Monday Open Thread...

because there's a lot to talk about from the weekend...
Assuming that we go to making our own gasoline and diesel instead of importing it, what are the various ways to do it, what do they cost, and what are the bottlenecks?
  1. Wind to electrolysis to methanol, storing some hydrogen for when the wind doesn't blow for a week.
  2. Coal to syngas to methanol, storing some syngas for peaking power through turbines.

Steel production.
Coke production.
Iron ore production.
Tube and sheet production.
Pump and valve production.
Aluminum production.
Bauxite production.
Cement production.
Coal production.
Electricity production.
Manufacturing tool time.
Construction equipment and crane time.

I'm assuming that there is a limit on cheap oil shale, cheap coal gas, cheap oil, and cheap biomass. Though, we could always strip mine the landfills for paper and wood...

What do you mean by "cheap." Some numbers are needed for clarification. In general, there are NO "cheap" alternatives to oil. None. Zip. Nada. That is the problem.

Worse, there are no "cheap" technologies on the horizon.

Plenty of things work: nuclear, windmills, biomass, etc., but none of them are cheap. Something else I have found is that the closer you get to a technology and the more you get into the nuts and bolts of implementation, the more expensive it gets. For example, I am an enthusiast for windmills, but to actually put in my own wind turbine, . . . holy smokes, that is a huge investment. And trust me, they are prone to trouble. They break--especially towers that are engineered for 100 knot winds and then you get a 115 knot straight-line gust. The best ones are horribly expensive and of course require a huge monetary investment in batteries if you want energy independence (as opposed to feeding juice back into the grid). And windmills wear out. Nevertheless I love windmills and am now working on a somewhat deranged idea involving six-volt bicycle generators driven directly by big model-airplane propellors, and six-volt batteries wired in banks to provide twelve volts. However, I buy nothing new and salvage junk; it is just a fun project and not scalable.

One thing to look at in addition to cheapness is abundance. There is a LOT of wind, a LOT of coal, a LOT of biomass, and immense quantities of nuclear energy that can be produced if we go to breeder reactors. But I want to emphasize that none of these are cheap and easy to develop. However, the nuclear potential is way, way more than all the others combined, and the technology is on the shelf.

Also, you may hear a lot about EROI; I'd take some of these comments with a bucket of salt. For example, you can mine coal with a lot of capital and energy, as do Americans, or you mine it as the Chinese do, with lots of labor and little fossil fuel. Resources such as shale and tar sands can be developed with cheap labor (slaves, forced-labor from convicts, etc.) but in the U.S. and Canada we use lots and lots of fossil fuels for the machinery we use to mine these.

Where labor is expensive, much fossil fuel and capital will be used in the production of energy. Where labor is dirt cheap, e.g. in hell-holes such as Haiti, people gather what little wood or brush there is and make it into charcoal or burn it directly for cooking fuel, and in these cases very little fossil fuel is needed, except perhaps to grow some of the food to feed the people. In Haiti and other desperately poor societies, however, many people cannot afford, for example, artificial fertilizers for their meager gardens or fuel for irrigation pumps (or anything else, for that matter).

There are no easy answers.

Saw a documentary on wave technology.  Any hope there? The assertion was that it is cheaper than any of the other alternative energy sources.  In addition, it is predictable: we can predict the output days in advance.
More importantly, it is out of synch with wind. Wave power is last week's wind power from some place out in the ocean. It is also intermittant, but in a different way.
We should try to avoid posting junk science on TOD.
Common scientific opinion is that wind makes waves.
No wind, no waves. There is no 1 week delay. It's fairly immediate. Even for a tsunami which has much longer wavelength, the effect is felt in hours not weeks.

For more info, look here at the bottom picture

The link supplied is over simplified with regard to waves, and more importantly swell propagation, however even this link includes the phrase:-

"But even when you feel no wind at all, you may encounter large swells created by distant storms."

When considering wave power, it is necessary to differentiate between:-
Wind generated waves - can be described as the waves created by wind blowing at that place and time.
Swell waves -  waves that are generated elsewhere and have travelled from their place of origin.

The comment with reference to the short time interval before the effects of a tsunami are felt is misleading.  Wave speed is directly related to wavelength, waves due to seismic disturbance typically have wavelengths measured in hundreds of kilometers as opposed to tens / hundreds of metres for normal swell.  The effects of distance storms can be felt many days after the storm in distance locations.

I am aware of 2 companies with differing approaches to wave power, with systems approaching commercial reality.

It will be interesting to watch thier progress as they attempt to scale up.


Thank You, Sir. Please reply more often. We have no wave experts. But I can see you will do just fine until we do. (That was a joke).
Aha!  Something that I know a bit about.

I am an Alumni of Edinburgh University, and I spent the good part of 3 years studying/working in a building which housed Europe's largest wave tank at the time.  The tank belonged to the University's Mechanical Engineering Departments "Wave Power Group" which was set up in the 70s during the Oil Crisis.

The group was headed by a guy called Stephen Salter who is now a professor there.

To quote the Wikipedia section on the Wave Power page:

"His invention, Salter's Edinburgh Duck, continues to be the machine against which all others are measured. In small scale controlled tests, the Duck's curved cam-like body can stop 90% of wave motion and can convert 90% of that to electricity."

This amazing device was also seen as a major savour of coastal regions that get serious problems of erosion from wild seas.

Unfortunately by the time the design got recoginition, politics overtook it and the 'Duck' was totally discredited.

"According to sworn testimony before the House of Parliament, The UK Wave Energy program was shuttered on March 19, 1982 in a closed meeting, the details of which remain secret. The members of the meeting were recruited largely from the nuclear and fossil fuels industries, and the wave programme manager, Clive Grove-Palmer, was excluded."

The UK Nuclear industry effectively killed it. The nail in the coffin was the (some consider deliberate) miscalculation of the duck's efficiency by an 'independent' analyst that meant the figure was out by a factor of 10.

I still hold great hope for the resurrection of Salter's Duck, and I hope that Stephen Salter gets the recognition he deserves within his lifetime.

Excuse me, but what you have posted is an urban myth, one that resembles using seawater in place of gasoline.

All this nonsense about technologies being "suppressed" gets aired on the Internet, but it is all nonsense, from the Pogue carburettor on.

Do you think the Japanese or Chinese would not instantly glom onto some technology that actually worked?

Sorry, but this is no urban myth (if you have evidence otherwise, you need to post a reference to it).

The whole episode with Salter's Duck occurred while I was studying in the very same building where they developed the Duck itself. My best mate at the time was a Mech. Eng. student and everyone knew what had happened to the Duck.  We all felt very frustrated that it seemed hopeless to save the project.

Lancaster Polytechnic did a trial of one tenth-sized prototypes in Loch Ness (The science TV program "Tomorrow's World" did a piece on it at the time) that proved that it was very effective at harnessing wave power, but that was just before the deliberate miscalculation of it's efficiency killed the project.

Recently, FujitaResearch released a report which said that:

"the 'Salter Duck' can produce electricity for less than $US0.05 per kWh"

I'm just glad that Stephen has stuck to his beliefs and carried on working on wave energy. I'm sure he will be rewarded for it eventually.

Please post a link to the patent.
Thank you.
try this one:
(I have not studied it)
United States Patent       4,300,871
Laithwaite ,   et al.     November 17, 1981
Method of, and apparatus for, extracting energy from waves


In a method of, and apparatus for, extracting energy from waves on a liquid, the precession of a gyroscope in response to angular motion of a member in response to waves performs useful work by operating a hydraulic pump. Advantageously, pairs of gyroscopes having their rotors spinning in opposite directions are mounted in the member so as to balance the output torques of the gyroscopes.
Inventors:     Laithwaite; Eric R. (c/o United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, 11 Charles II St., London SW1Y 4QP, GB2); Salter; Stephen H. (c/o United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, 11 Charles II St., London SW1Y 4QP, GB2)
Appl. No.:     107366
Filed:     December 26, 1979

Thanks, Step Back.

Two things to note about this patent:

  1. The date - not that it's boxing day (which is odd in itself), but this was right in Oil crisis territory (1979)
  2. Both the inventors have an addres co the UK Atomic Energy Authority

Now Don, please post a link to the article which details why this is an Urban Myth.
Thanks for link to patent.

Of course the device will work in an indoor tank with carefully controlled wind velocities.

Do you have the faintest idea what waves driven by gale force winds look like?

I can imagine it would be a pretty big wave.

But the Mech. Eng guys knew exactly what this kind of wave was like and did many experiments (using the wave tank, of course) that proved the survivability and efficiency of the Duck (pdf warning).  Now make sure your read it this time.

Thanks for link to patent.

I did not find "the" patent.
Just did a quicky search for the named inventor.
There were more than one that matched for Stephen S...

go to
pick patent search
pick advanced search
use the "in/" specifier to formulate a boolean search that includes the named inventor

also, the Wikipedia "Wave Power" page has a reference to the original 1976 patent for the Duck credited to just Stephen Salter.
It is hard for Don to prove that something doesn't exist. You claim that a 1982 invention would have become operational if it hadn't been for a government/nuclear industry plot to eliminate it.

Stepback's link to a patent, in Salter's own name, doesn't provide much evidence either way. The 20+ year history of wave derived energy has not produced any commercially viable products. I don't believe this is because the only viable technology was invented, then misappropriated.  

I would like to see Don provide more subsatantive documentation of his claims. However, in my mind, this one still should be filed under urban myth.

Thank you.
As Jack said: "I would like to see Don provide more subsatantive documentation of his claims"

You've been very negative in this thread without providing even one link to something that discredits the Duck. So how about it? Can you actually point us to some credible evidence that this is snakeoil?

While you are away looking, here are some other articles to keep the others amused while they wait (and wait, and wait...)

Science News article "Oceans of Electricity"
"Stephen Salter of the University of Edinburgh and other researchers, mainly in the United Kingdom, devoted about a decade to the goal of building large-scale, 2,000-megawatt wave-energy plants. The collapse of that program--whether because of inadequate support or overly ambitious goals--left wave energy with a credibility problem and scared off investors. Now, wave energy is riding a new surge."

a little page at with cute animated GIFS of the Duck

Australia's Research Institute for Sustainable Power's page on wave power:
"The Salter Duck is able to produce energy extremely efficiently, however its development was stalled during the 1980s due to a miscalculation in the cost of energy production by a factor of 10 and it has only been in recent years when the technology was reassessed and the error identified."

This article from Glasgow's Strathclyde University  actually criticises the Duck (i'm trying to help you out here, Don):
"Due to the complicated design it is expected that it will take more years of development and is reckoned to be a `next generation' device." (Next generation, eh?  Obviously years ahead of it's time!)

[The US DoE's "Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy"s web page on wave power] says:
"Sophisticated mechanisms--like the Salter Duck--use the bobbing motion of the waves to power a pump that creates electricity." (hmmmm.  Sophisticated snakeoil!)

Now, American institutions are much more capable of passing snakeoil, so this October 2005 White Paper from MIT is probably less believable :) (pdf warning).  Here's a more complex quote:
"One of the earliest innovations is the design by Professor Stephen Salter of the U. of Edinburgh. It consists of a long line of two-dimensional cams hinged on a horizontal axis near the sea surface and parallel to the shore. The cross-section resembles a tear-drop with a pointed beak facing the sea and a circular rear facing the shore. The diameter is large enough so that little energy is transmitted past the cams. Energy is extracted from the rolling motion of the cam. By adjusting the energy absorption rate optimally, the cam radiates waves that are equal in ampliutde but opposite in phase with the waves reflected by the mere presence of the cam. Hence all the incident wave energy can in principle be removed. There are two criteria for complete (ideal) absorption: (i) the cam motion must be resonated by the incident waves, and (ii) the power extraction rate must be equal to the rate of radiation damping carried by the radiated waves due to the cam motion. Because of its geometry, the device is widely known as Salter's Duck."

