadequacies inherent in the U.S. electric grid system.



Despite a few nasty pockets of outages, the country managed to weather the summer with no large-scale, prolonged blackouts similar to the epic Northeast power failure of three years ago.

We likely will not be so lucky in years to come, say many of the executives responsible for producing electricity for America.

When the country thinks about its energy problems, it often focuses on our dependence on foreign oil and the recent high prices of gasoline. Petroleum provides 40 percent of our energy and is particularly vulnerable to geopolitical swings in unstable regions of the world.

But utility executives worry that Americans are failing to appreciate another aspect of the energy picture, namely that the power plants using coal, natural gas and nuclear power to produce electricity may soon not meet our growing needs.

"My biggest fear is that we are running out of generation," said Michael G. Morris, chairman and chief executive of American Electric Power, with 5 million customers in 11 states. "That is an issue that the average person doesn't know a thing about. When we tell corporate America, they say, 'What do you mean you're running out of power?"'

The executives' concern is echoed by the North American Electric Reliability Council, which last week said in its annual report that in two to three years, the margin between power supply and demand will drop below levels necessary for reliability in Texas, the Northeast and the Midwest. Other parts of the country could reach that point in the next decade.

During the last round of power-plant construction, most new units were designed to burn natural gas, which was then available at prices much lower than today. Deciding on the next fuel of choice will be more difficult.

"People don't realize how dangerously close we're moving to not having enough capacity," said Walter M. Higgins III, chairman and chief executive of Sierra Pacific Resources, which serves Las Vegas. "I'm worried about where the natural gas is going to come from for all that generation."

...Another problem that retards innovation is the nature and condition of the country's $1 trillion transmission grid. It was designed for a system in which cities were served by nearby power plants. It was not designed to move power across regions, something that is increasingly needed.

As Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico puts it, "We're still a superpower with a Third World electrical grid."

Richardson, former U.S. energy secretary, faulted utilities for being slow to respond to investment incentives contained in the sweeping energy act passed in 2005. "The grid is in very bad shape," he said. "Blackouts are still happening. The promise of the energy bill was that it would be taken care of."

He also said the federal government "is falling asleep" when it comes to fixing our energy infrastructure. "The public is not aware, and neither are policymakers, that the investments in transmission are not happening."

full article -

This is exactly why I'm skeptical about the amount of excess electrical power capacity available for widespread adoption of plug-in hybrid automobiles.  

In many areas the problem is not generating capacity, but rather the capacity of the grid to deliver extra power to domestic users.  Of course this is particularly bad during summertime heat waves. But when you dump an extra load on the system by even off-peak charging of plug-in hybrids, the system in many areas will be strained to the breaking point.

A major upgrade of the US power grid  is going to be neither cheap, quick, nor easy.

Upgrading our trillion dollar energy grid is probably a small price to pay when we consider the fact that for gasoline alone, we pay 4.5 BILLION A DAY to maintain our habit.

PS, thats 1,642,500,000,000 a year, or 50% more then our trillion dollar energy grid :P

Oh, I fully agree that we should undertake a major upgrade of our electrical power grid. The main point I was trying to make was that such a major upgrade is a necessary (but not necessarily sufficient) condition for the widespread use of plug-in hybrids.

And yes, we ARE spending billions per day on oil, but of course you must realize that should we convert our passenger car fleet to plug-in hybrids, we will then be spending billions per day on coal, uranium, and to a much lesser extent, interest on the loans needed to build massive amounts of wind and solar power. However you get it, energy costs lost of money.

In the long run, it has to be done, but it's going to be quite painful getting there.

(And as long as we're pissing away something like 2 billion dollars a week on Iraq and Afganistan, I just don't see it happening any time soon, unfortunately.)

Joule, very good points indeed! The mass adoption of EVs has a  lot of obstacles to be solved before it can get going.

When we're talking about (someone) investing hundreds of billions, or even trillions, into the electrical grid, we need to ask, "who pays?" and, "where's the money going to come from?"

Every sector of our economy has been borrowing enormous sums from abroad for years, mostly on consumption. Any investments will have to come on top of that, at a point when the pendalum may be starting to swing away from US borrowers.  

But then again, "a trillion here, a trillion there -- pretty soon you're talking about real money!"

Yeah, that's exactly it .... in an already debt-ridden economy, where is that enormous amount of extra money going to come from?

I think we are rapidly sinking into an economic 'potential well' in which there just isn't enough available energy to escape.  In simpler terms, it's like
the farmer who's been forced to eat his seed corn to keep his family from starving.

If we don't start doing something really major real soon, we will find ourselves at the bottom of the same sort of potential well.

