Impressions of ASPO-USA

[Update by Dave Cohen on 10/29/06 at 7:31 PM EDT]
I forgot to add that M. King Hubbert Awards from ASPO-USA went to Richard Heinberg and Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R, MD). Congratulations to them for their realistic views of our future. It's good to see everyone contributing their conference impressions here.

This is not a full conference report but rather gives some of my impressions of the ASPO-USA conference held this week at Boston University.

About 450 people attended but I thought the absence of journalists was notable. There were a few but a protest got more attention in the press than anything else. For the mainstream media, peak oil is, temporarily, off the table. This is understandable due to the negative publicity blitz we've experienced over the last few months, combined with the steep fall of the oil price. Nevertheless, the fundamental issues are still there, a point the conference brought home to its attendees. The crowd is quite diverse, although ASPO-USA tends to focus on the troublesome details in oil & natural gas production, the problems with bringing substitutes onstream and geopolitical concerns.

At this kind of conference, you can sit at your table all day and listen to all the presentations—this is like a rewarding endurance contest. But what I like to do is talk to people informally out in the hallway. So, sometimes I missed talks (sometimes unintentionally). However, I count on the presentation slides being up on the ASPO-USA website next week. Greg Geyer of Terrachord will perform this great service for all of us.

So, in no particular order, here are my impressions and observations as filtered through my own sense of what is interesting or important. Others will add their own observations.

  • First, I want to congratulate the conference organizers for a job well-done. I can't name them all but they're great folks. One can only imagine the hard work that goes into organizing such a thing. Everything went pretty smoothly although I will say, there are only 24 hours in a day!

  • I was forcefully reminded that although peak oil is often seen as a liquid fuels problem, there is also the electrical power grid to worry about. The issues include storage of electrical power generated from wind, solar and other renewables, natural gas production declines, the great worries associated with using more pulverized coal, the problems with electricity dispatch to meet demand in a timely manner at low costs, et. al. I want to write more about this in the future.

  • Dave Hughes of The Geological Survey of Canada was a new—to me— forceful voice in the peak oil debate. He spoke knowledgeably and convincingly about natural gas problems in North America and the was realistic in his assessments of what we can expect from the tar sands of Alberta. Between the natural gas problems, the enormous environmental damage, the soaring capital costs, the problems with water & dilutants for mined bitumen, there is little reason to be confident about the operation. Indeed, using natural gas for tar sands production is like "turning gold into lead" as Hughes said. From here

    Typical Oil Sands Tailings Ponds
    Click to Enlarge

  • A message that needs to get out to people is that when you look at a typical oil field's production history—

    Field Production Profiles
    Click to Enlarge

    there arrives a point of diminishing returns based on your marginal extraction costs at the tail-end of production. At some point, it is simply no longer economic to extract any more oil because the EOR or IOR techniques being applied are more expensive than what you can get for what you produce. This is an EROEI issue concerning what are termed boundaries—what do you include when you calculate the net energy? Several speakers touched on these issues.

  • NIMBY-ism is a large issue for LNG receiving terminals and wind farms. Brad Swing, director of Boston's Energy Policy division, told the attendees what happens everytime an LNG tanker moves into the Everett terminal. 72 different agencies "swing" into action. Flights are suspended at Boston's Logan Airport. It was an astonishing story. The aforementioned protest was not about Jim Gordon's Cape Wind Project (he spoke), but resistance is still strong to the project. Where do people, especially in New England, think their future electricity will come from? I've got news for them—it doesn't just come out of the wall when you flip the switch on.

  • We had a sleight-of-hand magic show courtesy of a very corporate pitch from Raytheon's John Cogliandro. Here, we will not mine the oil shale nor will be heat it up using Shell's in situ method. No, in this case we will microwave it in the ground and use supercritical fluids to coax the heated liquids out of the ground. Hyperbole was high but details were scarce. Stay tuned!

  • Speaking with Michael Klare in the hallway, he reiterated his belief that some military action will be taken against Iran in the coming year. I will be doing an interview with him soon — the one I scheduled fell through — and there will be an article here on it. I note that there are now no less than three aircraft carrier task forces in the area now. Uhmmm....

  • The transportation section at the conference had its moments. The speakers & panelists were John Heywood of MIT, Bill Reinert of Toyota and Andy Frank of UC Davis. Frank presented an interesting vision of the future in which most everyone has an PHEV with a small engine running on biofuel. Electricity generated from renewables on the grid is stored by plugging in your car at night -- your car's battery does the trick. Disappointingly, there was no official discussion of electrified light rail and other railroad options. Reinert said something interesting about how inefficient aggressive driving is, aside from the fact that it indicates that people often act like sociopaths in their vehicles.

I shall mention other personal impressions in the comments on this thread. But the above list is certainly enough to chew on.

Finally, a little about The Oil Drum. My colleagues Stuart Staniford (British, now of San Francisco), Cry Wolf (Aberdeen, Scotland), Chris Vernon (Bristol, England) and Nate Hagens (New Hampshire) were all there. It was a great pleasure to finally meet them all (I had met Stuart previously). I can tell you that the TOD table at the bar on Friday night was definitely the place to be. I've hardly ever laughed that hard in my life. We did not find any recoverable oil but there was wine in abundance, so we partook of that instead. What smart, funny, knowledgeable people they all are. I can not drink Cry Wolf under the table but it wasn't due to lack of effort.

More seriously, The Oil Drum was considered a precious resource by most everyone at the conference. Most attendees read us on a regular basis including most of the presenters as well. That was startling and a little bit intimidating. At one point, Randy Udall had us and some people from some other websites like the Energy Bulletin stand up and get a round of applause from the conference attendees. It was a totally unexpected but much appreciated gesture. All of your good work, both from contributors and commenters, is helping to change the world. So, keep it up!

Dave Cohen
TOD Contributor

dave, since stuart hasn't been posting here for some time i would be interested in what his current thinking is, both formally and informally. does he still have the same mindset he so eloquently wrote about on TOD?
Steverino, Stuart presented the first day. His current thinking hasn't changed much in the last 6 months or so, he told me. Also, he will be posting here at TOD sometime in the near future, I think.

As to Stuart's view, I will give you a brief summary of my understanding of it. I believe he thinks the current plateau in oil production is the plateau, not to be followed by a new rise in global output in the next 3 or 4 years. Historically, production has got flat at one time or another but then resumed its exponential growth pattern. His analysis of the price data indicates that the trend seen since 2002 will likely continue in the future — the price will resume it's rise or stay at high levels ($65 - $70) and that the current peak of production is already priced in ±$15/barrel. I would say that his view is pretty much the same one represented in the First time here? link at the top of our homepage.

Does that help?

thanks dave.... yup, that does satisfy my curiosity. as to his assertion that $70 /bbl. is pricing in peak, i have my doubts. if stuart feels that $70($3/gal.) creates a wall of demand destruction, one needs only look to europe, where gas is twice as high. people are still doodling around in cars, albiet smaller ones.
Stuarts graphs at ASPO (though falling victim to his preference of using Macintosh over Windows) basically showed that flattening/slight increase in production in KSA and Russia lately has come at time when rig count is soaring, implying they are certainly trying to get more oil, but are not.

My main takeaways were

  1. I am taller than Dave Cohen

  2. Neither side, those of us who believe Peak Oil is real and imminent, nor the cornucopians who think there is plenty of oil for a long time to come, have real hard data to stand on - there are just too many uncertainties. With the stakes so high, we need a)more energy transparency and b) an umbrella energy overseer who can put the building blocks together for the best strategy to use remaining fossil fuels to create renewable infrastructure. There is little funding or effort for either of those pursuits currently

  3. Natural gas is increasingly of more urgent concern in North America than Peak Oil. If we stopped drilling right now, our production would decline by 30% next year, and 30% the year after, etc. LNG will compete against other countries, a 35% energy loss in transportation, and Not-In-My-BackYard opposition. There still exists some demand side destruction left, but then we will be close to the bone.

