DrumBeat: May 25, 2006

Now for some wise words from the readers of The Oil Drum...

[editor's note, by Yankee] Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma has a blog at the New York Times. Today's post is rather similar to Robert Rapier's ethanol post from yesterday in that it argues that corn-based ethanol is a waste of our time. He didn't mention, however, that at best corn-based ethanol could only make up 19% of the gasoline supply (so I left a link to Robert's post in the comments). Still, it's good that someone linked to the MSM is trying to debunk the corn-based E85 hysteria.

A copy of a late post from yesterday's Drumbeat.  I think it is worthy of further discussion.
I took your analysis a step further, in part as a response to GW and in part as a response to a likely decline in a major economic input.

Couple electrification with MUCH higher efficiency,

Diesel 18 wheelers take 8 times as much fuel as diesel railroads to move a ton-mile (gross #s from 2002).

An electric RR (with regenerative braking) uses about 1/3 the non-oil energy of a diesel RR.

Shifting half the freight ton-miles from 18 wheelers to electric RR in a decade seems like a workable goal.  Growing RR freight by 9%-11% per year is doable.  Russian rates of electrification of existing RRs are doable and probably twice as fast.

Electric Urban Rail creates it's own ridership over time.  It alters the urban form away from sprawl with "natural" market forces.  It's called TOD (Transit Orientated Development).

As with freight RRs, major savings directly.  Perhaps 1/12th the energy (non-oil) to commute by Light Rail than by car/SUV.  But double that savings with changes in urban development.

The electricity demands to cut US Oil concumption by 10% are likely less than 2% of our total electricity used.  Small enough to be "created" by slightly better conservation or new wind turbines.

OTOH, plug in hybrids have no associated efficiency gains, other than a shift to smaller cars.  Batteries lose energy when stored and add weight to move around.

Plug-in hybrids are a "half measure" and they should be, IMO, a minor supplement to a major thrust for electric RRs and MUCH more Urban Rail,  Plug-in hybrids, because they are not a significant step up in efficiency, are less sustainable and this will lead to further problems in a generation.

We will soon be engaged in a race between the decling volumes of oil that we can afford and our demand for oil while maintaining a reasonable level (severe recession ?) of economic activity.

Gains of 24:1 are likely to be much more important than 3:2 and 2:1 gains.

Many have doubted that railroads could take the load from the highways.  I am surprised at this.

People can hypothesize dozens or hundreds of CTL plants, but have trouble getting their heads around the concept of putting back double tracks which were torn up a few decades ago for a lower property tax single track.

AFAIK, there are shared triple tracks in Wyoming serving the coal fields.  The US standard railroad ROW is 100' wide.  One can do a lot in that space.

On a macro level, in 2002 railroads carried 27.8% of the ton-miles; highways 32.1%.  If half of the highway ton-miles were switched from highway to rail in a decade; railroads would have to grow the "normal" growth in our economy + a compounded 4.7% to take half of the trucking ton-miles in ten years.  My goals are, if anything, too modest !

The rail capacity problems of today are "bottlenecks".  Most lines have excess capacity.  And simply adding more tracks will help with that.

"Coal is clogging our railroads, they can barely handle the load".

I live close to what I have been told is the world's busiest railroad bridge.  I have never seen a coal train on it.  Lots of containers, tank cars, boxcars, grain cars, automobiles, piggy back truck trailers, lumber, steel, etc. but zero coal.

The railroad business is much more than hauling coal.

I just had a "power lunch" w/ some senior members of my RR.  I was asking about the capital spending projects underway re: laying new track.  He did acknowledge that we are go back and adding second main tracks to some heavily congested areas, mainly coming out of the west and moveing east.  There is a giant double mainline tack being laid from LA it loops down through AZ, TX, and come back north to Kansas City.  This is the largest track project currently.

In addition he said we have a monopoly on the tracks that are coming out of most ALL ethanol plants.  This was done roughly 3 years ago and our tracks are connected directly to many, many refineries.  As he said, "you can't pipe ethanol."  I didn't know if that was true, so I left it alone.

Lastly he said LNG is not an option, at least from a RR standpoint and he went on the knock it for what it was.  He also said we've been moving heavy equipment up to Alaska in anticipation of a need.  I wonder how soon we'll have that "need."

Ethanol cannot be piped for several reasons.
  1. It tends to separate in the presence of moisture.
  2. It is a powerful stripping agent, and tends to remove corrosion and similar debris in pipelines, which ends up in the liquid.
I did the smile and nod when he said it...thanks for the info.
1. It tends to separate in the presence of moisture.

Well actually no. The problem is it doesn't tend to separate. Water and ethanol are mutually soluble in all mixtures. So the water is just taken up by the EtOH and goes merrily along with it. Hydrocarbons do not mix with water, which can be separated from the stream by a simple sump, a low place in the pipe, whatever. (I'm not intimate with pipeline technology but do have a bit of lab experience)

As for (2), all that wet ethanol tends to rust things. That, and even anhydrous ethanol is a polar solvent, which has more of a tendency to remove lubricants and coatings or soften them to where they no longer stay in place.

You have to make all your pipelines and equipment out of different materials than you do for hydrocarbons. Since it's kinda expensive to replace thousands of miles of pipe, they'll just truck it. There will be this interval of time while TPTB come to their senses, and they can truck the ethanol for that long. Or TPTB won't come to their senses, and the whole system will collapse. In which case they can also stop trucking the ethanol.

OTOH, I believe synthetic- or bio-diesel, can go through existing pipes without much trouble.

Thank you for the more complete answer, DIY. I was going from memory and layman's understanding, which as we all know is sometimes not entirely up to snuff.
Ka Ching!  How long do you think we can keep a charade of promising this as the best alternative?  Some variables I see are the subsidy currently making it "viable."  Keep in mind we were subsidizing the oil co's even as they have been earning.  SO I think the subsidy can go on for a long long time.  Also the 30% reduction in mileage should wake a whole lotta people up. It won't until people are actually using it.
Did the topic of electrification come up ?

BTW, I would like to forward an eMail copy of my conference handout to you.

Please send me an eMail at Alan_Drake@Juno.com

Regarding electrification, one emergying technology that may be of interest here is the zinc-air fuel cell which Engineer-Poet has written about in his own blog.  He discussed the possibility of using this in a railroad locomotive:


He did some back of the envelope calculations down in the comments to see if the idea was even close to doable, and on paper it might be plausible.  I don't recall offhand what the efficiency is of these things.

My point is that if such a thing were to work, you could effectively have an electrified railroad without the need to string overhead wires.

You would need the electric locomotives, of course.  In actuality railroad locomotives are already electric - in theory you might even be able to adapt a diesel locomotive so that it can draw electricity from they fuel cell instead of from the diesel generator, but I don't know whether the actual designs they use could easily be adapted in this fashion - given that they weren't designed to be used in this fashion there might be other problems.

You would also need the fuel cell itself (presumably in a car of its own), and finally you would need the infrastructure to recharge the fuel cells with electricity.

"Emerging technology", "New Infrastructure"


We do NOT have time for delays for something that MIGHT be better (but probably won't be) !

One can ride on electric trains from London to the Pacific Ocean !  TODAY !

It has been done, the problems are solved, we have a century of operating experience in every climate, it is "off the shelf" technology, it is affordable, it is VERY efficient, it is environmentally benign and it is about the quickest alternative that can be implemented !

I also do not understand the need to redesign that which is already existing and effective.  OK, sure, we might be able to improve it - but when will we implement it?  Time's a' wasting - let's just get to work.  
I tossed it out as an idea that I thought interesting, that's all.  No need to jump down my throat about it.  And for that matter, it has been suggested that some locations like marshalling yards wouldn't be good candidates for electrification with overhead wires.

The problem is that despite what any of us say here, nothing at all is happening in this area.  Next week the situation will be exactly the same as it is today.  A month from now it will almost certainly be the same.  And there is a good chance that a year from now the situation will be unchanged.

We can say let's get to work, but until the railroads develop an interest in this, nothing is going to happen.  State and local authorities might be able to do some things to incentivize the railroads.  Federal authorities might in theory also incentivize them, but I just don't see that happening given who is in charge now.  And despite all of this, it will still have to be the railroads that decide to change their way of doing things.

So what exactly should we be doing??

So what exactly should we be doing??

I don't know, bitching and moaning and getting frustrated, which is what I was doing - sorry to take it out on you.  

I developed a handout for the Peak Oil & Environment conference in DZC and handed out 263 of them.  I send about 5 electronic versions out each week to retired politicans, columnists, professors, think tanks, etc.

Send me an eMail at Alan_Drake@Juno.com for a copy to send out as well if you like. (Anyone is welcome ! :-)

I am working for more streetcars here in New Orleans and developing some theories for their use and route planning.  Plus more local recovery work whereever I can.

Pushing my agenda here, which I think will grow in influence over time.

I am pushing long odds, I know.  But if I DON'T try, the odds are still longer.

I figure several thousand hours of my effort (+ money) will have a >1% and less than <5% chance to impact public policy in some positive way.

I accept that "cost" and odds.

Yeah, I know - I was there when you were handing all those things out at the meeting in DC.  Long odds but worth the effort.  In reality, I am just trying to think of ideas that can get things moving more quickly.

Is there any chance that Canadian railroads might be more amenable than the U.S. railroads to electrification?

Some marshalling yards are electrified, some not.

Earlier this year, France made a commitment to electrify their yards and small branch lines.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) running 68 miles (109km) from London to Channel Tunnel is the first major new railway to be laid in UK for 100 years.  The majority of the link opened in 2003; the final section into central London will be largely in new tunnels and opens in 2007; Eurostar services use existing tracks into central London meantime.