So, unless we put an end to our  misadventures in the Middle East, none of this massive investment is ever going to take place. Rather, such financial resourses will continue to be squandered in failed wars.

Geewizz 4.5 billion at $3 a gallon thats 35 million barrells a day, and here I thought we were using 9.5 million barrels a day.
We use on average 320,000,000 gallons of gasoline a day. There are roughly 42 gallons per barrel of oil 320,000,000 / 42 = 7,619,047 barrels per day 7,619,047 x $60 = $457,142,857 Obviously a decimal error on my part :/
Actually Motor Gas has been averaging 8.8 to 9.6 million barrels per day for the past year, for weekly postings of daily demand see.
If you can open XL go here for complete history on Motor Gas. Then you can make all kinds of neat charts on stocks, prices, and demand. Also available for crude, diesel, and propane. See above.
It was designed for a system in which cities were served by nearby power plants. It was not designed to move power across regions, something that is increasingly needed.

Just like the Olduvai's Theory of Industrial Civilization Graph, we need to powerdown the way we powered up.  That means going back to smaller regional power supplies and grids.  In a more perfect world, the entire region of the SW US could be powered by thin film solar and the midwest from TX to ND could be supplemented by wind to supply our farms.  The east could use Gorlav's helical turbine's for free-flow hydropower.  But could it be done fast enough and could logic overcome politics is the question?  Don't take wind farm electricity from ND to supply New York state.  Unfortunately, we are not in a position to start over, we have to work with the existing grid.  

Does anyone remember back in 1990 when the entire west coast power grid went out because of one bad transformer?  You can interpret unreliability anyway you want, as there are at least a dozen more plausable alternatives to the Olduvai Cliff/Plunge.
The localization solution is a BAD solution.  Inefficent to the extreme for anything more than supplemental power.

We need a continent wide HV DC grid to aid the transformation to renewables.  Use wind from the Dakotas and offshore Hudson Bay to feed the East Coast (or the West of Gulf Coasts) !  

I know, and have seen, bulb, Kaplan, Francis, Pelton turbines and have seen Turgo & Banki turbines at trade shows.  I will have to Google Gorlav turbines !  

Thousands of the above turbines in service for many decades, yet we are supposed to power the East Coast off of an unknown turbine !!

I am as strong a hydro supporter as there is on this board, but what you propose is nonsense !

Best Hopes,


I have a great deal of respect for your posts and your knowledge.  
In my effort to be concise, I meant to convey that regionally appropriate power sources would be used to supply regional grids.  For example, that would mean some wood generators in Minnesota, which I believe are in use now etc etc.  
Gorlav's turbines are already being set up or used off New York and in S. Korea.  
Also, if a nobel laureate says that we could supply this whole country using thin film solar, then we're wise to pay attention.

And, I do hope you're right about the continued success of the central power grid.  Given the hope that everyone here seems to be placing on the future use of electricity, this is such an important issue.

Sorry to have come down too hard on you.

I attened the presentation by the group wanting to install turbines into the East River of NYC.  Worth trying as supplemental power on the scale of landfill gas, but not much more in my lifetime.  Economic sites are not there more MASSIVE production in any case.

Two prototype installations do not easily scale up to 1% of US electricity generation in just two or three decades.

I have followed wind turbines since the 1970s and the Great California Wind Rush.  Step by step by step.  Improving economics, sorting out that the "Danish" model works best (3 blade, up wind on tubular tower).  60 kW and 70 kW used to be BIG turbines.  Today 5 MW WTs are coming and talk of 10 MW.

I have seen the steps involved.  Wind is cheaper than NG some months and likely will be in the future.  An economic success !!  Yet they are still struggling to generate 1% of US electricity !

There are so MANY operational issues (mobile cranes had to be improved for WTs, blades have gone through a series of changes, weight savings vs. durability engineering issues, etc, etc.)  It takes time and money  with a basic technology at least 1,000 years old !

New technologies such as this turbine, even if they succeed (as wind has succeeded so far) have several decades of operational experince and detailed improvements before becoming a major player.  Existing hydro turbines have reached that maturity and are now straining for that extra 0.25% improvement in efficiency, or lower maintenance, teflon bearings, or lower installation costs.  But it took a century to get there !

So simply stating that the US East Coast can operate off of them in the not too distant future staggered me !

I will point out that Nobel Prize winners are scientists (except for literature, economics & peace) and not engineers.  Solar PV is behind WTs but both are improving.  

I am still skeptical that they can play a major role (I assigned 4% of US electrical energy to solar PV in my renewable grid, 55% to wind) but one can argue points on that.

