DrumBeat: December 21, 2006

[Update by Leanan on 12/21/06 at 11:57 AM EDT]

Turkmen death puts gas supplies in turmoil: One analyst says situation could become 'a nightmare' as country, which supplies huge amounts of energy to Europe, struggles to fill leadership void.

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The death of Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov on Thursday plunges Europe's energy security into doubt, with the prospect of a struggle for power raising the specter of a new gas crisis.

The self-styled "Turkmenbashi" or "Head of the Turkmen" left no designated successor to lead the autocratic state, which had planned to step up its gas exports to help Russian gas monopoly Gazprom meet a quarter of Europe's needs.

"I expect there will be a massive fight for power now in Turkmenistan and it's likely to take place between pro-U.S. and pro-Russian forces," said a Russian gas industry source, who declined to be named.

"Gas will become the main coin of exchange and the key asset to get hold of. There shouldn't be any short-term problems with supplies to Russia and onward but in the mid-term it could become a nightmare."

The Cautious U.S. Boom in Oil Shale

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Oil shale has never made an American company more than a nickel or two; quite a few, in fact, have lost countless millions over the last century trying to cook oil out of the rock. R. Glenn Vawter, who has worked as an executive for many of the losers, knows all that only too well.

Iran admits oil projects suffering

Iran’s oil minister on Wednesday admitted that Tehran was having trouble financing oil projects, in a rare acknowledgment of the economic cost of its nuclear dispute.

The Economist: energy Argentina’s "biggest worry"

Industry sources warn of blackouts in 2007 if weather conditions are unfavorable. Fear of blackouts has suppressed investment in energy-intensive businesses, such as steel, aluminum and petrochemicals.

Gadgets drive up energy bills and emissions

Consumer appetites for electrical gadgets will push up UK energy consumption by 82% over the next five years, a report warned today.

Zimbabwe: Threat to seize oil firms

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe has threatened to seize the facilities of leading oil companies operating in the country and use them to distribute fuel, accusing them of refusing to cooperate with government.

India: Scarcity of LPG, Kerosene Artificial

People queuing up at Public Distribution Shops, popularly known as ration shops, as early as 6 am, braving the morning chill, has become a common sight in the city. It is just to obtain the monthly quota of kerosene.

Kuwait: Ministry hikes campaign to cut use of water, power

The Ministry has intensified its public awareness campaign on the importance of conserving water and electricity to avoid the recurrence of the energy crisis experienced in Kuwait last summer.

Saudi Aramco Introduces Second Grade Gasoline

The Premium 95 gasoline is being sold at 75 halalas a liter, while the Premium 91 costs 60 halalas only. The new gasoline is aimed to provide a more economical choice for most of the car owners and drivers in the Kingdom.

Pakistan - Country faces energy crisis: Another weekly holiday under study

ISLAMABAD, Dec 20: Pakistan is facing a severe energy crisis and its oil consumption has gone up by about 80 per cent mainly due to law and order problem in Balochistan, increased village gasification ahead of elections and low hydel power production, senior government officials said.

The situation is such that the government is considering restrictions on night-time commercial activity across the country to conserve the amount of energy available.

As part of conservation measures, the proposal to observe Saturday as second weekly off has again come under consideration.

Pakistan: Furnace oil import may exceed estimates by $1b

ISLAMABAD: The import bill of furnace oil would exceed the budget estimates by around $1 billion in the current fiscal as the Water and Power Development Authority has demanded the government to allow it to import the furnace oil to avoid an energy crisis including acute power and gas shortages following the discontinuation of natural gas to the power producers and the overall industrial sector, Daily Times has learnt.

Chavez shakes up government

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has requested and received the resignation of his ministers, including energy and oil minister Rafael Ramirez.

Sunoco Logistics to build crude tanks for Motiva

Sunoco Logistics Partners LP said Wednesday that it has reached a deal to build a 2 million barrel crude oil storage facility at its Nederland, Texas, tank farm to support the proposed expansion of Motiva Enterprises' Port Arthur, Texas, refinery.

Russia closing another door of oil availability to the United States

Another door of oil availability for the United States and other major oil consumers may be rapidly closing, as president Vladimir Putin's Russia is retaking control of his nation's vast energy resources.

Iran and China's CNOOC Sign $16 Billion Gas Deal

Thirsty Japan Gambles over Iraqi Oil

Basically, as the United States fooled the whole international community over its real intention of invading Iraq, the Japanese government has so far withheld the main reason behind its full cooperation with the Bush administration in Iraq.

Farmland as an Investment Asset

Over the past half century, U.S. farmland prices rose though two long bull markets, punctuated by a short, severe crash.

Energy-Saving Software Sales Boom as Corporate America Goes Green

This morning Green Wombat spoke to a CEO whose startup tech company's revenues have shot up from $400,000 to $4 million in two years. Verdiem isn't about Web 2.0, it doesn't do online video or mobile social networking for Generation Z. It makes software that - wait for it - manages corporate personal computer networks to lower energy usage.

John Michael Greer: Nawida 2150: Q&A

Q: What about the other children? Can’t their parents afford to send them to school?

A: Partly that; partly, some people don’t see the point of schooling their children; and partly, some children just aren’t suited to book learning. They’ll be perfectly good farmers and crafters even if they can’t read a word of Old Time English, and the doors illiteracy closes to them probably wouldn’t open for them anyway.

The Petroleum Deterrent: How energy dependence is weakening the foreign influence of the United States, and what to do about it.

For the first time in three decades, energy has become a central problem in foreign policy. The surge in oil prices—and in oil revenues for producers—has strengthened the ability of such nations as Russia, Iran and Venezuela to pursue political and strategic objectives of their own. Even worse, in the Middle East, oil money has trickled down to support terrorism. Energy producers with rising revenues are far more impervious to U.S. pressures. Thus, the reality of the oil market has reduced the influence of the United States and its allies.

Russia threatens to cut off gas supplies

Russia's state-controlled natural gas monopoly threatened to cut off supplies to Georgia if it does not agree to a 125 percent increase in the price of gas imports, a company official said Wednesday.

Iraqis in tentative oil law deal

Baghdad - Iraqi officials have reached a tentative deal on an oil law that would allow the regions to negotiate oilfield contracts with foreign investors but gives the central government the final say.

Total: 3 guards killed in Nigeria attack

LAGOS, Nigeria - Armed men attacked a Total SA oil pumping station in Nigeria in an overnight raid that left three security guards dead and shut down the facility, a company official said Thursday.

The Geopolitics of Energy Security: The Rise of Asia

Asia's new nuclear race

ADELAIDE - With energy security appearing as a major concern on policy agendas of many Asian nations, both large and small, the option to go nuclear is gaining increasing support in many capitals.

Investing in oil drilling equipment

Through his 37 years of experience in energy sector investment banking, Simmons has lived through several booms and busts, witnessing the evolution of oil field technology from the front lines. So his view that "the technology pipeline is nearly empty" does not bode well for those waiting on a great free-market solution to the ever-present challenge of depletion.

Norway's energy merger is driven by growth potential

BP plans boardroom shake-up

Cambodia oil, blessing or curse?: "Cambodians could easily follow Nigeria's footsteps"

Bush signs bill opening the Gulf of Mexico to new oil and gas drilling

Tom Whipple - The Peak Oil Crisis: The Council of Governments Starts Planning

The Metropolitan Washington Area Council of Governments (COG) recently released its 2006 Strategic Energy Plan. Reports like this of course are lengthy —220 pages—- and are unlikely to be read outside of a narrow circle of local officials and energy professionals. As it deals with a topic soon to be vital to those of us who live around the nation's capitol, I thought it would be worthwhile to read it for you and pass on some insights as to what COG thinks we should be doing.

Kansas utility's plan faces scrutiny

TOPEKA, Kan. - Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is considering a request from environmentalists that she ban new coal-fired power plants amid concerns about plans to build three of them in western Kansas.

Washington Warming to Southern Plants

A warming climate in the Washington area is beginning to affect the area's trees, with cold-loving species finding the weather less welcoming and southern transplants thriving, according to findings released yesterday by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

...The findings also help give an unexpected answer to one of the region's oldest questions. If Washington wasn't the South before, then now -- at least from a gardener's perspective -- the South seems to be coming to Washington.

