Open Thread: On punishing ExxonMobil

Something to get you started on this Monday open thread. Tim Haab at Environmental Economics recently received a chain-letter email promoting a scheme to lower gas prices by boycotting ExxonMobil. As the reasoning goes, if consumers boycott ExxonMobil, they'll be forced to lower their prices, which will then force everyone else to play along. Haab wants to know—if consumers were actually to carry out the scheme—would it actually make EM lower their prices?* (Don't forget, Haab is an economist, and promises to give his opinion on the issue later this week.)

*I think we all get the naivete of this scheme, but discussing this sort of thing is up many TOD commenters' alley.

BP has 2nd pipeline break in Alaska

No word yet on how bad it is.

Sounds like the infrastructure's getting a bit creaky up there.

Ive heard of an enviromental concern over the pipelines built on frozen tundra.
the earth warms the tundra thaws and the pipeline footings shift. anyone else?
I distinctly recall specific design features to avoid this, such as one-way heat pipes built into support piers which boil ammonia in the depths and transfer heat to finned heat sinks during the winter cold, but pool the ammonia in the bottom whenever the top is warmer than the bottom.  This tends to keep the piers colder than the average permafrost around them.

I don't put much credence in your scenario.  Warming trends putting the system beyond its design parameters is all too credible, however.

I don't know how much credence I put into my scenario ether, it was just something I heard. but I can't even begin to wrap my head around yours.
one way heat pipes? finned heat sinks? some sort of captured ammonia system? we're talking half a million/ footing here many feet of pipeline/footing?technicaly I'm in so far over my head I'll just have to guess at one per 450'? is that close? do you or anyone else have an elevation drawing of these foot prints? my little contactor mind is putting together a picture here and I'm begining to see why anyone would be hesitant to build a gas pipeline from russia to china.
thanks for the reply
The most conventional method for dealing with "frost heaving" that one would encounter in ground that freezes and thaws annually is to build footings as deep as necessary to avoid this process. Cold climate construction almost always involves building on footings or piles that are below the frost line, the point of deth where annual soil freeze/thaw does not occur. It is possible this elaborate method is used to stabilise some pipeline footings but I'd bet that the great majority of pipeline footings are simply piles with footings set deep enough to be on bedrock or permafrost. I'd guess that costs for footings don't approach those for pipe and welding labour - especially these days. (anyone know better?) The latter presents major problems for pipeline stability if annual soil thaw begins to move deeper and deeper. These piles will need to be rebuilt even deeper (on bedrock or deeper frost). I can't imagine how expensive this could be. Then again, what is the cost of not being able to deliver fuel?
one way heat pipes? finned heat sinks? some sort of captured ammonia system? we're talking half a million/ footing here easy.

Actually, you're talking about a welded steel tube through the concrete pier (could be used as part of the reinforcing steel) which terminates in some sheet-metal fins, which might be steel or might be aluminum.  The tube has maybe a pound or two of anhydrous ammmonia in it (costs about 25¢/lb even at today's ridiculous prices), or you could use propane.  The "one way" effect is achieved by simple physics:  liquid pools at the bottom, while vapor condensing at the top runs down the sides (to make it run both ways you need a wick to get capillary action).  The finned heat sink at the top could be more steel (but requires rustproofing) or an aluminum extrusion (much less money in fabrication but pricier material).

You're talking more like a hundred bucks a footing, or a small multiple thereof.

ok I can visualize that, thanks
as far as the price I've poured alot of foundations in my time time and there expensive. with a better mental picture  I can see 1/2 a mill is way over the top. but I'm gonna charge $1000 a day just to show up. getting concrete to the site. well anyway when they talk about building these things they're tossing the words "billions of dollars" around like it doesn't mean anything. yet another thing I can't wrap my head around.
thanks again
Half of the 800 mile pipeline is above the ground. This was done to keep the warm oil (approximately 140 degrees Fahrenheit) from melting the frozen ground (known as permafrost). The pipeline is held up off the ground on a small platform supported by two 16-inch diameter vertical support pipes that are buried between 15 and 60 feet into the frozen ground.
These vertical support pipes are cooled by refrigerant coils which help to keep them from transmitting heat into the ground and consequently melting the frozen ground which supports the pipeline. These refrigerators, usually two and sometimes three in each vertical support, are completely passive; that is, they work automatically, requiring no power, whenever the surrounding air temperature is lower than the ground temperature.
"Specially designed vertical supports were placed in drilled holes or driven into the ground. In warm permafrost and other areas where heat might cause undesirable thawing, the supports contain two each, 2-inch pipes called "heat pipes," containing anhydrous ammonia, which vaporizes below ground, rises and condenses above-ground, removing ground heat whenever the ground temperature exceeds the temperature of the air. Heat is transferred through the walls of the heat pipes to aluminum radiators atop the pipes."

Keep in mind that the pipeline was built with the ultimate in expediency in mind. The Aleyska Pipeline Consortium was more than willing to pay extra and sacrifice long term durability in exchange for immediate profits.  It had already been delayed for over 4 years by legal challenges, and the estimated 600 million barrels a day it would carry would more than make up for any shortcuts taken.  The fact that it has lasted this long is a testiment to luck and good quality construction on the part of those who braved the elements to assemble it.

this has to be the best site on the internet
Gotta love them gold prices.  So who believes in the secular bull theory and who thinks it's a cyclical bubble? Sell or hold, sell or hold (?) ...
I like Gold both as an inflationary hedge and an instability hedge. Gold is still way below it's inflation adjusted highs.

My short term financial goal is to have a six months "emergency fund" in my savings account and a six-month "catastrophe fund" in physical gold and silver.

If the shit was to really hit the fan like total grid collapse, there would still be commerce/barter/trading and I suspect gold/silver coins and jewelery are as likely to be accepted as anything else. (Liquor, dope, cigarettes, ammo, and condoms other good items.)



I recommend Toilet Paper.  Hundreds of rolls of all qualities ;-)

Do you really think it would get that bad?

I got swept up in that feeling for a while, but I think "it" will be a fairly slow deepening depression.  I don't think we're heading for a cliff's edge just yet.

I still have a lot of toilet paper though!

No one - the cornucopians to the doomers knows how this will pan out - we could have slow crash, no crash at all or steep crash due to some unforseen disruption. If a nuke went off and rendered strait of hormuz oil unexportable, we would be looking at New Orleans nationwide in a matter of weeks.

Because no one knows, its best to diversify ones assets to have the largest % chance of having the largest impact with lowest risk. I have 5% of my assets in gold and silver coins, bullets and guns, and freeze dried food. Maybe its too much - maybe not enough-but lets me sleep at night. Some of my former wall street clients have over 100 million dollars in a broad array of investment accounts all over the planet - but they have ZERO real assets - many of them own gold, but only in the futures market or through some commodity trust - this is an example of diversification in one system, where owning hard assets and other investments is diversification BETWEEN systems.

Silver one ounce coins or bars will probably be best, as they can buy small things and are easily recognized. The things that give people immediate dopamine will also be in high demand - coffee, sugar, cocoa, alcohol, marijuana, opium, tobacco, etc.

And I must add that my biggest asset is the flexibility and health of my brain - it continually allows me to adjust to new information and plan accordingly - anyone who is wed to one pre-ordained view of how this will pan out is probably being too dogmatic. Other than things will probably be less pleasant and easy as they currently are.

Investment wise, this was a "peak oil" day in the markets - Gold up $18, Silver up .50c, oil and gas to new highs, stocks mkt selloff, us dollar down almost 2 euros, etc.  I continue to think that the major impact of peak oil will be a financial one - Im already talking to average people that are changing plans for summer and cutting back because gas is so high. I am short alot of stocks, like RTH - the retail stock ETF. I dont know how the economy will withstand the new credit card rules, softening of real estate mkt and higher gas prices.

Tangentially, wealth is A/D ==> assets over desires. one can increase wealth by increasing assets or decreasing desires or both. Most 'desires' come from evolutionary impulses for novelty and relative fitness. In essence, we like things that are novel and new because our ancestors that found extra food and new things tended to outproduce and have more resources for their offspring. Today, when the energy leverage of the planet is so high, our universe of 'expected rewards' is nearly infinite. If we have 2 houses, we think we need 3. If we have too much missionary style sex, we need doggie style - if we eat too much mac and cheese, we crave sushi. In a world of declining energy resources, the 'novelty availability' grabbag will be much smaller. Those who recognize this, and understand neuroscience a bit should be able to reduce the disparity between expected and unexpected reward and be happier with simpler things, that can be had with or without oil.

In sum, diverisfication exists in traditional markets, in hard assets, as well as in the neural framework of what makes us happy and satisfied as humans.

Excellent post! I count my main wealth as good relationships with friends, relatives and neighbors, then my practical skills and physical health, and only last do I count my stockpiles of food, water, garden seeds, wood, tools, etc.

A box of 2500 pennies costs only $25.00, and I think pennies will hold their value--while not providing undue incentive for others to challenge my proficiency with weapons in an attempt to steal loot in the form of precious metals.

Gold is a magnet for thieves, thugs, bandits, and marauders of all varieties. Look what happened to those who hid gold in their homes thirty years ago in Lebanon . . . not pretty.


Good point about the pennies. You can always cash them in if there in rolls. (I did that when I was a kid.)

Regarding physical health: addressing that is perhaps the only guaranteed investment.



But pennies are $60/gallon. (not that much more than the gasoline) To store $10,000 you'd need 4 42-gallon barrels each worth $2,520/bbl. So, storing pennies to store "liquid" wealth, you may as well store REAL liquid assets - like drinkable ethanol or for that matter, an underground tank of gasoline. Storing quarters would be a better choice. At $800/gal you can store a lot more wealth in a small space but avoid tempting thugs with the severe money density of gold. A gallon of quarters weighs 40 pounds, comparable to a car battery. Quarters are $33,600/bbl and that barrel will weigh a LOT.

Though I may be first to visualise pennies and wealth like barrels of the black fuel, I wasn't first to visualise huge volumes of them. Try Google and type in "megapenny project" to see pennies in cubic feet instead of our familiar barrels and gallons.

How would a loss of food security affect people's view of coins or gold or silver?  There seems to be an assumption that if oil and gas become scarce that there would still be business as usual as long as you have money.  I think collecting coins or gold or silver is a very optomistic thing to do.
Gasoline may be a bad choice; it has a limited shelf life by itself, perhaps even with stabilizers added.  Petroleum diesel is just as bad if not worse, as it can support microbial growths.

If you have the equipment to make ethanol (or methanol from destructive distillation of wood wood? I looked but I couldn't find anything about yield) you can manufacture fuel.  If it's too heavy to steal, you've got few worries there.

Ethanol equipment isn't a bad idea. For best results, make sure your still runs on solar heat. That way, you improve the ERoEI of the booze fuel. Destructive distillation of wood takes a higher temp than a liquor still does. Try concentrating the solar power to make methanol from wood. The byproduct is the charcoal to be used as "coal".

A solar liquor still should end up being easy, look at solar water distillers for ideas! Destructive distilling of wood takes solar concentration and a glass container to hold the wood and not give it access to air.

Also, what did happen to the Lebanese people who had hid gold? I did a few moments of googling but came up with nothing.



Those suspected of having hidden gold were visited by Bad People With Guns (BPWG) who tortured, dismembered alive, and then killed one family member after another until the Head of Houshold revealed location of gold.

Of course, if you don't tell after they kill your wife and kids, then they know you must have a Huge Humongous Lot of Gold (HHLG), and then they start in on physically persuading you.

You could look at this as wealth distribution after TSHTF.

Similar horror stories came out of Russia during the infamous "gold purge." See A. Solzhenitsyn for more on Soviet horrors re gold.

Oh yes, I've always liked pennies. And I still have some silver dimes that I won from Las Vegas slot machines back on Labor Day weekend 1964. I like dimes better than dollar coins because they are smaller. Cutting up a disc or bar is inconvenient.  