If it's possible to construct such a high speed link (300 km/hr) in a crowded part of SE England constructing more traditional tracks (say 130 km/hr) in rural parts of US should present few problems given necessary political will.  Details of CTRL here: http://www.lcrhq.co.uk/

Alan I like the rail for long haul.  If we are facing an energy crunch then we need an economical solution quickly.  Looking at the local MAX here in the Portland area I don't think that the time or money is available when the realization of what we are up against gets in the MSM.  I'm convinced that electric busses are the most viable short term solution.  We already have the roads.  We need wire and buses.  Rail- needs a lot of steel, house comdemnation, it will take too much and get done too late.  
I find it interesting how so many posters think that we will have mass migration and end of surburbia at the same time.  Where are all the migrators going to live?  In the burbs of sustainable areas (near Agriculture) I think.  There is not going to be a 1 size fits all solution to this.
I am strongly pro-electric trolley buses.  Although they use more electricity than comparable rail.

Portland streetcar (I took a course at Portland State University) has some very good ideas on quick cheap streetcar tracks. Not heavy enough for Light Rail.

From memory, $300/foot and three weeks per block.

I had dinner with an LTK consultant in Portland.  He agreed that if the process was changed, they could cut years off the process of designing and getting OKs for a new light rail line.  Costs down at least 30%.

Hand-in-hand with more funding for Urban Rail needs to come drastic reform of the process.  We could learn much from the French in that regard.

Portland can get the Green Line (Light Rail) built within a couple of years, and then the line to Milwaukee (spelling) after that.  Meanwhile the streetcars will go far south down river and both sides of the river.  We will hopefully be in just the early stages of post-Peak Oil by then.

The line to Vancouver, with a new Columbia River bridge in all probability, is going to a problem.

What other Light Rail plans are on the conceptual drawing boards of Portland ?

In your opinion, as a resident, will these MAX & streetcar lines above, once completed, be "enough" with some buses ?

Alan, I know that rail is best (steel on steel)its just the time and cost factors as we face PO.  I'm assuming that there will be some contraction in travel either by moving closer to work or just because it is too expensive that alot of "nessessary" travel today will not happen. More at home time/less soccer mom - so a tentative maybe.  I agree with you about the techno-fix-ation that so many people have.  There is so much older low power technology out there that we can use right now- with the nec. updating.  betting on lab scale tech at this time could be a disaster.
I believe that the crunch will not hit us AT PO but rather when we are -1% post-PO.

Texas had two years after PO before they saw more than a trivial decline.

For now, I am still promoting Urban Rail with my "Step #3" being more trolley buses.

I see ETBs as being the quick fix AFTER the crunch hits.  Till then, I will talk more about the "better solution".  

Quite frankly, the body politic is not willing to "buy into" a doomer, quick crash scenario.  I think Urban Rail sells better than ETBs in todays world.

I think we defer only in strategy and timing details.

Hello AlanFromBigEasy,

I can only hope that when the US finally gets serious about meaningful mitigation and conservation: that you will finally be recognized as the right man with the correct plan to get this all jumpstarted.  I truly hope, for all our sakes, that you will soon get overloaded with consulting offers for RRs and mass-transit.  =)

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

A Request:  how about a discussion of Canadian Tar Sands versus Venezuelan Very Heavy Oil?

I believe that everyone would classify the tar sands as unconventional.  The very heavy oil in Venezuela seems to be in a twilight zone between conventional and  
unconventional.   The common connection between the two is that they are hugely capital and energy intensive, combined a low production rate relative to the capital cost.  


The Orinoco bitumen is far more unconventional than conventional. It is simply tar that must be mined just like the tar sands. There is an estimate of 1,200 Gb of the stuff of which 22%, or 267 Gb is considered recoverable.

The stuff is extremely high in gravity, 8 to 10 API, high in sulfur content, 3.5%, and high in metal content, vanadium and nickel. This all means that it would be extremely expensive to refine it into any kind of motor fuel, but it could be done.


Right now the best and most economical use of the Orinoco bitumen is to use it for boiler fuel. They mine the stuff, mix it with water and dump it right into the boiler. Of course that dumps a lot of sulfur dioxide and heavy metals into the atmosphere, not to mention C02. But some countries simply don't care.


Hello Darwinian,

Terrific link! Considering the present values of metals, you would think it would be cost effective, besides environmentally smart, to harvest these metallic elements instead of just spewing them into the atmosphere.  Seems like a huge opportunity being bypassed by some enterprising chem. eng. outfits.  Maybe it is attributable to the increasngly onerous business conditions that Chavez is creating inside Venezuela.

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

Speaking of harvesting metallic elements, I have often wondered whether our US garbage stream might not be a richer source of, say, tungsten or tantalum than some of the deposits exploited by the extraction industries.

Why do we just throw away stuff that was wrung from the earth with such effort?

landfills: they're not gone, just resting.
I suppose we know where most of the landfills are?  You think we're going to be ripping up golf courses?
I'm thinking long timescales.  The short-term thing to do is to make sure you capture/use landfill methane.  Longer term, if in several decades, or a few centuries, who's to say they won't be valuable resources?
I think some landfills are already being mined/reclaimed for the metals and such in them.  A landfill that was closed here a number of years ago makes about $1 million worth of electricty (which goes directly to the metro sewage district plant).
Do you think PO is mainly an american problem?
I think any society that uses "O" will see change with "PO" ... probably proportional to their per-capita consumption?
I think everyone would agree that PO is a world problem.  The thing about America is that it is exposed in unique ways to the problems associated with PO.  A couple of examples...

  1. The US uses the most oil per capita

  2. The US imports the most oil

  3. The US has had traditionally low gasoline prices, so the increase in crude prices affects the US consumer's outlay at a higher percentage.

  4. The US economic/transportation model relies more on low fuel prices than other developed countries.

Of course, the US has some unique advantages in dealing with PO:

  1. The US has opportunities for conservation, because it has up-until-now been so wasteful in their energy use for transportation.

  2. The US prints dollars

  3. The US has the world's dominant military
On the front of the Financial Times there is this:
The U.S. accounts for 70 per cent of world corn exports.
There is a lot of info about oil/energy at TOD, but it still seems to me that the translation to info on food is less clear. If TSHTF the U.S. will not be exporting this corn. Will the world say that the Russians and Venezuelans are starving the world by not exporting enough oil or whatever?
Canada imports 20% of its annual corn consumption from the US, mainly or exclusively for livestock feed.  Amazingly, Canadians came to the conclusion that US corn was being subsidised and dumped in Canada at below its cost. Canada imposed temporary import duties, which were [http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/crs/RS22434.pdf
 lifted earlier this year] on the finding of "lack of harm".
USA is still the centre of the world economy. Any large problem for the USA economy is a problem for the world.

Perhaps it's more appropriate to describe the US economy as "The Ghawar of Economies."

Actually, Europe and the USA are of similar size currently.
That is why the USA was provided with the glut of oil and gas just after Katrina demolished the oil production in the GOMEX. Recall the drop in prices at the pump? recall that oil had dropped to the low 60's? Europe quickly saw that when the USA sneezes, Europe will get a cold, and quite possibly the rest of the world.
Don't know if this has been discussed, but this is a very good article.  I think that Richard is dead on right.


Published on 25 May 2006 by Museletter / EB. Archived on 25 May 2006.

Energy Geopolitics 2006
by Richard Heinberg


 The neocons' efforts have meanwhile squandered immense amounts of fiscal, political, and diplomatic capital. And these efforts have played out (not coincidentally) as global energy streams are drying up. America's power elites bet the farm on the neocons and lost. There can be no second chance. A recovery of America's former position of unquestioned dominance, enjoyed until only years ago, is simply not in the cards. The best that can be hoped for is a partial re-consolidation based on withdrawal and reconciliation abroad, and massive inflation at home. This is a reversal of truly historic proportions.

As an American it's embarrassing to watch the Bush administration play a hand it doesn't have. The long term costs will be large.

America's power elites bet the farm on the neocons

I disagree with that in the sense that the elites bet on themselves, not politicians. Bush has made two gigantic policy mistakes: his audacious deficit spending, and the Iraq war, both of which will cause much long term suffering. Beyond that, I don't think Gore / Kerry administrations would have fared much better. Gore can release a very relevant movie and produce a funny monologue for SNL about what could have been, but in reality, it wasn't going to happen: with Gore as president his hands would have been tied by the demands of the elites and the public as much as anyone else. The kinds of proactive solutions we wish for on theoildrum wouldn't have been any easier. I can't see president Gore saying after 9-11 "I'm going to put 1 trillion dollars over the next 10 years into alternative energy research and infrastructure in order to preserve national security and the future for coming generations." I wish I could.

"I can't see president Gore saying after 9-11"

I apologize in advance for mentioning things that are not supposed to be discussed on TOD, but I cannot let this remark go without comment.  There is no possibility in any imaginary alternative timeline that Gore would have been president after 9/11.  That is why Liberman was the VP candidate, he was plan B for the neocons.  If Gore had been installed as putative figurehead president, he would have been scheduled to be in a meeting in the top of WTC1 when the plane hit.

It makes you wonder whether in 50 years America will have just phase-shifted back into the frugal isolationism that has made up at least half its history.  "Just leave us alone" - Puritans, Mormons, and Hippies.  The country really does have a underlying double nature, despite its apparent historical domination by get-rich-quick types. Take away the opportunity to get rich, and who knows what majority sentiment might reappear?  
"A recovery of America's former position of unquestioned dominance, enjoyed until only years ago, is simply not in the cards."

I admire Heinberg's work a lot, but I think that, in saying the above, he is vastly underestimating both US military superiority, and its decisive longterm significance.  And he is also underestimating the ruthlessness and barbarism of the US ruling elite - which is a bit surprising, given that he's a confirmed 9/11 conspiracy theorist.

It's true that in the short- to medium-term, the US will be hampered in exercising its military preponderance by the failure in the way the neo-cons have gone about things these past six years, and by the deep rifts this has produced within the ranks of the ruling elites themselves.  In the long run, though, these rifts will get sorted out behind the scenes, the American populace will become more tolerant of elite ruthlessness than it is now on account of increasing economic desperation, as well as increasingly fascistic measures employed to stifle dissent.  The US ruling elite will then be able to employ its military dominance in devastingly destructive ways so as to restore itself to a position of unquestioned global dominance.  (by "in the long run," I am talking about a time-scale on the order of two decades or so.)