Oh, and here's the Wave Power Group's official homepage at Edinburgh University (one of the UK's oldest Universities with a great tradition in snakeoil!)

It's 3am here now, so I better get to bed. I'll check back in the morning to see what you have come up with.

Man!  Do you guys not even read the web-pages that people post references to?  Obviously not.

Since you are too lazy to do it yourself, here is a paragraph from the Fujita Research Corporation Report that I posted a link to above:

"The 'Salter Duck' was developed in the 1970s by Professor Stephen Salter at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland (email and generates electricity by bobbing up and down with the waves. Although it can produce energy extremely efficiently it was effectively killed off in the mid 1980s when a European Union report miscalculated the cost of the electricity it produced by a factor of 10. In the last few years, the error has been realised, and interest in the Duck is becoming intense."

Would you like to tell the Fujita Corporation that they are blowing smoke out their asses?

For god's sake look at the patent!  Why would the address of two Edinburgh University researchers be filed as the "UK Atomic Energy Agency".  Do you not think that the UKAEA might have wanted to 'field calls' from prospective clients?  Maybe you guys think they just wanted to offer Stephen Salter a free forwarding service!

Now whether the miscalculation was deliberate or just an act of stupidity, the reality is that the European Union report 'stuck' enough to kill the project at the time.

As I said above, I just hope Stephen gets the recognition he deserves.

I have trouble just reading all of the comments. I think it is important to keep all crucial components of the argument withn the comments and provide links for support. I don't think it is fair to say someone else has to read 10 linked documents before they are allowed to respond to a comment.
Sorry Jack, but that is a falacious and specious arguement at best. Basically, you are saying "I'm to lazy to look at your evidence," and that is not an acceptable arguement.

Don made claims against the aforementioned invention. It has been proven to exist, and DuncanK backed up his claims adequately.  

No you're wrong and I can prove it. It's at the attached site! When you finish reading it all, do write back.

Salter Duck has too many parts to be economical. The Oscillating Collumn system needs only 2 check valves per collumn and some tubing going to a simple turbine-generator.
I did not say that the Duck was perfect, only that it was theoretically 90% efficient (something that Don refutes as "urban myth").

Technically, my 90% is actually incorrect because it is 90% efficient at extracting the energy from the 90% of the original wave that it absorbs. So it is actually only 81% efficient.

As the Strathclyde University article that I quoted above says:
"Due to the complicated design it is expected that it will take more years of development and is reckoned to be a `next generation' device."

Now the Oscillating Wave Column (OWC) design (similar to the LIMPET 500 on Islay) may be simpler, but it is probably not as efficient as the Duck.  Efficiency is not everything, of course.

Seems to me there is way way more solar than nuclear, like a couple of billion years worth,  and the technology is just as on the shelf as breeders, maybe much more so (PV is not the only one, probably not the best either).
I sure wish somebody could point to us good people a believable source of  honest thinking about the real cost of nuclear.  Some people say cheaper than others, some say far more expensive.  Which?
Well, it's cheaper than even coal at today's prices for fuel. My problem with nuclear is that a six inch howitzer would do a pretty good job of blowing up a reactor. Figure on how many howitzers are out there in the world and how easy it is to smuggle a fifteen ton cannon into America, and you can see why I'm not a fan or nuclear reactors.
Not to mention that the damned things can blow up all by themselves with no help from anybody but their operators...
Fast neutron, gas cooled, buried, low flux, convection cooled reactors are the only ones I would consider signing off on.
Graphite reactors store too much wigner energy and pressurised water is chemically unstable to reactor materials during loss of coolant, and both are too capitol intensive for low flux operation. Low flux is low power, and an expensive reactor has to operate at high power to make enough electricity to pay back it's construction cost.
Unfortunately, no one is building fast gas reactors and so regulators aren't getting wined and dined by anybody to allow them to be built.
Realistically, small, relatively low investment, and modular is the only thing that has a chance of ever being built.  And that's pretty much nothing available in the U.S. right now.
Don, you may be interested in this vertical windturbine, which can stand extreme conditions and is not so prone to trouble. They also have better gains then the usual, and are soundless.
IMO 1) is the best way to go, because:
  1. methanol is the easiest to produce liquid fuel fitting well in the existing infrastructure. You just need a carbon source, water and energy (whatever form it is)
  2. methanol is also relatively clean (cleaner than ethanol/lower CO2 per unit of energy)

The biggest problem would be the source of carbon to produce methanol. The easiest source would be coal, but in this case the second process is the most efficient. On the other hand the second process has less efficiency than Fischer-Tropps liquification of coal to diesel. So in the end it may turn out that FT will be path of least resistance, which does not sound very nice in regard to Global Warming.

What I hope for is that somebody finds a way to separate CO2 from the atmosphere and use it as a feedstock to the first process. The energy needed might be produced by hydro/wind/solar/nuclear/tidal/whatever... The efficiency would be low but the good part is that we can scale up those sources (which are not nearly utilised) and produce lots of fuel even with low efficiency.

"What I hope for is that somebody finds a way to separate CO2 from the atmosphere and use it as a feedstock to the first process. The energy needed might be produced by hydro/wind/solar/nuclear/tidal/whatever... The efficiency would be low but the good part is that we can scale up those sources (which are not nearly utilised) and produce lots of fuel even with low efficiency."

It already exists! It's called photosynthesis  :-)


Also, many geothermal fields have high percentages of carbon dioxide and low percentages of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is MUCH better/less energy to create methanol from than carbon dioxide.

Along with above what are the energy costs to recycle metals and glass versus new manufacture?  I have heard pro's and con's both sides.  Who has data to share?

I can't help thinking we are throwing a lot of metal "raw material" into dumps currently.  A few years ago most of the recyclers went out of business because they couldn't get enough for their steel.

New glass made from recycled material does take significantly less energy, not just because you don't have to gather and transport new materials, but because melting glass requires significantly lower temperatures than getting raw sand to fuse. Just in the manufacturing stage there is about a 25-30% energy savings.

But even then it takes about 2.2 million Btus of energy are required to melt a ton of glass. More counting typical inefficiencies.

Clearly, by far the most energy friendly, cheapest, most effective way to recycle glass is to wash bottles and reuse then. This is of course what was done milk and soft drink bottle for decades, though many people today would think it is gross or weird. However, I suspect we will see low tech reuse strategies come back in the near future.

I don't buy much milk, but when I do buy it, it's from a local farm that washes and reuses its glass bottles.  There's a $1 deposit on the bottles, but a lot of people don't return them anyway, because the bottles are so "cute."
My tip to everyone today:

Buy a tankless water heater if you are using natural gas.

The Bosch 250SX is the one I am going to get:

It will heat up to 6.4 gallons per minute, which means you can theoretically run 2 showers at the same time.  Versus a newer tank water heater you can save around $100 year.

You also get a $300 tax credit, making the $1000 pricetag a little more palatable.

My coworker is buying one to replace her ancient tank heater, and expects to save hundreds each year.

Now maybe you don't want to bet on NG.  Well there are electrical versions as well, but they're smaller and designed to sit right by, say, a kitchen sink.  I'm betting on NG because I'm hoping that Michigan will continue to have some usable NG (for residential at least) for the next couple of decades...

Pulsar Advanced Techonogies
Microwave tankless hot water heaters.
The Vulcanus Mark 4, is a state of the art microwave hot water delivery system for the 21st Century. It is a containment field otherwise known as a Faraday box, much like the ones used in your microwave oven at home. The unit size is 24x14x7.5 and weighs only 20lbs. It was designed to save on construction costs, as a boiler room is no longer necessary but was made esthetically appealing so that it could fit as a "stand alone" fixture. Its compact size allows the Contractor, Plumber or Developer the versatility to place the unit as close or as distant to the water outlets as is desirable.

This is the only system of its kind that can function under all climatic conditions.  It can convert water at ground source of 35F-140F within seconds in unlimited capacity. It is so simplistic in design that one requires only a cold water inlet pipe and a hot water exit pipe be attached to its two terminals. Design, shape, reliability, cost, energy savings, compact, and user friendly, Vulcanus is this and more. We are so confident of our product that we offer a 10-year on the Faraday casing, 3 years on all parts, and a full 1-year warranty on labor. To highlight our points we present the following:

Unlimited hot water capabilities
Does not use gas as a source to heat by
Electronically controlled detection system
that monitors flow and temperature
Can convert any ground temperature water
to hot in seconds
Multiple points of usage in a concurrent fashion
Thermostatically controlled by the operator
Works under all climate conditions
"Green" product designation
Award winning technology
Environmentally friendly
Is clean and efficient
Simpler to maintain
Recyclable units

Pulsar claims that gas fired tankless water heaters suffer from the following limitations that their all-electric microwave tankless water heater does not:

Requires gas infrastructure

Requires ventilation to prevent fumes

Requires gas, or propane + electricity

Requires water 45F+ max. to 120F (the Vulcanus can turn 38F water into 140F)

Must follow a maintenance schedule

Gas pilot light constantly in use

Many more parts required to operate

I've emailed the vulcanus supplier, but I can't find any vendors on the web, so I have to admit I'm rather skeptical at this point...
The technology is very new.  It's only being shown at trade shows now.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, y'know.

Why would microwave heating of water be more efficient than resistive heating, which is already pretty much 100% efficient?  The only more efficient way to use electricity to heat water is a heat pump, and even that may only help a little bit.

Pulsar claims that gas fired tankless water heaters suffer from the following limitations that their all-electric microwave tankless water heater does not:

Requires gas infrastructure
 - or propane, or oil: if you use something other than electricity to heat you home, use the same fuel (and quite possibly the same device) to heat the water.

Requires ventilation to prevent fumes
 - correct.

Requires gas, or propane + electricity
 - they're repeating themselves.

Requires water 45F+ max. to 120F (the Vulcanus can turn 38F water into 140F)
 - did they mean 45F min?  Anyway, why wouldn't a gas heater work with 38F water?  Also, where is the water that cold?  Here in Vermont it's warmer than that.

Must follow a maintenance schedule - ce la vie.

Gas pilot light constantly in use
 - modern electronic-ignition models do not have a pilot light.

On-demand water heating eliminates heat losses from a storage tank.  Alas for people who like hi-flow-rate showers, a standard household electrical circuit cannot supply enough instantaneous power to heat the water.  That's where a chemical fuel such as gas has an advantage.

Another way to save on water-heating for showers, regardless of the heating device: recycle the heat!  A heat exchanger can transfer some of the warmth from the drain water to the cold water that is going into the heater (and to the cold side of the shower plumbing).  See here for a long-life no-moving-parts device:

- hmmm, I see their prices have doubled in the last 2 years.  Another example of how energy prices effect everything else, including alternative energy and energy-efficiency gizmos.  This device is basically a big bunch of copper pipes.

Good concept.  
Wow, is that is pricey for a coil of copper tubing!
I have used zero energy for hot water for the last 4 months !

How did I do that ?

I returned to New Orleans in early October and still do not have natural gas service.

I plan my baths (oddly I can tolerate COLD baths more easily that cold showers) by the seven day weather forecast.  Today is a GREAT day (outside 69 F right now) and the rest of the week is cold.  So hold off till Wednesday (maybe Thursday) between cold fronts and take another !  :-)

BTW, despite outside opinion, I am QUITE encouraged by the civil response here both immediately after Katrina (waiting for that promised 36 hour response time from FEMA, I talked to a lady who looted Big Lots for food, she only took some for herself from the second shopping basket that she shoved through the water*, etc. and since re-entry, kindness, concern and volunteerism are rampant).

