The Tuesday Morning Open Thread

The choice is yours . . .
Cyclone Larry was either a Category 4 storm or a Category 5 storm at landfall, depending on which source you want to believe. In any event, it seems it was the worst Cyclone to hit Australia since 1918. It seems their cyclone problems are worsening at the same time as the United States's hurricane problems. Oh well, I'm sure it's not a trend.
Let me file an addendum to the above. It was the worst cyclone to hit the east coast of Australia since 1918, not the whole continent. Jeff Masters says it was a Category 3 storm at landfall, and notes:
Larry may be the strongest tropical cyclone in recorded history to hit the east coast of Australia. The north coast and west coast of Australia are more prone to major hurricanes.
Hello Interloafer,

Speaking of hurricanes, is predicting that conditions are ripening for the NorthEast coast of America to get hit with a devastating storm.  Here is the link:

Also, Texas is moving into the hurricane bullseye.  Watch out Houston--YOU WERE WARNED!

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

Interesting.  They think the northeast could be in the crosshairs this year.

Along with Texas:

Additionally, believes that the upper Texas coast is likely to be the target of higher than normal hurricane and tropical storm activity over the next 10 years. "Hurricane Rita was a warning shot," says's Bastardi, referring to the 2005 Category 5 storm that threatened the Houston area and made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border last September. "The Texas coast is in for a long period of tropical activity, particularly the region from Corpus Christi to Sabine Pass at the Louisiana border."

I remember one guy from the NHC saying that for reasons they don't fully understand, hurricanes were shifting west.  We had several years where the hurricanes were going up the east coast and hitting the Outer Banks of North Carolina, or Kennebunkport, Maine.  Then we had that year where they all hit Florida.  Last year, they went further west, to the Gulf Coast.  Houston, here we come?

Houston and Kennebunkport.  There must be a connection. The Bushes are channelling hurricanes, perhaps.
Hello Fletcher,

A 'Divine Wind' is trying to get them? :-)

Some people think HAARP tech is now perfected for the Cull.  I doubt it.  Nature's forces are magnitudes stronger than any efforts of man to try to control.

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast

Shifts in the jet stream flow over continental North America? Those same shifts, taking the jet stream further north, led Accu-Weather to comment in another article that we are seeing conditions in the central US similar to the 1930s "dust bowl" period developing. Further, we saw last year how high pressure systems coming down from Canada could deflect hurricanes in the Gulf either to the east or west.

And why is the jet stream shifting? Apparently global warming.

Those same shifts, taking the jet stream further north, led Accu-Weather to comment in another article that we are seeing conditions in the central US similar to the 1930s "dust bowl" period developing.

Did they really?  I was just thinking that the current pattern of drought looks a lot like the dust bowl:

Hello Leanan,

According to your Graphic--the driest area is around Houston!  For all our sakes, I hope they do not get my firestorm scenario!

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

I would take anything Bastardi says as a contrarian indicator.  He's seldom right.
Do you have some examples of times when he was wrong?  (I'm not trying to be confrontational. I'm just curious as to his track record.)
Here's the last Discover article about that turkey parts plant:

Anything Into Oil, Part 3

Kind of interesting to read it, then go back and read the earlier articles, and see how reality compared to theory.

Anything Into Oil, Part 1

Anything Into Oil, Part 2

The thermal conversion process is probably the only practical large-scale method of dismantling prions, the proteins that cause mad cow disease.

A net gain, as far as I can tell.

solution to one of America's most vexing solid waste problems: the unholy mix of plastics and other leftovers from automobile metals recycling

As I understand the process, if you have some catlysts like platuinum in the waste stream, the catlyist under pressure/temp will cause an explosion.   But perhaps my source material was wrong.

Kind of interesting to read it, then go back and read the earlier articles, and see how reality compared to theory.

The Stirling engine of Kamen and Energy Innovations would fare better in such a 'lets go back and see if the claims are being delivered' than Mr. Mills blacklight power battery....

From the article:

So why has success been so long coming? Basically, Appel says, everything has been more complex and expensive than anyone guessed.

This, in one sentence, shows us why we should take statements like "Don't worry, technology will allow us to avoid the bad effects of peak oil!" with a pound of salt.

Anything into oil - Part 4

Soylent Green.

Cremation is so yesterday.
I'll bet the Mafia is interested in this process too.  What a fine way to get rid of a body - none of that nasty DNA left around.
Or is it Oilent Brown?
Maybe the Coen brothers can use this to do a sequel to Fargo!!
Even better!  A sequel to Fantastic Voyage.  Start inside a turkey and end up inside a Hummer!
5 times. that's a record, I think.
Then there's this:

Servers' energy efficiency becoming issue

The energy efficiency of datacentres is becoming a big worry for some New Zealand companies, says the head of IBM's server business in Australasia, as they find they can't get enough power into their buildings to run and cool all the servers they need.

Traditionally companies have chosen servers that give the most bang for their buck, choosing faster processors without worrying much about energy efficiency.

But rising energy costs mean companies overseas are looking at a longer-term strategy to minimise rising energy costs with more efficient servers.

Information Week in the US has reported that companies are now spending more money powering and cooling servers than on acquiring the hardware in the first place.

I suspect the energy costs of the Internet are higher than most people realize.

There are stories that Intel is running into trouble because their processors are power hogs; this has opened a door for AMD, which makes more efficient processors,  to steal market share. But more efficient processors may just mean you can install more servers.

Of course, the servers themselves aren't the whole story, maybe not even the most important part. Think of all the hard disk arrays and routers and ...?

Coming soon to a server farm near you: Peak Data!

We ought to go back to text-only.

I'm all pro-1994-internet-quality if it needs to be done.

I dunno.  I think if the Internet survives, it will be as entertainment.  pr0n was instrumental in the development of the Internet, and will probably be there till the end.

Robert McKee says in his book Story that his mother told him to become a screenwriter.  Because, she said, that way he'd always have job security.  No matter what, people always want entertainment.

I suspect McKee's mom was right.  Hollywood did fine during the Great Depression.  Even now, in some developing nations, people spend their grocery money and sell their blood to get movie tickets.

That may seem crazy.  If you're a poor laborer, it seems self-defeating to sell your blood, sometimes repeatedly, for a movie ticket.  And where is the sense in letting your children starve at home while you watch movies with money that could buy them food?

Anthropologists believe that it's our Stone Age brains at work.  Keeping track of what the neighbors were doing was an essential survival skill in the Stone Age.  And of course, so was chasing after beautiful people.  We are now in the electronic age, but our Stone Age brains don't really know those images on the screen are not real people.  We respond to them as if they are real, often to our own detriment.  

This is why I think if people continue to pay for the Internet, it won't be in order to get plain text weather reports.

Oh come now. Yes this internet uses lots of energy -- while energy is cheap, why not. But seriously, you can interlink cities with parabolic dishes on poles and discarded hardware that runs on a couple hundred watts total. I do NOT think we will have a problem keeping a global internetwork (or several) running in useful ways - we will just be smarter about it and may not have such a bandwidth bonanza. We may also in future repurpose the old analog TV and Radio EM bands for UWB internetworking.
I believe fiber optic is a better solution energy-wise.

In any case, it's not the transmission or really even the switches that are the big power hogs:  it's the servers.  The processors run HOT.  Hards drives are spinning constantly and generating heat as well.  It's HARD to keep even a small server room cool (and I know -- I'm a systems administrator).

I have some 1U (single unit height == 1.5-2.0 inches) PowerEdge servers from Dell that have SEVEN fans in them to move enough air through them to keep them cool.  Even when it's 25 degrees outside our server room AC is running to keep 20 servers from pushing the temp above 74 degrees.

LCD screens have been a big help for us:  we have to keep monitors running on some servers to see problems in real-time.  The old CRT's were space heaters in their own right!

looking around i would think any servers based on via's low power mini-itx boards, intel's ulv cpus, or amd's geode cpu will be more attractive despite the performance hit because of how little power they consume.
That is why i am trying to get my hands on one of via's mini-itx boards.
Not simply the internet, but PC use in general.  Lots of people leave their Computer on all day, up to bedtime. ..their DSL running all day.  That's like leaving your HairDryer running for like 2-4 hours, in many cases. (250-500 watt units being common)

I attended an energy conference at a local public school, where a guy who has done energy audits for various district schools said a Superintendant complained that all the Compact Fluorescents and T-15's didn't bring their electric bill down that year.  Of course, it was the year they added this computer lab that had dozens of machines, all running all daylong.  It's a lot of power for what is usually web-research and word-processing.  It does at least offer support for the argument that there are just Myriad ways that we can make our energy usage MUCH more effective than we've been doing, here in the Rich-countries.  I'd love to know more about the measures that helped California dig into their power-usage a couple years back, with the Rolling B-0's, etc

I've got a Kill-A-Watt monitor and have checked out a few PCs.  The typical home PC draws about 75w, and the monitor ... veries widely with brand, type, and size.  A 17-19" CRT may be about 75w if it is a good brand.  Small LCDs may be better than that, but large LCDs (perhaps because they need a lot of backlighting) can have very large draws.

