DrumBeat: November 18, 2006

[Update by Leanan on 11/18/06 at 10:27 AM EDT]

Why Russia has a gas shortage

Gas producers' operating costs are rising fast. Today they stand at $6 per 1,000 cu m, having almost tripled since the late 1990s. On the Yamal Peninsula, which lies in the Arctic and has 26 gas fields, they will exceed $20 per 1,000 cu m because of extremely severe conditions. A geologist told me that Yamal is "a piece of something unknown frozen together over millions of years, and it is unclear how it will be possible to build or produce anything there."

Peak Oil Passnotes: Crack Gets High, Oil Gets Sexy Again

At the time of writing the gasoline crack between it and a tonne of crude oil has widened to its biggest since the price collapse of September. Whilst we have been witnessing some received wisdom from the mass media telling us about soaring inventories, as normal, they are about a month behind the game.

Inventories of gasoline have been dragged in the opposite direction to what many people thought. Despite imports from Europe the amount of draw down in the stocks in the U.S. has increased week after week.

Another Way

A band of idealists in the mountains of North Carolina is trying to build a low-energy lifestyle. But must we all live like hippies in the woods to make a difference?

Turning the World with David Korten

On the positive side of pending peak oil, climate change, water and food shortages, and the inevitable fall of Empire, Korten envisions a metamorphosis from the domination model to a cooperative one. He believes this is a choice we will have to make in our lifetime, or face the consequences of having it made for us. The cooperative choice is "Earth Community." In every aspect, it is the complete opposite of Empire. Earth Community nourishes, empowers, feeds, educates, develops, shares, restores, frees, respects, and provides equality, health and wellness to a global society without the use of violence.

Bacteria may hold the secrets to clean renewable sources of energy

"Imagine the future of energy. The future might look like a new power plant on the edge of town - an inconspicuous bioreactor that takes in yard waste and locally-grown crops like corn and woodchips, and churns out electricity to area homes and businesses," said Judy Wall of the University of Missouri - Columbia, one of the authors of the new report, Microbial Energy Conversion, released by the American Academy of Microbiology.

Study: Up to 100 million acres needed for renewable energy crops

As many as 100 million acres of cropland and pastures would have to be dedicated to cultivating biomass fuels like switchgrass to support a national goal of 25 percent renewable energy use by 2025, a University of Tennessee study says.

The hydrogen economy's nitty-gritty details explained by the DOE

We can expect clusters of hydrogen fueling stations to be installed and in use for the general public in the New York City and Los Angeles areas first, followed by broader dispersion along the West Coast and the Northeast. We're talking 2015 before anything resembling an infrastructure is even a possibility, and 2025 is a more likely date for these areas to be running a lot of hydrogen cars.

U.N. climate pact unlikely until after Bush

This week's U.N. climate talks kept a plan for fighting global warming on track for expansion beyond 2012, but breakthroughs look unlikely before U.S. President George W. Bush steps down, experts said on Saturday.

"Everyone is waiting for the United States. I think the whole process will be on ice until 2009," when Bush's second term expires, said Paal Prestrud, head of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo.

The Worst of Both Worlds?

Stern's headlined conclusions are intellectual fictions. They're essentially fabrications to justify an aggressive anti-global-warming agenda. The danger of that is we'd end up with the worst of both worlds: a program that harms the economy without much cutting of greenhouse gases.

Inhofe: Don’t Worry About Global Warming Because 'God’s Still Up There'

Raymond J. Learsy: An Energy Agenda For a New Age and Newly Energized Congress, Part 1

Beginning with this post, I will lay out a series of suggestions that we as citizens and consumers might do well to ponder and pursue. Taken together, these suggestions will, I would hope, be helpful in shaping dialogue in Washington and point us toward a rational energy future.

Public slow to plug into renewable energy

If attendance on the opening morning of Switzerland's first renewable energy fair is anything to go by, the planet is truly doomed.

More than a billion cars to hit the road

An economic assessment predicts that the number of private cars on the world's roads will skyrocket from today's figure of just over 600 million to between 1.4 and 2.7 billion by 2050, doubling or quadrupling their carbon dioxide emissions.

OPEC must cut again, $60 oil "moderate"

TOKYO - Qatar Oil Minister Abdullah Al Attiyah said on Saturday that OPEC would have to cut oil production further when it meets in Nigeria next month, and that a $60 US crude oil price was “moderate”.

IMF chief says demand set to keep oil price high

A decline in oil prices, which have soared over the past two years, is not "a visible scenario right now", IMF Managing Director Rodrigo Rato said at a news briefing before addressing a meeting of the Group of 20 financial leaders.

Feeding frenzy for Africa oil fields gathers pace

Africa accounts for only around 10 percent of world oil reserves but the continent is the focus of a feeding frenzy among energy companies that is just beginning in countries like Libya and Angola.

An interview with John Bellamy Foster, author of Naked Imperialism: The U.S. Pursuit of Global Dominance:

It is clear that the geopolitics of oil have changed, and this is a point made in Naked Imperialism. In the chapter "U.S. Imperial Ambitions and Iraq" there is a bar graph superimposed on a map of the world showing very visibly the extent to which the oil reserves of the world are concentrated in the Middle East. There is a lot of discussion today about whether the world has reached or even passed "peak oil" production. No one really knows the answer; there are still too many unknowns, though the peak oil hypothesis is a plausible one. What we do know for certain is what the oil industry calls reserve/production ratios (or simply r/p ratios), which give you the number of years before reserves are likely to be exhausted for various oil-producing countries in the world, based on current production levels. This tells us that with each passing year a larger percentage of the world reserves will be located in the Middle East, since the reserves to production ratios there are far higher. It is obvious then that control of the Middle East reserves becomes more critical each year if world oil supplies are to be secured.

The Chinese seduction of Africa

In contrast to Americans and Europeans, they take more risks and set no conditions on aid and trade
A discussion from yesterday that probably got buried but I think is worth bringing to the forefront...

OilLearner on Friday November 17, 2006 at 11:28 AM EST Comments top

Most current railroad coal hopper cars carry between 100 and 120 tons with an average length of 56 feet. A mile long coal train would have about 85 such cars (plus engines).

The plant in the article burns 100 tons an hour to generate 250 MW, so a mile long train would provide about 85 hours of electricity production.

A 1,400 MW generating plant near here burns 550 tons an hour and would burn up a mile-long train load of coal in a bit over 15 hours.

[ Parent | Reply to This ]

[new] Laurence Aurbach on Friday November 17, 2006 at 1:58 PM EST Comments top

Compare that to a 4600-acre solar thermal plant that produces 1,400 MW (using the land/power ratio demonstrated by the SEGS plant in Barstow, CA). How many acres of land are mined to obtain 85,000 tons of coal, every 15 hours?

The coal mine acreage is dependent on the thickness of the seam and how much other rock is between the layers. The estimate uses no calculation of the energy requirement of the mining machines or the comparative BTU content of the coal or its water content. Coal can also be mixed in a slurry and pumped in a pipeline. IMHO the figures are spurious.
Which figures do you believe to be false?

Just some rough noodling with numbers to see what happens:

From here: Anthracite coal is 1506 kg/m^3

From a brief look around I'll assume an average coal seam to be approximately 4.57 meters

Which means that for every 1 m^2 of surface area, there are 4.57 m^3 of coal beneath, or 6882 kg of coal beneath for every square meter above.

From google: 1 acre = 4,046.85642 m^2

(4046 m^2/1 acre) X (6882kg/m^2) = (27844572 kg/acre)

or (61,386,773.3 lbs/acre) or (30,693 short tons/acre)
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Now this is probably where you think the numbers are bogus, but I'll use them for now anyway... "A 1,400 MW generating plant near here burns 550 tons an hour and would burn up a mile-long train load of coal in a bit over 15 hours."

So let's say 1,400 MW consumes 13,200 tons of coal per day (550 X 24) or 4,818,000 tons per year.  That 1,400 MW plant would "destroy" roughly 157 acres per year. (Using the aforementioned assumptions.  My feeling is that I was optimistic on my assumptions.  If someone else would like to take the torch and punch out some more accurate numbers/correct any mistakes, please do so)

So, let's assume your calculations are in the ballpark. Over a 30-year period, coal mining "uses" the same amount of land as a 1980s-era solar thermal plant. The SEGS plant has a 30-year delivery contract; it has been in operation for 20 years and 15 years additional working life is expected.

In addition, the company that manufactured the SEGS plant claims that its latest-generation technology is 50 percent more efficient than the SEGS technology. That would imply a proportional reduction in the acreage requirement for an equal amount of electricity generation.

The tricky thing about that, is that after 30 years...the coal fired plant will continue to destroy land, whereas a solar plant will be fixed.  I also just did a "worst case" number crunch below and assuming an 18 inch coal seam would put the yearly land use at 1,568 acres per year as compared to 157 acres per year... or ten times as much.  So the coal plant may catch up to the land usage and begin surpassing that of the solar plant in as little as three years.
I'm don't know much about coal, but here's two points I've picked up:

Anthracite is now a quite small portion of the coal industry, and its primary deposit in eastern Pennsylvania has been mostly depleted.

Mountaintop mining often doesn't glean anywhere near that much - I seem to recall a National Geographic caption about removing a hundred feet of rock for an 18 inche thick seam.