Few parts of the US had the comity that New Orleans had before Katrina, so I do not know how this will work in, say, Phoenix.

All is NOT lost when some modern conveniences disappear, one has to scrounge for food, etc.

* How do you think people lived for 5 days, supposedly w/o food or water ?  Looters shared fairly equitably their food & water.

Some people worry about resistive heating elements cracking and shorting out to the plumbing because of thermal shock problems. I think it would ground very quickly and not kill you, but I can see why someone might want microwave heating instead. Also, you don't have to worry about corrosion, etc.
I have had an Aquastar instant heater (propane) for 16 years, lots of use, absolutely NO problems except the incoming water filter,  from a cistern, gets some gunk every now and then,  Easy to clean.  Wife screams from the shower, I turn the valve, blow out the filter, back in business in two minutes flat.  Right, I know about the inline filter on the main  house input.  That gunks up too.  Note. Must tell birds to quit pooping on my barn roof.
But beware of the electric water heaters. To make electricity, it takes 3 BTUs of fuel to make one BTU of electricity in a normal powerplant. That's becuse heat is used to make mechanical work and is very lossy. Note also quite a bit of power is lost in transmission lines.

Thus, if you buy the electric heater, you indirectly contribute more to fuel use than the natural gas one. A better bet (barring lame covenants) is to build a solar heating panel system with tank. In the old days these were popular in Florida before widespread natural gas use. The Fed could always make a law to nullify anti-solar covenants in developments, of course, and that law wouldn't contribute to deficit spending.

Testing. Trying to learn to post an image.

Can everyone see this?

I am using my space in to link to. I can see it in my preview.

I see no image.  Make sure your blog service allows remote linking.
Can't see it.  

I suspect Blogger does not allow remote linking.  

Try using or instead.

The L.A. Times has an article this morning on a pilot project in California to use real-time metering for power usage:,0,4156350.story?coll=la-home-business

New Power Meters Show Users the Money

Kieran Wong likes flexing his power.

Two years ago, the 42-year-old furniture salesman had an "advanced" electricity meter installed in his Valencia home as part of a pilot project designed to see whether the high-tech devices could help customers save power.

As far as Wong is concerned, it worked. On hot summer afternoons in the Santa Clarita Valley -- when power prices are at their highest -- the meter and a "smart" thermostat that displayed real-time electricity prices helped Wong reduce power consumption and cut his monthly bill by almost 30%, from about $70 to $50.

"I could plan my cost and usage instead of guessing," he said. "I could see where I was using too much energy and reduce it."


In the state-sponsored pilot project, high-tech meters were installed in 2,500 homes and the customers were billed under a variety of variable-pricing plans. Electricity use fell by an average of 13%.

"The old straw that electricity demand [isn't affected by price] is not true at all," said Roger Levy, a consultant with the energy commission.


Kathy Chomuk, who lives in Valencia with her husband and son in a 2,400-square-foot house, said the thermostat provided pricing information that helped her manage her household budget and her chores.

One afternoon, the 43-year-old legal secretary recalled, she planned to do a load of laundry. But first she checked her thermostat.

"Rates were about 26 cents [per kilowatt-hour], so I said, 'Forget it,' " Chomuk said. The clothes were washed a few hours later, when the rate dropped to 9 cents.

I don't understand why differential rates aren't offered more widely in the U.S.  Some places have them, so it can't be too expensive to implement.
Most important, usage fell during the time when price was the highest, summer afternoons. Electricity consumption, and the fuels that generate it, could apparently be cut 1/8 while saving consumers money and the environment co2... Seems like a no brainer.
I kind of expect oil futures to spike today because of Iran being reported to the Security Council over nukes. Hasn't happened yet.
Looks like just the usual day-to-day bounce-around, so far. I'm puzzled. Iran getting reported to the UNSC should, I would have thought, mean that either Iran gets sanctioned or, if Russia and China won't allow that, the risk of US+Israel+? acting militarilty goes up. Either of those should bump the market. I don't understand how these traders think, I guess.
I think that you're being a tad premature in your expectations. Being "reported" to the UNSC has no substantive impact as such. The next "milestone" will be El Baradei's report to the IAEA in early March, and it's very unclear what will be in his report at this stage. Bear in mind that Iran hasn't actually derogated from the NPT or stepped outside of its legal obligations yet.

Assuming that the IAEA decided to "refer" Iran after the March meeting it would then be up to the UNSC to decide a course of action, which could take anywhere between months and never. Apart from the US, there is no other UNSC member that is remotely interested in tabling a military option - and the EU powers have been quite explicit in their statements to the effect that there is no military solution. It is also highly unlikely that any substantive sanctions regime will be tabled any time soon. At any rate, for the purposes of the March crude futures the current state of play has very little impact unless Iranian oil traders stop answering their phones or go on extended leave all at the same time.

Isn't going to either. Because being reported is only the first step towards nothing. It is not until March until anybody follows up. You know, they have to put it on the schedule and reserve the big conference room.

Since China and Russia won't vote for any wrist-slapping anyway, this process is going to be long and slow. After what happened with Iraq, the US is not going to go this one alone (or as alone).

I'm afraid that for all the talk here and elsewhere, we just got you excited. Not much of a crisis is going to play out here this year, in my opinion.

The "experts" don't even think Iran will have a bomb until 2008. Oil will keep doing what is has been doing. It doesn't need any help from Tehran or Washington.

The crisis, as far as oil is concerned, isn't a matter of Iran having the bomb, it's what the US+Israel+whoever is willing to do to prevent that from becoming a possibility. Yes, the US shot itself in the foot in Iraq. Do the oil traders seriously think that rules out an attack on Iran?
Oil was at $69 before the SoTU and dropped $4 quickly afterwards.  It appears that oil traders inferred from the speech that military action is unlikely.  In the speech, Bush limited his opposition of Iran's nuclear program to weaponization and emphasized working with the international community.  What was clearly missing was any hint of unilateral action, intolerance of a nuclear energy program, ect.

The Administration's hands are effectively tied, and they seem to accept that in the short-run we will have to accept their nuclear program and hope for internally motivated regime change.  Not unlike North Korea.

The "reporting" over the weekend, Iran's end of voluntary cooperation, and censure in March are predictable... so they shouldn't cause any price spikes.

The difference, I think, is that Israel isn't likely to bomb North Korea.  
Israel isn't "likely" to bomb Iran.  ...but the possibility can't be completely discounted either.  Iran is trying to bait Israel into doing something reckless, but it is hard to imagine them bombing Iran without US support.  
The online betting at has odds of an Israel strike on Iran as follows:

By the end of June 2006: 15%
By the end of December 2006: 25%
By the end of March 2007: 33%

While these are relatively low numbers, the implications and effects of an Israeli attack would be so vast that it is an ominous sign that odds are as much as 1 in 4 by the end of the year.

taking into account the religious and ethnic values in the area as well as the economic, those numbers seem rather low..
personally i have not found a good estimate of the region that does not omit isrial's history.
Oil traders are not one entity that "thinks" any particular way. You need to get away from this notion. There are probably as many opinions as there are traders.

The incorrect "thinking" if there is any would be that any international disagreements/turmoil automatically means the price of oil has to spike. How ridiculous.

Take a real hard look at the history of the price of oil. Try looking at a graph of say the 26-week moving average of oil for the last 40 years, but with the dates at the bottom covered up. Now try to identify all the ups and downs to events in international relations. Then compare what is going on with Iran now to all the events in the last 40 years. Then look at where the current price of oil is - near all-time highs, with what some say is a build-in "speculative" premium.

Any crisis (which I contend is not really there) may already be "priced-in." Everybody expects a war. Maybe that's the problem. Expect the unexpected.

For 12 years after the First Gulf War, I predicted the Second Gulf War. I was convinced it was inevitable it would happen. In the fall of 2002 I predicted it's occurance to within 2 weeks of when it actually happened in March 2003. Yet for that entire time, I met very few people who agreed with me, even as we were ramping up deployment to Kuwait.

So I ask you, where were you then with your predictions of war? This thing with Iran is a lot of hype.

You act as if Bush is simply going to send troops, planes, and ships against Iran no matter what. Like some maniacal Saddam Hussein or Hitler, even. This is highly unlikely. Bush may not be the brightest bulb on the string, and you may not agree with his politics, but he is sane. The approval of Congress, the UN, and the American people is a must.

Another president from Texas who started(or at least enabled)a troublesome war decided not to run for a second term because of the "quagmire" he was in. The rhetoric before leaving office was no less idealistic that what is coming out of the Oval office now. Bush has had alot of time to think about his place in history after things turned sour in May 2003.

Also, any embargos on Iran only mean that Iran's 2.55 million barrels per day start leaving the country via alternate routes. Just like the last time(s). Americans will get whatever they get from Iran (if they get anything) through middlemen, Russian or otherwise. Oil is still largely fungible. If somebody else has to bribe somebody to be a new destination, or if Iran has to bribe somebody to take the oil out of the country smuggled on donkeys, the oil will reach the world market. And wherever that oil ends up, it just frees up other supplies for whomever it was originally intended. Where there's money, there's a way.

Rumsfeld, in an interview with the German daily newspaper Handelsblatt, was asked if all options, including the military one, were on the table with Iran.

"That's right," Rumsfeld reportedly responded.

The military option is not off the table, and judging from comments like that above, being actively considered.  Even 'considered' is a poor choice of words - since both the US and Britain have been sending drones, as well as aircraft, into Iran for some months now to test their defenses and find targets.  Then there are other little covert and not so covert actions to stir up trouble, especially in oil producing regions of Iran.

I don't think that a war and/or embargo versus Iran is priced into the markets.  If you take a look at the oil markets in the six months running up to the two Iraq wars, you will see quite large gains - peaking at around 50% over recent lows.  Since I don't think anyone thinks a war will start tommorrow, that still leaves quite a lot of time for what's coming to be priced in.  But do we even know what's coming?

A little history lesson - after the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980, the US Navy actually did halt some Iranian ships, seized cargo, and halted some oil exports.  Maybe in an emabrgo some oil will flow acroos the borders in trucks, etc., but not enough to offset what is embargoed.  That is assuming Iran doesn't withhold some oil back just as a weapon to get the price higher.  

Remember Mark Rich(I think his name was)? Still living in Switzerland. Pardoned by Clinton, causing an uproar. He apparently made a killing off Iranian oil, if I remember my facts correctly. He just bought it from Russians.

All these military "preparations" and Rumsfeld and Cheney talking - it's called brinksmanship. Iran is playing a game just like we are.

It's hardly "brinksmanship".  Everybody can see Rumsfield is holding a pair of sixes and the Iranians have a full house.  The military option is never "off the table", but it is nothing more than semantics at this point in the game.
We got a runner here, boss! Same place, same time tomorrow. Bring your cash. Put your money where your mouth is. Think about it. You don't want to bet with me.
You know, placing bets would be more fun than Texas Hold'em. We could make a lot of money this way . . . .
(just kidding)
is there another country to back america?

as far as I can recall america has never won a war by itself, think Iran could be the first??

We need a coalition of the "misunderestimating" to help us in this bold new venture for profit, fame and glory. Surely there must be some volunteers. Round up the usual suspects.
Mercenaries.  Perhaps thats the answer regarding conquest for profit.
Hey, it worked in ancient times.
Tainter  points to the Byzantine Empire as an example of a society that simplified and thus avoided collapse.