Military strength is entirely dependent on economic strength. Pas d'argent, pas de suisses.
You got that right. Phil thinks it is 1956.
The Vietnamese did not have economics on their side and neither did we in the Revolutionary war.  Military strength comes from the determination to fight.
The home field advantage means a lot. The average person will fight harder in defense of their land.
This is bullshit. The average person fights for their comrade or their family. Nothing else. Fighting for an ideal is an extremely advanced subject. Most don't do it. Hence 1984. 1939. Stalin. Surely you get the point. I'll be helping my brother-in-law hump gravel and tiles to build a patio this weekend. We wanna get done on Saturday so we can watch the Indy 500 on Sunday. All Hondas. All Firestone. Rootin' for Danica. How can you not? (Lookin' for Al Unser, Jr. to place).

Get real. EVERY engine at Indy this year is a Honda. Who Are We Kidding?

When you are invaded your family is at risk.Most people you know are supporting the fight. On the other hand, when you (or your mercenary force) are always invading and then subsequently trying to subdue the invaded it is a lot harder. Look at the US soldiers in Iraq. It is a paycheque. If they said tomorrow-we're leaving most of them would be glad. It isn't a paycheque for the invaded, it wasn't a paycheque for the invaded in Vietnam.

  Most modern mercenaries are either bodygaurds or snatch/steal/kill raiders very short missions.  They don't invade they perform really dangerous missions for lots of money.  Most soldiers in Iraq make less than an assistant manager at McDonalds (who probably gets laid more) and are not in it for the money.


I haven't watched the Indy 500 in years. You must be joking about every engine being a Honda? If you are, I don't get it.  
Maybe you will watch it this year. I've never found Indy to be anything but a positive experience. It is a race. Who doesn't like races? Like the Derby, except much, much longer. More interesting history than the Boston Marathon. 228 Miles per hour average on the front row. That's insane. Years ago they altered the track to slow the cars down. These things are fighter planes. I don't care what anyone says, these cars are the ultimate experiment in carbon-fuel-burning efficencies.

F1, which personally I consider a higher form than American racing has a proposed engine modification to 1.6 liters. Think about how small that is.

Actually, you survived the revolutionary war thanks entirely to the French. Forgetting their own wise proverb, they ran up so huge a debt defending you that it led to their own revolution.
Yup, but we don't like to think about that.
We have very little of that, presently.
There is no huge upswelling of popular grassroots support for global hegemony or resource wars here.  
Will Americans fight to keep their shopping malls and SUVS and  suburban sprawl?  Maybe. Time will tell, I suppose.

But to be brutally honest, the US military is stretched awful thin presently. I see this fact daily.

Few understand that although incredibly broad and even if it enjoys primacy on the planet the american military has little depth and there are many things and cannot do, some due to political reasons and rest just nature of the beast. Defense of one's homeland is a different animal entirely from taking someone else's from them. I have a suspicion part of the neocon play was under the assumption that even with a strong insurgency oil production could be protected and go forward and that turned out to be not the case at all, they didnt commit enough troops or resources, possibly due to plain hubris or possibly lessons learned from vietnam. Having committed an adequate number of troops to do the job right would have meant some serious serious consequences for failure and would have shortened the window for the money to flow into the war machine. A long protracted never ending conflict is the war machine's wet dream.........that part thus far has happened as planned. In the end when push comes to shove, he who has the last scraps of energy reserves calls the shots, my feeling is the US will not be able to pull it off, too many other problems to deal with. We dont have the stomach for wholesale brutal killing either, wish we had the stomach for wholesale meaningful changes here at home, seems that isnt on the table either.
All the US would have to do to reduce the rest of the world to stunned silence and cowering fear is to wipe one medium-sized country completely off the map.  They could do this, so to speak, with one hand tied behind their back if they wished, and without fear of military reprisal by any of their rivals.  Merely a single one one of the dozen or so state-of-the-art supercarrier battle groups that the US deploys on the high seas would be sufficient to incinerate whomever the US wishes to do so (with the possible exception of Russia and China).

In the past, I have argued that the eventual outcome in Iraq will involve the genocide of millions as a way of eliminating the insurgency and enabling the US to gain unrestricted access to the fossil fuel resources there.  I find it interesting that no one has seriously challenged me yet on this claim.  But I invite anyone who wishes to do so to do this, since I recognize that I might be wrong on this on at least two counts:

  1.  The US ruling elite is in fact NOT sufficiently ruthless to have it in them to do this; and

  2.  It would be a logistically infeasible endeavor anyhow.  No matter how many tens of millions of people the US killed in Iraq, the task of militarily protecting the colossal infrastructure that constitutes Iraq's oil industry would always be vulnerable to devastatingly disruptive terrorist attacks.

I claim, however, that 1 and 2 are both false - and I invite you, ladies and gentlemen, to fire away at these claims.
I had a notion one time that the debacle of the invasion actually turned out to be what the neo-cons actually needed/wanted -- to bottle up all the western reporters in the green zone, while our highly destructive military could pick-off all the jihadis that crawled in. Did this give them the "cover" of "we're losing" while the cleansing took place? It's not millions of people, but if the neocons wiped out tens of thousands of jihadi and jihadi converts then basically only the sheep are left.
> All the US would have to do to reduce the rest of the world to stunned silence and cowering fear is to wipe one medium-sized country completely off the map.

Fear yes, silency no.

> They could do this, so to speak, with one hand tied behind their back if they wished, and without fear of military reprisal by any of their rivals.

The economical and cultural reprisals could be quite damaging. What would it do for your self esteem to me buddies with Stalin? How would you handle a general unwillingness to trade with you?

You could even get subtle and damaging military reprisals in the form of "accidents" happening to shipments from people that are willing to trade with you.

> 1.  The US ruling elite is in fact NOT sufficiently ruthless to have it in them to do this; and

My bet is on the US ruling elite individuals to be greedy enough to wish to retire in a world where they can travel freely and enjoy the globe. They will probably also want to leave a functioning society to their heirs.

  #1 goes back to the will to do it.  To squash the insurgency you need a Sith Lord or a Roman general.  There is too much media out there to fight a genocidal battle.  Our politicians want reelection for themselves and their party.  It is terrible every time innocents are collateral damage on TV.  An intentional wiping genocide is not possible because even if the leaders had the will the public and the men firing the weapons do not.  Units like the SS take years to build and dehumanize, it takes small steps to become a monster.  There are plenty of service men and women who would stop their peers from commiting attrocities.

  #2  I think logistically we could pull it off.  For all our criticism of WMD's of all flavors we have the most and the best just like Baskin Robins.  

I think that the way he imagines it is to pull back everyone from Iraq and then nuke it. The good news is that even if someone is so ruthless to think of doing it, the same guy must be also incredibly stupid to even think he'll achieve something with it. In short you must be entirely crazy.

I don't believe our leaders are crazy, probably incompetent and mean but I trust in their sense of self-protection and their greed too. The entire idea is so idiotic that I don't even see the need to comment.

  I did not recomend nuking anyone.  Nukes would destroy any value the oil or other resources would have anyway.  Phil said dispute his two points.  I do not think we have leaders willing to be so ruthless.  I do think the cold war has left us with such a wide variety of inventions that should have never been invented that should such a roman general take control, all four horseman would ride.

So I am not suggesting in any way we nuke Iraq or any other country.  

"The entire idea is so idiotic that I don't even see the need to comment."  you did comment.  

"I think that the way he imagines it is to pull back everyone from Iraq and then nuke it."  I was thinking more along the lines of genetically engineered viri, in combination with vaccination of ourselves and allies.  Not a suggestion but a logistical possibility for the nation that spent enormously more on bioweapons than any other.

Gosh... I think it was obvious that I was commenting Phill's assertions in my post, not yours. I answered you, because your claim was that there will be resistance within the ordinary military to do that. I just think that if somebody in command is crazy enough to do it - they will be able to, using nukes. This is the danger of living in a world where someone can wipe out some country by pressing a single button.

Regarding the genetiacally modified virus... I hope nobody has invented such yet, and hope that never will. Just hopes ain't enough I guess...

Decades ago (under Carter), there was talk of the neutron bomb, which could kill civilians en masse while leaving infrastructure largely intact.  And the US has had thirty years since then to conjure up whole new generations of weapons that based on electromagnetism, laser technology, chemical warfare, biological warfare, etc., that have the same basic effect.  From time to time, one reads reports claiming that some of these have been clandestinely employed on an experimental basis on Iraq.

I am no expert on this, so I would be interested in having someone who is knowledgeable about these sorts of selectively destructive weapons systems comment on their potential to depopulate Iraq while leaving the oil infrastructure intact.

I have the least doubt that US can do it if it wanted. We humans have achieved remarkable progress in the technologies for killing each other, no doubt.

But the claim that we will do, or we intend to do it would require that totally insane people are collectively in charge now; I thing that needs much more proof than you provide.

Personally I don't see anything that even hints such a plan. And the plan is obviously the following:

  1. Go there
  2. Install pro-US govt
  3. Build permanent bases
  4. Fortify and leave the Iraqi govt to handle the insurgency.
  5. Intervene if things go bad or the govt is not obedient

It is inevitable that the resources of the insurgents will start to decline, and they will lose ground once US military presence is restricted within the bases. They will have to increasingly fight against iraqi people and kill civilians which will turn the whole population against them. Eventually they will lose ground, or at least that's what our startegists hope for.

Nothing even resembling genocide is on the horizon.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that things will devolve to the level of genocide tomorrow.  And the scenario you outline makes sense as something for US military planners to hope for - even at this juncture.  But the preponderance of historical evidence seems to suggest that it will be a vain hope, since the US presence in Iraq will incite more and more hatred over time, not less and less.  As such, the Iraqi puppets will never be able to gain control over the situation - even if a "divide and conquer" strategy were adopted that creates separate Shiite, Kurdish, and Sunni states.