Oh yes, I've always liked pennies


Surely you are saying this only to keep all the pennies and this delicious scam to yourself.

(For the low, low price of ~$4250, you can buy 425,000 pennies which, when melted, will yield 1000kg of pretty decent copper which you can then sell back to the mint for over $6300).

Can you say "zinc"?  You'l be mighty disappointed when you find out what's really in those pennies!
Canadian pennies prior to 1997 were approximately 98% copper and 1.75 % zinc. From 1997 to 2001, Canadian pennies were modified and were minted as copper-coated zinc wafers. A recent scanning electron microscopic examination of a 2001 Canadian penny indicated approximately 96 % zinc. Today's one-cent coin, modified in 2001, should be made of copper-plated steel (94% steel, 1.5% nickel, 4.5% copper). So, a pre-1997 Canadian penny (aside from being illegal to smash in Canada) should give you a decent result after elongating.

First you Yanks came for the cheap pharma.  Now it'll be the pre-'97 pennies.  What's next?  Oil?  Water?  

Thanks - we'll have it all. <sarcasm>
The meek will finally inherit the earth, as everyone else hoarding gold, ammo, food, seeds and wood will be rounded up and put into concentration camps.
I think it' a getty quote
the meek will inherate the earth but not the mineral rites
loot in the form of precious metals.

Modern pennies will only be worthwhile if the EngineerPoet's "lets have a zinc energy cycle" idea gains traction.

Older pennies are slowly becomming scare.  (you know, an actual copper penny)

"If we have too much missionary style sex, we need doggie style"
My my, what would Pat Robertson say?

Subkommander Dred

Apparently he'd not have much problem with it.

Eventually, yeah it probably will get that bad.  Hopefully not in the next 5 years as I'm totally unprepared for the Mad Max phase of the collapse of America. The 1970s oil shock phase I'd likely beneift from, I could get creative and get though a 1930s depression phase, but beyond that at this point my ass is toast given my current skill set and geographic location.

But having both an emergency fund and a catastrophe fund assuages my anxiety a bit. And the catastrophe fund has appreciated quite a bit which if I wanted to I could liquidate and use however I see fit.




Do you have a mortgage? I've got a small one, but I started buying gold a couple of years ago on the theory I'd hold it in reserve to appreciate and pay off the rest of my mortgage if things get "difficult." Luckily I also have a paid-for small farm of 120 acres.

Harpers Magazine, which just came in the mail today, has an amazing article about the housing bubble that's about to crash. "It's called, "THE NEW ROAD TO SERFDOM, an illustrated guide to the coming real estate crash."

The cover has some poor guy lugging trudging into the future with a giant McMansion strapped to his back.

120 Acres? Thats hardly small in most locals.  Unless it is super arid or real lousy soil, I'd say you're well ahead of the curve.  Consider yourself lucky.
It's an old family farm with very rich soil. Always farmed organically. Raises Angus cattle now, but I'm thinking of diversifying into permaculture gardens and woodlot/wildlife habitat.

I'm picking wild asparagus and dandelion salad greens now, and the apricots and cherry blossoms are out. Very beautiful way to live, if you don't care about shopping malls, etc.


what's your growing season ( Imean typicaly? you know before global warming. I'm now a feckin twenty days late. very wet here in nor cal. all the best to you)
No mortgage, no debt, and no spawn plus in good health. All things considered, that's not too bad. Like I said up top, current financial goal is six months in cash savings and six months in PMs. I also want six months in supplies but have some storage issues given the size of my apartment. I'm also trying to figure out a way to take time off or reduce the time invested in my site so I can start to pick up some hands-on skills.

Yeah, I knew about the Harpers but they don't have it up on their site yet. Sounds like a cool looking cover.



The other thing I'm going to start doing is buying some oil - that's right, the new Oil ETF fund is now trading under ticker USO. Here's a good article about why oil (aside from our peak oil reasons) is a good move for most portfolios.
Just be careful with commodity based ETFs like this or DBC. The nature of "rolling forward" the futures they use can eat up alot of gains. Not the case with hard asset based ones such at GLD or the upcoming silver etf.

You should seriously look into how they hold assets. It's not as if they are simply buying and stockpiling physical crude.

Article today in the Daily Telegraph (the 'other' paper of record in the UK): Chinese put their faith in gold. Demurring from the Chinese Stock exchange, high carat value miniature statues of Mao in gold are a a more valued article of investment than paper.
Hello Jondough,

I think real assets are on an ever upward slope.  What will be interesting is when the market insiders decide to optimize their gains at the expense of the small individual investor.

Once the insiders realize the infinite growth paradigm is kaput, the temptation for electronic piracy will be tremendous.  The insiders will be busy executing orders for themselves and the software can be easily programmed to delay or ignore small sell orders.  Eventually, it reaches the point where they will just empty the individual accounts of millions of investors to take what money they can, hit the erase button to delete the corporate records, then head to their bunkers, survival farms, and yachts.

Just imagine millions of Americans suddenly finding their accounts at Vanguard, Fidelity, Janus, etc being inoperable--What are they going to do?  They won't be able to scrape up the cash to go to NYC to burn down Wall Street, and besides, the insiders will be long gone anyway.  Even your local bank branch will be looted by the employees.

Isn't economics great!

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

What Bob said.



Snopes has a page on the gas boycott idea.  Several, actually, for the different schemes.  Here's the "boycott one brand" page:

Gasoline is fungible.

To boycott any particular brand of gasoline seems pointless.

On the other hand, to cut one's consumption of gasoline by, say 25% to 50% is a worthy goal.

BTW, I'm using about 60% less gasoline than I did four years ago, biking much more and feeling physically and mentally better than I have for decades.

I rode my bike to Easter Dinner yesterday.  It was far enough over that a few plates of ham and potatoes didn't even hit bottom.  I've only got a short ride today (grocery run) and no plan to "get the car out."
Eating a few plates of pig parts was probably used more oil than your driving to dinner and back.
Amusing idea, but it was 50 miles all told ... I didn't eat quite that much pig fat. ;-)
But, the pig did. What do you think it was fed to get fat, air?
Do the math then, say I ate about 1/3 lb ham.  Could that 1/3 pound seriously require more upstream oil than the typical car driving 50 miles?

Given that the typical car takes 2 gallons, at even $2.50 a gallon, or $5 ... and ham does not cost $15/lb, I think not.

(But of course, most people who go to eat Easter Dinner drive, or fly, so they consume both kinds of energy.)

Not a good way to analyze it.  Two words: ag subsidies.  

Let's takes about 70 calories of fossil fuels to make 1 calorie of pork.  A gallon of gasoline contains 31,000 calories.  

Two gallons of gas has 62,000 calories, and would make 885 calories of pork.  A pretty hefty portion, but theoretically possible to eat in one meal.

That's good fuzzy math too!  According to Hormel cured ham has 124 calories in 3 oz. and so my estimated 1/3 pound has 220 calories ... and I'd need to eat 4 times that (1 1/3 pound) to get car equivalent.

Even I am not that much of a piggie ;-)

Nah, good fuzzy math has things like membership functions and continuous values.  ;-)
BTW, note that I said "ham and potatoes" way up above.  I think my calorie consumption was more potatoe heavy after that ride, rather than ham-heavy.  That (and the cookies) gave me good energy for the 30 miles home.
But, had you not ridden your bike, would you have skipped dinner?

I know I wouldn't have.  (I didn't ride my bike all weekend and consumed about 62,000 calories in chocolate marshmallow bunnies)

Very true.

I didn't ride my bike all weekend either, but I did expend a lot of calories spring cleaning.  (Bathroom is being renovated, so I had to move everything out, and everything out of the way.)

And then I sucked down pizza and potato chips while watching the Yankees game...  

That's 885 calories for the meat itself. By the time the canning company is done, they add about 885 calories of SUGAR to it. By the time they're done, a goose could pull a Steve Fossett on one stomachful!

On a more serious note, canned food is nearly always loaded with added sugar, which is a waste of resources. It causes obesity, wasting energy by causing more use of healthcare, and it wastes sugar that could be made into ethanol for the cars.

A one-day boycott is pointless. It only means that unless you use a bike or the bus, you end up buying that gasoline you "boycotted" the day before. The commuting mission must be accomplished after all! Now, if everybody took a day off to avoid that drive to and ffrom work (or used bicycles or transit) that will work, though it'll be about insignificant. The people calling in will STILL have to do some driving!

Now, a national "no drive week" boycott would be noticed. But could everyone participate? A "no drive day" occurs yearly - Christmas Day. If you notice, on Christmas, streets and freeways are nearly empty, a gas boycott day by default. Does it matter? Not really. To save gasoline, maybe it's time to go to a 4-day work week by mandate. That'll cut out 20 percent of all commuting missions undertaken. A law like that WILL be noticed. It'll add some badly needed slack in petroleum markets. (until China ranps up demand anyways!)

But a "gas boycott" of any one company won't work. Others merely take up the slack, and the oil gets used anyways.

Every time I see this ExxonMobil thing, I always suggest that we boycott Starbucks, who is charging about $18 to $36 per gallon for water, some coffee, sugar, milk and some flavoring.  

However, I have changed my mind.  ExxonMobil is one of the ringleaders claiming that we have trillions and trillions of barrels of remaining reserves--thus contributing mightily to American's ignorance about the finite nature of our fossil fuel supply.

So, I think that we all should boycott ExxonMobil.

I think that we are seeing an "Iron Triangle" of sorts defending the status quo:  (1)  most housing/auto/financing companies and related companies; (2)  Most MSM companies that are selling advertising to Group #1 and (3)  some major oil companies, major oil exporters and energy analysts that are working for the major oil companies and exporters (Yergin comes to mind).    

IMO, Group #3 is afraid of punitive taxation (major oil companies) and military takeovers (exporters).  Group #1 wants to keep selling and financing large homes and SUV's.  Group #2 wants to keep selling advertising to Group #1.  Group #3 provides the arguments for Groups #1 and #2, i.e., we have trillions and trillions of barrels of remaining reserves.  

One important exception to Group #1:  Mike Jackson, the CEO of AutoNation, is calling for a sharply higher gasoline tax.

When did this change? I read an interview with him more than a month ago and it seemed his proposal was very mild by our standards. I was however extremely pleased with his support of the notion.
By our standards yes.  Within the auto industry it is radical.  He is calling for a phased in tax of $1 per gallon.  I want a tax of several dollars--offset by tax cuts elsewhere.
Here in the UK, excise duty on gasoline is 47.1p/litre or about $3.10/US gallon. That's before VAT at 17.5%! However, I totally agree with a transfer tax to increase carbon fuel costs and reduce income/payroll taxes. Are there readers here who's governments are proposing this? Sweden maybe?
The complete text of San Francisco's Peak Oil Resolution!

Never before seen online.

If I understand this article correctly, India is considering price controls:

Govt likely to benchmark fuel prices

NEW DELHI: Cost-Plus and Administered Price Mechanism (APM) days may come back as a ghost from the past for Indian refiners if the present moves by the finance ministry is anything to go by.

Indian refiners, who have been selling fuel at globally benchmarked prices since April '02 when the APM was formally dismantled, may have to start looking at operation costs as a criteria for fixing fuel prices. The finance ministry is preparing a Cabinet note to look into a new pricing structure that could be a shift from the current regime where the refining company sells fuel at the global benchmarked price.

The new proposal, which is sure to face stiff opposition from the oil industry, proposes to take into account the costs of operating refineries and the margins earned on the products based on current pricing regime. Oilcos used to sell fuel at cost-plus prices during the APM days when the returns to the oilcos was fixed at 12% post-tax.

And geez, is Canada considering price controls, too?

Gas retailer says regulation will drive prices up

Reaction is mixed in New Brunswick to the Lord government's new energy plan, which will make sweeping changes to the province's power market.