  4. The recognition of environmental externalities, specifically climate change, soil degradation and water availability was mentioned several times - this is good because we live in a systems world

  5. The conference participants had a large standard deviation - half were Peak Oil conference veterans, and I met many who lived in Boston and were in financial community - these folks viewed this all as information gathering on how to best invest their money, not as a paradigm change on how society needs to be restructured (sample size of 3). Overall a motivated, intelligent, thoughtful group of people in that room that will make change happen sooner than it would without them. Good job Dick, Steve, Scott and Randy.

  6. Despite technical multimedia problems, 2 ethanol (1 sugar cane) presentation were wildly hopeful and impressive. I am writing a paper right now on how chaining (burning the bagasse) overestimates EROI, but it appears that sugar cane cellulosic ethanol in Brazil, especially done organically could be a real answer. Milton Maciel, an organic farmer from there suggested it could even be more scalable if society gives up some other things that we really dont need (like sugar and alcohol). (Id be interested to see peoples discount rates between choosing to drive a car, or be deprived of chocolate)

  7. Net energy is still little focused on, much misunderstood, and very important. Data is not easy however.

  8. It was mentioned several times that we may never see a geologic peak.  Economics/politics may change the shape of future production.  That some people think the peak is past and others think it is 2030 really is a testament to how confusing this issue is.
Those are great comments, Nate. Far more nuanced than we often see here. I fully agree with the importance of recognizing the inherent uncertainty in our situation. The lack of transparency is unfortunately not something that we can expect to "fix" any time soon. Given that reality we have to accept that a wide range of possible future scenarios lies ahead.

It's good to see recognition of the natural gas situation. Even as recently as last year we were still seeing proposals that we would switch to natgas as oil ran out. In fact wasn't it in today's drumbeat that Chino, California is requiring all garages to be built with outlets to fuel CNG cars? How much sense does that make if we're going to run out of NG before oil?

That's also an interesting and provocative point that we may never see a geologic peak. I gather that this means that we may see a peak but the timing and details will be due to the economics and politics of the situation, rather than the classic Peak Oil scenario where we're pumping as hard as we can but we just can't get the oil to come out of the ground any faster.

From a public debate point of view, uncertainty speaks in favor of action: "We are heavily dependent on a resource the exact availability of which no-one seems to know - and people who insist there's no problem have not proven so. It is thus prudent to behave as if the resource was in short supply."

This creates an interesting dilemma with regards to communication efficiency: what is the optimal ratio between

  1. supporting energy supply transparency, and
  2. using supply uncertainty to support conservation & efficiency

By "optimal" I mean "making the greatest contribution to energy security".

There are a couple of factors that help resolve the dilemma. First, option 1 is fundamentally futile. There is no force on this planet that can force oil and gas producers to be transparent if they choose to obfuscate. Second, both options must first make the case that there is, indeed, a lack of transparency. The best strategy thus seems to be to go for option 1 (simpler to communicate) but switch to 2 as soon as the lack of transparency is well understood.

Yeah, there needs to be a post on rigs, both the scarcity for new projects and your remark about the "Red Queen" problem for natural gas. As you say, if rigs were withdrawn tomorrow, decline rates would be steep.

I believe Hughes said the gas lost in LNG gasification was between 15% and 30%. A bit -- but not much according to my research -- is lost in the transport phase.

Re: #8 -- and Kaufmann's related remark that Hubbert's Curve can't differentiate between demand destruction and supply constraint cited by Khaos3

Uhmmm... Hubbert's analysis pertains to oil fields and basins, not just countries or the world. Whether extraction becomes uneconomic on the tail-end of production is a basic issue, as I mentioned. There seems to be a misunderstanding about the phrase "geologic peak". Geology creates a physical contraint on production flows at the wellhead. This constraint imposes higher marginal extraction costs. Therefore, the oil can still be extracted but perhaps not commercially. This depends on marginal extraction costs per unit of output (barrels) which includes the achievable extraction rate (the # of barrels per unit time) as compared to price.

As to Kaufmann, I have thought a bit about that. Lately, we have seen a production ceiling and demand bumped up against it. Because there was no spare productive capacity (or some for heavier oils), prices rose and demand has fallen. Especially for the poorer countries, who have been priced out of the market -- there's a story here, I just need to pick a country. Anyway, a productive capacity contraint has existed lately apart from one's view of the Hubbert function (however defined) -- and despite whatever CERA may say. A superficial look at the data curve supports Kaufmann's observation but hides the ceiling constraint. In the end, it makes little difference.

Nate, I'm short, but you're taller than everyone  

Unlike Mr. Maciel (a very nice gentleman), I and many other TODers at the conference, support the biological consumption of ethanol !

Best Hopes,


Just a FYI for anyone wondering about Stuart...he is okay, just very busy with paid work, and on the road a lot.  

Hopefully, he'll be back soon.  

Weren't we paying him enough? Maybe we should lure him back with double his former salary...
Thanks so much for the summary -- wish I could have been at the conference.  On the other hand, my occupation has nothing to do with production of oil, and only something to do with conservation of oil.  I am definitely in the reader-only class of TOD camp followers, but I am certainly glad you are here.  

I would like to see a little discussion of the NIMBY phenomenon.  You said "NIMBY-ism is a large issue for LNG recieving terminals and wind farms."  This is, of course, true -- and I couldn't tell whether the tone of your comment was flat, or whether there was a sort of pejorative edge--

Out here in Oregon, the LNG receiving terminals proposed for coast at Coos Bay and Warrenton and up river at Bradwood would be an unmitigatable ecological disaster.  NIMBY-ism is the only thing holding the hyperbole (at best) and lies (in general) of the proponents of the project in check.  The Government, for sure, is not holding their feet to the fire and making them back up their claims of "Clean, Safe, Necessary" LNG and no harm to the Columbia River.

Thanks for your comment in so far as it gives me an opportunity to discuss an important issue. ASPO-USA attendees are all over the map but there are two polar, often incompatible, opposite views. On the one hand, there are the fossil fuels producers -- mostly oil & natural gas because nobody thinks we're running out of coal yet -- and on the other hand there are the renewable energy/alternative lifestyles people.

I am not ambivalent about wind farms -- I support them. About LNG recieving facilities, I am of two minds reflecting the above. Here in the US, we certainly need the natural gas, this is supported by the declining production trends data. But, I can't support putting these terminals in heavily populated areas like Boston. When you say "unmitigated ecological disaster", you must support that position with impact statements and the like. We are in the usual trade-off situation. If you like heating your home and generating electricity, then we need the natural gas. If you believe the externality costs of putting the facilities in outweighs that concern (and the alternative for gas, which is coal), then you will support the other position. If we don't have the natural gas, we will definitely burn more pulverized coal. There are huge environmental costs associated with doing that, including, of course, climate change due to CO2 emissions. The same applies to coal-to-liquids technology, which was also discussed at the conference.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. What I believe personally is really not the issue -- although my articles here tell you a lot about the way I think about things. By and large, I see my job as bringing these problems into clear public focus. In other words, when the bullets are flying, I'm sometimes going to duck and get out of the way. But not always.

I'll give you one more example. On the bus at Logan Airport, a guy who runs a huge water processing operation told me he needs timely dispatch of electricity (he was at the conference). He asked me about nuclear. I said I was agnostic on that issue right now. He was not satisfied with my position. He needs the power not only now but in the future. What to do?

