DrumBeat: October 25, 2006

[Update by Leanan on 10/25/06 at 9:26 AM EDT]

From the Financial Times: An unsustainable outlook

As major oil discoveries become rarer and as motorists face the highest petrol bills in a generation, the debate over whether the world is running out of oil is again rearing its head.

In books, speeches and articles, and particularly on the internet, the doomsayers – known as “peak oil” theorists – are warning that the world’s oilfields are on the decline and will soon be unable to match mankind’s insatiable appetite for energy.

Global warming: Here come the lawyers Why Detroit, Big Oil, and utilities should worry about the next wave of suits.

Royal Dutch looking very bullish on oil

If you think oil prices are going into the toilet, think again. Royal Dutch Shell's $7.7-billion attempt to take Shell Canada private says the cheap oil scenario -- dreaded by investors, cherished by SUV drivers and politicians -- will be short-lived or won't happen. As far as bullish indicators go, this one's a beaut.

Climate change 'will threaten Britain's water supply'

Plutonium Or Greenhouse Gases? Weighing The Energy Options

Can nuclear energy save us from global warming? Perhaps, but the tradeoffs involved are sobering: thousands of metric tons of nuclear waste generated each year and a greatly increased risk of nuclear weapons proliferation or diversion of nuclear material into terrorists' hands.

When it comes to global warming, market rule poses a mortal danger

Ethiopia: Ministries Looking to Alternative Fuel

As the price of fuel increases on the international oil market, Ethiopia has set its sights on ethanol and bio-diesel to guarantee the supply of affordable fuel in the future.

World's Third Largest Refinery Damaged by Fire

Reliance officials said the fire started on Wednesday morning and damaged a hydrotreater which removes sulphur from heavy feedstock.

Clean, green oil sands seen as affordable: Industry could be 'carbon neutral,' report says.

Leading utility companies urge action to reverse unsustainable trends

Today, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), along with eight of the world's leading electric utility companies, released Powering a Sustainable Future (PDF, 14 Mb), a report which contains an "agenda for concerted action" to secure future electricity generation, to bring more power to more people and to decrease the industry's greenhouse gas emissions.

The Emerging Russian Giant: Moscow plays its cards strategically

Global warming a hot topic for personal finances

"The US, in essence, borrows about US$2 billion a day, every day, principally from Asian states, to finance its consumption...

"The single largest category of imports is the US$1 billion a day borrowed to import oil. The accumulating debt increases the risk of a flight from the dollar or major increases in interest rates."

Russia prolongs Shell project probe, may prosecute

Marine energy cash made available

Wave and tidal energy developers are being encouraged to apply for cash under the Scottish Executive's £8m marine energy programme.

Australia plans world's biggest space-age solar power station

Australia has announced plans to build the world's biggest space-age solar power station as part of a 500 million dollar (375 million US) radical rethink on climate change.

Where's the will to break energy status quo?

Berating the Kyoto Protocol for failing to cut greenhouse-gas emissions is a bit like kicking the dog at a party when someone passes wind. Sure, it's nice to skirt the blame, but don't fault the Kyoto accord for society's flatulence.

If House changes hands, oil drilling threat will recede

Gore stumps in Berkeley for oil production tax

Former Vice President Al Gore, calling global warming a worldwide crisis that requires immediate attention, urged Californians on Monday to approve Proposition 87, the ballot initiative to tax oil production to fund alternative fuel development.

A more efficient US? Energy agency prods only a bit

After a six-year delay, the Energy Department proposes standards so moderate that even some firms complain.

Biofuel Monocultures

So why are environmentalists so happy that we’ve just found a new way to deforest the planet and plant monocultures? Why are the Americans in particular suddenly embracing biofuel as though it is the solution to everything from global warming to energy shortages?

DOE Offers $16 Million for Research In Power Electronics and Motors for PHEVs, HEVs and FCVs

Nothing to fear from a Bigfoot

Not merely do professional alarmists refuse to countenance economics, they staunchly avert their eyes from examining why doleful projections have been wrong in the past.

Ethanol producers hurt by lower oil prices

US Occupation of Iraq: A Reason to be Proud!

Motivated not so much by greed as by fear really, are they trying desperately to stave off an impending approach of the peak oil phenomenon?

Is it their hope to grab up as much of the world's remaining fossil fuels as they can so that, when the wells begin to dry up, we Americans, along with those we call allies, will be assured an extra degree of comfort while the rest of the world scrambles about for diminishing supplies of heat, electricity, water, and food?

[Update by Leanan on 10/25/06 at 10:44 AM EDT]

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending October 20, 2006: Oil rises after crude inventories fall by 3.3 million barrels, expectation was for an increase of 2.1 million barrels.

Khosla stumps for solar, California ballot initiative

Rick Merritt  
EE Times
(10/17/2006 7:46 PM EDT)  

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The big opportunity for solar energy is in utility plants, according to Vinod Khosla, who gave back-to-back keynotes on the subject here Tuesday (Oct 16.). The iconic venture capitalist who has started his own alternative energy investment company also stumped for California's Proposition 87, which would fund research into so-called clean technology.
"I now believe that thermal solar will be cheaper than coal-fired electricity plants. It is far more risky to build a coal-fired plant than a solar thermal one today," said Khosla, speaking at the Emerging Ventures conference.

Photovoltaic cells have made significant advances with thin film, multi-junction technology. Utilities represent an opportunity for solar energy that could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars, said Khosla, who earlier in the day he delivered a keynote at a solar power conference a block away that attracted an estimated 7,000 attendees.

Although many developers are pursuing the low-cost solar cells, Khosla said "that's exactly the wrong way to go.

"Solar systems would still cost $2 kiloWatt/hour if the cell cost went to zero. What we need are higher efficiency cells. We should be saying we will accept higher costs to get 30 percent efficient cells," he said.

Separately, Khosla spoke out in favor of California's Proposition 87 that would levy a fee on petroleum to be used in part to fund alternative energy technologies.

"This is probably going to be the most expensive race in the country this year," Khosla said, estimating oil companies have already spent $67 million attacking the measure and could spend $80-$100 million before the November vote.

Thirty percent of the Prop. 87 funds would go to university R&D, Khosla said. "Clean tech R&D has been declining in this country for 30 years. We absolutely need to have more R&D in this area," he said.

Another 57 percent of the Prop. 87 fees would be used to lower oil consumption, he added.

"Oil companies get a 500-percent depreciation on some assets. That's just one of a half dozen clauses I know of that are in effect subsidies for oil companies," he said.

Khosla is mainly known for funding a number of Silicon Valley's biggest ventures as a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. He now devotes much of his time to the clean tech area which is the focus of Khosla Ventures. The new company has a broad portfolio of investments including bets on as many as eight alternative fuel companies.

"When oil went above $40 a barrel, a host of things became viable," said Khosla.


That is a complete about face on what he said to me about solar. I argued that solar makes more sense than ethanol, and he said that solar couldn't compete with coal. However, the only way ethanol is competing with oil is through subsidies. Maybe he listened to me?
If so, congratulations!! California seemes to wake up after almost two decades sleeping. Solar power, thermal and photovoltaic will become an important energy source.

7,000 people on a conference about solar power. How many people go to conferences about PO? Here in Berlin 2 years ago  at the ASPO workshop it was maybe 180...?

What are our conclusions about this differnce in numbers? Probably people are more interested in future trends than in moribund technologies?

The recognition of peak oil is one step in the ten steps to recovery. Focusing on solutions like solar power is the next step.  I see that as a good sign.  We can only focus on the problem for so long.  We can only hope for the day when peak oil conferences are unnecessary.  When one starts taking steps away from oil dependence, then one doesn't need to go back and analyze the problem.

The debates will continue on peak oil for several more years. We cannot wait for its ultimate resolution before action is taken.  Solar will only be a part of the solution but has more ultimate promise than alternatives like ethanol. Solar may never be considered economically competitive. But we can't affort to debate it for ten more years while the planet warms.

For growing numbers of people, whether or not peak oil is here or will be here in 20 years is beside the point. Global warming is here and cannot be addressed by more oil consumption. A definitive proof that peak oil is here would be interesting and icing on the cake, but is not necessary to make the progress that needs to be made.

Good for California. Each of us needs  urge our local representatives to follow suit, using California has an example.

still deafeningly silent on subsidies for oil companies, eh RR?
Oh my gosh! I think a bridge has lost its troll this morning.

If you have something you wish to say, and it is something I have taken a position on, by all means spit it out man.

I am very clear, as is everyone here on your position on ethanol subsidies.
I have never seen ANY posts on oil company subsidies.
Please link.
Don't be lazy. Do your own homework. You can start with the story I recently wrote advocating much higher gasoline taxes. I don't favor any oil company subsidies, and frankly I would like to see us completely stop using fossil fuels altogether. I want people to pay the true costs, and I don't want them to be hidden behind any tax breaks, etc. This would encourage conservation, which if you do your homework you will see that I also advocate.

What hypocrites like you don't seem to appreciate is that any oil subsidies also subsidize the ethanol industry. That is, unless you can show me a tractor or semi running on the ethanol they produce. What you would find is that higher gasoline prices will force higher ethanol prices. Such is the hypocritical nature of ethanol advocates - undisputably receiving very generous subsidies for marginal energy creation - complaining about oil company subsidies that directly benefit them.

Clear enough?

Hypocrites, huh?  Do I hear an ad hominem?

You clearly favor oil company subsidies as you refuse to talk about them on this blog.  You'd rather dwell ad nauseam (Latin, in case you don't understand) on ethanol whose subsidies have stayed at home, rather than being invested aboard in oilogolopolies .  Do your own homework on the subsidies.  Khosla has, it doesn't take a billionaire.  Who cares if you want higher gas taxes, you still want all the power in the hands of your bosses.  Not what I want.

No tax breaks were given to ethanol producers to run their tractors, etc on ethanol.  So Because gas was cheap, they didn't bother.  Things will change now, once they get educated.  If oil companies will allow it.

I'm happy to see all oil subsidies lifted, regardless of what it does to ethanol industry.  Then we'll see who survives.  We're a pretty ingenious people when we wanna be.  Why bother with gas taxes when you can lift all subsidies and watch prices rise!  Then we'll have to go out and make our own cheap stuff!

As Khosla says, naysayers better stand back and get out of the way, because ethanol is coming and in a few years, it will be mostly sustainable, no thanks to oil industry obstructionism.  

because ethanol is coming and in a few years

I'll believe it when I see it.  The EROEI studies I've seen so far only make this worthwhile for Sugar in Brazil(Maybe).  I've yet to see the data for corn ethanol or other North American crop that says this will be an energy positive investment.  Consider also that crops rely heavily on oil/NG to plow, harvest, fertilize and pesticide their crops, I find it convenient that most Ethanol studies I've seen ignore the energy inputs of those actions.

it will be mostly sustainable

Either it is, or it isn't, its kind of the same problem when people say, they're almost not pregnant.  Mostly sustainable is another way to say not sustainable.  You might argue it will take a long time for the degradation of the process to catch up with itself, but ultimately it is not sustainable if its only "mostly sustainable".

You clearly favor oil company subsidies as you refuse to talk about them on this blog.

And you apparently clearly favor Ethanol without fair consideration to oil and how it impacts the ability of Ethanol to be viable.  But hey, Kettle meet Pot.

Sugar ethanol studies promoting 8:1 energy return are published by the Brazilian government and are not peer-reviewed. Unlike Pimentel's work in the US on other biofuels.

I find it difficult to believe that one particular woody plant (sugar cane) growing on this planet earth and receiving similar solar radiation could be 4X as productive as corn, soy, etc. converting said radiation to similar mass.

I don't think anyone claims that sugarcane is "4 times as productive" but rather that the overall energy cost of producing it and turning it into a given amount of ethanol is (perhaps) 4 times less.  That is a big difference.

Corn produces some protein and some oil, which don't get turned into ethanol. Reasonable corn yields require huge amounts of fertilizer, which requires a lot of energy to produce.  Harvesting corn in the US is fairly energy-intensive also.

Sugarcane, on the other hand, produces carbohydrates with very little protein or fat, with less fertilizer input, and it is harvested with fewer energy inputs as well, at least in Brazil.

So while you may well be correct that the Brazilian numbers are inadequately documented, I don't think it is hard to believe that one crop might be vastly superior to another by this metric (EROEI) for ethanol production.

Pstarr has been making this sort of post frequently and rarely responds to any conterpoint. My impression is that he is so religiously opposed to ethanol, he thinks that it is essential that he combat any assertion that there could be anything good about any kind of ethanol.

While I suspect the root of this oppositionalism is a well justified concern over the broader impacts of biofuels, I think perpetrating falsehood about ethanol EROEI is the wrong way to deal with the real potential problems of biofuels.

Here are several links that all cite figures of positive 8-10 EROEI for ethanol from sugar cane, none of which come from the Brazilian government. I have posted these for pstarr several times, but he continues to ignore them or attempt to discredit them, without opening the documents. The studies address EROEI, land use, environmental and climate impacts and other issues in detail.