The government will cap NB Power's rate increase at eight per cent, eliminate the provincial portion of the HST from all home heating costs, regulate the oil and gas market through the Public Utilities Board and force NB Power to be more accountable to government and the public.

The decision to regulate the price of oil and gas is a major policy reversal, catching many in the industry off guard.

Wilson Fuels runs the largest chain of independent gas stations in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Vice-president David Collins was stunned by Tuesday's announcement, saying it was done without warning or consultation.

Collins says government has no business setting pump prices, and in the end, it will likely mean higher costs for drivers. "You effectively kill competition because the competition doesn't become each other's oil company, it becomes the board of public utilities and the amount of money they're willing to let you take at the pump."

As a tiny and remote province that cannot move the market price, they're in for some discontent. Perhaps they will regulate it lightly. But then it will make little difference or maybe increase prices slightly, as in Hawaii
. And people may blame them for the price, since they're setting it, rather than blame the market or OPEC.

Or maybe they will regulate it heavily. Then they will simply induce 1970s style artificial shortages. After all, there are probably a billion other people who will take the product if they don't want to pay full price. So I surmise they would blame the shortages on all those wicked folks in China.

The wonders of populism never cease.

"No one in this world so far as I know--and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me -- has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people." -H.L. Mencken, Chicago Tribune, Sept. 19, 1926

Forget about prices, we should punish them for not recognizing the oil depletion in the way that BP and Chevon have.
Sure, a boycott could work. If it lasted forever! I saw a very similar chain letter when I was living in Europe, calling on a boycott of Shell. Shell was boycotted, demand went up for everyone else, and nothing happened with prices. Shifting demand from one producer to another is not going to lower prices. Only lowering overall demand will accomplish this. So, instead of calling for a boycott, call for conservation.


I would note Matt Savinar's strong argument that voluntary conservation can benefit the individual who is conserving, but is actually causing more oil to be consumed overall. The jist is that by conserving, you may save money, which is then either saved in the bank or spent, and either way, that money will then cause the consumption of more oil than you would have used in the first place. E.g. because banks lend out $6-$12 for every dollar they hold.

In these dying throes of the "free-market" capitalist system, oil will continue to trend up sharply in price until it is no longer used on a large scale. There may be much to be said for finding ways to waste as much oil as quickly as possible to prevent additional population growth that worsens the consequences of the inevitable.

Also called Jevon's paradox.

One more thing that is commonly misinterpreted (or shall I say twisted) within the PO community.

First of all it is not necessary to save money if you consume less - if price has risen in the meantime you may end up paying more and then Jevon's paradox works in the opposite direction.

Second, even if you conserve when price is remaining constant, the marginal oil saved is much more than the one consumed because you saved money. If you saved say 40 gallons of gas, worth 100$ and instead bought yourself new shoes you spared 39 gallons of gasoine going out of the ground - assuming the shoes needed 1 galllon to be produced/transported.

Those may be valid criticisms of some uses of Jevon's paradox, however they don't see to negate my point with it regarding the current discussion. The issue was lowering price through conservation. This seems like nonsense because if the prices are lowered by me conserving, then my less conservation-minded neighbor is far more likely to buy even more now that the prices are lower. There seem to be many factors that prevent volunary conservation by individuals from having any positive effect. Consumption taxes or some kind of forced conservation might help some things though.
Or you could just Consume More.
I prefer to look at Jevons paradox in reverse. True, if I conserve and turn my heat down and ride my bike, there will likely be an extra 12 cubic feet of cement made in China. But I dont do it to save the worlds energy or environment or because its the right thing to do. I do it because its sets me up to be happier and healthier.
"..its the right thing to do..& I do it because its sets me up to be happier and healthier.."

And, I'd say more importantly, it means you've started learning HOW to live with less.  You will be able to show family and neighbors how you are living with less, you will probably be encouraged to find MORE ways to reduce your energy and material demands, leaving you and those you affect less of a real burden on the planet's resources.  People who've installed a couple solar panels frequently remark that once they see how precious those watts are, they really kick into the conservation projects, even though you are supposed to tackle it the other way around.. save the waste first, then produce power to cut down the remainder.  Whatever works..

Jevon's paradox works somewhat for economists, unless you will accept that the economy hangs entirely on the environment. (I don't remember who made that claim..)  In that case, it doesn't matter if your neighbor or China buys the extra that you saved, which I think is really a great way for cynics to say 'why bother, nothing will help.'   It matters that there are people who know how to live with FAR less than we've grown up thinking we need.  They will have their hands full teaching other people how to manage, as this all gets worse.

The same psychology lies underneath the Tragedy of the commons, referenced recently by totonela.

You are right to think that some will consume more because of the lower price. You are wrong to think that the net efect will be zero. If producers cut prices because people conserve, some of the producers will chose to reduce/shut-down production because it will not be profitable. With PO nearing oil gets harder to find and extract - often overlooked but very important point. If we choose the path of conservation the prices will remain moderate and a lot of oil will be left in the ground thus lasting longer (what are the tar sands production effects over the environment for example?).

Overall the effect of conservation will be to "smooth" the peak and prolong the tail with lower decline rates. In the end, after oil start running out, it will be much easier to tansition to a non-oil economy. You can't miss a thing you don't need much anyway, right?

My gripe about all of these types of discussion is the term "we."

From my very early days reading the internet, I always recall:

Lazlo's Chinese Relativity Axiom: No matter how great your triumphs or how tragic your defeats---approximately one billion Chinese couldn't care less.

I fully recognize that America consumes more per-capita than anyone, but let's say that changes tomorrow and we are all magically careful in our use of non-renewable resources.

How do we know that Africa, Asia, South America, etc won't just take off running with it?  Especially if prices moderate.  

On a different tangent,
Opec is selling all the oil it can pump at $60+ bbl, I don't see any reason why they should let the price fall below that just because some folks suddenly see the light.  Where else are we going to get oil?

Hello Ben,

Absolutely correct!  ASPO's Energy Depletion Protocols directly address this dilemma, but the world's leaders don't seem interested in discussing this Powerdown proposal.

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

If the chinese (are so stupid) to take up on our way, they will eventually have to pay the price for it, much like we are now paying and will be paying for our oil "addiction" (I'd rather call it structural short-sightness instead). Everyone reaps what he saws, and that's pretty fair, isn't it?

Eventually everyone will start "getting it"... and like with everything else the first to get on the wagon will be the winners, the rest may be left running after the train.

Perhaps instead of "Chinese" we should talk about manufacturing operations moved to second and third world counties.

I have read (but don't have any links at the moment to back it up) certain energy-intensive operations say that part of their reason for moving to another country was to get cheaper gas/coal/oil/whatever.  And , if you employ a lot of manual labor but your workforce does not drive cars but rather walks or rides a bus to the factory, they do not have much of the same economic incentive to conserve.

It still sounds like the point of that argument is,

'Why should I stop using it if THEY are just going to get it?'

,  regardless of who 'they' are.. tho' "Chinese" seems to be a really effective 'they' for Americans.  Who cares?  I think it's clear that all the oil pumped out of the ground will be gobbled up by someone.  The point is really,

'Can we figure out how to live with a lower energy-requirement, so we can get by once it's headed down?'

Boycott?  like they have said above.. only if it's permanent, and it's not to punish EOM, far as I'm concerned. It's to dry-up, sober-up from our Binge and try to let the atmosphere have a shot at recovering, too, while we learn how to live without it. (No, not without the atmosphere)

What I was trying to say, and doing a very poor job, is that even if the US all of a sudden sees the light, it will only delay the inevitable by a little bit.  Call it a hunch, but I think about a billion chinese have almost no concern for the environment if the only way they have to feed their families is to go to work building video game consoles.  Where are they going to get all the information about Peak Oil and Global Warming and all these high ideas?  From the state run TV newspaper?

Unless we manage to wean ourselves of our cheap crap from abroad (shoes, cars, TV's, happy meal toys, clothes) since they will continue to crank out the crap because their overhead isn't really that much, relatively speaking.  And the folks directing all of this production are here in America, enjoying their tax cuts.

$71.46 on the June oil futures contract as I write this.

$70.40 on the May futures contract.

Pretty soon, we'll be talking about $60 per barrel oil as "the good old days". :)

I am waiting for that magic $6/g diesel price.  Then we can really lament and wish for the good old days.  I got my sack clothe and ash ready.

It was a really convincing argument, that had us riding $40/b oil into the forseeable future because of demand destruction.  When we hit $60/b, I began to think we had hit this magical plateau.  Now I am thinking the sky is the limit.

"In theory, theory and practice are the same.  In practice, they aren't"

$6/g would mean some $200/barrel... IMO at above $100-150 a either the dollar will collapse or the 3rd world countries will collapse or maybe even both.

Either way, there is a great chance the price at the pump will be the last thing to worry about.


You're point that "First of all it is not necessary to save money if you consume less - if price has risen in the meantime you may end up paying more and then Jevon's paradox works in the opposite direction" . . . is part of my argument. The only TRUE way to conserve is for a deression or recession to occur, for less economic activity to take place. I save energy by not owning a car, that money goes into silver which had doubled in two years. I now have more buying power which means more consumptive power then I did had I not conserved.

I think the opposition to Jevon's Paradox is rooted in a desire to use this meme as an avenue to increase one's inclusive fitness. JP basically means the current system is totally screwed and little we can do to save it. So if you want to be a bigshot activist, naturally there is an incentive not to understand or accept it.  Once you do what do you have to tell others besides "well get ready for hell on earth, with luck your corner of hell will be greener than others."

That's not a message that will make you as popular as "we can have all the things we have now and maybe even more if we're just more efficient!"

All other things being equal, which one of those messages is more likely to make you popular?


Santa Rosa, Ca.


The real message of Jevons paradox is that you can not solve a problem which is inherent to the way the "market" works by relying solely on tha "market" to save its own problem (quotes intended).

Some class of problems require coordination and cooperation as opposed to relying on the individual decisions of people, which may be lost in the noise, or even counterproductive. In this regard our system is no more screwed than anyone in human history - rather, it is immature and needs to evolve - with or without crashing completely. I find that people too much fear changes, probably it is our way of life that has made us too fearful - maybe it is that we simply don't know anything else... while the fact is that the whole life is a change, and in fact change is the only invariable thing around :)

Totally agree, but what you just typed is not as likely to capture the imagination (lust?) as simply saying "we can efficiency-ize our way to economic nirvana" if you know what I mean. And realistically speaking, a system that is spending millions of $$$ on evolving into something new but trillions of $$$ speeding down the path to destruction is unlikely to evolve its way out of its predicament.

Since many of us who have articulated JP (such as myself) believe the world is going to hell on the express train, people looking to be bigshot activists simply dismiss JP as the "maniacal rantings of those evil doomers who are little better than Dick Cheney!!!"




The world is not going to hell. This version of the world may well be headed this way, but I'm pretty sure that there will be another one. We are our own programmers so it's up to us to fix the bugs in the next release :)

What you forget is that management forces the stuff to be released before anyone tests it, and the next version is going to have serious bugs which will only be discovered when it's being used for production... just like now. ;-)
Matt:  "All other things being equal, which one of those messages is more likely to make you popular?"

This why when the MSM mentions energy, they almost always talk about the need for more efficient Urban Assault Vehicles and $500,000 mortgages--rather than the need for much higher energy taxes.

I have noticed the MSM has finally stopped explaining that the price of a barrel of oil when indexed for inflation is still less than it was during the embargo blah, blah, blah...

And the MSM all stopped inserting the aforesaid "blah, lah, blah" at the same time. They all stopped AT THE SAME TIME.