Thanks for the reply.  Agreed, it is a complex issue, and I suppose it has to be worked out in the grand "marketplace" of power politics and economics.

For the record, I said "unmitigatable", not "unmitigated" -- the LNG proponents will surely propose "mitigations" to their schemes.

Also, I am not "opposed" to LNG-- after all, like nuclear power, warfare, and even cancer, it exsists, so it is logically incoherent and silly to oppose a fact.  I am opposed to some of the schemes to use that substance -- and the one I know best about is here in the Columbia River.

Clearly, this is not the place to provide all the documentation that supporting my position would require.  My point in the initial comment was only that neither the industry nor the Government are having the dialog necessary to weigh the cost-benefit analysis you have suggested in your reply to me, and the only defense in that situation is to adopt the "sound bite" style of communication that passes for American political and social discourse -- hence NIMBY.  I don't like it, I would prefer a more reasoned debate.  But I am not getting it.  And I am sure it is because the LNG interests would be on the losing side of a truly free debate.  At least here on the North Oregon coast.

So what are the alternatives?  Well, lots of them.  And that is why I read the OilDrum; it is the best source of what appears to be real data either on the Internet or in paper publications.  

Sorry about misquoting you.

You understand all the issues and complexity, I see. If the Columbia River location sucks, then it sucks. Put the LNG receiving somewhere else. Another point that was raised (by Hughes and others) -- this is important -- proposed LNG facilities in the US Lower 48 come & go weekly according to FERC like "shadow bands" before and after a solar eclipse. God only knows what will happen but Hughes & others were pessimistic on many counts. Even if we had the receiving terminals, would we be able to outbid Spain or Japan for the spot cargoes? Natural gas price volatility is discouraging long-term contracts. There are many issues.

best --

I wish there were some way to address NIMBYs by somehow compensating the locals for the impacts they bear for the benefit of the larger society. When we put in an LNG terminal, or a wind farm, or an oil refinery, the local environment and population are harmed in both real and intangible ways. And everyone else benefits. Hopefully, the total benefits outweigh the harm or else the project doesn't make sense in the larger picture.

Given that that is the case, in principle each local person who is harmed by the new facility could receive compensation for his harm, paid for out of the benefits of the project for society, and everyone would come out ahead. This would address (most of) the objections of NIMBYs and allow projects to proceed that give benefits to all of society.

Now, obviously there are enormously difficult details to work out here. Each person's judgement of how much he is harmed may vary, and if he's going to receive payment according to the degree of harm you can bet he is not going to underestimate the damage. In practice a good system might be to give local municipalities veto power over such projects, and the companies involved could negotiate with the community and provide benefits in the form of jobs, parks and other new local construction that will improve the community and compensate for the harm of the project. I know that does happen in some cases but not always.

Seems like developers prefer to work at the state or national level and try to get them to override local control so as to avoid having to pay for all of the local costs that their projects will impose. I would suggest that this is a mistake in terms of the basic economics. NIMBYs have a point and it's not fair for them to suffer just so the rest of us can enjoy the benefits of these projects that cause so much local harm.

It seems to me that some time ago I remember reading that the Federal Government had taken absolute control of the site locations for LNG terminals and that State and locals would have no point of refusal if the Feds said it was going in any particular place. Does anyone else remember seeing that and does anyone know what the current status is of siting authority?
That's basically correct, but it still up to local governments and/or energy companies to build the facilities - which they can not be forced to do.
      There is an answer to the problem of delivering LNG to heavy populated areas. Bring it ashore by underwater pipeline. Such a proposal is before the Californian Government right now by Woodside Petroleum of Australia.

      They plan to ship LNG to a point 20 miles off shore from LAX international airport via underwater pipeline to join the normal gas distribution system near there. The LNG tanker can bring the LNG to a floating bouy and convert the LNG on board to normal gas. It is then piped via flexible hoses to the underwater pipeline and sent ashore.

      When the gas cargo has been discharged, the bouy is dropped to 60 metres below sea level and well clear of shipping. This application known as the Oceanway Proposal, was made on the 18th of August to the various US authorities and is now awaiting approval.

      There is no reason this could not be done on other US coastlines. Woodside Petroleum has delivered over 2000 LNG cargoes to Asia over the last 25 years without mishap. On the subject of WIND there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about this subject.

      IT CAN NOT BE INTERGRATED SUCCESFULLY in to large power grids because of the physical nature of electricity and there is plenty of evidence of this published by electrical power engineers. I intend to offer a post on this subject shortly as well as nuclear reactors.

'On the subject of WIND there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about this subject.

  IT CAN NOT BE INTERGRATED SUCCESFULLY in to large power grids because of the physical nature of electricity and there is plenty of evidence of this published by electrical power engineers.'

Well, glad to hear that what the Danes and Germans have been doing (with admitted challenges) is simply illusory, according to the evidence published by electrical power engineers. And some statistics published by German power companies 'proving' how ineffective wind actually is seem at times to prove just how stubborn some people cling to their own perspective of what is in their own interests - even though the power companies pass on the increased cost of the wind power they must buy, they would prefer to own the entire system, as proven by the sham that is German energy market 'opening.'

The challenges of wind should not be denied, but they are just that, challenges. The same way that using natural gas fired turbines was quite conceivable in 1935, except for such challenges as the materials engineering for the blades, the delivery of natural gas through a pipeline to the power plant, and so on.

And at least the Germans (and French) already have a partial solution in place for some of those challenges. There are various 'storage' reserviors which are pumped with excess (nuclear generated) electricity off peak, and which are then available when peak power is required. Ironically, these reserviors were built to handle the proven fact that turning nuclear generation facilities on and off to match demand makes nuclear power too expensive to be effective in the way that a coal, oil, or natural gas fired plant is.

Somehow, though, that challenge was met - in part, through expensive investment in fairly massive dams.

Wind will never be a 'replacement' in the sense of becoming another style of power plant. It will be a replacement in the sense of providing electricity. The same applies to solar. We are unlikely to have that many choices, especially in a short time frame.

Wind energy can integrate  well with high storage capacity for the produced wind electricity in the form of dispatchable hydro.  The Northern European wind energy integrates beautifully with the abundant hydro in particularly Sweden but other Scandinavian states.  

I exploited a`June 2006 conference dealing with solid waste and energy in Gallivare Sweden, well above the Arctic circle, to sightsee in the Swedish Arctic

Intercontinental Landfill Research Symposium
June 14th to 16th, 2006
North of the Artic circle in Gällivare, Sweden

I drove extensively (with my Peruvian family member for company) in the Swedish Arctic and marveled at the abundance of lakes and hydro dams.

(Roads, balmy warm weather, reindeer (bambis and bullwinkles ambling down the center of the Swedish roads, blocking traffic ad lib and evident grid transmission capacity were all first rate.  

As was artwork on some dams, fully painted as if by Navaho Picassos) )  

But that's digression.  At any rate:  

The Scandinavians and Europeans built with foresight.  They linked abundant high latitude, remote hydro storage capacity via a high transmission capacity grid to the demand (in southern Sweden, Denmark, Germany, etc) That lets the Scandinavians integrate very high fractions of windpower in their electric resources.  It also helps that Scandinavian per capita energy use is lower and poplation is lower tens of millions vs hundreds.  

 Unfortunately the US is both grid transmission constrained and hydro storage constrained and thus cannot effectively use wind electricity to anything like the fraction the Scandinavians enjoy.  

Don Augenstein

Thus the need to start adding DSM for electric appliances, EVs and PHEVs (with DSM for charging), and so forth.
Your points are all valid, and there isn't really any 'buts'to my reply, except to note that the dams I have seen in Germany and France, which were expressly built to store water that was pumped into them, is somthing which could certainly be built in very massive terms at least along much of the East Coast and the Pacific Northwest.