The government had lost so much revenue that even at one-fourth the previous rate it could not pay its troops. Constans' solution was to devise a way for the army to support itself. He lacked ready cash but the imperial family had vast estates -- perhaps one-fifth of the land in the empire. There was also much land abandoned from the Persian attacks. Such lands were divided among the troops. In Asia Minor and other parts of the
empire, divisions of troops--called themes--were settled in new military zones. Soldiers (and later sailors) were given grants of land on condition of
hereditary military service. It was apparently at this time that Constans halved military pay, for he now expected the troops to provide their own
livelihood through farming (with a small monetary supplement). Correspondingly the Byzantine fiscal administration was greatly simplified.

The transformation ramified throughout Byzantine society, as any fundamental economic change must. Both central and provincial government were simplified, and the transaction costs of government were reduced. In the provinces, the civil administration was merged into the military. Cities across Anatolia contracted to fortified hilltops. Aristocratic life focused on the imperial court. There was little education beyond basic literacy and numeracy, and literature itself consisted of little more than lives of saints. The period is sometimes called the Byzantine Dark Age.

The results of the simplification were evident almost immediately. The system of themes rejuvenated Byzantium. A class of peasant-soldiers was formed across the empire. The new farmer-soldiers had obligations to no landowners, only to the state. They became producers rather than consumers of the empire's wealth. They formed a new type of army in which military obligation, and the lands that went with it, were passed to the eldest son. From this new class of farmers came the force that sustained the empire. By lowering the cost of military defense the Byzantines secured a better return on their most important investment.

Byzantines forces began to put up stiffer resistance to the Arabs, as evident in the victories of 678 and 718. The empire began to lose land at a much slower rate. The Arabs continued to raid Anatolia but were unable to hold any of it for long. Soldiers were always near at hand. Fighting as they were for their own lands and families, they had much greater incentive and performed better. After the establishment of the themes the Arabs made progress in Anatolia only when the empire had internal troubles from 695 to 717. By 745 Constantine V was able to invade the Caliphate, the first successful invasion of Arab territory in a generation.

During the next century, campaigns against the Bulgars and Slavs gradually extended the empire in the Balkans. Greece was recaptured. Pay was
increased after 840, yet gold became so plentiful that in 867 Michael III met an army payroll by melting down 20,000 pounds of ornaments from
the throne room. When marines were added to the imperial fleet it became more effective against Arab pirates. In the tenth century the Byzantines reconquered parts of coastal Syria. Overall after 840 the size of the empire was nearly doubled. The process culminated when Basil II (963-1025) conquered the Bulgars and extended the empire's boundaries again to the Danube. In two centuries the Byzantines had gone from near disintegration to being the premier power in Europe and the Near East, an accomplishment won by decreasing the complexity and costliness of problem solving.

Very good example!

Were I dictator of the U.S. with emergency wartime powers I would turn the clock back to 1944 in terms of how we use energy:

  1. No tires for sale.
  2. 35 m.p.h. speed limit
  3. Price-controlled gasoline with rationing; 3 gallons per week was standard ration, if memory serves.
  4. All-out construction of street cars; just put them back where they used to be, then extend light-rail technology to the burbs. Also, go back to coal-fired steam locomotives.
  5. Ration fuel for heating and encourage the consumption of coal rather than oil or gas. (The way the rationing worked, you could keep your house warmer if you heated with coal.)
  6. No disposable containers. Because tin was scarce, re-usable glass jars were used in place of tin cans.
  7. Throw nothing away that could possibly be used. Paper was saved, bacon grease was saved, scrap metal of course.
  8. Ration meat and butter at World War II levels.
  9. Ration sugar, use the rest for ethanol.

To a large extent, Americans were willing to put up with rationing because it was our patriotic duty. Waste anything, and the response (sorry for the political incorrectness, but this is the way it was): "What's the matter? You love the Japs [or krauts]?"

Everybody had a victory garden. Some of us took in refugees or wounded veterans while they convalesced.

It was not a bad time, though it was rough not being able to buy new bicycle tires, and of course you could not get flashlight batteries or a whole bunch of other things. Condoms were so scarce they were washed out and re-used.

Now, if only the Saudis or Iranians or somebody would bomb Pearl Harbor . . . .

If I were the energy dictator of Sweden with war time powers I would build post peak oil infrastructure, use the available resources and streamline our government.

I would order electric/plug in hybrid/motor heater outlets on every public parking lot and hope it inspiers sales of such wehicles.

I would increase the railway line running, maintainance and new build budget from the current about $150 000/km with at least 10% to get more maintainance, more agressiveness into the new projects and a unified high standard. But its no use increasing it too much since the contractors raise prises if demand is too high. About 1/2 of the 11000 km network is planned to get significant maintainance or upgrades during the next 9 years and that is too little.

I would increase the highway build budget with 10% in maintainance and safer roads for light wehicles and mandate speed and distance control on higways to make it safe to mix very light and heavy wehicles.

Fuel tax will be disbanded when the fuel costs rise during the peak and replaced with a cost depending on road wear and road space required. This together with new highway tunnels and more rail traffic in the largest cities will make them queue free.

More trolley lines, highway tunnels and bicycle lanes after the peak in railway line build in case there is new technology affection such a decision. Not everything can be built at once and its stupid to plan for a build peak and crasch for the contractors.

The state owned electricity producer Vattenfall could pay for one or two nuclear reactors with their profit money flow in Sweden and Germany so lets order them to do that with those profits.  And export electricity to Germany. Give the two mothballed reactors close to Denmarks capital to the Danes if they upgrade them and build a third.
Start research into breeder reactors after building the high level waste repository, paid for by the waste disposal fee.

Keep the subsidizing systems for wind power etc and then disband them when power prices rise. They are good to have for smaller investors who can not finance nuclear powerplants and there is no strong reasons to quick stop those programs when power prices will go up. All non CO2 power is good power.
Build more natural gas/biogas/diesel combined heat and power plants in large towns replacing old spare condensing oil power plants.

Increase the redundancy in the grid to N-2 during the summer half of the year.  Plan for more rainfall and storms. Increse civil defence to be more of what it was during the cold war but aimed at handlige climate and sabotage problems instead of the third world war turned partly nuclear.

Dont be in the way for investors who want to build more natural gas pipelines but encourage them to limit their customer base to the ones who can pay most for the gas (Tell them that it is stupid to sell gas to customers who can use biomass when gas prices probably will rise. )  Hook up biogas producers and gas wehicle fueling stations to the pipelines. The pipelines should be built to the 120 year major infrastructure standard in materials that can handle hydrogen. These things might require some subsidies. :-(

Subsidize part of the building cost for all kinds of wehicle fuel from biomass plants, those who want the smallest ammount get the money first. Agressive research and pilot plant building.

Establish three full scale parallell alternative fuel systems, one mixable with gasolene (ethanol) , one mixable with diesel (RME, FT-diesel) and one mixable with natural gas (biomass methane and hydrogen). There realy will be four systems with the charging points. Then dont care if any of them is competed away in the following decades.

If it makes sense encourage a switch over to electrolyzed hydrogen for the refinaries and to complement the FT-diesel from biomass plants and biomass methane.

Encourage EU to stop subsidizing farmers when fuel costs make farming more profitable.

Streamline our government, 3/4 of the administrative regions and 1/3 of the independant authorities and 1/3 of the laws for small and newly started companies could be rationalized away. Try to make the business climate more flexible. This is absolutely critical if we enter global depression.

(And reform how our hospitals are run and a lot of the schools and other parts of old badly working command economy. )

The building program outlined above would take 15 years, a large part of it is things that already are on their way to be implemented.  I would not touch how people live their lives in detail, that will be adjusted by market forces.  No tire sales, ration butter, are you nuts?

Then brace for impact of the peak oil downslope. If it works out ok I expect to retire in a country and culture that is more or less like it is right now.

Yes, I am nuts, but that is not the point: I was describing how scarce goods were allocated in the U.S. in 1944--not seriously advocating that we turn the clock back completely.

The reason for no tires of any kind being available was that all rubber had to go to the military. Given that the number one priority was winning the war, that was an entirely rational choice.

The reason for food rationing was to feed Britain and also our soldiers--good choices again.

Oh, one thing I fogot: There were restrictions on travel, because places on trains and planes went first priority to the military. Once again, the point is that in emergencies we can greatly reduce our consumption without everything falling apart.

Sorry I read it the wrong way.
No apology needed; the ambiguity was my fault entirely. I try to be brief and omit needless words, but sometimes I omit the words that explain what the big point is. This failing is one that I shall try to correct.
Remind me not to elect you guys dictator.

The worst thing in the world is a visionary with power...

When President Pat Robertson appoints me Energy Czar, you have nothing to fear: I will allow for the production of bicycle tires, with latex produced domestically. (This is a joke, by the way.)
Thanks for this post!  I am currently teaching about civilization and the modernists fascination with technology and social progress (i.e., the path to modern (as opposed to ancient) civilization) in my sophmore core education class.

History is always useful for examples and some idea of where we can go, but analogies can only be taken so far.  One concern, of course, is that the primary economic engine of Byazantium and all other developed societies prior to the modern era (think post-printing press if you like) was agriculture.  So, my bet is that soldiers knew quite a bit about farming even if they had been housed in urban centers prior to this sort of economic reform.  Many of them may have been born and raised on agricultural plots or lived in towns that were major trading centers of agricultural produce before becoming soldiers (this is just an uneducated guess so I am happy to be corrected on this point).

Obviously the problem we have today with social complexity is that most urbanites know absolutely nothing about farming, and could care less.  As long as food shows up on the shelves, they are happy.  So, my question would be, what could se simplify to?  I wonder if the model that we might end up with is the creation of huge squatter settlements in and around urban centers in undustrial nations with many of the formerly employed in service sector employment scrounging around for temporary wage work where they can get it (as is the case for much of the 3rd world today)...

People can't be relocated to farming because they wouldn't have the slightest clue how to survive once there.  But, they do know very well how to go about trying to get some money on a catch as catch can basis.

A dystopic view?  Not from the vantage of the world's largest cities outside of the industrial world...

gardening is not that hard

the important thing is for everyone to do a little bit of growing AS SOON AS POSSIBLE start small, think big..

mabye you should consider changing your "squatting/adverse possession" laws, this allows poor people to move onto unused land, if the land owner turns up then they face eviction, not before.. (there are currently 400,000 square hectares of "derelict/waste" land in england. As many as 15,000 people a year are making claims using the "adverse possession" laws)
Squatting was used a lot in the early 1950's when there was a housing crisis.

squatted guerrilla gardening harms no-one

In the couple of months I spent in Cuba I noticed that in Havana right in the middle of a "poorish" neighbourhood was a stall giving information on roof top gardening and dispensing seeds, the Habanero's have flat roofs so use tyres rammed with earth as growers for salads

I saw this in many places in Cuba

gardening and foraging are almost instinctive in humans, no matter how many generations away from the earth you are.
you can always return

Not only is gardening not hard, it is fun. Especially it is fun to do such things as growing Black Mexican corn and getting a good yield with no artificial fertilizers, which some bozos who post here claim cannot be done. For them I have news: Native Americans cultivated corn for thousands of years without destroying the soil. True they did not get a hundred bushels from an acre (maybe more like ten or fifteen), but with a sparse population and plenty of land, that is no problem.

Using techniques such as you suggest, land can be used much more efficiently than did the Native Americans, and as we know, soil can be improved and topsoil deepened with proper care.

None are so blind as those who will not listen.

True they did not get a hundred bushels from an acre (maybe more like ten or fifteen), but with a sparse population and plenty of land, that is no problem.

I think that's what everyone's worried about, actually.  Of course with a "sparse" population, we'd have no trouble with food supplies.  But the population ain't sparse.  I have a feeling it's going to be, though.  How we get from here to there is the question.

we will obviously have to move on from modern agriculture, through the thriving organic movements and permaculture societies we should be able to move foward.