There are good points and bad points to ethanol and biofuels. Potential deforestation from biodiesel is so bad as to justify a halt to all palm-based fuel immediately. The article linked at the top of this thread has several other links that discuss these very real issues. But his willfully inaccurate assault on the EROEI of sugar cane-based ethanol is not helping this cause.

Here are three studies
IEA Automotive Fuels for the Future

IEA: Biofuels for Transport

Worldwatch Institute & Government of Germany: Biofuels for Transport  (Link to register - study is free)


Potential for Biofuels for Transport in Developing Countries

http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/IW3P/IB/2006/01/05/000090341_20060105 161036/Rendered/PDF/ESM3120PAPER0Biofuels.pdf

you keep repeating these same studies (Macedo et. al. )but none are peer-reviewed and I am starting to doubt their veracity. I am sorry that you find my sceptism upsetting. I find your repetition boring.

The truth will win out.

I find it difficult to believe that one particular woody plant (sugar cane) growing on this planet earth and receiving similar solar radiation could be 4X as productive as corn, soy, etc. converting said radiation to similar mass.

I admit I'm a skeptic too, but then I also readily admit I'm not a biologist of biofuels expert, hence the "(Maybe)" I appended to my statement about Brazilian sugar cane.  But sugar cane in relation to US demand is inconsequential, as A) we can't grow sugar cane like the Brazilians can, and B) Even if we could, several people have stated we would still need to curb our appetite for liquid fuels as it can't replace current oil consumption.  

So we are left with Corn, which currently is in the middle of a firestorm of debate about its viability.  Not saying we shouldn't explore corn ethanol at all, but pending our futures on an untested "maybe" doesn't seem smart to me, when we do know of models which could allow us to maintain a modern standard of living albeit a different looking one.  Mainly accomplished by bussing/trolley systems, light rail, heavy rail, and an effort to bolster and improve our electricity grid along with localizing electricity generation via solar, wind,

Hypocrites, huh?  Do I hear an ad hominem?

Yet another person who doesn't understand what an ad hominem actually is. Look it up. And ad hominem is when you starting casting aspersions on my arguments by making false accusations against me, like "you must be getting paid to do this."

You clearly favor oil company subsidies as you refuse to talk about them on this blog.

So, you ask me about oil company subsidies; I tell you I am against them; and you announce that I clearly favor them. If you think you already know the answers, and aren't willing to listen, why bother asking the question?

I have no trouble at all talking about oil company subsidies. Show a case where I "refuse to talk about them." You have been guilty of having your facts wrong on a great number of occasions, and this is just another example.

I would also point out that you and Blume were claiming oil company subsidies equivalent to the entire federal budget of the U.S. government. I don't consider you exactly the most credible source out there.

No tax breaks were given to ethanol producers to run their tractors, etc on ethanol.

Yet ethanol is subsidized, is it not? That is a tax break. So instead of relying on cheap oil to run their tractors, why not run them on tax-subsidized ethanol? Do you know why they don't? Because the ethanol industry in the U.S. is completely dependent on cheap fossil fuels (your pipe dreams notwithstanding). Wake up and smell the coffee.

If you have an actual argument to make, now's the time. I am too busy to mess with trolls right now.

It now appears you have been paid very well to do this.  Witness all the offers that have come in for you.
Thanks for all your insults and condescension.  Time will tell what will occur now, won't it?  
You can bet oil companies will do their damndest to smash any alternative.  It's part of history, something I don't think you've studied enough of.
Check out Forbidden Fuel by Kovarik and Bernton, which will be rereleased next year.  They're not pro or con ethanol particularly but they know history.  And history shows what oil companies do.
Kenny Rogers now has to think  about his cheating.  Hope you're always thinking about well you serve the status quo by working for big oil.

BTW, the numbers Blume and I cited were from the Center for Technology Assessment's report which they updated during the Iraq war.  We d on't invent facts out of whole cloth, you know.  

What can I say? You had your chance to work on sustainable ethanol and you gave it up for fossil fuel.  You say you want to end our dependence on fossil fuel?  Then why work for the enemy?  (better life for your family, Ik n ow what that's about, really I do)  Read some history and you'll see why I call them the enemy.

Stop preening about yourself and sneering at Blume.  Look at what he's done and then decide if you think he's a nutjob.  (Which clearly you do.)

Bon voyage.  I blog rarely because I have a life and wife and children.... sorry not to address everyone else's responses here.  

What can I say? You had your chance to work on sustainable ethanol and you gave it up for fossil fuel.  You say you want to end our dependence on fossil fuel?  Then why work for the enemy?

You should thank your lucky stars that some of us do. What do you think would happen if oil companies suddenly turned off the taps? Sometimes I wish people could see the consequences of what would happen if Big Oil just got fed up with all the hatred pointed their direction and just shut the taps off for a while. I think then people would come to appreciate how much their lives depend on oil production.

Your problem, in all honesty, is that you are seriously delusional. All this oil company vitriol is a bit tiresome, when you are as dependent on oil products as are the rest of us (and as is the ethanol industry).

Ethanol seems to be on the exact path I had expected. Here is a quickie website for all commodities.
As you can see Dec corn is up to $3.27 and higher for later months. No doubt due to the USDA crop report of 10.8 billion bushels for 2006. As ethanol production continues to rise so will corn prices, and at some point either gas will have to increase, and NG will have to decrease, or the subsidy will have to increase, or there will be some sorry ethanol investors. It may get up to 5% of gasoline fuel. As gas prices increase so does diesel, and all farm expenses, so in order to maintain corn production, corn prices will continue to rise. If PO is on a plateau and gas prices remain flat, ethanol goes in the dump. Compared to last year corn prices have caused a 40-cent drop in ethanol margin and the lower gas prices will increase the lower margin. What happens next year if the crop is further reduced and corn is $4, and gasoline spot is still under $2? I don't see ethanol production increasing more than another 50% before it becomes a net loser for the producers, and investors.
Unless there is a breakthrough in cellulosic ethanol there will be some idle new ethanol plants. I don't see gas prices rising fast enough to keep up with rising corn prices, unless there is a catastrophic political upheaval some where in the oil field. .  Checkout the ethanol price, why is it so much higher than gas, with 2/3rds the energy?
Dipchip,(possible airdale type)

You might like to check out what is happening in the ethanol scenario in the state of IOWA. Peers the farmers coops are doing it big time. ADM is the big hitter in Illinois. Here in Ky the plants are being touted a lot. Farmers just love it.

The VCs smell flesh in the water to flense for their carpet bags. Politicos are for it and riding it to election.

So who loses? Who always loses?

IMO the ethanol scenario will , will happen and the chips can fall where they may. Yet the exports IMO will have to cease if serious corn goes to ethanol contracts.

In the end it be all folly as you surmise but the ride will be taken I am afraid.

Whats next then? Well the dieoff of course. The pale rider who is drunk on ethanol comes to set things aright.

Many who eschew religion and tetragrammon will suddenly find themselves on their knees begging , begging for relief and a light at the end of the tunnel. It won't happen for the goats and sheep still have to face the seperation test and then comes ...yep...The Lake Of Fire, you guessed it.

Finally the Whore of Babylon(sound familiar?) will feed from the face of the Serpent(this part is neat) and then ..well a NEW EARTH arises from the ashes of the old. We knew it. Darn it that I won't get to see it. I will be waiting for those graves to open and the dead to come forth. Won't be pretty I don't think.

So..spirituality wins. The righteous survive and why shouldn't they? The evildoers will go to that Lake yonder.

Airdale--Some/Most of the above is serious discourse. Some/Most is not. You all can pick and choose but .....but..choose carefully...Red or Blue. Election comes. Are you Red or Blue. Yank or Reb.Blue or Gray. Righteous or not. God Bombs will fall..S. King was right all along.Thankee sai and happy trails to ye.

P.S. Dipchip: I was duty station NAS Barbers Point, Oahu(and points north and west) for 4 long nice years. Back before the haole roundeyes ruined it for all. Willy Victors were my trade. Radar was my game. AT3,2,1 and out at TI. You?  

WOW!  Just WOW!!!
I'll get back to you later , right now I'm leaving for S. Padre (30 min.) for Co. retirie get together. Later

still deafeningly silent on subsidies for oil companies, eh RR?

Yes, Mr. Rapier work for an oil company - but i really can't see how this exclude him from being honest and frank. I've not seen anything of his writings that should imply that his views are somewhat guided by big oil.

I have no idea what gave you an impression that Mr. Rapier is something remotely close to dishonest. He's a productive clear-thinking educator who choose to participate in a forum like TOD.

And to echo his own response; make a post if you believe there is something being under-communicated here.

That's what caught my eye. I'm sure you are making an impression on him. He's modified his views quite a bit since the beginning of your dialog.
 It feels to me that many of the solutions are starting to follow our line of thinking. Hydrogen bad, corn bad, electricity good,...you, Jeffery, Alan, and the other experts are making a difference.

Illegitimii non Carborundum

Although I hope this Prop losses (at least I'm voting against it), I am concerned that such a loss will be used to argue that Californians are against alternatives.  I would certainly have voted in favor of a bill that targeted energy use reduction via conservation, more localized microgeneration, some non-biomass R&D and buy-downs for PV and wind projects. I certainly would not have put in as large a PV system as I did without the California Energy Commission buy-down I got.
I didn't answer that question, but I don't have a cell phone. I have avoided getting one, and in fact I am the only person in my group at work who doesn't have one. I don't know how long I can hold out, though, as there is pressure for me to get one so I can be contacted when needed.
LMAO. Is that  gonna turn out to be the  common denominator among Peak Oilers?

Yes, I do.  It's one of the old bag phones and I keep it in my truck for emergencies. I've had it for years. I think I get 10 minutes a month.  My wife has a newer one for the same reason.  

It's like today: I'm speaking at a pest seminar and if I have a breakdown or something, the sponsors of the seminar have to know I won't be showing up.


Although many developers are pursuing the low-cost solar cells, Khosla said "that's exactly the wrong way to go.

"Solar systems would still cost $2 kiloWatt/hour if the cell cost went to zero. What we need are higher efficiency cells. We should be saying we will accept higher costs to get 30 percent efficient cells," he said.

How did this guy ever get rich?

What we need are higher efficiency cells at low cost. But apparently trying to lower the cost is a bad idea. So let's forget cost and just subsidize high-end PV to the hilt, and our worries will be over.


How did this guy ever get rich?

Believe me, you are not the first person to ask that question. :-)

He was lucky...the glorification of billionaires reminds me of Maoist propaganda.Mao had to be the most intellectual, a great swimmer, etc., but in reality he was a less-than-desirable human being.
Getting rich in this country has nothing to do with wide spread knowledge, in fact it's pretty much the opposite, knowing a lot about one thing and then add some luck.

The fact that we now have a culture that equates wealth with knowledge or even worse wisdom is unfortunate or even more accurately detrimental. That Mr. Khosla knew something about IT can't be denied, that he knows anything about energy becomes apparent the more he speaks. Not saying anyone can't learn, but how this society automatically kowtows to wealth at this point is abhorrent.

That's one great problem we face now, despite the myths of an open economy and venture heroes, our economy is fairly closed. Our entrenched industrial infrastructure has amazing inertia, "markets" follow it, and democracy is broken. Thinking wealth, which is by nature conservative is going to come up with answers and the will is almost, but not quite as ridiculous as thinking the oil companies will develop a new energy system.

What we need are higher efficiency cells at low cost.

I guess my question to that is, does a solar cell exist with those attributes?

If we have high efficiency and cheap cells, then we got the best of both worlds.  But if its an either or sort of thing, then we have a debate centered on economical verus efficient.

I don't have enough information to weigh in just yet, but I certainly have questions about what is feasible both in economic and engineering terms about Solar.  I've been doing more reading about this subject, but I'm a neophyte at best in my knowledge of this area.  That said I'm eager to learn and have been eating up every piece of info I can find on the subject of solar, and wind for that matter.

Read through the article.

The two big techs are Copper Indium Gallium Selenide Thin Film (CIGS FT), a much less energy-intensive thin film process being developed by dozens of companies, and multijunction solar concentrators, based on high-efficiency, extremely high cost Boeing-Spectralab cells developed for satellies, which are heatsunk in small portions and have solar concentrators (either fresnels or mirrors) to narrow down the amount of material needed.  The cells are Boeing-Spectralab, the arrangements are being developed by dozens of smaller companies - the key in cost reduction is that you need a fraction of a percent of the silicon material, and the rest of the cost is a fresnel or mirrors.

The latter is what Australia is spending cash on.  Good for a proof of concept + wider awareness, as the Nanosolar CIGS FT plant will be online in a year or two.

Most people acknowledge that conventional silicon solar is hideously expensive, and building capacity on that model isn't feasable.