  You got that right, friend. I get the distinct impression that the folks at MSNBCFOXCNN are ignoring this oil shock. There is lots of talk about the rise in gasoline prices, but otherwise I have heard no mention of the structural problems inherent in our current way of life vis-a-vis the aquisition and consumption of more energy, in particular, oil. Indeed, I heard just a short while ago that there are now roving blackouts in Texas, as the temperature has hit the 90 to 100 degree range, and the grid is having a hard time supplying the system. Does it usually get this hot in Texas at this time of year? And will there be a need to bring online gas fired power plants that are normally used later in the year for surge capacity (I am making a guess that this is the case)? Will this in turn cause a spike in the cost of natural gas?
I believe we are in for truly strange times, comrades. As the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson once said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." Oy!

Subkommander Dred

Natural gas prices have indeed started going up, even though it's spring!

The media is also no longer saying much about Iraq, but if you do a little digging, the place has turned into a bloody nightmare and the U.S. is taking major casualties.

I think what's going to happen is that there will be drives around the world to efficiency and conservation, but that they will lag resource depletion.

Will free riders on that efficiency race win?  No.  That depends on the rate of depletion.  And I think the rate will be fast enough (and increasing demands will grow fast enoufh) that he will not.

Think of the Prius and Hummer driver in today's America.  Does Mr. Hummer see lower prices, and a reason to drive his SUV more?  No.  He's squeezed by prices that conservation and efficiency have not offset.

I think Jevon's paradox only becomes a driving force at relatively mild rates of resource use (and probably not in true conditions of "depletion.")

To talk of 'punishing' one particular oilco over another is naive. XOM is just a successful company along with a bunch of others such as BP, Shell et al. Boycotting one of these (actually a minnow compared with SAco, Gazprom, or others) is pointless. Within a few years, these successful knights of capitalism will start to bleed to death anyway. Unless they start finding 'elephants' they will slowly die. Boycotting them would be a mere gesture, it misses the whole point of what exactly we are facing: inexorable decline where depletion is not offset by new discovery.

This tactic is also no more than a diversion. It is pretty much like OffGas , the UK Gas price regulator having a go at BG and others during the price hikes this last winter.
OffGas completely misses the point about gas prices, security etc. Basically they have no clue.

You want to hurt XOM?: - POINTLESS. Just learn to use less energy as fast as you can (you can clip your energy requirements very quickly). Just sit down with your nearest and dearest over dinner and talk about ways you can clip it. Audit your life and then work out how to cut out excess energy expenditure. We did it about two years ago. It is funny, but when you get your nearest and dearest together over a meal and discuss something important, then you will get reactions that are completely compatible. This is especially true of your own kids: They are smarter and more worldly wise than we give credit. They come up with all sorts of stuff like:

Halve our family's engine capacity (Done)
Holiday in Britain (Done)
Jumpers rather than thermostats (Done)
Combined road trips/ cut excess miles - takes a bit of planning (Done).
Steaming vegetables rather than multiple pans (Done, and you can taste them)
All sorts of other minor ways that take the edge off demand etc.

Baisically, every little helps, and it is the right thing to do

I have always believed in energy conservation first and foremost. Conservation gets forgotten about, especially nowadays. Not because we / the next generation are 'bad', but quite simply because we have not had to think about it.
Energy costs in Europe UK / USA fell during the 80's and 90's. Its different now. It is getting back on the radar.
Its getting where it should be.

Now you will say: ' Well thats good, but what if the other guy / family / nation doesnt cut back and just uses the stuff we save?'

Fair enough. We are not our brothers keepers. All we can do is the right thing and hope others follow our example wherever possible in whatever small human-scale way.

We can hope this helps: ( you can cut energy use by 25% as an individual / family unit). We did.


Greed should no longer be your creed. Envy of other peoples wealth should be recognised for the disease that it is. Owning a HUMMER or a 40ksqft McMansion doesnt mean that you have 'arrived'. Listening to Rachmaninov, reading Dickens, A family meal: these are true indicators that you have 'arrived'.

I think it was Brit Ekland who said ' downsising is possible so long as you do not loose your dignity along the way'

Energy conservation: It may help. It is simple. At the end of the day it is simply the right thing to do.

jumpers rather than thermostats
that took me a second to figure out
jumpers rather than thermostats

I've been on internet groups with "English speaking peoples" long enough to get that one, but I've got to admit the first time I saw it, it caused a double-take.

In California I turned off my heater (pilot light) a month or so ago.  Actually I should have figured out that I wasn't using it earlier.

Speaking of words that may not travel well, "hoodies" seem to the stay warm gear this year.  Ha, went lookiing for an image and found this:²2ì e-hoodie.htm

Funny image, too 'spensive.

Hm.  Too 'spensive cuz they're "sweatshop free," I guess?  :)

Maybe you could drive down to Walmart and get one cheaper.

I have google, and am not afraid to use it!

Energy prices most certainly have not fallen in Germany the entire time I have been paying bills, since ca. 1993. Gasoline does tend to move a lot in price, but this also has to do with currency fluctuations. It is quite normal for me to see the price of gasoline change as much as 15 American cents a gallon in 12 hours (the largest shift was something over 30 cents), or two gas stations to have a price difference of 20 cents a gallon, though the difference in distance between them is less than 5 miles.

Generally, when energy prices look to be falling, taxes were increased, either directly or indirectly through VAT, which has gone up a nice 4% or so, or both - a raise in the cost in fuel automatically means the VAT amount increases, painlessly from the government's view. And of course, the energy companies looked at larger profits when fuel prices went down, and they did not and were not forced to pass along these differences.

One possible exception to this was heating oil - which is being phased out anyways, mainly for environmental reasons. It is possible that there, a certain measure of making the cost of the mandated replacement of furnaces more palatable was a carrot in front of the major stick of breaking the law.

Your last statement sums up what crosses my mind when, in response to a comment about conservation, Jevon's Paradox is invoked and the would conserver is laughed out of the proverbial room.

Jevon's Paradox makes sense when resource availability is elastic or assumed infinite. It a situation where it is depleting, I think it is much less clear. In this case increasing efficiency cannot over time lead to increased usage, simply because the resource is not there (or is becoming increasingly costly). In this case "conserving" is, in many senses, a controlled powerdown.

"In this case 'conserving' is, in many senses, a controlled powerdown."

Good summary.

I would note Matt Savinar's strong argument that voluntary conservation can benefit the individual who is conserving, but is actually causing more oil to be consumed overall. The jist is that by conserving, you may save money, which is then either saved in the bank or spent, and either way, that money will then cause the consumption of more oil than you would have used in the first place. E.g. because banks lend out $6-$12 for every dollar they hold.

But if you take each of the dollars you save in oil and put it into say PV panels, storage-food, canning supplies, land, gold, books, knowledge, etc you are improving your lot and staving the beast.

The stupidity of the boycott idea is that a price that is low only if no one takes it is not a price in any meaningful sense of the term. If every one were to boycott Exxon but continue to buy other brands the extra demand on them would push up the price of the other brands for as long as the boycott held. Diving by Exxon stations with a low price on the pumps is no satisfaction if you feel duty bound not to take it. Only those that rat on the boycott benefit.
Either the boycott would hold and nobody would be able to benefit from the low prices or it would not hold and as soon as buyers returned so would high prices.
The Shell boycott was related to the planned sinking of Brent Spar, another one of those decisions showing how you can count on both an oil company and Greenpeace to lie when money is on the line (no, I will attempt to translate the years old the 4 or 5 page long article from Die Zeit which quite clearly laid out the entire sad affair).

Actually, the boycott, along with a burned out Shell station or two, did lead to Brent Spar being broken up at immense cost for no good reason - this after it became a very emotional issue - for example, littering from a ship is very punishable in Germany, and most people saw sinking the platform as littering on a giant scale. Experience with creating habitats was completely ignored, and in fairness to some of the sinking opponents, Shell didn't plan to do any clean up before simply pulling the plug.

As a side note - boycotts are illegal in Germany, mainly because the last time effective boycotts were used, they were directed against Jews. History tends to be complicated here in terms of things like free speech or using purchasing power to cause change.

I received a similar chain e-mail about 6 months ago, and e-mailed back to everyone on list that they should drive much less or expect to pay much more in the future. No idea of its success, as nobody replied to my deliberately provocative comments on conservation or driving less.
Demand destruction?

Interest in carpooling, buses rises

Drivers are finding relief from high gas prices.

INDIANAPOLIS -- With gas prices inching toward $3 per gallon, interest in carpooling and bus service is on the rise as Hoosier motor-ists seek out ways to hold down their fuel costs.

In Indianapolis, city officials predict that a growing number of people will sign onto an IndyGo carpooling program that matches commuters for car pools.

Since September, the number of participants in the carpooling service, called Central Indiana Commuter Services, has nearly doubled, to about 4,000.

Demand destruction?

Not anywhere near enough as it's being greeted with $70 crude oil on NYMEX today.

And the drum of lawnmowers continues on and on in my neighborhood probably offsetting any current savings from carpooling or buses.

You can still get the rotary push mowers if you look around a little bit.  That's what I have for my little yard.
I have been using nothing but electric lawnmowers since I was a teen.  Last fall I bought an electric snowthrower.  Not as powerful as it could be (that would need 220 V), but stone-simple and convenient as well as petroleum-free.
I got this email today at work.  After I finished laughing, I replied to the entire list pointing them to  It'll be interesting to see if anything happens!

A big thanks for promoting my site. However, let's talk about the what, "if anything happens" to Paperhead bit of your post. Most likely, somebody on that list is gonna want to deliver a mild-to-moderate ass kicking in the vicinity of your face you having pointed them in a more reality-based direction. That's why the saying goes, "tell the truth, run like hell." Well I hope you got your Nikes on son. =)

Note that I'm the proprietor of LATOC and I do not mention/bring up what I do in one-on-one conversation with "non-believers" unless I am specifically asked as I like my handsome face the way it is.



Note: I hate the term "non-believers" but I don't have a better term to use.

To AlphaMaleProphetOfDoom,
I'm honored to have you notice my link to your site.  I like your first couple of pages especially, it is full of facts that initially sound not too dangerous, even logical and reassuring, until suddenly the picture hits you in the face, by which time it is too late to go back.  I want somebody to get sucked in like I was.  By "anything happens" I meant I want something to happen, good or bad.  The silence in my company is deafening, and even anger would be better.  I knew this when I replied to the asinine chain letter email coming from this person WITHIN the company.  I am prepared for any, shall we say, negative feedback.  Thanks for your concern, but with all the news happening now, I think over caution is no longer very helpful.  Let them shoot the messenger, at least they will have heard the message.  The intelligent "non believers" may get curious and get there eventually.  That is what happened to me.  I think such a reply is the only way to jolt people who pass on such emails.

I gotta hand it to you, you're both wise and honest, not to mention realistic.  I, like so many others found out about PO from your website, and for the next few days I kept thinking , "If I ever meet that guy I'm gonna smack him right across the head!"  I'm usually a pretty calm guy too, so go figure.

Now if I met you I'd buy you a beer or two, which may happen one of these days since I happen to live only an hour south. ^.^;


San Francisco

Nigeria: Power Reform And Increasing Darkness

... Our fervent hopes that changes would occur with the new nomenclature had turned into a nightmare. Today, electricity outage has metamorphosed into total darkness in most parts of the federation. In Satellite Town where this writer lives in Lagos, the situation is simply terrible. This elite surburb has power supply for barely three hours per day and this comes only at night. During the daytime, no light is visible. Artisans who depend on electricity to eke out their livelihood wait endlessly for it like manna from heaven. Computers serve no useful purpose in this vicinity because there is no power to operate them. Television sets and other electronic equipments have become objects of household decoration since they are left dormant as long as the power outage lasts. Several artisans who are self employed have in desperation embraced the motor cycle commercial business as Okada riders to keep body and soul together and feed their embattled families. One of the armed robbery su spects recently arrested confessed that he had to join a thieving gang when he could no longer work as a refrigerator mechanic due to perpetual power outage in his slum residence at Ijegun on the outskirts of the Lagos metropolis. The temptation to wield guns at midnight was too much in the wake of penury and crippling hunger.