I would suggest try not getting too stuck in using the same crops. Corn comparisons are pointless, your not going to have those fertilizers, work on plants that still produce, but are NATIVE, native "weeds" often dont need fertilizers or pesticides. An excellent example of this is "Fat Hen" which is very high in protein and B vitamins, it was found in the stomach of  "Tolland Man"

If I am not mistaken someone in america was once trying to encourage crop rotation and was ignored, the subsequent dust bowls were not pleasant.

Potatoe's are the highest yeilder for calorific return, obviously not all soils are suitable, but using a mulch, areas that are grassy can provide the mulch, as can leaves from trees.

so you should be able to grow potatoes anywhere as long as there is sufficient water and mulch

here is a garden that is not fed from OUTSIDE of the garden. ( why you wouldnt want to bring in mulches from outside I have no idea)
It provides all the food for one person
 if everyone just did a small amount it would ease the "slow squeeze"

Mr. Bush recommended ethanol. As one wag put it after the speech: "America's heroin is oil, and ethanol will be our methadone." The expectation will still be that everybody must drive incessantly.

As the price of gasoline rises to four and five dollars a gallon, people will be forced to buy less. Some people call this process "demand destruction," but if you recall Econ 101 it is just moving up and to the left along a single (unchanging) demand curve--with no shift in the demand curve itself.

I suspect that $6 per gallon for gasoline is politically unacceptable in the U.S. at this time, and if it were to happen, then most likely (in my opinion) we would go to price controls and some sort of rationing--perhaps a rerun of 1974-75 with "Phase I" and "Phase II" and all that good stuff back from the bad old stagflation days.

I learned the term demand destruction on Econbrowser, which is run by economists.
You learned it from the comments, not the main postings by Dr. Hamilton. I did a Google search on ' "demand destruction"' and every single one of the ~20 hits occured in the comments (which are unmoderated and not restricted to economists). In fact only a few commenters used the term, mostly Peak Oilers from what I could see.
Well, JDH didn't jump in to correct anyone, as is his wont.
The price-demand curve also has a third axis, time.

As time goes on, structural adjustments are made.  Automakers make more efficient vehicles, people buy them, people move closer to work, San Francisco and Washington DC build large mass transit systems, etc.

I HOPE that the very low price elasticity of demand seen the last 20 months will grow with time.  Else, we are in for a truly traumatic shock !

Go to any economics text published since about 1880 (Marshall's PRINCIPLES OF ECONOMICS is excellent. About eight editions.) and look up "price elasticity of demand." The longer the time period, the greater the elasticity.

By the way, I'm not kidding about the excellence of Marshall's textbooks published 120 yrs. ago (but I think still available in a new reprint). Marshall was a Deep Thinker. He invented supply and demand curves as we know them and fully understood their implications and also their limitations.

Another good book is the 1948 (?) edition of George Stigler's "Theory of Price," the second edition. In it he wrote a little note: "Half of this book is wrong. Unfortunately, I do not know which half." Alas, in the third edition he left out [or the publishers deleted] this profoundly true remark.

Stigler was one of the great economists.

All current economic theories are both half-right and half-wrong. That's the nature of the discipline.

If you know this fact and apply them according to the circumstances you may hit the half-right side. If you don't (and especially if you blindly listen to ideologicaly-impregnated half-friends) you will hit the totally wrong side.

An alternative path.

Electrify the freight railroads (just exempt them from property taxes if they electrify.  18 wheelers do not pay property taxes on their ROW).  Let market shove freight from truck to rail (8x more fuel efficient when both burn diesel AND more labor efficient).

Electrify mass transit (Rapid (heavy) rail, light rail, streetcars, trolley buses, commuter rail (see Long Island).

Copper may be a bottleneck, depending upon how fast and how much electrification is done.  Replacing copper phone & coaxial lines with fiber optics may yield enough scrap.

Rework existing hydro plants and add 10% to output (higher efficiency, less "spill water" with wasted energy).

Build overwhelming majority of 30,000 MW of USGS potential hydro (2nd hand source on #, but I have seen tables).

Hydro has a SUPERB EROEI with centuries long lifetimes.

Nationwide high voltage DC network to shift renewable power (mainly wind) around.  Massive wind farms in the Great Plains, with smaller ones offshore, etc.

Nuclear plants and ~50 pumped storage plants as well (Google Raccoon Mountain).

Let market forces squeeze liquid fuel uses down to a minimum (Switzerland survived and functioned during a six year complete oil embargo with ~8 months oil in storage).

Carbon tax coal and let coal liquidification compete with methanol, etc.

In other words, electrify transportation as much as possible, enlarge renewable sources of electricity and let the market sort out the alternatives fro much reduced demand for liquid fuels.  Short range "golf carts" may become more common.

I've read recently that Russia has electrified the whole length of the trans-Siberian railroad.  Wow!

BTW, Re: Don Sailorman's recap of WW2 rationing:  Next time around, let's allow new tires for bicycles...

My current favorite quote, and I found it right here on TOD:

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race."
- H. G. Wells, 1904

Yes, the Trans-Siberian was fully electrified in late 2002.

The Russians are continuing.  The railroad to Murmansk (Artic Ocean port near Finland) was electrified Novemeber, 2005 and plans are to continue on to Finland.

A major line south of the Trans-Siberian in far Western Asia/far Eastern Europe (they meet in Western Siberia) is also being electrified.  I think BAM is as well.

As disfunctional and chaotic as Russia is, they can pull this off.

Mexican railways had already bought the equipmet (locos, etc.) when they were sold piecemeal to US railways, who nixed the idea (it would require switching locos at border, hence higher labor costs and some issues with doublestack containers).  A decision of the cheap oil era.

Alan--we sound like we're reading from the same script.  I've been pushing the "electrify transportation" notion on my web site ( for some time.

As I see it, we should pursue three parallel paths regarding transportation:

First, minimize the number of vehicles that directly burn non-renewable fuel.  This means moving smaller, local-use-only cars (currently 100 miles per charge) to electricity, and let improving technology continually push up the dividing line between "small + electric" and "big + oil".  Once vehicles start to go electric, we can fuel them in a variety of ways with no further change needed on the consumer's side of the infrastructure.  Hopefully that means gobs of wind farms and other renewables, which seems likely, given the rate at which wind power is expanding in the US.

Second, for non-electric vehicles, move them from petroleum to ethanol or biodiesel, and use whatever liquid fuel they burn as efficiently as possible.  This means diesel hybrids, HHCI hybrids, side skirts and mini diesel generators for 18 wheelers, etc.

Third, institutionalize better transportation practices.  We could save 10% of our motor fuel consumption merely by driving less aggressively.  Add to that more public transportation, pooling of errands, smarter infrastructure to minimize congestion, etc., and it adds up to a quite respectable savings without a major sacrifice.

We should pick certain strategic directions, and wherever possible, use the market (possibly accelerated via subsidies or legislation)--in other words the engineers and consumers--to make the tactical decisions.

Review my paper on "Electrification of Transportation: at

A practical way to reduce US total oil use by ~10% in ten to twelve years,

If we promote electrified mass transit (everything from subways to trolley buses) we will use FAR less energy than if we electrify the private automobile as you suggest.  Build the carrot of high quality mass transit !

Before Katrina, I used 6 gallons/month* in my 1982 M-B 240D.  I walked and used the streetcars for most of my trips.  A better way of living quite frankly (I know my neighbors, etc.)

*WW II ration was 4 gallons/month for low priority users.  I could cut back by 1/3.

Loose Change


Willie Nelson is pushing biodiesel:

Experimental plug-in hybrids get up to 250 mpg:

Compressed air powered car:
125+ mile range on a 4 hour charge of compressed air.

Today sugar looks as if it will close in New York trading at 18.8 cents/ lb.; it sold on the news after the WSJ drew attention to recent multi-year highs just under 20 cents.

Why should peak-oilers care? Because, as the Journal reports, sugar is beginning to trade as an energy crop as well as a food crop. The Journal asserted that sugar also traded as an energy crop in 1980-81.

Just for perspectve: sugar broke above 10 cents in August 2005 for the first time since 2001. My chart service provides ten years of price data; the highest price in the past ten years (before 2005) was 12.32 cents in February 1996.

Welcome, ethanol, to the big time. You've come a long way, baby.

Just got a laugh from one of the quotes in the upper right of TOD:

"The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust."
--James Madison, FEDERALIST #57 (1787)

A little more from Madison

"All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well born, the other the mass of the people. The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true in fact. The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in the government. They will check the unsteadiness of the Second....Can a democratic assembly who annually revolve in the mass of the people, be supposed steadily to pursue the public good? Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy....It is admitted that you cannot have a good executive upon a democratic plan."
~Alexander Hamilton Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), 288.

IOW only a select few are worthy to govern the masses.  The Constitution was designed to put the moneyed class in charge of the poor. It is designed to protect this moneyed class from any infringement from government or the poor.  The Bill of Rights was developed to protect private power from both.  The Bill of Rights was never intended to protect you and me.  Is there any doubt real "democracy" was destroyed in this country the day the "Constitution" was signed?  It has all been a "grand illusion"...



I have been a regular TOD reader for about 3 months and it has been real eye opener for me. This the first time I have posted a query or a comment.

A small conservation organization, that I belong to, is putting together a submission to the inquiry into peak oil being conducted by the Senate of the Australian Federal Government.  We are mainly farmers, there is not a scientist or engineer amongst us.

I'm trying to get a handle on peak natural gas in Australia.

We currently export 7.7 million metric tons pa, mainly to Japan, China and soon maybe California.  We have, under construction, facilities to increase this to about 32 metric million tons pa, these will come on stream over the next 5 years or so.

The US DoE EIA had this comment in their World Energy Outlook 2005:

"The largest revision to natural gas reserve estimates was made in Australia. The Australian government reported a two-thirds cut in its estimate of natural gas reserves between 2004 and 2005, from 90 trillion cubic feet to 29 trillion cubic feet"

So (if my dodgy arithmetic is correct) that means we have `only' about 580 million metric tons of LNG to sell.  Most of it is off the West Australian coast.

We only produce about 8% of our electricity from natural gas (we have 100 billion tons of coal) and total domestic consumption is about 26.7 billion cubic metres a year, (I think) this would be equivalent to about 1.94 million metric tons LNG.  The projected rate of increase in consumption, mainly industrial, is 3.4% pa.

At what rate is world demand for LNG expected to grow?

What do you guys think are the likely effects of constraints on transport and delivery?

Assuming we pump and liquefy the stuff as fast as we can sell it and continue to build export facilities like there is no tomorrow, which we probably will, how long do you think it will take us to peak?

I see no constraints on transportation of LNG (except capital to build teh ships, and there will be enough money for that !)

LNG ships burn the natural gas that naturally boils off from their cargo on the way to delivery and bunker oil coming back.  If need be, they could keep enough LNG onboard to make a round trip.

A bigger issue, is Australia better off keeping the natural gas at home and making gasoline from it (as New Zealand did with their NG).

Of course, NZ has now depleted their natural gas and barely have enough left to heat hot water.  The time is within sight when they may need to import LNG to heat their water.

Pointing out the New Zealand experience should sober many.

Hmmm.  As I have lived in New Zealand for over fifteen years, I feel I must correct you on a few points.

Firstly, CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) virtually died out as a transportation fuel in the 90s because it's inconvenience (large tank taking up much of your car boot, fewer service stations where you could buy it, increased safety concerns, extra compliance certification costs, etc.) were not justified by the fuel cost savings (which were virtually non-existent when oil was really low).  It had nothing to do with depleting NG.

