Turning down the AC

The New York Times reports (from the other day, but we didn't cover it, did we?):
The Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory reported on Thursday that if every car and truck on America's roads was equipped with ventilated seats, air-conditioning-related gasoline consumption could be reduced by 7.5 percent, thus saving 522 million gallons of fuel per year.

The seats tested have two built-in fans that suck warm air and moisture through their perforated leather and send it away from the driver or passenger.

Ventilated seats make drivers feel cooler, so they could save fuel by turning their air-conditioners down a notch, in theory.

While I'm at it, I'll just throw this out there. If you're driving on a highway at 60mph, which is more fuel efficient: turning on the AC, or opening the windows? In my experience, this question always causes something of a disagreement.

And you can also use this as an open thread.

[editor's note, by Prof. Goose]Also, a heads up (hat tip: peakoil.com) on a CNN special on peak oil which will be aired Saturday, March 18, 8pm, anchored by Frank Sesno, and is called "We Were Warned: Tomorrow's oil crisis." (brief description here)

Happy Birthday, Peak Oil! M. King Hubbert tribute

Peak Oil turns 50!

March 8, 2006 marks the fifty year anniversary of M. King Hubbert's seminal speech in which he accurately forecasted the 1970 peaking of United States oil production. Few heeded Hubbert's warning and many, including the United States Geological Survey, actively sought to discredit his work. The lack of preparation on the government's part set the United States up for the oil shocks of the 1970's and egregious dependence on foreign oil that we experience today.

In honor of M. King Hubbert's courageous stand, Post Carbon Institute and Global Public Media have compiled many previously unavailable materials about Hubbert and interviews into an online tribute at MKingHubbert.com. The tribute provides a rare glimpse into the life and times of M. King Hubbert, the grandfather of the peak oil movement.

Some very interesting stuff at the new Hubbert tribute site.  Personal as well as peak oil-related.

Roscoe Bartlett, Richard Heinberg, Albert Bartlett, Megan Quinn, Pat Murphy, Walter Youngquist, Ron Swenson, Kenneth Deffeyes, Matthew Simmons, Stewart Udall, Jan Lundberg, Colin Campbell and Steve Andrews.

have some really interesting comments.

I was a high school senior in 1956.


I apologize, this is long but is Appropriate for The King Hubbert:

ARTIST: Kansas
TITLE: Portrait (He Knew)
Lyrics and Chords

[Capo 3]

He had a thousand ideas
You might have heard his name
He lived alone with his vision
Not looking for fortune and fame
Never said too much to speak of
He was off on another plane
The words that he said were a mystery
Nobody's sure he was sane

/ Bm - / G - / D - / E G / :

But he knew
He knew more than me or you
No one could see his view
Where was he going to

/ Bm / GE Bm / / G E /

He was in search of an answer
The nature of what we are
He was trying to do it a new way
He was bright as a star
But nobody understood him
"His numbers are not the way"
He's lost in the deepest enigma
Which no one's unraveled today


And he tried
But before he could tell us he died
When he left us the people cried
Oh, where was he going to

He had a different idea
A glimpse of the master plan
He could see into the future
A true visionary man
But there's something he never told us
It died when he went away
If only he could have been with us
No telling what he might say


But he knew
You could tell by the picture he drew
It was totally something new
Oh, where was he going to

What would be nice is if you could post a link to the actual song. Or at least a sample of it. On Amazon or something. It would save you some work, too.
The Car Talk answer was that the increase in drag is worse than the drag of the AC.  

I recall a funny comment by a Daimler engineer saying that they put in sunroofs so you wouldn't need AC, but Americans insisted on both.

Opening the windows is not the only option!  All cars have vents, with fans.  That seems to do the job for me, no need for AC.  (But I live in Vermont...)  Opening windows makes a lot of noise.  And those "sunroofs", I've never figured out what they are good for.  They make a lot of noise, little air flow, and let the hot sun hit your head.  ??!!
"I've never figured out what they are good for." Use your imagination a little -- they make great mobile guillotines. Come the revolution... .
Just joking, Dick, Rummy, just joking. Hm. Shouldn't be giving these guys ideas, should I?
Much better is to have front-seat passenger stand, armed with assault rifle or light machine gun resting on metal part of roof, fully loaded and at the ready to take out discourteous drivers with tracer bullets to the fuel tank;-)

We really have to do something about road rage.

I live in Dallas and am a hot-weather person. I normally drive around here during most of the summer with the vents on natural air and windows rolled up. Only when I'm in dress clothes (normal work outfit is polo shirt and khakis) do I turn on the A/C.
When I went to college there, we'd drive around with the windows up and the heat on looking for Yankee hitchhikers.
The manual sunroof on my Accent has an internal panel to block the sun, but can still be poped up at the back.  It vents very well that way, without allowing the sun to beat on your head.  Also, I always park it that was in the Summer, as it keeps the interior MUCH cooler.  In the winter I keep the panel out to let in more sunlight.

I often see people get into a closed up, boiling hot car and turn on the AC without opening the windows at all.  This puts a huge load on the AC.  If they would just run a block or two with the windows open, it would make a lot of difference.

Sometimes people would run around in hot dry places with wet towels draped over partially open car windows.  I think this was supposed to be an improvised "swamp cooler."  I think that a sunroof would offer great potential for this, with a continuously wetted loosely woven towel attached underneath the sun roof.
They're damn good for getting rid of cigarette butts and beer cans.
I once had a car with a sunroof. I called it the turret. Thinking of Road Warrior, cars with sunroofs would be great as "technicals" as a gunner could man the turret in a road battle for the refinery tribe's oil.

In Iraq, gunners man turrets that are basically sunroofs in the Hummers. By armoring a car with Plexiglas , the turret is invaluable in road warfare. (Think of The Gauntlet with Clint Eastwood armoring the bus cockpit but replace steel with Plexi.)

The main usefulness is if a Road Warrior -ish future develops.

Up to low to mid-80s (F) outside temperature, I open the sunroof on my 1982 Mercedes Benz 240D.  I have "premium" reflective film put on the car to reduce heat loading. And it is white, the one color that significantly reduces heat gain.  And I keep it waxed with a nice reflective wax (Turtle Platinum).

I also use LEDs for marker lights and am considering HID conversion for headlights (brighter, 35 watts instead of 55 watts on low for each headlight).

Synthetic fluids all round.  Mobil 1 in engine & differential, M-B in manual transmission, Valvoline in Power Steering and brakes.

Result 31 mpg city, 35 to 42 mpg highway (depending upon speed) and a car that will last my lifetime, barring accidents.

Our 1983 240D remains our favorite car - "under-powered is howthe mechanic described it; but we loved it with manual transmission, sunroof and pretty good mileage.  As a confirmed claustophobe, I like a sun roof, and find that it vents the car well and does provide fresh air, especially for the back seat. Alas after ~380K, it sought late retirment in a local auto retirment community
Watched a program on myth busters that claims that rolling windows down at 60 mph causes as much engine drag as running the AC compressor, also dropping the tail gate on a pick-up actually decreases MPG because the air then causes low pressure in the bed of the truck, while with the tail gate up there is a spiraling vortice in the bed of the truck.
I guess the real question is, at what speed does the AC become more efficient? I doubt there is much drag at 10 mph, but I assume most people close their windows in traffic congestion because of the heavy exhaust pollution, not because of the wind drag.
Anecdotal only, but... When I bought my 2004 Civic, one of the points that the staff emphasized after the sale was the efficiency of the air conditioning compressor, and the resulting need to change habits.  They assert that the speed at which drag from open windows exceeds the compressor load is low enough that your normal practice should be to keep the windows rolled up.  If pulling outside air through the vents does not provide enough cooling, turn on the air conditioner -- it almost always has less impact on mileage than opening the windows.  I've noticed that when driving uphill into the mountains west of Denver, I can't tell by the engine response when the compressor kicks on and off.