A general discussion could be developed between localized grids smaller than today, or bigger grids larger than today.  I come down on the "bigger grid" side !  :-)

Economic renewables are not put where the people have chosen to live (Portland OR an exemption).

Best Hopes,


When I threw out the Gorlav turbine idea, it was in the context of supplementing and or localizing energy sources.  Picture the year 2100 (or much sooner) and it is no longer feasible to maintain a national power grid due to a multitude of reasons.  If this technology works horizontally in water as shallow as 3-4 feet, given that many cities are built on or near rivers, it could be the salvation of many a city.  The comment was not meant to power the entire eastern US in the way in which we are accustomed plus growth.  Will it happen?  Probably not.  As the link I posted states very well, the funding of technologies doesn't follow a very logical course.  Look no further than corn ethanol.
Nor, when Heeger says that we "could" power the whole country using thin solar technology, it doesn't mean that he thinks we will.  It would be a security hazard and the elements needed may not all be available.  Yet, it gives me more hope than most other options we toss about "theoretically".
We may have the answers to every problem which we face today, but executing the right solutions with our existing methods/democracy/politics/funding/mandates make that hope unlikely.

I agree that we should debate whether our best goal is to work on improving the centralizing of our grid, or if it would be in our best interests to start decentralizing it.  

I appreciate your analysis, Alan. The grid is already unreliable, however. Remember the operator error in Ohio a few years ago that brought down the grid from Canada through NY and south towards Washington? We have a lot of grid failures here in California.

I have listened to a few of the involved computer scientists talk about the challenge in monitoring the grid well enough to take action to keep a transient problem (like Ohio) localized. It is extremely difficult, and it gets more difficult as the grid gets larger.

We also lose some power, a substantial amount, in transmission, even with the exceedingly ugly ultra high voltage transmission lines. So, I guess in disagreement with your balance,  I tip towards a more localized and I hope more robust network. (Guess I also don't believe our current population distribution and economic system can survive the fall to 50% of peak, either, so maybe my skepticism on that influences my preference for looser coupling, so that failure in Phoenix doesn't take down Minneapolis.)

BTW, I agree with your point that scientists are not engineers (and vice versa). Speaking as a scientist. :-)

Couple of points.

The solution to grid reliability is more & bigger transmission lines (4 parallel paths, operating at 2/3rds capacity.  Drop one and the rest take over seamlessly).

One little noted point, having as much of the grid as possible at a common voltage also promotes stability.  Transformers create very short time period restrictions in electron flow from one voltage to another.  Not good when the above happens.(Did not learn this in school, grid engineer told me this).

Pumped storage units and hydroelectric plants are ideal "black start" facilities. HV DC nodes should be as well but I need to confirm this.  I think that my proposed grid would have more  but much shorter outages.  Our current rate is certainly not unacceptable.

Pumped storage units (hydro or air) are great "balance wheels" on a grid.  Over build the # of turbines (never schedule more than 85% of output, that last 15% can come on quickly as spinning reserve).

The large rotating mass of the hydro turbine and 10 to 32 pole generator (unlike fossils (2 pole) or nukes (4 pole) is also physically coupled with the water column.  Another source of stability to accept surges or keep a tottering grid up for a few 60 Hz cycles, feeding extra power in.  Long enough for breakers to drop the weakest part of the grid.  The effect of the extra generator poles is interesting, since each pole pair sees a different part of the sine wave cycle (per my understanding, feel a need to run back to books :-) so harmonics can be better absorbed out of the grid.

A superimposed HV DC grid would also be "different".  Rach DC node would look like a BIG power plant, but created by power electronics as DC > AC.  Will that be better or worse than a convential AC FF generator ?  I do not know.

Could all of NYC or Chicago function as a local grid being feed by a single DC node (NYC from Quebec, Chicago from WTs in the Dakotas & Manitoba Hydro) ?  An unexamined question.

The topology of my proposed grid (HV DC on top, existing transmissions + enhancements below, pumped storage whereever possible (big, small, hydro, air too) is interesting and with limited real world experience it should be implemented a step at a time as we phase out FF for electricity.

I would like a small pumped storage within NYC when I think of it.  Small 9 block tank in the Bronx for the upper reservior, and a 450 m deep tunnel to a power station and excavated cavern underneath.  Large turbines for quantity of water (like Goldisthal). Good black start, stabilizes DC inputs into grid, "flywheel" for grid.

If I remember it correctly older types of HVDC equipment cant provide reactive power but new can. Call ABB and ask them about it.

I hope that when people really see the magnitude of the fundamental technological difficulties discussed above, and the real seriousness of the climate problems, they will come to a proper conclusion.