"You could say D.C. is the new North Carolina," said Bill McLaughlin, a curator at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the Mall.

The Hidden Opportunity in Global Warming

The U.S. media might have missed the significance of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, but the public shouldn't miss the message: It's about hope.

Kurt Cobb: Cuba's strange path

Cuba has become the poster child for a transition away from an agricultural economy based on fossil fuel inputs and for a society focused on self-sufficiency. Strangely, it may owe much of its success in this regard to its relative backwardness and its isolation from the world community. The implications for so-called modern industrial countries in a world approaching peak oil couldn't be more striking. To understand this, it is worth briefly tracing Cuba's path since the Cuban revolution.
Concerning the article...Russia threatens to cut off gas supplies...I think Russia's threats are starting to be tiresome and less effective than last year.

Can they really follow through on any of these threats and not expect some repercussions?  More and more, I think the countries they threaten are seeing the threats as hot air and Russia really won't go through with it.


I'd really like to hear from the folks in the former SU countries on this topic...like BalticMan, the Estonian poster, others in Europe.

What do you all think of Russia's energy bluster?

Our media are so strong in their portrayal of Russia, and Putin in particular, as a bad bad bogeyman, that we should, if we care to do that, take a step back and try to see things through their (his) eyes.

In the past 15 years, Russia has been robbed blind. And Russians still have a strong sense of pride. Now that they begin to rise up from the gutter a little bit, their first intent is to make clear that they no longer wish to be anyone's dog.

They know very well that their energy reserves won't last forever, and they're trying to makle the best of it. Their best, not US best.

If you look at what went down with Shell at Sakhalin, without all the usual western rhetoric, you might conclude that Shell tried to pull a fast one on Russia. The deals were signed pre-Putin, when Russia was still weak, and that was seen as an opportunity. They gave a total cost estimate of $10 billion, sigend a deal with one of the Russian companies (Rosneft?!) on that basis, and came back with a new estimate of $20 billion a few weeks later. Which would mean Russia would have to wait years before ever seeing a dime.

Now Vlad flexed his muscles, and Shell will sign a deal with Gazprom. Our media imply that he throws everyone out, but that's simply not true.

The same happens with Chavez: there is a huge effort to make him look like a crazy dictator, who only rules because the oil allows him to "hand out presents to the poor". Well, what is he supposed to do? Leave his people to rot in the same squalor that decades of western rule in Venezuela's energy sector put them in? Is he handing out presents or giving them their fair share?

So, I would say the best we can do is to try to see the world through their eyes, not those of our media. It's too one-sided, and it gives a distorted picture of what's really going on. Somehow, if we want to understand these matters, we'll first have to admit that the worldview we are fed through our schools, TV, and papers, is anything but neutral or realistic.

This is not to say that former satellites like the Baltic states don't have a genuine bone to pick with Russia, but that brings you straight back to Venezuela, once a US dog.

The Rigzone article was pretty brief and could leave one feeling a bit alarmed given the general perception of Chavez in the West.

A more complete background can be found here.

Chavez Moves Forward.

It is difficult to find balanced information on Chavez. The only book I have read was so pro-Chavez it made me uncomfortable.  All things being equal, I think Chavez has to be given the benefit of the doubt, at least in terms of what he wants for Venezuelans and the region.

I lived in Venezuela as a child, attending school in spanish and living in the economy (and a trailer).  I was relatively privileged, but I got to see the very, very poor and the images never left me.

'This is not to say that former satellites like the Baltic states don't have a genuine bone to pick with Russia....'

Good to see that at least you acknowledge a bit of history in how Russia deals with its immediate neighbors.

But since those neighbors have always been bit players (ask the Poles) in the great power games, LevinK's comments show another difference - those who were never part of Mother Russia can look at the situation a bit differently than some of the others - ask the Chechens.

Not that anybody much cares about the Chechens anyways, as long as Russia delivers on its energy contracts. As a matter of fact, it seems like an unwritten part of those contracts includes a no-criticism clause in that matter.

I will say, just imagine what the world would have been like if the Bush/Cheney team hadn't been running things - would Putin be so aggressive in defending Russian interests? Or would the various former Soviets republics be so clearly seen as pawns on the great power chess board?

As noted in another thread, I find Putin's KGB past disturbing, but then, Bush I was also a former secret policeman, so it isn't all that unique to see such people use energy as a source of money and power. Or to watch an oligarchic clique come to dominate a country's politics.

There is another level to consider, though. Currently, flawed and hypocritical though it may be, the EU has a certain enlightened self-interest in seeing Russia develop into a reliable customer which doesn't treat its citizens as members of a gulag or as disposable property of the hyper rich. (Turkey more or less belongs to the same category - and to the extent that Turkey has improved its human rights and the lot of the Kurds, it has been mainly due to EU 'encouragement.')

If Russia was to turn to China as its major future customer, the Chinese would care nothing about how the Russian government dealt with its own citizens. And please note, I was talking about the EU - in the case of the U.S. and Japan, neither country seems to have any interest in Russia except to see it keep falling apart, and hope to make a killing on picking up the pieces.

There is more than meets the eye...

Excerpt from F. Wiliam Engdahl, Oct 7 2006:

The Emerging Russian Giant Plays its Cards Strategically

The first act of post-war occupation by Washington was to declare null and void any contracts between the Iraqi government and Russia, China and France. Iraqi oil was to be an American affair, handled by American companies or their close cronies in Britain, the first victory in the high-stakes quest, `where the prize ultimately lies.'

This was precisely what Cheney had alluded to in his 1999 London speech. Get the Middle East oil resources out of independent national hands and into US-controlled hands. The military occupation of Iraq was the first major step in this US strategy. Control of Russian energy reserves, however, was Washington's ultimate `prize.'

De-construction of Russia: The `ultimate prize'

For obvious military and political reasons, Washington could not admit openly that its strategic focus, since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, had been the dismemberment or de-construction of Russia, and gaining effective control of its huge oil and gas resources, the `ultimate prize.' The Russian Bear still had formidable military means, however dilapidated, and she still had nuclear teeth.

In the mid-1990's Washington began a deliberate process of bringing one after the other former satellite Soviet state into not just the European Union, but into the Washington-dominated NATO. By 2004 Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia all had been admitted into NATO, and the Republic of Georgia was being groomed to join.

This surprising spread of NATO, to the alarm of some in western Europe, as well as to Russia, had been part of the strategy advocated by Cheney's friends at the Project for the New American Century, in their `Rebuilding America's Defenses' report and even before.

Already in 1996, PNAC member and Cheney crony, Bruce Jackson, then a top executive with US defense giant, LockheedMartin, was head of the US Committee to Expand NATO, later renamed the US Committee on Nato, a very powerful Washington lobby group.

The US Committee to Expand NATO also included PNAC members Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Stephen Hadley and Robert Kagan. Kagan's wife is Victoria Nuland, now the US Ambassador to NATO. From 2000 - 2003, she was a foreign policy advisor to Cheney. Hadley, a hardline hawk close to Vice President Cheney, was named by President Bush to replace Condoleezza Rice as his National Security Adviser.

The warhawk Cheney network moved from the PNAC into key posts within the Bush Administration to run NATO and Pentagon policy. Bruce Jackson and others, after successfully lobbying Congress to expand NATO to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in 1999, moved to organize the so-called Vilnius Group that lobbied to bring ten more former Warsaw Pact countries on Russia's periphery into NATO. Jackson called this the `Big Bang.'

President Bush repeatedly used the term `New Europe' in statements about NATO enlargement. In a July 5, 2002 speech hailing the leaders of the Vilnius group, Bush declared, `Our nations share a common vision of a new Europe, where free European states are united with each other, and with the United States through cooperation, partnership, and alliance.'

Lockheed Martin's former executive, Bruce Jackson, took credit for bringing the Baltic and other members of the Vilnius Group into NATO. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 1, 2003, Jackson claimed he originated the `Big Bang' concept of NATO enlargement, later adopted by the Vilnius Group of Baltic and Eastern European nations. As Jackson noted, his `Big Bang' briefing `proposed the inclusion of these seven countries in NATO and claimed for this enlargement strategic advantages for NATO and moral (sic) benefits for the democratic community of nations.' On May 19, 2000 in Vilnius, Lithuania, these propositions were adopted by nine of Europe's new democracies as their own. It became the objectives of the Vilnius Group.' Jackson could also have noted the benefits to US military defense industry, including his old cronies at Lockheed Martin, with the creation of a vast new NATO arms market on the borders to Russia.