Plus, the scenario you outline doesn't leave room for US corporations to access Iraq's oil reserves - something the US will desperately need at some point.  What I envision, therefore, is a slow grind towards virtually complete annihilation of the Iraqi population taking place over the next 15-20 years.  Meanwhile, the increasing imposition of fascism and the crushing of dissent here in the US will make the US populace impotent with regard to opposing the process.  Also, there is a trememdous degree to which the ugliness and violence can be concealed from public view - as is the case in Iraq even now.

As such, the Iraqi puppets will never be able to gain control over the situation - even if a "divide and conquer" strategy were adopted that creates separate Shiite, Kurdish, and Sunni states

Societies do not tolerate anarchy. If ordinary people find some (even intimidatind for them) chance for living in peace, they will fight for it badly. Even the hate towards US is no stronger than that. Hope I'm not mistaken about this one...  

Plus, the scenario you outline doesn't leave room for US corporations to access Iraq's oil reserves

Why? After things settle down a bit, Iraq will embrace the "democracy", which will be paired with "free market" and "private enterprise" - read the privatisation of the iraqi oil industry. Probably they will leave some parts to the locals so that they don't riot too much.

What I envision, therefore, is a slow grind towards virtually complete annihilation of the Iraqi population taking place over the next 15-20 years.

Even if we theoretically consider that possible, what will it help? Who will maintain the oil infrastructure? Who will guard it and the boundaries from the insurgents? How will US maintain its cooperation with the iraqi authorities and peace with its neighbors when they see what's happening? You are severely overestimating the US strength and its resources. How will 150 000 soldiers survive in the desert when 100 million around them rebel? It is a nutty idea and I wonder where you find the srtength to keep suppporting it.

The big historical counterexample to everything you say is, of course, Vietnam.  So far, developments in Iraq have broadly paralleled developments in Vietnam: It is an utter quagmire.  The US left Vietnam - after killing 3-4 million people and devastating the countryside and severely harming its own economy over nearly two decades - because controlling it did not in the final analysis serve a vital strategic purpose.  

The situation is quite different in Iraq: Several absolutely vital strategic purposes are at stake there, and I think it is safe to say that the US has no intention of leaving or relinquishing control there under any circumstances.

So basically what I see is an irresistible force (US military might) meeting an immovable wall (Iraqi resistance - why should this be any less tenacious and enduring than in Vietnam?).  Only in this case, the wall can be moved by blowing up the entire structure (i.e., the Iraqi population).

As to whether it is logistically feasible for the US to secure the Iraqi oil fields at some stage, I am hoping that someone with some kind of insider experience or information on such matters can comment about that.

The big difference is that in Vietnam we were supposedly fighting a war and the civilians were "collateral damage".

Here we supposedly don't fight any war. "Mission accomplished", remember? Nothing to allow us bombing of villages and cities without consequences. On the contrary - much worse - for every civilian we kill, there will be 10 Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans, Saudis, Syrians etc. etc. joining the resistance. Net tovarisht, our goal here is exactly the opposite: minimize civilian loss, so that our puppet government can bring some peace for the oil companies to operate. Insurgency is bad for business.

"Plus, the scenario you outline doesn't leave room for US corporations to access Iraq's oil reserves"

Iraq's constitution has some odd quirks - basically installing  free market access to oil via Paul Bremmer's 100 Rules.

A couple of alternet articles have covered it in more or less detail if your are interested:


Even though the Iraqi state oil co maintains nominal control of Iraq's oil these 100 rules (the kind of regulations multinational corporations have wetdreams about) mean that US oil giants can get both Iraqi oil and oil contracts quite easily.


Thanks for your post; I was aware of these, and they go a long way toward showing that US access to the oil itself IS one of the central aims involved in the US presence.  These measures by Bremer lay the legal framework for this, but that is something very different from actually having unhindered physical access.  That type of physical access is clearly absent now, and the question is how drastically violent the measures will have to be that ultimately gain the US this unhindered physical access.
free market access
This rule (from the prior post), does it also mean that the Iraqis would get all the money from the trade? In other words, is it fair in the sense that we make a rule that says "you must sell us your oil at a reasonable price"?
Its very one sided.

I'm not an expert but from what I've seen the rules basically outlaw a lot of what any socialist democracy (or even capitalist republic) might choose to do with their oil revenues / resources.

As I understand the situation it is actually illegal for the Iraqi gov't to institute a windfall profits tax for instance. Corporate tax is 15% flat and fixed and written into the constitution. Illegal to favour local co's over foreign co's, etc.

So if you define 'free market' as 'open slather for multinationals to plunder at will' then yeah its a free market.


''...I was thinking more along the lines of genetically engineered viri, in combination with vaccination of ourselves and allies.  Not a suggestion but a logistical possibility for the nation that spent enormously more on bioweapons than any other.''.

Dont give them Ideas, they have black enough souls already...

This little demon has to be the most cost effective way to resolve the USA's problems, The 'non-negotiable way of life', Solves PO, Solves GW, Solves rivalry.

I have no doubt that such musings have occured. If they can occur here, then they can surely occur in the corridors of power.

Gaia may have other plans though. Viri tend to mutate.
The Russians still have ICBM's.


Hello Mudlogger,

Jay Hanson, years ago, speculated [but never advocated] on the efficacy of a elite-induced Pandemic Powerdown.  The threads, at Dieoff_Q&A archives and elsewhere, entail virtually endless discussion of the pros & cons of Russian, US, etc: massive funding of BSL 4 Biolabs, Robert Preston's books, bioweaponeers, Ken Alibek, weaponized GM ebola-smallpox...ad infinitum. A very mind-bending and horrific topic to Google--no wonder Jay had to withdraw to maintain his sanity.

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

I know. Its the easiest route. Solves a multitude of problems.(for the one and only winner).

It is such an obscene topic I wondered if it would ever get aired, (well spotted OilRigMedic), Before I posted, I decided to go and walk the dog. I wondered If this should be reiterated.

I had not really bothered much with this particular area until I heard the 'non-negotiable way of life' speech.

OilRigMedic is wrong in one respect (you there medic?):

Forget the allies, they would be future rivals. The problem would be ensuring the survivors know nothing about it,one nation writes the history,and the winners have no potential rivals.

With no prior, my daughter worked this out on a long car journey. Icy cold logic seems to be her forte. She raised a few caveats:

  1. You cannot get caught (it would even tear the winners apart)
  2. Better still: appear as a (caring, but useless) savior.
  3. Gotta be quick (somebody might work out whats going on and prepare a final riposte)
  4. Secure dangerous facilities (like nukes with dead operators)

There will be some people reading this site that are completely repulsed by this turn of direction in this string. But I bet its already been wargamed in the corridors of power.

Dorme Bien.

Since we've broached the morbid topic of germ warfare, I think everyone (who has a strong stomach) should read this:

The Demon In The Freezer
How smallpox, a disease of officially eradicated twenty years ago,
 became the biggest bioterrorist threat we now face.


   The potential of genetic engineering, cloning and DNA manipulation has such promise to be a good thing.  Yet the evils that could be wrought with it are almost infinite.  I can't remember where but some research facility designed a virus that only killed albino fruit flies.  I'll find the reference will I work tonight but think abiout the implications.  A virus that is gene specific could wipe out a select group.  The above poster mentioned mutations and I agree, madness and genocide motivate someone to open pandoras box and the next thing you know my dog is king of the world.
   "V for Vendetta" had one aspect of this...the government released the virus on themselves, then blamed terrorists.  The world had sympathy for them.  I don't think point 4 is predictable.  Dying military commanders might launch just to see the fireworks, and if a whole nation is fairing much better cynical minds think alike.

"Forget the allies, they would be future rivals. The problem would be ensuring the survivors know nothing about it,one nation writes the history,and the winners have no potential rivals."

There will always be war and rumors of war.  I don't remember if that is in the bible or a greek philosopher.  Just about every evil imaginable has been wargamed and developed by the cold war superpowers.  And now it sits in dark vaults aging like wine.

There will always be war and rumors of war.  I don't remember if that is in the bible or a Greek philosopher.

book of Revelations.
according to those who follow this piece of fiction written during roman times about 100 ce(common era) or so . it's part of the description of what the end-times will be like. though it better fits as a warning to Christians against being swayed by roman power.
At the risk of being pedantic:  The phrase "war and rumors of war" is from Jesus' "Olivet discourse" shortly before his crucifixion - during which, among other things, he predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple.  See Mt 24.
it does not matter if it is fiction or something a philosopher said....there (for the next 2000 years) will always be war and rumors of war barring total die-off.

Only the dead have seen the end of war- Plato

What is going on now with AIDS in Africa could be said to meet many of these. (I'm not saying that I buy into the "AIDS was a milgov expt. gone bad) but rather to say that to do nothing when you have 15,000,000 people walking around incubating and shedding one of the most lethal, and mutation prone viruses in history must be seen as a defacto uncontrolled experiment in the design of a global suicide machine.

Oh, ya, buy the way those 15,000,000 are all going to die, but what the hell they are almost all black and poor right?

LevinK: You summed it up. The scary thing is there are still some Americans in power positions who think like this. I'm sure some Iraqi or Palestinian chick who straps dynamite to herself is terrified of a guy like Phil or Oilrig.    
OilRig Medic
 In response to this quote:

An intentional wiping genocide is not possible because even if the leaders had the will the public and the men firing the weapons do not.  Units like the SS take years to build and dehumanize, it takes small steps to become a monster.  There are plenty of service men and women who would stop their peers from commiting attrocities. -

One need only consider the seiges of Fallujah, the razing of Tal Afar, etc.  The bond between soldiers trumps outside moral prohibitions any one soldier brings to their unit.  

And genocide wasn't carried out solely by the SS.  It was with either the active or passive assistance of "normal" people -- be they German, Pole, Hungarian, Lithuanian, French, Ukranian.  (You get the point so I don't need to cite further the popular support for Rwandan, Turkish, Congolese -- past and present -- genocides.  The Belgian technocrat who coolly recorded the number of Congolese hands brought to him in baskets every day sat at the bureaucratic nexus of mass murder and never evinced a single moral qualm.)   During all these genocides, including the Belgian genocide in the Congo, media of the day were accomplices, cheering the enlightenment or necessity or enlightened necessity of the slaughter perpetrated on an inscrutable and fearsome Other.