Those who nicknamed NEPA Never Expect Power Always or National Economic Paralyzing Agency, cannot be wrong. The situation has gone from bad to worse and indeed is degenerating everyday even in the rising political tension of the third term syndrome and the intense climatic heat of the dry season. Medical practitioners who recently cried out about the dangers of another pandemic of celebral meningitis especially in the Northern regions deserve to be listened to before it becomes too late. We must not compound our problems of disastrous bird flu with another session of debilitating diseases.

...The latest excuse, obviously predictable, is the ongoing unrest in the oil-rich Niger Delta where some militants blew up two gas pipelines. The two pipelines, the Alabiri and the Escravos are conduits used to convey gas to power the thermal power stations. According to the Managing Director of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria Joseph Makoju, the situation is beyond their control. The Minister of Power and Steel does not help matters by his never ending promises of improved performance which is never fulfilled. Rather than getting better, the crisis of electricity supply continues to worsen.

How long before they become the first OPEC nation to go offline?
Higher temps lead to rolling blackouts in North Texas

Residents urged to limit electricity use

04:51 PM CDT on Monday, April 17, 2006

From Staff Reports:

Texas experienced rolling blackouts on Monday as folks turned on their air conditioners when temperatures rose.

The problem is that many power generators shut down in April for maintenance. So the supply of electricity can't meet the unexpected demand that the heat caused.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. is also calling on Texans to cut electricity use to only essential needs.

The council, which operates the state's electricity grid, also called on transmission companies, like TXU Electric Delivery, to temporarily cut off electricity to neighborhoods on a rolling basis.

The transmission companies won't cut off critical customers, like hospitals or nursing homes, said ERCOT spokesman Paul Wattles.

He said it's been a few years since Texas initiated rolling blackouts.

KVUE in Austin has a little more detail:

Officials say there was not enough power generation to serve the demand, thanks to unseasonably hot temperatures and power plants out for maintenance. Blackouts were ordered for areas across Texas.

Temperatures reached record highs for the second day in a row in Central Texas. The temperature at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) reached 100 degrees by 5 p.m. The previous record, set in 1987, was 90 degrees. Temperatures across Central Texas were in the upper 90s and low 100s.

Temperatures were expected to reach record highs again on Tuesday.

Last month, energy usage was up six percent compared to March last year. So far in April, energy use is up 16 percent compared to last year.

I guess it's time to pay for that mild winter we had...

We have a mild winter, so summer comes around sooner, causing the A/C load to make up for saved gas for heat. Seems you can't win. I guess as global warming revs up, we can expect longer summers and milder winters. Result? We still waste energy for cooling instead of heating.

With hotter summers, people will have to get creative about not having to waste energy on A/C. A wading pool full of saltwater would make a perfect waterbed when unheated in a hot climate. It'll end up around bathtub temp, perfect for floating on your back like an otter. Drawback: In the morning you waste water showering the salt off! (and energy heating it) There is more realistically my favourite global warming adaptation: Lose a bunch of weight until the "dieter's dilemma" kicks in. Your metabolism slows and you create less heat to have to dissipate in the first place. You save energy on agriculture and you save energy on A/C as you don't get so hot so quick. Drawback: You get hungry a lot. Despite the drawback, the dieting trick is ingenius. By losing 60 pounds, my temperature comfort range shifted upward quite a bit, something like 10 degrees warmer!

In winter you can put clothing on to compensate for the dieter's dilemma slowdown of your body's heating, but that's easy compared to taking your skin off in summer.

"It ain't no sin
To take off your skin
And dance around in your bones."

The waterbed idea is good, but needs a bit of work.  Why not make it more sophisticated with roof radiators to dump heat to the night sky, and storing cool saltwater in an insulated bag below the waterbed (or a separate tank)?  A small circulating pump brings cool liquid up as necessary to keep the bed at your desired temperature.

If it's still too hot for that, you can go with a daily-cycling absorption chiller system.  Bake ammonia out of CaCl2 and into a water-cooled tank during the day, then let the ammonia flow back at night and take chilled water from around the tank to cool whatever you want to cool.  Doesn't have to be sophisticated, but that means big and clunky.  Do you care, if it's keeping solar heat off your roof?

The beauty of that waterbed idea is that especially with the exact design, it will have to be kept at 94F. It will have to be heated! The good news is that you can use waste heat to keep it at the desired temp. Refrigerators make waste heat. It's up to the intrepid designer to dream up the method.
Any pressure for "smart meters" down there?

The sound like a good idea to me, and I expect electric companies to sort of push big users into them.  For those that don't know, they allow the power company to signal the grid in a critical situation, turning down everybody's air conditioning (or other high energy but non-critical service), to prevent the blackout.

Surfing the web I see a lot of wingnut blogs all upset about "them" controlling your power, but I think it will be offered as a choice - pay this much per kWh for "dumb" power, or a little bit less for "smart" power.  Your choice.

Are "smart meters" really necessary?  Isn't pricing enough?  My employer has agreed to shut down in case of power emergencies, and gets a lower rate in exchange.  

I've gotten several free days off that way.  :)

I guess I don't really know.  I picture vast landscapes of air conditioned homes, down here in the southwest, but I don't know how the usage breaks down.  We do currently have news alerts on tv/radio asking people to turn things off on bad days.
You mean you want to apply "smart metering" to homes?  But how would you enforce that?  How would the electric company know if it was turning down the air conditioning, or your computer, or someone's life support equipment?  

It would be impossible to force everyone to buy specially equipped air conditioners.  My aircon is probably 40 years old, and I still use it sometimes.  I am not planning to buy a new one.

It wasn't my idea, but I hear Southern California Edision is heading this way.  I've heard (read somewhere, forget where) that they will offer people a choice.  Either pay X for your rates, or get a new meter and pay something less than X.  The difference is that the new meter will be tied to the air conditioning thermostat, and actually give the power company the ability to knock people's target temperature up a little bit.

So, as I understand it, there is no need to force anyone in a direct sense.  At $15-20/mo there is no reason for me to do anything ... but folks spending $250/mo might feel driven to change.

I can't find a link on the home plan (other than some future stuff about smart meters and electric cars).   FWIW, the commercial system is described here:


It ends with a little hint about expanding the system.

It would be pretty easy to link it with a modifed wall thermostat - would not work with window units.
The SCE program is called the Summer Discount Plan.

You can get up to 200 bucks back if you sign up with the unlimited interruption plan.   It's not a bad deal if you get ocean breezes/moderation.  It's not a good idea if you live in the Imperial Valley.

I would have signed up with the plan, except I didnt have an AC unit.

On a side note, if you live in a hot and dry climate, look into an evaporative cooler.  They have these two stage units that indirectly cool the air, then send it in for direct cooling.  It can make the heat tolerable at a fraction of the the electricty of an AC unit.  Easy to repair too.


I doubt they are planning to do this for homes.  It would be too difficult.  You can plug a window air conditioner in anywhere.  How can the power company turn it down, when they won't even know it's plugged in?
Austin Electric has been doing this for a while - don't know what percentage of their customers are on the program, probably very small:

What it Means to Be a Power Partner
Managing peak demand helps delay the need to build new expensive power plants. This helps keep electric rates lower.

As a Power Partner, we provide you with a free programmable thermostat plus free installation and warranty (valued at $200-$280). You agree to allow us to cycle off your air conditioner briefly during peak demand -- when demand for electricity is at its highest.

Cycling Off Keeps Electricity Demand Level
Cycling off only occurs the few days each summer when both the demand for electricity and our load are the highest.

The cycling is similar to an air conditioner's normal cycle and is not noticeable. The purpose of cycling is to synchronize air conditioners so they take turns cycling on - keeping the electric demand level.

Cycling Off Timeline
(only occurs when demand and load are highest)  
June - September
4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Excludes Holidays and Weekends
Happens for No More than 10 Minutes Every Half Hour

Here in W. Pa., we have a special heating rate for our all-electric house.  For the best rate, we had to put in an 80 gal. hot water tank, as that is the item the utility can shut off to manage their load (with the thinking the 80 gallons of hot water will get you through the interruption in supply).  I don't think they still offer it; I believe we have a legacy plan from when we built our house in 1993.
Believe it or not, the cyclic load of a piston compressor and the slip of an induction motor create a distinctive signal which allows not just the presence of an A/C to be detected at the meter, but its size and the load on the motor.  I've seen this demonstrated in a lab with a refrigerator compressor; the bigger the motor, the less ambiguous the signal.

Basically, it would be trivial for the company to have your smart meter detect and report a rogue A/C and just shut off your house if your terms of service didn't allow it.

But fans have slipping induction motors like the A/C, only smaller. And if you really want a stealth rogue A/C, get a car A/C compressor and a DC type treadmill motor. It'll look like a resistor (heater) instead of the inductive load. A car's A/C can put out quite a few BTUs worth of cold. Enjoy!
Fans don't have the cyclic torque load of a piston compressor.

I'm sure the number of people willing to build their own A/C to avoid meter restrictions (and what about total wattage limits?) are few enough not to threaten grid management.

It's made the national news.  CNN is covering it right now.

They said 80% of Texas is affected.  

CNN's also running a story with Simon Winchester (probably in honor of the anniversary of the SF quake).  He predicts that in a hundred years, people will gaze in awe at the ruins of New Orleans, Tucson, San Francisco, Miami, and wonder why anyone chose to live there.

Seems to be a day for doom...

"He predicts that in a hundred years, people will gaze in awe at the ruins..."

Sounds like Jim Kunstler.  Speaking of JHK, there is an article in the May issue of Outside Magazine about his trip to Texas, that has yours truly (Jeffrey Brown) in a supporting role.  (Apparently no web link yet.  It's on the newsstands.)

I was quoted as saying remaining oil reserves were about two trillion.  I assume that I must have been talking about conventional + all liquids & non-conventional of all types.

Sign of the times?  Record high oil prices and rolling blackouts.  Methinks we are going to see for sale signs popping up like weeds in the outlying 'burbs.

I saw a bit of that segment.  He's more down on specific "bad places to live."  San Francisco for the earthquakes.  South Florida for the hurricanes.  Tucson for lack of local water.

Congratulations on the press.

Higher temps lead to rolling blackouts Residents urged to limit electricity use

06:48 PM CDT on Monday, April 17, 2006
By ELIZABETH SOUDER / The Dallas Morning News

Texas experienced rolling blackouts on Monday as folks turned on their air conditioners when temperatures rose.

The problem is that many power generators shut down in April for maintenance. So the supply of electricity can't meet the unexpected demand that the heat caused.

Around 6:30 p.m., the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. lifted the emergency, saying the situation has improved and electricity operations across the state are back to normal.

ERCOT is also calling on Texans to cut electricity use to only essential needs.

The council, which operates the state's electricity grid, also called on transmission companies, like TXU Electric Delivery, to temporarily cut off electricity to neighborhoods on a rolling basis.

The transmission companies won't cut off critical customers, like hospitals or nursing homes, said ERCOT spokesman Paul Wattles.

He said it's been a few years since Texas initiated rolling blackouts.

Carol Peters, a spokeswoman for TXU Electric Delivery, said the company is rotating blackouts 15 minutes at a time. The company, which operates power lines, cuts off power to residential areas first, then businesses, and screens out hospitals.

That means a Texas household might experience a 15-minute blackout, then power would be restored.  Power line operators like TXU will continue to cycle through their customers until ERCOT says the emergency is over.

"With the temperatures as high as they are, there's a lot of demand on the system, it's an emergency situation at ERCOT," said Ms. Peters. "This is a planned procedure in response to an emergency. It's a normal response to an abnormal situation."

Going to be an interesting summer.
Hello Leanan,

I submit a repost of an earlier article that predicted this:

Hello TODers, especially the terrific data freaks!
As I am not an professional engineer or statistician: I am asking for help from those more familiar with the science and required analysis to work up the facts and graphs.  Consider:

Warmer winter than normal because of Global Warming [GW] effects.  Reduced national requirement of detritus to heat buildings.  Key assumption: warmer winters will continue due to GW.