But since those neighbors have always been bit players (ask the Poles) in the great power games, LevinK's comments show another difference - those who were never part of Mother Russia can look at the situation a bit differently than some of the others - ask the Chechens.

With the risk of being accused of too pro-Russian, I don't think that Chechens had any valid reasons for their rebellion aside from the greed of their leaders. I am still to see evidence they were being oppressed in some way as a part of the Russian Federation before the conflict started. And I am still to see what would happen in US if for example Texas formed unofficial government that decided to declare independancy so that the same government can make good money of the oil flow from the Gulf.

Historically Russia is no more good or bad than any big country with some empiristical ambitions. What truly matters is how much they are playing by the rules. I would argue that in violating international laws, interfering with internal affairs or invading sovereign countries they stand far behind US (if comparable at all), not to mention the past performance of Germany or say France on those.

No, that is not too pro-Russian. My point was more in how the Russians have treated the people living there, not in whether what they did was correct or somehow justified. And the Chechens not only have a long history of being unhappy with Soviet rule, at least, they seem to have a reputation among Russians of being criminals - whether this is deserved or not may be hard to judge from the outside. Many Americans think  black males between roughly 15 and 25 years old are likely to be gang members, for example, because that is how such Americans are often portrayed in the media, and because a number of gangs have a membership which corresponds to that demographic - but obviously, most black males between 15 and 25 are not gang members.

Every state will defend its own interests and territory, and there is no question Russia drew the line at having its own traditional borders being changed.

The EU follows its own interests, and commenting about what happens inside Russia territory is considered an internal matter, better left to the Russians to handle - while politely ignoring what that means. If energy is delivered as per contract, so much the better.

I do think that an Estonian has a very different opinion of Russia compared to a Czech or a Pole, and that a number of non-Russians within Russia's territory feel differently yet again, regardless of the merits of their claims, since Russia expanded its territory through force, and unlike in the U.S., which expanded into an 'empty' continent, the conquered people already there were pretty much left alive after the Russians took over. Then add what Stalin did, and you get a mixture which doesn't fit well into Western frameworks at all.

My opinions don't fit well in this debate, most likely - neither the West nor the Russians are on the side of the angels, as they both want to exploit what they have in service of a system that mainly represents the interests of the rich and powerful, though Western Europe is certainly a more comfortable place to live for most of its citizens. This is the real world, not what Hollywood likes to portay as reality.

Well my country has been 500 years under Turkish rule, which is commonly refered in our history as "slavery", because of the grossly limited rights our nation had. But this does not disturb our relations with Turkey now, nor should it be any reason to do so IMO.

In a sane world past transgression, especially old ones should not be a reason for bad relations or hostility between countries. Which makes Europe not the most sane place on Earth, I'm afraid. Baltic countries + Poland have some historical reasons for their anti-russian stanza, but IMO this is just on the surface nowadays. Currently it is mostly fueled by the new Big Brother's influence - EU and USA need them as an outpost against Russia, which must stand still and be happy with its role of resource supplier. All the Chechnya and human rights talk is just another coin in this game - have you heard for example Putin criticizing UK's policy in Ireland or Spain's in Southern Basque?

The how-the-Russia-treats-its-own-citizens talk is another one of those hypocritical double talks used in the west in this game, which displays just the surface of the problem. The truth is that the West proactively participated in the impoverishing of Russia and dismantling of the Russian state in the 90s. It is also in/directly responsible for creating the oligarchy, which is already an existing factor in Russia. How impoverished, criminalized and robbed out country could maintain the western standards of "human rights" is an absolute enigma for me.

In the end it would be stupid to say that I am sympatetic to the Russia as a country, but I'm definately sympatetic to the current Russian government. Putin is doing just the right thing for them, restoring its sovereignity, limiting the influence of the oligarchs (yes, he did that! why everyone avoids to call Khudochovsky an oligarch, what he was?) and creating the framework for a stable and prosperous Russia. Which is also in the long-term EU and US interest if they were only able to look past securing their next dose. BTW Germany is faring quite well with maintaining a balanced policy towards Russia and only your anti-nuclear energy self-delusion is stopping me from nominating it for a most pragmatic post-PO nation.

I am not German, and I don't find Germany's anti-nuclear stance so completely wrong - what we need and what we want needs to be in much better balance, and at least most people in Germany seem to agree with this.

Ironically, the power company EnBW wants to extend the operating life of one its older nuclear plants, and part of the reason was the company's concern for the environment. As quickly pointed out, EnBW is building coal plants, so concern for the environment seems to be much lower on the company's priorities than money. Germans tend to favor conservation and efficiency, which somehow never seems to fit well into a system where more energy used means more profit for the energy companies - and more contributions to various politicians, who then ensure their campaign contributions by ensuring energy companies continue to profit from their current business model.

Leaving aside the practical concerns, I would be thrilled if essentially all of the currently operating, cooling fluid dependent reactors were shut down - what an incredibly stupid design concept, in my eyes. At least Germany plans this over the long term, and that social consensus remains in force, it seems. If EnBW had applied to extend the life of its most modern facilities, they may have had a better political chance - but the profit margin would have been much lower. And that is yet another proof of my real problem with a profit oriented system and reactors which fail horribly if not maintained at a high and expensive standard of engineering, servicing, training, redundancy, and testing - which a company finds a burden to its bottom line.

I am not anti-nuclear against safe designs, though the waste problem is not exactly solved.

Interesting exchange of views - though as a final note, I think Putin is more or less replacing oligarchs, not an oligarchic system, but it is true that the current heads of the system have a more consistent view of Russia's needs, as compared to the simple need to get as rich as possible, regardless of any other consideration.

Where would we be now if we hadn't admitted the Republic of Texas into the Union in 1845?  Texas was an independent nation for 9 years before statehood. Since 2 of the last 3 presidents we've had were residents of Texas we might never had any involvement in Iraq.  President Dukakis might not have bother to rescue the dictator of Kuwait from the dictator of Iraq since his family didn't have any oil exploration contracts with Kuwait.  Consequently President Gore and Vice President Edwards wouldn't own a stake in Halliburton and we would be further along the road to a renewable energy economy now.
If Texas were to ceceed from the Union again like it did in 1861 I'd say let it go.
The Bushes aren't Texans. They are New England Blue Blood.

The whole Texan thing is just an act.

W is no more a Texan than Jeb is a Floridian.

I said they were residents of Texas and registered voters there.  The electoral votes of Texas were critical to their elections.
Correction: Gore and Edwards do not have a stake in Halliburton and their sweetheart deals.  Sum dae I gotta lern two prufreed.
Somehow, if we want to understand these matters, we'll first have to admit that the worldview we are fed through our schools, TV, and papers, is anything but neutral or realistic.

Yes, you're right.  Our media could be seriously improved on.

Which journalist that we don't like should we shoot first?

Not the journalists, their shareholders.
Dragon: Can't see why they would carry these deadbeats forever. Why should they?
Not sure what seems to be a problem. Gazprom moves to market prices for neighbours. Some of possible reasons (excluding obvious political reasons) is a growing internal demand and what seems to be a logistic peak.
The problem is that from Western point of view, nobody outside the club has the right to defend his own interests and follow his own policy. This is a privilege left for the "chosen".
The Russians are right for themselves. Countries like Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus etc. have been paying like half to 1/4 of European market prices for years on. Now when they are asked to pay the real price they are refusing, even though they had years to look for alternatives if they wanted.

Most former Soviet republics were keen to get off the russian orbit and some of them like Georgia quickly fell under strong US influence. I find it funny that they want both to have benefits as former Russian partners and in the same time play against russian interests internationally. Any normal person would agree they can't have it both, can they?

What I find encouraging is that the russians themselves started to get used to and don't give a damn about all that anti-russian bullcrap pouring out of Western media. The country is emancipating and is already able to follow its independant policy and defend its interests. Nothing to do with Elcin's Russia.