As a morbid joke, it would likely be simple to already use the leftovers from mountaintops in West Virginia to create incredibly large amounts of storage in such a scenario. The thing is, such investment would require not only another way of looking at the future, it would require a number of people with the necessary skills to construct and maintain such fairly large scale projects - a few million unemployed real estate agents and mortgage brokers are not likely to have the necessary skills.

A tiny comment. Scandinavian energy use is high. For example, Swedish cars use 20 % more fuel on average compared to the EU average, and the power consumption is an astounding 18 MWh per capita. It's even higher in Norway.

Now this has much to do with cold winters, electrical heating and especially electricity intensive industry.

Still Sweden (together with Norway, Switzerland and France) have the lowest CO2 emissions per capita of any industrialised country, at 6 tons per capita and year. Germans emit 9 tons and so do Danes, in spite of 20 % wind power and a vastly lower per capita power consumption (Americans emit 19 tons).

How can this be? Hydro dams and lots of nuclear reactors. That is building with foresight.


If you get a chance, maybe you can ask Klare (or some other geopolitical expert at the conference) what he thinks about the March/April 2006 article in FOREIGN AFFAIRS (by Keir Lieber and Daryl Press) arguing that the US now has nuclear primacy vis a vis Russia and China, and can thus obliterate both their nuclear capabilities without significant risk of a retaliatory strike.  I have polemicized on behalf of the veracity of what this article claims on TOD in the past, but I very much recognize the limitations of my perspective on the question - especially since the Russians have apparently been substantially modernizing their military capability in recent years.

But I think this question of possible US nuclear primacy is a very important issue, since the answer to it represents one of the key components to understanding future geopolitical developments in their relation to Peak Oil.

"Primacy" is only theoretical until it is enforced.  For me the question is not so much whether the U.S. government or the Russian government has the power -- rather, do they have the will to use it to annhilate another country?  In the case of the U.S., it would appear to be "yes" if the case of Iraq can be taken as illustrative.

If the U.S. can eliminate China and Russia in a single Shock and Awe event, then presumably India and the U.S. will be able to enjoy a few decades more of SUV's and swimming pools in the desert -- and the lights won't go out in Las Vegas.

If the U.S. can eliminate China and Russia in a single Shock and Awe event, then presumably India and the U.S. will be able to enjoy a few decades more of SUV's and swimming pools in the desert -- and the lights won't go out in Las Vegas.

You're being facetious, I hope.

nope. china does not have a large stockpile, and russia has let most of their weapons degrade past usefullness.
Whoa...I would not dismiss China and Russia so quickly...especially if they combined forces.

#1 - How do you know what China has stockpiled?  I'm sure they are not advertising what they have openly to the public.

#2 - Russia is actively developing new weapons.  And there is this little news tidbit...

Russia Takes Lead in Arms Sales

These are exactly the kinds of disagreements about empirical realities, and their proper interpretation, that I was hoping Klare might be able to shed some light on.
I don't think there's any way for Klare or any of us mortals to know whether the FA article is based on fact or is just propaganda. Even the players may not really know. The neocons did not have a good estimate of outcomes in Iraq, did they?

BUT, whether accurate or not, the FA article is almost certainly propaganda, intimidation. If it were not blessed, it would be a treasonous leak, would it not? If there's the capability of winning such a war, you just do it when you're ready, not announce it. If you announce it, then you are trying to accomplish something on the cheap and you've told your opponents to redouble their efforts.

The problem with nuclear intimidation is the problem with all intimidation: sooner or later you end up having to either back down or enforce your credibility. So it's all but certain the nukes will leave their silos at some point. This is but one more aspect of the deeply tragic path we are on. Even if the FA article turned out to be true, it would bring about chaos that would spare no one.

Even an old atheist like myself can only say, God help us.

But there are actually very tangible things to be gained in the short-to-medium term by such intimidation.  For example, the Americans might be trying to bully the Russians into backing off from asserting their stranglehold over European energy supplies.  Or the Americans might be trying to bully the Russians into standing by silently while the encirclement of Russian territory with American military bases proceeds apace.
Historically though, this form of intimidation does not actually work. That was what the Truman thought he could do: the US had the bomb and the Russians (primarily) would just have to play ball or get nuked. Instead, the Russians just built their own bomb. So did the Chinese. Now, so have the Koreans in the DPRK. Iran will soon do the same.

Russia cannot be bullied in this fashion. It didn't work when they didn't have nukes, and it certainly won't work this time around either.

Putin has turned around the  Russian bear: he liquidated the possible takeover of private Russian oil and gas by western interests and put it under the contriol of the Russian government. He is in the process of "renegotiating" much better return on joint Russian and western oil company  development of the Pacific oil and gas finds. He has partnered up with China on energy, and supported the modernization of the chinese military. He has used oil and gas as geopolitical weapons against Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, the baltic states, Japan, and the EU.  He has strategically supported Iran and China.  Russian influence is extending rapidly while the American is contracting. Russian oil production overtook the SA this year. The Russian's have developed a nuclear strategic warhead that can maneuver to outsmart any lame missile defence the US can wield. Putin has used energy security to separate the EU from US interests.

The Bear is back and the Eagle is being draned dry by its consummate detritivore leader, a Yeastman above all others: GWB.

*awaits the day when the Russian national anthem plays over TOD, as per GROK*
Compare Russia now with its decline in 1993. Now compare the US ascendence at that same time period with the present.
You know, all the doomers are shouting out that Russian NG production is going to plummet in the next few years.  That energy dependence they plan on projecting on others isn't going to exactly pan out as expected if they're right...
Either way, the Europeans are screwed.
All the replies make sense. But none dispel my anxieties. Truman, despite all, did not build his entire approach on intimidation -- he fired MacArthur, for doing that. Also, the stakes are much higher as we peakers well know.
I was gratreful the concern about global warming was so prominent and threaded through many of the presentations. It seemed the issue is taken seriously at high corporate levels although it was also obvious profitability rules.

The PV presentation was disappointing. While the pictures were beautiful there was little in the way of EROI, economics, and the state of the technology and where it was headed. When a questioner commented about the expense he saw in the pictures  (only for the wealthy) and asked what solar meant for the average person it was taken as an insult. The answer went along the lines of thats not my job and we need to build volume in order to get the cost down.

Though Im not happy of how my inner mind was working, I was thinking during Steven Strongs inspiring presentation on solar buildings and all the beautiful houses built with solar panel roofs and windows was that during a peak oil period marked by greater wealth disparity between the haves and the have nots, the evolutionary behaviour of 'spite' might cause the people that dont have solar energy (or any energy) to lob rocks at these beautiful solar panels, just to equal the playing field.  Animals are concerned with relative fitness, and to bring others down to your level of fitness is almost as good as you rising up to exceed theirs.

I wanted to ask Steven if these panels are breakable by rocks or guns and if one or two are damaged if that shuts down the whole power system.

My own evolutionary fitness impulses suppressed the question.

With regards to PV damage resistance, single crystal Si cells are the most vulnerable, and they are usually wired in series such that taking out part of one panel can cripple the rest of it. The Amorphous Si panels, including the ones in roof tiles, are better off, as are the forthcoming thin film varieties.

Of course, a few paint-filled balloons tossed at the collectors would wreak havoc as well.

Did anyone take Lee Lynd's optimistic analysis of biofuels at face value? Based on what I have read on TOD his "bright future" scenario was not credible.

On the other hand, Milton Maciel's organic cane sugar ethanol presentation was quite convincing. It looks like a long researched, steadily improved sophisticated operation. The growing of wasps for biological control of catrerpillars put the icing on the cake for me.