I biased it towards the optimistic for two reasons in particular.  1: Since I probably couldn't come up with exhaustive numbers it's safer that way and would also help "fudge" in some things like underground mines...2:If even the optimistic case turns out pessimistic, you really know it's bad.
-- -- -- -- -- --
18 inches = 0.4572 meters

1 m^2 of surface area, yields 0.4572 m^3 of coal beneath, or 689 kg of coal beneath for every square meter above.

1 acre = 4,046.85642 m^2

(4046 m^2/1 acre) X (689 kg/m^2) = (2,787,694 kg/acre)

or (6,145,813 lbs/acre) or (3,073 short tons/acre)

1,400 MW consumes 4,818,000 tons per year.

So... 1,568 acres per year assuming a 0.4572 meter thick seam.  Ten times as much - ouch. (That, I imagine, should set the worst case boundry)

Based on this EIA DOE chart, the majority of coal production comes from mines with coalbed thickness around 4-6 feet. But there's a good 42% of production that comes from coalbeds 10 feet thick or greater.

Here's a record of some BLM sales that puts the coal/land ratio in Wyoming around 110 tons/acre. If your 30 tons/acre is true for 58% of the U.S., and 110 acres is true for 42% of the U.S., then the national average might be around 64 tons/acre.  

Correcton: ... BLM sales that puts the coal/land ratio in Wyoming around 110,000 tons/acre. If your 30,000 tons/acre is true for 58% of the U.S., and 110,000 acres is true for 42% of the U.S., then the national average might be around 64,000 tons/acre.  
wow...thanks for digging this up.  I'm surprised at the 110,000 tons/acre figure...no wonder Wyoming pumps out the coal.

Underground - 368,612 (thousand short tons)
Surface     - 762,190 (thousand short tons)

I'm guessing "surface" means strip mining?

Gotta go I'll take a closer look at this later

Sheesh, that was some correction. I'll try again.

... BLM sales that puts the coal/land ratio in Wyoming around 110,000 tons/acre. If your 30,000 tons/acre is true for 58% of the U.S., and 110,000 tons/acre is true for 42% of the U.S., then the national average might be around 64,000 tons/acre.

Note, however, that the Kentucky Geological Survey says that bituminous coal will yield 1,800 tons/acre foot. At a five foot coalbed thickness, that's 9000 tons/acre. Quite a range of estimates! I'm hoping someone with expertise in this field can weigh in.

A can of worms has definitely been opened.  This interests me for sure.  Only time will tell if it can battle my Americanized gnat-like attention span though.  I too hope someone with expertise will weigh in (aka TOD faeries).  But hope can be helped by giving it a chance, so I'll attempt to keep the motivation up, distill what's been learned today and expound a little, and probably drop it into Monday's drumbeat in the hopes of catching a wider audience.  With luck there'll be someone there with some insight.
Electricity - production: 3,892,000,000,000,000 Wh (2003)   https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/us.html

Coal is ~50% of the mix.  So 1,946,000,000,000,000 Wh attributed to Coal.

68% of mines appear to be "surface" mines, so 1,323,280,000,000,000 Wh attributable to surface mined coal.

If a 1,400 MW (continuous duty plant) consumes roughly 13,200 tons of coal per day, which is (33,600 mWh/13,200 tons) or (2.54 mWh/ton).

(1,323,280,000,000,000 Wh) X (tons/2,540,000 Wh) = 520,976,378 tons of coal per year for "surface mined" coal.

Which best case 110,000 tons/acre: (520,976,378tons)X(acre/110,000tons)= 4,736 acres/year

Worst case 3,000 tons/acre (18" seam): (520,976,378tons)X(acre/3,000tons)= 173,659 acres/year

Vermont is 9,250 miles^2 or 5,920,000 acres.

Best case it would take 1,250 years to destroy a Vermont

Worst case it would take 34 years to destroy a Vermont

Most of the coal being hauled on trains to Texas is bituminous, sub-bituminous and lignite. Anathracite was nearly exhuasted in the middle of the last century. Coal goes down thousands of feet, although commercially mineable coal  coal seems to be above 500 ft subsurface. Coal contains varying ammounts of water which must be removed and disposed of to make the best fuel. I don't think we can easily calculate or predict commercial near surface deposit thickness or than guess its suitability for mining without some core drilling. I'm not saying this stuff can't be analysed. Its a job I be  I just don't know how without a bunch of data and time.
  This is great thought and an interesting idea. Thanks for bringing it up! I hope my criticisms helped clarify your thinking, not throw cold water on a good idea.
Anthracite is the best case in terms of tons/acre foot. Bituminous, sub-bituminous and lignite yield less coal per unit area, so Subtrate's figures are conservative in that respect. The Kentucky Geological Survey gives these figures:

Anthracite: 2,000 tons/acre foot
Bituminous: 1,800 tons/acre foot
Subbituminous: 1,770 tons/acre foot
Lignite: 1,750 tons/acre foot

Minor point.  Lignite has too low an energy value (and too dirty when burned) to be railed long distances.

Most lignite that is mined & burned is typically conveyer belted to a nearby power plant.


Hello Substrate,

To foster a desire in people to conserve electricity: at some carefully predetermined and constantly readjusted billing rate--money will not be accepted anymore, but physical labor will be required.  You pay your bill by helping shovel spilled coal, working at a recycling center or community food bank, picking up trash along a road, weeding in a community garden, helping insulate homes for the elderly and poor, mentoring at a school, etc.

If someone wants to burn alot of juice to heat their pool or power their McMansion, then they can plan ahead on required community service of some kind.  No exceptions or substitutions allowed!  Just another wild and crazy idea of mine-- I am full of them.

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

This is a misleading calculation. You are assuming 100% load of the solar power plant (I'll ignore the storage and backup issues right now).

The typical real-world availability of solar power plant is 10-15% of the rated otput. At 15% you need to compare the SEGS solar plant to 0.15 x 1400 = 210 MW thermal power plant.

That's a good point about capacity factors and they are important to consider. The solar-only capacity factor of the SEGS plant is 22% and with its natural gas boiler assist it reaches 30%. With today's state of the art technology, solar-only capacity would be 29% and with natural gas assist would reach 40%. (Of course, when calculating land usage with natural gas assist, land used for gas wells must also be included. And natural gas has passed peak, contributes to global warming, etc.)

In addition, thermal storage may be used to extend the solar thermal plant capacity. An example is the molten salt system being installed for the Solar Tres project in Spain. In that case, trough system capacity factors can increase to around 55%.

Here's a DOE presentation that gives the capacity factor figures, see especially slides 31, 33 and 41. The DOE Sandia Sun Lab states without qualification that solar thermal has the same footprint as a fossil-fired plant when mining is considered; I'll have to do some investigating to find out how they came to that conclusion.

The footprint problem and the comparisons based on it are a bit artificial IMO.

Thermal/PV solar plants will be mostly built in desert areas where the ecological impact will be miniscule, and may be even positive.

OTOH coal miners reclaim the land (enforced by law AFAIK) after the coal seam has been exhausted, allowing for its recovery in the long term. But still the polution from the tailings remains, potentially contaminating the ground water etc.

Either way looks like comparing apples to oranges to me.

"OTOH coal miners reclaim the land (enforced by law AFAIK) after the coal seam has been exhausted, allowing for its recovery in the long term. But still the pollution from the tailings remains, potentially contaminating the ground water etc.

Either way looks like comparing apples to oranges to me. "

Complicated, of course.  The way that strip mines are reclaimed now is by the "cheap ass" approach...which basically means the land is devastated.  The topsoil is pushed off into the valley and buried, and when the land is "reclaimed" there is only a rocky, sandy surface such that they use a special grass that manages to survive on it when nothing else does.  You're then talking about geologic time for the land to recover.  If they'd save the topsoil somewhere else, and replace it when they were done, it'd be a much less tragic thing.  But the way it's done now, you might as well consider the whole area toxic to life.  They can't even build homes or businesses on the reclaimed areas because they're too unstable.

I thought that pine and a few other trees could survive as well.

And the valley's full of fill are unstable for a century or so, but one build on the "flat top" mountain.


Do concentrating solar plants require a lot of land?

Relatively speaking, no. Consider the Hoover Dam. Lake Mead covers nearly 250 square miles. A Concentrating Solar Power system occupying only 10-20 square miles of land could generate as much power on an annual basis as the Hoover Dam did last year. Considering the land required for mining, concentrating solar power plants also use less land than coal power plants.

They actually say less.  Which, technically it should since coal will continue to use land, whereas solar will occupy fixed space for eternity.  That's really impossible to argue, but what we've been doing here is trying to figure out where the break even point is...that's a little trickier.

Solar Tres

Although the turbine will be only slightly larger than Solar Two's, the larger heliostat field and thermal storage system will enable the plant to operate 24 hours a day during the summer and have an annual capacity factor of approximately 65%.

Impressive.  This technology has always held the most promise to me.

(note: this isn't aimed at you but my frustration for this being so pesky)

There's a lot of assuming going on...it's what happens when you're not entirely sure where to begin.  Also, the TOD faeries haven't magically appeared with lots of data, so that's kind of a bummer.  I'd try over at www.TheCoalScuttle.com but it doesn't seem to exist.