So I don't think you have to fear 250-500 (unless you have a dual CPU PowerMac (G5) with a big Apple LCD).  Otherwise, 150-200 is probably typical.

A notebook is of course the easy way to buy efficient computing.

FWIW, here are my actual results.  I have a cable modem on all the time, a hub on all the time, and a couple Dell PCs switched on as I use them (typically one on at a time, a fair number of (4-6?) hours each day):

running 165 hours and 0 minutes consumes 4.54 kwh

average consumption 27.515 watts

KWH per year = 241.03

$22.60    per year at 0.09375 cents min charge
$41.08    per year at 0.17042 cents max charge

$1.88    per month at 0.09375 cents min charge
$3.42    per month at 0.17042 cents max charge

Thanks, Odograph.
I Stand Corrected.

That's a relief, in one sense.  I was, of course, looking at the CAPACITY of the PowerSupplies on so many PC's now, and had made the fatal assumption (!!) that it was what they would draw, regardless of the config of peripherals, drives, etc.

I'm hankering for a Kill-a-Watt meter myself.  Actually, I would like a 'Smart Service Box', to continue my own Technology Expansion Program, which regularly monitors your power usage throughout your electrical system, to catch phantoms and loads that are left on needlessly.. (like the watt-meter itself?)  It would just be a window on the Home AutomationPC that manages the Home, Solar, Furnace, etc..

Regardless, even that 75 watts is a draw that can be shut off, or set to smarter Power Management, if it's not being used.  There's a community NonProfit nearby that does Tutoring and PC classes, and they have something like 25 PC's with CRT's which are running all the time, not going to sleep, monitors just on..  This is the setup at countless Libraries, Offices.  There's just a TON of power that we use needlessly in all this.  If that was 25, 75-watt bulbs, that would be a pretty bright room..


what are the specs of the pc's your running? those numbers hardly seem right for anything made in the past 3 to 4 years.
I have two 2.4Ghz Dell P4s on a power strip.  One has 1G ram, one has 768M.  One has two HDs 40/80G, one has one HD 60G.

The first PCs I've had in 20 years that haven't seemed "slow" a few years later.  (I launch "top" under Linux and see myself 96% to 98% idle now, shortly after boot.)

ok i stand corrected.
those numbers do fit asuming both have a single optical drive and are using intergrated sound, intergrated video or a geforce 2 class or lower video card, and a intergrated nic. as long as it's idle.

whats their draw under full load though?

The one that is typically off has an All-In-Wonder Radeon 9000 Pro TV tuner/graphcis card.  The one that is typically on has something just described as a 64MB, NiVidia 18, Dimension.  I don't play games and those are fine for me.

The one typically on does have two optical drives (cd-rw, dvd-rom), and the one off just has the dvd burner.

Full load is an interesting question ... because it of course depends on who's load.  I just do light office use and web surfing these days.  Both the machines keep up with the cable modem and that's all I need.  In the old days I did thing like Java development under Eclipse.  That I did measure, and it was off-again on-again enough in demand that it kept the 75 watt figure.  Before that I used to do Oracle database work, and I didn't measure that.  Obviously if you do an app that keeps the disk running ...

FWIW, the best computer I ever measured under load was an IBM Thinkcentre 2.4GHz, 768M, 60G.  While I was doing the Eclipse/Java work, it was only drawing 40w.  Pretty cool.

BTW, that Thinkcentre was "Energy Star" compliant.  In my opinion all PCs could be as efficient, and given the way economy of scale drives prices down ... if we passed a law that all PCs had to be Energy Star, within 6 months the extra cost would have disappeared from the equation.

If Dell just decided to make its line Energy Star, it would be a done deal for the whole PC ecosystem.

Savinsg from LED traffic lights can balance efficient internet & computer use.

Telephone access is low power, laptop technology in a desktop, etc. can keep power use down.  And is it cheaper to build more fiber optic lines and place many server farms in places with cheap, renewable electrcity (Iceland, Siberia, etc.) ?

Hello TODers,

I thought I would repost this here as the Phx exurb thread was getting too long.  It is more Googled evidence of my speculation that postPeak: many cities will suffer terrible fire damage.  Recall my earlier posts on how difficult it will be in Phx to fight fires without modern fire-fighting equipment, communications, and hydrant infrastructure.

Hello Three Blind Mice, Leanan, and  R W Reactionary, Don in Colorado:

Thanks for responding.  FIRE TORNADOES have happened before, they will happen again.  Consider this link:

Everyone's heard of the Chicago Fire, back in the 1800s. According to folklore, it was started by Mrs. O'Leary's cow. It incinerated the city in a single night, and killed 300 people. But another fire -- on the same night -- was much worse. It wiped out the booming mill town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, just north of Green Bay. More than 2,000 people died.

The town was at the center of a tornado of flame. The fire was coming from all directions at once, and the winds were roaring at 100 mph.

Some people in Peshtigo managed to struggle to the river. They stood in the water for hours. Some of them survived.

Leschak says at the center of the fire, the vortex of wind sucked the smoke up into the sky, so the air was clear and bright with flame. He says the people in the river experienced "something that very few people have ever witnessed, and lived to tell the tale. They're at the center of this hurricane of flame. Small wonder their hair was bursting into flame if they didn't keep ducking their heads into the water. And to have survived that is just amazing, just amazing," Leschak says.

Wisconsin is cool and green compared to Phx, and the potential fuel concentration inside the city of Phx is quite dense [wood, plastics, furnishings--you get the picture].  The summer monsoon is similar to supercells-- incredible wind & energy-- the temperature can drop from 115 to 85 degrees or more in mere minutes. Please check out the six pictures in this link:

This next link charts AZ tornados:

AZ has had F1 to F3 tornados, primarily during our monsoon season.  So, as I mentioned in my earlier post: a postPeak summer monsoon urban fire, combined with insufficient water and fire equipment could cause a fire escalation to a 'critical mass' firestorm.  Here is a link to a story & photo of a 150 ft fire tornado east of Abilene, and this is just sparse grassland [It totally destroyed the community of Kokomo!]:

He visited Cross Plains first and photographed slab after slab where houses had recently stood.   "It took everybody by surprise.   The fire broke out four miles outside town and, driven by winds up to forty-five miles per hour, roared to the northeast, simply demolishing everything in its path, but the territory was rural, with few buildings.   Everybody in town thought they were safe.

Finally, a link to Wikipedia to add more evidence to my scenario.  Never, never underestimate what fire can do.  Historically, more people have died from earthquake caused fires, than from the earthquakes themselves.

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

Hello TODers,

A few more sentences & links for you to consider. I wonder how much worse Global Warming will make future scenarios:

By the time it was over 1,875 square miles (4,850 km² or 1.2 million acres) of forest were consumed, an area approximately twice the size of the state of Rhode Island. Some sources list 1.5 million acres (6,000 km²) burned. Twelve towns were destroyed.

The fire was so intense that it jumped over the waters of Green Bay and burned parts of the Door Peninsula as well as jumping the Peshtigo River itself to burn on both sides of the inlet town.

Surviving witnesses in Peshtigo reported that the firestorm generated an infernal tornado which threw rail cars and houses into the air.

Does anyone still doubt that our postPeak future will be boring?

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

Don't forget Slaughterhouse Five (Schlachthaus Funf).

Kurt Vonnegut survived the Dresden firestorm in WWII. He was. obviously, a prisoner of war and survived ironically because of that status.

The main thing I remember about what I read is that fire storms suck the oxygen from its surroundings causing people to suffocate long before they succumb to other causes traditionally ascribed to fire. Rescue workers entering the burnt region were distressed to find people who lay dead in the streets not burnt or black arond the mouth from breathing smoke, but perfectly healthy looking otherwise.

Just a matter of time.

Hello Cherenkov,

I noticed that one link got truncated.  I want people to see this amazing photo of the Fire Tornado.


Just imagine a Fujita 5 version of this swirling thru Phx!

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

Don't worry, the "truncated" links still work.  They don't show completely, so as not to stretch the screen and force people to scroll, but they still work if you click them.
Hi Totonella,

I didn't say fire tornadoes can't happen. I said the McMansions will be mostly abandoned by the time the fire-engines stop doing their jobs. It'll be too expensive to get around in the exurbs, much less supply them with groceries, long before the essential services pack it in. People will move their SUVs into trailer parks close to town.

As to what it looks like when TSHTF ... well, let's see. Start with the Grapes Of Wrath. Now arm everyone with automatic weapons. Add television. But take away the food, water, gasoline, and any survival skill beyond cannibalism.