Also due to GW, we will be experiencing ever hotter spring, summer, and fall temperatures.  This will make detritovores turn on the A/C units to cool their cars, houses, and workplaces much more frequently.  Key Assumption: longer national timeframe of burning energy for A/C than just the winter heating season.  Potentially a national cool/heat hour ratio of 3:1?

Due to our low national birthrate, this will cause a rapid shift to a larger, but older populace that requires A/C to prolong health: excess heat is a rapid killer of the elderly and sick.  Thus, as we go postPeak, more and more elderly will be willing to pay heavily for A/C.

Heating an enclosed space is more energy efficient than trying to cool it per degree.  Burning natgas or heating oil can heat air more efficiently than using electricity [adding another entropic process] to remove heat.  Any kind of equipment adds heat to an enclosed space, but this creates an opposing force when trying to A/C cool this space.

Continued migration and pop. growth to the American Sunbelt adds that much more pressure on detritus energy to provide electricity for A/C desires.

So, if 1-5 are considered for total aggregate effects on detritus demands: it seems to me that as we go postPeak is when we will also be seeking the maximum energy burn rate trying to stay cool.

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

I got caught in a traffic jam, when the traffic light was apparently without power. I cannot help but think of all the gasoline that got wasted because of these rolling blackouts.
And we have a new record.  $70.45 at the close today, the first time it ever closed above $70.  
I'm guessing we're looking at oil prices that will cause significant acute pain to the U.S. economy. Iran doesn't even need to yank the oil, their president just has to open his mouth. Quite a superpower the U.S. is; it looks so helpless right now.
You are lying Leanan.  The market has not closed for the day even now.
oops, no "edit" button.  Sorry.
I went into denial over the sticker shock.  Sorry.
The London market closed on oil at a record high.
So did NYMEX.  Trading closes at 2:30pm Eastern Time.  (Most web sites that show price quotes have a lag of half an hour or more.  So it might look like trading is still open, when it isn't.)
Regarding the boycott:

There is absolutely no way they would drop prices to the level requested in the letter.

  1. consumers are notorious for having a short attention span
  2. in the "gas wars" even a nickel or dime cheaper is enough to get people to stop at your station instead of a competitor (or a penny, some days), so why on earth would anybody drop the price of gasoline below cost?
  3. it is below cost, right?  Once you add in taxes, delivery, etc. to the price of the fuel itself, it has to be, right?  (I'm not a gasoline person, obviously)

Other news:

I posted this morning to the Sunday open thread a link to Qatar pledging $50 million to the Palestinians.  Clearly, between Qatar and Iran, only one is a huge ally.  Will this cause US action?  Is it just hot air (a pledge but no intention to actually deliver the money)?  Will others join in solidarity?

I'll say two things RE: XOM

  1. The boycott idea is asinine, infantile, and ignorant of the nature of commodity markets.

  2. As a shareholder in XOM, CVX, COP, HAL, etc I am PISSED OFF at the executive compensation racket. Hire an "independent" salary consultant, who recommends an exorbitant salary, the boards approve it because half of them are in the same situation using the same clique of compensation consultants, meanwhile the "consultant" is getting busines from all of them and/or side business in another area from the same firm, and the average shareholder has zero ability to influence it. And to top it off, my dividends are ridiculously low. Why do I hold shares other than as a pure O&G price play.

I'd like to kick the board and Raymond in their fat, old, white asses. How about take a poll of individual shareholders to set compensation, or a "not to exceed" ratio of avg worker to CEO. The old boys backroom network is going to come down, one way or another (and another tends to be violent).
How about take a poll of individual shareholders to set compensation, or a "not to exceed" ratio of avg worker to CEO.

I have always liked this idea. I think it is very fair.

I notice that you hold COP. Ditto for me. It has performed very well over the past few years, nearly tripling over the past 3 years. Last year, COP outperformed all of the other majors by a long shot, and is outperforming them so far this year. Yet the PE is still about 65% that of XOM.

Disclaimer: COP is also a nice place to work, although my opinions should never be confused with the official company positions. ;^)


Agree with both of you on salaries.

My understanding is that 30 years ago CEO salary was around 40 times worker for fortune 500 companies.  Today I believe it is around 280 times average worker for fortune 500 companies.  If average salary is around $40,000, CEO is around $11.2 million. We are living in an age of robber barrons just like 100 years ago.

Boycotting one company as a way to decrease prices is obviously a no-brainer.

But, since it's relevant enough I'll point you to Paul Krugman's op-ed in the NY Times today about another reason to consider not handing cash monies to Exxon: Times Select version (behind the NYT pay wall); also available: somewhat shortened version at Economist's View blog, which usually seems to provide Krugman's op-ed pieces in near-entirety.


Enemy of the Planet, by Paul Krugman

Lee Raymond, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, was paid $686 million over 13 years. But that's not a reason to single him out for special excoriation. Executive compensation is out of control in corporate America as a whole, and unlike other grossly overpaid business leaders, Mr. Raymond can at least claim to have made money for his stockholders.

There's a better reason to excoriate Mr. Raymond ... he turned Exxon Mobil into an enemy of the planet. To understand why Exxon Mobil is a worse environmental villain than other big oil companies, you need to know a bit about how the science and politics of climate change have shifted over the years.

Here's my wife's reply to that same XOM boycott email.  And she's a very nice gentle person.

But what does this do to address global warming which is already costing us plenty and is going to cost plenty more?  And what about the day when we really do run out of petroleum, or at least that petroleum which takes less energy to extract than it yields? According to many, the day of collapse is coming faster than those giant corporations want us to believe, and by continuing to fixate on keeping prices low, we put off getting serious about developing long-term solutions.

In his book, "Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble", Lester Brown says that if the price of gasoline truly reflected what it costs to deliver it to your car, it would be over $11 per gallon.  One has to include the cost of supporting corrupt regimes in places like Saudi Arabia, making war on Iraq, and committing other mischief around the world to secure the oil to support our highly wasteful lifestyle.  If that squares with our values, then God help us.

Shifting ourselves to serious conservation initiatives while working to build a sustainable way of living is the best way to thumb our noses at the giant oil producers.  If the 300 million people that the author of this message hopes to reach took conservation to heart, Exxon and Mobil would be in the solar and wind energy business tomorrow.

Please thank your wife for me - that's a really wonderful response.

Having just got that e-mail sent to me, I have now sent your wife's response in reply, noting that it was from a reputedly "very nice gentle person," and that I did not know the original author (smile)...

According to Yahoo! July 2006 oil was just trading at $729,600.00 per barrel. This is not a joke by me; either a glitch in their system, or peak oil has REALLY hit home!

o_O   That tops Matthew Simmons' worst nightmare!
It's now $728,000 here.

The MSM headline can read, "After touching a Record High of $729,600 per Barrel, oil has Plummeted to $728,000." haha.

Was my img removed because of posting guidelines or something?
I doubt it.  You hotlinked to a Yahoo image.  Yahoo probably removed the image at the close of business.  Or out of embarrassment.  :)

You should have have saved it!

With fast depletion of conventional oil reserves the issue of extra-heavy oil becomes important.
Yesterday I had asked an engineer "Is it possible to calorify bitumen or tar sands with underground nuclear/thermonuclear explosions". The answer was "NO!" I'd asked "Why no?" The answer was "..........." (silence).
An explosion creates an enormous quantity of heat. That heat dissipates gradually. The after-explosion underground caverns retain warmth for years. So, why can not one use a nuclear bomb to warm a layer of bitumen?
Perhaps a thermonuclear one is too big to be cheaply installed deep underground, but a simple plutonium device is small enough to fit a well.
And I am sure the government will not object since that technique could be used to test the new or old nuclear devices.
Just a fantasy.
RussFag -

The idea of using a nuclear device to heat subsurface tar sands or oil shale had occured to me also.  But upon thinking about it, it doesn't strike me as very workable.

The fatal flaw in this concept is that you really can not control what is going on. The sudden and massive release of energy from a nuclear explosion would instantly vaporize large quanties of bitumen, and the tremendous pressure spike would spew that vaporized bitumen through whatever fissures and pores existed in the subsurface, possibly blasting some of it right out of the ground.  So you'd instantly lose a lot of the stuff you were trying to capture.

Then you have the problem of heat transfer. Part of the deposit will be too hot and the other part wouldn't be heated enough. Stone and soil is not that great of an insulator, so I wouldn't automatically assume that all that heat is going to be retained for a sufficiently long period of time to do all that much good.

And last but not least, what about the radioactivity?  You will be irradiating large amounts of mineral material that will have to be eventually handled when the bitumen mixed with mineral residues are removed.  This one is hardly a trivial problem. Liquified bitumen mixed with radioactive isotopes would not be the easiest thing to handle safely.

Having said that, I wouldn't totally give up on the nuclear concept, but it can't be in the form of a nuclear explosive device. A far more practical concept would be to build a small, semi-portable above-ground nuclear reactor that would generate steam that could be pumped into the subsurface deposits in a controlled manner. When one area has been worked, the reactor (perhaps modularized) would be dismantled and then moved to a new area to be worked.

 I have absolutely no feel for the economics of such a scheme or whether it would turn out to be all that practical, but if you want to use nuclear energy for  tar sands or oil shale, that, in my opinion, would be the only way to go.

Of course, the idea of nuclear explosion within the layer of bitumen itself is crazy. What I mean is an explosion beneath the layer, say 10-20 meters. In that case all the radioactive waste will remain in after-explosion cavern, though only a small part of heat would be used to calorify the stuff (maybe 1/10 or less). To make the process smoother you can inject water in the layer before the start.
Such technique could be used to gasify coal in situ, for example in under sea coal reserves. You have to inject catalysts in a seam of coal, ignite a nuclear device a few dozens feet beneath and you will get a chemical plant in situ.
Perhaps that is not so bad way to get rid of old nuclear stockpiles.
I am not an engineer (have a degree in economics), but many technological innovations were fool's fantasies before they became a common knowledge.

In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev had asked engineers "Is it possible to install an intercontinental ballistic missile into a silo?"
The answer was "NO!"
A few years later the first silo was dug.

RussFag -

Well, you know, some things that were thought to be unfeasible eventually turned out to be feasible. And likewise, some things that were thought to be feasible turned out to be unfeasible. So what does this all prove?  Well, not much, when you get right down to it.

 If one were to believe some of the rosey projections made by such mass media publications like Popular Mechanics or Mechanix Illustrated in the early 1950s, by now we'd all be commuting to work in our atomic-powered personal airplanes and when we'd get home we'd be served dinner by our own personal robots.  But we're not; and you have to ask yourself the question: how did all these 'experts' get it SO wrong?

The whole trick in evaluating technology is to develop a sort of 'third eye' for
what works and what doesn't. It's more of an art than a science, and far from infallible. One cannot explore every single technological possibility. There just aren't enough resources for that. Therefore, one has to hedge his bets and try to put his money on what shows the most promise. Sometimes you win; and sometimes you lose.  But you still have to put your money on what you think has the best chance of winning.

My own crystal ball (albeit a rather cloudy one) tells me that this whole concept of carbon sequestration is a hopeless, energy-wasteful deadend. It's not going to go anywhere, government-sponsored demo projects notwithstanding.  

Another prediction: We are going to have global warming because we cannot reverse it in any significant way. We are just going to have to work around it and make the best of it, although there will be very painfull and wrenching adjustments (such as abandoning places like Bangladesh and New Orleans, and shifting the places which we depend upon for food).

Actually, some kinds of carbon sequestration look very productive.  Do a search on "terra preta" - I've been meaning to blog it but threads like this keep distracting me. ;-)
Hi E-P, good to see you back after your road trip. Damn, now I will have to check out your blog for new material - so many blogs, so little time :)
Of course, the idea of nuclear explosion within the layer of bitumen itself is crazy. What I mean is an explosion beneath the layer, say 10-20 meters.