Seriously though, that was an oversight.  On that note, coal fired plants don't operate 100% all of the time either.  They also lose efficiency as they reach their rated capacity.  Lots of real world contraints to deal with beyond the assumed steady state power delivery.  I would love to get some reliable numbers on all of this, or at least something in the ballpark...but for not seeing the forest due to all the trees getting in our way, the thing to take home at the end of the day is that coal will continue to devestate land as it operates, solar will take a big chunk and then stop.  For PV it can take already taken land (i.e. rooftops)

It dawns on me that PV peaking power could be grid-coupled with solar thermal to form a theoretically steady electricty supply (i.e. when PV is at full song, solar thermal plants can be devoting all gains to storage for the night)

Anthracite: 22 to 28 million Btu per ton - United States averages 25 million Btu per ton

Bituminous: 21 to 30 million Btu per ton - United States averages 24 million Btu per ton, on the as-received basis

Subbituminous: 17 to 24 million Btu per ton - United States averages 17 to 18 million Btu per ton, on the as-received basis

Lignite: 9 to 17 million - United States averages 13 million Btu per ton

On that note, coal fired plants don't operate 100%

The logical error was that you were comparing a 1400MW solar plant with a hypothetical 100% loaded 1400MW coal power plant  which you feed 24/7 with that coal trains. If the real world CPP is 80% utilised, this would mean the coal inputs will alse be 20% down. Anyway, no big deal.

I agree with your bottom line but I don't think you are using the correct arguments. Coal is not worse because it uses more land, it is worse because of the way it uses the land - this is the thing we need to concentrate.

Personally I am cautiously "for" solar power. What really concerns me are those capital costs and how much from them are predicated on cheap fossil fuels. If the end-to-end EROEI is as low as I think, any attempts to scale them up will look like a threadmill - running as hard as possible just to stay in place. PV looks like a better bet for potentially lower EREOEI in future than thermal, but both have a lot to prove yet.

CNW research flawed, says Toyota

November 16, 2006

Toyota has, not surprisingly, replied to the story we published on November 6 detailing claims by North American marketing research agency CNW Research that the the total environmental impact of a Jeep Wrangler over its complete lifecycle (i.e. production, use and recycling) was lower than that of a Pius hybrid, saying this conclusion runs contrary to other research in the area.

The company points out in its statement that the conclusions appear to be very different from those of lifecycle impact studies of vehicles carried out by the Argonne National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT and the Argonne laboratory concluded that the majority (80-85 percent) of the total lifetime energy use of a vehicle comes from the driving stage, says Toyota, while the CNW study shows these percentages to be reversed.


"the total environmental impact of a Jeep Wrangler over its complete lifecycle (i.e. production, use and recycling) was lower than that of a Pius hybrid,..."

"Pius" hybrid says it all.

Hahaahahahah great stuff!! substrate!!

Notice how Toyota points out the cooked up numbers US'ians believe in because TV Told Them So, and points out the much more likely to be objective numbers from MIT and the Argonne labs, then notice how the very next post is from a brainwashed US'ian grabbing onto and quoting, the bogus numbers!

Let's see if I can come up an anology US'ians can understand....... Some Russian Guy On TV says something like, "The US's insistance that a moon rocket can be powered off of teenager's snot is sheer wishful thinking. In reality, you need a high-energy fuel source with a quick burn rate, like hydrazine or any of the proven rocket fuel combinations. Teenager's snot, while indeed plentiful, does not have the energy to weight ratio needed." and the brainwashed US'ians clustering around the feeding stations during their lunch-15-minutes the next day all nodding and smiling and saying to each other, "See? 'A moon rocket can be powered off of teenager's snot'! Those God Damn russkis are a buncha idiots and we're gonna beat 'em back to the Moon!".

From 1950 to 2000, Ohio has managed to lose more than 6.9 million acres of farmland, the equivalent of 23 counties.

original article:


I wonder how quickly some those 6.9 million acres can be converted back to farmland if yeilds start dropping after the peak?  Many of them, no doubt, are suburban housing developments around Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

An interesting quote from the article. This guy does so not get it. Maybe his kids will, right before they starve to death.

Bill Tackett, 74, of Fleming, farms 150 acres of grain crops and hay. He said development is a concern but science is helping.

"I do have concerns about farmland being taken up by industry and residential," he said. "But I also have the opinion that farmers are becoming more productive."

Tackett said because of science and technology, he believes farmers are able to produce more on less land. He said he has seen yields more than double in his lifetime.

Does anyone know what happens to the fertile soil once a place gets 'developed', is it sold or are houses just build on top of it.
How big a problem is soil erosion in Ohio.

This points out something that's worried me a lot lately, or been a worrying enlightenment, or has produced that worrying feeling that accompanies finally seeing for the first time one of the elephants in the room.

Suburbs kill.

I mean, a suburb, any modern human settlement, is a death zone for probably 99% of the life that was there. The earth is alive, it's full of worms and nematodes and roots and things, and of course nothing makes a better foundation for a suburban house and yard than good inert dead soil/clay, for the house to rest on and the imported sods of lawn to be laid down on.

An Indian wikiup for instance, was only used for part of the year, and the settlements were moved, both seasonally and gradually over the years. Worms and things were inconvenienced at worst. And the Indians spilled a lot of stuff, from a bit of Mom's deer broth to Dad's late-night piss after a long night of storytelling to the time Baby threw up a bit of her corn mush.

Compare a good, God-fearing Amurrikan suburb. The oldest of them are about 100 years old now, I have lived in ones that are 50-30 years old, and the new ones being built will, unless things drastically change, stand for 50+ years. These are permanent death zones. No more worms, undersoil fungus (once the once-plentiful rain of organic matter from above is used up) small plants and beetles and ..... thingies, just dead soil, for decades and decades and decades and counting.

Now, European cities are dead zones underneath too, but in the low-energy past, they were small, centralized, and people did not build more than they absolutely had to.

We are in the business of taking large, very large, areas of prime land for small farming and turning it into dead zones. Other than a few trees, and a few foreign and chemically-fed shrubs and lawns, the preference is for nothing to grow in them at all.

How did the song by the Pretenders go? Oh yeay:


The patches of green in my neighborhood (Lower Garden District of New Orleans, developed 1830s/1840s) are quite alive.  The biggest issue for edible gardens is residual lead from lead paint (varies dramatically almost by the foot).

Best solution is to take free fill from the Bonne Carre spillway (1930s flood relief valve that is opened up every 10 or so years.  Mississippi River silt is deposited and US Army Corps of Engineers gives it away so that it does not build up) and add about four to six inches to the soil, and work in some mulch for organic matter.

River silt to topsoil is an easy transition by adding organic matter and we are built on silt.

Best Hopes,


The topsoil is sold.  Often to farmers.

This wasn't the case in the old days.  This is one reason why Lester Brown suggests the downtowns of old cities as good places to settle.  The best areas were settled first, it's true.  But also, they didn't remove the topsoil before building in the old days.  There's very rich soil in the backyards of those old houses...unlike in the average modern subdivision.

I know exactly what you mean.

It was not until after I had moved into my modern subdivision home, built on an old soybean farm, that I discovered that the drainage is lousy all across the site.  Why?  Mainly because the topsoil was completely stripped off, probably by many feet deep, and this activity lowered the new ground surface closer to a clay horizon.  So after every heavy rain, the water cannot drain properly in a vertical sense, and "sits" on the clay layer with less ability to absorb into what soil was left in place.  Growing a garden also becomes more difficult since the best topsoil was essentially stolen from your property, and what you now get is soil very high in clay content.  

From what I understand, this is now "standard practice" among housing developers.  And with the full blessing of the local township officials, no doubt.  Everyone needs to know about this running scam.

The WSJ has an article today called As Fuel Prices Soar, a Country Unravels.  It's about the effect of high fuel prices in Africa.  Unfortunately, it's subscription-only.  
Zimbabwe again?
I don't know, since I don't have a subscription.  I'm hoping someone who does can tell us what it says.

The small blurb that is visible to non-subscribers mentions the Republic of Guinea.

This morning, C-Span is hosting a discussion on the future of the U.S. automobile industry.  This segment should be repeated periodically, later today and in the future on C-Span2.

Another buried thread that needs geologic review:

" Again, we have people obsessing over a small sub-basin,the UK, with a complex producing history because of the Piper Alpha accident, when the overall basin, the North Sea is showing a perfectly predictable linear HL pattern."

I have often wondered if a similar argument should not be made about Saudi Arabia, the "Neutral Zone", Qatar, U.A.E., Kuwait and Iraq.  It can be argued that there are at least.  All the above are political partitions placed over a much more interconnected geological area.  The reports (repeated even by Simmons) that when the Kuwait oil fires were ignited there were pressure drops in fields in Saudi Arabia indicated that the Western Persian Gulf area may be much more interconnected that once believed.

Is it possible that we are letting the Persian Gulf countries get by with a "shell game" (whose country has the oil under it, watch 'um close and step right there and put your money down....") when what we are talking about is a small number of big pools with a lot of extensions....any geologists want to take a shot at it...., remember, the oil and gas don't care whose country it is under, it still does what it does....

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout


 My first reaction is that with the conflict in Iraq, and an interconnected geologic reservoir structure, that the KSA may be able to increase their production by "poaching" Iraqi liquids. I understand that this is in accord with the law of capture but it does result in the following inferences.

1) That some portion of Iraqi reserves may be counted as being  "offline" due to the present conflict when in fact these liquids are being produced through KSA facilities. This would also result in a "bump" in KSA production that would not be sustainable once the conflict were to end.