I was not impressed with the presentation, he was going at about twice the speed of the next most rapid presenter, and then he took off without answering any questions, so it felt like a "hit and run."  Hopefully, we will have time to digest and critique when the presentations are posted.

I really regret not having a chance to speak with Milton Maciel.  The presentation had technical difficulties, but I felt that was a solid base of work behind it.  Maybe the DVD will become available online, or maybe they will create an electronic version of it? I would really like to know his thoughts on terra preta.

I apologize for the technical difficulties with Milton's presentation.  But the audience was very appreciative of what he was trying to communicate, and very patient as we tried to get the DVD "chapters" to work (turns out the problem was the touch-panel system had a VERY LONG lag-time response to commands; when a user punches buttons and nothing happens, he punches it again, or hits another button, and the lag time gets worse; when the system finally responds, it does the completely wrong thing).  I thank the audience for putting up with the glitches.  

We had a LOT of requests for Milton's DVD, and if I recall correctly he told us there are no copyright issues related to duplicating it and distributing it.  My plan is to get a new clean copy, contract with some local outfit to make duplicates, and distribute them from ASPO-USA site basically at cost.

I was glad that Milton made his primary point early in the talk, too: that the Brazilian experience can NOT be scaled up to come anywhere close to making a dent in U.S. liquid fuel consumption, and that pundits like Tom Friedman who suggest it can are being dangerously naive.  (I sent him the 2 Tom Friedman opinion-pieces for comment, and posted his response to NY Times' Op Ed page editor, but they declined to publish.  Anyone interested please contact me, and I will fwd Milton's response).

Thanks to all who came to Boston to speak, to interact, or just to listen and absorb!

Dick Lawrence

I have published several comments on cellulosic ethanol on the Oil Drum.  With the best technology we really have, and acknowledging remaining barriers, the situation is daunting.  I am a chemical and biochemical engineer who has done work relating to aspects of cellulosic ethanol for 3 decades for employers including Exxon, the Electric Power Research  Institute, and others working on energy.  

Re Lee Lynd's presentation: I discussed our findings with him briefly as he left the symposium.  I related our finding of a likely severalfold (actually approaching fivefold) higher price, and a thermal efficiency end-to-end of about 25%, not the 53% that he claimed.  Breakthroughs could occur but multiple breakthroughs all need to prove effective, and paths to practicality are not obvious.  I feel serious and fundamental obstacles remain to all the miracles that are invoked by others to circumvent the various problems.  Without some new miracles, we easily end up with a low efficiency and expensive process, decimating available biomass production of American forests (or cropland) to provide the order of -- at most--10% of American vehicle fuel as liquid ethanol, at costs severalfold today's pump price. A cadre of experts is stated to be looking at all unit operations and process steps.  My experience comes from seeing the same thing done for the last 30+ years, and the barriers remain.  I await information more credible and convincing than that available so far

Our own presentation and alternative view on the ethanol from cellulose situation has been given at the August 29th Conference on Biofuels and Bioenergy: Challenges and Opportunities, Univ. British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada (see  Power points should be in the proceedings.  

The abstract of our analysis is as follows.


John R. Benemann1*,Don C. Augenstein1, Don J. Wilhelm2 and Dale R. Simbeck2
1Institute for Environmental Management, Inc. 4277 Pomona Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306 *Presenter and contact,
2SFA Pacific, Inc, 444 Castro St., Suite 720, Mountain View, CA 94041

Proposed lignocellulosic-to-ethanol processes envision a pre-treatment step, to liberate cellulose and hemicelluloses from lignin, followed by a hydrolysis step, to convert the carbohydrates to simpler sugars, and then a yeast or bacterial fermentation step, to yield ethanol, followed by ethanol recovery (distillation, drying). Some steps might be combined, such as in acid hydrolysis (combining pre-treatment and saccharification) or in a simultaneous saccharification-fermentation process. After five decades of intensive R&D, currently only a single pilot plant (Iogen Corp. in Canada) is operating, reportedly producing about one million liters of ethanol per year, though well below its planned capacity.

An independent analysis identified many problems with the currently proposed processes, including the relatively high costs of biomass delivered to commercial-scale plants (which would need to be 200 million liters per year output, or greater, for economics of scale), the problems with pretreatment, the low rates and yields of sugars from enzymatic cellulose hydrolysis, the resulting low sugar and ethanol concentrations, and the high parasitic energy consumption of the overall process. In addition to not tolerating high ethanol concentrations, genetically engineered organisms developed for combined hexose-pentose fermentations are subject to contamination, which will require prohibitively expensive containment systems.
Even ignoring, as most studies do, such major problems, and using available corn stover and enzymatic hydrolysis, the currently favored biomass resource and process, our techno-economic analysis estimated a cost of ethanol twice as high as that of ethanol from corn. Forest residues and wastes, biomass crops, and municipal wastes are even less promising.

The conclusions of this assessment are that none of the existing processes are ready for commercial applications in any foreseeable time frame and that continuing fundamental and applied R&D is required. Some opportunities may exist for near-term applications of cellulose conversion technologies to some specific, modest-scale, agricultural wastes.

Maybe you could do a guest post here on cellulosic ethanol.  
He already did.
Hi Leanan

I and a coworker have already posted on the cellulosic ethanol topic.  What has been lacking is a more detailed and in-depth explanation of why there are problems.  I sent a long paper (originally presented to a SWANA solid waste symposium) relating to reasons for problems to Nate Hagens, Robert Rapier and others a while back back, But that paper  needs some reworking.  I do not assert that cellulosic ethanol is impossible, it just looks far worse and less likely as a solution than its proponents often advertise

Breakthroughs could occur but multiple breakthroughs all need to prove effective, and paths to practicality are not obvious.

This is exactly what many people don't appreciate. When you are far from a solution on multiple fronts, the probability of success decreases dramatically. If there is a 1/5 probablility of getting the conversions to economic levels, and a 1/5 probability of drastically cutting the water out, suddenly your probability of success is only 1/25. Add in the "tyranny of distance" - the problem of burning fuel to transport the biomass to the facility - and the probability drops even more.

Yet for many in Silicon Valley, all that is needed is more Silicon Valley innovation. I have lost count of how many times I have had Moore's Law quoted to me, with the expectation that this will apply to cellulosic ethanol. The next time someone mentions that, I am just going to ask how well it's following Moore's Law to this point.

Thank you for setting the record straight
Isn't the fact that this has been researched for thirty(?) years indicative of the fact that no solution is forthcoming?  It strikes me that the low-hanging fruit metaphor should also apply to research, in this case, being that if the solution is not so obvious that, after a year or so, no path forward has been found, there isn't a great deal of future improvement to be done.  
"I can tell you that the TOD table at the bar on Friday night was definitely the place to be."

that's cause they had strippers. I got the pictures, they'll be up on LATOC tomorrow under "Geologists gone wild."

To put in a correction, we were looking for weapons of mass destruction and we found them!

Friends of TOD -- dude, I'm getting old...

To Nate Hagens, Dave Cohen, Robert Rapier and all who make the Oil Drum happen.  Given the picture above, and what you do, I am really sorry I inadvertently missed my chance to talk with you at the bar meeting.  Could you let me know the next time you have a bar meeting?  It was obviously a very worthwhile session of the symposium.  You can email me at (that's my last name backwards) Thanks

Don Augenstein

....and the only reason they dared, is that they are firmly convinced that H*** is running low on oil and nat gas.

Humour aside,

Thank you for using your time for informing us that for some reason could not attend the ASPO meeting.



I don't want to be a nitpicker, and yes, they're cute (no picture of the drunken lot of you?).

Just wanted to say that the phrase "turning gold into lead", when referring to the oilsands originates with Matt Simmons.  Actually, he called the process "making gold into lead".