Russia's energy bluster:  Not much.  The West likes to stigmatise Putin, so reports these snarls with fanfare.  Georgia  (and others, Belarus, Ukraine ..) are trapped customers.  The days when they got `free' or `cheap' anything from the Motherland or other parts of the USSR are over, and they don't like it, though they chose to leave.  Why shouldn't they pay the `market price', that is the same as what richer countries in the EU pay?  One could argue about that at length.  Gazprom aims for `market' prices everywhere in 2008.  Now, I do intuit that Gazprom will make concessions on the price to control pipelines and other resources and so on, and I suppose that if one wants to dig deeper, that is what should be looked at.

 So, energy as a political tool?  Certainly.  Ask the Saudis, or Chavez.

Putin grandstands and blusters - as pols and poker players do.

Non-expert mainstream opinion from the Switz.

Thanks for your input everyone.

I guess the Eastern European folks might respond tonight because of the time difference.

From the Boston Globe:

Keeping alive these many lights of Christmas

It was the second time this Christmas season that NStar workers had paid a visit to Dominic Luberto's house in Jamaica Plain. The first time, they installed a special high-capacity electric transformer to supply enough juice for the sea of lights that were draped on his house and yard. This week, they came because he had blown out a cable.

Luberto's display now consumes almost $2,000 in electricity a month, Luberto said, 20 times the average bill. Every night, crowds gather in front of the house, bathed in the glare of more than 250,000 lights.

This week I had a contest with my family to see who could most closely guess the power consumption of our Christmas tree.  The guesses ranged from 30 watts (my guess) to 150 watts.  Using our Kill-A-Watt meter we determined it was just over 100 watts.

I measured my xmas tree KWH usage and was shocked to find that it consumed nearly double the KWH as my fridge!  However, the tree is only on for a few hours each night for one month, rather than run 24/7 like a fridge.

I'd like to go with the Phillips LED xams lights, but my wife likes white colored bulbs and she thinks the LED "white" are to cold and blue looking.  Not to mention, I'm not sure if the cost of the lights will offset the cost.

I almost convinced my sig other to get he LEDS too, but was turned down on account of the sterile look.  But if you think about it, these lights we are using are junk and need strands replaced every year.  Maybe part of the cost of the LEDS is a bit higher quality.  If these things last more than two years, it could be significantly worth it.
dbarberic, perhaps you have accounted for this, but when measuring your fridge, because power consumption is not constant and cycles on and off, you must measure the energy consumed (in kilowatt-hours) over a relatively long period of time such as a day, week, or month, then divide the total energy consumption by the number of hours in the measurement. This will give you average power (in watts or kilowatts), and even this will vary as a function of the ambient temperature of your kitchen, which is presumably a function of the season.

If you have xmas tree lights which flash or cycle, then you must use this technique there as well.  My lights are always on and consume constant power, so I can simply put my meter on "watts" and directly measure the power.

I got a few strings of the Multicolored LED lights this year (and some whites, too).. and they measure in the 4 to 6 watt/string range.  The colors are very rich, esp. the blue, and dim cleanly on a regular dimmer circuit (I usu don't keep them at full.. I'll have to use my Kill-a-watt and see how much they're drawing when they're 'tempered'..

The color of the white ones is strange (I call it moonlight), but can be made nicer with some warm highlights, like a lot of Gold and Green around them, or a few Reds, etc..

The fashion of making an extravagant show with lights to please others and signal one's status, taken over from corps, businesses such as hotels, bars, other public venues, who use such displays to attract customers, is catching on here in Switz.

Private individuals gain nothing except admiration, but as that is a precious and rare commodity....

The down-homey universalist message  - Santa! hearts! Ribbons! Mother Mary! Disco lights! Stars (as in astral bodies) is dispiriting.  

This year's child survey shows that the number one `best thing in the world' is to be a celebrity, see Daily Mail:


Glitter over substance?  Waste as a symbol of domination?  End of the world anomie and the descent into slavish sentimentalism?

Emblematic, for sure.

Those LED Christmas lights got a lot cheaper this year. I got a strand of 50 for $9.99 and they draw only 4.8 watts.
Can you read by them? Maybe you should just leave them on all year.
They're very deep blue. Quite beautiful. If I got a couple of white strands and ran them around the edge of the ceiling it would make for some nice indirect lighting for my home office.
Scarborough had been turning on Bush and even the Republican congress for some time - particularly over the fiscal irresponsibility.  Now he has just added more reasons.  I wonder where Republicans like him will turn to now, certainly not the Democrats.  
There is a pithy political expression, "throw X under the bus."

I think conservative Republicans will pick some point to throw Bush under the bus, and yet try to retain their same broad values.

That might fly, or the Republicans might decide they have to reposition themselves more broadly.  It's tough for them though, because as I understand it their funding predominately comes from the far right.

(On a baser level, I think MSNBC is positioning itself a bit, and trowing Bush under the bus as part of a ratings strategy.  That gives us back some missing perspectives in cable news ... but it is not necessarily high morality.)

(Actually I think the Bush-bus-throwing started in the run up to this year's elections.)
Anybody still wondering what will replace oil?

The New Coal Car

Watch out guys. The number of the "clean coal" articles is steadily growing. I expect the next year or two this will become the mainstream, and "clean coal" will become our next saver. The difference with hydrogen is that this will be built. And the word "clean" will be quickly forgotten after the first fuel shortage. Obviously this is the plan, and the brainwashing is already starting....

Levin: The most surprising thing about this typical NEWSWEEK article was the tiny production amts forecast (600,000 bpd in 2020). These amounts are nothing at all.
I always take such projections with a grain of salt. In 2020 we will be way down oil peak and we will be in the middle of coal liquification frenzy. The coal potential is not to be underestimated.

What the article prudently keeps silence on, is that none of the currently operating or planned CTL facilities will sequester CO2. Nada. CO2 sequesteration is the new hydrogen. The new high-tech boondoggle aimed to tranquilate public consciousness and let predetermined policies push ahead.

Well, here's a look back from 2026:


The problem with ecotopia's is that nobody really wants them. Nobody wants to go back to village and live off the land. And you don't want it, though most likely you don't know that yet.

What I expect to happen is neither one nor the other. The empire will certainly descend, granted. But people will fight to preserve their current convenient way of life till the last bit of carbon is burnt - this I can assure you. Hear that sound? This is the sound of inevitability.

I too am highly skeptical that CO2 sequestration is going to be practiced on a level any greater than a few merely token demo projects, mainly intended to show that it is technically possible.

I have several reasons for this belief:

  1. The option of pumping compressed CO2 deep into the ocean is of dubious technical/economic feasibility, even for power plants and CTL plants located near the coast.  For such facilities located far inland, this option becomes absurd. (Are we going to build huge CO2 pipelines from say Cincinnati, Ohio to the Jersey shore?)

  2. The feasibility of injecting CO2 into underground formations is also highly location-specific and cannot be practiced everywhere.

  3. It takes a huge amountl of valuable energy to separate, compress, and transport all that CO2.

  4. And probably the most important obstacle: it will hugely increase the capital cost of a power power or CTL project.

Note also that CO2 sequestration is only applicable to stationary combustion sources. So, as long as cars, trucks, trains, planes, and ships burn fossil fuel, this component of our total CO2 burden will remain totally untouched.

I expect to get a lot of flak for saying it, but I will say it anyway:

The notion that CO2 sequestration will ever become a practical reality is pure rubbish. CO2 sequestration will get nowhere, beyond the funding of academics, consultants, and other bottom feeders in the government pork trough.

There: now I feel better!

I have always felt that all the talk about "clean coal" is just PR to get over the obvious popular objection to making coal the next oil.  It will never happen, but I'm afraid "dirty coal" will.
"Dirty coal" is happening, and coal consumption worldwide will probably increase greatly in coming decades. This gloomy outlook leads me to believe that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are likely to rise substantially from current levels. Thus, though I'm not a doomer, I do think that abrupt climate change is fairly likely by the end of the century.

Even if by some chance the rich countries of the world were to use cleaner coal to generate electricity, it is hard to imagine poor countries such as China or India investing huge sums to clean up coal.

Though peak oil is the more immediate challenge, over time the increased use of coal (to replace oil and natural gas) suggests to me that one of our most likely "solutions" to peak oil will create problems worse than those of peak oil.

Nothing says that human societies must shift to using more coal, but our our social, political and cultural institutions (which govern our corporations) are such that the "quick fix" will get the nod over intelligent but initially expensive solutions such as houses that use very little energy.

Yes, coal it's going to be, and lots of it!