Nah, I don't believe that - it's too civilian. Let's start with the economic collapse. Only employer left is military. And we have 100 million unemployed video-game addicts lining up for uzis and bibles.

Then as rebellions and mutinies break out, not to mention little terrorist militias setting up and taking over various parts of various cities, communicating via the remnants of the phone system, the whole country descends into civil war. Yes, it's clear now.

America after the peak is Iraq.

Sounds like MadMax meets the Salvation Army.  Terrifying, or perverse?

Anyway, I think Robert Heinlein has you covered.  Great short story of his in the collection 'The Past through Tomorrow' is called IF THIS GOES ON- , about a soldier in a Religio-Dictatorial army and 'Managed Society' who joins an underground rebellion.. best as I can recall it now.  Heinlein has some fun, pugnatious predictions for us, with his Hardy, Libertarian Conceits..  he'd have fit right in here.


I mentioned skills on another thread because I believe it will be a major concern as society devolves.  I used to be on the board of a non-profit that had its office several hundred miles from my home in the boondocks that required me to dry through many urban/high populated suburban areas to get there.  When I'd get home I'd invariably make the rhetorical comment to my wife, "Why do people live like that?"

Comparing the skills I have needed in the country, I simply cannot see these city people having any hope of survival.

Todd -

I'm a city boy.

I grow my own food in raised beds and even have a fish tank for raising fish behind my garage. I grow sweet potatoes in the drainage ditches nearby and make ethanol in my own still, which can run my volkswagens just fine. Last year I squeaked out 35 gallons - not much, but then again, I was just getting started. This year I have about an acre to finish planting - will check the yield this fall. I have solar panels and solar water heater setup, and two 650 gal water tanks gathering runoff via copper gutters. There are lots of other things like ammonia refrigerators and other neat items as well here in my suburban home.

I hunt and fish regularly, and keep my freezer and pantry stocks rotated. Lately, we have been able to hunt without even driving due to population pressure on local game. We put up our own jellies, preserves and other staples using that old standby, the pressure cooker. I have swapped out most of my ornamental plants for fruit trees and shrubs. My kids know how to handle themselves, from firearms to tanning pelts to even making soap.

I live 30 miles from downtown Houston, quite efficiently, dead in the middle of a suburban city. All I really need to make things a lot better are the two lots adjacent to is the issue, for growing things to eat, and for the county or state to give up on freeways and switch to rail for the commute.

You got under my skin when you assumed that "city folk" are a bunch of retards. I would posit that retards and idiots can be found in any area or population group. I also believe that with just a little thinning, suburbs can work just fine. My personal experiment has pretty much proven that the issue is more land per family and some type of mass transit to get to work. By simply thinning the population density and allowing each family a reasonable amount of land, you can ofset the food issue nicely. Solar panels here in the sunbelt work just fine - too bad the state is so weak in supporting them. Add in some local windfarms, and things can be fairly normal here in sunbelt cities.

Dude, we city folks do not have a lock on dumbass. And people will change when they are presented with alternatives, especially when the alternatives are cheaper, family oriented, rewarding and relaxing. I know, because my neighbors are changing already. When they stop in to ask why, I don't talk about Peak Oil, I talk about how much my electric bill is, offer them some freshly picked fruit or veggies, or maybe some venison, and let my experiment speak for itself.

My neighbor from Queens laughed at my fish tank last summer - an old hot tub. He gave me crap about it until this October, when I invited him over for our 3rd fish fry of the year from the "little fish tank". He ate, went out back, and then saw the hydroponic tomatoes growing from the fish waste....  Now he wants me to help find another old hot tub for his yard, and he and his wife have 4 raised beds in their back yard....

That's enough - just don't generalize about people. It will bite you in the ass every time.

Howdy neighbor -- I'm in Austin. Yep, folks generalize a lot on blogs -- mostly because they are discussing from the paradigm of their familiar surroundings.
I live 30 miles from downtown Houston, quite efficiently, dead in the middle of a suburban city. All I really need to make things a lot better are the two lots adjacent to is the issue, for growing things to eat, and for the county or state to give up on freeways and switch to rail for the commute.
lack of sufficient land IS a big part of the issue....or is it too many people?
I also believe that with just a little thinning, suburbs can work just fine. My personal experiment has pretty much proven that the issue is more land per family and some type of mass transit to get to work. By simply thinning the population density and allowing each family a reasonable amount of land, you can ofset the food issue nicely.
Who do you propose "do" the thinning. Are you volunteering to be one of the "thinned" or are you volunteering your neighbors for that? Where will the "culled" folks be relocated? Now, let's assume due to chronic shortages that transport company's can't get or afford enough fuel to transport food and supplies to the supermarkets and there is a run on the stores -- grocery stores have about a 3 day supply on hand at any given time and import the average food item from more than 1400 miles away. If the folks who didn't get to the store early get hungry and happen to find your garden plot and fish tank, just what do you think will happen? Now multiply that result times every house in the neighborhood that has or doesn't have a garden and a fish tank. You get the drift?

You saw what happened during Rita -- Houston was paralized due to lack of fuel. Food and water supplies from stores disappeared in a single day. The same thing will happen when fuel depletion makes fuel unobtainable or unaffordable to fulfill the most basic services, and then people get out their guns to make sure their families get enough to eat. And the police won't be around to help you -- they'll be worrying about their own families -- and just may side with the hungry folks in terms of managing the "cache" of food just discovered.

I steadfastly support and applaud your self-sufficiency, but strongly encourage you to rethink the security of your location.

I'm honestly happy for anyone who has skills.  However, I'll will argue that 99% of "city people" don't have skills that are meaningful in a survival situation.

I'll throw myself out as an example.  I'll preface it with the reality that my background is as someone who started with a chemistry degree but who became a chemical engineer in practice.

I've designed and built a number of houses.  The houses ranged from geodesic domes to passive solar ones.  In other words, I was not only an architech and draftsman but also a carpenter, mason, plumber, roofer, sheet rocker, electrician, etc.  These are rural survival skills.

I've overhauled and rebuilt lots of old farm machinery and cars.  In other words, I can be a machanic, machinist and welder.  These skills  are a necessity.

I've been a certified organic farmer and we grow most of our food and preserve it.  And, although it's not germane, I'm also a licensed landscape contractor and pesticde applicator.

I fell trees with over a 40" dbh, not the little stuff city people think of as trees, buck them up and split for fire wood.  And, yes, I hunt too and used to trap and tan hides when I was younger.

My point was, and remains, that "city people" just don't have survival skills.  And, as I believe anyone who has skills knows, you don't suddenly decide to have expertise.  I did advanced calculus in college (a course I truly loved) but I have to stop and think about some of the threads posted by Stuart and others because I don't practice the skill I once had.

I will be glad to admit there are exceptions - but most will be losers.  

Plunsfo -

I think the thinning will occur when the recession/depression/housing bubble pop/currency devaluation happens. Don't ask me which one it will be - it's a crap shoot.  I remember Houston when the last oil bust hit - more empty and abandoned homes on many streets than occupied homes. I think the thinning will happen if housing prices stay depressed and money gets tight again. It's happened before, and if its worse this time, then that would actually be better for thinning.

I live 5 blocks off of I-45 - I was here when the evacuees started stealing from local convenience stores and police couldn't move in the stalled traffic to stop them. Once the shotguns came out from behind the store counters, people got much better behaved. I saw this - not making it up. A 12 gauge will get everyones attention and respect in a hurry. I think that Texas, as a pro-firearm state, may revert a little to the wild west in the event of looting and rioting. If it moves into the burbs and gets too out of hand, then I am ready to leave - there isn't anything here more valuable than my family or my life. But for my part, I think most Texans will only need a little nudge to pull together and handle local anarchy. It's already something we (neighbors) talked about after the hurricane evac showed us the underbelly.

I just sent my parents to the country and set them up with most everything I have here. That's where we go if things get bad, and I don't need to stay on main highways to get there either. So with respect to outright total madness possessing everybody, I have a bugout plan. But I think this proces will be much slower - more economical than physical.

And my "thinning" criteria is simply a 50% drop in density - that gives each house the lot next door for growing food. And with a major rail line 1/4 mile from my home, I think it can work fine. I also have a lot of faith in my neighbors - and in the desire of most people to avoid violence and death.

I'm primed to stay here and prepped to leave. That's the best anyone can do, IMHO.

GeoPoet; My admiration for your plans just went up notches. Sounds like you've thought it out. I wish we could say the same for 99.999% of the rest of the population -- but they haven't, and probably won't.
Light rail barely works with curretn suburban density.  Fortunately, light rail usually (see Dallas as one example) collects density near the stations over time.

Tninning out suburbia makes them a non-candidate for rail.  Money better spent elsewhere.