Unfortunately, history makes the strong argument genocide comes rather too easily to humans.  America is no more exceptional in this regard than in any other, as our own history testifies.  To think otherwise on either point is to profess ignorance of fact and, it follows, naivete as regards human capacities.

APF's comment on baskets of human hands being brought in to show "progress" against the inscrutible and fearsome Other brought back some chilling reminders of the collecting of Vietminh (enemy) ears in Vietnam, and elated 'body counts' as a show of "progress".  
After all, the enemy (whomever they are) aren't human, are they?
Massacres and genocide do seem to come easily to humans. It is the beast within us.  Are own Heart of Darkness, indeed.

The sinews of war, a limitless supply of money.


Which particular medium sized country do you have in mind?

Bear in mind:
a) Are not part of a newly forming regional bloc
b) They dont have mates who you owe money to
c) You can get by without their oil
d) Dont have mates who have oil (that you cannot get by without).
e) Dont have mates that will not continue to take your IOU's / trade in Euros.

However, I have often wondered if the PNAC plan is in fact to trade IOU's to keep the machine going long enough to gain sufficient superior military hardware to play 'stand and deliver!'.

Plan is a bit flawed though. Becoming a global pariah state
is a bit risky.

How about North Korea?  The South Koreans might suffer substantially in the process also, but so what?
You said 'Medium Sized Country' and I doubt that the Chinese would be amused and you have poked them in the eye enough already, what with the wrong titles and calling out for pizza at lunch time.
What exactly do you think the Chinese could do about it?  The Chinese nuclear arsenal is extremely antiquated, and extremely small.  They have no blue water navy - just one or two antiquated aircraft carriers and submarines that barely work.  They have no far-flung overseas military basis.  Their small handful of ICBMs take hours to prepare for launch, and the US undoubtedly knows both where they are and can surveil any preparations for launch the Chinese might engage in.

In sum, the only kind of reprisal even the Chinese could employ in the face of a US incineration of North Korea is of an economic variety - and it seems to me that they would think long and hard about that in the face of such a raw display of US power.

They could dump the dollar
Are you nuts?  I hope there is no one who thinks they will wipe a country off the map and not suffer.  I think that we are very vunerable in regards to our lack of resources(mainly oil)and industry.  Try running a major war without china factories suppling ball bearings for our tractors(or anything else)-I'm serious I own a JD tractor -- are you nuts?  You think our troups will eat what? Radio active dead people? You seriously need to talk to an old person who lived during the rationing that went on during WWII.  We are in no shape to wage that kind of war.  Watch the rest of the world turn on us like they did on Hitler.  They don't need the ability to bomb us they can just starve us of oil to run our lives.  Ask an old person who lived during the rationing of WWII and ask about silk(for parachutes) this is when they invented nylon for paratroupers.  Ask an old person about the lack of cloth for clothing -have you ever even made a shirt? I only hope your kind of thinking gets squashed to the halls of power.
Are you nuts?  I hope there is no one who thinks they will wipe a country off the map and not suffer.
LOL...good point thre will always be those who want war.  I just don't think that we have the capacity for sustained conflict.  The Shock and Awe campaign...didn't make a bunch of sheep out of the Iraqi's and I don't think that we can blast other people into submission.  If someone invaded us.  I would certainly say yes while they pointed a gun at me and then I would do everthing in my power to screw them up...why should any other country not do the same thing?
The Chinese have about 110 million extra males of military age at the moment. That is not a bad army to have on your side, especially if you do not care about casualties.
Yes, but this hardly poses a threat to the US homeland.  At best, it seems to me, this poses a threat to US interests in those parts of Asia proximate to China.
Call me naive, but I can't believe that the US, even under current leadership, would really commit genocide. Large numbers of attacks killing a mix of enemies and innocents--yes, we see that weekly. But not true genocide.

On the other hand, there is a school of thought that holds that the wide use of depleted uranium weapons could have a similar effect on a slow, long-term basis. The theory goes that the shells break into nanoparticles on impact, and these will cause long-term wasting of the population of affected areas. I doubt we really know the long-term effects of these weapons. But it's logical to assume that spreading low-level radioactive waste over vast areas can't be very healthy for people.

Yes, Rick, you're naiive. Robert McNamara and the U.S. Army counted to 3,400,000 dead Vietnamese. Other historians put the number at 6m Vietnamese, 10m theatre fatalities. I have seen so many debates explode and end when some American is asked to face that even 1 milion Vietnamese perished, when their own Army uses a much higher number. Genocide is easy, for all concerned. (Except, of course, the dead.)
It's so easy to get ordinary people, and ordinary leaders to behave badly I think the more interesting question is why a few persons always behave well.
The chilling thought that genocide by proxy is entirely feasible in Iraq. The Kurds, for example, have plenty of (justifiable) hatred for what Saddam did to them. That included attempted genocide using nerve gas. Is it not within the realm of possibility that the US could slip the Kurds a few tankers of VX gas to use against Sunni Arab civilians? The US government could pretend to be "appalled" while secretly cheering and shipping them even more VX supplies.

Of course, what goes round comes around. The Sunnis could get Sarin gas from various friends in the Arab world, or from China. Then again, would the US care, as long as the casualities were limited to the Middle East (and as long as it didn't interfere with oil production)?

Of course, even the best laid plans go awry. Once you cross the nerve gas Rubicon, all bets are off.

If it's having this level ('http://www.rense.com/general69/soar.htm')of affect on our troops, who are there for months, what affect must it be having on the Iraqis?  The one intended by the NeoCons, I suppose...
"In the past, I have argued that the eventual outcome in Iraq will involve the genocide of millions as a way of eliminating the insurgency and enabling the US to gain unrestricted access to the fossil fuel resources there."

No argument here.  Counting the toll from 12 years of sanctions (maybe 500,000 excess deaths, mainly children) and the tolls from DU, the razing of Fallujah, the death squads, the continuing air campaign, the US has probably already killed over a million Iraqis (90% of them non-combatants) since the end of the 1991 war.  If you look at the massacre of Filipinos by the US a century ago and the millions killed by US elites in Indochina, genocide is a certainty.

This is unfortunately a late post, but I just came across the following tidbit that I regard as evidence for the thesis that the American masses are become more accustomed and inured all the time to savage brutality on the part of the elites in the realm of foreign policy:


"One of the most pernicious consequences of the invasion of Iraq is that in the United States it is now apparently accepted virtually without challenge that aggressive war is a legitimate tool of American foreign policy.

"I have seen nothing in the mainstream American media discussion of the pros and cons of a "preemptive" assault on Iran by the United States which deals with the possibility that this may be illegal or even morally wrong. So far this is simply not part of the debate."            

The U.S.S.R. went down, with its military and its elites still intact.  
Heinberg is correct on this point.  The US was in a unique position right at the end of the Cold War.  A position of dominant strength, but just as importantly a position where they had no counterbalace.  

Arguably, international dynamics being what they are, that was an unsustainable position.  But the post 9/11 US foreign policy undermined their leadership position and accelerated the formation conterbalances to US influence.  Now you see, all over the world, exactly what Heinberg describes.  He's not saying that the US isn't dominant, he is just saying the US dominance no longer goes unchallenged.

It is being challenged everyday in Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, China, Russia... the list goes on and on.  I find it implausible that the US will ever regain the position they held immediately post Cold War.  They don't have the economy, the moral high ground, or the military intimidation to do that.  And all of those things are required to remain "unquestionably" dominant.

Instead the US is entering an era of constant questioning.  They lost the mantle of leadership when they deceived the UN.  They lost their miltary intimidation by getting bled into ineffectivity in Iraq.  And month by month the world sees their weaknesses and seeks to take advantage.

That doesn't mean the US is irrelavant, it just means the US has to deal with other countries more as peers then they had to do in the past.  It's a very interesting transition for them.  An example of this is how the US is trying to craft the Chapter 7 resolution against Iran at the UN.  In the past China would have abstained and let the US do what it wanted.  Now China is engaged in the world, and recognizes the need to act as a counterweight to US influence.  If the US fails to get a chapter 7 resolution, it will be a very stark demonstration of their diminished role in the world.  

With the US limitations in natural resources, how would they turn that around?

With the US limitations in natural resources, how would they turn that around?

By a two generation long campaign of investments in efficiency and better infrastructure?

By creating a new americal ideal of thoughfull and highly refined consumption? Better and refined for me as an individual rather then bigger and quickly replaced. This also ought to create new industries for taylor made stuff that last your life instead of fluff.

You could create new meaning in your freedom ideals that are as old as your country. USA is partly from old fame the most desireable country to live in in the world. You could make that even more true and thus create political power from being the one country freedom loving people like above all other countries. It should also be a lot cheaper then any kind of runaway repression that some people seem to fear in this forum.

Better efficeincy is also good for maintaining a military power.

I see no physical impossibilities in this and you got a cultural capital that could be invested with a high return of happiness.

( I am so happy that I have kept some of my naivety! )

From an economist POV though, resources are finite.  Who cares if you're efficient at anything if you don't have the raw input.
Well, we do have the ability to make railroad cars self drive. Then we could bring back the tram system for intercity transport. We don't even need a conductor because we can put cameras on the inside of the car and have two conductors handle a dozen cars.
There's no need to eliminate the conductor though.  There's likely to be lots of people willing to work for not much.

In all seriousness, there is a lot of discussion about how we can make the perfect system for public transprotation, but I see anything that delays implementation as a bad thing.  As Alan points out, the gains are there to be had now - just do it.  

But of course, I don't think we will.  And that will be very telling - if we don't do the easy, obvious stuff, we really are screwed.  There's just no excuse.

I realize ethanol was thrashed pretty thoroughly yesterday, (Thanks for a great piece RR!) but one issue pricked my mind that wasn't covered...

If we move (hypothetically) to an E85 system, does that mean car engines get bigger? I see GM's ads everywhere and the SUV sizes haven't changed, but the fuel potential is quite degraded.