NG prices here are still quite stable and have not seen the huge increases the UK British Gas has had to pass on to it's customers.  I know of many people who are still getting inline gas hot water heaters installed, and many people heat their hot water with gas at lower prices than it would take with electricity.

In the last few years there have been significant gas finds both on-shore and off-shore. One particular field was drilled on-shore just up the cost from me (near a town called Wairoa) and all they did was slap a huge valve on it and left it for just now. I think if we were desperate for gas to heat our water, we would have used some of this by now.

While existing fields are depleting and future supplies do look a bit bleak, we are certainly not in the midst of a natural gas crisis.

from the Gas Association of New Zealand:

Total New Zealand gas production in the year ended September 2003, excluding gas reinjected or flared and LPG extracted, was 198.2.5 PJ, a decrease of 17% compared with the previous year. &

The run-down of the Maui field and ongoing speculation about future sources of energy for electricity generation have led to a widely-held misconception that gas supplies overall are running out.

This is simply not true.  There is plenty of gas for the reticulated market, i.e. residential, commercial and industrial users for the foreseeable future.

There are a number of other producing wells, such as Kapuni, and new supplies from new wells, such as Pohokura and Kupe are expected to provide sufficient gas.

The two sectors that will be most adversely affected by the Maui run-out will be electricity generation and the petrochemical industries.

Government and the exploration industry alike are actively promoting an enhanced exploration and production programme to find new oil and gas fields.  The Minister of Energy, Pete Hodgson recently said "There's no doubt that New Zealand has plenty of gas - we just have to drill enough holes to find it, in economic quantities and locations, and attract the capital necessary to develop the fields[1]."
Methanex has shut down their synthetic gasoline plant.

So yes, New Zealand has plenty of gas for water heating, dairy industry and forestry processing.  But not for petrochemicals, electricity and synthetic gasoline.

Of course, the time frame for which New Zealand has enough for even these limited uses, absent new disocveries, may be  "in sight" depending upon one's time scale.

I was not aware of the small new discoveries.


Charlottesville, Virginia
February 6, 2006

Dear Comrades;
   At the risk of changing the subject and starting a new topic, I would like to pose a question to all of you. I have a significant amount of respect for the folks who both run this board and who post here frequently. The different perspectives, discussions, dialogue and debate are a good change from so much of the blogosphere and MSM, with it's Screamers, Ranters and Ravers. Me, I'm like Joe Friday; "Just the facts, please."
   Right then. As a medical professional (RN in a large academic medical center ER), it is obvious to me just how much we rely, as clinicians, on access to cheap energy and fossil fuels. The amount of disposables used in healthcare, the lack of any meaningful recycling as well as the huge energy needs of a modern medical center rival those of a large factory, or at least it would seem to me. Toward that end, I would like to get your respective opinions as to how peak oil (and now it looks like peak NG) will affect our health care system, which is itself in serious jepardy for large segments of our population. So many things (medicines, equipment and supplies, lab tests, imaging, information technology...) that we depend on in a modern hospital itself is reliant on large amounts of electrical energy and petroluem feedstocks.  
   Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

        Subkommander Dred

Excellent post!

As you know better than anybody, the health care system in the U.S. is broken, and given political limitations, nobody knows how to fix it. Oil at $100 a barrel makes everything a helluva lot worse, and when we are looking at $200 a barrel, it is pretty much a whole new ballgame.

I suggest reading up on manuals for medical care in the third world, where getting fuel to boil water is a big problem.

Currently our methods of rationing health care are nuts. They will get worse, in all probability. The issues are more political than economic, and remember:
Economists may advise, but politics rules.

I don't know much about the economics of hospitals, but certainly as an occasional patient it is obvious that the costs we are charged for medical goods are far, far above the costs of the raw materials that go into them. I mean, probably a factor of 100 or 1000 times higher. So my guess is that medicine is one area that would be relatively insulated from a rise in the cost of oil, either as energy or as a feedstock for plastics and pharmaceuticals. Most of the costs in medicine are at root, skilled labor (like yours), as well as risk premiums due to the huge stakes of the work (which manifest as malpractice insurance and government regulatory costs among others).

If the plastic in syringes, tubing and other medical equipment suddenly cost 5 times more to manufacture, it would make almost no difference. Likewise with medicines, the vast majority of the price is due to the costs of research and regulatory compliance. Health care will probably cook along pretty good even if oil goes up into the hundreds and two-hundreds a barrel.

The reason you get soaked at the hospitals is because you are paying for all the patients who can't afford to pay. Doctors are forced by Government to play games in order to cover costs for non-paying patients. I don't begrudge any of them for waht they do. I realize too well that I'm one just paycheck away and one grace-of-God away from being just like any of them: the uninsured & homeless.

As for RN asking about disposable plastics:
Those are going to be unaffordable.
Autoclaving glass equipment will also be unaffordable because oil plays into the equation both ways: price of plastics and price of energy. Our saline solution bags are hosed either way you look at it.

And besides, as I tried to explain to one doctor, if we plebes don't have jobs, then you medical gods don't have paying patients. We're all in the same sinking boat.

So much discussion of what tech will save us, whether grass, coal, nuclear, etc.

I think the discussions will be even more productive if we focus on the benefits and drawbacks of these options in the different contexts in which they best contribute.

I think the "solution" will first be based on reducing the energy intensity of western, and particularly US society. Then as China etc. develop, for them to use energy far more efficiently also.

Next, I think all techs - solar, wind, hydrocarbon, wave, hydro, etc will have significant contributions, varying in their local fit. I think the answer will be in diversity and flexibility, not a magic bullet. All possibilities will be explored, I have no doubt, and those that work will persist, grow, and find their niche. is starting a new series, explaining why the Iranian oil bourse could be trouble for the petrodollar:

North Sea production slump casts doubt on government figures
 By Ian Fraser Financial Editor


A MARKED downturn in North Sea oil production means that the UK will become a net importer of oil at least three years earlier than the government anticipates, according to new figures from the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Even the contribution from the Buzzard field - which will add about 180,000 barrels of oil per day from 2007 - is seen as insufficient to prevent a looming dependence on the vagaries of world markets.

 The Department of Trade & Industry is sticking to its prediction that the UK will not become a net importer of oil on a sustained annual basis until 2010.

However, figures from the RBS Oil & Gas Index show production from the UK continental shelf unexpectedly shrank to 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in October, 8% down on the previous month and a 14% fall on October 2004.

Andrew McLaughlin, group chief economist at RBS, said: "The International Energy Agency is predicting UK demand of 1.8 million bpd in 2007. But we'll be lucky to produce an average of 1.7 million bpd in 2005 and it seems unlikely that North Sea production is going to rise above 1.8 million bpd over the next 12 months.

"There had been a hope both in the oil industry and within government that a period of sustained high oil prices would create more incentives to produce in the North Sea. But that has not come through.

"North Sea fields are maturing rapidly and as a result the UK looks set to become a net importer of crude oil earlier than the government is anticipating. Even current high prices will be insufficient to stem the long-term depletion of North Sea fields."

UK crude production peaked at 2.9 million bpd in 1999 but has been in long-term decline ever since. Since 2004, the UK has been a net importer of gas.

A bright quote from Bloomberg:

``People are just complacent about the cold weather,'' said Phil Flynn, vice president of risk management at Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago. ``They're not going to run up the price until they actually see the frost on their nose. They want to see how cold and for how long.''

Where is Halfin to explain me again about the ability of the market to predict the future price?

In times like these, with the arrival of a cold snap in the Northern US and a loss of a good deal of exports from Iraq this last week, it's hard to understand what the market is predicting - if anything.  Day to day moves quite frequently don't make sense.
I'd love to chime in, but unfortunately the Bloomberg article has been replaced at that URL so I don't know what exactly they were saying.

If someone is unhappy that markets are not predicting an upcoming cold snap, well, who knows what will happen with the weather? With how warm it's been, I certainly wouldn't say that it's guaranteed to get cold in the next few weeks.

It may also be that even if the temperature drops, there is enough of a surplus of gas and heating oil due to the unseasonable warmth that supplies should be adequate to get through a week or two of cold weather.

Anyway, I think that if energy traders were convinced that betting on an increase in prices before the end of winter were a sure thing, well, that's exactly what they would do. Maybe the analysts quoted by Bloomberg disagree, but hey, that just means they have a chance to get rich off the market's stupidity.

Whenever I read this kind of article I wonder if the analysts don't have a conflict of interest - if maybe they are long the markets and are trying to generate excitement to raise prices so that they can make personal profits. After all, if they do believe that the markets are undervaluing energy, they should invest long, and once they've done that, why shouldn't they tell everyone else to do it, when it can only profit them?

Separate Topic...

Does anyone have any information on the fuel cost per passenger for Cruise Ships?  I'm curious how they will compare to air travel in a mild post peak oil world.  It seems like they could be very efficient, but I doubt they were designed with fuel efficiency in mind.

I happen to live on a Caribbean Island south of Cuba that is becoming increasingly dependent on cruise ships.  Air travel here has yet to recover from 9/11.


If my memory serves me well, when I was on the Norwegian Star cruising Alaska and on a speedy (over 30 knots as I recall) run from Seattle to Juneau, there was an announcement that the ship was burging a gallon of fuel every second.

That is 60 * 60 = 3,600 gallons per hour.  There were about 2,000 passengers, so 1.8 gallons per passenger to go about 30 nautical miles or 35 land miles.  Sounds like about 20 passenger miles per gallon.

Of course, fuel consumption is very much a function of speed.  Slower "cruise" speeds would have higher efficiency.

Speed does indeed make a huge difference: On a large ocean liner fuel consumpion at 22 knots (which is a pretty good speed) may be about one half the fuel consumption at 30 knots.

The key to profitability in carrying passengers is to have full ships and low paid stewards, cooks, crew members. Why? Because to keep passengers happy you have to have good food all the time and cheerful service from staff who look forward to tips. A big crew is needed to coddle passengers.

For me the ideal liner has officers from some Scandanavian country or perhaps the Netherlands or England, and there are a billion desperately poor people in the world who will leap at the chance to do whatever it takes to keep passengers happy or to scrub decks. By way of contrast, in a Boeing 747-400 there are not many people needed to keep the plane flying and passengers supplied with drinks, but the fuel cost per passenger mile is large. Also one reason all the major U.S. airlines are bankrupt is that in the U.S. we pay our pilots and flight attendants (and even baggage handlers) a lot of money, compared to what they earn in other countries. (By the way, I am pro-Union and vehemently against the management of Northwest Airlines, but that is another story.)

However I do want the best people to be captain, either on plane or ship--no more Titanics, please.

When oil goes over $150 - $200 a barrel, then I think long-distance airline tickets will become so expensive that transpacific and transatlantic passenger service can come back and be profitable. Perhaps some cruise ships will be converted to transporting passengers from, e.g. New York to London or San Francisco to Sydney.

Note that the Caribbean has a huge comparative advanage in sailing; as my handle suggests I think sailboats are the way to go whenever possible. Why take a cruise ship when one can charter a yacht in Tortola? But I guess for rich old people who want to spend many dollars in every port the cruise ship can be fun. And with the boomers getting older, the demand for cruises should go up substantially--and soon.

After some quick calculations a 747 with 250 passengers averages about 32mpg per passenger which is better than most commuters get going to work.
I did the calculations for Southwest Airlines (making money every year BTW) for a recent quarter.  They were getting 52 pax-mpg.  By comparision, Amtrak gets mid-70s pax-mpg outside electrified NorthEast Corridor.

Southwest flies only 737s.  Half the older 737-300s & -500s and half newer 737-700s (more fuel efficient, and fitted with tall winglets).