Sitting still in heavy traffic would be an obvious exception, but I keep the windows closed in that situation anyway, ever since the time I was stopped next to badly-tuned midsize truck that blew a dense cloud of diesel smoke directly in my open window :^)

If you're already running natural air through your vents, with windows up, if it's not too hot, you can simply set the air to "recirc" and so not suck stuff in from outside. If the fan's running fast enough, the air motion will do a decent job of cooling even at warmer temps.
< but I assume most people close their windows in traffic congestion because of the heavy exhaust pollution>

And then what do they breath?  Bottled air? A minority of people have cabin air filtration systems.  How many of them work effectively, or are in working order, is moot.  

And then there are the voc's generated by the various materials out of which the vehicle interior is manufactured.

It's all too much.  I think I'll have another cigarette.

doug gabelmann

I've seen experimental results both ways on the A/C vs windows issue. I think it depends on the car model. Some are more aerodynamic than others and opening the windows may make a bigger difference for those.

Another point not often mentioned is that you probably wouldn't open your windows all the way at 60+ MPH, especially not at 75 or 80 like people drive around here. It's way too windy and noisy. So this introduces another variable in the comparison: windows cracked open an inch or two vs closed vs open all the way. My guess is that opening them enough to ventilate the car nicely is not going to create as much drag as opening them all the way.

My Honda Insight is incredibly sensitive to any of the gasoline using parameters (tailwind, tire pressure, etc). It definitely gets worse mileage with the AC on than windows at least partially down in hot weather. If it is unbearable, the Insight-fanatic technique is to just run the AC on the downhill parts of the highway to minimize the impact on mileage. Otherwise, I agree, probably depends on model, driving habits, etc.
Like the modern office building, the modern car is designed to be driven mostly with their windows closed and the AC on. That is why most of them have rather mediocre ventilation systems.

The auto makers started doing away with those nice little side window vent wings during the late 1960 and early 1970s.  It's a shame, because they provided very good ventilation in an un-airconditioned car. Those 'crotch-cooler' vents on either side under the dash also helped a great deal. Some of the cars from the 1940s and early fifties were even better in that regard, as some had these moveable vents in the center of the hood near the windshield that you could raise or lower.

As to whether there is more energy lost at 60 mph with the windows open or with the AC on, I'd say that the answer is not so clear cut. It depends on the shape of the car, whether all the window are wide open, and how large of an AC you have an how high you have it turned up. If you're talking about over 70 mph, I suspect the window-open mode would expend more energy, If it's just 60 mph or below, I'd say that it depends.

Still, it's well to note the effect. Keep in mind that all the windows do not have to be fully open for good flow-through ventilation; you just have to have well-designed vents. And the idea of positive ventilation for the seats seems to have merit. (Just make sure that the exhaust from the front seats is not directed onto the rear-seat passengers!)

They way this is even true for hybrids.  All I know is that my Prius can reliably rack up 50mpg in summertime California with the AC on (low 1 or 2).  70mph, 105F external temp, no problem.
It depends entirely on the aerodynamics of the car, how many windows you roll down (and how far down), the design of the window sill itself, and the potency/efficiency of the air conditioning system, plus other driving conditions: your speed, headwind, crosswind, etc.

Remember that power required for a given speed goes up as the third power (cube) of the speed, as far as aerodynamic drag. That is to say if you double your speed, you require eight times more power to maintain that speed. This cube term really magnifies the effect of just cutting down your speed a little bit to save gas.

I know it's being nit-picking, but I just can't help myself :-)

It is not correct that the total power required to proper a car increases as the cube of the speed. The total power to propel a car is composed of several components, the main ones being: i) rolling friction, ii) engine friction and other engine losses, and iii) aerodynamic drag. The first two rise more or less linearly with speed. It is only the power component consisting of aerodynamic drag that rises with the cube of the speed.

So, at low speeds (say up to about 40 mph, depending on the drag coefficient of the specific car) the power rises only slightly steeper than linear. But as the speed increases, aerodynamic drag starts to predominate and the speed/power relationship begins to move more into the cube rule-regime. That is why even very light race cars need very powerful engines.

The so-called cube-rule holds a little better for ships, but even there it is not clear cut. At low speeds a long slender ship will actually use more power than a more stubby one  of the same displacement because it has more wetted area and hence more surface friction. But as the speed goes up, the power expended in pushing water aside and in wave making begins to predominate and the long slender ship will use less power for the same speed. It gets very expensive to get a ship to go over a certain characteristic speed that is determined by its length and hydrodynamic form.

Doubling the power will roughly double the rate of fuel consumption, but not the amount of fuel consumed in traveling a given distance. The reason is that  in the high-power case, the vehicle is traveling faster, and hence covers the same distance in a shorter period of time, and hence the higher rate of fuel consumption takes place over a shorter amount of time. While it nowhere evens out, it's important to realize that doubling the power does not halve your gas mileage. (It makes it considerably worse, but not by a factor or 2).

All good thinking. but here's another way that might be more fun and save you bucks.  Go to Costco and buy their little  food freezer box.  Take it home and ruthlessly rip out its heart, which is  a really fierce little stirling cooler that runs on tens of watts. Stick this cooler under your seat attached to a metal plate upon which you place your self.  Plug it into your lighter outlet.  You will then get so cold that you will find yourself instantly converted  to a  global warming enthusiast.  Then hope your drive is over before you die of hypothermia or going too fast to get to some place warm.

Then ditto for all the other seats that might have a sitter sometime. Sell your AC to the uninformed to regain the entire cost of your new innovation.

I think you meant "Peltier", not stirling. ^_^;

NO, BY GOLLY, I MEAN STIRLING.  Peltier is for whimps who want to waste watts and get zippo cooling. The stirling I am talking about would make a super fanny freezer and runs on very little juice. Check it out.
That's hilarious. You can get those peltier heater-coolers and theoretically do the same. There is another way to create commuting hypothermia. Get one of those cooling vests with water hose woven into the garment. Hace an ice chest and pump you plug into the lighter plug. At work, grab a bunch of ice from the ice maker in the lunch room. Add to the ice chest and plug in the pump, and enjoy your intentional hypothermia. (and avoid A/C engine load)

With the average metabolism being 200 calories/day, that's about 80 watts. Create a source of hypothermia and insulate the rest of your body, and you'll need very little A/C to keep cool.

Piston side forces in an engine rise as the square of speed, so that component of friction power will rise as the cube.

This is one reason I like to shift to neutral when coasting downhill; the engine burns a lot less fuel ticking over at 800 RPM than overcoming friction at road speed of 2100.

I'll use this one as an open thread to continue about Iran.

"Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday that Iran will not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon and warned "the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime."

Cheney said the Iranian government "continues to defy the world with its nuclear ambitions" and that the issue may soon go before the U.N. Security Council.

"The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences," Cheney said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group."

"The regime has shown it cannot be trusted. It hid its nuclear activities for two decades from the international community. It has refused to comply with its international obligations. This is about the regime and its behavior. That's what this is about and that's what our focus is."


You may want to replace "Iran", "nuclear weapons" with "Iraq" and "WMD" and it all sounds too familair. Especially that last sentence I quote gives me the shivers. Deja-vu!
Attacking Iran may sound impossible, implausable, irrational, immortal, economic suicide etc.

The present US administration however are champions making decisions with such characteristics.


What better way to mask or phostpone PO by wrecking the world economy and take vast amounts of oil out of production (like happened in Iraq) by attacking Iran (and possible closure of the Strait of Hormuz)?

This is speculation but the Bush administration IS Peak Oil informed. I could go on and speculate attacking Iran is just part of a wider, long term strategic objective.

Sorry folks. It's gonna happen. Wait for the UN to become "irrelevant" again.

Excuse me: U.N. "relevance"? When has the U.N. been relevant since 1950, when Harry Truman (IMO best U.S. president of 20th century) took advantage of the Soviet walkout from the Security Council to invade Korea under the figleaf of U.N. approval?