And... given the fuel is 1/3 less powerful but the per/gallon retail expense is the same has anyone discussed the enormous increase in motoring costs that E85 will deliver? If I'm getting this.. what used to cost $3 to deliver 20 miles will now cost $4.50.

If I'm getting this.. what used to cost $3 to deliver 20 miles will now cost $4.50.

I recently did some driving calculations on this:

The Future of E85

My conclusion? If they mandate it, but pull the subsidy, it will cost $52 more for every thousand miles driven on E85 (depending of course on the fuel efficiency of the vehicle you are driving).


Your Taurus example is very illuminating (from Future of E85).

The unsubsidized route: 1000 miles at $125 vs. 1000 miles at $73 is a 70% cost increase.  

The subsidized route (assume price parity for simplicity) means 378 miles vs. 522. A 38% cost increase.

GM is wasting a lot of ad dollars promoting this foolishness.

One might even laugh if the consequences weren't so expensive.

It is cheaper for GM to spend on advertising and lobbying for  a white elephant they already have plenty of than it is to actually design, engineer, and "build a vehicle that is relevant" (to quote the President of the US).
Saab's BioPower 2 liter turbo is optimised for E85 but can also run on gas. This is from memory, but it has approx 20% more power and 15% more torque with E85. It is rumored to use only 13% more E85 than gas. So, a 1.6 liter version would be about the same power/torque as gas but with better fuel consumption, no?

It is my belief that all the US auto makers just convert the fuel lines and fuel injectors to handle E85; they don't optimize for ethanol like Saab have done.

Because E85 does have higher octane (105, R+M/2 method), it is possible to build a high-compression engine that would give better fuel economy on E85 than on gasoline, but that engine would then only work with high octane fuels.
And higher compression engines come with their own set of problems.

With the low compression engines in flex-fuel vehicles that must be designed to use both fuels, miles per gallon with E85 is always about 70-75% of the mileage with gasoline.

I know one SAAB engine has a variable compression ratio, which allows it to work optimally over a wider range of fuel types - I don't know if they are producing that though.  And keep in mind that SAAB is GM, so they could start using this technology in the US rather easily if it is already developed.    It would be hard to implement in other than an inline cylinder arrangement, but the 4, 5 and 6 cylinder engines in GM's latest "mid-size" (they are huge, really) SUVs and smaller pickups are all inline.  
Nothing works optimally over a range of conditions, Twilight. That is one of the fundamental tenants of engineering, in fact. Compromise is the opposite of optimize.
A hammer that only hammers works better than one that also tries to be a screwdriver, wrench, and measuring tape.
Also, automobiles engines do not have variable geometry.
Saab has for some years had a variable geometry automobile engine in their engine laboratory.

Cut off the top cylinder part of a traditional sigle row engine from the crankcase. Connect the parts with a large hinge along one side and a jack along the other. Move the jack to increase the angel in the hinge for lower compression and vice versa.

I wish I had a picture of it. :-(

I'll bet dollars to donuts they couldn't get it to work reliably (or demonstrate a ROI for it even if they could), hence the lab bench model demonstrator, rather than a production engine.  
Otto cycle engines already have to deal with enough less-than-ideal conditions without the headache of trying to adaptively reconfigure the engine geometry to boot.
The mechanical parts are probably both expensive and heavy.

I think it is the other way around, the people who trim the control system would probably kill for another controllable degree of freedom.

As a design engineer for some 20yrs, I'm well aware about the process of balancing various constraints and optimizing for particular purposes.  The SAAB design is not that complex mechanically - they just move the upper block up and down slightly relative to the crankshaft, and seal the gap between the two parts of the block with a bellows.  It requires a complex control system, but this is quite possible these days, and the material requirements for the bellows are probably a bit difficult.  I do not see it as inherently more complex than variable valve timing and lift, and these are common now.

In practice they may have run into other problems, but I suspect it was just not that useful for gasoline engines, which can adapt to different fuel grades by changing the timing.  But if the goal is to make it run on a wider range of fuel types, the engineer could use this method to widen that range while trading off increased complexity and cost.

It's all a matter of understanding the various constraints, and optimizing for the desired outcome - within the limits of the available technology and materials. :)

Saab's BioPower 2 liter turbo is optimised for E85 but can also run on gas. This is from memory, but it has approx 20% more power and 15% more torque with E85. It is rumored to use only 13% more E85 than gas. So, a 1.6 liter version would be about the same power/torque as gas but with better fuel consumption, no?

From my memory as well, I think your numbers are correct. Using higher compression can close some of the efficiency gap. I am not sure how much. What would really help in the case of ethanol is if the ratio could be so high that you actually got better fuel efficiency with ethanol. This would be like improving the EROI of ethanol. But Saab's engine is the best one that exists to date, as far as I know.


A pause to remember here that Saab is owned by GM.

New dual fuel vehicles are quite a trick because the engine management and emissions systems have to be capable of dealing with both while remaining legal. From Road & Track online:

Officials from General Motors, Ford and other automakers told members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, which was meeting at Oakland University in suburban Detroit, that anything more than a 10% blend can corrode fuel system components not designed to use ethanol, the story said.

Automakers' representatives also said it is not legal for consumers to try to convert conventional vehicles to ethanol-capable ones because of emissions rules.

Of course a few consumers still do it anyway, but the conversion cost pretty well limits the market to vehicles, like taxis, which are driven enough to recover the cost.  
Continuing on a thread from yesterday, I see that
I paid 21.44 cents per kWh for electricity in
April. This is from TXU Energy in Smith County,
Texas. Yikes!
I have tenants in a duplex here, 1000 sq.ft.
per unit, and they tell me if they pay less
than $200.00 per month (per unit) they are
Wow, that seems awful high. I am in Austin TX and the cost here is more than a third less per kwh, on average. My electric bill is never more that $50 (except maybe in August when it gets a bit higher, maybe $60-$70) for a 1700sqft house.

Of course Austin Energy opted out of deregulation. Perhaps paradoxically (perhaps not), their prices are generally lower than those in fully deregulated areas. I also buy wind power, which is not getting more expensive (costs more at first, but the per kwh price stays fixed over the 10 year contract since the fuel costs nothing).

Ours in San Antonio is about 7.5 cents/kwh...at least this month.  Warnings appeared along with current bill about "peak surcharge" coming up in the summer.
As a postscript, I see the bill says I paid
an "average" price of 21.44 kWh. My meter only reads
total kWh used. What are they referring to as
"average price"?  I have noticed some posters that have said they used high energy appliances during off peak
hours when the energy was cheaper. What difference
does it make when your meter only reads total
usage? Someone please enlighten me.
California does a stepped rate, allowing "baseline" consumption at one rate (approx 9 cents) and an "above baseline rate" higher than that (approx 17 cents).  That was just what I experienced, whem my old fridge pushed me above baseline.  It's quite possible that there are higher categories for heavier home users.

By the way, I say "approx" because it is complicated.  For some reason by kWh get split into three different delivery rates, and three different generation rates.  Plus taxes, fees, and even some bond issue that gets paid back on a kWh basis.

Texas had that rolling blackout thingy this past month, no?  Maybe there was a lot of spot market purchasing that blew up the KWh price?
Here is a listing of (American) cities most affected by rising gas prices. The ranking was based on average miles driven and average wasted ue to congestion


The places at the top of the list are generally not much of a surprise, though I might not have put Birmingham in second place. Heavy on the Florida cities, too:

1 Atlanta, Ga.
2 Birmingham, Ala.
3 Orlando, Fla.
4 Jacksonville, Fla.
5 Pensacola, Fla.
6 Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
7 Nashville, Tenn.
8 Los Angeles, Calif.
9 Cape Coral, Fla.
10 San Diego, Calif.


My little town (Pensacola) is sitting right up there with the big boys.  I was stationed in SD, CA for most of 2003 / 2004 and have a hard time believing that folks on the Left Coast are in better shape than us in dinky ol' Escarosa counties.  But then, Hurricane Ivan did put a real smack down on the I-10 bridges.  That coupled with the influx of labor to fix the hurricane-related messes, and the continued migration into Santa Rosa county, has made congestion a bigger challenge than anything I've ever seen before here.  And Davis Hwy is always, and still, a mess.

R^2...love all of the E85 posts.  The phrase "Inconvenient Truth" sure bears repeating a lot these days.

Ooh!  Ooh!  It's top ten list day!!!

Here are the top 10 things to feel good about with "Peak Oil"!!!

#10) Teenagers will no longer be riding those noisy "jet ski" personal watercraft around the lake (grab a paddle Junior!).

#9) The phrase "cut taxes and grow the economy" will be punishable by 3 to 5 years in the pen.

#8) It will cost too much to drive over to the drug dealers' neighborhoods from suburbia.

#7) "Condo flippers" will not (I repeat) will NOT be able to "Farm flip".

#6) GM will finally stop making Hummers (and Cadillac Escalades, and Tahoe XLTs, et cetera, et cetera).  Get a clue GM!

#5) Professional hockey will disappear from the South.

#4) "McMansions" will be burned for firewood.

#3) "Butt wiggling" on MTV will no longer be a viable career option.

#2) Watching lawyers learning to plow a field is extremely entertaining.

#1) Less food means more skinny women!

I love it!  I'm still laughing, in fact. Good ones!
#1) Less food means more skinny women!

On the other hand, fewer walruses would not be bad.

#5) Professional hockey will disappear from the South.

As a transplanted Yankee, that's a shame!

And the #1 sign that you will know that PO is near, is when...

[brrr....rrr.... *CRASH*]

A major health care provider (that also makes cars) offers to cap gasoline at an outrageously low price in certain markets so that people (please, anybody!) will take the SUV's off their hands.

Oh, wait...that already happened.  Strike that.  do over.

Here's 5 more "Great things about peak oil" that didn't make the first cut:

#11) The "Fine Living" channel will change to the "Farm Living" channel.

#12) Pottery nuts will finally have something better to do than making more pottery.

#13) Those N.Y. and L.A. folks will learn about the area now called "fly over".

#14) I will be glad to be related to my gun weilding cousins.