Via Metafilter: opt=Abstract
(yea... officals say Iraq is a good idea, there are no effects from DU, and peak oil is a scare mongering idea)

Nuking Mississippi. In 1964, the Atomic Energy Commission drilled a shaft into a salt dome near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and began the only test nuclear detonations in the eastern United States. Despite stories of radioactive frogs in the area, and locals remembering that the earth kicked up waves, the ground cracked, chimneys tumbled and the creeks turned black, officials insist that there are no lasting effects from the underground tests.

I am not an engineer (have a degree in economics),

Having blown off the whole question of adding toxins to the ground, or the idea of taking the already refined fissionable material and fueling nuclear power plants, hopefully the above set of links will be enough to have you give up on the idea.

Otherwise, I'm all for having you move to 5 miles of your idea and get all of your food grown on the land where this plan is executed.   As an economist, I'm sure you see the value of cheap land.   People who don't LIKE toxic land will sell cheap!

Well?  You willing to move to such land and eat food from such land?

"Is it possible to calorify bitumen or tar sands with underground nuclear/thermonuclear explosions". The answer was "NO!" I'd asked "Why no?" The answer was "..........." (silence).

That is because it is a bad plan.

An explosion creates an enormous quantity of heat. That heat dissipates gradually.

As a small point.   That heat won't move across rock 'fast'.

So thermodynamics works against you.

As some of the material is vaporized it will expand, and move the other rock bits upward in an explosion.

So physics works against you

And poison in the form of radionulidies will be made, so your 'solution' creates toxins just so you can get oil.

So social responsibility works against you.

You'd be father ahead to ask for nuclear weapons to be dismantled and make power plants form the already refined material.

You're his boss. He couldn't tell you what he really thinks of your plan.
It was called Project Rulison and there is a little more information on it here , it was part of Operation Plowshare .  If it made the gas too radioactive to use, then one can assume it will do the same to the oil.
I think we are about to find out that prices can go up faster than demand destruction can occur.

Oil was up >$1/barrel
Gasoline up> $.06/gallon

And thats just the front months.  Prices out through August are much higher.

I have been able to figure out most of the acronyms here, but I can't seem to figure out "IMO."  What does it stand for?  Thanks
I use that one a lot, sorry.  It's "In My Opinion."  Old internet acronym.
Thanks.  Never seen it before until here.  
You will also see "IMHO", In My Humble Opinion.
There's a comprehensive acronym list found in the FAQ tab of TOD entry page. Link is here
I've been boycotting ExxonMobil (then just plain old Exxon) since the Valdez went aground. It didn't hurt EM, that's for sure. They could care less. And they would care less even if 5 of every 10 motorists went to Citgo instead.
I noticed, while driving to Wilkes-Barre this morning (a work-related drive for which the company reimburses me a measely 33 cents a mile) many motorists driving along at 60 mph, vice 75+. A sudden guilt trip? I doubt it. I think the per-gallon price will have to hit $4+ before my neighbors even begin to give up their lazy ways (like driving four blocks to the post office, or 3 blocks to the Catholic Church).
What made the difference in the 70's, when there truly was significant demand destruction, was not price but concern over availablity. I (and I imagine several others here) recall the "No Gas" signs at many stations, long lines at stations that did have gasoline (always afraid they'd run out just as you got to the front), and odd-even days when you could fuel up based on your license plate number. Now THAT got people's attn real fast. We bought a Rabbit diesel (45 mpg) and added an extra 10 gallon tank - about a 900 mile range! Felt good.
Hold on, you mean to say you got 45 mpg without a prius? And the car was probably cheaper too than a big gas guzzler?

Any more talk like this and I am going to believe that we do not need hybrids or hydrogen, that we have the technology already available 30 years ago.

Just kidding ;-)

Just filled my 1991 5-speed civic - 41 mpg on the last tank.
But I don't tell my friends who forked out for a Prius ; )
How are these cars on emissions?  I imagine they are better than avg.

Living in Houston, which now has rolling blackouts due to much hotter than avg. temps for the year, my concern is both fuel economy and what we can do to help mitigate our effects on global warming.

But, again, I imagine the civic is pretty good with that other side of the coin too...

Is there a way global warming can hit us directly in the pocket book pushing us to change our ways as seems to be the case with higher gas prices and becoming more fuel efficient (which does seem to be working, at least a bit)?

Rabbit was pretty smokey, especially on Minnesota mornings. It finally died from the salt or I'd still be driving it. Back in CA now. My Civic doesn't equal the prius in emissions, but does quite well overall. Love the car, drives and parks easy, outdoes current civics in mileage.
I got 44.6 MPG on a tank a couple weeks ago without a Prius (but with a tailwind), and in a car a lot bigger than a Rabbit.  2004 VW Passat TDI.

I average around 39-40 MPG, and that's with an engine that's far bigger than it needs to be for cruise power (and geared to turn way faster than optimum too, losing lots of energy to friction).  If this car was re-engineered as a hybrid with something like a Lupo TDI engine it would probably hit 50 MPG easily, maybe 60 if driven just right.

Two words:
Geo Metro (or Suzuki Swift, if you prefer).
Simple, cheap, lightweight, effective, and 50 mpg more than a decade ago.
The car was so small that my head filled one fourth of the rear view mirror. Acceleration was very low on the flat. My highway entrance was an upwards slope. I forget what the cc was, but my Kawasaki 250cc had a higher horsepower ratio with me on it, doubling the weight, than that car, empty. I would have bought it if it was a reasonable car for anybody that weighed more than one hundred pounds and was more than five feet tall.
I think it was designed for little old ladies in Japan with a grandchild in the back seat.
Steve Forbes: "When We Have The Confrontation" With Iran, "The Price of Oil Will Come Down"
Appearing on Fox News this weekend, Steve Forbes said the way to lower gas prices is to "have the confrontation with Iran." Forbes warned Fox viewers that "the longer we let it fester, the higher the price of oil will stay."

FORBES: Well, it's interesting. And about $15 a barrel on the price of oil today is worry about Iran, that crisis.

HOST: So, without Iran, the price of oil would be $15 less per barrel is what you're saying.

FORBES: Yes, it would. There is real uncertainty, huge producer. But the bottom line with Iran is, when we have the confrontation, which we will have, we can really deal with that crisis. Then the price of oil will come down. The longer we let it fester, the higher the price of oil will stay.
Sure. As long as a confrontation with Iran leads to more oil being put on the market. How likely is that?
This is the kind of talk that makes me nuts.

I'd like to stick a gun in his (Forbes) hand, strap a parachute to his back and drop his sorry, rich ass right in the middle of it.

Me too. Perhaps he could fly the plane that drops the tactical nukes on Iran's deep bunkers. That will lower oil prices for sure!
Naahh. Have anyone else fly that plane, but handcuff Steve Forbes to one of the bunker busters as you drop it. Kind of like Dr. Strangelove and the bloke yelling YAAHHOOOO!!! as he rode the bomb like a horse. We could handcuff Zacharias Moussaoui to another bomb, just for fun.
Just as big a dickhead as he ever was.
We've uploaded our March USA Energy Reserves Report to our website:

Not incl in the web version but of note to TOD'ers this month:
a) The monthly global production record for OIL was tied in December @ 84.7-mbd.
b) The modern day record for monthly global prod'n for OPEC was set in December @ 29.9-mbd.  
c) The quarterly global prod'n record for OIL was tied in 2006Q1 @ 84.4-mbd.

Doesn't sound like Peak Oil or Plateau to me!

Doesn't sound like Peak Oil or Plateau to me!

Why not?

Don't know what figures you are using to get b.
According to all I have seen OPEC production in Dec was no higher than a year ago.
IEA figures are a joke, mate.
But an authoritative joke, relied on by politicians and economists.
And behold what a great job they are doing. ^_^
What the Public Thinks:

(Overheard at the health club today.  I'm very curious what 'the masses' think about PO, if at all...)

'Did you hear Bush has a new fitness plan?'   'It's called WALK - gas is $3 a gallon..."

which lead to...

'They're all a bunch of crooks - Bush, Cheney...'  (At least they got that right)

which lead to...

'There's plenty of oil, (agreement all around) it's just a conspiracy!  They own the oil companies and they're getting rich.'

and finally (the solution):

'We should annex Mexico, they've got lots of oil and they all want to be Americans (sic) anyways; and we should exploit those tar sands in Canada!'

That's where the public is at.

I travel alot because I drive a truck for a living and I like to engage people about oil and all it takes is stating "how about those gas prices".

Well the good people from Harrisburg Pa had the solution: vegetable oil.. Thats right, one person actually believe we could use all the vegetable oil in Harrisburg to run our cars and avoid high gas prices.. Until I informed him that there's not really that much vegetable oil in Harrisburg and then I informed him on how the US imports 21 million bpd.  He got the message.

The second person stated that technoolgy just hadn't "caught UP" with the crisis.. I simply stated that techology won't put more oil in the ground..

The third person stated "they will think something" at which I stated who is this "they" they are thinking about.. I ask them to think for a second on the invisible hand that provide everything and ask why would "they" actually have to do anything at all.. At this point I think I scared him because he stated in a very different tone of voice, They will think of something" and the conversation came to an abrupt end..  

I love to talk to people about peak oil..

Hello Everybody,

On a slightly differnet note,  I'm wondering if the proportion of heavy / sour crude could be tracked indirectly by looking at historic and current pricing for asphaltic cement, tar and bitumen.  Ive worked on a lot of road / airport projects and while asphalt pricing is always changing according to supply and demand as well as normal fluctuations in construction activity, I would think that if there was a sudden increase in the amount of heavy / sour crude comming into refineries, then there should be a corresponding increase in the heavier components of oil - and possibly a decrease in cost compared to previous years.  This would be very indirect and may not really help much, but it might shed a bit of light on the heavy /sour crude question.  Anyway, I'll let you all decide if its a worthwhile exercise and as always keep up the good work.


There should be a much, much easier way to track it. When we (oil companies) send crude inventories into the EIA, they always include sulfur and gravity. I would just write to the EIA and ask if they track the overall numbers. I presume they do, otherwise they wouldn't ask for the information.


IME, the price of asphalt has gone through the roof.  
So why don't we start a simuliar email campaign about peak oil!! We could explain in the email the definition of peakoil  and causes of high oil prices.. We could state that if millions of Americans would wake up to the upcoming crisis we face in this country with oil and natural gas, them perhaps our politicians would wake up and we could collectively do SOMETHING about it!!   But until we gat the collective heard pointed in the right direction, we are going nowhere!!

Just my thoughts..

Two articles from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Outsourcing critics says U.S. is giving away too many jobs

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
By Anya Sostek, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Three years ago, Ron Hira "was practically laughed out of the room'' when he warned Carnegie Mellon University graduate students and faculty that high-level engineering jobs were moving overseas to places such as India.

Tomorrow night, the 37-year-old electrical engineer and public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology expects a more sober reception when he makes another speech on outsourcing, this time at the University of Pittsburgh.

The CMU engineering undergraduate, who has testified before Congress twice on the subject and recently published a book called "Outsourcing America," estimates that tens of thousands of engineering jobs have left the country in the three years since he spoke to the CMU audience.

Dr. Hira became interested in outsourcing of white-collar jobs as he pursued his graduate studies in public policy at George Mason University.

While doing his dissertation on electronic commerce and supply chain management, he was besieged at engineering conferences with tales of engineers who had lost their jobs, often after they had trained their international replacements.

At the same time, Dr. Hira, who is ethnically Indian, saw his relatives in Bombay getting jobs as computer programmers.

In his book, co-written with his brother, Anil, Dr. Hira openly challenges those who present a positive view of outsourcing, calling New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman "the voice of the elite."