The U.N. is steeped in corruption from top to bottom and utterly ineffective in stopping wars. Holy Shishkebabs, you think the sainted Kofi Anan didn't know what junior was up to? If so, that bridge in Brooklyn is still for sale. And for you, a special price.

Well Don, you're right, but it is sort of the way that is supposed to be walked, isn't it? Just to try to give the impression that what you do is "right". Reputation, that stuff. (Not that the US has much of a reputation to hold on to outside the US)

Now we talk about it, the US itself is represented by someone who has repeatedly called the UN irrelevant. That should tell something.

Glad you aggree with me Granddad.

Of course since it was created, UN has only been used for fabricating a formal justification for whatever the strongest states want to do.

But when you think of it if there was not UN, the majors would be starting to shoot without even bothering for justifications. At least it gives some time and a chance for sanity, IMO.

If peak + global events are about to cause $4-5 gas the suburb/rural right will question even their hero G.W. So being an oilman + No. 2 being an oilman they will need as PaulusP says"What better way to mask or phostpone PO by wrecking the world economy and take vast amounts of oil out of production (like happened in Iraq) by attacking Iran (and possible closure of the Strait of Hormuz)?

This is speculation but the Bush administration IS Peak Oil informed."
Bolten at the U.N. is saying," tangiable consequences".
I'm not saying/agreeing the train has left the staion, but the engine is running; however if the price increases that will be a driver so that oil is not the focus on their watch.   Yes , the train may have already left the station. I pray  it hasn't/won't.

I know that people have complained about my posting betting market results, but frankly I don't think you can find a better or more objective estimate of the odds of future events than those markets. In the case of an attack on Iran, intrade.com has run a market on that topic for many months. You can not only see current odds, you can see how they have varied over time to get an idea of whether the situation is getting better or worse.

It's easy to say stuff like "face it, it's gonna happen," or "no way, they wouldn't dare," but that's just talk. People in these markets are backing up their opinions with real money. That automatically gives them more credibility. And the market averages everyone's opinion to come up with an overall consensus, which is another thing that's hard to get just by reading different people's opinions.

http://www.intrade.com/jsp/intrade/contractSearch/searchPageBuilder.jsp?z=1141929857810&grpID=44 28

These are the current odds for an air strike on Iraq by the following dates:

Jun 30, 2006 ------  10.7% - 11.3%
Dec 31, 2006 ------  23.6% - 24.7%
Mar 31, 2007 ------  33.0% - 34.4%

Are you perhaps doing research for the redoubtable Admiral Poindexter (retired, disgraced) ;-)  He had some kind of scheme for predicting terrorist attacks based on betting.
Halfin -

If I recall correctly, you posted much the same sort of thing last week. (?)

While the March 31, 2007 odds of 33% look tempting, I have a real problem with this whole concept of betting on war, largely because it reduces war to the level of a sporting event, which I find vaguely obscene.

In case you've chosen to forget, a massive air attack on Iran will result in probably thousands of innocent people being killed or permanently maimed. Thus, if I were to make a wager that the US/Israel will attack Iran by such-and-such, it would be unavoidable that I would consciously or unconsciously be rooting for the attack to take place. By so rooting for an attack to take place, I would in essence be rooting for people to be killed and maimed, because the latter is unavoidably connected to the former.

Moral and ethical considerations aside, I just don't want to put myself in that position. Particularly since my nextdoor neighbor's kid will be leaving for Iraq in April to  fly helicopters. If win my bet and he should come back home through Dover AFB, I don't want to feel that I somehow benefited by his death.  I'm not by nature a superstitious person, but in this case, I just think it's bad luck all around.

I don't recall posting anything like this last week, but then there are senior moments. I was only joking, honest!
Only "vaguely obscene"? Turn it around and think how you would feel about a Tehran bookmaker offering odds on when the next bomb attack will occur in America or Europe and how many children will be killed.

All posters should remember that the world wide web is just that and postings that hint at an indifference in the West to suffering elsewhere will be read in such places and promote indifference or even approval of suffering in the West caused by attacks on it.

In many ways it is the wide swathes of people willing to give tacit  support to such attacks by not revealing those that commit them are more important than the few willing to actually commit them. This is a lesson we learnt in the UK about the troubles in Northern Ireland.  Think of how many people must know where Osama bin Laden is and none of them has been tempted by rewards equal to a life's income to turn him in. Do not swell their numbers.

The next attack could maim for life your kids or mine.

Well, looks like 100% chance by Christmas Eve 2008.
So your basic argument is that people who "bet" on something have more credible opinions than those that do not? Thus, if I run down to my local bookie and place a bet on an attack against Iran I automatically become credible? A neo-nazi places a bet and his opinion becomes credible? A mentally retarded person places a bet and his opinion becomes credible and preferable over, say, a military officer who does not place a bet?

Do you realize how absurd your position is?

That's not what he is saying at all. He said "more" credible and in a very specific context. You caught that in your first sentence. Then you proceeded to disregard it and put other words in his mouth.
No I did not. Halfin is the one that has failed to qualify anything other than putting down a bet as criteria for determining credibility and he specifically dismisses other opinions as "just talk". See his own words, or am I not to understand him to mean exactly what he has written?
Irrelevant again? I thought it was always irrevelant.

OK, there may be a few UN programs that have a positive, relevant effect on some people's lives. But even they are often only alleviating situations caused, or allowed to arise, by the UN's irrelevance or by the unwillingness or inability of the so-called "international community" (an oyxmoron if there ever was one) to act to prevent the problems in the first place.

Hope this is an appropriate place for this one.  I'm calculating the actual net cost of a grid-tied solar installation that would zero out my electric bill.  Skipping over the technical details, when I calculate the economics (assuming a 30-year loan at 6.5% to cover the net cost of instalaltion after rebates and tax credits) I come up with an annual increased cost to me of 86%.  In other words, the cost of utility power has to increase by 86% to justify the cost of the solar installation.

I'd be happy to provide more details if necessary.  My question is, does this sound about right, or am I missing something?  

Three things come to my mind Tim.

First try to save the money by cutting unneccessary purchases so you don't have to take a 30 year, 6.5 % loan to get your solar system installed. Or start piece by piece (Try To Stay Out Of Debt Coming Peak Oil!).

86% increase of costs is a lot. But is it more than what is ahead? Maybe, Maybe not.

No matter the price now, if the grid goes down, you will at least have some power.

No matter the price now, if the grid goes down, you will at least have some power

That would be a great advantage - to have your lights on when the maraudering bands attack your house.

... and inside every silver lining, there's another dark cloud.
"That would be a great advantage - to have your lights on when the maraudering bands attack your house. "

Darwin Award Winners only.  The rest with a brain would use the electricity for something useful and be smart enough to turn the damn lights off at night.  Duh.

It'll let you dazzle them with floodlights while you hammer them with buckshot.
No matter the price now, if the grid goes down, you will at least have some power.

Not with a grid-tie system he won't.  He'll have to shell out thousands more dollars for batteries and an inverter to charge them.

He will be able to turn the lights on when the sun is shining :)
It doesn't sound right but we don't know your circumstances or your assumptions. Others who have actually done this have reported achieving payback in as little as 3 years at current electrical rates. You say you estimate a 30 year loan? How much electrical power are you planning to put in?
I installed a 20 unit 100 watt/panel PV system with a SunTie inverter about five years ago for a cost of about $6000 after state rebate.  I'm in the Escondido area of SoCal and have lots of sunny weather.  On average, per day, I get about 8 KWH in the winter and 11 KWH in the summer.  Our rates are about 12 cents per KWH.  On average I get 10 KWH per day so that's about $1.20 worth of electricity.  $438 a year is what I get back for my investment.

At 6.5% interest it will take 35 years to pay back a loan of $6000 with this income stream.  This doesn't take into account the panel degradation.  Service live for PV panels is around 20 years though they have significant output past that.

The joker here is whether electricity will be 12 cents per KWH for thirty years.  It would not seem so.