#15) Venison will appear on local restaurant menus and my landscape shrubbery will then be safe.

Laugh while you can, Monkey Boy
Here's my cry scenario "10":
  1. "Peak Oil" hits the bigtime MSM -- Oprah!
  2. The public goes nuts!  -- and starts buying solar gizmos!
...then after the crisis momentum is in place...
  1. Bush/Blair's talks (occuring today) result in a pullout from Iraq (the U.S. military is the largest single consumer of oil in the U.S.? or World?)
  2. Iran agrees to drop enrichment for a free nuke plant.
  3. The U.S. housing starts drop to 1.5 million (pickup trucks go idle everywhere).
...So #3, #4, and #5 result temporarily in surplus oil...
  1. Prices fall to the proverbial $40 per barrel.
  2. The public feels "rooked" again after having ordered loads of solar gizmos.  "Big Oil is killing off renewables to save themselves, they control oil!" is the cry.
  3. Bill O'Reilly and others say "I told you so!" -- "and don't believe that global warming junk either!"
  4. "Peak Oil" becomes like "Cold Fusion" in the press.
  5. TSHTF

Could happen.
There is no wood in McMansions, it's all flakeboard.

I'd bet the last GM product out the door will be a Hummer.

Strange that Phoenix is nowhere to be seen in this list... thought it was the only place in US that could challange the supremacy of my city (Atlanta). But to defend a little bit the honor of my city, we have a very good rail system that I use for going to work. This allows me to burn only some 30 gallons (~$80; 1 gal/day) per month, without much aimed effort to conserve. With it I could easily go down to 10 gallons, even less if needed.
Apparently most Atlantans do not share your sentiments for MARTA, judging from the traffic on 285, the downtown connector, or 400 on any given day.  I can testify from personal experience that much of Atlanta is a crawling around at a snail's pace for several hours every morning and afternoon, and at any time of the day on I-75 from south of the perimeter into Henry county. Blah!

As a side note, nice to see a fellow Georgian on here LevinK. All this time, and I had no idea....

It is a small world isn't it? Maybe we should start TOD-Atlanta, after all it seems here are the most endangered species :)

And yes, the traffic here is one of the reasons I wouldn't regret too much if Suburbia decides to collapse some day as JHK keeps propheting :) Highly unlikely IMO, but who knows... On the other hand it delivers me some delight in seeing those endless lines of cars every morning and every evening, crippling up and down 85 (Friday is a special day here), while I get to work for about 30 minutes and have the chance to actually walk. But I suspect most  people don't have much choice - and I consider myself lucky to have a train station near my workplace. It's a great choice for commuting, but probably some people dismiss it before even trying or for reasons I don't want to mention. But things can easily change - as I witnessed after Katrina, when I was hardly able to get on the train.

Hello LevinK,

Phx didn't make the list because the Asphalt Wonderland is so big and spread out that the researchers couldn't afford the gasoline to study it.  Sarcasm intended!

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

Ours is not much prettier, mind you :)
A new ethanol plant being built near my family farm in Texas will be fueled by biogas generated from the cow manure produced at the dozens of feedlots in the area.  The stillage produced at the plant will be fed back to the cattle; the digester sludge spread back on the farm fields  The feedstock for the plant is milo (grain sorghum), not corn, which requires fewer inputs, especially water, than does corn. All this should have a significant impact on EROEI and sustainability.  From a systems engineering standpoint this surely represents an improvement over conventional ethanol plants, even given the greater initial cost/complexity. At least the idea is conceptually elegant.  
Ozarks -

I'm generally pretty down on ethanol from corn, but the system you described wherein the ethanol production unit is integrated with a feedlot in a clever symbiotic relationship makes the most sense of any of the bio-ethanol fuel schemes I've seen so far.  

Feuling the plant with biogas from the digestion of feedlot waste is a nice touch and kills two birds with one stone. Using a less energy-intensive feedstock such as milo also makes sense.  

I'd be very interested in seeing an analysis of the energy inputs and outputs for such a system.

However, playing devil's advocate, one might ask if the biogas produced from the feedlot could be put to a more effective use than fueling an ethanol plant, but that is another question.

Sounds like a plan. I believe things like ethanol and biogas will be useful niche commodities in a relocalized economy. It makes sense to take a load of spoiled grain, or other ag waste, and extract a little energy from it. Then return the micronutrients to the soil.

It makes little or no sense to raise pork for the entire continent in one location, and then have this disposal problem as your effluent stream exceeds the capacity of nearby land.

Does anyone have access to the Petroleum Review?  It looks like Chris Skrebowski revised his forecast for a peak in 2007 whereas in his last revision he did not see one before 2010.

I was wondering, could there be an acceptable case for drilling in ANWR? What if the government allowed drilling in ANWR with the provision that all the oil extracted from ANWR would be used for building a sustainable infrastructure or for sustainable energy technologies? Or leave it for a rainy day reserve (critical needs).  The problem is that if they leave ANWR undeveloped for the future, in 5-6 years the Trans-Alaskan pipeline will be shut down as the North Slope reaches depletion.  It will then be more difficult and take more energy to use tankers to transport the oil to the lower 48.  
Any opinions?
Leave it for a rainy day. It's "money (or in this case, energy) in the bank" as it is, a giant Strategic Oil Reserve that cannot be attacked, blown up by 'turr-ists', or damaged by hurricanes.
Later, use it for synthetic feedstocks (plastics) and to provide for critical transitional infrastructure.

The problem is that once the Trans-Alaska pipleine is shut down, it might be difficult to ship out the oil. I guess by then it will be so warm up there they could just build the factories to make plastic there...

"I was wondering, could there be an acceptable case for drilling in ANWR?"

If all drilling equipment were made from melted Hummers?

I suggest (semi-seriously) that everyone of us make a prediction how we tie the energy balance for what would be fueled by oil in 20 years. Let's rank our technologies and see make WAGs how much and how they will contribute to our future liquid fuel supply. We are using 2006 with 22mln.bpd as a base year. Here is my balance:

2006                                         21mln.bpd.

  1. Conservation (driving/flying less)        5 mln.bpd
  2. Efficiency (smaller cars, mass transit)   4 mln.bpd.
  3. Electricity (elctr.rail, plug-ins)        1 mln.bpd.
  4. CNG                                       1 mln.bpd
  5. Tar sands                                 1 mln.bpd.
  6. CTL                                       1 mln.bpd.
  7. Ethanol                                   0.5 mln.bpd
  8. GTL                                       0.5 mln.bpd
  9. Biodiesel                                 0.5 mln.bpd
Total alternatives:                          14.5 mln.bpd.
Remaining for conventional oil:              6.5 mln.bpd.

It looks in my scenario I managed to compensate for a loss of 69% of our current oil consumption... hope I'm not being too optimistic.

Oops the layout got scrambled on posting. Sorry for the typos too.
In 2002, heavy trucks used 2,070,000 b/day and railroads  220,000 b/day.  Add a bit for growth till today.  Local commerical trucks another 300 K b/day.

Heavy trucks, in 20 years, could be cut down to the 400 K to 500 K range and locla commerical could be cut in half (TOD is easier to service).

+2070 K + 220 K + 300 K -450 K -150 K = 1,990,000 b/day savinsg over 2002.  Round up toi 2 million b/day just from 2002 > 2006 growth

The heavy vehicle sector is a good candidate for saving liquid fuels through conversion to CNG. The technology is already entering the marketplace.
A guess that should go to the efficiency gains. Just doubling our car mileage can make up for the rest.

I probably overestimated the conservation gains - I assumed changing the urban pattern and a well developed mass transit to make up for it. But on second thought 20 years might be a too short timeframe for doing that. It might turn out that some or most of this conservation will be forceful (shortages).

Gregg Easterbrook of the Brookings Institution has an op-ed on global warming in yesteraday's NY Times that begs for informed rebuttal.

His point seems to be that global warming is an air pollution problem, and is amenable to being resolved through market and technical fixes similarly to our smog and acid rain problems of recent decades, problems which were also overhyped by hysterical environmentalists.

It seems to me Easterbrook is missing a crucial difference.  The particulates and pollutants that cause smog and acid rain are due to impurities and inefficiencies in the combustion process, no?  So it is very feasible to devise improved technologies to minimize these harmful emissions, while keeping the benefits of the energy combustion.

But the carbon dioxide which is the principle culprit in global climate change is very different.  It is the necessary, inevitable product of combustion of the hydrocarbons.  The carbon starts trapped in the fossil fuel, and when you burn it, it will escape into the atmosphere (unless, of course, you go to great lengths to capture and sequester it, etc.)

I'm not an expert, obviously, so I'd apprecitate some more informed commentary on this.  Am I on the right track, and is Easterbrook fundamentally off it?

Your logic is right - capturing or chemically transforming the CO2 from the combustion would be uncomparatively harder than with pollution particles, mostly because the volume of CO2 is much bigger.

One possible option of capturing CO2 is to use lime (CaO) in a reaction forming limestone:

CaO + CO2 -> CaCO3

The problem is that you are going to need some 12 kilograms of lime for each gallon of gasoline you burn, and the output of the reaction would be 22 kg of limestone! The other problem is that the lime itself is produced by the reverse process (by heating limestone), meaning that if you do not sequester the CO2 released in lime production you will be doing nothing (or less than nothing because of losses) in the end.

LevinK -

It strikes me that calcining limestone to make lime to absorb CO2 as limestone is much akin to digging a hole, filling it back up, then digging it again ..... on and on  and on, as below:

(Limestone Calcination)        CaCO3 -> CaO + CO2

(CO2 Absorption)      CO2 + CaO -> CaCO3

Notice that the calcination of the limestone produces just as much CO2 as you can expect to absorb when you use the lime thus produced to absorb CO2 from a combustion source. Essentially, nothing is accomplished except wasting energy as you go around and around!  I hope nobody is actually thinking of doing this.


Actually this was my conclusion too. But a possible route to go is to sequester the CO2 at the moment of lime production, which would be much easier because it can be done in vacuum on a large scale and CO2 can be isolated.