The new replacement (EIS 2012) should be 20% to 25% more efficient than the 737-700 with winglets.  65 pax-mpg seems quite doable.  Fly a bit slower and increase labor & capital costs but lower fuel costs and 70 pax-mpg seems quite doable.

I wish somebody would design an airplane that cruised at about 200 knots, needed exactly two pilots for crew (no food or beverages served--like a bus) and used little fuel per hour of flight. Rather than cruising at 30,000 to 39,000 feet altitude it would cruise where you would not even have to pressurize the cabin, say 7,000 to 10,000 feet. Instead of flying over the weather, it would either fly around it or stay on the ground, as we did in the good old days of DC-3s.

Fast jet planes that have to climb to high altitudes for efficient operation make no sense in a time of $5 to $10 per gallon jet fuel--and especially not for trips of 200 or 300 miles. Note that reliable aircraft engines have been made that will use ethanol and on diesel. With modern technologies, diesel engines driving propellers might be quite a bit more efficient than what we have now (provided we are willing to slow down).

The flight attendants are requierd for safety reasons, serving meals and beverages is a bonus. You have to figure out how to make all passangers behave themselves and self evacuate after an emergency landing.
All the efficiency that you gain by flying slow would be lost by flying low (MUCH thicker air there > more air resistance).

The new 787 will fly higher still, one of several steps to increase fuel mileage by 20+% over the 767.  All composite wings & fuselage, all electric (minimal bleed air off the engines), high by bypass engines are others.

Generally, a quick climb to altitude is best fuel economy move, even for 320 km long flights.

I used to be able to make a quick climb to about 3 meters, sit down, relax, read free mags. eat popcorn, and get there in good time without a seat belt or being squoze between fat people.  Called a train.  Extinct.
In little airplanes, sometimes with only one engine, in the U.S. that carry passengers, no flight attendants are required. In the olden days only registered nurses were hired as stewardesses (as they were known) and they were required to be under 110 pounds in weight and under about five feet four inches in height. Times have changed. So long as you get oil and fuel to an aircraft engine it will not quit. We know where the icing conditions are. Ditching a big jet in the ocean will probably kill everybody regardless of what anybody does.

As most ex-pilots do, I always get a seat by the emergency door and assure the flight attendant that yes, I am strong enough and able and willing to open the door in case of need. It is interesting to notice that on many flights that right next to the emergency exits are guys who turn out to be off-duty pilots. Also, you get more leg room in emergency-exit rows.

It is quite true that when a plane is on the ground that flight attendants help much in getting people out. It would also help to have attendants who would help people out after bus crashes, but the economics of the business forbid this. There are tradeoffs everywhere, and to help keep ticket prices down I'm willing to accept a slight (very slight) increase in risk.

True, it is nice to fly first class, and I know a few tricks that often get me bumped up to first class: The champagne, the good red French wines and warm towels and prettiest flight attendants and big seats and great leg room are all very nice, and the food is at least edible and abundant. But when I pay for my own ticket, I'm willing to accept conditions such as those found in a cross-country Greyhound bus. And BTW, bus travel is not so bad: Years ago I went by Greyhound from St. Petersburg, Florida to Oakland, California--a trip of some thousands of miles and a few days. Met some interesting people on the bus and stopped in places that I otherwise never would have seen.

20 passenger-miles per gallon doesn't sound all that great. An airliner is similar, believe it or not assuming full load of passengers. A Boeing 767 (like used in 9/11 as a pre-fab truck bomb) holds 12,000 gallons of fuel and goes 6,000 miles on a load of fuel. That's 2mpg. With 100 passengers, that's a lot better than cars or cruise ships.

Note that cruise ships use a LOT of electricity onboard for amenities. I served on an 8,000 ton warship, and the best fuel economy to be had was 15 knots, half-speed. It got 15 miles per 1,000 gallons, and had 500 inhabitants. A "boatload" of electricity was used for "amenities" like weapon systems, radars, etc. and optimum fuel economy was when horsepower for propulsion was about equal for making power. I bet a cruise ship is similar. It makes no sense to go too slow becuse you waste fuel making electricity for a longer period as you drive. And it makes no sense to drive too fast as horses needed goes up way faster than speed. (like by the cube)

Speaking of cruise ships, did you hear about that "sport utility" cruiseliner that Royal Carribean is ordering from Norway? This abomination will be long as a Nimitz class carrier, 150 feet wise, and 25 storeys high! Holding 6,000 passengers, it makes the ship I was on - or even a Titanic - look puny by comparison.

Sorry, but your math is a little too fuzzy there. 6000 miles divided by 12000 gallons yields 0.5 mpg. With a hundred passengers that would be 50 passenger-miles/gallon. Even my 64 Dodge Dart can easily beat that with three aboard.

Whatever airplanes are, they are not an energy efficient way to move anything around.

Thanks for the correction. I'd get better passenger-miles with my car with one passenger onboard not along with me, the "pilot". (my car gets 26mpg) Suffice it to say, planes are fuel guzzlers and ships aren't all that hot either.
Dunno about cruise ships, but I recently talked to the captain of a cargo ship.  One of those bloody huge container ship monsters.  He said fuel costs are definitely becoming an issue.  His ship's mileage is something like 25 gallons per mile.   He buys fuel from around the world, and tries to get it where it's cheapest.  When you're buying 2,000 tons of fuel at a time, even a few bucks per ton can make a big difference.
Some of you may be interested in the following dialogue with Russian Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko:

Included is a discussion of Gazprom and the Ukraine.

Touched on also is the tension between one of the leading oil producers as well as one of the largest consumers:

"What is Russia's energy leadership all about and how should we view it? Of course, leadership is not determined by production statistics or even sales figures. Saudi Arabia, for example, does not simply produce a lot of oil; it also sells more oil because it does not consume so much. Russia, on the contrary, is one of the major energy resource-consuming countries.

"First, we need to properly understand both energy security issues and global issues. Second, we need to have the resources and the possibilities for minimizing the risks associated with energy security."

Exactly how does a country with oil and approaching peak oil balance its own energy needs and play fairly on the open market?

Thinking about the SoTU, what technology do we need?

If you want a car that does 50 mpg, you can buy it today. A Toyota Yaris/Vitz with a small diesel engine will do the trick. It's a small car, but it works fine. Or the Peugeot 10x series. But there are more. The VW Lupo 3L does even better. It's also much cheaper than buying a car that does 15 mpg, oddly enough.

If you want to improve even more, a 'stop & start' option will help save an additional 20% (You know, it shuts off the motor when you stop and starts automatically when you push the gas again) About 100-200$ for an electronic board and some cables etc, that's about all it takes.

About hybrids: Hybrids work very nicely in city traffic. That's where they get their advantages. On the highway, they are just like a normal car with a small engine and a larger weight, so little advantage there. But the technology is expensive. Gas prices have to go up significantly before they are economically viable. And even then, there are easier alternatives that save much more. How about using a bike or a moped? A moped will do 80 mpg easily. I know, currently in the US this is not realistic. But when gas prices double again, it will. How do I know this for sure? Because it has already happened in Europe & Japan, some 30 years ago.

Personally, I think hybrids are 'too much'. I don't think that in 10 years 30% of the car sales are going to be hybrids. There is already a market trend to go to much cheaper cars (the Renault Logan for instance, which is a surprise hit in Europe)

The only 'new technology' that we need I think is PV, but much cheaper ones. The current manufacturing of PV is very expensive and that is basically the reason why not everybody has PV on the roof. I think what we need is a PV manufacturing process like offset printing that produces PV at 40 miles-per-hour. Now, wouldn't that be nice? Come to think of it: if we have that, a lot of problems would be solved before the day is out.

I agree.  Most of the mfrs that sell in the US have such vehicles elsewhere.  They could be on the market with only a short delay to change bumpers, lights, etc.  Small turbo diesels with microprocessor controlled common rail designs are quite nice.  What do you think the problem is?  My guess is gas is still too cheap, and people are too attached to their big vehicles.  Maybe Americans are just too big themselves to conceive of fitting in a small car!  
IMHO mopeds and motorized adult trikes are the way to go. I'm happy with my Giant LA Free electric-assist bike, but also I'm going to get a 35 c.c. two-stroke friction-drive bike motor, convert it to ethanol (not hard to do) and run it on E-85, which is available everywhere in Minnesota. That one will go on my folding Brompton bike.

Oh, BTW, I have studded tires for the winters.

I am interested in how to convert the engine to E-85.  Do you happen to have a link.

Any link to the 35 c.c. two-stroke friction drive bike motor?


is where to go for bicycle motors.

Warning: you may fill up your garage with projects and alienate any woman in your life if you go there.

To convert to E-85 there are many, many sources. Try Google or     Or just go to a mechanic who understands these things. Only thing you really have to look out for is that ethanol is more corrosive than gasoline; boring out the air intake is easy.

Maybe Americans are just too big themselves to conceive of fitting in a small car!

Maybe they do ;-) But that was the same in Europe, 30 years ago. And that changed. In the end, money talks, bs walks. When gas prices go up, cars will get smaller.

The thing that I find surprising is that when people talk about making a car more fuel-efficient, they also immediately accept that it has to become more expensive. I think it should be the other way around. And actually it is. A nice SUV will set you back 30k$, a small Toyota about 12k$. So maybe when people are considering buying a hybrid, they will also do the math.

What can a government do to make people more comfortable with buying small and light cars?  Smaller cars will give a mix of heavy and very light traffic and light cars are not as safe.

One thing is to invest in better roads. Clear the road shoulders of hard obstacles and set up wire fencing that catches cars leaving the road where there are obstacles. Separate meeting traffic with wire fencing and alternate 1+2 lanes to get overtake zones since 2+2 motorways and so on are too expensive to build everywhere.

One system that would be very effective is complete electronic speed and car distance control and even more so if the driving pattern is monitored to alert sleepy, drunken or very agressive drivers, and then alert the police. The problem with such a system is personal integrity and it would make driving less fun for people who like to drive. This line of thought is probably the most "fashistic" one I have. I dont care about driving being fun, I only care about my right of using public roads when I want, to get where I want, withouth being hurt by someone. Its an extreme idea so I better be careful with it.

What the government can do is basically very simple. Make driving gas guzzlers more expensive. All else will follow.

There are 2 basic laws in economics:

First Law of Economics:
- If the price goes up, consumption goes down

Second Law of Economics:
- If the price goes up, consumption of a substitute goes up

The good part about these laws is that they are universal. Like gravity. Nobody denies gravity. These laws are the same. They hold for everybody.

So if you propose to change the layout of the road, I say: don't bother ;-)

I would propose: Increase the tax on gas, use the money to jumpstart a few bus-routes. Repeat this for all developed countries in the world and until oil is 10$ a barrel. Peak oil solved, including a whole lot of other very serious issues that we face.

Any takers?

That has already been done here in Sweden. About 70% of the fossil fuel price is tax. Gasolene is about $4.5 per gallon, if I used the right gallon, those funny units. mumble

These has given two complaints, the tax is too high and traffic and road traffic do not get much out of it. This is true since the fuel taxes are much higher then the cost to maintain and build roads. Building better roads gives better acceptance for the high tax, better safety and a lasting value for the post peak oil times. There will be plenty of big trucks hauling biomass and stuff to and from the railways and small cars, a good road bed is usefull for a hundred years or more.

The price mechanism is being used to support E85 and methane from biomass by not applying all of the taxes on them. This has given some enviromentalists mild heartburn since we are staring to have a small cottage industry modifieing old cars to run on E85 wich is illegal since it voids the exhaust rules and some of them give a litte to much smoke. They do not want to press on it being illegal since it replaces a lot of fossil fuel on the other hand they realy like using the law system to get cleaner air. Its about as fun as the agonizing about wind mills. Myself I do not care about the problem since those old cars anyway will be gone in a few years. I am more intrested in advocating wehicle gas, preferably biomass methane mixed with hydrogen since that gives very little nastiness in the exhaust.