Would I do it again?  No.  It's worthless during a power outage because the system works only when the mains are active - there is no battery storage.  When the utility company starts installing smart meters they will probably do the accounting in a different and less favorable way.  Currently the meter is run backward when the panels produce more energy than I am using.  Half the cost of the electricity is for transport and the other half is for the energy.  Smart meters will only credit energy at 6 cents per KWH whereas the current system credits energy put back on the grid at 12 cents per KWH - the meter is just running backward.

This will make an immense difference.  The utility company will argue that they are just buying energy so they should only have to pay the same rate thay pay other energy providers - 6 cents per KWH.

Don't get me started on the efficiency of the Trace (now Xantec) Suntie grid-tie inverter.  It was touted as 96% efficient but my calculations show it to be around 60%.  That made a big difference too.  The unit has held up OK but I'm not at all pleased with its efficiency.  They replaced it once and the replacement unit was less efficient still.  Many calls to the company and no satisfaction.  They named the processor inside after a grateful dead song so you can take it from there.

It was an unwise purchase, looking back.  I assumed that electricity was going to be 25 cents per KWH by now so, in effect, I was buying an energy futures contract that didn't pan out.


That was very informative.

It's very helpful to get a reality check on home alternative energy systems now and then. Often, new technolgy doesn't start to show its problems until some extended amount of operating experience has been accumulated. Eventually, most of the bugs get worked out, but it can be a painful (and expensive) process.

There were the same sort of disappointments and complaints when people jumped on the latest fad and started buying those newfangled horseless carriages. A natural selection process sets in, where the poor products go under and the better ones succeed.

If you started today, you'd need a 4% electricity cost escalation each year to payback in 20 years (full-power life of solar panels).
My panels are guaranteed to continue their output at (to my recollection) 90-95% for 25 years, and should obviously go on well past that. Where do you get this 20 year notion??
Its not so much to do with quarantees, or whether the company will be in business in 20 years to collect on a guarantee that went bad, or not even that I don't believe they will perform as stated, although there is maybe no proof of that, its just that personally I'm so impatient I wouldn't want to wait any LONGER than 20 years for a payback of anything.  I'd prefer something like 7-8 years for this kind of investment.  Since the average American sells his/her house every 5 years, its a hell of a chance of never recovering the investment unless you could sucker a buyer to take it off your hands.  But it all depends on what you think the power cost is going to do over the useful life of the equipment.  

A couple of years ago I did some work on generating methane from agricultural biodigestors for which I think they can pay back (theoretically) in 6-8 years w/o any fuel escalation cost needed.  PV has never looked like a good deal to me.  

I do not understand how you came up with 6.5% after tax benefits and rebates--sounds much too high unless you have horrible credit.

Also it is not clear to me whether you are using present value analysis (and if so what is your assumed rate of discount . . . 6.5%???) or whether you are using the internal rate of return method or what method at all.

If the installation is a good idea, then my guess is that the true cost would not require anything like an 86% increase in utility rates to justify it. Does not make sense to me. I'd have to see a lot more numbers to understand the situation, however.

Also, if your "true" interest rate as stated on the "Truth in Lending" form is above about 7%, I would think that it would probably make very good sense to finance over ten or fifteen years rather than thirty.

On the other hand, as my old friend the octopus said, if you expect hyperinflation, then ignore the nominal financing costs entirely and borrow to the max over thirty years for whatever you want in your wildest dreams.  

6.5% looks like a normal interest for non real estate loan.

I think that like most people he is not using NPV. This grossly overestimates the real value of the system, because he is not discounting his future revenues, while most of his expenses would be now.

Don't do it Tim, it is worthless. Better buy a wood/coal furnace, isolate your house, even buy a Prius and convert it to plug-in. Currently solar panels are not much more than a hype.

Amen, brother.
The plug-in's batteries will have a short life; the PV panel will be good for decades.  If you expect TSTHTF, PV makes more sense than anything which needs either gasoline or replacement batteries.
I knew I should have included more information... here goes:

  1.  My purpose is to evaluate whether this makes economic sense; or, put another way, what assumptions have to be met in order to justify this as an investment.

  2.  This would be a grid-tied system with no battery backup.  My backup is a gasoline-powered generator for outages lasting more than a few hours.

  3.  The system size is calculated on the basis of my current and projected annual energy demand, with the goal of exactly matching that demand.  The utility will pay zero for excess production.

  4.  2005 consumption was 6,252 KWH.

  5.  This would be a nominal 5 KW system; that's the solar contractor's estimate to provide the desired amount of power at this location.  Installed cost estimate is $40,000 ($8/KW). CA rebate is $2.80/KW and there is a federal tax credit up to $2,000, leaving a net cost of $26,800.

  6.  In order to evaluate the economics I assumed financing  with a conventional real-estate loan, about the cheapest money available.  I could take the money out of an investment, but it's yielding more than 6.5% so that wouldn't make much sense.  If there's a better way to evaluate this, show me.

  7.  Financing with a conventional mortgage adds the extra benefit of income-tax deduction for the interest portion.  I'm not in the high bracket any more so I assumed only a 15% tax benefit on the $1,752/yr of interest.

  8.  Figuring all that up, I get a net annual cost of $1,861 for the system finincing.  2005 cost for electricity was $994.  Therefore I would be saddling myself with an extra $867 per year above what I currently pay for electricity.  Makes no sense!

Thanks to everyone for the comments so far.
I assume that you have already done this.

It is less expensive to replace certain appliances to save electricity than it is to purchase solar panels to create electricity.

Look at the Sun Frost (http://www.sunfrost.com/) refrigerators/freezers.  They supposedly use only 20% of the energy.

Look at solar water heating prior to looking at solar panels.

Look at plasma computer monitors.

Etc, etc.

A great tool to purchase is "Kill-A-Watt" electricity monitor. http://www.energyfederation.org/consumer/default.php/cPath/398_388_254

And of course, don't forget about those phantom loads.

A kilowatt saved is one less kilowatt you need to design in.


A local organization (envirocentre.ca), which sells the Kill A Watt device, has convinced the public library to stock and lend the device.  At the moment, the waiting list at the Ottawa Public Library is over 200 people long.  Undoubtedly some people will give up waiting and buy one, once local outlets get their hands on some.  (even the link you provide is saying no availability before April).

Nonetheless, convincing local libraries to stock and lend this device is a worthy endeavor.  There is obviously a big demand.

doug gabelmann

this place has a eta of 3-15-06 for the same product.
I bought one of those Kill-A-Watt devices. Makes me wonder what the Kill-A-Watt's phantom load is. :) There is a way to make a functional equivalent device, with no phantom load. You need an extension cord, a Fluke, and some known load to calibrate the shunt voltage reading to correlate to voltage shown on the gauge.

When I had a good UPS hooked to car batteries, I made an ammeter for the battery side to serve as the gauge for how much power I was using while on batteries. (I also had a "gas gauge" voltmeter to show charge left.)

When you use an extension cord, there is a voltage drop. By hooking a Fluke (set to show AC volts) at 2 spots on one of the conductors, a voltage is shown representing the voltage drop from the resistance of the wire itself. A good cord will have a small voltage drop of course, but Flukes can show millivolts. Plug in the known load (like a 60 watt incandescent lamp checked with a borrowed Kill-A-Watt) and note the voltage shown on the Fluke. Now you have an official Mad Maxout Kill-A-Watt.


Makes me wonder what the Kill-A-Watt's phantom load is.

Should be easy to test.  Just plug it into an unused outlet and leave it alone.  Check it after a day or longer.

I bought one a while back and recommend them highly.  What an eye opener.  The phantom load from VCR/TV's is incredible.  Hell, even the dishwasher pulls a phantom load! Power strips and Kill-A-Watts more than pay for themselves very quickly.  Be prepared for push-back from other residents in your home!