CO2 sequestration will be merely a good intention while we suck all the juice out of coal, tar sands, and perhaps eventually, oil shale.

I can't envision any human intervention re greenhouse gases that is not going to be trumped by the desperate need to get more of that juice.

CO2 sequestration has a nice ring to it, but it's just not going to  happen. We are like locusts gnawing down the last stalks of what's left.

The future does not look bright.

Coal Now Too Expensive To Put In Christmas Stockings

CHICAGO--With winter's onset driving the demand for surface coal to record-high levels, the mineral's cost is now beyond the reach of low- and middle-income Americans who wish to punish their naughty children. "Coal in one's stocking is meant to serve as an admonishment or warning, not as a dependable grade-B investment," said William Menchell, a commodities adviser for T. Rowe Price. "In today's market, children should only have their stockings stuffed with lumps of coal if they have been studious and obedient, and show an interest in long-term investments in the energy sector." For more affordable punitive options, analysts point to the relatively stagnant switch market, which could soon go the way of coal if demand increases for combustible wooden sticks

LOL! You mean they don't make switches out of switchgrass?
I don't know... does not look like that to me:

Limited Photosynthesis Efficiency: What is the reason?

Several have commented that the energy conversion efficiency of photosynthesis (at best <1%), is easily exceeded by human technology such as photovoltaics (at worst >10% - an order of magnitude).

IMO, this raises a (very possibly naive) question: What are the evolutionary reasons for this limited efficiency? Is it something in path dependency? Or is it because organisms with higher photosynthesis efficiency were not the fittest over time? Did more efficient organisms continually push ecosystems far enough that lagged effects associated with some other boundary condition completely removed them and their genes compared to less efficient organisms?

In part, I am wondering what the long term consequences of humans developing more efficient alternative energy sources will be. Are there lessons in the evolutionary history of life on this earth with respect to energy transformation that we are missing? Someone somewhere has likely pondered this question but I admit to not looking in the literature as yet, not knowing even where to begin.

Einstein said something to the effect that it takes a higher order of thinking to get out of a mess than that which created the mess. In creating the mess, is human intelligence the limiting resource that propels us the same dead end?

Nature is not really all that efficient, as engineers judge such things.  As Stephen Jay Gould likes to point out, evolution doesn't produce designs that are good; it produces designs that are good enough.  

Indeed, many see this as a strike against so-called "intelligent design."  If there were intelligence involved, the designs would be a lot better.  ;-)

There are trees that live for 5000 years, while others grow to be 300-400 feet tall. There are algae that can completely suffocate aquatic systems from time to time. That's all the efficiency in photosynthesis that the system can deal with.

It's more checks and balances than an inabilty to improve. Which contradicts Stephen Jay Gould. Nothing to do with good enough. Nice career, but way off the mark.

If there is a cleverness in nature, it's that it doesn't allow for forests made up of only 5 mile high trees, or oceans filled with only 110% efficiently synthesizing algae. For every foot in extra height, the tree pays somewhere else, like really tall people have a lot of back problems.

Organisms as we know them involve in a medium that is not of their design, they wouldn't live, and/or have a chance of survival, it it weren't for other species. Trees don't feed on dead trees and algae are not cannibals either.

There is this shortlived illusion that there is a species that can overcome the checka and balances. Shortlived is the key word. Killing your own medium while chasing some kind of efficiency makes you a failed species. Should have thought of systems theory. Next!

If there were intelligence involved, the designs would be a lot better.  ;-)

Designed for what though?

Regardless whether they were evolved or designed (or both), I think most plants do what they do pretty well.  Its what WE want them to do that they dont' quite measure up, but then who says the plants ever cared what a bunch of monkeys needed out of them.  Plants seem content to grow and cover the ground, and in that vein they do it very well, and in a very timely manner (from a geological point of view).

If anything, plants might be the very model of efficiency...  They get their job done on as little energy as possible.  Where as us humans seem to find ever more creative and energy intensive ways to accomplish things.

is there a motorcycle that will beat me and my bicycle at energy efficiency, at the same speed?

my brief examination of this resulted in the following conclusion: at their rate of output, animals are as efficient as it gets.  the strength of engines is that they condense much more labor (and energy expenditure) into a shorter period of time.

i can ride my bike at approx. 650 mpg, but I can't ride 650 mpd (d being day).

I have always wanted to build a faired recumbernt bicycle with a 0.5 Hp 4 stroke engine. Aluminium frame, blown clear plastic fairings, would only weigh 20KG total.

It should be good for 300MPG+ 30mph max.

Problems are crosswinds and lorries!

Also in the u.k. it would not be street legal. It would be taxable as a moped but then all safety laws would tip the design across the 50Kg mark which is way too heavy.
(and dangerously close to the ground)

I dream of utopia!


Also it would be rediculously cheap to manufacture - not much more than a good quality bicycle.
Thanks for the link. I'll take a closer look tonight. What is interesting is that these designs dolook heaftier, safer and more street legal than what I have in mind.

I'm into cycling and am always amazed at the weights of new bikes - 8kg to move a 75KG person! Transport will move this way one day. Already Loremo AG car is 450KG (2008) production.

Actually, there may be.  InfinitePossibilities made a semi-convincing case of this a few days ago for an electric bike.  I had to put up with a good deal of personal abuse to follow it.  If you look at things strictly on energy expenditure terms, the electric bike may use less energy to cover the same distance.   E.g. if you were to pay for the food needed to transport yourself vs. the electricity needed to transport you by electric bike, it may be cheaper to pay for the electricity.

A better question might be "Is there a motor vehicle that will beat me and my bicycle at energy efficiency, at the same speed, given that I need the exercise anyway."  In that case, needing the exercise means that the energy you expend actually costs nothing.  If you didn't expend that energy for biking, you'd either impair your health or burn the energy doing some other exercise (for many people, on an electric-powered treadmill).

Oh right, I forget that.  EP challenged me right away with electric bikes, and I came to the conclusion that he was correct:


Reading that again though, "At the 8 and 32 Wh/mi extremes, the gallon would drive an electric bicycle between 336 and 1342 miles."

I made the comment "It's interesting that 684 is right in there between 336 and 1342. Maybe that reinforces the similarity in efficiency of human and mechanical consumption."

I guess it depends on how many bikes are hitting the low end (8 Wh/mi).

Many electric bicycle designs require pedaling.  The motor control is like a "matching grant": the harder you pedal, the more it helps.  Thus you get both moderate exercise and fairly easy transportation.  Moreover, because the motor only needs to provide about a half of the total power, it and the battery can be made smaller, and the whole package is thus significantly lighter (and/or has a much longer range) than the models that don't need pedaling.

The battery pack on my e-bike is 24V, 6AH, thus 144 WH (NiMH, 8 pounds).  The range is about 20-30 miles, depending one how hilly the route and how often I turn the motor assistance off on level stretches.  That's about 5-7 WH/mile.

That said, the achilles heel of electric bikes is same as electric cars: the batteries.  The battery pack on my e-bike costs about $300 and given how many times a year I manage to use it (about once a week on the average) if it lasts 6 years that's about $1 per use - not much different from the cost of gasoline for a small car doing the same route.  The battery cost reflects embedded energy in its manufacturing. Best hopes for advances in battery (or ultracapacitor) technology!

i wondered if anyone was going to mention source-to-wheels efficiency today.  guess not.  bicycles might win if we shift the goalposts in that direction.  and of course, bicycles run on a variety of feedstocks.
Hello Odograph,

Feedstocks for bicycles--interesting idea!  I was thinking about how the Chinese used sails on their wheelbarrows to increase movement efficiency and then I started to get more wild &crazy ideas!

We all know that windsurfers, ice-sailskaters, and rubber-tired desert sailskaters can go incredibly fast.  I believe the topspeed is over 100mph for some brave ice-sailskater!

Now imagine my spiderweb railbike rider concept harnessing a sail or kite to rapidly speed down the tracks.  The very little rolling resistance of steel-wheel on steel rail is ideal for harnessing windpower, and the wheel lips or ridge is equivalent to the keel on a sailing ship to oppose the windforce, or similarly equivalent to the cutting edge of a sailskater.

If properly designed, could a webrider attain 60mph on a railbike on a spiderwebtrack?  Of course, during wind doldrums, pedaling along is always feasible.