And I should know, because I stole it for an article this spring: Alternative fuel choices largely non-existent.

Well, now we have the phrase and its attribution correct.

The picture's a fake, from a wine tasting. You certainly don't want to see a picture of us. Thankfully, none exist.

Dave, a great post. Oh - and I had a hidden camera.
Hi Roel,

Re "making gold into lead"

I don't understand this statement. According to Hughes an average tar sands mining operatrion uses 3/4 mcf of natural gas to produce 1 barrel of oil. In other words we are using about .125 of a barrel of BTU equivalent natural gas to produce a barrel of oil. Not including other energy expended we are getting 8 times our energy back in oil. I also believe with respect to natural gas alone the most critical role is for hydrogen production. Other fuels can be substituted for heat requirements. (Although with a CO2 penalty). Without further  education I would conclude they are wasting more natural gas than they need to because the gas was stranded and priced at a discount to other markets. Using NG just for hydrogen would a better strategy for long term production. The other issue is the overall EROI. If it really is 2.0 as Hughes stated then I do question the whole operation. But others have said it is 4 or 5. An environmental mess for sure.  

A couple of take homes from Boston for me were:

  1.  when Matt Simmons was asked about the possiblility that NOC's might voluntarily under-produce to conserve oil in the ground assuming higher prices in the future, he agreed and said, "Watch Russia".   I thought that was good advice on all scores relating to the oil market going forward.

  2.  Stuart's standard graph of global production showing a possible plateau since late '05 had a recent outlier data point indicating much higher production than the curve would lead one to suspect.   It made me recall a graph done by a major investment firm in a recent presentation showing Ghawar production as a percent of capacity.  That graph indicated a spike up to an unsustainable 95% level in recent months.   That spike could explain a number of things, including:
   a. Stuart's data point
   b. the lower oil price coming in front of the US election, and
   c. most important, OPEC's recent push for lower production.    If KSA was over-producing Ghawar to please the Bushies, running the risk of endangering longer term production from Ghawar, they may be desperate to rest the field.   They also would want to disguise this both because they don't want to be seen doing Bush's bidding and because they don't want the world to see Ghawar as being weak.   So it would make sense that KSA would seek to cover their desire to lower production by getting OPEC to agree to cuts throughout the members, knowing that many will cheat but that the Saudi's will be happy to make up for the cheaters by producing even less than their quota.  As further evidence  backing up this theory, note that KSA actually began to cut back production nearly a month before the OPEC policy was agree to.  

Incidentally, the brokerage firm, based on a lot of other analysis as well, opined that Ghawar may be starting to decline at a rate of about 8%.

Seems to me that time is running short to get long oil.   We may get back on the price trend line of the past 3 years very quickly.

Now, that makes sense!
I happened to run into William Calrk as I was leaving. He noted that Russia was not happy with US actions, they had payed off all their IMF debts, were setting up a ruble denominated borse, were in the position to scale back production and repeated the phrase "Watch Russia".
In the vein of "Watch Russia" and and Dave's mention of three US Strike Groups in the Persian Gulf area, I'm keeping my eyes peeled on Google search words "Russian Navy" and "mobilization".
This Op-Ed piece sums up my apprehensions:

Fleet may raise tension

A strike force led by the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower has been deployed to the Persian Gulf. U.S. minesweepers were ordered to follow. This deployment unquestionably raises tension in the region and increases the possibility that military force will be used in Iran.

With the upcoming November elections threatening a shift in power, the Bush administration, prior to Nov. 7, could use a dramatic event, redirecting the public's attention to the war on terror, in order to bolster the chances of Republican candidates.

It is not without precedent for a major act of aggression to be either provoked, staged or "discovered to be imminently planned," justifying swift retaliation, and necessitating "a strong show of support for the administration."

If such a dramatic event does indeed occur, it behooves us all to be very skeptical.

Ann M. Clune

As i have stated for weeks, the mainstream media (MSM) have turned off this topic in droves 'cuz the Peakists got it wrong (again).  Their fifteen minutes of fame has vanished ... well, until at least 2012 or later anyways.

Media scrutiny and due diligence has shown them that not a single Modeler of Oil Depletion forecasts PO in the short term.  Rather, over the past months all the conservative modelers have revised upwards...

New quarterly and monthly records are set several times a year.  Saudi Arabia is at near recent record levels (9.2-mbd) and Russia is again numero uno in production (9.83-mbd).

The Peakists have cried wolf once too often and what's worse, they did it at a time when all four of their own advocates (campbell/laherrere/koppelaar/skrewbowski) were all taking down the red flags.

But then, here we all know this has been going on since 1991, eh...

unfortunately, the nature of these type of world changing paradigms is that you are wrong for a long time, but when your are right, everyone is so freaked out that that it doesnt matter that you were right, all you can do in the meantime is use logic and reason and impact macro policy a bit but try and increase the trbie of people that can make local and regional changes to form nucleii of preparedness.

For myself, I dont know when Peak is or how bad it will be, but my guess is that murphys law will rear its ugly head somewhere along the line and the smug people following the old paradigm whole hog will be left holding quite a bag.

Last post of the day as I need to read a book I bought about how to build a chicken tractor.

Remember Freddy, looking at oil statistics is like looking at a census of walleye in Lake of the Woods - there are alot in there but for various reasons we may never get them in the boat. Oil is oil and people are people and it will be flow rates we care about not (reported) reserves.

In the mean time, the big four keep cashing in on our due diligence :P
Remember? Trust me, he does. Unlike a lot of people here, Freddy actually has a memory. Or at least he has a conscience about his memory.
Hello Dave Cohen,

I hope you TODers at the conference shouted out 'Peakoil' every time your bottle, mug, or glass reached half-empty in the bar-- I am really trying to get this to become a new social tradition.  I think this is the very best way to pay tribute to and memorialize the late, great M. King Hubbert!

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

I thought to throw a small amount of cool water on the ethanol boosterism by asking a question about the lack of methanol fuel research, a favorite alternative fuel of mine.  I asked John Heywood, who was sitting on the Transportation section.  This was supposed to be somewhat ironic, since Heywood is probably one of the people who helped cancel meaningful methanol research at MIT in the 1970's, see:

His two point response seemed weak.  

  • His first point was that methanol only has half the energy density of other hydrocarbon fuels. For a Ford Taurus sedan, with a 18 gallon gasoline tank and a 17 cubic foot trunk, you would lose about 15% of your trunk space to the larger methanol fuel tank. This doesn't seem like a significant issue.
  • The second point has to do with methanol being poisonous.  This seems to be trying to push an emotional button. Do we expect our motor fuels to be nonpoisonous?  How many people poison themselves by drinking gasoline? Methanol is less volatile than gasoline, so lives would be saved by having less frequent and less intense vehicle fuel fires. Finally, the half life of methanol in the environment is about a week, much less than for gasoline or diesel. Methanol occurs naturally in the environment, so there are microbes ready and waiting to biodegrade a spill. Methanol is not going to contaminate your water supply, at least, not long term.
Re: the ethanol boosterism

I'm not sure where you're getting that impression -- at the conference, from Heywood? Frank's position was similar for his small-engine PHEVs. However, that sentiment is not coming from me. Sometimes I think these university people are a little misty-eyed about the whole deal and don't see the bigger picture.

I am not sure this has been mentioned on the OD but yesterday we had a piece on local TV about a French company developing a car (or more specifically an engine) which utilised compressed air. Much was made of the zero emissions aspects, though nothing in terms of the energy inputs into the actual compression, but I just wondered what folk thought of the efficiency:
This is mostly just a response to Lee Lynd's presentation, maybe I misinterpreted it?  
Personally, I agree that methanol would make a lot more sense. If you produce syngas, which can be produced by biomass gasification, it is much easier and more efficient to produce methanol than ethanol. Yet ethanol has the subsidies, so people are fighting chemistry to make ethanol. Instead, they should be conducting research on optimizing engines for methanol. This has been done with ethanol, since it has about 35% less energy density than gasoline. The compression ratio can be raised to make up some of the energy deficit. So I agree that energy density is not a major issue.  