In my opinion, given the realities of the laws of physics, including the observed geology and geophysics of the Earth, land, water and atmosphere, there is no quantiatively successful, and proven, alternative to a major expansion of nuclear power.    Of course including all other non-fossil fuel alternatives as well.

The alternative is climate death from coal.  Don't go there.

The 23% energy share for nukes in my hypothetical zero GHG gri is about the minimum for economical operation.

I assume that wind keeps going down steadily in price (not dramatically) and is cheaper overall than nukes but one needs a steady baseload and diversity of sources for security.

The 90% nuke French example only works because they sell power late at night.  An isolated grid cannot work well with 90% nuke.

Is this not all the more reason to have a big, interconnected grid, and not the isolated regional grids that some are advocating?  It seems like load balancing could be a lot easier using a large grid, provided it is properly monitored and regulated.  Of course, there would be problems to overcome, but it seems like they would be surmountable.  Separated grids, on the other hand, seem like they would suffer from extreme instability, especially if we're generating a lot of power using wind and solar, whose reliability is not 100%.  
This is similar to what George Monbiot says (see over at TOD:Canada)

Far from shutting down the national grid, as the Green MEP Caroline Lucas has suggested(12), we should be greatly expanding it, in order to produce electricity where renewable energy is most abundant. This means, above all, a massive investment in offshore windfarms.

A recent government report suggests there is a potential offshore wind resource off the coast of England and Wales of 3,200TWh(13). High voltage direct current cables, which lose much less electricity in transmission than an AC network, would allow us to make use of a larger area of the continental shelf than before.

This means we can generate more electricity more reliably, avoid any visual impact from the land and keep out of the routes taken by migratory birds. Much bigger turbines would realise economies of scale hitherto unavailable.

The localization solution is a BAD solution.

No its not.   Localization is a great plan.  

Localization menas you are not taxing the grid.  

Take New Orleans.  The business of New Orleans used to be tourism.  Getting in non-locals to spend money.

Look at how well New Orleans is doing without that non-local traffic.

Why can't we take power from ND to supply New York?  The power is not going all the way from ND to NY, what's happening is the power is used along the way.  Power generated in ND is used in say Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Wiconsin power is used in Michigan, and Michigan power is used in NY.  The power is nto shipped all the way cross country skipping over all the areas in between.  In the end there will be some line losses, but not as much as there would be if the power were shipped all the way cross country.  

I don't understand why you think localization is the only possibility?  If ND has surplus power then they should be able to send it.  Upgrading the grid to handle that is not an unreasonable course to undertake.  Especially if we are going to be relying more on renewable resources, we need to have a grid that is large enough and dynamic enough to make up for regional power swings.  I think localization is likely to just make the situation worse, rather than help solve it.  

IF we build HV DC lines, they are a different animal.

Each DC circuit, so far, has one source and one load.  Point to point.  One advantage, transmission losses can be cut almost in half and there is no reasonable limit on distance.

My concept would be have "main lines" with spurs that could carry multiple circuits.  Two seperate lines of towers at least 10 miles apart.  Each tower with at least 3 circuits.

A massive wind farm in ND could be feed via a WT only circuit (so Hz and voltage can vary more) to a DC node.  At the DC node (with AC > DC converters), power can be shipped east, west or south.  A spur up to Manitoba.

Going east, the next DC nodes are near Minneapolis, Chicago, Pittsburgh and between NYC & Philly. The NYC=Philly DC node is also getting power from Quebec.

NYC area would also be getting AC grid power from offshore wind, Upstate NYC wind and Niagara Falls hydro.  The DC power is a good supplement (as it is today for Los Angeles with DC power from Columbia River).

NYC-Philly might get one DC circuit from Manitoba via ND and accross Chicago et al with 3 GW.  Remember DC lines (so far) have only one source and one drop.  Another 4 GW DC circuit from ND to NYC-Philly.

ND could also be feeding 3.5 GW to Chicago, 1 GW to Pittsburgh, 4 GW west, and 1.5 GW south and on a spur from Minneapolis to the UP of Michigan, 5 GW for pumped storage on an "average hour".  19 GW of exports from ND on an average day and hour.

Hope this illustration helps explain the concepts.

Best Hopes,


Please note that the world's longest HV DC line goes from the mouth of the Congo River to the copper mines of Katanga, all in the failed state of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).

Best Hopes,

Alan Drake

I like to think of it as the "enronization" of our national grid. The 'wires' companies have been divorced from the 'production' facilities so that 'traders' can run up your utility bill.

Even though Ken Lay is off the hook, all the regulatory distortions he and his pals have put in place over the last 15-20 years are still on the books.

If Dynegy or TXU or whoever, had to fix the transmission system as well as extort money from rate-payers, and if they had to answer to community PUC boards, we'd have a better system.