Anyone know of an easy method of getting load data from 230V service items?  I know you can get a clip meter around one wire, but that involves more work and exposure than I care to deal with.  I have learned how to read the house meter to get rough estimates as 230V items are very power hungry, that's why they're higher voltage - to reduce amps.  WARNING: neighbors and loved ones will be convinced of your insanity as you scurry back 'n forth turning on-off loads and reading the meter!

Also, I've got hard data on just about everything in the house.  But there is still a ~75W phantom load that I haven't yet found.  Some idle day I plan to use the breaker box to narrow down where that darn load is.  Now that we've gotten rid of the easy fat, that final mystery load is a significant number (75W running 24/7).  Anyone have any thoughts about what it might be?  Smoke detectors?  I'm reasonably certain that it isn't anything that's plugged into an outlet.

Since there is no known 230VAC variant of the Kill-A-Watt known, you'll have to roll your own as outlined in my piece with the homebrew variant. Just use a 230VAC cord to make it. Calibration should be a snap. Take two same-wattage lamps and plug into a normal Kill-A-Watt. When you make the homebrew 230VAC variant, wire the two same bulbs in series and plug it in and note the Fluke's reading. Special note. When done, take the Fluke and measure the 230VAC outlet. I'll likely be 208 instead, becuse in many cases the split-phase is 2 out of three phases that are normally 3-phase Wye. In apartment buildings they wire them funny with 208 3-phase Wye in which gives 120VAC single-phase to ground from any one phase. Just divvy up the apartments and phases and it'll reasonably balance out. As far as the 208/230VAC Kill-A-Watt variant, take the voltage, knowable resistance, and amps into account.

If you know about electricity like I do, it gets real easy. For most people, electricity gets almost like magic. I've been experimenting with electricity since childhood. (and got bit a few times too)

I have the Kill-A-Watt and can't recommend it enough.

On the Sun Frost ... I think you've gotta want to save that incremental amount (or be off grid an 12v) to really justify it.

With the Kill-A-Watt I found that my $600 Kenmore refrigerator/freezer uses about 1.2 kWh per day.  As opposed to the 0.77 to 1.02 kWh quoted for the much more expensive Sun Frost RF19.

Actually, I think an improvement since the 70's is that real energy efficient appliances have entered the mainstream (front load washing machines, etc.).

For my actual Kill-A-Wat results, I found that running 58 hours and 41 minutes consumed 2.90 kwh. Using my calculator:

average consumption 49.418 watts
KWh per year = 432.90

$40.58 per year at 0.09375 cents min charge
$73.77 per year at 0.17042 cents max charge

$3.38 per month at 0.09375 cents min charge
$6.15 per month at 0.17042 cents max charge

(the crazy max and min charges were Southern California Edison rates a couple summers ago)

Ask your contractor to sign a twenty year agreement to make up the difference between what he claims you'll get and what you actually get.  For the next twenty years, in other words, he'll guarantee his claims by paying the difference between what you actually harvest vs: what he says you'll harvest when the PV's underperform.  Don't be surprised if there is some reluctance on his part.

That's a bit of a joke, actually.  Chances are your contractor will be bankrupt in ten years so the contract won't be worth much.

Your contractor is claiming your system will provide a yearly output of 6.252 megawatt hours per year.  That comes to an average of 17.128 KWH per day.  Reasonable average for a 5000 watt system I'd say.  Depends entirely on where you live.  I live in one of the best areas for PV.  Your mileage will vary a lot depending on cloud cover.

Furthermore, you're not going to generate a consistent 17 KWH per day all year.  You'll be producing 23 KWH during the summer and 14 KWH during the winter.  If you don't use much air conditioning, a good portion of the summer generation may be a freebie for the power company.

Call your electric utility company and ask what their policy is going to be when they install smart meters.  I can't emphasize enough how important this is.  Instead of twice as much you could easily be paying four times as much because you typically generate electricity during the day and sell it to the power company.  You then buy it back in the evening.  If you're buying it back for twice the selling price then that has to be figured into your costs.

That's why I didn't get a 5000 watt system.  The 2000 watt system reduces my electric bill to about $5 for five months a year and I never have a month where I generate excess capacity.  During the winter I usually pay about $25 a month.

People hyperventilate about hyperinflation but I think it more likely we'll suffer a multi-year killer recession/depression.  In that case the price of electricity could remain stable or even drop.  The wild card in all this is just how much we can conserve if we really tighten our belts.  My guess is it's a lot.

You're absolutely right.  It's an investment that doesn't make sense.  Been there.  Done that.  Given the uncertainties, I think your numbers are way too optimistic.  Right now PV's are du jour and the price has sky-rocketed.  Wait for awhile until the nut-cases who can't run numbers find out just how bad a deal it is.  Nut-cases like me, I might add.  Chuckle.

LJR, it's tough to argue with someone who's "walked the walk".  A couple of points, though:

  1. On a purely personal, economic basis, PV is tough (if not impossible) to justify sans very hefty rebates and tax credits which vary widely from state to state.  However, you HAVE contributed to the community good by reducing the load required to be put out by the power company (at peak load times BTW), helping to delay or prevent the building of additional powerplants.
  2. You have helped to reduce the amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere.  
  3. You are helping to decentralize the grid, making it less susceptible to large scale blackouts.  And, dare I say it, terrorist attacks.

All intangible benefits, but benefits none the less.

4. A car that is more luxurious and therefore more expensive than the absolute cheapest, most economical car is also a bad investment from a purely economical standpoint.  But we make these kinds of choices every day.

So I wouldn't lament your choice too much.  Get out there and watch your meter run backwards once in a while :-)

Just so!

That's why I can chuckle about making a financial decision that's probably not justifiable on a purely economic basis.  The panels have a long life and I get a kick out of the $5 electric bills during the summer.

And you're absolutely right.  I find watching the meter run backward very entertaining.

I'm also pumping energy onto the grid during the hottest part of summer days because I live in an adobe house that stays cool in the afternoons and doesn't require air conditioning.

I hope the electric utilities will have an enlightened attitude and credit energy pumped back onto the grid at the same rate they charge for energy taken off when smart meters rule the wires.

Thanks for pointing out some of the benefits.  If Tim does go for this I hope he scales back a bit.  A 2000 watt system should be quite large enough.

One other thing.  I installed the system myself and saved a bunch of money.  My system would have cost $24,000 if professionally done.  I bought the panels and converter for $12,000 and made a fun project of it.  The wiring was easy.  The tough part was installing the panels on the roof in a manner that satisfied San Diego building inspectors.  I ended up camped out down there because they were concerned that these weight of the panels was going to collapse my roof!  These same people would rubber stamp the plans to replace my asphalt shingles with tiles!  Never underestimate the power of a building inspector to make your life miserable.  And that's when he's having a good day.

You must install them via a permit process because that's how the state documents that the system is real for purposes of the rebates.

I applaud efforts to conserve energy and don't want to be a killjoy about PV panels.  If I ever decide to move to a more remote location I'm sure I'll consider the panels a good investment.  If I move without taking them they add at least $6K of value to the house.  Potential buyers are turned on by showing $5 a month electric bills.

My guess is that electricity will become more expensive over the next five or ten years and that makes the PV investment look better too.

I hope the electric utilities will have an enlightened attitude and credit energy pumped back onto the grid at the same rate they charge for energy taken off when smart meters rule the wires.
I think many states mandate that you are credited at the same rate as you are charged. I'd check with your state's net metering rules (if you haven't already). If you're the activist type, I'd write or call my representative to make sure that the smart meters don't adversely affect the investment you have already made.
My system is nominal almost 3kw, actual max production is around 2.5 kw in the summer. I'm glad I did it. Our out-of pocket was just under $10,000 and would take about 23 years to pay off in full if electrical rates don't go up (hah!). It supplies almost 100% of out needs and should be operating 30 years from now and longer. I won't say it's the most logical investment financially, but most people do it not just for the money.

