DrumBeat: May 14, 2006

Now for some wise words from the readers of The Oil Drum...
France to go 100% electric railroads

Jacques Chirac, the French president, pledged in his 2006 New Year Address that by 2026 no SNCF or RATP train would be powered by fossil fuels."

"France will run trains free from fossil fuel, says Chirac." The Times
(London), Friday,January 6, 2006, p54.

This promise will be relatively easy to keep because electrified lines carry perhaps 80 percent of all French rail traffic - and most of the traction energy used by
French trains is provided by nuclear power stations. It will be interesting to see how they intend to replace
diesel railcars on branch lines and diesel locomotives on industrial sidings.

Leroy W. Demery, Jr.

copied from his post on another forum,

Alan Drake

Replacing diesel switchers wouldn't be hard - just use a plug-in version of the Green Goat.


Upgrading low-volume branch lines will be fairly expensive, because there are so many of them, making up quite a bit of the route-miles.


But if they are going to do it, better sooner than later.  Perhaps they could fund it by raising their petrol/diesel taxes even more.

They don't have to replace the diesel engines, they just need to fill up with biodiesel. (Or convert the engines to use ethanol instead, which I've seen somewhere not being very complicated.)
That would depend on how much diesel they are currently using.  I've been critical of bio-fuels like ethanol and biodiesel mainly because, at least here in the USA, we won't be able to make nearly enough of either to replace the amounts of gasoline and diesel that we use, but the general public doesn't know this, so there is this false hope that there is no need to prepare for less energy in the future.  (Soil depletion and letting people elsewhere starve so we can drive also factor in to my criticism.)  I am not against any use of biofuel, I just think it needs to be done sparingly and carefully.

Unfortunately I have no idea how much diesel fuel France's rail system requires so I can't say if it would be possible for them to switch their rail to biodiesel.  I have only looked into automobile fuel in the US so far.  If anyone knows more about that, they could shed more light on the feasability of biodiesel trains.

I have worked for the SNCF, so my guess is that they are planning on achieving this goal largely by shutting down the non-electrified branch lines, which aren't profitable anyway.

I am proud to have been associated with the French railways, because they are the best in the world; But in fact that's not saying much, they could be so much better. The business is between a rock and a hard place : a proud tradition of public service is compromised by the opening up of the European Union "transport market", which means they have to concentrate on the profitable sectors (or else see them cherry-picked by Euro rivals), to the detriment of the "dead wood", i.e. those services which are socially or economically useful but not profitable.

This is especially frustrating in the area of freight : trucking stuff around is so much more convenient for businesses, and generally cheaper, due to the fact that, compared to electrified rail, truckers get to externalise a large proportion of their true costs, onto government, other road users, people who live near roads, the environment, the whole planet...

If Al Gore had become president...


Peak oil would not be a concern if there was alternatives with high EROEI. Without high EROEI alternatives peak oil may mean peak energy. The energy available in the future depends on the EROEI profile of the remaining energy reserves. I certainly don't know what this profile looks like, but it makes sense that we have been using the high EROEI energy sources first. The EROEI will decline continuously till we hit the EROEI of sustainable energy sources. The ratio of available energy to total energy = 1-(1/EROEI).
10    90%
5    80%
3    67%
2    50%
1.7    41%
1.5    33%
1.3    23%
1.1    9%
At an EROEI of 2 you have to invest half of a year's energy to have the same available energy next year.
I also do not know what the EROEI of the sustainable energy sources are. This is one area where technology may be able to help out. If we can increase the EROEI of sustainable sources there is a brighter future. On the other hand the peaking of other resources could actually decrease the EROEI of sustainable sources. For example copper prices have doubled twice in the last 3 years. This is going to have a big impact on all electrical projects. I seem to remember reading that hybrids use twice the copper of regular vehicles.
Altough it is ok to try to harvest a little bit more energy from "renewable" sources, energy creation is prohibited by the laws of physics.  I will assume that you know this law, mostly because people writting in the OilDrum usually have more knowledge than average person.