I think you are right. With things broken up the way they are, no one has the incentive to upgrade the grid properly.

That reminds me of an example - either in Tainter or Diamond - about how the Roman empire reached a point where the Empire could afford to transport wheat by cart only about 50 miles, but as much as 300 by camel. If I recall [and I'm open to correction on all these number can't find the passage] that was based on a cost of 1/3 of the wheat - so it's not as simple as saying the miners in the middle of the desert could pay more. It has to be about the infrastructure.

I wonder how long before some truck brings in a backhoe. Then, when oil is not available at the right price, there will be no more salt because all the miners will be gone - perhaps locked up for trying to form a union.

cfm in Gray, ME

Tainter, "The Collapse of Complex Societies", p. 133:

The Roman economy was overwhelmingly an agricultural one. It has been estimated that in the later Empire agriculture provided fully 90 percent of the government's revenue. Trade and industry, by contrast, were relatively insignificant. One of the main reasons for this was the high cost of land transport. A wagon load of wheat, for example, would double in value with a land journey of only 480 kilometers, a camel load in 600 kilometers. Land transport was so costly and inefficient that it was often impossible to relieve inland famines; local surpluses could not be economically carted to areas of shortage. Ship transport, while risky and seasonally restricted, was much more economical. It was, for example, less costly to ship grain from one end of the Mediterranean to the other than to cart it 120 kilometers. Under the Edict on Prices, issued by Diocletian in 301 A.D., transport by road was 28 to 56 times more costly than by sea. The importance of Egypt to feeding the Empire was not just its agricultural productivity, but also its proximity to water transport.

Thus, the only goods that could profitably be transported long distances were those of high relative value -- i.e., luxury goods. The bulk of the population, existing on their own agricultural production, could not afford such goods. Large-scale industry thus existed in only a few towns, while most local needs were supplied by village craftsmen (A. Jones 1964: 841-4, 1974: 30, 37-9, 83, 138; Duncan-Jones 1974: 1, 368; M. Hammond 1946: 70-1).

Good memory!

I thought Jason Godesky's recent essay at his Anthropic Network was excellent, particularly the end, where he discusses the third century Roman Empire.

Greer's main point is to debunk those who expect the collapse of civilization to happen suddenly, and I think our disagreement here is primarily one of perspective. There will be catastrophic losses, but there will also be recoveries. I expect collapse to proceed somewhat faster than Greer seems to predict, because we are ultimately dealing with investments in complexity. Withdrawal of such investments can have a cascading effect, like a run on an over-evaluated stock, such that collapse becomes its own sort of positive feedback loop, returning a society fairly swiftly to a more sustainable level of complexity. I expect such crisis levels to emerge as early as 2012-2015, from a convergence of various factors including peak oil, but also ecological inputs and problems with complexity. At the same time, however, there will undoubtedly still be cities clinging to the old ways even a hundred years from now. When Greer measures the length of collapse, he usually takes his examples from the last outliers. My estimates are more focused on the loss of global hegemony. As we discussed in the podcast, while the Roman collapse took centuries, most of the damage was done in a fairly short period of time, in the Third Century Crisis. Indeed, one could go so far as to talk about the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in terms of events leading to the Third Century Crisis, and its aftermath. I focus on the Third Century Crisis as the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, while Greer looks at the long, start-and-stop, halting attempts to recover the empire.

Jason cites this Wikipedia article on the Third Century, which should be required reading. I'll have to break out my old Roman history book and do some more reading. For example, what did the wood supply look like around then? How was their agricultural production doing? Tainter has a lot to say about this period, but a brief re-reading didn't turn up those answers, except that farmers were leaving their land due to brigandry.

My God, that article certainly is the beginning of some required reading is this why Roman history is no longer taught in high school or college unless you actively pursue it?

The Romans went through what we're about to go through. The trend of Manorialism mentioned is what happened in the South in the Civil War, no more trade meant the manors had to try to produce everything on their own - burnt acorn coffee and all that. It's also what still lingered until surprisingly recently, Nikola Tesla mentions everything being made on the family farm, and his mother, a mechanical inventor in her own right, clothing the family starting with growing the flax plants for the fibers!

For someone not exposed to "the classics" as 99% of Americans are not, reading about the Romans is creepy - they're so modern! Their busts and sculptures could have been made today. They had global commerce as the globe was understood then, a tourist industry, schools and colleges, fairly widespread literacy, the military-industrial complex, etc. In even very minor things they're modern. The only difference between a Roman and myself is they had a no. of slaves to do stuff and I have a car and machines and even our "slaves" have machines so the guy who washes vegetables at the market has a car to get him places and pressurized water to do his job etc.