If we were high utilizers and paying $0.25 per watt from PG&E, it would pay off in less than 15 years (assuming rates don't increase). Systems make the most financial sense when they lop off the use that falls only in the highest rate categories. I am happy, though, knowing that I have electricity produced on my roof that will probably last for the rest of my life, no concern about rate increases, and almost no fuel comsumption or CO2 production from now on.

I would also comment that few other expenditures are required to have an explicit financial justification the way we are talking here. How many people pay 40,000 for a Tahoe when a 19,000 Matrix will do just as well? How many buy a home for 500,000 when a 300,000 home would be truly sufficient? A 50,000+ motor home instead of a tent or small trailer? People spend vastly greater sums of money for more superfluous reasons than what we are talking about here, and never expect to see it again.

Spending money is about what our personal values and wishes are more than strict economics. A person I was speaking with who lived in Nevada was planning on spending around 30-40,000 on solar panels at his B&B there. He was being belittled by his brother for the cost and responded - "you have $130,000 worth of 3 SUVs in your garage - that's your statement - this is mine."

This being said, there is a lot of hype about PV and we do need to be realistic what we're doing and why. Also, at current costs, PV will clearly remain a statement product more than a realistic financial/investment choice.

I hope most of the folks here aren't into $40,000 Tahoes.  Personally I drive a $10,000 2001 Jetta TDI and enjoy 45 mpg.  I have a little trouble understanding your rationale that extravagant and irrational buying habits are a reason why we should buy PV panels for our roofs.  Heretofore I didn't suppose I could pick up chicks or impress my beer drinking friends with PV panels.  But hey!  Maybe I can.  I'll keep you posted.

One altruistic motive for installing panels is that the more get manufactured the quicker production costs should come down.  Last I looked the cost of PV panels is pretty stable and the technology is twenty years old.  Crystalline PV may be about as cheap as it's gonna get.

I really like the tone of these posts though.  I'd one hundred times rather have PV's on my roof than a big ole CO2 generator in my driveway.  And $6000 wasn't all that much money.  The guy with the Tahoe loses that much driving away from car lot.

There's something to be said for priming the pump.  The more money invested in PV the more will become available for investment in R&D.  Money talks and there are worse things than being an early adopter.

But anyone who is trying to pencil this out as a shrewd financial investment needs to be aware that the numbers don't work yet.  There are some big gambles.

Thanks. I'm the last person to justify a Tahoe and it does seem an odd way to rationalize going PV. I am just arguing against the notion that somehow ppl who get PV are irrational when obviously it's far less costly and irrational than many other things that people (generally without raising an eyebrow) do with their money for self-gratification. And it will eventually pay for itself, unlike almost all the other items discussed, promotes personal energy security, helps stabilize the grid, and benefits the environment. If I wasn't already married, it truly might help me pick up the kind of girl I wanted. We do get comments and questions (all favorable so far) from passersby and neighbors. BTW, I know at least 5 other people with PV systems nearby - and all of them would do it again.

PS. my 1991 Civic still going strong with 41 mpg

I am leaning toward inflation, eventually, but even with a depression I think that the real price of energy will only be increasing.  So I expect you will be happier with your solar investment as Peak Oil unfolds.

Viewed as an energy futures investment, your solar is like an open-ended contract, so time is on your side. You may not be winning today, but maybe you will next year.

I'd think the "smart metering" would actually help you out. You'd be selling power during the day, when demand is highest; and drawing power at night, when demand is low. Once they go to hourly pricing with the smart meters, this should be a good money-making strategy. Of course if the utility company gets to set whatever rates it wants for buying and selling, that won't be so good; but I strongly suspect that the state will make them set terms that are favorable to solar panel owners. Schwarzenegger is big on solar and I don't see California changing that policy any time soon.
I do need to look into time-of-use (TOU) metering.  Apparently PGE already does this; the solar contractor was explaining it yesterday.  According to him: Base rate drops back to $0.09/KWH in off-peak months (November-April).  In May-October, the base rate stays in effect except from 12 to 6 PM every day, when the rate jumps to $0.32/KWH.  

This has a big positive effect on solar, if you can minimize your consumption during the peak hours, because they coincide with peak solar generation!  You are selling at $0.32 and buying back at $0.09.  Haven't yet figured out the equations to calculate how much this improves the dismal economics, though.

Home Power ran an article a while back by someone who was doing exactly that:  feeding the grid from his PV array during peak hours and charging his EV at night.  IIRC, he just about broke even.
If you pay about 12¢/kWH now, it looks to me like you'll need a 12% INCREASE/YR in your electricy kWH cost to have a chance of getting a payback in 20 years. (ie. $1.62/kWH by 2026)

So, that basically assumes 12% inflation of just about everything every year for the next 20 years.  Your only realistic chance would be to get struck by hyperinflation.

Also take into consideration that you will use less Kwatts with solar because you are more "aware" of the true cost than you are without solar.

It is just really easy to keep using more watts and more watts and more watts...without solar (like me).


Tim and others,
There is an Aussie company at:


That is making some pretty amazing claims for being able to deliver PV at less than grid cost. It relies on concentrator technology, which I know is a viable and real-world PV technology that I have not up to now seen in a consumer-level product. I'm going to keep my eye on this bunch and see what develops.

Any other opinions? Are they on the level? Perhaps on the level but too hopeful?


FWIW, and I'm far from an expert, but buy the Kill-A-Watt and zealously eliminate your kW demand to the absolute bare minimum before buying the first panel.  The payback is immediate.  And more importantly, PV sizing is a second-order  function.  A 2kW system requires 4x surface area over a 1kW system.

Also, do solar hot water before solar electric.  Payback on that is faster.

"A 2kW system requires 4x surface area over a 1kW system."

Say, what??

This is incorrect. We have an 18 panel nominal 3kW system on our roof. If we had 9 panels, it would be a 1.5 kW system. Each is rated at 165 watts, and is roughly 20x50 inches. Inverter is same size either case.

Uhh... { does some grade school math }

Ummm...{ blushes at results }

Never mind.

Never saw any of it..
Thanks.  Owe you one.  Guiness?
Anywhere near Sacramento?
The Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory reported on Thursday that if every car and truck on America's roads was equipped with ventilated seats, air-conditioning-related gasoline consumption could be reduced by 7.5 percent, thus saving 522 million gallons of fuel per year.

The seats tested have two built-in fans that suck warm air and moisture through their perforated leather and send it away from the driver or passenger.

Ventilated seats make drivers feel cooler, so they could save fuel by turning their air-conditioners down a notch, in theory.

How about recycling some of the methane too?

Growing up, my parents used to use those wire-mesh seat cushions that would let air circulate between you and the seat. It made a big difference on hot summer days back when not every car had air conditioning. I guess it's too cheap and low tech for today's drivers.

If people want high tech I think another good innovation would be car windows that could darken electronically while the car is parked in the sun. Kind of like those sunglasses except that you'd have to be able to un-darken them while driving.

Sure, you could get the same effect by stuffing in a sun shade, and some people still do that, but today's generation wants everything to be push button and automated. Air conditioned seats and electronically tintable windows, that's the wave of the future.

I'm waiting for the print based PVs to come to the market. This could cut the investment cost by 50-90% which changes everything. It may make energy storage (batteries, ice making in your situation) a more affordable part of your plan. No need for smart meters so you may not need to be connected at all.
When Katrina hit, my wife and I were in W Va visiting my daughter. Decided to head back home to Jersey City when I hear about gas stations running out of gas. I have a stick shift '93 BMW (used, high mileage). Turns out I could have made it back on one tank easily if had stayed under 60 and not used the AC (which I rarely use anyway.) Lowering the speed makes a HUGE difference. We could save so much gas by going back to 55 and enforcing it.

Not even on the table, is it?

No, and that's one conservation measure that shouldn't be on the table, IMO.

I grew up in western New Mexico. Given the distances involved in most travel, 55mph is just culturally or socially feasible in the mountain and intermountain west.