The gasolene and diesel taxes has ben slowly ramped up over a long time. I do not think it has helped bus traffic that much. Most busses are not fuel efficient since they seldom are full and the cost for he drivers salary and the capital cost of the bus is a large part of the cost. With few passengers it is more efficient if every one of them drives in their own car. Best is if they share a car, perhaps internet services can help with coordinating that?

But travel by rail is increasing significantly for each year.  This has been helped by large capital investments, about $10^10  during the last 15 years for new and upgraded tracks taking us about 1/3 of the way to a realy nice rail network withouth any major missing links. But we can probably not afford French  and German 350 km/h railways and trains but I think 250 km/h will be fairly common in about 10 years.

It must have affected the two major movements of people, one to urban flats and closely spaced single houses in urban areas and the other to dispersed houses and small villages in rural areas not to far from growing towns. Small towns witouth good railways or roads to large towns and rural areas far from such infrastructure are mostly dying out. But I have no idea how to quantifie it.

The high gas price is also hindering porer people from buying newer more efficient cars. We have perhaps the oldest car fleet in europe with lots of old large (US mid sized) Volvos and those are not fuel efficient. At least they are safe to drive. The car fleet basically follows the middle class car taste with a 5-10 year lag.  Fortunately E85, wehicle gas and hybrid cars are becomming more popular among those who can afford new and slightly more expensive cars.

I think Sweden has been far more intelligent in its transportation policies than has the United States. In U.S.A. we build many fine highways, add lanes and keep upgrading old roads. But what happens? The traffic congestion keeps getting worse and worse. Each decade people communte longer distances since 1950. If you build or improve a road, traffic comes to fill it up, and hence now people spend two hours per day sitting in their cars, often in stop-and-go traffic.

What we have found in the United States is that it is impossible to build enough roads to relieve traffic congestion, because what happens is that the developers start building more and more houses farther and farther from the central cities. In California it is common to spend three hours a day or more commuting. In Minnesota I know some people who live in Duluth but work in Minneapolis, and that is a drive of more than two hours each way. In my opinion, this way of living is totally insane. Back when I had to work, I walked to work in the winter, even when the windchill was forty degrees below zero, and that was good for my health. When it is not so cold that my glasses freeze to my face I ride a bicycle. Of course, the general opinion is that I am totally insane, but the feeling is reciprocal.  ;-)

I do not know if was planning or luck but it was figured out that road traffic and rail traffic such as subways and so on complement each other. We have some congestion problems, especially in Stockholm but most of them could be built away with new trolley lines etc in parellell with new roads, especially if there is a cost for using the roads.  But it is expensive, the cost to get Stockholm back to the traffic equilibrium it had during the 70:s and 80:s before it grew further is billions of dollars. On the other hand those investments are usefull for a very long time.

Collective trafic makes it easier to live in dense cities and more people can live withouth a car or with one car in the family leaving road space to realy be able to use the cars. Cars are important and they are an icon for freedom but that freedom is not worth much in a traffic jam.

There is right now a toll road experiment run in central Stockholm forced thru by the greens but I do not find it well executed, it might give such tolls a bad reputation for a long time.

I think my home town of abot 110 000 people in the central parts is past the level where we need the city busses to relieve the streets of some car traffic. But it is not yet big enough for trolleys even if there is planning for such if it continues to grow.  

The strongest motivation for the more rural busses is to transport schoolchildren and when we anyway need the bus it can pick up everybody.  Most of the bus network is run at a loss and a large part of it do not make sense fuel use wise but is a fairly clumsy way to aid people who can not afford a car or who can not drive due to age or other reasons.

Cars will continue to be central to our transportation culture since we must have them to travel to and from the rural areas where manny people have summer cottages, boats, hunting, forestry as a hobby, etc.  But why use them for all transportations needs? Especially when that destroys their utility.

And not being 100% dependant on a car makes it much easiert to handle bad economical fortunes for whatever reasons. That can be seen as a larger freedom of lifestyles then only having the cars freedom of transportation. Myself I am studying, I have a small Skoda that most of the time stays in the garage while I bicycle to the university, the city center, the mall area with IKEA and so on and manny of my friends.

> And not being 100% dependant on a car makes it much easiert to handle bad economical fortunes for whatever reasons.

Ok, it would be less bad if we had US fuel tax. But insurance, "deperciation of status value" and then rust and repairs can easily use up a lot of money.

My decades of experience in public transit has taught me that the biggest obstacle to using the bus is the farebox. Public transit is an essential government service in metropolitan areas just like the police department. The next obstacle is headway, the time intervals between buses on a route. Headways should never exceed 15 minutes but I have seen headways of as much as 90 minutes. To cut headways to 15 minutes or less would require at least 3 times as many buses in the nation's fleet and at least 3 times as many drivers. Do this and we can eliminate all ME oil imports in less than 5 years.
> Do this and we can eliminate all ME oil imports in less than 5 years.

My intuition tell me "no way", could you elaborate with some figures?

Do this and we can eliminate all ME oil imports in less than 5 years.

In order for this to work you have to rebuild our cities first.

I've used buses here in Atlanta. Headways are in the range 45-60 minutes; even more in the weekends. Even in downtown there are areas where no bus is passing within 15 minutes walking distance. Clearly we are going to need at least 5 times more buses to make things work, not 3. The catch is that even now the buses are almost empty, and even if you increase them 5 times you will not be able to 5 times more people to use them (at least not before gas hits 10$). But even in this case the bus utilisation will be low, they will drive long distances (greatly worsening the trafic congestions, which are already unbearable here) consuming almost the same amount of fuel per passenger than a sigle-driver car.

The point is that you have to totally rebuild the city to make public transportation make more than a small dent of the problem. What is worse is that in such cities there is no real alternative - you have to commute one way or another or die from hunger, as the nearest store for example could be within 2 miles from your house, not to mention about job location etc.

Lots of small busses.  Everybody has a cell phone, the central computer knows right away where the person needing a ride is located.  The right small bus gets the rider, goes which way is best for all on board.  Everybody happy, nobody waits much.

Secret of success- instant communication, smart computer, GPS.  All we need to do is use what we have.

OK, OK, SOME of what we need to do is-------.

All we REALLY need to do is cut the population to 1/10, smartize the remainder, and get to be able to stand each other.

I really enjoy hearing about how other more enlightened countries are doing things regarding peak oil. Please continue to post...
Haven't been able to post in a while -- all this cold weather in Europe has kept one or both of the kiddies home (20 below 0 C means Daddy has a lot less time to read TOD)...

...thanks for another good set of posts, Magnus Redin. Just how old is the average car in Sweden? Here in Lithuania, the average is 14 years old -- I had read a month ago that according to the road police, this was the oldest average in the EU, but now you've got me wondering!

I wish the cars around here were Volvos -- the reason I remember reading the article was because its main storyline was about how traffic fatalities in the past 10 years have amounted to about 7,000 (or was it 8,000?). This, in a country with only 3.something million people. Kamakaze drivers!

I found some statistics from 2004 on
The average car age was 9.2 years

A total of 4 113 000 were registered.
80% of them private.
1 113 527 by women.
17% Volvo
12% VW
9% Ford
2 201 019 by men.
25% Volvo
10% Saab
9% VW

Total distance driven 6,1 * 10^10 km
On average 14360 km per car
Total population 30 september 2005  9 039 143

That was a quick response! Thanks.

Now, on a slightly different topic...if the district heating in my town fails (as it did a few weeks ago in another town, leaving 5,800+ flats / apartments without heat for 3-7 days), would you be willing to make a quick service call to our municipal-owned heating company?   :((  I wish we had the Swedish district-heating infrastructure...especially during these cold spells...

Do you have an ex Sovjet system with noticable leakage and sometimes wet mineral wool or asbestos insulation of the culverts? :(

The only thing that solves the problem is to have enough redundancy in the heating plants and spare parts for pumps etc.

There are mobile oil fired spare boilers with pumps etc that can be called upon on a short notice They are mostly used when a part of a system is cut off for service of culverts, pumps or boilers. But 5800 flats is a lot.

Could all of the municipialities together finance a set of mobile MW size oil fired boilers with pumps, preassurizing equipment and so on?

I could probably understand your system and suggest reasonable improvements but I have never done such a job so I am probably not the right person to call for immediate service. But if you want some analyzing and brain storming I can work for three people.

Yes! You've got the picture *exactly* right. I'm still trying to understand our municipal system. A neighbor works for the heating authority, when the heating season ends, I will get a tour of the facility. When I understand it better, and have some numbers, I'll bring this up again. Mobile boilers and pumps? That is an intriguing idea. It would have saved Telsiai (the town I mentioned where 5,800 flats lost their heat for up to a week), or at least lessened the pain. It was nuts -- when the main distribution pipe burst (due to plant operator error -- temperature was raised too high), everybody plugged in electric radiators. And caused the wiring in many buildings to melt. Luckily, no fires, just a lot of power outages and ruined electric cables/boxes. Your postings are really informative, Magnus Redin. Thank you.
This means that you probably had one or two major weaknesses in the systems in addition to the operator error. No functioning overpreassure valves or weak pipes or both. Recalculating and renovating systems such as overpreassure valves, pumps, control systems and so on should not be very expensive or time consuming. Replacing the culverts is another thing.

Electric radiators is a perfectly ok spare system. Melting wiring should mean that you have too large fuses installed in relation to the wire dimension. I have no knowledge about ex Sovjet electrical code but I have the impression that the code might have been theoretically perfect but the craftsmanship sloppy and inadequate materials used. I guess it would be a good idea to check all electricity installations and fix them up, a 10 year job. The perfect authority to get that done is the insurance companies if it is common to insure flats and houses.

District heating systems should be like New York police, zero tolerance. The moment you notice liters of new water entering the system you start looking for the leak. The kind of pipes I have seen in use are steel pipes with foamed plastic insulation and a fairly thick plastic outer layer protecting the foam. Inside the foamed plastic there are two or more bare copper leads that are used to automatically alarm for wet insulation and sometimes to locate the leak.

Sorry, the kind of modern pipes I have seen in use.  Large pipes usually have a single steel tube, smaller might have two. Copper pipes are often used in smaller dimensions and PEX plastic ones in systems with lower temperatures.

The smallest pipes to individual houses are often made to be flexible with copper or PEX tubes so they can be laid into the ground from as if they were a thick power cable. Those are sometimes four tube to distribute hot tap water from a heat exchanger servicing several houses. They are also used by people who have several houses that they heat with the same boiler, you can pre order them cut to lenght.

Older types in my home town have mineral wool and cork insulation and the largest ones are laid in drained concrete culverts. They can be found by the strips of melting snow. At least some of them have bicycle lanes on top of them, luxorious! :-)  They are not replaced untill they rust, it cost to much to dig them up before they are worn out and the budget is used to expand the district heating network and building a district cooling network.

Casting concrete culverts must have been rediculously expensive compared to the modern types of pipes.  I am by the way curious about the NYC steam district heating system. It must be hard to maintain compared to a hot water one.

Tax = 1/MPG^3 * 100000000
"What they don't want you to know about the coming oil crisis"

Has anyone read this nonsense - It appeared on the editorial page of my local paper yesterday (the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette). It was right next to a letter in which the 2nd law of Thermodynamics proved evolution is impossible. Arggh!

She seems to be buying into two myths. One is the limitless supply myth. The other is science is like magic and will fix the problem of no cheap alternative to oil.