Being transported to Rome 2000 years ago would probably be less strange to an educated American than being transported to a Navajo camp 200 years ago. I say educated because the education process exposes you to a fair amount of Latin and would make it easier to pick up the lingo - being an old skool Catholic would confer a similar advantage.

  I wonder if we can get Bath Iron Works some new contracts to revamp the Schooner Trade?  Not a lot of Camels up here, but it just has me wondering if Sailing ships could be designed today to use modern materials and sailing experience to produce a more efficient 'hybrid' cargo vehicle?

  I suppose it's already being done, but I have no time to look, just to traipse around in TOD.

Bob Fiske

It absolutely can be done, and no doubt it will be done.  There are companies out there now coming out with complex wind propulsion methods, both the common sort of sails we think of, and also things kind of like kites which fly in the wind above the ship and pull it along.  I am a bit skeptical about the kite idea, but maybe that's because when I was a kid my kite crashed into the ground too many times when I was flying it.  I read an article about this stuff, I believe it may have been in Popular Science.  

The article mentioned a ship captain who'd had sails installed on his ship during the oil price crunch of the 70s.  His sails saved a significant amount of fuel, but as soon as the price of oil dropped again the owner of the ship had the masts cut off and left on a dock somewhere.  

I am actually quite interested in what innovations, or maybe retro-novations we may see in terms of both power generation and transportation.  I think too many here speak of doom and gloom and the collapse of complex situations, while ignoring the fact that wester society was in fact quite complex long before the industrial revolution even began.  The monarchies of western Europe extended their hegemony over the entire globe powered only by the power of the wind.  Granted human populations were quite a bit smaller back then.  

Real Global Cooling  -   One of the first things I do when I get on the Internet in the morning is to check a NOAA site for our upcoming weather.  This morning the site in  Eureka, CA showed the expected highs and lows for Monday through Wednesday as -30,000 degrees F.  Guess I won't have to worry about the future any more.  I did print out the forecast I could save if for posterity.
How hot is it at your place? That heat wave hasn't reached me yet :>)
Damn. I missed the (-). Gotta run out and get some firewood in a hurry. CU.


heh that is one malfunctioning sensor.
That's great!  I just checked it here:

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/total_forecast/index.php?zone=caz001&county=cac023&wfo=eka&dgtl= 1&lat=40.80222&lon=-124.1625

The highs look OK but the lows are still -30000 degrees! That does sound chilly. Be sure and bundle up.

This Afternoon:  Sunny. Northwest wind 5 mph. High 81.

Tonight: Clear. North wind 8 mph. Low -30000.

Monday: Sunny. North wind 13 mph. High 73.

Monday Night: Clear. North wind 14 mph. Low -30000.

Tuesday: Sunny. North wind 21 mph. High 71.

Tuesday Night: Clear. Low -30000.

Wednesday: Sunny. High 73.

Wednesday Night: Clear. Low -30000.

The Highs are rather off as well.  Its a warm day in Humboldt County but even my greenhouse isn't over 80 degrees F.
Tuesday night will be the tough one.  -30000 and windy.  I bet that wind will make it feel like -35000.
'Most people think if you put honest numbers into a computer, you will get honest numbers out.  So did I, until I met a computer with a sense of humor..'
    Robert Heinlein,  "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"
I thought this was interesting, from an interview with former weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

There can be no doubt that Iran has plenty of oil, but that oil is the only thing Iran has going for it, in terms of a viable world-class economy. In 1976, the Shah of Iran came to the United States, sent his representatives to intercede and say, "Look, we've done an analysis, and we've got a finite amount of oil. And right now we need to export it. And if we don't export it, we don't make money, etc. We don't have enough oil to sustain this. We need to come up with an indigenous energy policy that frees up our oil for exportation. We want to use nuclear energy." And the U.S. government went, "Good idea, Shah. We're all for it." That was Gerald Ford.

The chief of staff of the White House at the time was Dick Cheney. The Secretary of Defense was Donald Rumsfeld. So, this argument that both Cheney and Rumsfeld put out today that Iran is a nation awash in a sea of oil, there is no need for a nuclear energy program, they both supported Iran's goals of achieving nuclear energy in 1976. Not only nuclear energy, but they also supported the Shah when he said, "We cannot allow a nuclear energy program's fuel to be held hostage by the vagaries of sanctions and war. We need an indigenous fuel-manufacturing capability inclusive of the full uranium enrichment process." And guess what the U.S. government said in 1976.
"No problem, Shah. Good deal." Of course, in 1979, the Islamists come in and suddenly we change our opinion.

The bottom line is, Iran has every right legally to a nuclear energy program, and economically, we've already deemed it a responsible way to go.