If the spiderweb speed has to be limited for safety: could some kind of rotating sail harvest the excess wind energy and electrically transfer it to the spidergrid which is running directly underneath the speeding railbike?  

Comments from engineers?

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

More info and links at bottom of this thread: topspeed 143 mph over a measured mile wayback in 1938!

Windsurfing or sailing your direction is determined largely by the wind.  You can tack into the wind by changing direction often. How would you do that on a track?  Even if you had a rotating sail or turbine you could not go into the wind without gearing down to get more force.  So you would be limited greatly both in speed and direction.  You would be much better off with turbines producing electricity charging light vehicles and not limit yourself to the rail system or carrying the sail/turbine with the vehicle.  It works well on ships because they have the whole ocean with lots of wind.

Go sailing it is fun.


Hello Oilrig Medic,

Thxs for responding.  Yep, you got me there: never have been on a sailboat--maybe living in a huge desert has a lot to do with that--LOL!  I admit total ignorance as to proper sailing techniques.

RE: Electric Bike Challenge

Of course, you would still be eating those meals on the day that you are riding your electric bike, and probably not eating a lot less.  Even if the argument is supposed to be academic, that fact pulls it apart for me.

Every time I go through the process of considering an electric vehicle for my lifestyle, I whittle the thing down from a car, to a golf cart, to a Motorbike, scooter and Bike.. and conclude that if I can do it on any bike, I can probably do it on a regular bike.

I am convinced though that nature will eventually be GOOD enough to totally wipe us off the globe or severely diminsh our capacity to rape her.

As we ramp up coal production we will ravage all the mountain tops in the Smokies and show just have GOOD we are at destroying a planet.

Instead of it being GOOD? Just not GOOD ENOUGH for this destructive , consumeristic society we have become.

Good is not good enough. We want opulence beyond measure. Glitter beyond belief. Trash way off the map.  

God help us. (God watches, wonders and stands outside the Church door laughing..for 2 minutes out the doors the erstwhile members are giving you  the finger, cussing for driving too slow, and the Sign of the Fish you notice on the bumper as they swing around passing you at the crest of a hill...their little plastic Jesus bobbing on the dash ...yes we are them. The ugly Amurkans.) How in hell did we ever come to this, this path to perdition?

What did it take really? From the 60s/70s to the turn of the century. We did it right smart fast too. From the dreamtime to the endtimes. Not enough to destroy the land but we have to work at killing all the fish in the f**king ocean!!  

Merry Christmas all.
2007 and chaos comes. What else did we expect?

Yeh, right. Intelligent design and all that. Maybe with the rest of the universe, but not with man. Nature is intelligent in the sense that, unless screwed over by man, has enough  of the right kind of diversity to provide checks and balances so, that at least the species level, it ensures survival.  

The human species is checked only in the sense that it pretty much destroys everything in its path and then destroys itself in the process.  There are some examples that collectively took corrective action in time to save themselves, but these examples are few and far between.  Japan is considered a great success story in terms of preseerving and rebuilding its forest. But to what extent did they just transfer the problem to other countries. Same thing goes for the U.S.  We stop clear cutting but it just gets transferred to South America or elsewhere.

If there is a God, he/she/it has decided to pretty much let us go down the tubes on our own.  

"Nature is not really all that efficient, as engineers judge such things. "

As engineers judge such things. As was mentioned further down the line, that 1-2% is what's left over and stored as structure, as "biomass", once the plant takes what it needs from its photosynthate for living - hey, plants gotta eat, too. Plant cells metabolize carbohydrate exactly the way animals do, and at night, naturally, are net producers of CO2. And underground parts need to metabolize as well, and are "subsidized" by the green bits.

As mentioned by LevinK, actual capture of light energy into making carbohydrate is an order of magnitude higher. But we just care about the leftovers, what we ecologists call "Net Primary Productivity".

Part of the "problem" is that in order to take in CO2, you are also losing water through the same little holes in the leaf (stomata). Cacti get around this in a most ingenious fashion - look up CAM photosynthesis some time...

Anyway, on a hot sunny day, you need to close your stomata to save water or you wilt, but then the CO2 can't get in, and so limited photosynthesis! It's a real balancing act...

- sgage

First, in regards to the 15% v. 1% debate, an enormous amount of energy is consumed to create a solar energy device.  Over its lifetime, it will at best produce 2 to 3x what was needed to create it.  All of the energy captured by a plant is essentially free.  In this sense, a plant captures much more net energy than a solar panel.

second, in regards to

Nature is not really all that efficient

Doesn't it sort of depend on how you look at it.

A cardiologist once told me in medical school that the human heart is not very efficient bc/ it only pumps out 60% of its volume on each beat.  This struck me as a really strange way to percieve it.  The human heart typically beats 60 to 100 beats per minute for 50 to 70 years before showing any signs of dysfunction.  That's about 100,000 times a day, 36 million times a year and 2.5 billion times in a lifetime.  Is there any human mechanical device that can do it's job 2.5 billion times without any significant maintenance?

Even so, the human body is definitely designed to ultimately fail.  People have asked the question of why the human body starts failing in middle age (arthritis, heart disease, etc.).  Degenerative arthritis is so universal, that it is best thought of as a part of normal aging rather than as pathology. The simple answer is that evolution (or God) never intended for most of us to live past 50 to 70 years.  The fact is, no matter how well you eat, no matter how much you exercise, your body is desinged to fail in 50 to 70 years.  There are, of course, exceptions, but this senescence is exactly what nature intended.
Once an organism has procreated, it is best for the species that it die so that it doesn't compete with the next generation for resources.  A squirrel is more likely to die bc/ it got outcompeted for acorns by other squirrels than it is to get eaten by a hawk.  

well back in the hunting and gathering days we lived to the 40's on average.
Life expectancy can be misleading.  Often, there's a high infant mortality rate that skews the average.  If you reach adulthood, you have a fair chance of living past 40.

There has been some fascinating research done on lifespan lately.  The way I see it, a long lifespan is sort of like an extended warranty.  If you know you are going to be still driving your car in 10 years, you might want to buy an extended warranty.  If you know you are going to sell it in two years, why bother?  

It's the same with lifespan.  Nature can protect cells from the damage that results in aging.  Some species are very long-lived (turtles, for example).  But there's little selective pressure for this among animals that are likely to die in a few years anyway (usually due to predation).  Why waste the energy it takes to protects against cell damage, when it would be better used to reproduce?

Some scientists believe that some species are essentially immortal (though of course, it's hard to tell, because scientists are not).  There's a long-running study of a species of turtles up in Michigan, and they've found that the turtles don't seem to die of old age.  They get flattened by cars.  They do get cancer and other diseases...but old ones are not more vulnerable than young ones.  And the females get more and more fertile each year; they don't suffer menopause as human females do.  

Birds are also extremely long-lived.  A hummingbird can live 12 years, while the similarly-sized mouse lives about a year.  Parrots have been known to live as long as humans (60-80 years).  

Why?  Lack of predation.  Birds, if they survive fledging, are likely to live a long time because they can fly.  Turtles have their shells, and until the arrival of humans and their automobiles, were pretty much immune to predation.  They have had selective pressure for the extended warranty.

As I recall from a college history class, preindustrial types that survived into adulthood usually died from infection following accidents or from "consumption" in their forties or fifties. Sulfa drugs and penicillin enabled us to survive those sorts of things and live long enough to get cancer.
That's not hunter-gatherers, though.  Those  diseases are the result of the farming lifestyle.  I.e., overcrowding and malnutrition.

Hunter-gatherers often lived very long, healthy lives.  They do tend to die of violence a lot, though.  

The fact that female menopause exists among humans suggests that there has been some selective pressure toward long life.  (And we are pretty long-lived for our size.)  Chimpanzees do not have menopause, and male chimps much prefer older females.  The older the better.  The exact opposite of the usual preference of human males.  

So why do human females go through menopause?  Perhaps because human children have such a long period of dependency.  At age 40 or 50, it becomes a better choice to help your children raise kids than to have more of your own, since you may not survive long enough to raise a new baby.

Interestingly, few other species go through menopause, but the ones that do have rich social lives (gorillas and whales).

Of course there is a great deal of variation depending on region, but I think most hunter-gatherers who survived into adulthood died of disease from drinking contaminated water or sometimes from infections disease from other sources, such as maleria.