The low density = low ridership = low service levels (long headways between single cars) = lower ridership = high fixed costs/rider = higher fares and/or higehr subsidy ; higher fares = lower ridership and still worse service, and still higher fares etc.

We need higher density urban areas, not lower.

Hello Three Blind Mice,

Thxs for responding.  Chance is probably small, but a superhuge, windblown, urban fire too large to fight even with modern tools & infrastructure does exist.  Can't be sure, but it looks like the truck in the fire tornado photo is a rural off-road fire-fighting rig [maybe driver wearing yellow fire jacket?].  They saw the fire tornado forming, decided best strategy is to hit the road and let Nature take it course.

Recall the Oakland,CA fire of 1991 linked here [small urban fire compared to what I think is possible in Phx]:

selected excerpts:
The fire burned with such intensity that it consumed 790 structures within the first hour, and spread about 1.67 meters per second.

Some reports of conditions later in the day said winds were gusting to 38-58 miles per hour.

The Diablo winds are "foehn" winds that force the convection currents down against the natural flow that normally blows up the hills. The result in this fire was wild turbulence that sent embers in several directions. The phenomenon was a swirling effect much like a tornado, picking up embers from one place and depositing them in another. From the perspective of the fire fighters on the scene, the fire was in front of them one minute, and then the next minute it was behind them. The winds preheated everything in their path. These conditions created a totally unmanageable situation rife with terror for residents caught up in it and struggling to find a way out of the area.

It would be hard to imagine the total terror from a summer monsoon urban fire .  Recall the photos of minimal visibility from just the blowing dust.  Now add blowing embers and thick toxic smoke to make things much worse.  We get 100 vehicle pileups from dust storms now, imagine the mess if uncontrolled fire and smoke is mixed in.

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

I was attending UC Berkeley that year, and I remember going up to the top floor of Evans hall and seeing a band of fire stretching all the way across the horizon ...
Hi Totonella,

I'm not arguing that firestorms can't overwhelm firefighters on a large scale, either. But if there is any agreeable continuum of fear on which to rank all these horrors, the summer firestorm doesn't make it into my top ten.

Perhaps I'm blasé. As an Australian I'm used to the regular threat of bushfires. I lived in San Diego during the 250,000 acre fire of '03; a dear friend called me from Scripps Ranch to say that she and her baby boy had missed the call to evacuate, and that the TV said they were now ringed with flames.

I told her what we do in Oz when we stick it out (not to say don't evacuate - see for criteria). We block the gutters and hose down the roof while there's still time, keep the windows closed, and stay well insulated from radiant heat as the firefront passes. Go out afterwards and piss on anything that's smoking.

Not saying this would help in case of fire tornado, but it at least in this case mother, child, and house came through fine. Her neighbours all evacuated - and almost all their houses burned to the ground.

In case of TSHTF in exurban US I'd be a lot more worried about all the armed and hungry petit-bourgeois than any ol' tornado.

Hello Three Blind Mice,

Do you know if the Land Of Oz down under is doing any postPeak planning on how fires will be fought?  I would think that if they have International Fire Marshall Conventions that this would be a key topic for discussion.  My guess is to build large firebreaks every few miles.

It is not possible for Phx to do this, but major cities near oceans might use seawater to pressurize the fire hydrant infrastructure. Or am I all wrong in this suggestion?  As I recall, I think the SF fire department used a crude variation on this to fight some fires in their last major earthquake.

Also, I have read news reports of thieves stealing manhole covers, bridge railings, etc.  Does anyone know if thieves are stealing fire hydrants yet, maybe it is already a daily occurence in poor African cities or Haiti?

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

IMO, Phoenix/Scottsdale does not have the density of flammables for a firestorm.  Too much concrete, gravel and asphalt.  The poles are steel, not wood.  Many tile roofs, stucco walls (incasing wood frames in gypsum & concrete) and the MANY urban walls everywhere.

Great firebreaks at every major street.  Some 140' wide, concrete walls on each side, sidewalks and concrete or asphalt covering and a few feet of turf.

The difference between 100 and 115 F is not at all significant for an ignition point.  Low humidity helps fires, yes. but tile roofs & stucco walls inhibit them.  I have trouble seeing how one square mile superblock could jump the firebreaks all around it.

Besdides, there is just not that much flammable material inihoenix.  Less than any other "urban" area I have seen.  Look at those gravel and concrete and asphalt firebreaks EVERYWHERE !

Cars have gasoline, oil, and tires--all of which burn. Lots of cars in Phoenix.

Firestorms? Maybe not.

But we will know that TSHTF when looters shoot at fire fighters.

To some extent, New Orleans in the days after Katrina may be a preview for many or most U.S. cities, where fires burn themselves out.

The only time people shoot at firefighters is when there is a political uprising going on. That happened several times back in the sixties when unpopular landlords got torched and the firefighters came to put out the fires.
A political uprising in America that would have the middle class unhappy about the firefighters putting out a bunch of fires that are burning their houses?
That's not going to happen unless the government holds a depression without inflating away the mortgages so that people can keep their houses. So if the banks are repossessing houses and the middle class people are setting them on fire...then I guess we would see formerly middle class people shooting at firefighters.
Can you think of any other scenario that would have people shooting at firefighters?
I'm thinking pretty much of a Watts riot type of scenario: Black kids shooting at white fire fighters to keep the disorder (looting, partying) going and get back at Whitey.

Also, some of those post-Katrina New Orleans looters were shooting rather indiscriminately, to say the least.

What do we do when the National Guard does not show up to shoot the gangbangers?

Hello AlanfromBigEasy and other responders,

I am not a fire-science engineer, so I appreciate any input from others.  Unfortunately, I have not travelled much, but what large urban cities seem most prone to a accidental prePeak & postPeak firestorm?  Perth, Sydney, Berlin, Moscow, London, Chicago, Kansas City, Oakland again, Houston [driest drought area on Leanan's earlier posted graphic]?  Thxs for any replies.

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

I read "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons" as a child (explains some adult behavior ??).  A factual, detailed look at the subject published by the US Dept. of Defense.

Fire storms were one of the topics.  40 years later, trying to remember the details.

Multiple ignition sources help. Low humidity also (RATE of combustion has an impact). Low winds required for standard Dresden type convection firestorm.  Once winds go only into fire (sucked in) it stops spreading.

Wood construction, combustiable roofs help.  High density seems to be required.  Brick construction workd against firesotrm, as do wide roads.

Perhaps Dayton Ohio in the midst of a record summer drought.  Per distant memory, lots of frame construction close together, much of it 2 story.

3rd world slums, (made of scrap lumber and even cardboard), very narrow paths, cooking fuel everywhere, limited water, multiple ignition sources possible seem better candidates.  But rarely more than single story construction.


Appreciate the info.  Third world slums do seem like highly plausible candididates because of the facts you mentioned, especially if the slums run up the side of a hill or mountain.  Heavy rains cause mudslides on these poor souls, a heavy fire could overtake them as they try to flee uphill.

It will be sad to read, but fascinating to study the fire physics involved, if a major city ever goes up in flames.  I hope not, but maybe a major African, Asian, or South American urban center might be first because of their outlying slums. Thxs

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

As fuel supplies tighten we will see rationing instituted. Of course government services at all levels will get what they need followed with food production and distribution. As long as we stay out of gas guzzling wars domestic production, dino oil, biofuels, etc will be adequate for these purposes for a long time. Pheonix may still have its firestorm but it won't be because of lack of fuel for the fire department. The Oakland FD had plenty of fuel when their firestorm hit.
Agree that government will be well-supplied...but not "at all levels." The government will eventually be forced to cut back.  

Will they bother to supply Phoenix, once it's just a mostly abandoned slum?  Look at how they fought the Texas wildfires.  Military C-130s, helicopters, etc.  Will they still be doing that after TSHTF?  Or will those aircraft and that fuel be busy elsewhere?  Imposing regime change on Iran or Venezuela, say.  Or keeping order in Manhattan, or evacuating Washington D.C. as yet another Category 5 hurricane rolls in.  

Right on the Money, Leanan!

Just picture those photos of the advancing dust cloud in Phx as a 5 mile wide flame front with fujita 5 fire tornadoes included!  Those monsoon winds, many times without tornadoes, have sufficient speed and included downdrafts to blow down block walls, knock over truckers, rip a/c units and shingles off roofs, throw backyard tin sheds down the street, rip poorly designed and reinforced patios off houses, uproot trees, powerpoles snapped off, etc.  Happens every year here-- just add flames for Hell-On-Earth!

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

Small houses.  

Anything under 400 square feet.  Think Gypsy life style, you sleep and maybe eat inside, but do almost everything outside, unless the weather is bad, but with 400 square feet you have a lot of room to do things inside.