And this:

...Look, we're already overflying Iran with unmanned aerial vehicles, pilotless drones. On the ground, the CIA is recruiting Mojahedin-e-Khalq, recruiting Kurds, recruiting Azeris, who are operating inside Iran on behalf of the United States of America. And there is reason to believe that we've actually put uniformed members of the United States Armed Forces and American citizens operating as CIA paramilitaries inside Iranian territory to gather intelligence.

Now, when you violate the borders and the airspace of a sovereign nation with paramilitary and military forces, that's an act of war. That's an act of war. So, when Americans say, "Ah, there's not going to be a war in Iran," there's already a war in Iran. We're at war with Iran. We're just not in the declared conventional stage of the war. The Bush administration has a policy of regime change.

They're going to use the military, and the military is being used.

North Korea is in the same place as Iran, just take away the oil. The right wing-nuts are complaining about prior agreements with the DPRK which saw the west contribute nuclear reactor technology to Korea in exchange for concessions allowing IAEA inspection of all DPRK sites.

What the wingnuts fail to mention is that the deal was for proliferation resistant light water reactors, in exchange for ultimately decomissioning the proliferation capable reactors which the Russians built decades ago and which the DPRK made even more potent using indigenous resources.

Look at a sat picture of N. Korea at night and you'll see that they are starved for electrical energy. Now of course they have crossed the line by testing a weapon, rather than concentrating on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, but like Iran, in some respects, one can almost appreciate why they might feel it necessary to prove they have the bomb.

Mind you Iran is surrounded and vulnerable to an extent thousands of times more serious than any U.S. threat to North Korea.

Ritter's position on North Korea:
Well, the only thing that the Bush administration's approach towards North Korea and the Bush administration's approach towards Iran have in common is that the endgame is regime change. Other than that, what you see -- I guess the other thing they have in common is the total incoherence of their approach. Look, North Korea and Iran, you can't compare; it's apples and oranges.

North Korea is a declared nuclear power. They even declared their intent to have nuclear weapons. They haven't hidden this from anybody. They withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in total conformity with the rule of law. They put the world on notice. They said, we will not participate. They gave them the appropriate timeline. They invited the inspectors out. And then, surprise, surprise, despite the fact that the Bush administration said, "Well, they're just bluffing," well, they're not bluffing. They just popped one off. And guess what. If we continue to push North Korea irresponsibly -- because again, what are we talking about here?

What do we want to achieve in North Korea? Do we really care about the North Korean people, want human rights to -- no, regime change. This is all about regime change. This is about the United States being able to dictate the terms of coexistence with everybody else in the world. Do people understand that our policy towards China is regime change? Do they understand what the ramifications of that is? That's what's going on with North Korea. And we shouldn't be surprised that they did exactly what they said they were going to do.

Dale Allen Pfeiffer's most recent article, Energy Depletion & the US Descent into Fascism is also relevant to this discussion!  

Hi new guy here,

Found this story from USA Today to be filed under the 'Its not the heat, its the stupidity' file dunno if it has been posted but I scan these pages daily and didn't see it

By John Ritter, USA TODAY
BAKER, Nev. -- Rancher Dean Baker picks his way through greasewood and sedge to a shallow dirt depression that was once a small pond fed by a natural spring. Both have been dry for years, casualties, he says, of pumping that draws underground water to the surface to irrigate fields and water livestock.

Over a half-century, agriculture's needs have lowered the water table, Baker says, but it's nothing compared to what may be in store for this arid, sparsely populated, mile-high desert near the Utah border.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to pump vast quantities of groundwater from rural eastern Nevada valleys and pipe it 250 miles south to Las Vegas, the nation's fastest-growing major metro area, a tourist mecca with a limited water supply strained by population and prolonged drought.

After hearings last month, a decision rests with State Engineer Tracy Taylor. More hearings on plans in other valleys are pending. The water authority aims to build a pipeline by 2015 and pump nearly 30 million gallons a year from 19 wells in Spring Valley alone.

At stake, ranchers say, are livelihoods and a delicate ecological balance on a landscape cursed with at most 8 inches of rain and snow a year.

"If they pull the water table down enough, this will be a dust bowl," says Baker, 66, whose family has raised cattle in Spring Valley since the 1950s. "It will completely change the economics of agriculture. It will also change the life of the 40 head of antelope that stay in that alfalfa field."

Those concerns are unfounded, water authority officials say. Nevada law prohibits impinging on existing water rights, says general manager Pat Mulroy. "It's emotion," she says. "It's regionalism. It's rural vs. urban. It's fear-based. Protecting that environment will always be of tantamount importance to us."