2a) This also serves to answer why the gulf states have been so mute with regard to the American intervention in the Gulf. Remember that "bringing democracy" to the ME is a direct threat to the present ruling class in each of these states.

2b) The Iraqi conflict also threatens to create a Shia governed state. This would increase the voice of all Shia in the ME. Each of the states concerned has a large and suppressed Shia minority. American intervention created an external threat - outside support for democratic reforms -and an internal threat - instability due to a newly empowered minority. Why would the affected states silently tolerate such an intervention?

Just to ensure that 2b is properly understood, turn the clock back to 1862. The Federal government has invaded Alabama in order to "bring democracy" to that state and this intervention appears likely to result in a Negro government. What would Georgia, the Carolinas and the rest have to say about that? How would they react?

This also explains why there were such well laid plans to immediately enter the southern oil fields and suppress Iraqi oil well fires and control open wellheads. Contrast this to the fact that known Iraqi weapons depots were simply bypassed by US forces, were not placed under guard, and all their stocks were then looted and made available to the insurgent base. Why would you make such elaborate preparations to protect oilfields and do so little to control the weaponry which was the declared reason for the war?

Is there any information on where in the Kingdom all those newly hired rigs are working? Can anyone confirm the geologic structure underpinning this play?


Interesting.  In 1990, the stealing of Iraq's oil by Kuwait from the neutral zone, and other areas along the Iraq border with Kuwait, was the reason that Iraq gave for invasion of Kuwait - and it seems Iraq was correct about this (whether or not they were justified in military action is another matter).

These underground connections haven't been discussed much here.  In my limited understanding of new SA field developments, at least one development is not far from Kuwait.  I would be intersted in knowing more as to whether it is possible for oil to extracted in SA from Iraq.

Double counting is something a bit on my mind in terms of numbers these days.

In other words, natural gas which is used in Alberta for tar sands use is counted in the natural gas production numbers for Canada, and then the oil/syncrude is also counted.

Or oil is pumped and counted as produced, then a certain amount of this oil is used in creating ethanol from corn - and again, both the oil and the ethanol are counted.

This is not a EROEI perspective, but merely where the statistics seem to be masking the truth - that is, in both of the cases above, a proper combining the two 'production' figures would result in a lower total figure  - obviously, natural gas used in syncrude production or diesel burned in tractors for farming should not then be included in a total which includes the amount consumed in producing the other.

I wonder to what extent this double counting/undercounting goes on in other areas - for example, how much CO2 and various things like methane are released by oil production itself (flaring, for example) which are then not counted in total emission numbers in terms of atmospheric carbon, since the debate generally hinges on what is produced and then burnt, not what is burnt before 'production.' (Could it be that poorly run projects in Nigeria are actually major sources of carbon, but are not included in any realistic numbers used in global modelling?)

In other words, just how good are even the numbers we agree on?

  Your thought about the gas used in bitumen production and ethanol production has merit, and thats why the EROEI is so important. But production has been traditional;y counted as sold production. So if the tar operators are purchasing the gas it is counted as production.
   Lease fuel is a different matter. Gas used in gas lift or repressurisation projects or to operate pumping units, compressors or heater treaters  on the lease is not counted as production . As far as the statistics and carbon counted it is never produced so the operators don't owe royalties on the gas
And since all crudes have differnt percentages of gas in solution I don't even know if there is a fudge factor that we can apply.

Comments from engineers?

In other words, natural gas which is used in Alberta for tar sands use is counted in the natural gas production numbers for Canada, and then the oil/syncrude is also counted.
Good point! I'm afraid double counting will become more frequent with the rise of unconventional sources. For instance, RR said the other day that diesel is used in Ethanol production, however both are included in the "All Liquid" category.
What troubles me in part is that there are a number of interested parties who will do their best to ensure that accurate numbers are hard to come by.

A tiny example from ExxonMobil's current issue of The Lamp, their shareholder publication - did you know that 'Last year, ExxonMobil earned about $36 billion, but incurred $99 billion in taxes worldwide.'? Even more startling, 'Over the past five years, ExxonMobil's total U.S. tax bill was $57 billion, exceeding our total U.S. earnings during that time by $22 billion.' (Though the text then notes that 70% of their earnings are made outside of the U.S., without mentioning any foreign tax burden, however.)

In other words, ExxonMobil didn't actually make a profit, they have been propping up the U.S. government - or some other equally insane conclusion. This leaves aside how carefully this text was written, but you would get the impression that ExxonMobil can't even earn a profit because of government meddling.

The second to last paragraph is really striking - 'When energy companies were singled out for higher taxes on their profits in the 1980s, domestic oil production fell 6 percent and oil imports grew 16 percent, according to the Congressional Research Service.'

I won't argue with any single number/'fact' in the quoted text, but it is all quite, quite deceptive (to be polite), with clear goals in mind, which have nothing to do with objective reality. Double counting, false counting, simply making up numbers - this will be a growing problem, I think. And for anyone who thinks America's domestic oil production declined simply due to tax policy, while imports grew in turn, well, the idea that oil fields actually deplete as a geologic reality would seem to be a fairly extreme position.

Providing confusing or distorted number will just make the discussion more heated, while a charitable company like ExxonMobil continues to bleed billions of dollars a year so good Americans can keep living their dream.

The problem is, what comes out of the pipeline is not a dream, it is the truth. The challenge will be in determining that truth, as a growing number of people have an interest in obscuring that truth as long as they can.

Hi expat,
  Exxon's numbers aren't bogus, your definition just doesn't with their "common sense".
  According to US tax law for multinational oil companies, royalties are taxes. If the money is paid to a foreign government, its taxes. This is why the Multinationals are in the convenience store business-they can shelter their taxes.
  I haven't read the story, so this is speculation, but I'm fairly certain they are calculating their sales taxes from the convenience store business as taxes, when they are actually the agent for the states and municipalities. The same is true for their severance taxes on oil and gas production purchased by Exxon and paid to the various states. Also the Social Security taxes on their employees and possibly their withheld Income Taxes.
  And that, sir or madam, is how poor little Exxon pays 70% of its gross revenue in taxes yet still makes billions every month. By the way, my family has owned Exxon stock and some royalties since 1951. We're not selling yet!
Well, I didn't say the numbers were wrong, per se, and I agree they are counting everything conceivable as a tax.

And all companies complain about how much they pay in taxes, even when their revenue is made up of taxpayer money to begin with (I'm from around DC - you should see how defense contractors complain about taxes they have to pay - shameless).

The point was, in part, that ExxonMobil went from arguing about taxes, revenues, earnings (careful term, that - while avoiding any discussion of profit) to blaming tax policy for declining American oil production.

It is obvious what conclusion the reader is supposed to draw - free markets equal cheap oil unto posterity, while government interference or even worse, socialism, are to blame for high oil prices.

Do you think that any public number from ExxonMobil in terms of their own operations can be trusted? And while we know that ExxonMobil is shameless, this bias is likely to increase, as there are a lot of games that can be played with numbers.

In a sense, Exxon's production is down because of national governments. About 80% of the world's potential aceage is off  limits to Exxon-Mobil. Its owned by national oil companies who do not love Exxon except when they buy their oilIn the US the most promising areas for wildcatting are shut down for envirnmental causes.
  I'm not defending Exxon-Mobil. There is some truth and justification for their explanations.But they certainly do make themselves appear in the best light and seem to lack any perspective on their own behaviour. Its a common human sailing, but not an uncommon defect or flaw.Its just repellant, like Steve Forbes complaining about taxes.
Just to note it: Taken to its extreme, if we dedicated every drop of fossil fuel to generating ethanol (at unity), we'd be "producing" roughly 172 mbpd all liquids boe...which would look like "woo hoo," but still only be worth 86 mbpd.
Public slow to plug into renewable energy

Hydrocarbon Alternatives. Unfortunately, says organiser Christophe Vuillermet, it has a great deal to do with cost. "People want to change the way they do things but I don't think they are prepared to pay more for a hybrid car or a wood:burning heating system," he said. "The government or the cantons need to step in with subsidies and help people make the switch to renewable energy."

This was posted yesterday without generating any comment

Israel to produce synthetic oil from low quality shale at $17 a barrel

Using the rock as a raw material and coating it with bitumen, a residue of the crude oil refining process, the company can produce natural gas, fuel, electricity, or a combination of the three.

The company estimates it will consume 6 million tons of oil shale and 2 million tons of refinery waste each year, for an annual production of 3 million tons of product.

It would cost about $17 to produce a barrel of synthetic oil at the Hom Tov facility, meaning giant profit margins in a world of $45 to $60 per barrel crude. Yearly earnings are forecasted to be between $159 million and $350 million, Shahal said.

Israel has 15 billion tons of oil shale reserves.

Assuming this works as claimed it appears to depend on conventional oil: an input as 2 tons of 'refinery waste' are needed for every 3 tons of product. Unless they can produce the bitumen used in the process from another source (coal?) this will limit the amount synthetic oil produced to less than 1/3 of the production of conventional oil.

The $17 figure seems awfully low. Does it include the cost of building the facilities? How about the natural gas for the process-wher's it coming from and at what price?
  Of course since its a security measure, I'm sure they don't really care. And you can count on the US congress to pay for it just as we already fund their military. They're our allies, just ask 'em and their huge numbers of lobbyists.
I had posted this yesterday, the original below:

Take a look at: Israel sees shale replacing oil
By LEAH KRAUSS    http://www.upi.com/Energy/view.php?StoryID=20061107-070924-5161r

Thanks Alan for responding.  Is the process -Hom Tov- real, what is the energy return? Your post makes it appear more as a recycling method than oil extraction.