An examination of the bones of prehistoric humans finds that those over age forty were few and far between.

On the other hand, in societies such as ancient Rome under the "good" emperors, if you lived past age twenty-five, you had a good chance to make it past sixty years old, especially if you were in the upper classes and did not drink too much wine stored in lead-lined jars.

I think that at 1900 in the US,  you had nearly the exact same chance of making it to 70 as you do today,  (for those I think who made it to 40).  

However,  if you include for those who are about to be born,  it is much better today.

Knocking down childhood causes is really the only huge difference.



The lesson: there is such a thing as "enough".
Photosynthesis is "efficient" at 1% only from a biofuels point of view. Meaning that only 1% of the sunlight goes into synthesis of new biomass.

From biological point of view the efficiency is much higher (think in the 10-20% from memory). Most of the acquired sunlight energy though is used internally by the plants for their metabolism.

Not a biological expert but this is what I recall from my classes :)

What counts in natural selection is not how much biomass a plant can capture but how well it can compete with other plants.  What works in competition depends on the conditions -- a forest is not the same as a meadow.  A common way to compete, especially in forests, is to grow taller than competitors and thus capture the sunshine while shading the competitors.  There are energy costs to that.  Another way to compete is to become shade tolerant: plants that grow on the forest floor grow more slowly, but do not have to try and grow as tall.  Every niche gets filled.

Re: efficiency of PV panels, one needs to include the EROI into the calculation.  A 40% efficient high-tech panel that costs more energy to make than it will ever capture is great technology for spaceships but not as an energy source for society as a whole.

Of the light that falls on the surface of the earth, plants can't use roughly 50% for photosynthesis (= ultraviolet, infrared). 8% is reflected by, 3% passes through mature foliage.
In the leaves, the light energy is absorbed by various pigments; 3,9% is absorbed by chlorophyl; after using 1,6% for respiration, that converts it to chemical energy, worth 2,3% of the original light energy.

(Notice, however, that all energy that is not converted to chemical energy probably is converted to heat in one way or another, thereby sustaining the necessary conditions for the plant to live.)

Furthermore: plants evolve to do a lot more than just grow.  They have to resist being eaten or infected with diseases, survive droughts and hurricanes, and reproduce.  The resulting "design" is a compromise - and an evidently successful one.
From "Energy and Environment" by Ristinen and Kraushaar:

Photosynthesis is limited to the red end of the spectrum, so only 25% of absorbed light can be utilized. And at best only 70% of light can be absorbed. So right off the bat we are down to about 18%.

The molecular process of photon utilization itself appears to be only 35% efficient, so that results in an ideal case efficiency of about 6%. Respiration looks to consume about 30% of the glucose production, so that leaves about 4% as biomass.

In fact, in a table in that book, they state that this is what is achieved in a "polluted stream" (algae growth I would assume) whereas an "Iowa cornfield" is quoted at a conversion efficiency of 1.5%.

Evidently there are various other limiting factors which will usually reduce the efficiency below the max of about 4-6%, perhaps nutrient availability or maybe low concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Using algae and waste streams of CO2, an efficiency in the 5-6% range was reported:


IMO, this raises a (very possibly naive) question: What are the evolutionary reasons for this limited efficiency?

Could be that plants are wasteful gluttons...

But I think it is a lesson that efficiency is not the issue, being in harmony with your environment and sustainability is.


(to the first question)  

"Inefficiency" and redundancy are two key characteristics of ecological sustainability. That's why our super-specialized, complex, "efficient" society is not going to fare well on the energy downslope.
Where some see inefficiency, others see acquiring just as much of resources from the environment as not to damage it in the longer term.
I agree with everything except that the use of the word "complex" I think is not warranted for every or most systems of modern society.  We have simplified many for the sake of understandability and 'efficiency'.  Walmart's product delivery system is not complex in its physical manifestation (it may be somewhat in its informational aspects), it is real simple compared to networks of interdependent suppliers, distributors and merchants of centuries past.   Seperated gigantic office parks, housing subdivisions and shopping malls are not complex compared to the chaotic close-knit organic mix of uses that comprise a traditional town, it makes the modeling of transportation demand easier.  

2006: Asia's annus horribilis - Democracy: A coup in Thailand, an embattled government in Manila, unhappiness in Seoul; 2006 could be called an annus horribilis in Asia. Why are governments so fragile?

Their economies are booming.  Democracy...not so much.

Certainly, globalization and the inequities it engenders is one reason that it's harder to manage free, open societies. For starters, GDP growth is increasingly a poor measure of prosperity in Asia because the bulk of the rewards now go to the richest sectors of society--breaking a paradigm that endured through the mid-1990s in which rising economies lifted all boats. And market liberalizations have rendered leaders less able to placate restive have-nots with pork, jobs and subsidies. "Every leader in the region feels this challenge," says Chu Yun-han, a professor of political science at National Taiwan University. The forces of economic globalization are not very kind to democracies, especially young democracies. This is our real dilemma today."

...Still, the country once lauded as a model for achieving balanced growth in Asia--Thailand--experienced a stunning political setback in 2006. Last Sept. 19, firebrand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was toppled in a bloodless coup hatched by his own Army chief. Until his ouster he ranked among Asia's most popular leaders. His party had dominated three previous elections on the strength of his campaign to boost rural investment and enrich Thailand's poor.

According to the IMF, Thaksin was the sole Asian leader to successfully narrow his country's rich-poor divide in the past decade, an achievement that made him extremely popular with rural villagers--to the chagrin of the urban elite. City folk, who believed Thaksin abused his power, mounted mass demonstrations in Bangkok that set up the coup. "I'm very pessimistic about what's happening in Thailand," says Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. "There's been talk among the ruling elite about how Thailand cannot entrust its democracy to the rural masses because they are susceptible to pandering populism."

Oh darn,

Anyone know an example of a country with a functioning democracy?
It's probably just me, but I can't think of any off the bat.

I had already typed it, but deleted. too obvious. Which American would believe their elections were not rigged? Did we send Jimmy Carter?

Chavez fired everyone who didn't vote for him, I read here not so long ago.
Well, he has no need to do anything of the kind in order to get elected.

He fired thousands of oil guys who conspired with the US to get him out, that he did, those who had big salaries while their neighbors were starving. That was one-two years after he was first democratically elected. What prevented that ouster was the people who elected him in the first place, marching in the streets for weeks.

And are we all sad today because our gods friend the uppet Turkmen died? A risk to oil delivery? That guy was worse than Kim Yong-Il, but tell me, how much do y'all know about him? Oh, he was our friend....

Vatican City - but only a select few can vote. :-)
Another excellent article by Tom Whipple.  He emphasizes the liklihood that our major problem in the (near?) future will be that we can't get gasoline.  However that comes about, and he doesn't even mention the consquences of a major ME supply disruption, I agree that this will likely provide the "tipping point" that will trip economic collapse.  And in these days of instant electronic trading this could happen very rapidly.

The articles from Tom Whipple are essential reading for anyone trying to understand the concept and problems of Peak Oil.  I've "done my homework" on Peak Oil for a few years now, and I spend most of my time in other pursuits.  But I always read Whipple's latest article.

It's important to remember who he is speaking to.  Falls Church, VA is a chi-chi Washington suburb where a lot of the families of powerful people live.  They are being warned...

Concerning the interesting snippet on Saudi Armcos new 91 octane fuel, I have a few question for those in the refining knowledege area.

  1. How much cheaper is it to produce.?
  2. If it wasn't previously getting used as petrol, what was it getting used for (or is it just a case of it is refined on puprose to this level)?
  3. How does light/sweet  and  heavy/sour tie in with this product compared to the higher octane petrols?
  4. I've not seen this octane in the U.K. who makes cars that run on it?

Questions, questions!


 from Tehran Times art:
 "85% of cars in the kingdom should be able to run on the lower octane fuel."
 "The 91 RON fuel is easier to produce and requires fewer octane-boosting components, which are difficult to make with Saudi's mainly heavier, sour crudes."