Scarce resource

Since early settlers, water has been the West's scarcest and most valuable resource. Towns pumped water, just as ranchers did. Rivers, lakes and streams have been dammed, drained and diverted for decades and now offer little extra supply for expanding urban centers such as Salt Lake City, El Paso, Albuquerque, Phoenix and Tucson.

Now groundwater is the target, even if, as in Las Vegas' case, it'll cost $3 billion or more to get it and benefit one region at the expense of another.

"This is symptomatic of issues going on all over, particularly the Southwest," says Jeff Mount, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. "When you look at it on a bigger, multigenerational scale, we're basically mining these groundwater basins at rates that can't be sustained. When the water's gone, it's gone."

Farms and ranches consume 80% of Western water supplies yet generate less than 1% of states' gross domestic product, says Hal Rothman, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"The real question isn't whether water will be transferred from rural to urban use," he says. "The debate is over the terms of the transfer, how rural communities that cede water will derive fair and valuable benefits from it."

Opponents of the water authority plan say it's one more instance of water flowing uphill toward money, like Los Angeles' notorious "water grab" from the Owens Valley in the early 1900s. That diversion -- basis of the 1974 movie Chinatown-- allowed L.A. to grow but dried up a productive farm region.

"The parallels are stark," says Greg James, former director of the Inyo County, Calif., water department in the Owens Valley. "They're looking to build a pipeline, pump groundwater, and they're already acquiring ranchland."

State water laws and federal environmental regulations wouldn't permit a repeat of Owens Valley, but ranchers want a guarantee that if the land suffers, the pumps would be shut down. Otherwise, "by the time we see the effects of pumping, it will be too late," says Gary Perea, a Democratic commissioner in White Pine County.

The Mormon Church, based in Salt Lake City, owns water rights in Spring Valley and has asked the engineer to withhold approval until a U.S. Geological Survey study is finished next year.

The authority built a computer model to predict effects on the water table but didn't run it. When it was run by a National Park Service hydrologist, it showed a 150-foot drop over 75 years. Mulroy calls those results "hypothetical." John Bredehoeft, a hydrogeologist who testified for opponents, says "it would have been detrimental" to the authority's case.

Time is short, Mulroy says. The Las Vegas metro area -- population 1.7 million, 20,000 new homes a year -- relies on a share of Colorado River water stored in Lake Mead for 90% of its supply. Seven years of drought have lowered the lake to half its capacity. A year like 2002, when the river ran about a quarter of normal, "would invoke a crisis," Mulroy says.

Reducing demand

The water authority is spending millions of dollars to entice homeowners to replace irrigated lawns with drought-tolerant plants -- 70% of water consumption goes outdoors. A system captures, treats and returns water from indoor plumbing to Lake Mead.

Opponents say tougher conservation measures, including raising water rates as cities such as Tucson have done, could save as much as the authority plans to take from Spring Valley.

"That penalizes people who can't afford it," Mulroy says.

Ranchers may think Las Vegas should slow its growth, but that's a political non-starter in go-go southern Nevada. At the area's current growth rate, rural groundwater is a stopgap measure at best, says Matt Kenna, a lawyer with the Western Environmental Law Center representing opponents.

Many people believe that if the engineer rejects a water transfer or awards an amount too small to make the pipeline economical, the authority will ask Congress for a bigger share from the Colorado River.

When the river's flow was divided among seven states in 1922, Las Vegas was little more than a crossroads. Nearly a century later, 400 farmers in California's Imperial Valley still get 10 times more Colorado River water than Las Vegas does.



What those 400 farmers produce is more valuable than everything Las Vegas produces.  If drought causes an allocation, cut Las Vegas first !


heh i can't belive we agree on somthing. :P
The political clout of certain southwest cities (LA in particular) is going to ensure ecocide along these lines. Rural communities simply have no political clout.
Sounds fine.

Who bells the cat?

When the bill comes up before Congress, we write letters to our individual representatives protesting this step towards higher grocery bills.

Point out the choice between 1) a bigger (not better LV) and 2) higher groceries for his/her constitutents/voters.

Best Hopes,


Geologist says we'll never run out of oil

Interesting coincidence that the Geologist's last name is "Cheney."  

At least he was realistic enough to say, sure we'll never run out oil, but it's gonna end up costing you a lot more in the future.

I mean, isn't that the point of peak oil in general, that oil will eventually become scarce to the point that it'll be too expensive to buy?

Report states UK has squandered oil wealth:


See the graph at the end - what will the high spending incumbents do as the North Sea oil production falls?

yes o intelligent one !
$100 a barrel for oil. coming to a place near you. is that easy to understand o intelligent one ?

aswipe !