I have lived in houses or apartments that were all under 1,200 square feet, and never seemed to use all the room. Except for junk, things I used not very often. If it is not a book and it sets useless for more than a year, it is junk, unless it is art. But even there are limits to art, art should not include collectibles, or to many knick knacks.  Those are just another method of filling our lives with junk again.  

400 square feet thats 4- 10 foot by 10 foot rooms, or anything smaller.  The link I need is on a dead computer, But there are several small house building companies out there.  Several making tents and portable buildings, much like the wagons that the Gypsies were famous for.  

Just think about all the people who live onboard sail boats small floating houses.

Just a thought not likely to get my brother out of his 2,300 square foot 4 bedroom 2 story mansion anytime soon.

I lived in a van for a week last summer, it was cozy. Cold but cozy.

My wife and I live in an apartment that is roughly 500 square feet. It would be nice to have a little more room, but not required.

Americans have a very inflated idea of what is "necessary."

Rooms under 4 ft x 10 ft?

Isn't that a violation of the Geneva Convention? :-)

10 foot by 10 foot rooms.  4 of them.
I did not know where to put this, but Space is what it is all about.  I have converted one 10 by 11 foot bedroom into a Library. One 11 foot wall is floor to ceiling book shelves, set on Ace Hardware wall standards, The ones with the clip into place shelf bracket. Everything is adjustable on all the wall units. I have book shelves on either side of the one window and on the wall next to the door. Forming a nice U pattern, and a stand alone shelf on the wall with the closet, The top of the U. Plus a shelf over the window. This gives me 170 linear feet of shelf space, I could have increased it by another 20 to 30 given a bit more work.  This still gave me enough room to set up a small reading room, or small office. For a while it was a bedroom.  After My second wife left, and I packed up all her books and Gave away a lot of the ones I had left, There is still about 1,000 books with shelf space greatly to spare.  All this in a 10 by 11 foot room.  

Space is a three diminsional thing, not just the floor.  With thinking a 400 square foot apartment or home can store an awful lot of things.  Everywhere in my house I go vertical. Every room has at least one set of floor to ceiling shelves in it.  And that is why I have so much stuff, being a pack rat like my parents, Who now have 4 sheds in the back yard, almost totally covering my former garden.  Not to mention that Dad built a Covered porch Off the big barn shed, as an outdoor workshop, plus building the 3 other sheds.

Space is what we use, Look at most Apartments is Japan and you might think they live in shoe boxes, compared to my brothers 2,300 square footer, with hardly any use of the vertical.

I think this will happen naturally as fuel prices rise.  A lot of the people in those McMansions are empty nesters, anyway.  They are keeping big houses as a status symbol, or "so all the kids can visit at once."  

As energy prices rise, people will gravitate to city apartments.  The McMansions will be broken up into multifamily units.  

My apartment is about 500 SF.  More than I need, really.  Since I live only two miles from the office, I figure I can rent out space to coworkers when they get tired of driving an hour to work every day.  ;)

FYI, I think in the long run we need more space: Workshop with tools; garden equipment; art studio; sewing machine; food storage; firewood...  

Farms typically have larger houses; root cellars; canned food storage; maybe greenhouses.

Maybe communities can have community buildings with such facilities, so individuals do not have to.

Good point. I have something like a traditional farm house plus a huge garage (big enough for at least four cars--former owner ran a welding business out of it). In addition to several sheds I have ample attic and basement space. A basement is especially nice to have in case of tornados.

Also, the house is big enough to accommodate much of my multigenerational family in a pinch, and in case of need there are a couple of large cabin tents to accommodate refugee friends.

There isn't much point in having a big garden if one lacks storage space for home-frozen and home-canned goods, not to mention garden tools.

Because I wear long underwear and keep heat only in the room where I am, my heating bills are reasonable (and could be down to nil if I were to heat only with wood), and because I live somewhere between Canada and the Twin Cities I do not need air conditioning. Most important, I live near Lake Wobegon, where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average;-)

I somewhat disagree, especially with the word need. The reason we use so much space (and expensive space at that), is that we are so inefficient in our use of that space. I certainly don't think that the huge quonsets that I see on most farms are at all necessary. Far from it.

I happen to live in 103 year old farm house. The reason it is still around is that it was, for its time, a large nice house. By today's standards it is small, about 1400 square-feet plus a basement. For 15 years after the second world war, the house was not only lived in, but contained a dentists office as well.

For the last couple of years, my free time has been spent researching agriculture, and specifically why small farms have been failing. In my opinion, it's because many (but not all) small farmers have confused the word need with want. Tying this back to space utilization: Small farmers typically have a lot of machinery that is, IMHO, unnecessary and, without a doubt, quite costly to maintain and store. I feel that if small-acreage farmers would tally the cost of each piece of equipment, they would have a whole lot less of it, and therefore "need" a lot less space.

As an example of more efficient space utilization (and back-patting): The homestead that we're working towards (property purchase in just over a week), will have a modest house (1200 square-feet) intended for a family of four, some movable shelters, feeders, and waterers for the livestock, a couple of greenhouses (hoop-houses, one permanent passively solar heated and cooled, and another movable one, both will double as livestock housing when necessary/possible and extended living, homebrewing, canning, butchering, and shop space). Space efficiency ends up being very cost effective in our case. We'll have to go into debt for the property purchase, but that's it.

But I agree with the need for root cellars, canned food storage, greenhouse, firewood storage, and others. The thing is that most of these spaces are relatively cheap, mostly because they are unheated.

And I love the idea of community buildings. Run with that.

As I understand it, Amish farmers have lower yields per acre than do guys using chemicals and fossil fuels, but the Amish have higher profits per acre, because their costs are so much lower.
The Amish are more dependent on fossil fuels than most people realize.  For example, they aren't allowed to own tractors, but they can borrow or rent them.  
Also, some Amish sects permit motors on equipment so long as the equipment is moved by horses.  Gene Logsdon has a good chapter on this in The Contrary Farmer.
I live in a cohousing community and, while we are certainly not ready for peak oil, we have a "common house" with kitchen and dining space (used for a couple of common meals per week), kids' play room, workshop with tools, exercise room, classroom/meeting room, and 2 guest rooms.  We have private homes but the idea is that they can be smaller than normal because we don't need guest rooms or as much personal space.  All this is typical of cohousing, of which there are about 75 completed communities in the US and many others in process of forming, plus others elsewhere in the world (the concept came from Denmark).  We also have an organic farm/CSA and subscribers, including my family, get 26 weeks of fabulous organic veggies.  We also have a few PO-aware folks who are working to raise the general consciousness about the need for emergency preparations, such as a solar pump for the well that provides the common house with water.  
This is the key point that seems to be escaping most Americans.  Housing--beyond the basics required for sleeping, cooking and cleaning--is a discretionary consumption item.  

Just like the Dutch hundreds of years ago, Americans have massive collections of "tulips" in the form of excess housing space that serves no real economic purpose.  

The Dutch were outraged when they ran out of buyers--because the buyers objected to paying what in today's dollars would be hundreds of thousands of dollars or more for one tulip.  In the classic, "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds," the author tells the tale of a sailor accidentally eating a prized tulip--worth as much as the cargo in a merchant ship--thinking it was an onion.

Americans are going to be outraged when the learn that their treasured McMansions are rapidly becoming massive liabilities--not assets.

It's a real stretch to compare a nice, big house to a tulip.

If people owned their houses free and clear, it wouldn't even matter if they fell in value, because they all move up and down together. The main time you sell a house is when you are going to buy a new one, so changes in house valuation don't actually have that much impact. This is unlike tulips.

The problem with houses is that owners go deeply into debt to buy them, so if valuations fall people can get into negative equity and can't pay off their loans. This is bad on a personal level and can make things worse for everyone if it spreads. Again, this is unlike the situation with tulips.

In short, most of the value of the tulip came from what you could sell it for, while most of the value of a house comes from your enjoyment in living there. The two situations are not comparable.

Aren't they?
The average home buyer today does not Think what the enjoyment is going to be like as much as the resale value is going ot be.  By brother for example is not planning on selling his house, but he has re-financed it everytime he could to get more of the money out of the Value of the House.   Its like they did not sell the tulip, but went to the bank a got a loan against the value of the tulip.  And then someone goes and eats the tulip that the loan was against.  

We are seeing people react the same way, they aren't buying the houses for the fun of the house so much as the value of the house, the ability to resale it later and make a profit.  One big house of cards, ready for a stift breeze to blow them over. Or as Bob says a firestorm to come and burn them all down. And I bet you that a big enough or even enough firestorms happen and every last bit of home owners insurance will go POOF up in smoke.  Just like what Warren Buffet is doing now with his re-insurance money.

Tulips and House the same mindset just differant items.