I don't like it much - my 1500cc 5spd gets 36mpg on the highway even when I flog it.  My time is important to me, and I don't see why I should be limited the same as those folks commuting alone in 4500lb monsters.  After all, when work is over I have to get home and cut wood, build fires, work on the garden etc.  

Now, if we want to have multiple speed limts for various classes of vehicles, I suppose that would be ok.  But I suspect there are other, less complicated solutions, like a gas tax or rationing.

The idea I like is a ration system whereby when you reach your ration limit, you can still buy fuel, but at a much higher price.  

This is a serious proposal in the UK (which you may already be aware of):

Energy ration cards for everyone planned

When I posted this link on peakoil.com (I didn't express any opinion about it) the reaction was highly mixed. In general, US members were aghast, and felt it would be a complete restriction on their liberty - the sort of policy that only a centralist state would ever consider.

My impression was that even the suggestion of such a rationing system would be political suicide in the US.

I think the objection was more to "Big Brother" watching than to limiting energy use.  

For the same reason, there's deep opposition to national ID cards.  

...and that's a sentiment I can very much appreciate.
I always found that funny. We can be always tracked down through our mobile phones, through the credit cards we use, by automated traffic cameras etc., but we are reluctant to accept a minor addition that will track our energy usage.

Even browsling in internet could hardly be called anonymous, technically.

It might be time for a multiple speed limit/speed rationing system.  Here in Massachusetts, we have FastLane transponders for the automatic tolls on the MassPike.  We could easily have a sliding toll scale that charged extra for going faster, since we would have time and distance information for individual vehicles.  We could maybe even credit accounts for people that go below 60 MPH, and maybe a penalty for going too slow.   There would have to be some extra stations at the rest stops to account for breaks that people take.
WOW, why all those complications?

A simple raise in the gas tax would do miracles at so much lower cost.

I agree that simpler is better, but a gas tax is probably a non-starter.  Politicians get elected by promising to cut taxes, not raise them.  And a gas tax is a consumption tax, which hurts the poor far more than the rich.  

An increase in the gas tax might be easier on paper, but a lower speed limit is far more likely to actually happen.

"Gas taxes hurt the poor" is the conventional wisdom, and it's wrong.  Rich people burn a lot more fuel per-capita than poor people, because they have the money to spend on it and the poor don't.  If you taxed fuel and used the proceeds to give everyone a deductible on their payroll taxes, the poor would benefit much more than the rich.
Aside from the extra FastLane receivers at the rest stops, there are no extra complications or costs, it is all automated anyway.  Some microchip somewhere would have to do an extra subtract and divide for every car that is processed.
Right now I drive through one FastLane to get on the Pike, and then through another to get off.  My account is automatically debted depending on the separation of the two FastLanes. This non-procedure would stay the same with a speed-depend toll, except that I would know my fee would be held down if I did not speed. If speed was important to me, and my bank account well-padded, then I would not give the speed-based toll a second thought.
How about part of that gas tax going for a credit toward buying a car with better mileage?  More books to keep but hell, that's what computers are for.  Everytime I fill up, my new car account is credited with a percentage of the tax I pay.  Never happen but I still think it's not a bad idea.  People would at least feel they are getting something back for the taxes they spend.  People spending the most on gasoline would accrue credit the fastest.

I'd also love to see a system that rewards high MPG cars by levying a lower tax.  That could work in the above tax scheme because a high MPG car needn't be replaced so the portion of the tax normally applied to the new car account wouldn't be levied.

Think forced savings account that can only used when buying a car with significantly better mileage than the present one.

We might as well get used to big brother anyway because license plates will be transponders within five years.  Your driving habits will be a matter of public record.  That's how they're going to make rationing work.

I like the credit idea. For it not to stimulate additional consumption though, it must be combined with some kind of limit: say the first $1000 from the gas tax per year can be used as a credit for buying specific car models, energy efficient devices, house insulation etc. There are many schemas which can acheve fuel consumption reduction, and still not affect adversely poorer people.
You guys/gals are TODders! Were doomed.
I watch with interest to see whatever appears in the Real Goods catalog, but ...

There is a pretty good payback time right now for efficient refrigerators, washers, dryers, and of course the CF or LED lighting.

Depending on how many kids and tvs you have ... it might be eaiser to make the bills small by that path.

Of course, I don't use (have, or need) AC, so I don't know how that changes the solar equation.  If you need AC in your area, and the peak rates are bad enough, then maybe the solar payback works out.

OK, I see that I left out some more information:

No kids, just the two of us.  No AC at all (it never gets hot here).  Fridge is about 10 years old; same for washer.  Propane dryer, water heater, range, and forced-air heat (still looks like a bargain at $1.39/gal). House is actually heated mostly by woodstove and ceiling fan, plus solar gain in winter, and maybe an hour of forced-air to warm up in the colder mornings.  Climate is very mild, average winter lows in the 40s and summer highs in the 60s.  We use some CFs already.  

The bills aren't all that bad now, about $1000/yr.  My question isn't about how to reduce energy consumption, it's why solar does not pencil out economically.  That conclusion will still hold even if I reduced consumption by 50%.

My conclusion so far:  Electricity is still relatively cheap, even at $0.19/KWH.  Rates will have to go up almost double before widespread change will occur.  

So - what price will NG have to reach before CA utility rates go up to $0.36/KWH?  Is that realistic?  And will the State allow utilities to raise rates that high, or will they interfere and mess up the economics again?

My question isn't about how to reduce energy consumption, it's why solar does not pencil out economically.  That conclusion will still hold even if I reduced consumption by 50%.

Well, given a set of technologies and market prices for those technologies, one could create a little table ... with the prices to displace X, Y, Z percent of electrical use with solar, and then again to reduce X, Y, Z percent of electrical use with efficiency.

My sense is that we've made more progress on the efficiency end than on the rooftop solar production end.

Shrug.  I had a really old fridge, and the new one will actually pay for itself in 5 years (2 down, 3 to go).

Norway: Feb Oil Output Down 18%

Norwegian crude production in February was down 18%, or 528,000 barrels a day, compared with February 2004, the Petroleum Directorate said Thursday.

February crude production totaled at 2.46 million b/d, compared with 2.988 million b/d in the same month of 2004.

"There's no doubt that most of the fields on the Norwegian Continental Shelf are on a decline," NPD's principle engineer Eric Mathiesen told Dow Jones Newswires.

But like some in the UK government, they still believe they can raise production:

But with over 200 projects, including new wells on existing fields, in the development process, the NPD forecasts Norwegian output to increase towards the end of 2006 and be higher in 2007.

It forecasts average production in 2006 at 2.43 million b/d rising to 2.64 million b/d in 2007.

Why would they compare 2006 production with 2004 and say it's down 18%? That doesn't make sense. They would compare with 2005.

Probably a typo in the news story? Maybe the Norwegian word for 2004 looks a lot like 2005. :-)

Probably 2004 was the peak?
Here's another article:

Oil production continues to fall

Norway's oil production slipped to a preliminary 2.46 million barrels per day on average in February from 2.49 million in January, and the tally is a marked drop from previous

Production in February 2005 was 2.657 million bpd, and in February 2004 it was 2.988 million, according to figures from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).

Even if gas production during the same period has shown a steady rise, the decrease in oil production of 500,000 bpd over two years is dramatic.

Oil companies predict that the current situation is likely to last through the year.

Looks like Schlumberger screwed up.

Re:  North Sea--Not Much Mystery Here

The North Sea--based on a HL plot that I did--peaked in 1999 at 52% of Qt, and they have been downhill ever since.  

The top 10 major oil companies working the North Sea were predicting that the North Sea would not peak until 2010.  These are the same guys telling us not to worry about world oil production, Saudi Arabia, Russia . . .