He tries to separate out the arguments over outsourcing's global effects to focus on the impact on the American economy and American workers.

"I'm happy that my cousins are benefitting," he said, "but the idea that they're benefitting and we're better off on the U.S. side is wrong."

Many economists and policymakers dispute that statement, arguing that outsourcing makes the U.S. economy stronger by improving efficiency. They also point to "insourcing" -- jobs that foreign corporations such as Toyota and Sony have created in the United States.

But Dr. Hira doubts that the engineering and computer software jobs sent overseas will be replaced by jobs paying equivalent salaries.

"While the total number of jobs might be OK, we don't know what that new mix is going to be like," he said.

In his book, he recommends that the United States consider making changes to its trade policies, government procurement practices and visas for foreign workers.

Dr. Hira will speak about his book, "Outsourcing America: What's Behind Our National Crisis and How We Can Reclaim American Jobs," at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Benedum Hall at Pitt.

Admission is free, and the speech is sponsored by the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Ascent Systems Inc., Pitt and the University of Pittsburgh Book Center. Those interested can call 412-795-4444.

Changed U.S. economy more tolerant of oil prices

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
By Len Boselovic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Argus Research economist Richard Yamarone can remember warning that the U.S. economy would suffer if oil prices stayed at $35 a barrel for a sustained amount of time.

Although he was on safe ground in making the prediction -- most energy price spikes since World War II led to a recession -- thus far he's been wrong.

"That was one I don't brag about too much," Mr. Yamarone dryly observed yesterday after crude oil futures closed at a record $70, double the level that had him worried.

These days, he and fellow practitioners of the dismal science are offering a host of plausible explanations for why sharply higher energy prices haven't inflicted more damage: the economy is less energy intensive and more fuel efficient; rising energy prices are the product of strong global economic growth, not embargoes by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries; low long-term interest rates have kept consumer spending strong; and the economy is more impervious to energy price spikes because of the bang-up job central banks have done fighting inflation since the energy crises of the 1970s.

Whatever the reason, the U.S. economy remains resilient, growing at a healthy 3.5 percent clip last year after a 4.2 percent advance in 2004. Job growth remains strong, unemployment is low, consumers are still spending and -- most importantly -- inflation remains in check.

The next government report on consumer price inflation comes tomorrow, but so far the news has been good. Consumer prices, including volatile energy and food costs, were up 3.6 percent in February from year-ago levels. Excluding those two sectors, inflation was 2.1 percent.

Global Insight economist Nigel Gault believes the growth of the information and service economies is one reason why the impact of higher energy prices has been so benign.

"We've been changing the structure of the economy, so energy-intensive activities aren't as important as they used to be," he said.

What remains of the manufacturing economy is more efficient. For example, in 2004, it took U.S. steel mills 11 million BTUs to produce and ship a ton of steel versus about 34 million BTUs in 1975, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

The progress is mirrored in the nation's gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic activity. Last year, it took only 54 percent of the energy it took in 1975 to create the same amount of GDP, Mr. Gault said.

Low long-term interest rates have helped blunt the impact. Although they only recently began moving higher as a result of the Federal Reserve's prolonged campaign to increase short-term rates, low long-term rates have encouraged consumers to take equity out of their homes by refinancing their mortgages.

"That's given them a source of funds to keep spending," Mr. Gault said.

Many analysts expected higher energy prices would change consumer behavior. To a limited extent, they have. The Port Authority cited higher fuel prices as one reason for a 3.2 percent increase in weekday ridership last year.

But Mr. Yamarone says that while lower-income consumers have changed their habits,higher income consumers haven't.

"Consumers are not about to abandon putting their kids in these gas-guzzling SUVs," he said. "Baby boomers think their kids are safer in an SUV than a fuel-efficient compact car."

Mr. Yamarone now says a sustained period of $70 oil will shave "a few tenths of a percent off economic activity."

Economic news always gives me a headache.  No two people can agree on anything.

This AP headline caught my eye today: Gas Prices Push Up Wholesale Inflation

The Labor Department reported that wholesale prices rose by 0.5 percent in March following a 1.4 percent decline in February, which had been the largest drop in nearly three years.


Consumers can expect even worse numbers in coming months, given that crude oil prices this week have climbed to new records above $70 per barrel. That reflects worries about supply disruptions in Nigeria and increasing tensions between the West and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program.

In other economic news, the Commerce Department reported that construction of new homes dropped by 7.8 percent in March. It was the fourth decline in the past six months and provided further evidence that the nation's five-year housing boom is quieting down.

Perhaps the prediction that over $35/bbl oil would slow the economy is still correct, just the timeline has been adjusted by extremely aggessive deficit spending by the US Govt (among other things)

Quite late in the thread, but...

...over at Morgan Stanley's Global Economic Forum ( ), Stephen Roach's latest posting (April 18) is titled "Oil and Bonds." A few quotes:

  • "The higher gasoline prices arising from the recent back-up in crude oil markets unleashes a classic negative income effect on the consumer that, by Dick Berner's reckoning, could knock about $60 billion, or 0.6%, off disposable personal income this summer (see his dispatch in today's Forum, "Risks for the Consumer")."

  • "China is also heavily exposed to oil.  Its oil consumption per unit of GDP is literally twice that of the average developed economy.  While a subsidy structure limits the direct impacts of higher oil prices on Chinese consumers, that simply means the pressures bear more on the fiscal finances of the central government.  Consequently, the confluence of rising oil prices and bond yields hits China with a double whammy of its own."

If you go to the Morgan Stanley site linked above after April 18, you'll have to click on Archive, and then click on April 18.
In addition to Stephen Roach's posting, there is also an interesting posting by Richard Berner, titled "Risks for the Consumer." A relevant quote:

- "Driving this latest price surge are three supply shocks: First, US refineries scheduled heavy spring downtime for maintenance that was deferred following the hurricanes, so distributors have drawn down gasoline inventories by 5% in the past nine weeks.  Second, the final phase-in of US environmental regulations (the Tier 2 Vehicle and Gasoline Sulfur Program, begun in January 2004), and the decision by many refiners to phase out the use of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) as an emissions-reducing additive in 2006 has increased the demand for scarce ethanol as a substitute and boosted prices.  The ethanol-laced fuel is also more difficult to handle, adding to costs.  Third, notwithstanding apparently ample crude supplies, a flaring in geopolitical risks, especially regarding Iran, has elevated the level of crude prices by about $7/bbl in the past several weeks."

Berner's posting immediately follows Roach's.

Thanks for the background and the links. Joined the party late here so I appreciate finding some sensible talk on the topic that sheds light on the situation.

All the boycott talk does is muddy the waters with disinformation, as snopes has shown.

Sensible talk? I think you came to the wrong place. We like to drink whiskey and throw darts at each other.
These negative comments about China are getting old. China is the strongest economy in the world. Of course it is using more oil per unit of GDP-it is the manufacturing powerhouse. It is growing at 10.2% with $71 oil. It is the number two CONSUMPTION market in the world. It is drawing in most of the fixed capital investment. Roach is smart but he is underestimating China greatly.
BrianT, I agree with you about China's strength, and I think Roach would, too. In many of his pieces, he has expressed great respect for China's leadership, and has expressed confidence that it could navigate through the current difficulties. If there's a new nuance here, I wonder if it isn't that perhaps Roach is seeing higher oil prices as being a larger obstacle than he had previously thought? Just speculation on my part, though.
Gotta put on your Austin Powers face for this one:

One. Billion. Cars. 2020.

That's one for every 6½ people on the planet - and over 25 percent more vehicles than we have today.
There are a lot of different things world wide that affect the price of how much we all pay at the pump. I don't think that this small email campaign will actually make gas prices go down. The oil market is so much bigger than any small group of people. It would take a nationwide decrease in demand to actually decrease prices.

If we really want to reduce energy prices in this country, we should actually develop a nationwide comprehensive energy plan. A plan would actually promote diversification in our energy sources making us less dependent on any one source.

With trepidation you pull up to the pumps at your neighborhood gas station, you intentionally avoid looking at the posted cost per liter, the idea is to get your $5-10 of this liquid gold and make a quick escape before the attendant who is making the princely sum of $6-7 per hour has time to post the latest increase that just arrived via telephone from a faceless individual in company headquarters somewhere in Alberta, Texas or Saudi Arabia.

Arriving home you quickly scan the newspaper to see what excuse the oil companies have trotted out this time, as they attempt to justify this latest increase to a very skeptical public.

Damn it you say as you read the front-page story concerning the compensation paid to the chairman and chief executive officer of the world's largest oil company-Exxon Mobile. There it is in black and white for all to see, not only is this increase needed by this oil company but all previous increases can be easily explained as we read what this man has received in compensation over the past thirteen years.

This man, Lee Raymond received $144,573 for each and every day that he has been in his present position as head-honcho of this oil company for a total of $686 million for the period 1993-2005. The details of his retirement package are also part of this story but even those of us with cast iron stomachs are beginning to feel rumbles from down under as we try to comprehend how any man regardless of his title, position, etc can justify this obscene compensation package to that $6-7 per hour gas attendant.

I remember trying to explain to my late father a number of years ago what  "free enterprise" meant and how it supposedly worked when we were discussing the demise of the cod fishery in Newfoundland.  Obviously I was not overly successful in my attempt to do this, having patiently listened to what I had to say, he was silent for a few seconds and then said, "sounds to me like your talking about good old-fashioned greed".

Enough said.

Nova Scotia, Canada

Honestly, how can boycotting one company really make a difference?  The only way a boycott would work is if we stopped buying gas completely for weeks at a time.  I don't see how we can pull that one off do you?
I may be in a bit over my head as I admittedly don't know the ins and outs of economics and the oil industry.  However what I do know is that my mother has a franchise of gas stations and the last time one of these boycott measures was tried it really hurt her business.  It obviously did nothing to hurt the oil companies given their profit posts.  In my opinion it backfired and hurt the small business people selling the product -- not the big companies making it.  I am glad and many of you have debunked the theory to try again.  Thanks on behalf of my mother and my family.
I read the article too, and I agree that the whole boycott thing isn't the answer.  After all, prices are affected by worldwide demand, which is not going anywhere!  I'm more for a constructive approach than a destructive approach.  In my opinion, we need to quit trying to punish oil companies and direct our efforts towards policy that ensures domestic sources of oil, lets the companies adapt to change, and encourages some investment in alternative fuels.  
I agree. The oil companies are the only ones that can actually solve this problem. They deal with this issue day and night and Congress needs to remove the red tape so they can get the job done. ExxonMobil doesn't want to see the world's oil supply dry up without another source of energy available. If they are not able to invest more into renewable and alternative energies, we may be in a much bigger crisis in a few years from now.
Couldn't have said it better myself!
Many say we will see $3.50/gal this summer.  If you factor in Iran, who knows how high it could go. Everyone knows America MUST get off the oil.  After September 11, 2001 I expected our President to call on Americans to GET OFF THE OIL.  I was expecting a speech like the one JFK gave that motivated us to reach for the moon. As you know, this never happened.  Eventually I realized that the only way this is going to happen is for us to do it ourselves.  To that end I created this idea and have been trying to make it a reality..

The EPA is offering a research grant opportunity that I believe is a perfect fit for this idea.  I have sent an e-mail to a hand picked list of university professors who have experience with government research projects.  I'm looking to form a research team to apply for the EPA grant, conduct a social-economic experiment and surveys to determine to what extent the American public will support it, project the economic potential of WPH, and identify logistical, social and political obstacles as well as opportunities.

All government grants are awarded based on merit of the proposed research.  I believe WPH has merit but your help is needed to verify it. You can help by posting your feedback.  Let the professors and the EPA know what you think about WPH.  Do you think this idea is worth pursuing? We need to know if Americans will support a plan like this.

Do you have any ideas to improve the plan?

Share any and all of your thoughts.

Tell your friends and family about this Blog post and ask them to post their thoughts on WPH

Thank you