Sounds like you saw my apartment in NYC.  About 300 sq/ft, and just ~Resplendant~ with junk, all well on its way to becoming art, tools, furniture, and some of it was just wonderful STUFF, just happy being what it was.  Models, Musical Instruments and Bikes, wood, tubing, plexiglass, an old typewriter, some dead PC's (you keeping yours, there?) dangling from the walls and ceilings.. stuffed under tables and under the classic 'NYC temement Tub in the Kitchen'.. so much of it supplied by the fruitful table-scraps of Manhattan.  (And she saw it all, and STILL married me!)

Now, I've brought most of it, stuffed into a couple Uhauls, up to Coastal Maine, where I'll use it to gird our new home against these Hurricanes that are apparently brewing.  I love a good pile of 'Junk', just as I have a soft spot for 'pests' and 'weeds', knowing that they are all simply misnamed, and have value to anyone willing to look for it.

Now OK, I look at a so-called McMansion, and the materials that went into it, and the LDPE, MDF and Fibreboard Crap that makes up most of the contemporary Furniture; then yes, I think yecch! Useless junk!  But at least it's so 'soft' in its material-base, that it should ultimately wash-away pretty fast, like a sand castle.  Too bad that it's largely so polluted with VOC's, Heavy Metals, etc. Cuz we'll want that land back for farming before too long.

I said our 'New Home'.. but the house is from 1850, intown Portland, with heavy framing (shipbuilders, they say), and we are in a 900/sqft unit, between tenants above and below, so our furnace works for 3 'households' (7 adults, 1 kid).  

Just mentioning that since we are aware of both the 'Energy Footprint', the 'Stuff Footprint', and the Economy that we want to have working for us.  Having housing that doubles as income property has long been a standard up here, and has worked to adapt to the requisite De-Mansionisation in economic hard-times.  They say that, during the 1940's, when Portland was building the 'Liberty Ships' for the resupplying of England, every square inch of possible housing was fitted out in this town.  We see signs that our Basement and Attic (now apt3) were set up for residential at about that time period.

A huge find for Lukoil in Russia?  

Large amounts of oil, gas discovered in Northern Russia

No word on exactly how big the find is, but they claim it's higher grade, more expensive oil than Brent.  

The obvious question is why would a compnay drill in such a wretched area if they didn't have to?  

That is the point that the Russian Energy Minister made--that if Russia doesn't launch a massive frontier driling program, they could be facing "a real collapse in oil production."

todays financial times

russia and china have signed a deal whereby russia will be supplying china gas via a pipeline

but not oil??

something I've been thinking about alot the last couple of weeks is that if oil is fungible (I think it is) then there is no point in conservation, You just help the chinese/indian industries.

 My point is that I think people who are concerned with peak oil shouldnt be too worried about personal consumption but more with unneccessary developments, new roads/runways etc.

Does anyone else think that hitting the wall running is better than the slow squeeze? my main concern with the slow squeeze is that it allows a central government to resort to more facsitic tendencies, whereas if we hit the wall running real hard then local communities would spring up that much quicker??

Bob shaw I think your great, you should have a holiday in Cuba, you'd love it.

Re; Helping China.  (Nooo, Not the Chinese!!)

I think it's a voodoo argument.  Sure, in some sense, the energy you 'didn't' burn becomes available for someone else to burn. Even those Chinese people..  Couldn't the same argument be made for Chocolate Cake?  'If I don't gorge myself, If I eat reasonably, then I'm just leaving more Cake out there for the fat people to suck down.'  (Or, in an obvious extension, the Starving People, and then those hordes who worried Mme Antoinette so..)  There's just some 'unused' oil that's momentarily in the pot, that someone else will surely be taking out, where you did not.  Does that make 'Consumption' fungible, too?

You don't reduce energy consumption for the Chinese, or even to 'save the world', in my opinion  ( <Acronym Conspicuously Avoided, NEARA- New England Acronym Reduction Act of 2005 ), but the incentive lies in:<p> 1)Saving Money.  

2)Weaning ASAP off of a potentially Devastating Addiction,

  1. and doing so, possibly finding some solutions we hadn't before..

  2. and creating an example that others in our communities can see and follow, as the need becomes more evident to them.

I think we have to use this rich power-source and lifestyle while we can, to take as many steps as possible towards living without it.  Does it help to imagine a level of poverty you might be living at in one of these darker futures, to realise that the 3.50 you donate to Dunkin'Donuts on the way to work could be going into a jar for your first Solar Panel?  Sounds Trite, sounds like the kids might make fun of you at school.. but...

Sorry, VeganBro..  Dunkin Donut's is one of my own ball-n-chain's.  Would seem likely it's not yours.  I did get my first panel with a Birthday check last December, in Honor of the theoretical PEAKing..  it's in the basement til after the Hurricane.

think we agree broadly, I am of the same persuasion its better to learn organic permaculture now cos there are more resources.

However on the solar panel front I have a contingency plan, there are lots of panels out there related to cars!!

Brighton has most of its parking meters solar powered, my local Asda (walmart) has panels on there car meters and there are lots on the roads to measure traffic use, I have my tools in the basement...

basically if I dont steal them someone else will!!
dont worry I'm waiting till after the shakeup, the meters are safe for now

coolhand bigfoot ;)

They're safe (from YOU) for now.  Lots of people have tools.

 I suggest (as I do to many family and friends, as well).. get a little bit of producing/storage capacity in the meantime, call it a hedge.  I expect the PV panels to skyrocket if we have any kind of clear demonstration of our power-vulnerability from Weather, Politics or Oil Supply, and they won't be likely to come back down.  

 Others have said here, and I agree, that the electric supply likely won't be going anywhere, tho' the prices might start to reflect the overall energy situation, as things evolve.  I'm just for any bit of independence I can find, as well as cheap PV prices, while they last. (Already rising..)  But the grid is always a potential weak-point with the wrong weather, and used right, those panels can start pulling things off the bill right away, and for a lot of sunny days to come.

Hello Bigfootvegan,

Thxs for the compliment.  I would love to go to Cuba to see how they have powered down.  I will happily accept huge cash donations from TODers to fund my trip!  Cuban women are beautiful: my girlfriend of twenty-two years will really be upset about my extensive in-depth research. :-)

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

Once again, a govt. spokesman for an oil exporting country setting the stage for reductions in oil exports.
There is an article out there on underseas windmills being built in Bermuda to supply 10% of Bermuda's energy needs. Since it is not tidal, it works 24 hours a day instead of ten.

Google: underseas windmills valentine

Valentine is the author of the article.

Undersea windmills? Can't these guys make up a more meaningful name of it - watermills, seamills, whatever... it doesn't help you look serious at the idea.

And here's a link to the article:

Well if it's true that Fish don't really have a word for 'Water' (tho' it seems that they think conversely that we don't have any word for 'Air'), that maybe they DO see moving water as 'WIND', and hence the name would still be applicable, unless of course that then obliges us to let them have some of the power we derive from those Hydro-Impellers, or whatever they might ultimately get named.  ('Fishmills' comes to mind,too, if they aren't designed with the wildlife in mind)

I wonder if these watermills could be clamped onto the deepwater drilling platforms, once that job has run its course?

These underwater 'windmills' (water turbines, strictly speaking) can be made to work, but their feasibility is highly location-specific, far more so than air windmills. The location, obviously, has to have a strong and stead current, and it can't be either too deep or too shallow. There are a limited number of locations that have all the right conditions.

I'd be curious about the economics of such, because it is never cheap or easy to build something on or near the sea floor, even in relatively shallow depths. Then of course we have the issue of access and maintenance.

I've been interested in ocean wave power for some time, which is a little different concept than underwater windmills, but subject to many of the same constraints. There are two big technical hurdles regarding ocean wave power: i) how to efficiently convert the highly variable oscillating motion of waves into useful mechanical energy that can in turn be converted into electrical energy, and ii) survivability in a very hostile environment.

Then of course we have the cost issue. While you might see statements that ocean wave energy is far more concentrated than either solar or wind energy, that only tells part of the story. Yes, it is true that ocean wave energy is relatively concentrated, but the physical embodiment of a system capable of collecting that energy can be quite capital-intensive. So, the horsepower per linear length of wavefront is of less importance that the installed cost in terms of dollars per kilowatt output.

Unfortunately, the locations around the world were wave energy is the strongest and steadiest, are those that are not very close to major population centers, such as the northwestern coast of Scotland, part of the Norwegian coast, the area around Cape Horn, and parts of the Alaskan coast. Other areas  are amenable to wave energy, but the available energy is less, and hence the cost-effectiveness decreases.  (Locations in hurricane zones are quite poor in this regard because about 95% of the time the ocean is relatively calm, but the other 5% of the time can be highly destructive to wave energy systems.

One company that appears to be making inroads in actually selling commercially viable systems is Ocean Power Delivery. It's a UK firm and has recently installed three units having a total rated power of over 1 megawatt off the Orkneys in Scotland.  They have also contracted to install three more units off the coast of Portugal (another decent place for wave power). Their system doesn't look cheap, but they have appeared to have dealt with the survivability problem in a very clever way.