As far as efficiency - here in the US we could easily run our grid on 1% efficient modules that cost a dime a watt, as opposed to the current 10% efficient modules that cost $4/watt.  Land is not the issue with solar, we have plenty of desert, parking lot, roof, etc.  It's pretty much solely a cost and (to a much smaller degree) a storage thing.

People interested in low cost solar power should search solar thermal power- such as line focus vapor cycles.  I have not found the source I was looking for, but as I remember, the achieved cost/kw-hr of the line focus vapor cycle was something like 1/4 the best PV costs.  That was about 5 years ago, but I do not think PV has gained - probably lost relative to solar thermal. It's a moving target.

And don't forget stirling.  I have seen engines in the lab that have over 30% thermal efficiency with projected prices about $200/kw.  No, you can't buy them yet, but people are working to get them out there, and the job is a lot simpler than PV, that's for sure.  After all, stirlings are just iron, like IC engines- no magic, no quantum mechanics, required. Just plain old auto mechancs will do, but leave the grease back on the bench.

Can you point me to any stirling engines that the average guy can go out and buy today?  

I have been looking and I can't find anything other than little models for demonstration or a million dollar commercial endevor.

Are there ANY that work and an average person can buy?

No. and that's a damn shame.  You can buy super good prototypes for huge  amounts ($50-100K), and if you are NASA or the military, you can get highly satisfactory space power things of the kind you find on Sunpower.com or Infinia.com.  Or you can buy a submarine auxiliary power unit from Kokums in Sweden.

Reason not in hardware store- nobody with big bucks has seen fit to spend on a factory to make these things at a commercial price, since they are intrinsically more expensive than IC engines (heat exchangers have to use stainless steel or better), and so far, nobody seems to think they have enough advantage (very quiet, last a long time, burn anything, run on solar, etc) to overcome the price differential.

Every home heating system should have one putting out a kilowatt or two of grid grade AC, along with the heat.  Every electric car could have one burning a bit of propane for heat and a little on board charging,  Every reefer truck could have one burning diesel and noiselessly cooling the load of beef, and so on.

But, with oil now more expensive, things might change.  Maybe.

My opinion- classic case of myopia, inertia, incompetence, ignorance, faddism,  on part of money people. Cripes! look at the billiabucks they throw on fuel cells, hydrogen, ethanol, PV, and whatnot, when stirlings are trivially simple in comparison.

BTW-crank stirlings have big reliability problems.   Free pistons work very long- no lube, no wear. That's why NASA flies free pistons.

....My opinion- classic case of myopia, inertia, incompetence, ignorance, faddism,  on part of money people. Cripes! look at the billiabucks they throw on fuel cells, hydrogen, ethanol, PV, and whatnot, when stirlings are trivially simple in comparison....

It appears to be by design: Maybe the omnipotent Oil Interests (KSA, Integrateds, Drillers, Refiners, Autos, ....). The most money they are throwing is at Fuel Cells and Hydrogen and we know that that path is Thermodynamically not feasible. They are not going to defeat the second law of thermodynamics (ChEs and MechEs should understand). Some professor pointed out as such in a letter to the editor about 12-18 months ago in Chemical Engineering Progress (AIChE monthly magazine) in response to a nonsensical article from some fellow from the DOE. The DOE guys response was again nonsense.

Therefore throw money at something that YOU KNOW is a dud and will not threaten the fossil fuel franchise. The only problem here is that the world is not America-centric to the same extent and some other places that may not have the same access to Oil will commercialize something else. They did kill permanently that Fuel Cell/Hydrogen conference in Switzerland a few months ago - with the organizers saying that thermodynamics said that it would never work.

The silver lining is that since Fuel Cells and Hydrogen are being pushed institutionally and by GM in the states maybe there is still Oil available for another 15-20 years. What do you think RR ;-)
Maybe I can get another big guzzler and barrel down I-95 some more.

nobody with big bucks has seen fit to spend on a factory to make [stirling engines] at a commercial price, since they are intrinsically more expensive than IC engines

We should add to that about how Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) cheat on the economics front through the magic of the unaccounted-for "externalities".

Every heat engine has to exhaust some of its heat into the ambient.

ICE's do it by belching noxious hot gases right into the atmosphere.

Stirlings have a self-contained working fluid that nevers gets dumped into the atmosphere. But still the Stirling must include a means for exhausting its outflowing heat. In the schematics they show it as the "cold" connection or the "heat sink". In reality it is an expensive radiator --not equivalent to the engine-block cooling radiator of a water-cooled ICE. Roughly 50% of the heat dump of an ICE comes out its tail pipe --at no "cost". That's where they cheat. That's where the claim about being inexpensive is a lie. Inexpensive to whom? Not to the young child nearby who is coughing with asthama.

All true. But to balance this doom-gloom, I have to admit having a lot of fun working toward my wood stove stirling.  So far, so good, altho very very slow.  But it will be a winner when done, by golly!  No IC can compete.  Takes any kind of plant matter and very quietly turns it into about a kilowatt of electric power -and will last longer than the wood stove- or me.

Of course, my real dream is to do the same with farm tractors, so they burn straw or whatever instead of diesel- or biodiesel.

I think you get about 15 times as much energy from burning the whole corn plant than you get from taking only the corn and laboriously turning it into ethanol.  Of course you would be a fool to burn corn plants when you could burn switchgrass or all the cellulose that goes to the city dump.

Opportunities, Opportunities, but where does all the money go?  Hydrogen!  Gimme another shot of that there ethanol, please.

Maybe you can join forces with RR (see his 10/26 post for personal cellulose reactor) and apply for a patent for this zero net emissions innovation.

Surely our government of The People and FOR The People will give you Grant money for developing this cellulosic stirling system?

I have to say it was a shock to read RR's big idea and think " Holy cow, he is describing a wood stove". with the further unhappy thought that I or somebody was gonna have to let him in on the awful facts about wood stoves being around since at least when we split from the bloody brits.  Joke was on me.  What a relief!

Sure, you would think it would be easy to get money for this great combo- stirling + wood stove.  People have been trying for about 40 years, to my knowledge.  So far, no go.
reasons- stove smoked, engine made bad noises, controls too complex, money man died, company bought out, somebody had a patent, somebody went bonkers, on and on.  In any combination and permutation.

Don't forget that concentrating collectors lose lots more capacity on cloudy days than the other type.  That can have a big effect, really big, in areas where cloud cover is common.
>As far as efficiency - here in the US we could easily run our grid on 1% efficient modules that cost a dime a watt, as opposed to the current 10% efficient modules that cost $4/watt.

Its more than just land. It would be the infrastructure required to handle them all, and a method to isolate and identify damaged or faulty panels. How much materials will be require to make them weather resistant and cement them to the ground? This will require a sifnificant amounts of metals, plastics and other building materials.

>The two big techs are Copper Indium Gallium Selenide Thin Film (CIGS FT), a much less energy-intensive thin film process being developed by dozens of companies

Indium and Gallium are not cheap. While the panels may only require minute amounts, any large scale production is going to require considerable amounts. Addition mining, smelting, purification is going to create a significant amount of pollition, which much of it is some what water soluable and extremely toxic.

As production rises the cost advantages will dimmish as the cost of the input materials rise from increased demand. Any practical large scale development of PV systems would need to be based upon organic materials, since the the raw materials are extremely abundant, renewable, and less likely to create large amounts of toxic waste.

>which are heatsunk in small portions and have solar concentrators (either fresnels or mirrors) to narrow down the amount of material needed

What about the materials to manufacture all those lenses? Glass production is energy intensive, and plastics need a source of natural gas or oil as a feedstock. How do they all get cleaned? Maybe by importing a few million latin americans armed with squeegies? (Have squeegee, will travel!)

Before any money is spent on Mega/Giga Watt PV systems, we should invest money on wind which has a far better EROI, lower maintaince, production, and infrastruture costs than PV systems. Wind technology is also available today. We don't need to wait five to ten years before new low cost PV cells can be mass produced. Wind farms can be built offshore near densely populated areas where the power is needed most, and it would have no impact on land use. We probably don't even need to subsidy wind energy since the major reason holding back large scale development of Wind power systems is NIMBY. Its cheaper to add wind than to build and fuel a gas or cold fired plant and its a proven technology.

Although both PV and wind have a significant flaw: they don't produce energy when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing. They both need to backed with a storage system (perferably using hydroelectric - ie store excess energy by pumping water into a reservor).

Finally electric power generation is a tiny tip of the problem, much as comparing a pimple to a large brain tumor. Figuring out how to feed, clothe and shelter 300 million americans when oil and gas imports to the US vanish, and depleted mid-western aquifiers drop to a trickle, should be dealt with first. These issues may be less than a decade away from happening and will require several decades to address.

A lot of progress is being made in Photovoltaics.  Unfortunately it is possible that in the States coal may be cheaper & more convenient for a long time. Therefore 250 billion tonnes of coal may have to go up in smoke before PV comes on in a big way.
Yes, and what the hell is kiloWatts PER hour? Doesn't he mean kilowatts?

LA Times car section today referred to a battery, which it rated in terms of kilowatts! (Batteries store energy measured in joules or kilowatt-hours or; kilowatts measure power)

The electric bill still charges you for KWH.  It's the same as 'KW per Hour'.  Batteries get this or 'AmpHour' ratings, though it's a little wiggly, as you incur charging, storage and line losses, so you don't usually get out what the label says you will.
It is more akin to kilowatts x hours.

KW is 1000 J/s  (you are generatingor using 1000 Joules every second if your generator or load has a rating of 1 KW). If you were to do that for 1 hour that would be 1KWH. Since KW is in J/s use 3600 seconds for 1 hour.

KWH = 1000 (J/s) * 3600 (s)
    = 3.6 million joules of energy.

Joules are the official SI units for energy, and serve the same function as BTU in America (BTU is British Thermal Unit but the Brits have stopped using that unit and use Joules)

I can't believe how persistent this "kilowatts per hour" thing is on TOD!  I keep wondering what sort of little image or parable would get it straight in  people's heads.

Maybe this.  Think of yourself on a pedal machine connected to a generator, a wattmeter and a light bulb ( actually ten 100 watt light bulbs).  The slave master cracks the whip and you are off.  You crank like a madman for a second or two and just barely get the wattmeter to read one kilowatt, and all the lights light up brightly. Then you are dead.  The slavemaster whaps you over the back with his whip, but no go, you are totally done, collapsed on the floor. But you have generated a kilowatt-- for a second.  That's it. One kilowatt second.

After you are allowed to rest for an hour and dunked in gatoraid, you are ready to go again.  Back up on that crank! Krak- now go!.  You go for another second, and you are totally wiped out again. but you have generated your kilowatt for that hour and can go back to the gatoraid.!  

So, keep it up, One kilowatt per hour, god, what a life.  Where's my whip?

I think it would be much more effective to explain to people that the wording is off. 'kilowatt per hour' is incorrect because it means kw/h. What people really mean is 'kilowatt for an hour' or kw*h. This is the really important distinction. It can be easily taught with by saying 'you plug in your 1000 watt light bulb for an hour'. I realise that some people might not catch the distinction, but it will take less time than the story about the slave pedaler.
Yes, I see the distinction, and the point is taken.  I guess it makes sense enough to me that I don't catch the other way the phrase could be read, or how the meaning is assumed from inadequate language.  Still, I don't find anyone so confused about it that it can't be cleared up very easily.

I had an Irish girlfriend who just hated it when yanks would say,  'It's Quarter of Three..'..  We know what we mean, even if the imperfect idioms don't always satisfy the literal-minded.

Normally I would not consider a 'magnet motor' link, but this one line caught my interest, and hoe it catches yours.


He and MPI have developed a room temperature superconductor that was funded for several years by US Air Force grants. It has been kept quiet,

Oh, and for the people who are haters on the message of microgeneration:

SanDiegoDave100 writing in The Motley Fool ran some numbers on using Solar PV to provide 100% of his homes electricity and electricity to a Tesla electric car.....saving of $40/month

PES infuriates me because it's a pretty good overview of the promising techs, but they're right next to and in the same tone as the obvious fraudulent perpetual motion machines.  They lack critical facilities.
Part of the reason I disliked linking to them.   Except for the 'promise' of some formulation of room temp superconductors.  

When mentioning this today to my kronies/customers I had to explain WHY it is exciting.


(real people, real product.   But not room temp.)

Power lunch: Bacteria turn leftovers to energy
Edie Lau, Sacramento Bee
With the help of billions of hungry bacteria, a University of California, Davis, engineer has cooked up a system to extract energy from table scraps.

At a ceremony today expected to draw hundreds of people, the campus will formally introduce its $1 million "biogas" plant.

The plant can swallow between eight and 10 tons of food waste a day, feeding tanks of microbes that, in turn, excrete hydrogen and methane -- gases that can be burned to generate electricity or fuel vehicles.

"This is a real commercial-size system," said Ruihong Zhang, the UC Davis professor of biological and agricultural engineering who invented and patented the system after eight years of tinkering.