I'm sure the process will work with the usual massive input of billions of US dollars.

And a little Potemkin refinery with good old, taken up out of the ground, oil in a tank (because that's what we're supposed to come up with, nu? No need to tell the goyim we didn't actually squeeze that out of our shale...)

Israel to produce synthetic oil from low quality shale at $17 a barrel

I will believe it when I see it. They might be able to pull it off economically if the shale is very easy to get to. But this reminds me of Thermal Depolymerization, which was going to turn all of our garbage into cheap fuel. Their estimated costs for economic viability? Oil would need to be $15 a barrel. Their actual costs once they were producing commercial quantities? $80/bbl. That's unfortunately how most of these things work out.

The article is confusing because it states:
Oil shale is limestone rock that contains hydrocarbons, or fossil fuels -- about 20 percent of the amount of energy found in coal. Using the rock as a raw material and coating it with bitumen, a residue of the crude oil refining process, the company can produce natural gas, fuel, electricity, or a combination of the three.

natural gas...fuel...electricity

What is "fuel"?  Natural gas was fuel last I looked.  I doubt they're getting magical electricity from it...so are they burning crushed rock, the natural gas, the mystery "fuel"?  

According to Professor Ze'ev Aizenshtat, an oil shale expert, the Hom Tov process is more environmentally friendly than other methods of converting oil shale into energy. It also allows for more flexibility in the kind of fuel produced, produces less waste and operates at lower temperatures than other methods.

Though the production process may be more environmentally friendly, the end product is still a fossil fuel, similar in quality to a high-grade diesel when in liquid form.

But what kind of percentages do they get? 90% natural gas, 10% mystery fuel...10% nat gas, 90% mystery fuel?
Using the rock as a raw material and coating it with bitumen, a residue of the crude oil refining process
So as crude oil goes downhill, will this too because they're relying on output from oil refineries?

Also, wouldn't the bitumen they mention be consumed in a refinery that had a coker?

A great discussion on CERA's report at
Click on the desired format on "Thrid hour with Jim and john"
Predicting the future is always fun but rarely successful. New Scientist magazine has predictions of 50 leading scientists and others for 50 years hence. Lots of advances in biotechnology, colonizing other planets, among other things. Nothing to fear, except for Jane Goodall warning of deforestation. I only found one that had anything to do with energy or a potential lack thereof: Bill Joy (formerly of Sun) wrote of finding the perfect energy source.

I guess energy and/or sustainability problems are too daunting to even contemplate. See you in 50 years. You bring the matches.

Thanks for that. Very cool. I think we are going to see some amazing advances in biotechnology, provided we don't destroy ourselves first. I didn't see any projections from Ray Kurzweil, whose forecasts are pretty far out there.
.. enough for now
Ha! Ha!

Quite expectable that our pornucopian in residence would pick up on these mostly rosy and out of whack scenarios, while feigning to disparage the "solar vision" to cover his arse.

If I endorse a "decline to state" position:

I absolutely refuse even to pretend to guess about how I might speculate about what, hypothetically, could be the biggest breakthrough of the next 50 years. This is an invitation to look foolish, as with the predictions of domed cities and nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners that were made 50 years ago.

then of course the most irrational of the doomers must pop up and attempt to paint that as "mostly rosy and out of whack" and "pornucopian."

It is kind of transparent name-calling though ... but then thats what that "pronucopian" thing always was.

I'm impressed that we will all live past 106 with a right to a fulfilling sex life. Can my partner close her eyes when I'm that age? Enquiring minds want to know.
That Geoffrey Miller summary is the stupidest thing I have ever read.
Sociobiologists are going to convince everyone that status symbols are bad, so we'll stop seeking them? Are you kidding me?
My favorite line is:
Absurdly wasteful display will become less popular once people comprehend its origins in sexual selection, and its pathetic unreliability as a signal of individual merit or virtue.
Doh! So that's why I bought that Corvette. Boy, do I feel foolish.
I think he had to know he was going nuts even as he wrote it.

... but it will be interesting to see if any broad shift in self-awareness comes out of thus evolutionary neurobiology thing.  I'd guess it will be less than neuro-nirvana.

Yeah, we'll begin to take waste very seriously and forget about SUV's and sports cars as status symbols and instead dawn the more environmentally friendly Penis Gourd.  Much better.
Did you really get the 'Vette? And it's never made you feel foolish? Hmmmm
Hey, the babes really go for the cool solar panels.
You might try reading Kenneth Galbraith's discussion of this subject in The Affluent Society. It's not so long ago that what  G. Miller is positing was, at least in part, a reality. Even in the USA.

I'm always staggered by how the TOD community wishes present social arrangements to the status of empiric biologic fact.

It's a sad misreading of all history. Ignorance reigns supreme.


I hope you are right and our neurobiological impulses aren't so deterministic that they dictate the outcome of virtually every social arrangement.  If they are that deterministic then we are just living out a tragedy in the Shakespearean sense of tragedy.

I think many on TOD, including myself, are just trying to point out the powerful physiological drives influencing our decisions.  The neurochemical responses to stimuli are understood quite well.  In addition, various disciplines have long understood the fine nuances of manipulating behavior using positive and negative reinforcement (carrot and stick).  Gambling being the classic example: somewhat of an irrational behavior but guided by a circuit common to the likes of rodents.

Acquisition of objects (e.g. shopping) produces a strong dopamine spike.  So does sex, food, and drugs like meth.  Incidently, meth users often get hypersexual, as do some Parkinson's patients taking their meds which compensate for dying dopaminergic neurons (the meds reach the entire brain, not just the deficient areas and the dopamine spike can cause not only hypersexuality but also Schizophrenia-like psychosis).

Consider what kinds of risky behavior some people will engage in to have sex - even risking AIDS.  The behavior is not rational, but the drive overwhelms the reason in some people.

Some of this stuff is just bad habits, learned behavior, dysfunctional cultural traits - but they are generally reinforced by neurochemistry.

Our society would certainly fare a lot better in the long run if the "affluenza" thing hadn't taken hold of the majority, but putting the genie back into the bottle will be painful for many.  I will check out your references to Galbraith and Miller - sounds interesting.

The behavior is not rational, but the drive overwhelms the reason in some people.


If you really want to freak out more so than any meth trip can take you, pick up a copy of a new book that just came out, The Naked Brain. Apparently other similar books will soon be coming.

I'm only about 1/3 way through the first (and not sure if I'd recommend it generally because it seems to me that some English-major editor dumbed down the opening chapters to a point below mediocrity --radio interview of Dr. Restak here), but one of the points the author makes (a neurologist) is that the "rational you", the part of your brain that thinks it's in charge and does all the talking is actually a Mini-Me who makes up excuses (rationalizations) for what the in-charge dinosaur or Lizard-Me decides to do first.

Marketing people in our emerging NeuroSociety really don't care all that much about what the "reason in people" suggests. The impulse to buy a Corvette or have unprotected sex or or worry about PO/GW/catabolic-Collapse or whatever is made by the silent but dominant Super-Size Me. The Mini guy comes in and tries to explain it after the fact and thinks (wrongly)) that "he" is in charge. (Yeah, I bought the auto insurance ... it's a party, i'm a dancing, i'm a talking, it's my party ...)

Yes, stepback. Every human being needs to read about Gazzaniga's "split brain studies." Freak out here.
Good link.  I'd heard of some of these studies, but not this one:

George L. Wolford of Dartmouth has lent even more support to this view of the left hemisphere. In a simple test that requires a person to guess whether a light is going to appear on the top or bottom of a computer screen, humans perform inventively. The experimenter manipulates the stimulus so that the light appears on the top 80 percent of the time but in a random sequence. While it quickly becomes evident that the top button is being illuminated more often, people invariably try to figure out the entire pattern or sequence - and they deeply believe they can. Yet by adopting this strategy, they are correct only 68 percent of the time. If they always pressed the top button, they would be correct 80 percent of the time.

Rats and other animals, on the other hand, are more likely to "learn to maximize" and to press only the top button. It turns out the right hemisphere behaves in the same way: it does not try to interpret its experience and find deeper meaning. It continues to live only in the thin moment of the present - and to be correct 80 percent of the time. But the left, when asked to explain why it is attempting to figure the whole sequence, always comes up with a theory, no matter how outlandish.

More the reason, I think, to limit our prediction to relatively simple systems.  I think Hubbert-style analysis is relatively simple, but even there we probably have to wonder if we are "pushing the right button" or just "finding an attractive pattern."

And of course I think firm predictions about our future, made over longer timeframes, with less concrete data, are much harder problems.  The fact that some people "deeply believe they can" see through that data becomes in a sense, a caution.

BTW, on concrete short term understandable problems ... support the bottom trawling ban, this week.

Although I monitor the "When will it PeaK" argument#, and various scenarioes on the downslope, I have concluded that these are "wrestling with jello" problems.

The # of unknowns exceeds the # of knowns and to "solve" the problem a large # of assumptions need to be made.  So many assumptions that several are bound to be wrong. Thus "wrestling with jello".