I recently had an idea for a wave energy converter, made a simple 'dry land' model of it, and after fiddling with it for a while came to the conclusion that it wasn't any good and was too similar to an older patented idea that never got off the ground (or, more correctly, into the water) either.

From a strictly technical standpoint, I find ocean wave power very interesting because it is by no means a mature technology, and as such it is by no means clear at this time what the best type of system is. Thus, there is  still  room for innovation, sort of like the early days of aviation when there were all sorts of interesting and screwball ideas in the works.  

A foam or other air filled container rests on the surface, tethered to a device anchored to the seafloor. Inside the seafloor device is a system of springs and gears and a small electric turbine. Each time the waves raise the floater, tension is added to the main drive spring. When waves lower the floater, a separate spring loaded mechanism retracts the cable tether so it remains taught. After this oscillation puts enough pressure into the main spring, it releases and drives an electric turbine. Wouldnt that work?
Anonymoose -

To answer your question: Yes such a device would theoretically 'work'. In fact, you have the general concept for a whole family of wave energy converters. In the US patent literature alone, there are probably close to a hundred devices more or less based on this concept. The main difference is that instead of mechanical springs, compressed air or hydraulic motors are used. (Large springs pose some serious problems, and a pneumatic system is much more practical).

You are also quite correct in that the such a 'floater' has to be very tightly moored to the ocean floor. It can't be moored like a ship, in which there is a good deal of slack to allow the ship to move up and down without ripping the anchor out of the sea foor and/or the ship inself. The difficulties posed by the mooring issue should not be underestimated. For the wave machine to effectively absorb as much of the wave energy as possible it must offer as much resistance to the wave motion as possible, and in doing so very large stresses are generated when a machine such as the one you described tries to float but is held back by the tight mooring,  even for a relatively small machine. There are ways around this problem, and they form the basis of some different designs. The device developed by Ocean Power Delivery is also a floater, but largely eliminates the mooring problem and is capable of riding out a very bad storm.

The other problem with many classes of wave energy converters is that of synchronizing the natural oscillating frequency of the machine to the frequency of the waves. In other words, you don't want the machine to be zigging when it should be zagging, as that wastes energy. This still remains a problem.

The general concept behind a wave energy converter is quite simple, but putting that concept into practice to create a cost-effective and survivable machine is the trick.

As they say, the devil is in the details. Just look at rocketry. What could be simpler in concept than a rocket (take a tube, close one end of it off, fill it with a propellant, and then light it)?  Yet, NASA had to spend many billions of dollars just to understand what actually takes place in a large rocket engine and how to control it.


Check out:-

Not to be confused with ocean power delivery.

I wonder about freshwater shallow lakes, where the lake surface is just a local wind collector.  Fresh water is MUCH preerable to salt from an engineering/design POV.

BTW, undersea turbines can collect (per theory) a maximum of ~10% of the energy flowing by them.  Water is not compressable and the blades are working in an uncontained environment (i.e. current "sees" the undersea turbine as a rock and flows around it).

I have a technical question about how to use this site.  Is there a way of displaying the entire history of one's comments on TOD not just with the headings, but IN THEIR ENTIRETY, so that they are all in front of you at once?
Or maybe with the first 2 lines or something such.
I wish we could give titles to our postings. When I look over my comment history to try to find a particular comment, it's hopeless.
I still find this problem amusing. Forum software does and has done for years what people claim to want. Then along come blogs (which are nice in one manner) but they often evolve beyond being a "journal" or "diary" type mechanism into a community mechanism. TOD is a great resource but blog comments positively suck as a way for the community to organize discussion around topics.

Another amusing aspect of this problem, is that despite the clear superiority of other technologies (like forum software versus blogs), they keep using the same hammer because they think everything looks like a nail. There's a lesson in here buried in this small detail about blogs relating to the behavior of our species in the large but alas, I am sure it will be ignored.

Long time reader; first time poster.

There has been little discussion on this site of the likely future availability of propane and other LPG's.  I'm in the process of retiring to my farm in the southern Midwest of the U.S. and  hope to maximize my chances of surviving the looming energy crunch.  I currently heat with propane and am concerned about future availability of this fuel.  From the previous thread on NGL's it would seem that propane and butane are likely to be comparatively less constrained than NG in the near term future.  Or is this just wishful thinking?

At the present time the most cost effective heating fuel in my area is corn (maize), which I find almost shocking. Although burning food for heat is a somewhat bizarre concept, at less than half the cost of NG for the equivalent heat output it's currently a real bargain and readily available locally.  I fully understand that the cost of corn is directly  correlated with the cost of the petroleum resources needed to produce it, but what are the chances that corn will maintain a cost advantage over NG for say the next 10-15 years?  

Pretty good. Originally they used coal to make ammonia. The syngas used for methanol and dimethylether can have it's H2 stripped for ammonia. It doesn't have to be natural gas.
I'd say your best bet is a geothermal exchange heat pump.  Electricity prices aren't going to jump dramatically (more than enough coal and wind to prevent that), and you have the land to make installation easy.  It looks like the cheapest thing around, in the long-term.  You could look into a small windmill..
Not good.

Of course, I'm assuming that the reason that corn is so cheap is due to the successful efforts of the corn lobby (ie. your tax dollars are subsidizing corn production).

Looks like prices might be on the way up again in China:

Diesel rationing sparks panic in China

"Speculation has grown this month that Beijing will announce a retail price rise in petrol within days, now that the annual session of the National People's Congress, the parliament, has ended. China avoids policy changes during parliament -- to reassure its 1.3 billion people that the Government is moving smoothly to ensure a better standard of living.

"A price increase would be the first since last July, when prices were raised about 15 per cent -- while crude prices had increased more than 30 per cent. China has kept a lid on price increases, fearing inflation and possible social unrest. The diesel price is particularly sensitive because it accounts for one third of all Chinese oil demand. It is the main fuel used by farmers, who have gained least from economic reform, and who are most vulnerable to sudden price swings."

George Ure has had a running commentary on shortages for quite a while.  The most interesting--worrying?--thread has been on apparently widespread shortages of some types of rifle and pistol ammunition.

From my observations and discussions with well-armed friends and acquaintances, I conclude that all this talk about ammo shortages is total absolute and unmitigated twaddle. Every sporting goods store I've seen for fifty miles around has tens or hundreds of thousands of rounds of all popular (and obscure too, for that matter) calibers at reasonable prices.

Also you can check online at sources such as and find mass quantities of cartridges available at bargain prices.

It is true that some time ago the U.S. armed forces were running low on .223 FMJ GI ammo and had to buy some from Britain and Israel, but I believe there are more than adequate military stockpiles now.

I'm going to go down the local Wal-Mart and do some highly unscientific data collection on ammo.  In the mean time, an e-mail from an engineer friend:  

"I was looking for some shotgun shot a few weeks ago, went to  local gun range.  They had none, no 7 1/2's, no 8's, no 9's, no 4's, no nothing.  Said "prices had gone way up", and the owners were at the Shot Show (annual gun event) and would order some more there.  Haven't been back.  They have about 12 indoor lanes, btw.  I looked at lead commodity prices - didn't see that much of an increase ..."

BTW, George's theory is that the entire "Just in Time" inventory system is beginning to break down.  

If anyone seriously needs to buy ammo, come to the Twin Cities Metro area: My guess is you could buy at retail anywhere from 50,000 to 250,000 12 guage shot shells just from what is sitting on shelves--never mind the back room.

A small sporting-goods store in Minnesota will typically sell anywhere from ten to twenty TONS of ammo per year, mostly shot shells. They take deliveries often in three-ton lots.

Also, huge quantities of powder and shot are easily available for the home reloader.

But better prices can be found online, especially when buying in 1,000 round lots or larger.

Feeding the masses -

I know that declining natural gas will make petro fertilizer more scare in turn decreasing crop yields.  I wonder though, would we need to eat the same quantity of food if we ate better food.

For example, when you eat fast food, you are really just getting empty calories right? The nutrients you really need to be healthy just aren't there.

Why not grow superfoods (foods that have high concentrations of essential nutrients) in our yards?

What if we all grew wheatgrass on our roofs or in cold frames. I read today that 1oz of wheatgrass is the nutritional equivilent of 2.5 pds of vegetables. I am sure there are alot of other things we could grow at home that would help makeup for food shortages that might occur.

Another thing that I would like to do is farm my own protein.  Why not purchase one of those premade plastic(?) swimming pool shells, sink it into your yard and start raising small fish. Sardines are a GREAT source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids. Force yourself to eat them once with crackers and cheese and you will start to love them.

Has anyone been successful growing superfoods in you yard? Can you share your experiences?