"This is 20,000 times larger than what we've been working with in the laboratory," she said.

At full capacity, the plant can produce enough electricity for 10 average California households a day...


WharfRat, the rumour is that King George II used to light his farts when he was a frat boy cheerleader. Perhaps some kind of flatulence recapture system, say a balloon, could help solve the energy crisis and keep the bio-methane from adding to the global warming situation ! Drink plenty of beer and eat sauercraut and beans ! Wear a balloon in your pants!

Seriously, how can composting fresh garbage and recapturing the methane do any good ? I can't see the deed restrictions in suburbia allowing large compost piles, and the methane must be captured, transported and burned to do any good. The flow rate is hard to modulate, and so is the BTU content.  

I remember the Blue Streak from college, too. Put  30 crazies on a dorm floor, and anything is likely to happen. But we wouldn't have voted for the fool who was lighting them, except as "floor idiot".
Damn, I wish I was back in school.

 "Seriously, how can composting fresh garbage and recapturing the methane do any good"

10 houses doesn't seem like a big deal to me. But, with big piles, you can do stuff. During the first energy crisis, I remember reading about a farmer who had large industrial grade piles, and wrapped PVC pipe around them. Used them to heat his water.

  My Mom lives in suburbia; SF Peninsula. The garbage company picks up green waste once a week. 100,000 homes can put out a lot of waste during the summer.

Digesters are a little bit involved, but not at all undoable by a smart homeowner.  Capture and cleaning of the Methane has been figured out, and many people have done it.

I don't think I'll be able to make one intown, here.  Not a ton of spare basement space, but it would be a great way to use both the 'blackwater' in the house, as well as the compost from the three apartments.


"PLOWBOY: Ram Bux Singh, thanks largely to the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG and THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS, your efforts to convert manure and other natural wastes into methane have become fairly well known here in the United States. Did you originate the idea of producing non-polluting fuel from such sources?

RAM BUX SINGH: Oh no. The idea of taking out the gas from farm waste, vegetable waste--even human excreta--is very old and was demonstrated at an exhibition in London in 1871. In 1905 a very large plant designed to produce both gas and good fertilizer from waste was installed in Bombay, India. Then, during World War Two due to the shortage of conventional fuels, the Germans built many bio-gas plants for both the fertilizer and the methane that the digesters would make. They compressed the gas and used it for driving tractors and farm machinery. The idea is not a new one.

Today--in Algeria, in South Africa, in Korea, in France, in Hungary and in many other countries--thousands of bio-gas plants are in use. The idea does not belong to me or to the government of India."

Here's another one..

Skip the Turkey article.. or just snipe about it.


>At a ceremony today expected to draw hundreds of people, the campus will formally introduce its $1 million "biogas" plant.
>At full capacity, the plant can produce enough electricity for 10 average California households a day

Does the average Californian family have a spare $100,000 to pay for their portion of the plant? <Joke>Maybe they can cash out some of their home equity to pay for it</Joke>

IMHO, this is a waste of money.

A short article from Salon.com: A Kuznets curve for H2O?

The deeper, and profoundly hopeful, message is that the United States' track record with water appears to prove that a growing economically affluent population does not have to consume more water over time. It can, amazingly, consume less. (Although it must be noted that Americans still consume more water, per capita, per day, then anyone else on the planet.) If the same could be true for other precious commodities (oil, anyone?) then our prospects for an extended stay on this planet for the human race might be looking up.
Didn't read the article as Salon wanted registration, but I have a relative working at a call centre for water saving advice. I'm imagining Salon wants people to move on from 'shower with a friend' to 'shower with 2 friends'.
You don't have to register.  You just have to click on the sponsor's logo.  

However, if you use Firefox, you might not see the sponsor's logo.  

doomsayers - known as "peak oil" theorists

So, those who suggest we are nearing the peak oil extraction rate are "doomsayers", whereas those who want to continue burning oil at ever greater rates are... ?  I guess for the majority the issues of pollution and global warming do not exist.

Shouldn't those suggesting we ignore the huge environmental costs of fossil fuel burning be the ones given a name with a negative connotation?  Even in a fantasy land where the supply of fossil fuels is unbounded there would still be a need to reduce the rate at which they are burned.  Given the reality that supplies are finite, advocating ever-increasing reliance on fossil fuels merely delays the inevitable and ensures an ever-more-difficult adjustment once the extraction rate can no longer increase.

So, let's hear your best descriptor of the mainstream "endless oil [and natural gas and coal and...] is good" crowd.  "Cornucopian" is not it, I'm looking for something that gets across the point that even today's rate of destroying the planet is unacceptable.

how bout "amerikans"
JustZisGuy, I agree that "cornucopians" hasn't a very metaphorical ring. I suggest "ostriches" cuz they hide their heads in the sand so the Iron Triangle can sneak up and sodomise them.
consumers?  consumptaholics?  gluttons?
Are four letter words and their longer versions acceptable?

 Be easier just to lay a few curses on them, ie

 The Cornucopians, May all their teeth fall out except for one,and may that always hurt, ...

 Or,  The Consumptoholics, may they marry the daughter of the Angel of Death, ....


Greedy fat planet cookers.
amazing.  every previous response to your post has pretended that there is not a doom-peak oil connection, and that TOD is not part of it (if such a thing existed).

you have to remember that TOD has certain social conventions not shared by the wider world.  people who don't agree with a statement like this might let their eyes slide right past it:

I think there probably be a 99% dieoff in the United States...but not in my lifetime.  It may take hundreds of years.

and then be shocked, shocked, at the "MSMs" interpretation of "doom."

Odograph wrote:

amazing.  every previous response to your post has pretended that there is not a doom-peak oil connection, and that TOD is not part of it (if such a thing existed).

Funny, reading the responses I did not get that impression at all.

To my way of thinking there is definitely a connection between the impending dieoff and peak oil. There is also a connection between the impending dieoff and peak water, peak arable land, peak population, peak grain, peak food, peak disease, peak global warming, peak extinction rate, peak atmospheric pollution, peak climate change and last but not least, peak stupidity!

Ron Patterson

>but not least, peak stupidity!

Sorry Ron, I will have to disagree with you there. I don't believe there is "Peak Stupidity". In fact I believe in Abiotic Stupidity and its completely renewable.

Take Care

Einstein already has the patent on that concept --something about exponential functions and about human stupidity being one of the few real world realizations of that function. (Compound interest was a questionable second runner up.)
Here's the complete original quote:

the doomsayers - known as "peak oil" theorists - are warning that the world's oilfields are on the decline and will soon be unable to match mankind's insatiable appetite for energy.

That is not "doomsaying", that is merely suggesting a mathematical necessity (the extraction rate of a finite resource cannot indefinitely increase) may come to pass in the not-too-distant future.  The question of what people think will happen after reaching the peak oil extraction rate is not the point, so far is the above quote is concerned.

(For what it's worth I am not a "doomer", but I also think it unlikely we can sustain as much power production as the world currently requires.  I cannot say for sure that the "doomers" are wrong, however - who can tell for sure what will happen?)

So far, btw, the term I like best is "pollution pimp".  I was thinking of "pro-pollution advocate" but it's not alliterative. :-)

I thought the most depressing part of the article was the reference to the Limits to Growth where it quoted a number of predictions in the book that absolutely weren't there.  It confirmed to me that the media types supporting cornucopian, free market ideology simply isn't interested in the truth.  

For the record Limits to Growth doesn't have a single prediction in it.  Not One!

Have you guys forgotten that a couple of weeks ago we were "pranksters"?
carbon crazies

planet killers

fossil fools


faith based energy analysts



easy motorers



pollution pimps

the drill,suck and burn crowd






I think "oilvangelicals" has the best ring to it. Nice one.
Externalities to reality.
How about Resource Vampires?

Here's Neil Young's 1970's song from On The Beach ablum.

Neil Young - Vampire Blues Lyrics

I'm a vampire, babe,suckin' blood from the earth
I'm a vampire, baby, suckin' blood from the earth.
Well, I'm a vampire, babe, sell you twenty barrels worth.

I'm a black bat, babe,bangin' on your window pane
I'm a black bat, baby, bangin' on your window pane.
Well, I'm a black bat, babe, I need my high octane.

Good times are comin', I hear it everywhere I go
Good times are comin', I hear it everywhere I go.
Good times are comin', but they sure comin' slow.

I'm a vampire, babe,suckin' blood from the earth
I'm a vampire, baby,suckin' blood from the earth.
Well, I'm a vampire, babe,sell you twenty barrels worth.

Good times are comin'...

Ethanol producers hurt by lower oilprices

Welcome to the energy business, fellows. Times aren't always as good as they have been for the last couple of years, when all these folks jumped into the business.

Amazingly, the "experts" manage to come up with all kinds of reasons (government subsidies!) except for the crop losses and high grain prices. But biofuels for now look dead in Australia. Losing 50-70% of your value will do that.

Just as amazing is the fact that there's people here who spend time denying there's such a thing as food vs fuel.

Geography tells us that the exports of Australia, the world's no.3 grain exporter, go primarily to Asia, which primarily has poor countries and people.

Drought knocks out Australia biofuels

It wasn't so long ago that renewable fuels were being touted as the latest investment opportunity. As oil prices passed $US60 ($80), and then $US$70 a barrel, the economics of making and using renewable fuels - ethanol or biodiesel - became a whole lot more attractive.

The combination of high oil prices, rising community support for all forms of clean, green technology and thriving renewable fuels industries in the United States and Europe, create significant local investor interest and a steady stream of new market listings.

In more recent months, the picture has been quite different. The performance of most of the listed renewable fuels companies has been nothing short of disastrous.

The market's confidence in the sector overall hasn't been helped by the fact that several companies have not met ambitious production and prospectus revenue forecasts, citing a range of factors including teething problems with technology and high prices of feedstock, especially canola, as a result of the drought.

The accompanying table details recent share price falls of the major companies. Australian Ethanol is down 50 per cent in the past six months. Australian Biodiesel Group has fared even worse with a 70 per cent decline and investors in Sterling Biofuels have lost 27 per cent of their money since the company listed in September.

I called it months ago:

The Ethanol Bubble Has Burst

I hate to see people lose money, but anyone who understands the issues surrounding ethanol should have known better.

Not so fast, Robert. I may agree totally with you, if anything I'm more negative about biofuels, but I got to tell you, I'll take Julia Roberts over you any time of day.

And then of course there's what's his face, the soon-to-be First Sir, or is that First Man?!

California's Big-Bucks Battle Over Clean Energy

Prop 87, which would tax oil drilling and use the money for alternative energy sources, has pitted Big Oil against an array of political Hollywood heavyweights

How much will Americans do to help clean up the air, reduce global warming and promote energy independence? One test will come in November, when voters in California, the nation's biggest state, decide on a ballot measure that would raise $4 billion for alternative energy investments by taxing oil drilling. The explosive battle over Proposition 87, known as the Clean Alternative Energy Act, has turned into the costliest initiative campaign in American history -- with $105 million spent so far, mostly on television spots.

Some call it Bing vs. Big Oil. The bulk of the money behind the measure comes from Stephen Bing, 41, a Hollywood producer who was, until now, best known for fathering actress Elizabeth Hurley's baby out of wedlock. Bing, heir to a $600 million New York real estate fortune and a generous contributor to Democratic candidates, has spent $40 million of his own money on Prop 87 so far.

Though he won't talk to the media, he has recruited two prominent spokesmen, former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, as well as such Hollywood supporters as Julia Roberts, Geena Davis and Jamie Lee Curtis.

Biofuels can be made from a variety of feedstocks and in Australia, the prospect of biofuel production from renewable waste and other materials is very much alive.

Your generalizations about biofuels are bad enough however your comments re: the peoples of Asia are dreadful.

Oh and BTW...

The food vs. fuel argument is indeed a myth and if you actually understood the crux of the issue than maybe you would stop wasting everyone's time here.

He's not the one wasting everyone's time.
Oh really..?  

I've consistently outlined what our group of scientists are working on and what they hope to achieve whether it's for the press or for Drummers here at TOD which last time I checked, was a forum for the dicussion of PEAK OIL.  

And although it's great to have everyone worry about it - who here is actually trying to solve the problem?  

Perhaps you would be kind enough Leanan to outline exactly what you or your company are doing to offset Peak decline? Just how many government agencies, universities or energy corporations are you collaborating with in an attempt to solve the world's addiction?  

I suspect it is none, however, what made TOD great was that people of all learned circles could participate through the application of science and factual analysis to a relatively obscure topic through visual and verbal discussion.

Sadly, I watch as TOD slowly degrades to a point where posting veracity is no longer challenged and 'Geography tells us..' is accepted language.

I think everyone should be able to have their say here, even those that only promote their own products. And saying that you are the chosen one who will cure the world's addiction, man, like all the flatulent language you use, that just makes you look silly. Which, by the way may not be the ideal way to sell whatever it is you have to sell. If it's good enough, shouting will not be required.

in the meantime, Australia has started suspending grain exports, already. I don't want to imagine what your message for Asia would be, but I will say this: Australia are the no.3 exporter. The US and Canada are 1 and 2. If either of them have a 2/3 cut in their crop harvests, there will be no-one here interested in hearing about making energy from waste.

Hey Roel, what is it that I'm selling exactly?  Inquiring minds -namely me- would love to know.

I would also like to know where I said that I was the chosen one (please provide proof) and if by 'flatulent' you mean a modicum of proper spelling and grammar well... guilty as charged.  

Did 'Geography tell you' that Australia suspended grain exports too?  

Syntec, I look forward to reading your posts on TOD. I think you supply an invaluable perspective and hope you continue.

It does seem that critical comment on biofuels is rather high on this site. OK, they cannot supplant our current appetite for oil, and OK, there is enormous possibility for severe environmental degradation if this is not done in the right way. They are currently not being done in the right way.

We will need some liquid fuels, so let's devote our energies to ensure that biofuels are done in the right way. It is likely that they can sustainably supply some significant fraction of our needs.

That being said, I feel that it might be better to focus on methanol than ethanol since the selectivity of that reaction seems to be greater. I am not a chemist, but have been influenced by reading George Olah's book, the "Methanol Economy".

Tony Verbalis

Exactly right. Biofuels can not replace all of our current oil use and should not be viewed in this way. There are also potential environmental risks (as well as gains) from biofuels. Their production must be done very carefully to ensure that the fuel does not come at the expense of virgin forest or other resources.

In the long run, I think biomass to electricity is a better route. In the meantime, biofuels will be produced, so we should focus on ensuring that they are done right.

Thanks Sunman.  

Having read my posts, you and others know that I have specifically stated that biofuels are but one piece of the puzzle required for mititgating Peak Oil and that conservation is far and away the most effective, immediate strategy that everyone can participate in.

That said, Peak Oil is a rapidly approaching (insofar as mitigation is concerned) liquid transportation fuels crisis which by definition means that we as a society will be forced to come up with an alternative to fossil fuel usage at the last possible moment -why?- because in a crisis, humans have the unfortunate historical tendency of waiting until they are forced to respond.

It is this very scenario that many in the renewable energy community are trying to avert and as I've pointed out here at TOD numerous times, the ethanol sector (primarily comprising of salt-of-the-earth farmers) are some of the most well versed and vocal peakniks around.

Ethanol sector participants (biofuel in general) are well aware of the pros and cons of their industry and the technical hurdles faced, however, it is naiive to think that these people believe they can replace total fossil fuel usage or worse, are not actively engaged in improving their respective production paths.

If inclined, one simply has to pick up a copy of Ethanol Producer to read for themselves firsthand what transpires, how new technologies are fostered, how new ideas are shared.  The front cover of the September ed. is titled "OIL, Has The Peak Hit Already?".  

I somehow doubt that such a title will be appearing on the cover of OGJ or similar industry facing publications anytime soon.  

Biofuels can be made from a variety of feedstocks and in Australia, the prospect of biofuel production from renewable waste and other materials is very much alive.

You got time for some general questions? I have an essay that will be posted in the morning, and I mention Syntec. While researching for the essay, I was looking for information on yields from converting syngas to ethanol. Do you know if that kind of information is publicly available? Also, can you point me to any patents Syntec has that might discuss experimental results? Note that I am talking just about the step from syngas to ethanol, not the biomass to syngas step.

What I am trying to do is compare efficiency of syngas to ethanol and methanol, as well as reaction conditions. I am pretty familiar with the methanol route, but the information on the ethanol route is pretty limited.


There's practically nothing on syngas->EtOH yields because there are literally 3 maybe 4 companies working on the technology in the world, however, I'm more than happy to help although I'm somewhat restricted on in-house yield data at the moment.

Pearson has been at this process the longest and claims a single-pass conversion of 15%-60% EtOH.  There's a test plant running in Gridley and the most recent report I have from NREL is here: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy05osti/37581.pdf

Pearson uses an F-T process whereas we use a Holder-Topsoe process - essentially a methanol production path utilizing an ethanol catalyst with high selectivity for the latter but higher order alcohols are produced.

Syntec's first patent filing is here: http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=21&u=%2Fnetahtml%2F PTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1013&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PG01&s1=20060112.PGPD.& OS=PD/20060112&RS=PD/20060112

Focus has been switched to base-metal variants due to deployment economics.

Hope that helps.

That's about what I was looking for. What I am trying to figure out is the best option for syngas. I don't think it's ethanol, and I think without ethanol subsidies we wouldn't even be considering syngas to ethanol. I think syngas to methanol or diesel will be a far more efficient usage of the syngas.

I need to work through the experimental results, and frankly they don't give much in the way of details. For instance, they say that there is a mixture of alcohols produced. So what is the ethanol yield? That's what I want to know, so I can compare it to the methanol yield from some of the common industrial processes.

$50/bbl prices aren't going to be around for long... you and I both know it.
HOUSTON, October 25, 2006 --- ConocoPhillips today reported third-quarter net income of $3,876 million, or $2.31 per share, compared to $3,800 million, or $2.68 per share, for the same quarter in 2005. Revenues were $48.4 billion, versus $48.7 billion a year ago.

I have been telling people that despite the slide in oil and gas prices, margins are still good and the quarter would come in very high.

Money has an entirely different spin:

Big Oil's best days may be over

Record oil prices in the third quarter won't necessarily translate into record profits at the nation's biggest oil companies.

Crude prices hit record highs in the quarter but then sank about 20 percent from their highs. Still, prices were up about 12 percent for the quarter, on average, from a year earlier.

But much of that increase was offset by higher production costs, sharply lower natural gas prices and a series of charges - leading to mixed results for the country's biggest producers.

ConocoPhillips was the first of the domestic majors to report Wednesday. Earnings were lower than last year. And they may have missed analysts estimates.

ConocoPhillips was the first of the domestic majors to report Wednesday. Earnings were lower than last year. And they may have missed analysts estimates.

Earnings were actually higher, and YTD are significantly higher than last year. Earnings per share are lower for Q3 (but higher for YTD over 2005), because employees get shares through a profit sharing program. Hence, there are more shares this year. What the company really needs to do is buy back some stock, but XOM has come under criticism for doing that. Wall Street will say "they must not have anything better to do with their money if they are buying back shares." However, I would ignore Wall Street and buy back some shares. I think COP is ridiculously undervalued compared to the peer oil companies.

I also think oil companies are a good place to be post-peak, because they will possess an incredibly valuable resource. Investors should have gotten a preview of things to come over the past year. The only thing to be concerned about is nationalization as oil becomes scarce and oil companies are raking it in, while Joe Public is paying through the teeth.

As this energy supply slips, you'd be in a good position to own any form of energy generation, right?  I don't doubt that oil investors can make out well, if they also can tell when to get out.  I'd think owning systems that will continue to produce is also a very safe position.. while not forgetting the moral of an old folk tale, 'There's no safety in numbers, or in anything else.'
I believe that is correct. The best of all worlds would be to identify the alternative technologies that will start to become players as oil depletes. My personal preference would be toward solar, but that sector has already had a huge run-up over the past 2-3 years. Long-term, I think it's the way to go. Short-term, you could see a good-sized correction there.
ConocoPhillips was the first of the domestic majors to report Wednesday. Earnings were lower than last year. And they may have missed analysts estimates.

Shouldn't Money know whether estimates were missed? I mean, that's pretty public information.

The market seems to like the news. COP up 2%, compared to the peer group which is up an average of about 0.5% this morning.

The information is public, but it is easy to get confused, especially when the various news writeups quote different aspects of the quarterly report.

Net profit increased 2.0% from $3.800 billion to $3.876 billion, but per-share net profit decreased 13.8% from $2.68 to $2.31. Wall Street expected $2.38 per share. The reduction in the per-share earnings is due to an 18.3% increase in the number of shares outstanding from 1.42 to 1.68 billion. As of about 3 PM, the stock is up nicely, outpacing XOM and CVX.

http://www.conocophillips.com/newsroom/news_releases/2006+News+Releases/102506_COP_3rd_Qtr_Earnings. htm



The per-share count was probably up because of the acquisition of Burlington Resources earlier this year.  They paid a lot for it and Burlington Resources mostly produces gas, so the (relatively) low gas prices have been a drag on earnings.

If gas prices recover, they will make lots more money.

Australia stands to lose 2/3 of its harvests, and a minister says "other areas of the economy might compensate for the fall." That level of understanding bodes well. No food? Eat uranium.

Half of Australian Farmland in Drought

To help drought-hit areas, the government will provide an extra A$560 million ($424 million) on top of A$350 million announced a week ago in aid. More than 77,000 farmers are now eligible for financial help.

Australia has about 130,000 farms, producing about A$103 billion a year in goods and A$28 billion in exports. Farming makes up about 12 percent of economic activity.

Forecasters say Australia's wheat crop in the fiscal year to the end of next June is set to fall to less than half of the previous year's 25 million tonnes. Australia's wheat exporter AWB Ltd. has suspended exports from the east coast in order to meet domestic needs.

"The drought is very well established. It is worse than we expected in May when we were putting together the budget forecasts," Costello told reporters.
"Rural production has had a negative quarter, and I would expect that rural production will have some further negative quarters."

But he said other areas of the economy might compensate for the fall in agricultural output and the official forecasts would stand until the scheduled release of the mid-year budget review later in the year.

Australia is one of the two industrial countries which didn't join the Kyoto protocol.

There is chapter about the problems Australia isn confronted with in Jared Diamonds "Collapse". Especially such places which are very susceptible to water shortages should be aware of climate heating (to use James Lovelock's words).

This is a disaster, pure and simple. As I read elsehwhere, calling this a drowth is a gross understatement and tends to imply that it is temporary.  There needs to be a recognition that it may be a permanent consequence of global warming. No doubt all those farmers wiped out by the drowth will take comfort that other areas of the economy are going swimmingly.

Along with the U.S., Australia has been one of the global warming deniers.  Will this be a wakeup call?  

Its to early to lable Australias drought as globle warming.

1900's there was a worse drought. Also New Zeland had a very wet year same latitude, same weather patten.

I agree dumping tons of co2 into the atmosphere is a bad idea but Australia cannot be used as the gobal warming poster child yet.

"The 1990s saw formal Government acknowledgement that drought is part of the natural variability of the Australian climate..."


After being sure it is on account of global warming it will be too late to do something against.
Use the power from the fissioned uranium to desalinate water and pump it onto fertile soil into drip-irrigation farms and greenhouses.
I predict that will happen within a decade after a lot of yelling and screaming. The big uranium mine (Olympic Dam) needs a desal plant on the coast. Any surplus could free up dwindling water supplies in the area.
The EIA's "This Week In Petroluem" report just came out. Very bullish as far as oil prices is concerned.

Crude Oil a draw of 3.3 million barrels.

Gasoline a draw of 2.8 million barrels.

Distillates a draw of 1.4 million barrels.

The draw in crude oil was very unexpected. Most were predicting a build of 1.4 to 2 million barrels.

Oil jumped from up about $.32 to up $.81, to over $60 on the news. But that is no indication as to where it will close today. I am betting on a close over $60.5.

This data will be avaliable on the web at 1:00 Eastern Time.

Ron Patterson

Did you see the consumption number? Gasoline demand seems to be going through the roof. I am surprised crude is up only 2%.
Overheard outside an oval room..."Dang nabbit, Dick!!  Who released the correct numbers this week? Bring me the head of the EIA on a plate."
And let's also welcome back all the hedge fund managers that lost there shirt dumping their energy positions a few months ago...shoulda held onto it boys.
I am reminded of a facetious comment someone recently made: "Those idiots couldn't even wait until the election was over to start manipulating prices back up again."
Low Prices= Gasoline Demand Up:

Gasoline imports way down:

Crude imports way down:

Crude up 3%:

God...it almost makes sense today...doesn't it?
Hey, there's the World Bank again, making money for those poor US industries. True philanthropy.

Hmmm.... "fed into the local power grid". How many of these systems exist in the US?

China "Methane to Markets" Project Nears Completion

China is nearing completion on a "methane to markets" project aimed at capturing emissions of the greenhouse gas and channelling it into power generation, a US environment official said on Monday.

The project at the Jincheng coal mine in China's northern province of Shanxi will produce 120 megawatts of electricity and reduce 40 million metric tonnes of carbon equivalent over its 20-year lifetime.

The project developer, Jincheng Anthracite Coal Group Co. Ltd., will capture coal mine methane and use it for power generation at the Sihe coal mine in Jincheng city, to be fed into the local power grid, the World Bank's Carbon Finance Unit said on its Web site.

US machinery maker Caterpillar Inc. will provide 60 methane-gas-powered generator sets to produce the power at the Sihe mine.

The project comes under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism, which means the mine should be able to sell credits for the carbon reductions on specialised exchanges in richer nations or directly to firms that overshoot government emissions targets.

The burned methane (CH4 to CO2) rate would need to be less than 21 times the natural unburnt atmospheric seepage rate to get a GHG positive effect.

I believe the World Bank is seriously misguided in assisting coalbed methane burning. The correct approach is for China to adopt carbon taxes. This is a big topic for another day.

Revolt of the fairly rich: the rich are furious about the really, really rich.

Here's my outlandish theory: that economic resentment at the bottom of the top 1 percent of America's income distribution is the new wild card in public life. Ordinary workers won't rise up against ultras because they take it as given that "the rich get richer."

But the hopes and dreams of today's educated class are based on the idea that market capitalism is a meritocracy. The unreachable success of the superrich shreds those dreams.

"I've seen it in my research," says pollster Doug Schoen, who counsels Michael Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton, among others. "If you look at the lower part of the upper class or the upper part of the upper middle class, there's a great deal of frustration. These are people who assumed that their hard work and conventional 'success' would leave them with no worries. It's the type of rumbling that could lead to political volatility."

Lower uppers are doctors, accountants, engineers, lawyers. At companies they're mostly executives above the rank of VP but below the CEO. Their comrades include well-fed members of the media (and even Fortune columnists who earn their living as consultants).

Lower uppers are professionals who by dint of schooling, hard work and luck are living better than 99 percent of the humans who have ever walked the planet. They're also people who can't help but notice how many folks with credentials like theirs are living in Gatsby-esque splendor they'll never enjoy.

Lifestyles of the 'Barely Disgustingly Rich and not quite as Famous as they'd thought they would be..'

I wonder if I can find an article that also tells us how the 'Really Really Poor are really disgusted by the merely somewhat poor'

Whoever is above you on the ladder has the butt you have to spend the most time looking at as you try to climb.

I think there's more to it than that.  These are people who drank the Kool-Aid...who truly believed that if you work hard, you will come out on top.  It seems horribly unfair to them that they've worked just as hard as anyone, are just as educated and talented...but will never be on top.  Just close enough to see what they're missing.

I suspect the poor already know the game is rigged.  They may not be happy about it, but it doesn't ruin their day, either.  

I'm reminded of a study that found that American girls suffer a tremendous loss of self-esteem during their pre-teen years.  They go from feeling they can do anything, to feeling they are too fat, too ugly, not popular enough, etc.  They look at the airbrushed images in Seventeen and Glamour and know they don't measure up.

The exception was minority girls.  They did not suffer that drop in self-esteem, presumably because they learned early on that they would be unfairly judged on their looks.

I agree that the frustration is not simply envy of the next person who has a little more than you.  But I wouldn't dismiss their expectation of a meritocracy as being self delusion.  The truth is that when these people were growing up and forming those values, the US WAS more of a meritocracy, you were more likely to be compensated according to how smart you were and how hard you worked.  But over the last couple of decades those values (which I feel is the real American dream) have eroded.  

The distribution of wealth in the US has become the most inequitable since the Great Depression.  And the trend is continuing as the current government is actively attacking the New Deal programs created after the Great Depression and working to permanently abolish inheritance taxes.  The idea that America is a classless society is becoming a myth, class mobility is being reduced generation after generation.

I agree with article's author that this will become a political issue.  I believe it is THE issue that would effectively frame the Democratic Party's contrast with the Republicans.  The Republicans (not all conservatives, but the current party leadership) are fundamentally working to transform the US into a society where wealth is passed from generation to generation, and where your hard work may enable you to move up within your class, but not transcend it.

The bright young candidate who grabs hold of this concept (are you listening Barak Obama?) and defines the Party with it will energize a lot of Americans who otherwise don't identify with the Democrats.

The truth is that when these people were growing up and forming those values, the US WAS more of a meritocracy, you were more likely to be compensated according to how smart you were and how hard you worked.

I'm not sure I buy that.  These are, I suspect, mostly people who were born on third base and thought they hit a triple.  They won the lottery by being born to the right parents, and don't even realize it.  

And I don't think the U.S. has ever really been a meritocracy.  We like to use that excuse to justify our social inequities, but it's never been strictly true.  

Back in 1963, Allan Sherman (sorta the Weird Al of his time) did a parody song called "Won't You Come Home, Disraeli."  In it, a successful man shares the story of his success.  The final verse:

Now I have a big office at the end of the hall,
With very fancy carpeting from wall to wall.
I keep my mouth open and I keep my ears shut,
And I've got a little palace in Connecticut.
(And he's got a little palace in Connecticut.)
So I thank old Yale, and I thank the Lord,
And I also thank my father who was Chairman of the Board,
(And he's grateful to his father,
Yes he's grateful to his father,
Yes he's grateful to his father,
Who was Chairman of the Board.)

I do agree about the distribution of wealth thing.  In fact, I posted something about it earlier today at PeakOil.com. It reminds me of the Roaring Twenties, before the Great Depression reared its ugly head.

I think this friction between the merely rich and the uber-rich is a reflection of constrained resources.  The rising tide isn't lifting all boats.  It's lifting some a lot more than others, which is what you sort of expect to happen as the growth party winds down.  So we have CEOs making 400 times what their employees make, and personal yachts as big as cruise ships.  

A couple of people at PO.com pointed out that it's usually the "merchant class" - the upper middle or lower upper class - that start revolutions.  The poor don't have the resources.  It's when the "merchant class" starts feeling the squeeze that TSHTF.

The truth is that when these people were growing up and forming those values, the US WAS more of a meritocracy, you were more likely to be compensated according to how smart you were and how hard you worked.

I'm not sure I buy that.  These are, I suspect, mostly people who were born on third base and thought they hit a triple.  They won the lottery by being born to the right parents, and don't even realize it.

Well hell, either way you are talking about the fickle finger of fate. Perhaps some had good genes, enthusiastic parents that installed in them the work ethic. Others were born into wealth. It simply doesn't matter, both were just damn lucky to be born into such wealth or with such great genes and environment.

Others born less well endowed in the mental department, or to dirt poor parents, or absent parents, were just not so lucky.

We are all victims of circumstance. No one is to blame for the hand they were dealt. Their genes and environment were forced upon them. It was not the other way around.

Ron Patterson

But that's not the American Dream.  The American Dream is the Horatio Alger story, where poor orphans can rise to the top just by working hard and being a good person.  
It is true that there are some things we don't control, like genes.  But there ARE things that we do control, like taxation and education.  Or at least in theory we contriol them, it is after all the government by the people, of the people for the people.  

Like I said, in theory.

  "We do not choose the moment of our birth,
who our parents will be,our particular culture
or the historical moment when we will be born.
We do not choose the status of spiritual in-
sight or political or economic conditions that
will be the context of our lives.We are,as it
were,thrown into existence with a challenge
and a role that is beyond any personal choice."

                    Thomas Berry

Yeh, but should a CEO makes 500 times more a year than a doctor, for example.  We rely on what we call the market to make these distribution decisions. But why is it so much more skewed in the U.S. than elsewhere?
Not to disagree, but to add the observation that numerous studies have shown (sorry, I have no references handy) that CEO pay is NOT determined by anything like a free market, and that it is not correlated with any common definition of performance.
Here is some evidence that may convince you:


It is a link to a New York Times study on class in America.  It is a facinating piece, and demonstrates the decreasing class mobility in the US in the 1970s through 1990s.

It is an easy mistake to make to believe that things have always been the way they are now.  They haven't been and those of us with a few miles on us have seen the changes.  The people who are frustrated are the ones who have benefited from class mobility, but recognize that that opportunity is diminishing for the coming generations.

My grandfather was a coal miner with no education, my father a civil servant with a high school education and 10 children.  I've got an advanced degree and am comparatively comfortable.  And it's not from being born on 3rd base (unless I missed 3rd base because it was covered up by one of the bunkbeds).

I agree that there is less mobility now.  In fact, I said so (pointing out that the rising tide isn't lifting all boats any more).

I just don't think that's the reason for the distress of the "lower uppers."

I went to an Ivy League college after graduating from a public high school in nowheresville, Indiana. Basically two types of students: talent and old money. I was in the talent pool (graduated summa cum laude in physics, NSF fellowship, etc.). Of course there were some old money folks who were very talented, too. But I saw some really third rate talents move into very financially rewarding careers, based on old money connections.

I don't know the whole history of top colleges opening up to a wider range of students. But that gives folks a chance to stand side by side and compare talent and merit & then to watch how careers evolve. That might inspire some new types of thinking. Of course, the increase in wealth disparity is surely the foundation for any such shift.

But I saw some really third rate talents move into very financially rewarding careers, based on old money connections.

But enough about George W. Bush...  ;-)

My sister became a professor at an Ivy League school after graduating from a public school in nowheresville.  She said they used to call these students "the happy bottom quarter."  Basically, they knew they didn't really belong, and were happy to get a C.  Unlike the other students, who would demand a meeting with the dean if you gave them a B.

But that gives folks a chance to stand side by side and compare talent and merit & then to watch how careers evolve.

You may be onto something.  Some sociologists blame TV for the '60s urban unrest, since it let the poor see exactly what they were missing.  

OTOH, if that were the problem, I'd expect the dissatisfaction to be more widespread.  Not just the rich vs. the uber-rich, but the middle class vs. the rich, the working poor vs. the middle class, etc.  

Fascinating discussion. I suspect this group (i.e. the bottom of the top 1%) is more likely than average to cast informed votes, so they have some political heft.

I'm sure more than one book has been written about this topic, but one that comes to mind is

Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else

This book was written back in 2003 by David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times. It's an excellent book.

Lou Dobbs was pushing that book last year.  I recommended it to my sister (who has an undergrad degree in economics, as well as a law degree) and she thinks it's great.  She says it's exactly right.  Our tax system was created for the world that existed in the 1930s, and is completely inadequate for today's global economy.
This whole thread is my life story, so here is the point of view of an (almost) elite.

Part of the frustration is economic.  Dad got a PhD and had a nice academic upper middle life with a stay at home wife and a part time maid plus 3 months vacation every summer.  I went to even better schools, got an MD, and earned loads of Federal Reserve Notes (that still didn't come close to the buying power of what Dad earned circa 1971).  Most of my FRNs went right back to the bankers or to massive taxes - ultimately also going to the bankers as interest payments on the national debt.  But that is only half the story.

IMO, the loss of R-E-S-P-E-C-T is what really has the upper middle up in arms.  When Dad flew to conferences in the 1960s, air travel was a fairly civilized affair, even in coach.  Air travel had to be nice because the ultra rich still flew on scheduled commercial flights.  Now air travel is a degrading experience, even for those with first class tickets.  This is happening because the ultra rich now all fly privately.  The new Eclispe 500 personal jet already has 240 orders.  Those that can't afford G5s or 767s are now buying their own wings.

Another example.  Dad as a professor at a state university had his own secretary.   Now even professors of surgery at Stanford have to answer their own damn phones.  The various ways that society used to stroke the upper middle class professional's ego helped the professional feel important.  This is what AMPOD would call social capital.  When the upper middles had social capital, they didn't care if someone in New York was richer, they were the big shots in Smallville.  Now the upper middle sense of privilege has vanished, replaced by the dehumanizing TSA search at the airport and voicemail hell at work.

Add these indignities to the fact that professionals educated during and post Reagan often graduated with huge educational debts which were followed (on the coasts at least) by huge mortgages.  So the upper middles now are also feeling like debt slaves to the bankers, on an endless treadmill and treated the same as any other lowly prole - like shit.  And the worst part is, we know the bankers class personally, we were at university with their stupid coke snorting dropout kids.  The ultras are not a foggy conspiracy theory to us, but a flesh and blood reality with names and faces.  I personally knew their pups, a Crocker, a Dinkelspiel, a Flexner, a Beckman, a Silverstein...

We know we are being screwed (relative to our upper middle parents, not the always screwed working class).  We know who is doing it, we outnumber them, and they are certainly not our natural betters.  So maybe the angry upper middles are the real target of HR6166.  The ultras are right to be concerned.  Suits of the world unite!  You have nothing to lose but your non-existent pensions!

Someone at PeakOil.com suggested this, too.  That  the problem was the wealthy may be driving Lexuses instead of Tempos, but they're still stuck in the same lousy traffic jams, driving over the same potholes as the peons.  They may fly first class, but the "jet set" don't fly commercial airlines any more.  
Well, it's really late in the day and I just got home from speaking at a seminar so I might repost something tomorrow.

You are all missing the point:  All of these people really believe(d) in the system.  But, the system is a lie.  They ate their hearts out playing by rules that were weighted against them - the house always wins.

It is much like a PO moment to realize that all you believe is crap.  However, people cannot deal with it any more than PO.  They just keep slogging along.  Now, I'm not saying this from a theortical point of view.  I made a decision to give up what has turned out to be millions in income to live in the boondocks doing low paying jobs a long time ago.  In my case, I had risen high enough to actually see how the game is played and I opted out.  I've had a vacation for 30 years and am debt free which would not have been the case had I stayed with it.

The middle and lower upper classes bought, and stills buys, an illusion.  It will not end well.

Nice one Todd, I spent a huge part of last week at the poptech conference. Talk about wannabees, and rich. People flew in from Japan for this one.  Marketing wonks all over.
The conference looks for upper and  <grin> more upper attendees so it can hit them up, or their company for a sponsorship. Don't get me wrong I love it. It's our brain jumpstart each year but it is getting so the attendees are there more to make connections than to actually listen to the speakers. We actually had to ask people next to us to stop talking over the speakers. The women are really funny, they all look the same, the black slacks and twisty blonde hair is a riot.

Glad to be home and out of that atmosphere, and back to peeing on the compost pile.

Actually, I will probably email the little dude from NTT who was in reasearch and developement. His english was not good but he smiled a lot.

Don in Maine

Great post.

The wage slave lifestyle has hit the educated classes and there's no light at the end of tunnel.  It seems attractive as a well educated, fairly accomplished "middle class" technical professional to divest, buy a sailboat, and go bum around the islands or wherever.  Or drop out and go off grid in the woods.  Or find some pretty but cheap third-world country and sit on the beach for a while.  The fruit of the 60hr/week go-getter lifestyle just seems to be more of it... while some dude about my age who chose a little differently where to exert his brilliance has a seven-figure audio/video budget for his new house.

Yes.  I am considering dropping out, to the farm, the sailboat myself.  I should practice medicine for another 15-20 years, but what is the point?  Physicians in New Zealand never were independent professionals, they are public servants.  Medicine here is a vocational track entered after high school,  and a mere batchelor's degree.  So there is no social status in the work, no white coat, no medical assistants, no typist.  The pay is lower than what skilled carpenters earn in Australia.  Plus the regulation of the NZ nanny state is just terrible.  Finally, you are on the receiving end of every epidemic disease and the working hours are awful.

On the other hand, rural land can be had for under US$1000/acre, nicely priced used sailboats are abundant, and the polynesian islands are but a swift passage away.  Screw it.  Jimmy Buffet is calling to me.

I don't get this thread AT ALL.

Am I supposed to CARE that you don't get the social respect you think you deserve?  You have a PHD so you deserve a secretary, and a maid, and a stay at home wife?  What the F**K?!?!

The reality is there are a hell of a lot more PHD's now then there were when your Dad got his.  Maybe they used to be "special".  They aren't anymore.  Half the clowns you meet on the street have PHD's these days.

I don't see anyone stopping you from opening your own business, going out on your own, reaching the next level of "social status".  No it's not on a platter.  News flash: it never was!

And your little rant about air travel.  Spend a few dollars and fly first class!  Trust me, they still pamper you up there.  You can get a warm cloth for your face, and a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie.  Your luggage comes off first too.

The whining that goes on here.  My god!


What a hoot.

Yes. Every one of us wants to believe he or she is "special".

There is a new TV series pandering to this desire. It is called "Heroes". Upshot: a bunch of nobodies wake up one day to discover they have "special" super-hero powers and they are being called upon to use their powers to "save the world". Funniest of all is a Japanese character whose first name is "Hiro" (pronounced Hero) and who looks and acts like the biggest loser of all. But he has this minor ability to bend the space-time continuim. Others of the Heroes can fly, walk through fire, read peoples thoughts, etc. Each has his or her own, one "special" power. The show also has a bunch of villains. Their identities are an open secret. Who knows? They might even be your own parents, the generation that came before, namely, the old foggies who are bent on "destroying the world".

(BTW, MicroHydro, what kind of surgery do you "specialize" in at Stanford?  You may have operated on me personally. Saved my life. That was special to me. Thank you. Thank you even if you didn't operate on me but on someone less special and you saved their life. I wish I can thank you monetarily. Unfortunately I too am deep in hock paying for Edge-occasion loans. You are a Hero. Never mind that the MBA-powers-that-are (MPTA) treat you like shit and don't even give you a clerk. You are still a Hero. "They" are the evils. They are here to crunch the Planet with their numbers and economic expectorations. You are here to save reality, to save lives of real people with use of real science. Don't let their Hypnotic Eco-talk bend your perception of reality. Do not fall into the Smithian Reality Distortion Field. Blood and needles are "real". Derivatives and hedge funds are hypno-induced fantasies. Use your "special" power --a.k.a. the rational part of your brain-- to see through their distortion fields. Good luck.)

GGG71: On opening your own business, good luck with that if you don't have the financial resources to do it. 9 out of 10 new businesses fail. You need buko bucks to be able to try it out 5 to 10 times with the hope that one of the new businesses will be a strike-it-rich one. Look at our esteemed President Bush. His "Daddy" left the silver spoon in little Bushie's mouth. So just like the Little Engine That Shouldn't, he tried and he tried, he failed and he failed. And finally, just when it shouldn't have happened, he got "lucky" and a bunch of nice people at the US Supreme Court gave him a cushy do-nothing job with guaranteed "honoraniums" at the end of its tenure. Some people do get it "handed to them on a silver platter". The game is rigged.

The game has always favored the rich.  Do you think it was any different 30 years ago?  50?  100?  1000?

Nobody makes it to the really rich stage unless they take some chances.  Getting a PHD and working as a professor isn't taking chances.

Those secretaries you crave as a status symbol?  Somebody (IBM, BIll Gates, etc...) figured out that they could be replaced by a computer - and believe me, they made a bundle on that deal.

The much maligned McMansion, what is it really, except a status symbol?  The same goes for the big fancy cars.  Nobody needs a 500 horsepower luxury sports sedan.  But they're fun and sexy!

The reality is, for all we bitch and moan, America is still the place to be if you want to make it big.  But that takes guts, courage, and yes, even a willingness to fail.

You may be missing the point.  Everyone agrees that the rich have always had an advantage.  That is true today and was true 50 years ago.  But what is different is the degree to which thay have an advantage.  The rules have been changing, and are changing right now, to increase the advantage that the rich have.  And in particular the rules are changing to make it easier to pass that wealth on.  So that the rich in the next generation won't be the ones with the guts and the courage, they will be the sons and daughters of those risk takers.  Thats the problem.  

I guess I just disagree with that conclusion.  

I don't think it's ever been easy.  The rich have always tried to change the rules to favor themselves.  Isn't that the heart of a democracy?  (To vote to try and make things better for yourself?)

Look at the Kennedy's.  What did JFK or Ted Keneddy or JFK Jr really do?  They inherited big bucks, and were loved for it.  The same can be said for the Bush's, or Getty's, or Hiltons.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Oh well, what the hell do I know.  :)

Thanks you step back, unlikely I cared for you as I left Stanford in 1985.  To me the people who pulled 80 hour weeks in silicon valley designing hardware and software to the benefit of the whole civilization were heroes.

In the long run everybody is dead, so no life is ever saved.  But I have had the satisfaction of helping innumerable people through medical crises and postponing their deaths by decades.  Is is inherently satisfying but stressful and exhausting work.  In the pre MBA/HMO days there was a support system to keep the physicians from burning out.  Now we have to spend much of our time on the phone on hold waiting to talk to HMO clerks in the US - now health ministry drones in NZ - (who often sound like reallly dim bulbs) to get permission "prior authorization" or "special authority" to do what we know needs to be done.  And this is a constructive use of 13 years of higher education?  And then to go home at 9pm dog tired, that gets old.

So yes, that is the chief complaint.  Nobody in the upper middle ever expected a 150 ft megayacht or a private 767.  But we did expect that the sacrifice of the years of our youth would be compensated by a supportive and stable working environment in our prime, and that has gone.  While the whole medical system will ultimately decline as a complex system due to PO, that is not the cause of the current malaise.  The current decline of the entire western middle class from top to bottom is due to the greed of the ultras who have been waging class war on the middles for 25 years.  Or put another way, the professional class provides services mainly to other middles, as the rest of the middles have been made poorer, we have been inevitably affected in kind.

Yup, my doc was just complaining to me the other day about the HMO's. I had come in to tell him about how it hurts me here and hurts me there. Instead I got an earful about what a lousy bunch of cheap SOB's run the organization that is, for now, my new health insurance company. He wonders aloud why he keeps working just to get paid 30 cents on the dollar. Thanks to all you doc's for hanging in there and keeping our clocks ticking. No amount of money repays for that.

That is not "Won't you come home Disraeli?", that is "When I was a Lad".  I know there is a site on the web that agrees with you, but it is wrong.

"Disraeli" is sung to the tune of "Won't you come home, Bill Bailey". "When I was a Lad is a parody of Gilbert and Sullivan's "When I Was a Lad, I Served A Term".

I'll take your word for it.  The song is from before my time, I confess.  The radio station my parents listened to played it sometimes, but that station never gives the titles to songs.  
In a more generic sense I think minorities have cultural myths shattered at a very young age through the experience of racism. The "low end of the upper 1%" aren't having those same myths shattered until they are much older, when they first run into doors that they aren't allowed to pass through (as they are complaining about here).

For me personally, being a nerd in junior high certainly put me a bit ahead of the curve as far as understanding "how people and society really operate."

Worst is to be white minority in a world of sharply decreasing prospects for the white working class, racial quotas, race-based scholarships, hiring, promotion, unofficial tolerence of officially illegal race-based discrimination against whites by nonwhite owned business (the majority of businesses in everyplace I've lived in the Universe I'm in) and so on.

Lots of people cursed to be born white and nonrich, smart enough to be doctors and engineers, and being told  - and it being enforced - that they don't have any prospects higher than being a window washer, swapmeet selller, go-fer at Home Despot, etc. (Whites are actually liked at the home depot type stores, they speak English well and come from a do-it-yourself background in almost all cases. And they're desperate and will work cheep.)

Now throw in, on top of the last 30 years of downgrading, degrading, and misery...... another Great Depression......

I can't think of a better way to set up the preconditions for a Nazi type revolution.

'Plain women know the most about men.' (Rough Transl.)
    -Katherine Hepburn
Leanan's anecdote about body image reminds me of an old study of mid-life crises. It concluded that they were primarily an affliction of the middle-class, because members of the lower class couldn't afford to have illusions about themselves, and members of the upper class rarely had their illusions shattered.
I've read articles that basically say the reason your superior makes that much more than you is because that is incentive enough to make you want his/her job.  I buy that, but if it's being upset on a macro scale, these could be the leaders asking whats wrong with this.  I come to think more people would listen to them.
Larry Parker's commentary "US Occupation of Iraq" is right to point on the unforgiveable atrocities in Iraq.  However, his assessment that the war in Iraq is essentially to provide more comfort to the average American seems to be a gross oversimplification.

Given the indifference govt leaders displayed towards impoverished Katrina victims (recall Barbara Bush's comments) and the lack of a public outcry over the fiasco, I doubt that the powers that be give a rat's backside about the relative comfort of the working poor, working class, or middle class for that matter.

Instead, these "leaders" have long recognized that controlling the world's fossil fuels is essential to maintaining the empire.  Amongst themselves they probably rationalize this as necessary to national security and maintaining the economic and military strength to stave off a full-scale nuclear war.

Lots of peakniks talk about the collapse of society into little communes or hunter-gatherer types, but, with the nuclear genie out of the bottle, for many years to come there will be a great incentive to have a strong centralized force (or balance of forces) that can ward off a large scale nuclear war.

I recently saw a quote of something Kissinger once said to the effect of those who control food supplies control the people; those who control energy control the continent; and those who control the flow of money control the world.

Years ago, Kissinger also said he foresaw the day when chaos and turmoil in America's largest cities would set up conditions such that Americans would welcome U.N. troops to maintain order - something of a vision for a global police state.

The leaders of the empire have been predictable in their motives and actions for years, it is generally a matter of just learning to read the code and never forgetting that money, power, and long-term physical security are always the key motivators underlying domestic and foreign policy.

Kissinger is right about US social unrest as things get worse, dead wrong about Americans welcoming UN peacekeepers.

The US will become the Chechnya of the world community, and I'll want to be one of the first to have a set of UN peacekeeper's ears hanging from the mirror of my car myself!

Wall St. Goes Green: Wall Street investment banks are making a serious commitment to energy-saving initiatives.

Deep in the bowels of Credit Suisse's U.S. headquarters at 11 Madison Avenue, far below the gleaming trading floors where fortunes are made and lost every day, lie 64 neoprene ice storage tanks, seven feet high and six feet in diameter.

A steel chiller produces ice during the evening hours, when electricity is less expensive, more plentiful and generated without as much strain on the environment. That ice, stored in the big tanks, is used to chill water the following day. The water is pumped into a cooling system, producing the chilled air that keeps employees (and critical data-center equipment) from overheating on sweltering July days.

They are not "Saving" energy. Actually using more of it (remember every conversion results in some loss, ..second law of thermodynamics). However, they are saving money because they are using that energy when prices are lower (off-peak power) and storing it as ice-water to be used during peak hours. The savings in c/kwh apparently exceed the losses through conversion and equipment inefficiencies.

Nicaragua plans to outdo Panama with supersize canal

Five centuries after Spain's King Carlos V first thought of cutting a canal through Nicaragua to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the tiny nation has a date in sight for a "Grand Canal" to dwarf Panama's.

As Panama prepares to widen its congested 92-year-old waterway to squeeze through more of today's bigger ships, Nicaragua plans to build a bigger, deeper canal by 2019 to cater to the supersized freighters of the future.

An international tender for a consortium of private companies to build and operate the canal, which would generate much-needed royalties for the impoverished nation, could be launched by the end of 2007, planners say.

"We are not competing with Panama. We are complementary. We are doing different things," said Mario Alonso, president of the Central American nation's canal commission and a former central bank chief.

"In 2013, we will mark 500 years of talking about this. But this is the first time in the 500 years that we are actually studying this as a project."

With dirt flying in Panama, Nicaragua will never get financing IMHO.

Nicaragua has the advantage of shorter route to US East & Gulf ports (and Cuba, etc.) and plans to take even bigger ships than Panama.  But the economics between NicaraguaMax ships and the new (2014) PanaMax ships plus the shorter route is not large enough to justify the many billions required.  And the capacity of the two old, smaller lock sets (three locks up, three down) and to-be-built larger lock set can probably handle all the traffic.


Hey Alan,

I'm curious if the 'new Northern passage', due to Arctic ice-melt, is being considered.  

Do you know anything about it?  


I would assume it will be a seasonal phenom. but does this new shipping route make much of a difference to these projects?

just from looking at the Geography of Canada/Alaska and how wide and expansive the North is compared to the isthmus(sp?) of Panama, I'm not sure you would save much travel time by taking a northern end run around Canada and the Arctic.
It depends where you are coming from/going.  Japan to the East Coast or northern Europe is about 4000 mi shorter via the Arctic--you can see it pretty clearly on a globe.
True hadn't considered that journey.  I was thinking more along the lines of an US East Coast/US West Coast route.  I think specifically it was Alan's New Orlean's port, and the fact I live in Houston close enough to the ship channel that when I think ports, those are the first two places that pop to mind.  I wonder how a New York to LA run would pan out.

Also until the Ice completely melts, wouldn't the current bergs being created make it treacherous for shipping to go that route?  I'm not much of a mariner so I really don't know the details of traversing an ice sea.


LAGOS, Nigeria - Angry villagers in Nigeria stormed and seized three Shell oil platforms Wednesday in the volatile Niger Delta, forcing oil production to be shut down at each one, a spokesman for the oil company said.
Like Morton Salt box says, "When it rains, it pours..."

Weight gain means lower gas mileage

CHICAGO - Want to spend less at the pump? Lose some weight.

That's the implication of a new study that says Americans are burning nearly 1 billion more gallons of gasoline each year than they did in 1960 because of their expanding waistlines. Simply put, more weight in the car means lower gas mileage.

I remember lots of 1/4 pounder advertisements when I emigrated to the States in the mid 80s. Now I see 3/4 pounders on sale at Hardees. That is a Big Burger.
That's a HUGE burger. I'm on a "frugality" kick these days and I've discovered that while a double meat and fries and drink is about $5.50 at In-N-Out, the burger alone is $2.60. I think a double meat is probably the equivalent of a 1/4-pounder. Since I get it with "everything" it comes with a lot of lettuce, tomato, and a big slice of onion - watch out for my breath after I've eaten one!

I was really hungry today so I got the burger plus fries and (free) water, but I could not finish the fries. True, they gave me a ton of 'em, it was a non rush time and they really stacked them on, but still... that burger by itself is a meal.

But! People around me were ordering two "double-doubles" (double meat, double cheese) plus fries, and a huge sugary drink. Some were spending over $7 on a meal, easily. And yes, some of the people were huge, lol. I was early for lunch so there were the old people getting a bare-bones meal, that was kind of cool to see - folks from an earlier time, getting a meal based on what do they need, not what can they possibly stuff down at one sitting.

Actually if people bother to study the menus a bit, most restaurants have "lost leader" products which if you plan your meal around them can save you a fair chunk of change.

McDs is good example...  Keep in mind that McDs has two styles of beef patties, 1/10lb patty, and 1/4lb patty.

The quarter pounder is an obvious one, and goes for around $2.00 if I remember.  A traditional quarter pounder comes with a 1/4lb patty, 2 slices of cheese, Ketchup, Mustard, pickle, and the large onions(non-dehydrated).

The cheaper alternative is to order a Double Cheeseburger which goes for $.99.  The Double cheese burger is 2 1/10lb patties, 2 slices of cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles and the small onions(re-hydrated).  A custom order will allow you to remove the small onions and replace them with the large ones.

Net difference between the two, a loss of 1/20th of a pound of beef, at half the price.

Double Quarter Pounders go for $2.75 roughly, and are just Quarter Pounder with an extra 1/4lb beef patty.  A second Doublecheese burger will get you close in food content, but still save you nearly a third of the cost.

Most restaurants have "Value menus" which if given some thought, and a little creativity on your custom order will allow you to save a chunk of change but still get you what you want.

*This knowledge brought to you by my stint at working at McDs in Highschool and living on fast food in college*

A side note for Houston, if you do some "shopping" of Chinese and Mexican food restaurants, you can usually get a much better meal(taste and nutrient wise), for about the same price as a Combo meal at most Fast Food places.  

But for fairness and credibility sake, just be aware that Houston was ranked the fattest city in the US for 4 years and only recently lost the title to Chicago(I think) in the last year.  We got a lot of restaurants.

Robert Rapier and others interested in engines optimized for ethanol, check out:

Startup Working to Commercialize Direct Injection Ethanol Boosting + Turbocharging.

30% improvement in fuel efficiency, not a 30% loss!

This has been discussed before. First, in theory one should be able to close the gap on a gasoline engine by increasing the compression ratio. To date, nobody has demonstrated this in practice, and they won't test the engines until 2007. So, it is still theory.

Second, from the phrasing, it is not clear whether they mean the engine will be 20-30% more fuel efficient than a spark-ignition engine running on gasoline (I can almost guarantee you that won't be the case) or that it will be 20-30% more fuel efficient than the current status quo (comparing ethanol to ethanol in the two engines). Based on the BTU difference in the fuels, I can just about promise you that the latter is what they mean.

But, it is certainly an improvement over the status quo for ethanol if the engines work like they hope.

The Saab 9-5 Biopower and soon 9-5 Biopower Hybrid are good examples of how smart auto engineering will take advantage of ethanol's superior horsepower, torque and combustion properties.
The horsepower and torque depend on the number of BTU's which means that ethanol has less to offer; to get more performance, more fuel must be used in each engine cycle.  That's what turbo [or super] charging an engine does; it adds more fuel for each cylinder charge!  Ethanol does burn cleaner, and may be more compressible than gasoline, but for more power, more fuel is required.
Yet more bad data out over state of US housing market, now fallen 2.5% year on year.


Wha this does to the US economy and its demand for oil next year when declines are registering 5-10% and large numbers are in negative equity is the big question........

Yes, all the housing market has to do is just go dead level for a few years to "kill off" a large number of "homeowners" by depriving them of their refinancing golden egg each year.
30% improvement in fuel efficiency, not a 30% loss!

The article is talking about an engine that burns 100 gallons of gasoline for every 5 gallons of ethanol. Efficiency is gained by use of a much smaller (lighter) engine and turbocharging.

You cannot violate the laws of thermodynamics. Ethanol just contains less energy than gasoline and there is absolutely no way one can get around that very simple fact.

Here are the figures:

1 U.S. Gallon of gasoline contains 114,132 btu
1 U.S. Gallon of no. 2 diesel fuel contains 138,000 btu
1 U.S. Gallon of ethanol contains 76,000 btu
1 U.S. Gallon of methanol contains 56,800 btu
1 U.S. Gallon of propane contains 84,500 btu
1 U.S. Gallon of compressed natural gas contains 19,800 btu

These are the figures you will just have to live with. They cannot be violated or overcome by any type of engine. There is simply less energy in ethanol than in gasoline and nothing can change that fact.

Ron Patterson

Actually those figures are for the potential energy in a gallon of whatever fuel.  ICEs don't get 100% of the potential however.

What I gather from the article is that the limitation of current ICE designs prevent the full potential energy of a given fuel from being used, and they have somehow overcome at least some of this limitation by using a mixed fuel.

So while the fuel itself is not containing more energy, the engine is using more of that potential energy than other engines of inferior design.  The net result is that less fuel is required for the same amount of work, or an "inferior"(from a potential energy standpoint) fuel can be used at the same rate for more work done.

That is correct.  The current US average ICE utilization is about 12% of the stored energy content per gallon of gasoline.  EV's, btw, are 4x as efficient then ICE's with technology in place NOW.
Ah...here's why we have 40% of our Navy in the Persian Gulf....

U.S. Forges New Ties With Iran's Gulf Neighbors


WASHINGTON -- With America, Britain, and France preparing new sanctions to ban missile and nuclear technology sales to Iran, America is quietly forging new security ties with the Islamic Republic's Gulf neighbors.

On October 29, American, Kuwaiti, and Bahraini ships will conduct a naval exercise under the Proliferation Security Initiative, a program created in 2002 aimed at interdicting shipments of weapons of mass destruction to rogue regimes.

The proposed military exercises caught the attention yesterday of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, according to the BBC. The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency quoted a senior Foreign Ministry official as saying the planned maneuvers are "dangerous and suspicious."

The joint military exercises are part of a series of new technical security cooperation agreements the Bush administration has forged with Gulf countries in recent weeks. Details of the new pacts are expected to be announced at a December 8-9 conference of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Bahrain.

Hello TODers,

IS rising levels of oceanic hypoxia more confirmation of Global Warming?
Fossils indicate ancient low-oxygen area in Gulf of Mexico

Oct 25, 2006 03:34 AM MST

Centuries before the dead zone off Louisiana's coast became an annual phenomenon, something similar occurred naturally but far less often.

Florida researchers aren't saying oxygen levels at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico dropped so low that sea life could no longer exist for thousands of square miles. That condition, called hypoxia, has been tracked in the Gulf of Mexico every summer since 1985, starting west of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

But Lisa Osterman of the US Geological Survey office in Saint Petersburg, Florida, and colleagues at the University of South Florida can say that, perhaps every 100 or 150 years or so, oxygen levels dropped considerably in the area where hypoxia now occurs every year.

There are oxygen-starved areas of ocean water-bottoms all around the world, and their numbers are rising. Earlier this month, a study reported there are now 200 -- a 34 increase from two years ago, and more than triple the 61 reported in the late 1990s. Some are constant, others, like the Gulf's, are seasonal.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

I believe these deep anoxic muds contain methane. When the sea warms enough the methane will be released. This I think is one of the theories on the Permian Extinction.

Near home you can drive along a dirt track that has black oil shale overlain by late Permian fossil corals overlain by sandstone which has no evidence of any living thing.

Hello TODers,

Rising Dieoff in Zimbabwe: child mortality is accelerating.  Please be aware that these statistics do not include the newborns and foetuses that periodically clog the sewage systems.  Sad.

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

Nice thing about both these reports are the clear graphics that display the issue in a manner even nontechnical types could understand.

He does a good job presenting the "danger" of Peak Oil without instilling panic.

Wow, great stuff.  Short and sweet.  It's "peak oil for dummies"! :)

Wither the roads ?

This problem is mute if we can't afford asphalt for our roads and what are oil sands which hold the promise of the future but asphalt ?

I appreciate the pointed debate but I think we are dealing with a shoeless horse.

For want of a nail, a shoe was lost
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost
For want of a horse, a rider was lost
For want of a rider, a message was lost
For want of a message, a battle was lost
For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost
All for want of a nail
- George Herbert (1593-1632)

In the long run, I suspect you are right.  Though it's not so much the cost of asphalt, but the cost of infrastructure in general.  The "Iron Triangle" cannot afford to maintain the highway system on their own.  Neither can a handful of rich people.  They need the ordinary Joes to drive, in order to have political support for highways.  When the ordinary Joes can no long afford to drive, the political support and the funding for roads goes, too.  

(I haven't read the thread so if someone posted likewise please forgive. But hey, I'm at the bottom of this thread so I wonder if *anyone* will read this :-)

Aha! This article gives us numbers:

All this appears to be having an impact on the global supply of oil. According to analysts at Sanford Bernstein, the financial services group, new projects are expected to add 5.8m b/d this year, 3.4m b/d in 2007 and 4.4m b/d in 2008.
Let's see in the coming years how well they match.
What did they say would be added in 06?

5.8m b/d

Sorry I missed it. So, if there was 5.8mb/d of produciton added, and produciton is fairly flat over 05, then the decline rate is around 5.8/85 = 6.8%. Pretty alarming.  Actually, I think the number is around 5%, still higher than many assume.
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