Major oil users in a co-operative mood


OTTAWA -- As OPEC ministers were agreeing in Nigeria to another production cut, China last week hosted the first-ever summit of oil-importing nations, including the United States, with the stated goal of providing a counterbalance to the cartel's pricing power.
"Farmland as an Investment Asset"

This appears a tenuous article, and reminds me only too well of the late 70's press.  Reasons to believe over inflated land values can continue.  The only difference is that now there is a  recent runup in  onfarm prices, whereas prices were subdued in the late 70's. Will the commodity runup hold longer than 6 months?  Probably for the short term, but even with that, it's hard to believe these inflated land values will continue.  

Although  the interest rate financing structure of the land is  different, there was no look at the loan structure of capital improvemnet or machinery. And links in the article itself show recent annual increases in farmland values above what we saw in the seventies. Farmland rents are decreasing, whittling away  at the options for nonoperator owners.  Recall also that this piece is concerned with some of the best ag land in the country, not average or marginal land.        

How Plug-In Hybrids Will Save the Grid

The use of vehicles that run on electricity could be a boon to the ailing electrical grid.

Since utilities have built enough power plants to provide electricity when people are operating their air conditioners at full blast, they have excess generating capacity during off-peak hours. As a result, according to an upcoming report from the Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory (PNNL), a Department of Energy lab, there is enough excess generating capacity during the night and morning to allow more than 80 percent of today's vehicles to make the average daily commute solely using this electricity. If plug-in-hybrid or all-electric-car owners charge their vehicles at these times, the power needed for about 180 million cars could be provided simply by running these plants at full capacity.

This could be a boon to utilities, because they'd be able to sell more power without the added cost of building more plants. Ideally, this will translate into lower electricity prices, says Robert Pratt, a scientist at PNNL. It might also help utilities justify the added capital costs of building cleaner coal-burning plants, because they'll be able to recover their investment faster by "selling more electricity with the same set of iron, steel, and concrete," Pratt says.

Such a system could be further optimized by using smart chargers and other electronics. This system would include a charger that runs on a timer, charging cars only during off-peak hours. Researchers at PNNL are taking this a step further with smart chargers that use the Internet to gather information about electricity demand. Utilities could then temporarily turn off chargers in thousands of homes or businesses to keep the grid from crashing after a spike in demand.

The next step would be to add smart meters that would track electricity use in real time and allow utilities to charge more for power used during times of peak demand, and less at off-peak hours. Coupled with such a system, the PNNL smart charger could ensure that the plug-in batteries are charged only when the electricity is at its cheapest, saving consumers money.

I shouldn't really keep commenting on someone's fictional future (Nawida 2150: Q&A by John Michael Greer), but it is at times so uninformed - '...poppy resin can be had from merchants now and again, but it costs half the earth....'

I had one poppy grow in my garden about 4 years ago, and it was a novelty which was allowed to set seed. The next year, entire sections of the garden was poppies, and though an interesting and pretty plant, I made the mistake of letting them set seed again - I collected the seeds to eat, but a good number simply ended up in the ground. Since then, it has been a struggle to make sure that no more poppies grow. Poppies are some of the most adaptable and easily grown plants I have seen in my life, beating such previous winners as honeysuckle and blackberries in Virginia, though still in a tie with mint. (Note that I don't use Round-up at all - no plant can match that.)

The history of poppies as food stretches back thousands of years, and in a sense seem to predate agriculture in the normal sense - that is, poppies were cultivated before grains, at least around Lake Constance.

Just as 150 years before, before poppies and hemp were part of any well tended garden (Jefferson's or Washington's, for example), I am very certain that both plants, being extremely useful along with providing food (hemp seed bread is baked in Germany, though it isn't all that tasty in my opinion), will be cultivated - both are extremely tolerant of climate and marginal soils.

This is not a critique of trading - that some places will cultivate higher quality 'resin' is pretty much a given - but just the lack of a certain broadness in these scenarios.

This is one of the background debates here, actually - how broad a vision one should cultivate when attempting to peer into the future. No one encompasses everything, of course, but at times, like a cancer stricken teacher talking about how he doesn't earn enough to buy poppy resin, you wonder what he plants in his garden - or if he doesn't plant poppies, why not? All they need is some space and sunlight, and in his world, their high value would supplement his earnings, if nothing else.

We are all bounded by our own experiences, which we then think are universal.

"(Note that I don't use Round-up at all - no plant can match that.)"

Sure they can - that's why they invented RoundupReady(TM) Soy/Corn/Canola/whatever's-next.

Seriously, though, many weed species are rapidly developing Roundup resistance.

- sgage

My understanding is that Round-up resistance has more to do with dilution and timing - that is, a very high Round-up concentration will kill any plant, even the genetic marvels, designed more to ensure a profit stream for its 'owners,' than anything else.

I have no idea what sort of surprises natural selection will spring - I do know that GMO canola is essentially banned in the EU, as the modifications have already spread into wild populations, which wasn't supposed to happen.

Canola was formerly known as rapeseed. There's a reason for the name.EVERYONE KNEW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. They just don't care. Screw the natural world, screw public health, profits uber alles.
The term "canola" is a registered trademark of the Canadian Canola Association and refers to cultivars of oilseed rape that produce seed oils with less than 2% erucic acid (22:1) and meals with less than 30 mmol of aliphatic glucosinolates per gram. The development and subsequent release of the first canola-quality cultivars by plant breeding programs in Canada during the 1970s created a new, high-value oil and protein crop that has gained tremendous acceptance worldwide.

You mean I forgot the TM? This means doom upon my house for seven generations, right?

Or I could just call the plant Raps - and it is growing all around me in this area, its yellow petals adding some color during the shortest days of the year.

I think that Greer just wanted to describe the fictional scene regarding medical substances, and chose "poppy resin" as a fictional example that doesn't need to be taken so literally.

A science geek such as me gets hung up on such details, and that is a loss.  E.g., in the book The Lord Of The Flies I got hung up on the use of Piggy's stolen eyeglasses for starting fires, glasses he needed because he was nearsighted - but glasses to correct nearsightedness have negative diopter and cannot be used to concentrate sunlight to start a fire.

Certainly, this is fiction, and picking at nits (something his characters would be doing a fair amount of, though it is never mentioned), but my point was a broader one.

Such fiction is so narrow, and written to support a perspective, without actually being able to step much beyond what exists around us today. Poppies are uncommon today, so they will be uncommon in the future. They were very common before the age of oil, however, and a large number of people used them to relieve the pain of all kinds of problems. The same was true of things like alcohol, cannabis, etc.

If you wish to portray a human future, at least know the past.

Ursula Le Guin is much better at this, in my opinion, though she doesn't see doom, just people living.

For anyone that thinks the American MSM will scare the public into selling investments, cutting back on spending,etc. on the downslope, you have got to read this incredible hunk of BS by NEWSWEEK. If this is any indication, the post-peak period will be spun as a regular Disney World. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16241340/site/newsweek/?GT1=8816
Wouldn't it be great if all these hacks would move to Iraq - outside a tank and the green zone - to enjoy that booming economy up close and personal?
Hello TODers,

These guys are brave!  They stand inside the airfoil with skates to max out aerodynamics, then hit 75 mph on the ice.

Wiki link to iceboats:
Contemporary recreational ice boats were originated around 1937. The Detroit News sponsored a competition for the best ice boat design, which became the International DN. Modern designs move as much as five times the wind speed and often achieve 100 km/h (60 mph) such as the such as the modern DN class boat, while the sleek Skeeters and older large stern steer iceboats can exceed 170 km/h (100 mph). Rumored, but unconfirmed, top speed of an iceboat is 150 mph. The stern-steerer "Debutaunte," currently being rebuilt, was holder of the official land speed record for any vehicle when she was timed over a measured mile at 143 miles per hour on the ice of Lake Winnebago WI in 1938.

Imagine something like this railbike with an added airfoil sail that also doubles as a photovoltaic generator.

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

I just watched What if: The Oil Runs Out on the Science Channe. It is supposed to take place in Minneapolis and ANWR in 2016. I thought it was really great. No stupid cornucopians saying we still have 30 years before the peak. Though I do think 2016 was a bit optimistic.

At any rate, they were drilling in ANWR and found 16 feet of oil bearing rock instead of the 200 they were expecting. And this line, or pretty close to it anyway, was spoken by the narrator: "People don't realize how modest the contribution of ANWR would be under the most optimistic of circumstances."

It will be on later in the morning and tomorrow afternoon at 2PM Eastern time and again at 2PM Saturday.

Matt Simmons had a large part in the narration also.

Ron Pattterson