On the toxicity issue, ethanol sold as fuel is also poisonous. It is denatured with a bit of gasoline, so it would be just as toxic. The toxicity issue has really been played up by some ethanol proponents, for obvious reasons.

A good solution is there, but it is tough to compete when other alcohol fuels like methanol and butanol don't receive the same subsidies as ethanol.

RR- the presenter dismissed methanol for two reasons - 1) it was highly toxic and 2) it had less energy density than ethanol (which in turn has less than gasoline)
1. Highly toxic - The FDA has a max daily dose for methanol of 500 mg, half a gram (this would be a lethal dose of nicotine).  The max concentration of methanol in wine is regulated to less than 300mg per liter. For mice, rats, and rabbits, the LD50 is comparable for methanol and gasoline. The acute effects of methanol poisoning are usually delayed for 12 to 24 hours, so there is a significant window for treatment.  The toxic metabolism of methanol can be blocked by the administration of ethanol.
For fire danger, methanol has a higher autoignition temperature than ethanol, so it is less likely to catch fire in a car crash.
2.Less energy density - For fuel storage, this amounts to a loss of about 3 cubic feet of trunk storage in a sedan to accomodate a larger fuel tank for 100% methanol. Also, some studies of M10 have shown improved MPG for blended fuel over unblended gasoline.

Jerome a Paris had an interesting point the other day.  The people who rationalize the purchase of a fuel inefficient vehicle such as an SUV are in effect engaged in a form of NIMBYism.  At it's core, NIMBYism is essentially just a way of expressing the placement of self-interest over the interests of the common good.
So, in essence, the US is just one gigantic NIMBY country, vis a vis the rest of the world.
That would appear to be correct but I need the link to Jerome's text to see just what he was saying.

As far as the U.S. goes, I can not, and will not, defend its culture and political policies. I say that as an American. Among my chief concerns is that the Rest Of the World (ROW) is getting the message whereas those of us in the U.S. are not, just as we Americans who contribute articles appear to be outnumbered by the ROW here at The Oil Drum.

However, this sad result is not unexpected.

Yes, that is an interesting point that of the people involved in running TOD, a number aren't American, and of the Americans, a number have extensive experience living in other countries.

A statistic from the early 1990s, when I worked at a university - the number of Malaysian university students studying in the U.S. was greater than the entire number of American university students studying abroad.

In my opinion, the U.S. has been more or less actively isolating itself for several decades, in ways and for reasons which I'll skip over for now - they are mainly my opinion, though the use of fear goes fairly far back to the 1970s (remember the hijacking 'wave' of often politically motivated terrorists, like the PLO? That led to the first wedge of Americans getting used to the idea that security is more important than the risks of freedom.)

At this point, I suspect America's 'leading' role is more a case of social inertia than anything concrete, as the rest of the world continues to respond to challenges which America seems unable to understand, much less handle. Again, what happened in New Orleans in full color cannot be overstated in terms of what the rest of the world saw - most people in other societies were astounded to see how utterly unprepared America was to handle a completely predictable chain of events. I won't even begin to talk about Bush, except to note that the rest of the world is unable to grasp why he was re-elected.

In part, after several generations of faith in America, the rest of the world is now dealing with the fact that their belief in America needs to be changed to reflect reality, the same way they are beginning to deal with the results of climate change and a future where liquid fossil fuels will be increasingly unavailable. And what America thinks about this, or whether America will be participating in any solutions is becoming less important to other societies, as the problems are real, and are not going away.

It is strange to think that America may be the first world spanning power which simply decided to abdicate, because it preferred to live its fantasies, instead of dealing with the world around it. And what makes this really surreal is that Americans still think that bragging about their power to kill and destroy with the world's most powerful military is something which causes them to be respected and admired for their goodness.

This is not to dismiss America, but to simply point out that billions of people have different concerns than whether ExxonMobil or GM can keep the American Dream alive. For many people, the American Dream is becoming to be seen as part of a looming nightmare. Fat and ignorant are not really that admirable, after all.

As I wrote above, criticizing NIMBYs is a bit unfair, since we are basically asking these people to bear the costs alone of industrial technology while all the rest of us get the benefits.
I like your points about NIMBYS and basically agree. One problem, however, is that many of them do expect the plants, etc to be located elsewhere and are happy to have someone else suffer without reimbursement.

I do like your overall proposal, however.

I generally agree with your NIMBY-ism remarks, Halfin. Although, I do not believe that the fellow below needs to be compensated for local costs of the Cape Wind project -- which in this case are the quality of the view from the Kennedy compound.

What is worse is that these rich folks opposing the project hide behind the coattails of local fisherman, who they claim to represent. I believe these fisherman should indeed be compensated, as you say.

Change is something we put in our pockets.

Small change isn't something we worry about.

The pressure is NOT YET on, - to change, to see change.

Petrol is cheaper. Good!
Are we all putting the money we save to good use?

Has anything really changed?

All is UNCLEAR from governments et al. -
Under No Circumstances Let Energy Awareness Rise.


Down Under - "IT CAN NOT BE INTERGRATED SUCCESFULLY in to large power grids because of the physical nature of electricity and there is plenty of evidence of this published by electrical power engineers. I intend to offer a post on this subject shortly as well as nuclear reactors."

I am not sure this is true however I will read your post when it is available.

Denmark is at 25% and Germany not too far behind.  Greater integration requires storage.  Perhaps you should read this from EVWorld

"He further estimates that to handle SMUD's current contracted wind power would require a mix of just over 1,000 V2G vehicles like the AC Propulsion eBox or eDrive plug-in hybrid to provide power "regulation services", which would leave out the fluctuations in wind speed and resulting power. This represents 0.3 percent of the community's vehicle fleet.

To handle the 2011 renewable energy target of 23 percent can be achieved with 2 percent of the fleet being V2G or about 12,000 electric and plug-in hybrids. The "blue sky" -- way to much wind that we can handle -- scenario would require just 7 percent of fleet be V2G-ready.

To absorb all of SMUD's excess overnight wind capacity and discharge it during the day -- solving the 12-hour diurnal storage problem -- would require just 3 percent of the community's vehicles be V2G-capable.

He emphasized that this approach would take huge amount of carbon out of the transportation system, as well as the electric power system. It is even theoretically possible to get as high as sixty percent wind penetration, though getting enough vehicle owners signed up to participate would be a challenge.

"You've got wind power running your vehicle fleet, and you've got this benefit for the electric utility because they can go to much higher penetration levels of wind power than they could otherwise without having to build a whole lot of dedicated storage like pumped hydro, building gas turbines bring in regulation back-up and so forth..."

He pointed out that this offers a viable economic option for utilities and the money not invested in building energy storage systems or back-up power can be used to buy-down the cost differential to the consumer in V2G technology."