OTOH, it is easy to see policies that will help in 99+% of the scenarios.  Perhaps not enough to prevent suffering and social stress, but better than it would have been w/o these policies.

So my emphasis.

Best Hopes,


# After Boston, I have come to accept Stuart's large error bar argument and the date of 2012 + or - 4.5 years.

Alan...I concur...pinpointing an exact peak is crap shoot.

Preparing for the inevitable, no matter when it happens, is society's moral responsibility.

It's hard to think of a scenario where electric trains are harmful.  I think I agree that things like that "will help in 99+% of the scenarios."  They are good if oil crashes sooner than most people expect, and they are still good if photovoltaics reach some breakthrough that surprises us.

;-), when all else fails, fall back to improving your diet and exercise.  Teach your kids good patterns of diet and exercise.  You'll be doing something that prepares your family for 99+% of the scenarios.


Thanks for the info, sounds like fun reading.  Most of my professional work has been in clinical research neurology and I also have undergrad and grad degrees in neurochemistry. I have never worked in psychiatry but a good portion of my college classes were in behavioral genetics so I find this stuff fascinating.

Several weeks ago LATOC had a link to an article about a psychiatrist who works with large corporations to find marketing devices that appeal to the "reptilian" regions of the brain.  Examples of his work included the classic Folger's coffee commercial with the son coming home for Christmas and making coffee early in the morning with the aroma triggering feelings of comfort and pleasure.  Lots of symbolism and it worked quite well.  There was also mention of how the concept for the PT Cruiser came about by doing during marketing research aimed at deep probing of car buyers' inner desires.  This psychiatrist goes right for the limbic system/reptilian/id and he knows how we use our neocortex to rationalize actions we take to satisfy our primal urges.

Once you understand the code, you can see how the psychology has widespread application and usage in our society - whether it be advertising, education, military indoctrination, entertainment, politics and media (I especially enjoyed Noam Chomsky's analyses of media and politics - he is a linguist but definitely gets it).

Probably the only class I took just for fun in college was one on symbolism in movies.  It was great, we got to watch a movie in every class.  I was astounded at the intricate level of symbolism and appeal to the limbic system in dialogue, visuals, and even lighting that could be found even in the silent movie era.

Good stuff.  Thanks again for the heads up on The Naked Brain.  I will check it out.

Best Regards, southpaw - TOD brain doc ;o)

Hi Southpaw,

Thanks for sharing that. You should post more on this topic for TOD whenever CERA -bellmic messages (or its ilk) get fired out into the mass media channels. I feel like I'm the lone wolf here howling about this off beat stuff like I'm foaming at the mouth. It sounds like you know way more than me. I'm just an amateur who is picking up this stuff on my own with no formal training.

My own background is engineering. I know how the engineer's brain works.

Trust me. Most engineers think this is total BS. There is no way in Maxwell's Equations Hell that "their" brains operate irrationally. Only the unspecial "others" have emotionally hysterical brains. The engineer is pure logic. Pure Spock.

And that's what makes them the easiest marks for psych-babble manipulation by the managerial powers at Dilbert factories round the world. Liberal arts managers have no problem grinding the engineer heads quickly into the dust.

P.S. Once you get past the opening chapter of The Naked Brain, the editor's contribution fades away and Dr. Restak starts getting into connecting the 3-dimesional morphology of the brain with socially contexed functioning. Pretty interesting stuff. Pretty scary too. I was watching some football on the tube this morning and realizing, hey, my mimicry neurons are being manipulated. Consumer see. Consumer do. Yabba dabba ...

Stepback, say no more about the mind of the engineer.  I hate to stereotype, but at least, anecdoctally, I have witnessed the same cognitive dissonance you describe.

I have been sort of the peak oil Paul Revere in my family and inner circle and the only one I have had a hard time with is my engineer brother-in-law.  What a tough nut to crack! Its been almost a year of effort and only in the last month have I seen signs of a successful deprogramming.  Reminds me of the NASA engineer who recently posted that conservatives don't think the U.S. is in Iraq for oil.  My response was perhaps not NASA engineers, but in my experience with colleagues that proposition did not hold with all conservatives.  Perhaps most engineers tend to be so literal that shades of gray rarely enter in.  I think a good study would involve PET scans to examine engineers' reactions to revelations about how their brains work and compare to subjects from other disciplines or the general public.

As for posting more on this general topic, I will look for relevant articles and post when appropriate.  I'm not sure that most people want to be very introspective.  It kind of ruins the fantasies for them.  I could tell you stories about that - but don't want to get too far off on a tangent.  Maybe another time.


Peak Oil is how I got interested in all this psychology-neurology stuff. Someone on a forum posted the words, "their eyes glazed over" when describing what happened as they tried to alert co-workers, family members about PO.

I wanted to know why that happens, having witnessed the same thing myself.

As for engineers --and I'm poking equal fun at myself here because I still get geek's glee from coding up my own software programs -- a lot of it has to do with control issues. We don't know how to control/manipulate people in social situations but we do know how to make the machine sing to our tune. So that is why we engineers love tinkering with the stuff all the time. We found something we have control over.

Now. Can I gloat to you about my latest AutoHotKeys script (dot AHK file)?  You don't think I type [img src="" ...] every time I drop a picture in here, do you? Nope it's automated :-)

Actually, I am a huge fan of Dilbert.  Sherman's Lagoon also has some insightful parody of human behavior.

BTW, I admire and envy your technical skills, just not my gig.  Great work with the graphics.  

Another Dibert dealing with control issues:
I think the neat thing about Dilbert is that it does, in its stereotypes of people-by-job-description, capture both some great examples of bounded rationality, and the ways we segregate ourselves according to our strengths and deficits.

Having spent 25 years in engineering, I've seen huge range of human emotion in play (daily), and a number of interesting social dynamics.  I've also seen a pretty steady difference between the the mean engineer and the mean marketer, or the mean whatever.

But of course for every mean there are fliers.

How nice to have a thoughtful response.
I have no brief for Miller, only looked at the link quickly. Thought the attack here. on his piece silly and over-the-top.
Do look at Galbraith and his observations on how the rich of the 1950's pretended to be middle-class, eschewed conspicuous consumption.
Gabraith resonates strongly with me because I am a child of the 50's myself and have always found display of wealth tacky, offensive, ill-mannered. I am not wealthy myself, thank you, but a good share of the wealthy I have known feel the same or feel the same more keenly.
If you got it, you don't need to prove it. And whose business is it anyway if you drive an old car?
All social norms are transitory. In modern times extremely so.
The questions being asked by the neurobiologists are socially determined. The idea that such an inquiry could be bounded by "pure" science boggles.
Thinking about that last post of mine it occurs to me that most here don't even have a clue what I'm talking about, Start with this: For most of Western history status was determined by birth. Period.
The idea that by one's own efforts one may change estate is strictly a modern and a bourgeois notion.
 Unless, of course you have to get a new, larger penis gourd because you've outgrown the old one.
So is having a choice of spouse based on romantic love.

Imagining a different social construct is not that hard. Believing that it will become the norm within 50 years, based on research alone, is something else. Perhaps the abandonment of an economic system based on growth would do it.

OK, you get the idea. Romantic love governs how much of our behavior in this social sphere and it's something new. Something we made up. Not in our genes, not in our traditions.

50 years is plenty to change social norms. Based on observation, not somebody's research.

As I get older I understand more and more the notion that we are governed by Fate. If I believe in 20 years our course is set by the stars....

OK, but what is in our genes? Human behavior seems to be quite malleable--influenced by many external factors--, so any change over time, should one occur, might not reflect the underlying genetics. Thus, even if social geneticists were to interpret our genome to reflect certain innate behaviors, kids might still pierce various body parts and people would choose spouses based on "whatever".

In light of various courtship-like behaviors in the animal kingdom, I'm not sure that you can say that romantic love is completely a modern invention.

"Social geneticist" is another word for confidence artist.
What's in the genome makes different behaviors possible, does precious damn little to specify one or the other.

You can find precursors of romantic love all over, just as you can find precursors of capitalism, or precursors of the nation-state, or precursors of fiat currency. It's eye of the beholder. Romantic love is specifically modern. Doesn't mean husband and wife were proscribed from having good relationship before 1492 or 1789.

I have to say, of the evolutionary psychologists, Miller is the most ridiculous of them all. does a disservice to Pinker, et al.
Gazzaniga says:"The next 50 years will focus on the social mind, the fact that humans are social animals and that most of the time our personal mental state is to be thinking about relationships."

With the post-peak era as a living experiment?  >:-]

There seems to be a strange disconnect at New Scientist. They are normally hot on social issues, like Global Warming (understandably), but PO seems uninteresting to them. They ran an article in Aug 03 on it, not much else. I guess PO is not considered a science or technology issue.

Editor, I think the Learsy link to policies for congress goes to wrong article. Can you check that? cfm

Thanks for telling me.  Should be fixed now.
Just wanted to re-highlight gr1nn3r's excellent post on a previous thread dealing with Cantarell's decline. It was a translation from the Spanish, which I found a little bit difficult to follow initially but the bones from what I can see are this:

Cantarell's production:

Peak Dec 2003:             2.14mbd

Dec 2003 - June 2005:  av +2.0mbd

July 2005 - June 2006: av 1.87mbd
(incl.      Jan 2006:     1.92mbd)

July 2006 - Sept 2006: av 1.7mbd
(incl.      Sept 2006:    1.686mbd)

Pemex claim that Cantarell will still be producing 1.4mbd in 2008. The article goes on to say that Cantarells decline was met (almost) by increases elsewhere till recently but now looks like that gap is now widening.