[editor's note, by Prof. Goose]Also, a heads up (hat tip: peakoil.com) on a CNN special on peak oil which will be aired Saturday, March 18, 8pm, anchored by Frank Sesno, and is called "We Were Warned: Tomorrow's oil crisis." (brief description here)

Hee.  I posted that at PeakOil.com.  I got it from Ericy's comment here  at TOD.  :)

Heh.  When I saw the promo in Jan I was wondering what the program would be like, but when it never came up in Feb, I was wondering if CNN killed it for some reason.  Despite this, I was still in the habit of checking CNN's site every week to see whether this thing was ever going to show up.

The thing that irks me is that GMU is only about 2 miles from my office.  Had I known earlier, I could have snuck out of the office to see the preview.  Come to think of it, had I know the actual show title, I would have had more luck googling for the thing, and might have heard about it sooner, but evidently the show title hadn't been decided upon when they made the preview.

In the interview with Wolf Blitzer, it sounds on the surface that there may be some good aspects to the program.  I am sure that each of us will find things that we hate about the thing.

Usually Wed of every week is when they update the website for CNN presents, and then you get a lot of extra content and guide  and the links that they might choose to use - perhaps with some clips.  We will have a clearer idea then how good a job they have done..

Sounds a lot like that movie "Oil Storm" that was on last year. Hurricane knocking out Gulf coast ports, followed by terrorism in the Middle East shutting down some operations there... Are they going to have Russia come to the rescue only to have China outbid us like in the movie? Sounds like a case of plagiarism brewing...

It's too bad that it's not about "peak oil" per se. Supply disruption in a generally tight market is not the same thing. It would be interesting to see a full blown mass media presentation of a true peak oil scenario. No hurricanes, no terrorism, just oil fields declining and new production not able to keep up. I guess that's not dramatic and visual enough for a TV show.

My sense is that the scenario with the hurricane and the terrorist strike isn't the major thrust of the documentary - they might do something along these lines at the start of the film to hook the viewers or some such.

Sesno did the interview with Blitzer which I excerpted at the other open thread here he talks about hydrogen and unconventional sources (tar sands).

The original promo for the program in Jan had the voiceover "The world is running out of oil - how much is left, and who gets it".  This sounds like it is hitting peak oil square on the noggin to me.

We will see more next week when more material is posted on the CNN website.

I suspect both the fX movie and the CNN documentary took inspiration from the U.S. government's 2004 wargame, "Oil Shockwave."
A question to the site editors:
Why TOD-NYC and TOD-UK threads do not appear at the main TOD site? If I'm not mistaken it was not like that a while ago, at least for TOD-NYC.
I think they appear on the main page when TOD editors decide to put them there.  That is, when the topic is sufficiently interesting to everyone.  
Yes, I would just suggest to link some of the UK situation threads so that we can discuss them here, where there are more posters.

UK has the good chance of having the "honor" of being the first developed country experiencing the effects of PO&PNG, so I find their situation rather intriguing.

That's correct - but it's generally initiated at the request of the regional site editor.
Reality Check Regarding Canadian Oil Production & EIA Estimates


 The US Department of Energy/Energy Information Administration (US DOE/EIA) has a history of providing poor forecasts as illustrated in their International Energy Outlook 2003 (IEO2003) forecast for Canada. In the IEO2003 they stated:

 "Canada's conventional oil output is expected to increase by more than 200,000 barrels per day over the next 2 years, mainly from Newfoundland's Hibernia oil project, which could produce more than 155,000 barrels per day at its peak sometime in the next several years. Canada is projected to add an additional 500,000 barrels per day in output from a combination of frontier area offshore projects and oil from tar sands."

 Assuming the total increase of 700,000 b/d for Canada was for the 2003 to 2005 period, the US DOE/EIA was only off by 710,000 b/d. In 2003, Canada's total liquid hydrocarbons (TLHs) production was 3.11 mb/d and in 2005 it was 3.10 mb/d (US DOE/EIA data/I used TLHs data because they include NGLs in their forecasts), a decline of 10,000 b/d. If the baseline was 2002, then they were off by only 555,000 b/d. That's not bad for the US DOE/EIA. I had made what I thought was a good case in my book that Canada's oil production would not increase by anything approaching 700,000 b/d for the 2002 to 2005 period.

 It is interesting to see that Canada's oil production decreased 29,000 b/d in 2005 (US DOE/EIA oil production data). Part of the decrease is due to prolonged shutdowns in production from oil sands operations, which seems to be a persistent problem. Production has also decreased in Atlantic Canada due to declining production from the Hibernia and Terra Nova fields (Hibernia actually had a peak of 204,264 b/d in 2004). Atlantic Canada's oil production declined from 336,885 b/d in 2003 to 304,847 b/d in 2005. The White Rose field was brought on- line in Nov. 2005 so that will slow the decline of Atlantic Canada's oil production.

 The US DOE/EIA is projecting that global oil production will not peak before 2037. I would not bet any money on their forecast.

 Roger Blanchard Sault Ste. Marie, MI

i just discovered that during the last (Eemian) interglacial (which we discussed here, there were Hippopotamuses in Northern Europe (swimming in the Thames, no less).
And then G.W. Bush arrived on the scene and the Hipps cried and died - Or maybe the Hippos were alarmed by Global Cooling...

Mother? (she always knows the answer ;)

Keep digging Stuart...;)

Also, Kenneth Deffeys, on Energy Bulletin honrs King Hubbert (and explains his "Stone Age" comment:

"..I do have an apology to make for a line in my February Current Events comment on this website. After stating that the world oil peak had already occurred on December 16, 2005, I reported that the Bush administration hoped to double the direct solar electric generation from the present one percent to two percent by the year 2025. My fingers got away from me and typed out: "By 2025, we'll be back in the Stone Age." I'm sorry that some readers thought that I actually meant that we would be wearing furs and hunting buffalo with flint spear points. It's called "hyperbole." Nevertheless, I have been looking into acquiring some property on the Arkansas novaculite belt. Great flint."

I'm sorry that some readers thought that I actually meant that we would be wearing furs and hunting buffalo with flint spear points.

What buffalo?

The buffalo hunters were tough men all trying to earn a living in a very depressed economy after the Civil War.  As early as 1872, a million buffalo were killed for their hides alone and the carcasses left to rot on the plains

     For a decade, this slaughter continued causing many a fight with the Indians as they observed the extermination of the buffalo as a death to their way of life and personal existence

     When one herd was gone the hunters simply moved on to another region. By 1884 nothing remained of the massive buffalo herds but the piles of bones by the railroad that the farmers had collected and sold to fertilizer factories

      In 1897, the mass extermination was almost complete with only a small herd of 20 wild buffalo existing in Yellowstone National Park and the rest in private hands  


HOMO SAP KILLS OFF N. AmeriKin FAuna etc"

Beat Homo and poke his eyes, or watch him self-mutilate in public displays of misplaced disgust.

((Good SHOW on here Ma, you're missing it!...))

YES - PLEASE TURN UP the AC says this guy:

"God has cursed us," he says, looking toward the sky. "Why else are we allowed to suffer for so long? What have we done wrong?"

When Salat looks up, all he sees is a relentless sun beating down on his country. There's not a cloud in sight. Forecasters confirm Salat's worst fears -- little or no rain is expected in the coming weeks."

Poor Salat, never knew what hit him and his family.  His godz never do answer back, but The Silent, Uncaring Mother who knows best also doesn't Hear him.

Very sad.  I bet he rolls down the window.


"by turning their air-conditioners down a notch"

It doesn't work like that.  The AC compressor is either ON or it's OFF.  It can't be sort of on.  Full on or full off.

"Homo sapian is Not!" Says The Mother

"Homo - same,
sapien - thinks (no, not wise, just barely thinks)"

"Hmmm," She says, "I bet 'Same' 'Think'er is a HERD if I remember.. or flock.  What shall we call a Herd of Humans...mmmmmm...Killz?? DeafDumbnBlind?  Or just another ape but wit little Hair left to keep himself warm?"

(just do NOT argue with Her...sssshhhhh... sneak out the back quick-like... Gimme three steps, Give ME three steps Mother, give me Three steps for the Door - Gimme shelter no more... you mean ol' horror...)