What you call technology is made of the following :

  1. Invest time (and energy) to make a concept for harvesting energy
  2. Elaborate the means to build it
  3. Find and extract the needed ressource in order to built it (all ressources need to be extrated or salvaged from previous extraction)
  4. Transform and put in basic shape the founded ressources
  5. Transport the needed ressources to some kind of manufacturing system (be it a plant, a coop, a oneman operation, it needs to be manufactured)
  6. Do all the needed operation to build it.
  7. Transport and install the built device to the place of energy harvest location (be it wind, solar, oil, hydro, coal, biomass, etc)
  8. Use part of the harvested energy to make the device work.
  9. Convert that energy in a portable fashion.
  10. So on

You get the point, in no place can you make more energy than what is harvestable.  

I wonder if the EROEI of feeding an horse is better than producing any biomass fuel.  

Why would you keep using a car anyway?

Where would you go with it?

To your current unsustainable job? (that you will loose no matter how hard you will try)

Ask yourself what do you really want to do with an electric handmixer.  Do you want to save time cooking so you can still keep your work?

Right now, use all the tool you can, that's what I do.  I have a car and use it because I can and it is the way the system work.

When the system will cease to function, you will have to adapt and I predict a handmixer will be of relativly low help.

There is several orders of magnitude more solar energy falling on the earth's surface each day than we use as a species so far. Energy availability is not the issue. Capture and conversion to useful forms is the issue. Furthermore, while I know that some people here diss the space program, serious studies have been done about increasing the captured solar energy from earth orbiting power stations and beaming that energy back to the ground as low intensity microwaves. None of thid involves creating energy, just capturing it. So go figure - we already have more energy hitting the earth's surface than we use from fossil fuels. And we already have the know-how to even expand upon that to capture more solar energy in the near earth region.

So what's the problem? The problem we have is not in capturing available renewable energy. The problem we have is one of mindset, of psychology, and of deliberately choosing to begin going down a road towards a renewable sustainable lifestyle. This problem is not only about energy. It's also about the myth of endless growth (which must stop) and that includes the endless growth of human population.

Even at 6 billion people, we have the knowledge to make the world a sustainable place. It would be very very different from the culture in which we live today but it doesn't have to be medieval serfdom or mad max. We just have to choose to do it. The sad thing is that so far we have actively refused to deal with these issues, especially the myth of endless growth being sustainable.

We will NOT be able to fuel the cars of the people that will feed the people also using their car in order to build those space solar panel.

Maybe you havent understand that Oil is the energy subside of everything NASA scientist could come up with.

I'm certainly aware of our planet receiving more solar energy than what is used as fossil fuels.  The problem reside in getting it concentrated enough.  

Even if we could (for very not any good reason) power some kind of car, the problem would then reside in getting enough nat gas or coal to keep on manufacturing fertilizers.

The problem is NOT a supply problem, it's a DEMAND problem.  Until the system is working, you will be able to use your car.  Once the system break, you wont need your car.

Actually, the demand problem will be solved rather easily (at least in the USA). Most people won't be buying gasoline because they won't be able to afford it. A trip in the car will be an important journey done for a purpose, because it will be too expensive to waste on anything trivial. There is a giant gap opening in the USA between the haves (top 10%) and everybody else. Rising oil prices are going to put the nail in the coffin.
Using satellites to convert solar energy to microwaves has an extremely low EROEI. Its not that the technology is impossible, its just impractical. Remember 1/R^2 losses.
I wonder if the EROEI of feeding an horse is better than producing any biomass fuel.

Certainly not. I have about 3 acres of pasture around my house. This is not enough to feed a hores all the year round (I would have to buy hay for winter, or have another couple of acres of pasture to make my own).

I'm sure that if I planted rapeseed, I could get more miles as biodiesel than I would ever get out of a horse; I really ought to do the calculation. (bearing in mind that a certain proportion of that biodiesel would be consumed by the tractor required to plough it).

In answer to your question as to whether it would be better energetically to keep horses or use pasture, hay fields and acres planted in oats (power bar equivalent for horses), you might be interested in checking out the Land Institute's Sunshine Farm project.

visit http://www.landinstute.org/ and search for "Sunshine Farm."

My recollection of their early conclusions was that there are pluses and minuses to both approaches.  Under certain conditions, there may not be much difference between the two.  One advantage to horses is that they replicate themselves, and do not require factories, metals, etc. to do so.  

Considerations in choosing one over the other may include the proclivities of the farmer (some folks do better with animals than others), the type of land included in the farm (amount of land that may be useful only for pasture or hay) and the suitability of the land and climate for growing oil crops.