Just some crude calculations - Cantarell is thus down 21% (Dec 2003-Sept 2006) from highest to most recent over 33 months. Over a the course of little of a year an average decline (cp July 2005-June 2006 with latest quarter of this year the decline is 9%) Over a 9 month period (comparison of month to month Jan-Sept 2006) the decline is 12%.

Decline rates look to be in the 9-12% range with an accelerating biase.

Just extrapolating forward at a decline rate of 10% annually by Sept 2008 Cantarell would indeed be donw to 1.37mbd; but you have to say based on what appears an accelerating depletion rate that seems an upper estimate.


The speed with which Cantarell has been declining is truly scary.

Based on Mexico's current total domestic oil production and it's current domestic oil consumption, have you made or seen any projections as to when Mexico's oil exports are likely to fall to zero (in the absence of substantial new finds)?

The pessimistic scenario is three years until exports stop, the optimistic one is six years.

Although this is being discussed in the Mexican press daily, I get the impression there is an unwillingness to face PO as is in the US.  Add to that political inertia, and divisiveness, and the fact the oil industry is something of a sacred cow in Mexico.

Check out the Mexican articles at the end of the Drum Beat on 11/17.


Hello TODers,

When the energy crisis truly rears its ugly head, I think it is vital that a clear worldwide distinction needs to be made between the rights of humans vs the privileges of detritovores.  For example: you have the right to walk or pedal as far as your body will take you, but the aggregate will of the people to preserve our environment, as best as possible for future generations, will determine the responsible privileged burn-rate of detritovores.

Full disclosure: I have no offspring, so it could be argued that I should naturally want to energetically burn as much as possible, but I guess I have a strong altruism streak.  Not a good survival strategy, but such is life.

I think the time has come for humans to universally recognize that we must become humane, otherwise we all go down like the Zimbabweans in this article called Dead @ 34.  I don't think any parent will vote for programs that could potentially remove 30-50 years of their children's lives if they clearly understand the difference between a human commons and a detritus-powered commons.

I think humans have a right to potable surface waters within human-walking and human-carrying limits, but must recognize the privilege and costs of sub-surface waters or transported waters, by any other means.  Same with food: you have a right to fail or succeed at growing your own foodstuffs within the aforementioned water limitations, but must recognize, and pay for the true costs and privileges of the Red Lobster King Crab 5,000 mile dinner.

We have a genetically programmed imperative right to fight to the death in hand-to-hand combat for food & water [the Hutu-Tutsi Machete' Moshpit Dance], or alternatively, we have a genetically programmed imperative right to negotiate, cooperate, and share at the base level of the food & water limitations mentioned above.  This is only naturally in keeping with competitive survival of the fittest genetic design.

I think we, the global humanity, do not have the detritus right to wage any forms of political govt. battle, economic or physical, by the use or coercion of detritus-powered weaponry.  For example: reaching out and touching someone with a bullet when they only have handweapons.  This use of detritus tools got us initially off-track in our caveman days when we used firebrands to ward-off predators, instead of evolving appropriate genetic countermeasures.  If the world understands that Dieoff will probably occur: the willful shutdown of detritus armaments and industries, especially nuke weapons, is bound to be far less destructive to the environment.

This will force us to face the true evolved adrenaline horrors of face-to-face physical combat: which will correspondingly increase the instinctive desire for communication, cooperation, and sharing at the personal level.  This detritus weaponry global shutdown will also create tremendous sums for the paradigm shift.

Now we just have to figure out how to get 100% of humanity to buy into this idea.  Can we somehow incentivize ourselves into just being humans, or are we locked into our addiction so bad that we are willing to take the entire planet down with us?

A polar bear just plunges into the sea and starts swimming towards the ever-receding icecap-- it has no other choice if it wishes to harvest a meal of seal or walrus-- it accepts the full force of evolution.  Can humans demonstrate the same level of courage and will by walking to the grocery store or community garden, or die trying?

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


I haven't found much in the way of Iranian-focused news lately, but here's a thought-provoking OpEd piece:



The Persian Gulf perfect storm: Israel preemptively attacks Iran's nuclear facililities, Iran retaliates directly against Israel, U.S. launches massive attack on Iran, Hezbollah and Syria attack Israel ~ WW III, to which I add, Oil prices soar, stock market crumbles, Bush declares National Emergency and perhaps martial law ~ and Congress remains powerless.

As such, this lameduck period is extremely dangerous for the Cheney/Bush administration is still very much in power and is still very likely to use it.

Dragonfly41 -

I largely agree with that assessment.

After the Democratic victory in both the House and Senate, many Americans breathed a sign of relief and believe that the Bush regime has now been weakened sufficiently to forego its alleged plans to either directly attack  Iran or have Israel attack Iran and then come to Israel's defense.  On the contrary, I think the Republican defeat will have the exact opposite effect, because the lame-duck Bush regime now has nothing more to lose.  

What I find even more worrisome is that there is only a narrow window of about two months before the Democrats actually take control of Congress. If the Bush regime wants to attack Iran, it probably now has a greater sense of urgency to do it sooner rather than later so it can leave the Democratic Congress with a fait accompli.

Having said that, it is also apparent that most congressional Democrats have not come right out and stated they are opposed to attacking Iran. If the Democrats in Congress really wanted to prevent Bush from attacking Iran, it could threaten him with automatic impeachment hearings as the new Congress's first order of business.  But of course that they have not done that. Most want to avoid the issue altogether. This no doubt is due to the influence of the domestic pro-Israel lobby that has been increasingly busy beating the war drums over Iran.  

The Bush regime also needs some dramatic event to  precipitate an attack on Iran, i.e., another Tonkin Gulf sort of manufactured incident to provide the pretext.  That prospect is even more worrisome.

So, I don't think it's a little premature to break out the champagne over the Democratic sweep.


Last sentence should read: 'So, I thik it's a little premature to break out the champagne over the Democratic sweep'.

Ya...I'm not sure it's going to happen, but if it does Bush has a tough decision to make.  He has less than 2 months to do it and how does he do it without killing the heaviest retail shopping season of the year.

Consumer confidence is already threadbare, the us dollar is teetering, housing is going downhill fast.  It won't take much to send the whole economic ball of wax into a tailspin.

I guess that narrows it down to the week after Christmas.

I don't really think he's that desparate to go that route quite yet, but it's no doubt in his back pocket.

It does seem like the Iran thing is nothing more than saber rattling.  On the other hand, for decades the Dem leadership has been buying into the general geopolitical oil strategy.  They tend to have more finesse then the current players, but are still driven by the same economic interests.

Consider reading Carolyn Baker's essay on this topic.  

Who knows, if Baker's view is correct, when the political power brokers decide that attacking Iran will lend itself well to "constructive chaos" or "creative destruction" we may find that suddenly an emergent crisis will compel even reluctant politicians to jump on the bandwagon.

The terminology from above, while uber-Orwellian, is not parody.  It is actually from an article out today that I posted on another thread and these terms are being used by the U.S. military and State Dept and Admin officials.  

For a quick trip into the twilight zone and look at this new terminology:

The Project for a "New Middle East"

While it is worth noting that a number of factors point to this time period as a preplanned apex of pressure on Iran (naval task forces, post-election, UN resolution) it appears to me that events on the ground have outflanked those plans.

The truth is that the neocons, who have advocated military action, have seen their power greatly diminished.  This has occured because of 2 events, the unravelling of their script for Iraq, and the midterm elections.  Bush never had a personal foreign policy vision, and he delegated that responsibility to Cheney since he came into office.  But starting at least a year ago another faction, championed by Rice has been competing for his ear.  The strongest indication that they were successful came when Bush allowed Rice to propose direct talks with the Iranians, a direct rejection of Cheney's advice.

Now we can see that Rice was acting as the frontman (ok front person) for Bush 41.  Rice was his first cabinet-level voice in his son's administration, but that is changing.  Rumsfeld is out, Cheney is relegated to typical Vice Presidential duties, and the Bakers and Gates of the world will chaperone this administration through its last 2 years.

With these changes, it is almost inconceivable that a reckless gamble, which is what an attack on Iran would be, will be risked.  It is possible that Israel will attempt unilateral action, it is possible that some unintended provocation will lead to unexpected escalation.  But Washington has no desire to confront Iran militarily.  And in all liklihood, this confrontation will end not with a bang but a whimper.  

What is interesting here is that George Jr. hates...simply hates to have his Dad bail him out (See Maureen Dowd's Bushworld).

Some say the reason he took on Iraq, full blown is because his father did it half-assed.

George Jr. does some things merely to piss his old man off.  That is how shallow and reckless with people's lives this man truly is.