Nevertheless I don't see such process implemented for cars for example, because of the prodigious amounts of lime needed.

I could imagine though this being used as to effectively separate the CO2 output of a coal power plant; e.g. the heat from the boiler heats the limestone, the produced CO2 is being captured and sequestered, and the lime is being fed to the exhaust where it reacts with the CO2. Such process IMO would be much more effective than using algae and much less energy intensive as for example feeding pure oxygen to the burners.

LevinK -

But I don't understand how you would sequester the CO2 'at the moment of lime production'. Surely, you're not suggesting using the lime you just made to sequester the CO2 that was produced from the lime you just made.  If so, then you have just made CaCO3 from the CaO and CO2 that you had gotten by calcining the CaCO3 in the first place.  

I don't see how you can get around the fact that for every mole of CaO that you produce from CaCO3 you get a mole of CO2. Some the best you can do is to return the CO2 you just made back into CaCO3, and there is no CaO left over to sequester additional CO2 from some other combustion source.

Now, if you sequester the CO2 from the limestone calcination by some other means, then you might have some CaO left over.  But if you do that, why not just use that other means of sequstrationf in the first place?

Maybe there's something I'm not getting here, but it still doesn't make any sense to me.

OK, detailed:

Yes, I was assuming "the other means" of course - more specifically pumping the CO2 underground or under sea.

Why not using those means at the first place? Because the output of a conventional coal fired plant is not pure CO2, but some 78% N, 17% CO2, the rest being oxygen, water vapor, SO2 etc. You can not sequester that mix unless you find a way to separate the CO2 and liquify it. This is the whole point, with the process I'm proposing, you can move the CO2 isolation in the process of calcination. Isolating pure CO2 from that process is piece of cake. And you do not need to physically move the coal power plant to a place with underground cavities - instead you will build the calcination plant in such place. Simple.

To take the things a step further - you can use a non-CO2 producing heat source (yeah nukes) to heat the limestone for lime production thus totally removing the carbon emissions in the process. You can make the things even simpler by simply exposing the lime to the air where it will take out the CO2 right from the atmosphere. I believe I read about similar process proposed somewhere, but where was that...

LevinK -

Ok, so your idea is to use CaO to absorb CO2 from stack gas and to then desorb it so that it can be pumped underground. (?)

Well, you've got to realize that it take lots of energy to move all that CO2 around, both physically and chemically.  Then, the question is: Is it worth all the trouble? CO2 from stack gas is only a part of all the current global CO2 emissions. What about the CO2 from the burning of fuels for transportation and the CO2 from the burning of fossil fuel for home heating? How are you planning to sequester those?

I am highly doubtful.

So we are back to what I (now boringly) must repeat: calcining limestone (CaCO3) releases exactly as much CO2 as you will be able to capture if you use that CaO to absorb CO2 from a combustion source. Nothing is achieved.

Forgive me for being so dense, but I really fail to see any benefit whatsoever in any of this.


I perfectly realised your last statement and accepted it the very first time. I refer to the process as just another means to chemically separate CO2 from the air (or the smokestack gases, whatever).

According to paper here:

http://www.eere.energy.gov/industry/mining/pdfs/stone.pdf (page 10)

Calcination of one ton of limestone takes just 6120 BTU, or 1.8 kwth. Since one ton of limestone releases 440kg. of CO2, the calcination energy would be 4.1 kwth per ton of carbon dioxide. It will also take some energy to liquify and pump the CO2 underground, so I'll WAG the total energy consumption to 10 kwth/ton. Hell we can handle even 100 kwth/ton - just compare 100kwth ($5) to a carbon tax of 30$ per ton of CO2!

In theory we can capture all the CO2 the world releases in the atmosphere yearly (~7 bln.tonnes) by simply producing lime, capturing the CO2 and exposing the lime to the air, then over again. The energy needed (70 bln.kwth) is just 7% of the electricity produced by the US nuclear plants. How about that? I can't see any flow to the idea so far.

Well, since I just solved Global Warming, and Peak Oil seems to be quite solvable too; what are we going to spend time talking about next? :)

Something I've always wondered about is, since plants use C02 to grow, wouldn't higher levels of C02 in the atmosphere cause plants to grow faster, thereby sequestering C02 and limiting the rate of C02 increase? In fact, enhanced plant growth due to elevated C02 levels has been observed:


This has even led some groups to claim that elevated C02 levels will be beneficial to the earth's ecosystem because of the enhanced plant growth:


I suspect that the claims are overly optimistic but, still, it might mitigate some damage due to rising C02 levels. However, this is bad for peak oil because it gives a (tenuous) argument that burning fossil fuels is "good" for the environment.

The very same types of plants that will thrive with more CO2 in the atmosphere are the kind we, as humans, tend to fine least desireable and useful, i.e. weeds, brambles, etc.
IFeelFree -

I have also pondered the same thing. While I have absolutely no scientific evidence to back it up, my hunch is that there will be both winners and losers in a future with higher atmospheric CO2 and higher temperatures. Who is going to be on the right and wrong side of that line is not always easy to predict, though I wouldn't advise buying any coastal property as a long-term investment for your grandchildren.

My other hunch is that the massive disruption to long-established agricultural patterns will do far more serious short-term damage to the human race than any  theoretical benefits that might acrue by some areas having longer growing seasons and higher plant growth rates. An important dimension in agriculture is predictability, and our weather patterns appear to be getting more volatile and less predictable.

As Ifeelfree suspects, claims that enhanced carbon fixation by plants will help limit atmospheric CO2 have to be looked at closely. Most of the work reported to date is based on lab and plot trials, like the Australian work linked above. Hopefully somebody else here knows more about this than me but, as another example, a recent 6-year experiment in a grassland ecosystem showed that the increase of plant biomass in response to increased CO2 is limited by available soil nitrogen.  Given that limitations to productivity resulting from insufficient availability of soil N are widepsread, soil N is probably an important constraint on global terrestrial response to elevated CO2.

But carbon storage in living biomass is only temporary, anyway. Once the plant dies or drops its leaves, the carbon enters the soil, where some is converted back to CO2 in the process of decay.

More than twice as much carbon is held in the soil as in terrestrial vegetation or the atmosphere.  The possibility that climate change is being reinforced by increased CO2 emissions from soil owing to rising temperature is a subject of debate.  26 years of data from the national soil inventory of England and Wales show that carbon is being lost from soils in these two countries at a mean rate of 0.6% per year.  The total annual loss is about 13 million tonnes C, equivalent to about 8% of the total UK emissions of CO2 and as much as the entire reduction in UK emissions from 1990-2002 (12.7 million t/y).

I believe you are correct. Particulates and pollutants like N0x, C0, ozone, etc. can be filtered, captured, broken down, or oxidized (e.g., catalytic converters, scrubbers, etc.). However, C02 is, as you say, a necessary byproduct of combustion of all hydrocarbon fuels. It is technically possible to capture and sequester it but is prohibitively expensive. Global warming is not a pollution problem. It is the inevitable result of widespread use of hydrocarbon fuels. Unfortunately, the only real solution is to reduce hydrocarbon use by ratcheting down the global economy, which will put the world into severe recession. However, peak oil will accomplish that at some point anyway.
Did anyone else see Boone Pickens on CNBC this morning? He made an interesting comment in the small segment I saw. In effect he said we shouldn't be trying to lower gas prices as that will just convince everyone that there is plenty of oil out there and thus they will run out and but another SUV. I guess that could be seen as a positive comment.
Boone has advocated raising our gasoline taxes up to the same level as Europe, offset by cuts to the Payroll (Social Security + Medicare) Tax.
House Votes to OK Oil Drilling in Arctic

WASHINGTON -- Jittery about voters' sour mood over high gasoline prices less than six months before congressional elections, the Republican-controlled House today again passed an old favorite: legislation seeking to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

The measure faces long odds in the Senate, where it has been blocked repeatedly by filibusters. But Republican leaders wanted to act on energy legislation before the summer driving season began....

The Arctic drilling measure, which passed 225 to 201, is the first of a spate of energy initiatives expected to come before Congress in coming weeks as pump prices have become a hot issue in the battle for control of Congress.


"We really are classic addicts," said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.). "We would rather keep seeking our oil fix -- our heroin -- with all its attendant dangers than shift to conservation -- our methadone."

"You're response to everything has been no," Pombo said. "You've got this pie-in-the-sky [idea] that we're going to invent a 100-mile-per-gallon carburetor and all of a sudden our problems are going to go away."

---and the beat goes on...

Pro-ANWR vote in House mostly for show

"This is like addressing the pimple on the cheek of an elephant," said Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., "when the problem is the whole elephant."

It was one of the few fresh lines in the script.

We had a bid come in high today - way high.

Electrical bidders cited costs of copper wire, fixtures, switchgear, fear of jobsite theft of copper and fear of copper scams. Groups are calling distributors claiming to be construction employees and trying to buy wire on contractor accounts. Electrical quotes are now only good for a receipt of an order on the day of the quotation.

Asphalt and PVC piping is also up sharply. Even non-petroleum material quotes now include fuel surcharges, or language to pass on increased fuel costs, and are limited to 30 days.

Drywall (gypsum board) recently cost me more than twice what it did year before last ($11 and change vs $5 and change)
Dimensional lumber cost me 2/3rd more than it did this time last year.
Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future by Ben J. Wattenberg

I was listening to this fellow, I think he was on World Have Your Say, explaining his idea that birth rates are dangerously low. And I'm thinking, "This is a problem?" I understand that Russia, Japan and some Balkan countries have low birth rates, but he says even the US relies on immigration to keep our population growing.

It was just bizarre to read about population overshoot here, and then hear this guy urging us all to procreate like rabbits.

Seems to me that immigration is a better answer than subsidized procreation.  With all the 'source cultures' in the world, there should be some which are compatible.  Couldn't Moscow use some Salvadorian restaurants?  Pupusas aren't bad ... though they do use masa ... and we need that corn for ethanol ... Doh!
What happened to the crude stock inventory figures on Wednesday?

I saw that gasoline inventories rose due to imports, but nothing on crude inventories.