        I need some time to prepare a post on this very complex subject. A quick look at the creditials of the Professor in your link to the above article on wind and vehicle to grid transfers, shows his qualifications to be in sociology and anthropology.
        Denmark and Germany have enormous problems at the moment with wind power in their systems. To go into this in depth needs an explanation of AC and DC power, the use of active and reactive power in systems, load balancing,voltage control, and fault detection systems. I will come back on this shortly once I put together some information with relevant references from real experts. I have operated multi generator AC systems on a small scale but nothing like power grids. The principle is still the same as are the problems.
         Have you any idea what some of those wind turbine farms would look like after a line of severe thunderstorms passed through them. In the middle of a severe thunderstorm cell the updraughts and downdraughts can reach 250 M.P.H. If you think that a tornado would leave all those big turbine blades unharmed you understimate the power of nature.
   Best wishes
So, because an errant tornado might destroy some wind turbines, we shouldn't invest in them at all?
          No, I didn't say not to invest in them at all. Wind can certainly be used in isolation and in smaller networks. In large scale usage it sends the grid unstable and is particularly unsuited to providing enough reactive power to control the voltage or to provide fault protection.
          Base power is very complex to control in large networks and I will not go any further until I have time to write on the subject at length. I shouldn't have said anything until I had done it but it would seem that many people are not aware of the problems with severe weather
I agree Hathgor, we throw so much money away, another $50 mllion every year or so shouldn't matter.
"Denmark is at 25% and Germany not too far behind.  Greater integration requires storage.  Perhaps you should read this from EVWorld"

Denmark is 20%

and Germany is at 6%

I saw an article (linked here?) that said Denmark does not deal with the variable electricity coming out of their wind turbines. They pump it into a Swedish (or Scandinavian?) grid where hydro electric plants have their output varied in order to compensate for it.

The Danish % is misleading because West Danish grid is not connected to the main Danish grid (except indirectly via Germany or Norway/Sweden).  West Denmark can be seasonally 60% energy from wind.

New Zealand has stated that they can accept up to 35% wind "without further study" if they are not clustered too close together.

Sorry, on the road, no link (2004 Gov't study from memory).

Best Hopes,


Down Under "Ender, I need some time to prepare a post on this very complex subject. A quick look at the creditials of the Professor in your link to the above article on wind and vehicle to grid transfers, shows his qualifications to be in sociology and anthropology."

Maybe but he is part of a team looking at this.  You needed to look a bit further.  Try this link for more resources:
I am sure these people know a bit about the subjects you mentioned.        

"Denmark and Germany have enormous problems at the moment with wind power in their systems."

What problems - the main one is that the mainly base load coal and nuclear plants do not have the ramp speeds to cope with wind.  Have a look at Esperance, Western Australia where a new fast reacting gas turbine has been interfaced with power controls from PowerCorp.  Esperance gets up to 22% of its daily power from wind despite the wind generator capacity being only 15% the size of the gas turbine.

"Have you any idea what some of those wind turbine farms would look like after a line of severe thunderstorms passed through them.

Have you any idea what would happen if the same tornado passed over a coal power station?  What sort of argument is that?  Pressures of this sort would only be felt by one or two turbines at worst as wind farms are very dispersed.  Most turbines are designed way beyond the maximum historical gusts recorded in the place where they are installed.

Ender, Down Under, Hathgor and others commenting on integrating wind electricity into the electric power mix. I was employed for a while by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI, Palo Alto) which handles several hundred million dollars a year of research jointly sponsored by the US Electric Utility sector. I have looked at issues.  

See my post above on how the Danes and Swedes integrate wind electricity in their mix when they have ample backup hydro storage and transmission capacity, and why the US with its circumstances and limitations cannot do the same

Don Augenstein

Just to note - I do believe there is some potential in areas like West Virginia to construct water storage basins as seen in Germany or France. These are undoubtedly expensive, but are not hydropower in the normal sense - that is, the water is pumped with 'excess' electricity through large pipes, then allowed to flow back to generate power.

As for transmission lines, yes, that is a current constraint, though certainly not an insurmountable one - though connecting the storage sites with the wind sites could be a serious geographic restraint on its own terms.

Quite honestly, if removing mountaintops to get to coal is seen as 'economic,' such storage basins must be a much better investment over the long term, regardless of how uneconomic they appear in the short term.  

Expat et al,

This Canadian article explains some of the limits in what would seem to be valid terms.

When you're alone, you're alone.

Wind power has become a key part of Canada's energy mix, with the number of installed wind turbines growing exponentially in recent months. But the fact the wind doesn't blow all the time is creating a potential roadblock that could stall growth in the industry.

Alberta and Ontario, the two provinces with the most wind turbines up and whirling, face concerns that there are limits on how much power can be generated from the breeze before their electricity systems are destabilized.

Alberta recently put a temporary cap on wind generation at 900 megawatts -- a level it could reach as early as next year -- because of the uncertainty. And a report in Ontario released last week says that in some situations more than 5,000 MW of wind power, stable operation of the power grid could be jeopardized.

Mr. Frost, of the Alberta system operator, said European countries such as Denmark and Germany have been able to maintain a high proportion of wind power in their electricity systems mainly because they have multiple connections to other countries' power grids. That gives them substantial flexibility to import or export power to compensate for wind fluctuation.

Germany, for example, has 39 international interconnections, he said, making variable wind conditions much easier to manage.

There are several hydro pumped storage plants in the US.  Among them are:

Ludington, Michigan 1.87 GW

Raccoon Mountain, Chattanooga, TN (uprated from 1.6 to 2 GW)

Bath County, Virginia 2.1 GW (world's largest)

Interesting - not only is it sited in the sort of terrain I had expected (America's largest doesn't surprise me in the least - that landscape is perfect for such facilities), it is most likely also a part of load balancing of North Anna, which also sits along an artifical lake, created for its cooling.

What I find fascinating is that huge engineering projects like these are considered to be trivial concerns in ramping up nuclear, but stringing more transmission lines (which would happen if the nuclear plants were built anyways) or designing more flexible systems is considered to be a huge obstacle to wind power.

Neither will be a replacement - both will be part of the mix.

But wind tends to have even larger disadvantages than the ones so often discussed here - for example, what would happen if people got used to the idea that burning things for electricity is idiocy, while further extending the idea of power generation to include efficient building insulation so that local biomass is sufficient for heating, with wind and solar as part of the local electric capacity in the hands of the people living in the community.

Why, it would be a new paradigm, one where an energy company is unlikely to be unable to use its 'natural' monopoly power to generate large profits. You can see this in practice, a bit, in Germany - the Greens especially where very consistent in trying to implement their vision of responsible energy at a local level - their success was mixed at best, but they did create some infrastructure and change some thinking along the way.

Hello Dave, Nate, and other ASPO attendees,

Just out of curiosity:  Did anyone query Heinberg more about his inside source who told him about Ghawar's decline rate so that production was less than 3 million barrels/day?

I believe Heinberg is truly innocent, but he might have been duped.  My guess is that Heinberg has now been ex-communicated from being the 'designated recipient' of any further industry info leaked from the 'inner circle', and that no more bombshells of crucial info will be coming his way.  I know Heinberg reads TOD--I would be interested in reading his response.  If Colin Campbell was deemed worthy of a visit by the Office of US Naval Intelligence years ago, rest assured that NSA/CIA agents were in attendence in Boston. It is perfectly legal, you know.  My hunch is that there is much work to be done between now and the next election cycle.  Sorry--No Proof--just speculation.  

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

US Rail Movements

Someone at the ASPO conference claimed (in private conversation) that 90% of US rail ton-miles were coal and that the rails were saturated (true for Wyoming but not the US).

I found this statistic.

Commodities. In 2004, the major rail-carried commodities (in terms of tonmiles) included coal (40 percent), intermodal traffic (trailers and containers on flat cars) (16 percent), farm products (predominantly grain and soybeans)(9 percent), and chemical products (9 percent). The fastest growing segment of rail traffic has been intermodal traffic, with the number of trailers and containers increasing substantially from an average of 3.4 million loadings in the early 1980's, when doublestack container trains were introduced, to 11.0 million in 2004. The highest traffic corridor for intermodal traffic is between California and Illinois reflecting the land portion of container shipments between the U.S. an