Thanks for that Barb...
I found the article :
the crop acreage requirements of horses is no greater than that for tractors operating on biodiesel. In our feasibility study, detailed calculations, based on numerous early bulletins from the United States Department of Agriculture and state agricultural experiment stations, show draft horses require no more cropland for feed than tractors do for biodiesel on a net energy basis, both roughly one-fourth of a farm's cropland.

Fair enough, and very encouraging in terms of the productivity of post-oil farming... but this is discussing farm traction, not transport, which was the original question.

Another quote from the article is pertinent to that aspect :

Tractors provide timeliness in field operations, but horses can be used when time is not critical.

Timeliness is important in transport. I live about 8 miles from the nearest market town. I could go there with a pony and trap to do my shopping, but it would take me all day. If I can go there with an ethanol-powered scooter, or some lightweight biodiesel car, for the same energy input in terms of agricultural surface, then I've gained several hours.

Sorry to have missed that transport issue.  

Here in the U.S., farmers frequently lived not more than 3 miles from some town, which is a distance than can be covered by horse and buggy in about an hour.  You still see a town, or the remnants of a town, every 6 miles.  That is truly the case in the area where I grew up.  In less populated areas, you would often find some sort of small general store, the 1900s equivalent of a convenience store, on a rural crossroads.  These stores also doubled as post offices.  In addition, many farm families did not go to town during the week, but only made the big trip on Saturdays or to sell livestock or crops.

Formerly, many towns in the Midwest, East and South were on or no more than 20 miles from a railroad, which made delivery of goods much less energy intensive.  If we here could rebuild some of these low-use or spurs even for light use, we would be in much better shape.  That would be hard to do, though, on a sixth to a third the amount of liquid transportation fuel.

For smaller holdings or market gardens there may be advantages to the Electric Tractor
Or this interesting How To Convert

The extra weight of batteries and low-end torque of electric motors are great features for a tractor. Electric motors don't waste any energy when you aren't moving and the torque is greatest when you first start moving, right when you need it the most.

And although 'timeliness' is a factor, tractor use is intermittant with the tractor frequently found sitting in the shed for long periods of time...

Future developments of Gantry Systems my also help ameliorate other problems - depending on the situation.

Whatever the case, the present range of Very Large
may not have much of a future...

Other thoughts/comments?

I also do not know what the EROEI of the sustainable energy sources are.
You need to look at The Ergosphere FAQ more often!
We are on almost the exact same wavelength. I see you even got to the bio-butanol story before I did. I just wrote about it last week:


You wrote about it six months earlier in that FAQ.


You know, I'd forgotten about that...

Funny thing, almost 40% of today's hits at The Ergosphere have been from clicks on that one link.  I hope people found it worth their time to read!

Cool. Thanks for this RR! Any idea how good university research on this stuff is in places like China/India/Brazil? Might the biofuels revolution come from the Far East?
Govenor Brian Switzer gave the commencement address yesterday to the university of montana graduating class. in juxtaposition to the usual "get out there and change the world" bromides he gave a "get out there and deal with the energy mess we're in" speech. in today's missoulian lead story he says:
"You've got to make conservation cool,"

..omigod, the C word!!!...and:
The growing energy crisis facing this country will be a challenge no less difficult than what Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" struggled to overcome in 1940s, Schweitzer said. Back then, people were pushed to the limit, faced personal sacrifice and were asked to give it their all. Many did just that, he said.
This generation, Schweitzer said will have to change their lifestyles to search for ways to conserve energy and make use of new energy sources.
...ohhh, brian, i didn't know you could say it like that..you go girl!

fantastic.  is Schweitzer enough of a cowboy to avoid the Carter-in-a-sweater syndrome? ;-)
first, let me apologize to the govenor for misspelling his name...and although he has a background as a rancher and farmer, he doesn't hide under a cowboy hat:
...in montana , this is practically unheard of....don't you know , if you want votes , you gotta wear a cowboy hat???
i did a surf and saw that one too ... note to readers: the governor is the one not in a sweater ;-)
The guy beside him is the Lt. Governor. I met him last year when I testified against Schweitzer's proposed ethanol mandate for Montana. He testified in front of me in favor of the mandate.


The gov. does have a cute ranch dog he take swith him everywhere.
I found an Atlantic Richfield (ARCO)gas station with no 87 nor 89 octane gasoline on May 12 at the corner of Daisy and Foothill in Pasadena, California.  There was only 91 octane available.  Is this a trend?
I know of some suppliers scrambling to keep customers supplied. I know of one in Salt Lake City that has their gas stations on 80% allocation. A lot of refiners have customers on allocation right now. I would say that the situation is easing a bit, but there are still local areas where supplies are very tight.


do the suppliers state a 'cause?'
You usually only hear about those things through the grapevine, as we can't share information like that. But, someone might have a neighbor who works for a competing company, and he might mention that they have had a key distillation tower go down. In fact, that was the case with one of them, although I don't know the specific problem.

Refiners are coming out of turnarounds right now, so many are short of product. If they don't come up smoothly, they can run out of product in a hurry.


A global difference: New Zealand does not have 87 or 89 octane. 91 octane is regular, 95 is high test, and there is a little bit of 98 octane aound. Current (record) price for 91: NZD$1.709 per litre, equal to $4.02 per gallon in USD dollars. High compared to the US, cheap compared to Europe.
New Zealand (like most of the world) measures octane with RON (Research Octane Number). In the US, we use the average of RON plus MON (Motor Octane Number), ie (R+M)/2. Generally 91 RON is equivalent to 87 R+M/2.
I love the expertise on TOD. Many tanks, mon.
OK--A developing story which merits attention of TODers...  


(Unfortunately, story is available only to World-Herald members.)

  Iowa and Nebraska farmers could get checks totaling more than a quarter of a billion dollars to ease the burden of increased fuel costs.  
   The relief would come from a controversial $1.6 billion proposal attached by the U.S. Senate to a spending bill to cover war costs and hurricane relief.  The energy supplement was not in the House version and is now the subject of negotiations by House-Senate conferees.
  Key farm groups support the proposal.  But U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is firmly opposed.
   "We are going to the American public and Congress next year to support a new farm bill," said Johanns spokesman Ed Loyd.  "It sends the wrong signal to come up with something like this."  
   John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, said higher energy costs can leave some farms vulnerable to failure.
   "We are extremely energy-dependent," Hansen said, "and unlike other business we can't pass along the higher costs to customers."

   Pres. Bush has also threatened to veto the bill, partly because it is inequitable, in that it would only be distributed to commodity growers as a 30% additional subsidy to the subsidies they are already receiving.  

  1. The word "ethanol" is never mentioned in this story but the bottom line is that farmers growing corn for ethanol need fuel assistance to fund their growing of corn for ethanol to produce fuel.  Does that make any sense?

  2.  Another emerging story from this is that our food growers can't afford to grow food without help, due to the rising energy costs.  It can cost $200/day to run today's tractors and trucks used by farmers.
The word "ethanol" is never mentioned in this story but the bottom line is that farmers growing corn for ethanol need fuel assistance to fund their growing of corn for ethanol to produce fuel.  Does that make any sense?

It makes sense in the context "I understand that is exactly what's going on". It obviously makes little sense from an energy policy standpoint, but since when do politics make sense?

This emphasizes what I have been saying for a long time - as energy prices increase, ethanol prices will increase because of the heavy reliance on fossil fuels. I hadn't considered the possibility that the government would step in with even more money to keep this illusion going.


Well said.
Or maybe to them the illusion is reality.
Similar to one of the above posters saying we can fullfill all our energy needs by launching tons of solar pannels into space and beam electricity back to earth by microwaving it.
Beaming solar energy from space is actually a sensible idea, if we had the technology to do so.  Unfortunately, we are far away from that point.  However, this is very different from ethanol, which could never succeed simply because there is insufficient energy in corn to make turning it into energy worthwhile.  
We would be perfectly capable of powering all the Earth to America's standard of living if we had started launching components of a Kingsbury-Arnold linear accelerator in orbit type spaceport and used that to start building solar power satellites..
Only thing is, it grows geometrically. 1, 2, 4, 16, 32, etc, kilowatts. We would have had to have started twenty years ago to get it working now, and if we start now we have to wait twenty years.
We really ought to start now. But we won't, so we'll spend a hundred times as much each year instead to get a bit more oil, or wind or solar to make up for the gas we can't get anymore.
The only short term solutions are wind, solar, conservation, and coal to oil synfuel plants.
There are a number of issues with beaming solar energy from space to Earth. What would be the effect of the energy beam on heating the Earth's atmosphere? How much of the energy would the atmosphere absorb? I would presume any object (planes, birds) flying in the beam would be instantly vaporized. Also what would be the effect of clouds floating through the beam and would winds be strong enough to deflect the beam slightly, thereby having the energy beam hit earth around the collecting dish, rather than in the collecting dish.
I thought I had posted this on friday:
I have the opinion that E-85 may have to be eliminated in the near future do to the lack of blending component and the high price. There is simply not enough ethanol to meet all the required need. Does anyone know if much blended gas is made with less than 10% ethanol? CBOT for May currently $3.10/Gal.
Here is a comment made by Heiko that I found on an Eng-Poet Blog This is the typical stuff you here from ethanol advocates, Including US Congressmen.

Ethanol as currently produced in the US has a fossil fuel content, about half that of gasoline (1.23 kWh of fossil fuel are required to produce 1 kWh of gasoline at the pump, only 0.6 kWh of fossil fuel are required to provide 1 kWh of ethanol at the pump). posted by Heiko: 8/17/2005 5:16 AM.

According to the USDA it requires 1 kWh of fossil fuel to provide 1.34 kWh of ethanol, or inverted it takes .746 kWh of fossil fuel to provide 1 kWh of ethanol.

USDA Report: The amount of corn used to make ethanol should increase by 34 percent over last year's use to 2.15 billion bushels, the department said Friday in its monthly crop report.

Here are the EIA ethanol production numbers for 2005-2006   Month,  Daily Avg,  Monthly total;   in thousands of barrels.

Jan     241   7,471
Feb    245   6,860
Mar   243   7,533
Apr    238   7,140
May   237   7,347
Jun     249   7,470
Jul      258   7,998
Aug    260   8,060
Sep     261   7,830
Oct     269   8,339
Nov    275   8,250
Dec     280   8,680
2005   255  92,978
Jan     288    8,928
Feb    302    8,456

Well lets see 92,978,000 brls * 42 = 3.905 billion gallons
X*.34=2.15   X=1.60445
3.905 / 1.605 =  2.43 gal per bushel of corn! 2005

In case I wasn't the only one wondering
1 bushel = 9.31 gallons
I've been studying the future since 1989 (most of my sources would be considered controversial, but a lot is coming true). One thing I have learned is that food shortages are coming. I always thought they would arise from climate change. However, now I realize that energy costs and energy shortages are going to be major factors. Once the U.S. Government declares bankruptcy (2009), who is going to pay farmers a fuel subsidy?

Peak oil and the energy crisis are only one piece of the picture. The social forces for change that are building are monumental. It isn't only about energy, but creating a world that is more humane and less violent and competitive.

Look at the struggles in Africa, the Middle East, South America, and Asia. Americans don't want to be involved in these struggles. We have become too much of a militaristic nation. We have become a global empire that is trying to control its intrests. Soon Americans are going to turn inward and create localized humane societies. Peak oil is just a spark of that movement. It is something that had to happen, energy crisis or not.


in the rich industrial nations we convert basic food calories into empty and/or luxury calories in a lot of ways.  corn gets divided down, stripped of its protien, and made into the 7-up i just drank.  (i hope the protien went to something useful ... chicken feed?)

we certainly have room to streamline and simplify, and even absent government intervention higher fuel costs would seem to imply that we will.

we would be nicer people, certainly, if we were a little more proactive, and helped basic food calories get to those who need them (more than they need a 7-up).

The implosion of productivist agriculture, implied in this news, is a very big deal...

There is a great deal of more-or-less hidden subsidy going on anyway, in large-scale agriculture. The end of cheap energy is the end of the Green Revolution.

Relocalising can save us from subsistence. I'm an optimist.

(Unfortunately, story is available only to World-Herald members.)

Most places have accounts set up by the dailykos community, World-Herald is no exception.
Login email address: kos at dailykos dot com
Password: dailykos

If you come across a site that doesn't have that login, take the time to register it. If any confirmatory emails are required, Markos will send them off.

I'm wondering how viable solar is, specifically:

 * Is todays PV technology really good enough to make mass tiling of rooftops useful? What are the limits on PV production scalability? Does it scale to a whole nation? The world?

 * Do the recent announcements of holographic PVs which can focus light onto themselves change the equations much?

 * In areas of concentrated sunlight (eg deserts) does it make more sense to use heat engines (like Stirling) or focus the light onto PVs?

 * Does it make sense to envision a scheme which covers large areas of desert with solar collectors and ships the energy long-distance to national grids? Or is that really unworkable?


The Real Mike,

I can not help on the technical, but:

We have a ways to go. PG&E, which handles most electricity in central and northern California, has 10,000 solar customers out of 5,000,000 accounts. Now some solar is off line, but this is not very good at all. And they are secretly resisting by fighting solar subsidies - because ultimately they would be a much smaller business.

It is not in their quarterly returns business interest to go solar.

As I understand it, the primary, short-term roadblock to solar PV is price--it's still quite bit more expensive than the more common utility-scale sources.  I've seen lots of numbers thrown around, but it seems that 20 to 25 cent/kWh is about the best anyone can do right now.  (One of the major problems is the low conversion efficiency of the cells.  Most are in the 15% range, with the laboratory/coming some day versions around 25%.  Another issue is the relative high cost, in the thousands of $'s, for the additional circuitry needed to tie the installation into the grid.)

CSP (concentrating solar power), where parabolic dishes or troughs are used to concentrate sunlight onto pipes willed with a liquid, which is then used to turn a turbine, is actually more economical.  I just saw an article in Solar Today magazine claiming a cost of 11 cents/kWh, which is still high but at least it's in the ballpark.  The same article also said they expect it to become price competitive with fossil fuels.  (Although this prediction seems to be in the same class as those regarding the commercialization of fusion--they've been making the prediction for a long time and it never seems to get here.)

In order to make solar a major contributor to the US's electricity consumption, I think you need massive PV or CSP installations in a desert (and there are such projects in existence with more being built), or a pretty major breakthrough in the cost/kWh performance of PV's and the attendant systems.

Personally, I love the idea of solar PV or CSP, but it just doesn't make sense where I live (NE US).  I would love to have panels on the roof and show the neighbors how my meter runs backwards on sunny days!

Has anybody looked into the possibility of floating solar collectors above the cloud line (about 5km) using balloons? It seems plausible given the advanced state of modern materials science to have very light, very large (hundreds of meters on each side) mirrors flying like kites focussing light onto a traditional collector. Whether this is cheaper or not than covering desert areas with dishes, I have no idea ...
considering that solar pannels require silicon and some rare metals. large scale solar pannel deployments are not very likely. also making solar pannels without these materials have so far produced less efficent solar pannels.
I have been chasing solar power as a stirling engine guy for about 4 decades.  And of course I have been watching all the other people doing PV, solar thermal (steam, gas turbines, etc).  A few comments from my limited and narrow prospective.

1) Nothing but PV has had a reasonable amount of development money put into it- by reasonable I mean enough effort to hit the hard problems. And the PV people I talk to, who do the machines that make the wafers, tell me that it is not going to get much cheaper, despite all the talk.

2-Stirlings have been hampered by most money put on crank types, which have low mean time to failure, when the free piston types, which work a long time and are cheaper, have had very little effort put into them, and that mostly for military-space.

  1. Line focus steam systems work fine, and do the best so far, but they have a long way to go, and could go, but again, not enough funding to do it right.

  2. A lot of simple types of solar are not even being looked at.  For example, low temp organic rankine, using absorbers covering the sides of buildings.  My own bet is that these things would beat PV in $/watt by a good distance.  The technology is very well understood and we could make accurate predictions.  But to my knowledge, no significant work on it, except a while back on ocean thermal, which was not all that promising, no surprise, given the very low temp difference they had to work with.

I am certain sure somebody will jump in to stomp all over me and correct all the above mistakes. It won't bother me a bit. Have fun.  It's all in a good cause.  

And besides, technology ain't the solution anyhow. right. we all know that.

And besides, technology ain't the solution anyhow. right. we all know that.

you and i know that along with a few others here. though many here have had the false belief that 'humans can do anything if we put our minds to it and technology can solve anything' burned a little too deeply to shake it off.
The implication of the above two posts is that massive solar stations of either Stirling or PV design (never mind the ballons and attempts to construct a microwave oven around Earth) are going to be plugged into the grid and nobody will have to change anything (least of all their inefficient light bulbs).

Could a bridging step between scenarios be something like a small Home PV installation, the sole purpose of which is to run efficient house lights eg the new superbright LEDS OR other high light output low heat output device now emerging that also promise (or have) vastly increased lifetimes?

It will be, at least for me personally. My home PV system goes in next year, and I've already switched to CFT bulbs.
I think stirling to provide local power generation could be a very important part of our future.  Stirling can be adapted to use heat generated from stoves of various kinds as well.  Beyond that, I can think of many ways in which a source of mechanical energy would be useful, even beyond generating electricity.

Another thing to keep in mind is ease of maintenance, and use of more common materials.  At stirling setup could be designed to optimize those attributes as well.

Steam may be similar in these regards - traditional boilers turn me off, but that's not the only way.

There seems to be a paucity of news re the US bombing Iran.  A flurry of stories and then nothing.  But what's going on in the bowels of the Pentagon?

Can anyone recommend sites that are covering this and pulling together all the relevant stories? (Juan Cole seems to mostly stick to Iraq.)

I'm sure many here will agree that such a move (whether we use nuclear or not) would likely send oil prices through the ceiling overnight.  One of those "Kiss your life-style good by!"  moments.  Not to mention the horrendous mid and long term ramifications.  

BTW,  Steve Forbes recently won this year's  Dumbest Statement by a White Male on Fox TV Award.  This is a coveted prize because of the high level of competition.   Forbes wins hands down though  

>>> He said if we bomb Iran, the price of oil will go DOWN.  

i caught a few minutes of "meet the press" and newt gingrich was on ... pushing all the buttons.  calling the iranian president a "dictator" and so on.  amazing that things like that don't get a fact check from the host.  (at least as i understand it, the guy was elected, and does not enjoy absolute power.)



Look up the definition of DICTATOR:

From Cheney Webster Troglodyte edition:

"Dick --Tater,  the leader (elected or not)  of any country with significant oil reserves who doesn't grovel before the US."

You will notice that Putin has lately moved into DickTaterdom also, even though Dubya once famously looked deep into Putin's soul and saw the requisite grovel.  Poor Dubya, another one he got wrong.

not to mention the unfortunate similarity of the words "dictator" and "decider."
I think you have that slightly wrong.  W looked into Putins eyes and said here is a man I can trust. Then Putin looked into W's Eye's and thought with a smirk what a frikken idiot, This will be like taking candy from a baby.
Ahh, thanks for that - needed a good chuckle today!
"No matter what they say, it's still about oil"

"We are now witnessing another fear-inducing barrage of propaganda mirroring the exaggeration and deception that led to the ongoing debacle in Iraq. This time the target is Iran, with the same underlying but unspoken rationale: continuing control of worldwide trade of oil in U.S. dollars and its production in pliant and friendly hands."


Im very much a newbie here and I find a lot of stuff really relevant to what I have been uneasy about for a long time, I find it hopeful that there are people on this forum with such a huge range of knowledge between them about the coming crisis and after.
I am 70. I retired ten years ago and bought a rural cottage with a few acres and a stream in the West of England.
I grow my own vegetables, make my own bread from locally milled flour, I have a wood burner supplied with fuel from my own ground which heats part of the house.  I have low energy light bulbs and a small generator for short emergencys. I can  either filter water from the stream and store it in a 360 gallon tank or I can pump it out of a borehole. Sewage is via septic tank
The stream has waterfalls and is strongly flowing in the winter and less so in the summer. to give a rough idea of its  strength, my neighbour uses it to run a  eight foot overshot waterwheel which pumps all his domestic water to his filter beds above his house.
I think my  vulnerable spots are background central heating (oil would you believe) and electricity.
I would like to extend my woodburning to cope with cooking and central heating plus hot water. Also if possible I would like to utilise the stream to generate electricity via a waterwheel or turbine.
I have not done this sort of stuff before although I did set up the water filter system.
We are still very much beginners in becoming more self reliant and leaving a small footprint. The supermarket still sees us every week as does the petrol station but we are moving in the right direction while making a lot of mistakes
Can anyone point me towards helpful links that would assist in getting some info about what I should be doing re turbines and wood fired central heating?  
Many thanks, keep on with the great discussion.
that all sounds great.  i'm not an expert, and might not have the best link, but maybe i can get you started.  Real Goods is a US company, but their web pages might work as an information source:


they have info pages on hydro:



Thanks Odograph, thats very helpful
Indeed!  Thank you, Odograph. Very helpful link.
chuckles as he looks through the product list
made in china etc.
who wants to bet the shipping alone to get it to the united states outweigh any benifet you may gain from them.
don't heavy cargo ships provide the most energy efficient transport in the world?  (energy/pound-mile)

don't they also operate on low grade bunker fuels that are not currently used for other US operations?

Pipelines are the most energy efficient transportation mode, then water, then rail.

Bunker fuels are also used to generate electricity (examples Hawaii, Puerto Rico).

cool.  i was thinking of mfg goods from asia above, but i'll take what i can get by pipeline.

people say "end of shipping" now and then.  i think they are working from the wrong end.  the least efficient and critical uses of fuel (weekend jet-ski fests, etc.) go first.  the most efficient and most necessary go last.

Auxiliary sail and slower speeds could lower specific oil consumption by ships.    And oversized nuclear powered ships (say container, or bulk) could maintain trade links as well.

Russia is trying to steal shipping tonnage from Japan & Korea to the EU from shipping via Suez to the Trans-Siberian rail line.

the sail options for large ships do not look right to me.  i think that is because the sail area to mass ratio is so far out of line with past examples (be they small yachts or even the big lumber schooners we had on the west coast).  i guess i can be not-lazy and try to look some things up ...

the Cutty Sark, a fine example of sail cargo carrier massed  963 tons and had a sail area of 32000 sq ft

i don't know much about container ships, but surfing i see gross tonnages 20,000 to 100,000 tons.

the artist's conceptions don't show enough sail, even as an auxilary.

(but again, this is off the wrong end.  high fuel prices will stop air transport of luxury foods before it stops sea transport of durable goods.)

You want a turbine with a controller which can channel its output to a "dump load".  In your case, this should probably be a resistance heater in your hot-water tank.  Use the hot water both for washing and for space heating (baseboard radiators).  If the tank becomes too warm, a relay should channel the power to an outdoor heater to dissipate it harmlessly.

You may need extra heat in the winter.  A water coil in the flue of a small wood stove should supply this easily.

If TSHTF, there will be a lot of un-fed animals running around looking for something to eat and not concerned about who it belongs to.  As a filthy violent American, I suggest that you get yourself a fowling piece to protect against vermin from both the countryside and cities.

Good Stuff and V helpful. Also liked the advice about what to do if TSHTF
If you and your neighbor want to harness the water fall for electricity, please contact me at Alan_Drake@Juno.com

You can sell it now for money (good I hope) and hopefully to the end of your days.  And if society falls apart, a local supply is a good thing.

Best Hopes,


This is my first post, so I'd just like to say hello to everyone.  TOD has become my favorite energy site, and I'd like to thank everyone involved for making such a great contribution to the information available on the internet.

In response to your question, Aluk, I'd suggest that you join the Yahoo group "Runningonempty2."  The current focus of the group is peak oil preparation.  Most of the folks there expect a quick crash within the next few years, which may not be your position.  Nonetheless, there is an incredible amount of good information, and most posters are very knowledgeable and generous with their comments.

Thanks Barb, I'll head over there.
I have been reading TOD for the past year and have been constantly impressed with the quality and scope of the topics and analysis covered. This has been an eyeopening year of discovery and readjusting of future plans. Thank you for the time and efforts you invest to get this information out to the people to use.

Now for my question. Has anyone done a study of each countries oil imports in 1999, add to that the expected increase they would normally have each year under normal prices. Compare that expected increase with what they actually imported in 2005. This would show where the demand destruction is occurring(due to high prices) and where the extra oil is coming from to fuel the increase in use by China, India, USA, and other growing economies. Thank you and keep up the good work.


This is interesting: first (yes?) biodiesel from algae as a commercial enterprise.

They are only talking about miniscule amounts to start but you could see a future where every town's sewage works is a 'refinery' producing clean water and biodiesel as byproducts of the same process.



You were looking for sites that had information on the adminstrations use of nukes against Iran.  

I have found that the Asia Times carries a lot of comments in this area.   http://www.atimes.com/
I usually check it once or twice a week