I don't buy what your saying, unless you can convince me otherwise. But, there is a terror network in this world whose main objective is to destroy the United States. Cuz when the USA goes down, so will England, Germany and all the other western civiliztaions. France? (piss on France, they are not allies anyway!) They are lucky they are not speaking German! The French are a bunch of pansies anyway! Any country  who puts "fancy" sauces on their meat to disguise the rotten smell should not be our ally!
We can piss and moan all we like, but the main stream media (MSM) is not on the American side!

despite what you may think or say, these terrorist are consumed with the idea of destroying the United States. Everyday we are reminded on the news of how many US soldiers have died, but we are not told of how many terrorists have died.
Al Jazeera network is now broadcasting in english, soon it will be on every american tv in the USA and in every home! "freedom of speech" will be their new battle cry. get it? they will play us with our own rules and beat us with our own rules.  
 The USA is a Superpower, by way of nuclear power. You may wish to engage in talk and appeasement to these terrorists, but their main objective is to destroy us all. They will not just simply GO away, John Kerry would have done no better either last election, possibly worse. (is there a game called fantasy politics? like fantasy football?) The war has indeed gone awry. I don't blame it on the generals who are there on the scene, but i blame it all on Donald Rumsfeld, a man who i think has been too difficult to work with, who is telling the generals how to play the game. Removal of Rumsfeld is great! But this is a war on terror, and they are watching the news too, they must just love CNN, FOX, MSNBC on the filtered news we get in the USA. The terrorists know the MSM is on their side! It's only a matter of time before they defeat the USA because we are too consumed with sports/american idol/dancingwiththestars/ etc. and the list goes on, they are slowly waiting in the shadows. They waited to test the resolve of the US when Bush took office, hence 9/11! Now the democrats are taking control of the house and senate, the terroists are probably going to test the resolve of the US again.
i seriously think the terrorists will defeat the USA because we do not have the will to defeat them. I think there is a mentality in america that terrorists are just a nuisance like drugs or drunk driving! And the USA will be reactive (defensive)rather than pro-active (offensive)!

so light another cigarette, and drink another bottle.  

We are DOOMED!

I give it 10 years, tops!

By the way! Go back to work and pay your taxes....12 million or more illegal immigrants are counting on you!

Talking about lame ducks:

Better do it quick then, `cos the poodle may get collared:

SCOTLAND Yard provoked anger in Downing Street last night by saying that police had uncovered "significant and valuable material" in the loans-for-honours investigation.


Saudi Arabia is threatening to suspend diplomatic ties with Britain unless Downing Street intervenes to block an investigation into a £60m 'slush fund'


And Kissinger wades in with his tuppence worth:

Iran despises weakness:


But you never know:

Iraq War pretty much a disaster- Blair


(It wasnae my fault, a bigger boy did it and ran awaa)

Well...this article sums up my thoughts earlier on before the elections...

What are the four U.S. Carriers doing in the Gulf?


As the American President George W. Bush steps up threatening rhetoric against Iran to force it suspend its nuclear program, calling for worldwide isolation of Tehran until it "gives up its nuclear ambitions," experts predict that the coming days would see a much violent step by Washington against the Islamic Republic.

What asserts the experts' fears is the fact that on October 31, two nuclear-powered carriers, the USS Eisenhower and USS Enterprise, arrived in Bahrain, accompanied by their carrier strike groups. And on November 9th, the USS Iwo Jima, and the USS Boxer also arrived.

Is President Bush up to something? Asked Rense.com

    On a lighter note,( sarcasm) the article at  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6143514.stm   highlights what happens to the forest environment when cheap oil is available as opposed to when it is not, global warming not withstanding. One of the cogent statements was that the existing forests hold 50% more carbon than the atmosphere. As peak rears it's ugly head many of the countries who are adding forest cover will reverse that trend as more pressure gets put on the forests. Watch those CO2 levels zoom then.
Hello TODers,

Mexico Update

While we Gringos are preparing for Thanksgiving, Mexico may be going up in flames.  This link is important to read, IMO:
Calderón inherits a nation in grip of violence, turmoil

Welcome to the brave new Mexico, where the fragile illusion of a nation ruled by laws is crumbling in the days leading up to Felipe Calderón's Dec. 1 presidential inauguration.

This is a Mexico where outgoing President Vicente Fox, faced with the worst political crisis of his administration, was preparing to leave on a nine-day trip to Australia and Vietnam when the Congress voted to stop him.

"We are at the breaking point," said political commentator Jorge Fernández Menéndez, who warned of a possible "confluence of organized crime, of armed groups, of social movements."

Felipe Calderón

"Either the government takes measures to attack this problem or we will face a setback that we will be unable to overcome," he said.

The spread of political and drug-related violence has sparked deepening concerns in the United States.

"The U.S. interest in Mexico is stability because we are neighbors," Mexican historian Lorenzo Meyer said. "If there is instability in Iraq, well, there is a lot of distance between the U.S. and that country. But if there is instability on the other side of the border, that is a different matter."

U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza issued a new travel alert to Americans on Wednesday.

"Protesters may use the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution on Nov. 20th and events surrounding the presidential inauguration on Dec. 1st to initiate additional acts of violence in Oaxaca, Mexico City and elsewhere in the country," Garza said.

Calderón vowed to "use all the power of the state to return to the citizens the peace and tranquility that has been lost."

But he cautioned it will not be easy.

"It will take time, because there cannot be immediate results," he said. "It will take money. And - this must be said - it will very probably cost lives."

"There are people who want to provoke a revolution," said Soledad Loaeza, a professor of political science at the prestigious Colegio de Mexico. "We are at the beginning of a new kind of political violence."

Decades of government neglect - and in some cases, abuse - of southern Mexico's indigenous people have deepened resentment against the country's institutions.

This CBS newsarticle will not help calm emotions down South:

The Mexican government on Saturday released a long-awaited report that for the first time officially blamed "the highest command levels" of three former presidencies for the massacres, tortures and slayings of hundreds of leftists from the 1960s to the 1980s.

The report ends a five-year investigation by a special prosecutor named by President Vicente Fox to shed light on past crimes, including a 1968 student massacre and the disappearance of hundreds of leftist activists in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The authoritarian regime, at the highest command levels, broke the law and committed "crimes against humanity" that resulted in "massacres, forced disappearances, systematic torture and genocide to try to destroy a sector of society that it considered ideologically to be its enemy," said the report, based partly on declassified Mexican military documents.

Next, this CounterPunch article headlines, First Iraq, Then the World! Halliburton Wrecks Mexico:

Vice president Dick Cheney's old mega corps and the largest oil service provider on the planet, has been doing business in Mexico for a score of years.

The privatization of PEMEX, nationalized in 1938 after depression-era president Lazaro Cardenas expropriated Caribbean coast oil enclaves from Anglo-American owners, was right at the heart of Mexico's still-questioned July 2nd presidential election. Right-winger Felipe Calderon, a former energy secretary, is committed to selling off --or at least entering into joint agreements that would guarantee the contemporary version of the Seven Sisters a substantial quotient of Mexico's diminishing reserves (only 10 more years according to the worst case scenario.)

Knowing full well which side their bread was buttered on, transnationals like Halliburton rushed to support Felipe Calderon--as did the corporation's former CEO (1995-2000) Dick Cheney and his running mate George Bush. Both Cheney and Bush have long-standing ties to the Mexican oil industry--Bush's daddy ran Zapata Offshore, a PEMEX subcontractor back in the 1960s--his partner Jorge Diaz Serrano, a former PEMEX director, served time for an oil tanker kickback scheme. Cheney's Halliburton somehow finagled its way into lucrative service contracts for the newly opened offshore Cantarell field (said to contain upwards of 12 billion barrels) back in the 1990s.

Remember, how contentious the Mexican election was between AMLO vs FECAL?  Now it turns out the voting procedures were designed by Calderon's brother-in-law!
One country, two leaders, one big divide

But despite claims the computerised vote-counting procedure (designed by Calderón's brother-in-law) had not been accurate, the electoral authorities refused to allow a full recount and after weeks of uncertainty declared Calderón, a former minister in the government of outgoing president Vicente Fox, the winner.

Amid all the talk of his having split the Mexican left, there remains a strong feeling that López Obrador speaks for those who desperately want to improve things in a country that is, ironically, in better financial shape than it has been for a long time. But few of the benefits of fiscal stability have reached the millions of poor living below the poverty line at the mercy of a system where impunity and corruption go unchallenged.

"Amlo's project is a very ambitious undertaking," says Jaime Lagunez, a researcher who voted for López Obrador. "His idea of inviting organisations to participate in consultations and plans to press through legislation for social development and the protection of our natural resources and energy sector is very good.

"And it will continue to remind the world that Calderón is a child of a fraud. I think Amlo will not just be a thorn in Calderón's side. He will be a stake."

Fasten your seatbelts, folks! Approx. 2 million barrels/day of exported Mayan Crude may be headed instead for a big batch of flaming-hot Mexican Political Picante'.

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

Hello TODers,

Just one more wild & crazy idea before I get some shut-eye.

In my worst case Mexican scenario where revolution or civil war breaks out:

Imagine a repeat of our American Civil War where the industry is in the Northern Half, and the rural Southern Half has 90% of the fossil fuels fully on-line!

If Spindletop, and the other great oil & gas fields of Tx, La, and the offshore, were discovered and developed before Drake's Penn. State oilfind-- Would Abe Lincoln's Army have still prevailed?

I can hear the Southern Mexican battle cry now, "Give me Cantarell or give me Hell!!!"

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

Bob, thanks for these updates:

As I was reading your stories about Mexico's "unraveling", a thought popped in my head.  How much manufacturing and processing of the US products are currently performed in Mexico?

I know many automobiles are assembled in Mexico now, but what will be the full impact of the situation in Mexico on the US "outsourced labor" if TSHTF down there?