I think if you ask anyone with fishkeeping experience, they will tell you that you are not going to raise sardines in a wading pool.  They are marine fish that feed on planckton.  They migrate great distances and need a lot of space.  Just because they are small fish doesn't mean you can raise them in small containers.

Goldfish or koi might be a better bet, though you'd need a large pond to raise an appreciable number of them.

If it must be a wading pool, perhaps freshwater ghost shrimp? (Palaemonetes species.)  They get to be an inch or two long, eat anything, and breed like crazy.  IME, they require a tiny amount of iodine added to the water or they die trying to molt.  Other than that, they are extremely easy to breed and raise.  Unless you're in Florida, you'd probably have to bring them in during winter, but they will breed in a fishtank as easily as in a wading pool.  

No, it isn't really the same as 2.5 lbs of vegetables.  Some marketers claim is "has the vitamin and mineral equivalent of 2.2 pounds of fresh vegetables" (, but that is really market-speak rather than science (especially since much of the weight difference is water content).  Different vegetables and greens have different nutrional compositions, so you can't compare the nutrition content of any single green or vegetable to vegetables as a whole: it doesn't make sense to do so.  What you CAN do is compare the amount of a specific vitamin, mineral or other nutritional element (such as carbohydrates, fiber or protein content) to that of some other vegetable.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not knocking wheatgrass.  It's just not the be-all/end-all that some marketers what you to believe.

Wheatgrass is a nutritionally useful green, so if you enjoy it and can grow it well, by all means do so!  However, it has a very low calorie content, so you won't be using it as your staple food.  You'll still need grains, potatoes, or corn (or other foods) as you calorie basis.  Think of it as occupying a similar place in your diet as spinach, chard, collard or turnip greens.

Tilapia,  the best of farm raised white fish. low fat food fish with the omega-3 fatty acids you need.  Which you can also get from flaxseed in a larger dosage than some fish.

Tilapia can be grown in home tank systems.  I am not sure or their food requirements but my guess is a large amount of water born bug larva will be good for them, then other regular fish foods.  

Like someone else said, you aren't going to be able to raise a large saltwater fish or shrimp population in a home built system. There have been several tht have tried to grow shrimp in a building, I do not know if they suceeded or not, my guess is no.  The raising of fish is a time consuming business.  I know I have bred 4 species of tropical fish.  Betta splendens, being the only vaguely money maker in the lot, and half my money came from live plants and live food sales.  Though I would not consider it a provitable venture. If you want profit for a while go Koi, But even then breeding fish is still time and energy consuming.

Tilapia being your best bet for a food fish, I would start there.

As to the Wheatgrass I would think it is the wheatgrass juice and the the grass itself.  Go read the book "sproutmans cookbook" Where he uses Sprouts of seeds as a higher food source than regular veggies.  But a whole foods diet is a lot better than any fast food diet you could have.

hmmmmm indeed.
How about "Eeeek!"

By the way, what happened to the Iran Oil Burse?

It won't help
The Iran Oil Bourse has been delayed by at least a year:

On the subject of the Peak Oil meme, here the most random Peak Oil reference I have ever seen.  On, there is a tongue in cheek listing of possible candidates for Commissioner of the NFL.  Under the entry on John Madden:

Possible Drawbacks: Pat Summerall becomes voice of NFL Films; Peak Oil leads to higher crude prices, which increases the cost of gas, which makes using the Madden Cruiser more expensive, which ultimately bankrupts the league; fiendish terrorist plot to assassinate the commish ends badly for stand-in/body double Frank Caliendo.
LOL!  Now we know peak oil has hit the mainstream.

For those who aren't (American) football fans...John Madden is a well-known sportscaster who has a terrible fear of flying.  So much so, that rather than fly to game venues, he has a custom bus drive him wherever he needs to go.  Even if Monday Night Football is in San Diego one week and New England the next, he gets there in his bus.

A bit late in the thread, but...

Mexico: Oil Abundance or Addiction?, an article by Gray Newman and Luis Arcentales, at

as of March 21. Of course, if you go to this link after March 21, you'll have to click on the Archive link and go to the March 21 edition.

Did you know that Mexico celebrated the 68th anniversary of Oil Expropriation Day on March 18? Neither did I.

I just read the transcript of an unusually bold lecture delivered last week at Stanford University by Sir David Manning, British Ambassador to the U.S. The topic was "Energy: A Burning Issue for Foreign Policy"
I should like to be clear, by way of introduction, that my remarks today are personal, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the British government. I want the freedom to range over my subject - the impact of energy on foreign policy - that only a personal perspective can give.
...and it is...pretty comprehensive.
Global oil production is apparently nearing its peak. Although there is intense debate about exactly when this will happen - something Daniel Yergin discusses in the Foreign Affairs article I referred to earlier - current estimates seem to be converging on some point between 2010 and 2020. Oil itself will never run out - as the saying goes, "the stone age did not end because of a lack of stones." But the unavoidable fact is that the economics of pumping it in future are uncertain. One of the most intriguing things about this debate is that it is happening at all. It is extraordinary that a century into the age of oil, with the global economy dependent on $3 trillion worth of this black liquid each year, we don't even know how much is left.
It's a very interesting read, but you'll need a couple of cups of coffee or tea.
A final thought. This is not a problem that can wait ten years. As these problems become ever more pressing and serious, we need the machinery to understand and react to them, to share knowledge and implement solutions. If we get these decisions right we open up the prospect of a new technological revolution that will create opportunities and transform our world in ways just as profound as the first industrial revolution. If we get them wrong, we face the prospect of competition and conflict over resources, and destabilizing - perhaps destroying - the environment that we depend on.
Since it's so late in the thread, I'll take a chance and post something that popped into my e-mail last week from Friends of John Kerry, Inc. (Full disclosure: I volunteered for the Kerry campaign in 2004; I post the following only as a data point of where some Democrats are on the road to getting a clue on energy.)

And here's a relevant quote (sorry for the length):

P.S. Here are the five cornerstones of my 2020 Energy Plan that Congress should be acting on.

More than 20 states have implemented market-based Renewable Energy Portfolio programs that require utilities to gradually increase the portion of electricity produced from renewable resources such as wind, biomass, geothermal, and solar energy. We should build on that success at the national level. Tell your Senators to enact a nationwide Renewable Portfolio Standard so that 20% of our energy comes from renewable sources by 2020. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that implementing this policy would save $26.6 billion and that commercial and industrial customers would be the biggest winners.

We have the ability to transform our transportation sector from one that fuels our addiction to one that drives us toward a sustainable future. The President should build on that demand and fuel new production opportunities by supporting a mandate that agriculture will provide 20% of the total energy consumed in the United States by 2020.

In addition to developing new sources of energy, we must make better use of available energy. New technological advances in appliances, energy grid systems, and buildings can boost productivity, create jobs, improve the reliability and safety of the energy infrastructure, and make dramatic inroads in reducing air pollution. Congress should enact energy efficiency measures to decrease energy use by 20% by 2020.

The government should provide an aggressive set of tax incentives and grants for consumers and for industries that are retooling plants to promote the manufacturing and purchase of hybrid vehicles, which run on a combination of gas and electric power to sharply increase efficiency. Twenty percent of all passenger cars and trucks on the road should be high-efficiency, low emissions hybrids by 2020.

Today, America spends more than $500,000 per minute on foreign oil or $30 million per hour. We paid more than $42 billion for Persian Gulf imports alone in 2005. It is bad enough that these dollars will not help grow our domestic economy -- it is even worse when you consider their impact on our national security. Congress should act to eliminate America's oil imports from the Middle East by 2020.


Don't know how realistic this is, but at least a few neurons seem to be firing...

Not that I'm a free market advocate or anything like that, but how 'bout we start with eliminating the billions in subsidies to the fossil & nuke industries, and let them compete with 'alternatives' on a level playing field?
Better yet, abolish the Payroll Tax and replace it with a tax on fossil fuels.

  1. Electrification of US railroads and a transfer of freight from truck to rail.

  2. Building all of teh Urban rail that teh various cities want (paid for with highway funds).
Hope you're not offended if I give a small plug for my review of Peter Tertzakian's A Thousand Barrels A Second published by Matt Savinar over at LATOC. Here's the link.

Book Review of Peter Tertzakian's A Thousand Barrels A Second.

If many have read the book, the book itself may be worthy of a new post if anyone is interested. My own thoughts are in the review.

Good review!
Aha!  Now the world knows what your last name is! ;)
FWIW, I'm in that sparsely populated middle ground.  In fact this book probably stakes a position closer to my own than any other book I've seen.
As I don't see it anywhere here at TOD yet, here's a tip that Leanan posted over at regarding Bush & peak oil, for anyone who has access to Democracy Now - Link, FSTV & elsewhere, or there's a link at: