Saturday Open Thread

General news drop...
In today's NY Times:

As Profits Surge, Oil Giants Find Hurdles Abroad

To many Americans, oil companies like Exxon Mobil or Chevron appear all powerful, pocketing record profits as energy costs soar. But in many countries around the world, high oil prices are also making life considerably harder for big oil companies.

This is very similar to the current cover story in BusinessWeek.

Demand destructing in India:

Delhi swelters amid power crisis

The Delhi government's minister for power, Harun Yusuf, says new guidelines are being drafted to save electricity.

Temperatures have soared recently and Delhi has experienced major power cuts, leading to protests in several areas.

Under the new rules, government offices must switch off air-conditioners after 1830 and shopping malls across the city will have to shut at 1730.

The crisis is chiefly caused by a big gap in supply and demand but officials also blame large-scale power theft.

The government is also considering asking all shops to shut an extra day a week and residents are being advised not to use their air-conditioners until 2100.

Check out the photo:

35% of the total power generated in Delhi is stolen, mostly by individuals hooking up cables to transmission lines.  
Presumably that would be 2100hrs, not 2100 AD :-)
I've been studying the UK Oil production

and I think that it has several interesting analogies to the World oil

1) Both have a premature and clear peak (World in 1980 and UK in
1985). The absolute peak for the UK was in 1999. Although the world probably hasn't done its absolute peak
yet it will soon.

2) After the premature peak both had an important incident, that
was not geological, that just in part explain the quick decline: in the
World case it was the Iran-Iraq War and the OPEC embargo, and in
the UK case the PIPER accident.
Also, Brent had a sharp decline between 1989 and 1992:

I don't know if it was related to the PIPER incident or
something related to the oilfield.

3) The giant fields in the UK were discovered quite quickly. As in
the rest of the Oil basins of the world, in the UK there is a King
(Forties, which production started in 1975), Queen I (Brent 1976), Queen II (Ninian 1978), and a few Lords
(Magnus 1983, Piper 1976 & Nelson 1994).

In the World case many of the super-giants came into production in
the late 60's and 70's. So most of the super-giants were
discovered quite soon in the oil history, as in the Uk case.

4) Actually, the premature peak of UK is quite well explained by these
premature discoveries. I will try to show this by
the following graph:

So the production of UK without its biggest 5 oilfields is
very Hubbert-like. This trend continues, that is, if you remove the 10 biggest oilfields, you get an even smoother profile. I claim that this is also true for the world
case, although I don't have a graph to support my claim yet.

In summary, I think that the premature discoveries of
super-giants can cause odd production profiles. So it would be
better to factor them out before you do modeling.

Also note that the role of very mature super-giants won't be decisive in the future,
since their weight in the overall production will diminish. This is very clear in the case of UK, where nowadays Forties, Brent, Ninian, Magnus & Piper represent just a small portion of the total production.

In summary, I think that the premature discoveries of super-giants can cause odd production profiles. So it would be better to factor them out before you do modeling.

Interesting.  That's sort of the opposite of the Hubbert theory...

Well, what I say is not really the opposite of Hubbert's theory.

I bring up again the oil pyramid of Matt Simmons:
The 26 biggest fields (out of over 4000) accounted for 26% of oil production until recently.
Between 1970 and 1975, one field (Ghawar) accounted for close to 10% of oil production in the world!
(Ghawar's oil production until 1980 appears in "Twilight in the Desert").

Ghawar was discovered in 1948, and if you read "Twilight in the desert" you see that Standard Oil
was very lucky to discover the first big field in South Arabia in the 40's, they were about to pull
out! Then shortly afterwards came Ghawar and the others. So by luck Standard Oil discovered Ghawar
in 1948, it could have been much later. Ghawar could have been underwater also. Discovering fields
is just a probabilistic thing.

If Ghawar and the other ME super-giants would have been discovered 15-20 years later then probably
oil production would have been more Hubbert-like, which is not! The decline after 1980 makes the
curve very non-Hubbert. And you can argue that this decline happened because these super-giants
existed in the first place, and where in the hands of a few rulers of the ME in the second place.

So, if you factor-out super-giants and deal with the rest, you get a lot of fields of the same
magnitude (Ghawar is just in another league). Some of the normal-size fields are discovered before
and some later, and they just compensate and you have a gaussian distribution or something that
looks alike: the logistic curve.

But there is nothing that compensates the early discovery of Ghawar and the rest of super-giants in
the ME. And this distorts the overall picture.

In more mathematical terms, what I am saying is that the central limit theorem
does not apply at all well, because there are a
few fields that are much larger that the rest. If you leave out these aberrations, the central
limit theorem will work much better, and will give you something close to a normal distribution.

Re:  UK Versus Total North Sea

Empirically, IMO the HL technique works best for large producing regions with serious production, about two mbpd or so, for a significant period of time, about two decades or so.  

There are two reasons to do a HL analysis, to estimate recoverable reserves and to develop a model for the world.  

IMO, the two "cleanest" HL models for the world are the Lower 48 and the total North Sea--largely unencumbered production by private companies.  

The Lower 48 peaked at slightly less than 50% in 1970, the North Sea at slightly more than 50% in 1999.   Note that the top 10 major oil companies working the North Sea, using the best data, the best technology, and the best engineers in the world, were predicting that North Sea production would not peak until at least 2010 (Source:  Matt Simmons).  

The total North Sea (crude + condensate) HL plot that I did shows a beautiful linear progression from about 1988 onward.  Qt is 60 Gb, and they are about two-thirds depleted.  

In summary, I think that the premature discoveries of super-giants can cause odd production profiles. So it would be better to factor them out before you do modeling.

No, you should never throw any data away. That is one of the golden rules of the scientific method.  Yes, I know some statisticians like to throw away outliers, but you really should do this only if you understand what the fundamentals are behind the behavior. In reality, what you want to factor out should be part of the underlying model. I might be misunderstanding you, but why not keep the "premature discoveries" in the model?

Take a look at the discovery curves published by Laherrere.

You can see the bimodal components right there. The problem is that the two modes are highly asymmetric in the discovery profile but not so much in the production profile. My own analysis leads me to believe that the second peak gets strongly accentuated by a strong increase in the extraction rate.

I have never believed in the conventional symmetric Hubbert curves, preferring instead to treat the system as a N-order  temporal response to the initial discover stimulus curves.
Ever since about 1995, the extraction rates have progressively climbed so they could keep up with the diminishing returns from the remaining amount.

The full analysis is here

But trying to model single fields is almost impossible. And you have to, if you want to explain the
whole production history. They have all sorts of strange profiles due to decisions made by very few people: overproduction (Ghawar?, Romashkino), political issues (Ghawar), accidents (Piper), decline
and then new life due to new technology (Brent), applying secondary and tertiary recovery at the
same time (Cantarell, Ghawar), strikes, terrorism, etc...

When you have fields of average size these kinds of behaviors exist, but they get smoothed because
you add up a lot of the same magnitude.

Due to normal depletion, mismanagement, geopolitics, exhaustion of EOR techniques, etc. the big fields at the bottom of the pyramid (26% of production at the time of this graph by Simmons) totalling just 26 fields eventually move up the pyramid. So the distorted picture smoothes out eventually and then the Central Limit Theorem applies. Actually, the graph is misleading because the largest producers are defined as 500/kbpd whereas the truly big fields produce much more than that or once did. For example, Russia from Simmons
My list of Russian "giant" fields is simply an educated guess, based on various published stories of large fields. Russia's ten largest oilfields account for over 1.8 million barrels a day of Russian production. Its largest producer is still Samotlor, the one Russian field that once produced in excess of 3.5 million barrels of oil each day. Samotlor's output occasionally gets mentioned in various oil journals. The last guess in print had Stamoltor producing 320,000 barrels per day. Almost all the Russian giant oilfields are located in Western Siberia. One giant oilfield outside Siberia is the Romashkino field in the Volga Region. Prior to Western Siberia's oil discoveries, this was Russia's single biggest oil field. It still apparently produces close to 300,000 barrels a day. All of these giant fields are far past peak production. All have high water cuts. Russia is not a low cost oil producer, even in its largest oilfield.
So, in the future the pyramid gets truncated at the bottom and fatter in the middle and at the top. In addition, some fields at the top just become exhausted and drop out. Importantly, almost all the fields at the bottom of the pyramid are old. Taken all together, one can infer that oil will become more scarce and expensive just from these observations alone. As of the year 2000, Country, Date of Discovery, Production in kbpd.

Saudi Arabia Ghawar 1948 4,500
Mexico Cantarell 1976 1,211
Kuwait Burgan 1938 1,200
China Daquig 1959 1,108
Iraq Kirkuk 1927 900
Iraq Rumailia North 1958 700
Saudi Arabia Abqaiq 1940 600
Saudi Arabia Shayba 19751 600
U.S.A. Prudhoe Bay 1968 550
China Shengli 1962 547
Brazil Marlim 1985 530
Iraq Rumailia South 1953 500
Saudi Arabia Safaniyah 1951 500
Saudi Arabia Zuluf 1965 500

Even a cursory look at this list reveals that there have been major changes since the year 2000. It would be interesting if somebody could find an updated list for 2005. I couldn't locate one.

That's extremely interesting Roberto!
Roberto, thanks also on behalf of Chicken Little here. Chicken could not have said as well as you did. And after all he is just a bird brain. But he was thinking something like that as applied to geological processes.

I guess if you multiply the number of fields in each size band against the average reserves size of that band (Kings, Queens, Nobles, etc.) it gives you the total volume in each of the size bands and that number converges toward some central value.

After Piper Alpha's destruction in 1988, the UKCS Oil Industry started looking very carefully at safety issues on Platforms. At the time, the oil price was hovering at or below the average of 20.94 USD / Bbbl. Immediately after Piper Alpha, production was not so important as the massive safety concerns and retrofitting of equipment and proceedures.

Around this time, Brent and others started to go into decline. A drilling campaign was instituted on Brent and a lot of other platforms in order to try and bring production up: Horizontal drilling, 'Kebab' drilling (into slump structures and isolated traps hitherto not easy to reach). The technology was available, the price was right.
Hence the two peaks and a new lease of life. Short of very major discoveries, the second peak will be the last.

Thanks for clarifying this.

So if I understand well, it was just unfortunate that Piper accident coincided (more or less) with Brent's decline. That is what exacerbated the drop after the first peak.

Very good analysis!

Oil production seems to have two components:
1- a deterministic component based on the contribution of a few super-giant and giant fields that provides 25% to 50% of the total production;
2- a stochastic component where only a mean behavior can be derived from the contribution of thousands of small fields.
Clearly, only on the second component the central limit therorem could eventually be applied (in its convolution formulation). One consequence, is that the resulting production curve will probably be gaussian.

I try to look at that problem a while ago on

Convergence of the sum of many oil field productions

I also agree with your conclusion that super-giant fields won't play an important role in the future. A simple Monte-Carlo simulation based on log-normal distribution for the field size and the discovery history of oil fields seems to confirm that fact:

src:A Statistical Model for the Simulation of Oil Production

We are entering now in the "tail effect" of the log-normal distribution where production from a sheer number of small fields will shape the global production curve.

I read your first post (Convergence of the sum of many oil field productions) a while ago and I liked it.

But I hadn't read the second post about the Montecarlo simulation based on the Simmons paper, and it is extremely interesting. I agree that it is a very good confirmation of the behaviour of the supergiants I was talking abot. Thanks so much for the analysis and pointing it to me.

Do you think it is possible to do this analysis for the real fields productions?

I was planning to remove the supergiant fields production from the total oil production, and try to model afterwards. Of course obtaining the production for the supergiant fields is a very daunting, even impossible, task but an aproximation, I believe, is plausible.

Do you think it is possible to do this analysis for the real fields productions?

I was planning to do that as soon as I saw your detailed production curves about Norway and the UK. The idea will be to confirmed that the global production will be soon dominated by  productions coming from relatively small fields which means that the "Hubbert" component of global production is taking over the old determinist-like component from giant/super-giant fields. The behavior of the small field component is a statistical one and should be dependent on a small set of parameters (filed size cut-off, discovery pattern, etc.).

Of course obtaining the production for the supergiant fields is a very daunting, even impossible, task but an aproximation, I believe, is plausible

It's probably possible if we have a few production points from which a rough production enveloppe can be derived.  That's why the thread on big fields (The Top Twenty Fields: Are They in Decline? What Do We Know? (Updated)) is importnat and should be maintained.
The idea will be to confirm that the global production will be soon dominated by productions coming from relatively small fields which means that the "Hubbert" component of global production is taking over the old determinist-like component from giant/super-giant fields. The behavior of the small field component is a statistical one and should be dependent on a small set of parameters (filed size cut-off, discovery pattern, etc.).

I agree 100%. I will send you an email...

I also agree that mantaining a list of the top twenty fields is very important, but it should include present and past production history.

Maybe a wiki type of page with the latest information we gather about giant oilfields could be a good idea!

Would you like to write this up into a story for TOD:UK?
Sure! Give me a couple of days and I will send it to you.


A question for those in the know.

How much has the loss in value of the dollar, factored in with the latest price run-up of oil?
Or is it the other way around, the rising cost of oil has caused the dollar to slip?

Inflation and deflation are an increase and decrease in the money supply. Rising and falling prices are symptoms of 'flation, not the cause. Sadly, nearly everyone has it backwards.

Since the end of March, the USD has been tumbling vs. foreign currencies, including the 6 majors: Australian Dollar, Euro, British Pound, Canadian Dollar, Swiss Franc, and Japanese Yen. This is the same period as crude oil has shot back up to 74+/barrel, gold shot up to 680/oz, silver to 14+/oz, etc.

What's quite frustrating is that you see nothing in the MSM about the tanking of the USD. People see the effects of a weaker currency - higher prices for an imported commodity that is in high demand - but without the knowledge of why the price is higher, assume Corporation XYZ is gouging them.

We are set up for a double-whammy on oil: growing global demand pusher prices higher, and a depreciating US Dollar pushes prices higher as it requires more USDs to purchase the same amount. That's the real reason the Fed is no longer reporting M3 - we are headed towards hyperinflation.
Here is my question. I have been interested in diversifying away from the USD for obvious reasons, and suggestions?

I would invest in Gold, but something in me says that eventually it's gonna tank.

Basically, I agree that I see the symptoms of inflation, but I still have "enough" confidence in the US government, well or maybe just the people who make it up... that SOMEONE will stop the snowball before hyperinflation really sets in. It is unfathomable to me to consider that the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world will quickly suffer economic collapse without anyone trying to prevent it.

On the other hand, I keep feeling crisp new money pass through my hand.....

Take a look at the Grandfather Economic Report. Our debt is in trillions of dollars. Now take a look at Zimbabwe where the president is paying back trillions of dollars in debt. Zimbabwe's price rise 900%, turning staples into luxuries

The Federal Reserve Bank is unconstitutional. Article 1, Section 8, Cl 5 says, "The Congress shall have Power To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures." However, in 1913 the FRB was created. I strongly recommend that everyone read G. Edward Griffon's The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve Bank is the root of inflation. It creates "money" out of nothing. An increase in money supply = inflation. There is only 1 politician in all of Congress - Ron Paul, R-TX - who wants to end the Federal Reserve and bring us back to a gold-standard, of which we were on (somewhat) until Nixon stopped foreigners from exchanging USD for gold in 1971. Since then we've been on a pure fiat money system and it is now out of control.

If Peak Oil wasn't bad enough, we now face a collapsing US Dollar. When (not if) world oil is no longer priced in USD, that will collapse the USD and our economy. We will look like the Weimar Republic of the 1930's, Argentina of a few years ago, and Zimbabwe of today. Those that survived these hyperinflations did so by owning hard assets - commodities, and keeping some of their wealth outside of their country.

Picture Summary of 5 Core Threats

The Federal Reserve Bank is unconstitutional. Article 1, Section 8, Cl 5 says, "The Congress shall have Power To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures."

It's constitutional. They have set the value of the dollar at 0 ounces of gold.

We would have been out of gold in Nixon's time if he hadn't severed the relationship. It would all be in the Middle East by now.

Ok, but the fed has been adding to the money supply at a fairly consistent rate, 10-12% for at least a year, why is the USD dropping now?  Also every top country is raising their money supply by 8-12% a year, so why is just the dollar dropping when everyone is adding to their money supply?
Countries are diversifying their foreign currency holdings. They are reducing the % held in USD. Some include Russia, Argentina, Venezuela, and Sweden. As the US manufacturers less & less, and relies on credit (debt) to survive, foreigners want less exposure to USD. Once oil is no longer priced in USD, our currency will collapse.

How will we handle Peak Oil then? Our manufacturing plants have been shut down and torn down to put in strip malls. With our currency falling, it will cost a lot more to purchase raw materials from around the world. Then we need to rebuild our manufacturing plants for, say, light rail production. And do all of this starting now - during the plateau of Peak Oil?
The US is a special case. The consistent current account deficit you have been running would have collapsed any other country long ago. An analogy: the US economy is like a very important employee who has a major alcohol or drug problem. The company doesn't want to fire him because he is too valuable. He won't go to treatment. So he is tolerated, he gets special treatment. However, it has got to the point where it is getting out of hand and management (China and other holders of US debt) are starting to wonder if it is such a great deal to keep him. He is still very valuable so they are still putting up with him.
Your analogy is perfect.  I just came back from the Petro Collapse conference in DC.  I wish there was a more substantive discussion about the the world oil economy.  I have not been able to put all of the pieces together but what I do think is that Bush and Co. are purposely wrecking the economy.  Why, I just don't know.  Perhaps they see the peak oil writing on the wall and they want to control the crash as best they can.  

Our debt, the money supply, our outsourcing of our manufacturing base are all bad, in the end, for our economy.  Why would any president, regardless of party, want to push us into that hole?  We have become the problem employee and eventually we will be replaced.  My fear is once China, Russia, India, Japan find a replacement for our particular skill set we will get called in and suddenly sacked.


I think you are all forgetting the guns under the table. Paul Craig Roberts has called the current system a new form of tribute. Keep lending us money or else...

Don't worry about Iraq. The US still has the ability to intimidate any other country on earth militarily.

The US isn't a valuable employee. It is a protection racket.


"Lend us a few quid or we will shoot this consumer!"


"Piss off or we will blow up this pipeline!

Some contest...

There is an ever-increasing set of countries that the US cannot intimidate militarily. Mutual Assured Destruction remains in effect.

Apologies for length - I transcribed this from R Newmans History of oil film.

You have to imagine the World as a Bronx housing project, and the US is the #1 crack dealing Mafia Don on the block.

US: Anybody wants to buy rock in this neighbourhood you gotta come thru ME... otherwise you gonna end up like that fucking guy over there, take a GOOD look everybody.

And this is right after operation "Desert Fox", everyone is watching as Iraq comes limping back to his first day at work at the petrol station.  And he lifts the drop lock shutters and he gets to the PA  system in the forecourt and says,

Iraq: Ok everybody, Ah-ha, come to me, I sell rock and crack to e-everybody, I don't care.

And leaning out of `The Andes' tower blocks, third floor balcony, Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru are looking down, and Venezuela calls down to America.

Chavez: Hey companero! I thought you said you had this neighbourhood under control?
US: Hey! Don't make me come up there and deal with you!
Chavez: You tried that last week my friend... you could not get up the stairs... maybe I come down there... to you.
US: You do that. But right now, I got bidness to take care of.

And the US gets his boys, gets the boys and the baseball bats, and they go up to Iraq, and they get him by the hair, and they drag him into the arc light of the petrol station forecourt.

US: OK everybody - take a good look at this guy.  Iran, Syria, are ya watching? Brazil? Maybe you're thinking about not implementing that IMF austerity package? Take a good look at this guy... see what happens next...

Wham! And they bloody him up, trample him into the dirt; cut of his ears and when the dust settles, the United States is leaning on his bloody be-spattered baseball bat - getting his breath back.  Venezuela meanwhile, has come down to the petrol station forecourt, and is walking around America.

Chavez: That fight took it out of you companero...Ten years ago, you take this guy, you don't even break sweat!  This time, I gotta tell you, I don't hink you could have taken him out alone...if it was not for help... of your little friend...
US: Pant, Pant. You mean this Bitch!?
Blair: Well, you know, when he says Bitch, what he really means of course is...
US: Shut Up! Shut Up! I got this neighbourhood under control!

At which point a Hyundai driven by North Korea speeds past...

North Korea: Death to Americaaaa!
Chavez: You were saying companero? About control? I could not hear because someone was shouting `Death to America' very loudly in my ear.  Will you care to repeat for me?
US: You want a piece of me?!
Chavez: Anytime you like.
US: Ok, let's go...

And they get ready to fight, and they hear this noise... BANG, BANG, BANG. They look up... here comes China...

US: No, No problem officer...No problem at all, we owe you 149 Billion dollars, keep buying those dollars... mumble mumble, no problem, its all taken care of, everything's all under control.

Good post.
The age of US nuclear primacy is here. ar-primacy.html

It doesn't matter what happens to the economy. The US military will not just disappear into thin air. In fact the worse the economy gets the higher the probability that people like Bush will decide that a war is their last best hope of maintaining US supremacy.

They are not just going to fold their cards and say, "Well done China, you won fair and square."

The guns under the table cannot be ignored.


We already chewed over this article at length. Most seemed as unimpressed by it as me.
No such war is winnable by anyone.
I think that you ignore the implications of this article. It does not matter if the reality is that no one can win a nuclear war. What matters is the beliefs of those whose fingers are on the button. If they believe they can win, they may well try.

If Bush (or one of his successors) believes they can win such an exchange, they may base policy on such an assumption. They then may find themselves forced into a corner where belief in their assumptions is being tested. This is the danger. As long as everyone believed no one could win a nuclear exchange there was massive incentive to avoid it. But as soon as one crazy thinks he can win, he may try. And if he tries, everyone else is forced to respond. Down that road lies a hell we don't want to approach. So what is problematic with this article is that it indicates a shift in thinking amongst the very people who form foreign policy in the United States in a direction that is increasingly accepting of the idea of nuclear war.

Nuclear war has never been about winning. It's always been about convincing the other guy that he can't win. Russia and China may now be forced into an arms race just to erase this asinine US foreign policy concept or else forced to face this assumption in the real world.

The US cannot control Ramadi, so no one gives a shit about what is in their silos.  

The nuclear age is over.  There never was a reason to launch a first-strike and never will be one.  The spoils of natural resources will go to those who can control the territory around pipelines that carry it to the markets.  That's not the US.  The US recruiters fell short of filling the ranks of their Army last year and will do so again this year.  They no longer project power.  Iran understands this.  The bluff has been called.

Hmm, and China has an excess of young males. Eek.
There is another view - that the US economy gets propped up via the need to launder money.   A photograph which is claimed to be of the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) head and the head of the FARC.

There is another view - that the US economy gets propped up via the need to launder money.

Perhaps criminals will take their money and go when they corrupt the Chinese or Arab markets and can launder the same volumes of money they run thru the NYSE.

Aha, yes! One of the worst possible theories is that Bush & crew are always acting out of incompetence. But I think that's false. They want to make war, more war, much more war. They cannot with the economy as it is. Too many people are still enjoying life when not thinking about their mortgages or pensions. They're still working. But when employment jumps up to 15, 20 or more percent, then you have people who are interested in military careers, no matter what the risk. Look at Iraq! Why does anyone sign up for the military there? 60-70 pct unemployment.

And rising gasoline prices? What affect will this have on the US public? Well, goddam it, we do need the oil. This is the way out for these guys. That's why they are toughing out the plummeting polls.

I already get glimpses of this on the street. I do leafleting on the war(s) and 9-11. And once in while I get the answer -- well, we do need the oil! Willing to excuse to anything to get it. And what will happen when things really get tough? This is my biggest, biggest worry.

The reasons that the Repulicrats and Demicans are accumulating national debt are many. My paranoid side says it is because Bonds are a way to covert taxes into personal revenue for the Bond-owning group, a situation not unlike the nobility collecting taxes for the king.But my realist side says they aren't that smart. Probably they are just imprudent and the lender's aren't imposing any discipline. They want the instant gratification of being elected next time. True evil is mostly banal, sort of like bond traders at insurance companies.
   I suspect that the real reasons for the decline in relative  in value of the dollar is tied to our energy policy and our   Government's imperialism. Most of the oil production is denominated in dollars because of the multi-nationals U.S. origins. But because the developing world hates us they may soon switch to the Euro and trade on the new Iranian Bourse.  Gold is not an investment, it is a hedge. If you want an investment that actually earns while providing a hedge I suggest you look at stripper well deals or participating in gas wells. But these investments are not very liquid and require some sophistication to analise.
   Actually the only way to establish real economic stability is  to die and let your heirs worry about it.  
i think easiest explanation is that a debt-crazy nation isn't really pushing them to solve the debt problem.

the parallel between interest-only home loans and tax cuts in the face of exploding national debt is too stron to ignore.

Well, since the M3 numbers are no longer published since March of this year, we don't know what the fed has been adding to the money supply.  But we can guess from other factors.

Below is an article discussing why we should reinstate the M3 figures to the public:

"Gold is always the best measure of how much new money the government is creating. And the price of gold has been soaring! The dollar relative to gold has lost 60% of its value since 2000. That's bad news, because monetary inflation causes booms-and-busts."

"Gold works as a measure of inflation, but it would be better to know in advance. M3 would give us that advance warning."

I do not know much about economics but if you intend to measure inflation it seems a little dumb to watch the gold value since so manny people speculate in gold and regard it as a mystical value. A combination of bulky and unsexy commodities used everywhere should be better such a aluminium, grain, polyethylene, pulp or so.
But those markets are even thinner, so you would have to be the only one paying attention :-)
If the gold market has an impressive turnover it is only becouse people speculate a lot in gold. This should mean that gold probably is better then any other commodity in indicating how people speculate. Other commodities that actually are used ought to be better indicators of what people are willing to pay for filling a physical need.

It may be so that everything is depending on financial markets wich means that I who have very small resources and is a person who likes substance first will laugh if it crashes and then cry since life will get tougher when people stop working as much.  

Btw it seems like large parts of our society deserves to be rationalized as hard as the production industry. Should it not be possible to replace manny skyscrapers of jobs with web pages and software and thus free people for productive work? You can argue that finanicial people do valuble service with their people skills valuing peoples credibility but should they not do that spread out in society and not locked up with themsleves?

Actually, oil itself would be much the best choice as a unit of value, because by far the strongest line of causation runs from the oil price to the prices of other commodities.
However, now the monetary genie has escaped from the lamp and there can no longer be a role as currency for any commodity, whether mainly useless, as gold and silver once were, or useful, like rice in Edo Japan.
We will ride the tiger of money-as-credit for the foreseeable future.
Whatever monetary system is ok as long as good investments are being done and useful social contacts are created individual to individual.
I have to agree, but it could be broadened to be an index of energy. Oil, NG, coal, and uranium cover just about the whole pie.

the fed is not merely printing 12% a year, it is monetizing liabilities as well.

chew on this, in 2004 the government took a line item charge for $11 trillion in order to fund medicare/caid.

you see... it's what you don't see.

I'm not an economist, but it seems the jury is out on deflation vs inflation.

If it is determined by the money supply, then what happens if we have a liquidity crisis? If the real estate boom (which even the Economist concedes is the biggest financial bubble in human history) were to pop, the fed might be powerless to act. Indeed, if fanny mae and freddy mac end up with hundreds of billions, or even trillions in losses, and the banking system loses the same; and if the Chinese (who have hundreds of billions in mortgage backed securities) dump what's left of theirs (boosting interest rates, and causing more mortgage defaults), there could conceivably be a sharp decrease in the money supply. Which I understand would lead to deflation.

I'm staying in cash intruments (FDIC CDs), because I want to be flexible.

As far as gold and etc., if people are in danger of losing their houses or businesses, they're going to liquidate their precious metal holdings; as well as second homes, stocks and etc. Since money is allegedly based upon debt, if the debts are liquidated, I suspect the money will be liquidated as well.

You are correct about the money supply shinking as debts are written off or paid off.

As the debt load increases, it becomes harder to maintain a balance where money supply growth is rapid enough to allow most borrowers to service their debts and restrained enough that it still appears to be restrained. As debt loads mount, the inflation deflation question appears to me to be a question of on which side of a runnaway inflation / debt collapse deflation knife edge the dollar will fall.

Our wonderful new Federal Reserve Board Chairman has indicated that he will drop money out of helicopters if necessary to avoid a deflation. So if you take him at his word [which itself may be a doubtful proposition] inflation should be the more likely outcome.

BTW, if if comes to anything like the proverbial helicopter drop the dollar will be toast as the only thing that sustains a fiat currency if faith in the system.

It may be cynical to think this way, but I believe that the
US will hyperinflate in order to avoid meaningfully paying its
debt. A dollar of old debt paid with a new dollar of nearly no
value is easy to do.

No chance the gold standard will ever return. The US would be
caught unable to swindle its creditors if that were to happen.

Yes there will be consequences, but the US is too deep in the
game to avoid getting hit. It will make choices based on its
best interests, not on any ethical or moral standard.

You might be right, but the oil depletion situation throws a big monkey wrench into the "inflate your way out" plan. Somehow the USA would need to hyperinflate without hyperinflating oil prices, which is impossible.
Unless we own the oil.....
Canada, Venezuala, and Bolivia are right next door.
Yes, and owning it is not really required - it is easier in many ways to just control it.  How about you sell me that lunch for a dime?
Fiat money is not "allegedly" based on debt.  Fiat money IS debt pure and simple.  It is borrowed into existence by the Fed and disappears when the debt is repaid plus any interest owed.  That interest is why a fiat system can only exist in an economy that continally grows.  It's economic growth that allows the interest to be paid!  Otherwise we'd all be cleaning Ben and buddies toilets as indentured servants.

Hey, I gotta go.  Just got a cell phone call from my boss that Ben took an especially smelly dump and they want the best cleanup technician they can find.

Eureka!, I think I've just experienced an epiphany moment, whatever that is. Economics is so complicated and confusing. Thanks for cutting though all the crap, so to speak. You've explained why an economy must grow, which explains why we are so totally f*cked.
Well yes, but Fed action is not required except in the case of what has been referred to as "the original high powered money."

The more common money creation is through the standard commercial banking system. When a bank makes a loan, it creates what is in effect a balance in a checking account upon which the borrower may draw. That balance [until it is withdrawn] can be the basis for additional loans at the issuing bank up to the complement of the required reserve fraction which is almost zero at present. Loans become the basis for more loans. Note also that when the balance created by the initial loan is withdrawn, it will end up elsewhere in the banking system in another account and at that instituion will continue to be the reserve upon which additional loans can be created.

A perfect scam in that almost everyone involved is happy if the scam continues according to plan. The exceptions being the saver who is seeing his savings inflated away, and the occasional unhappy debtor who bit off a little more than he could chew and is unable to service his debts.

When the scam goes bad in a big way, the choices are a Weimar [or at least an Argentina] style inflation of a deflationary debt liquidation / default cycle.

In the meantime, the ongoing monetary scam has the perceived benefit of greasing the wheeels of commerce by making almost all parties a little more predisposed to spend, consume, speculate and in general party hardy dudes and dudettes everywhere!

Like a pyramid scheme?
Hmmm, I suppose that term might apply ... but I if I were to apply a term other "scam", it would probably be "magic."

Why "magic"? Because in daily life there is nothing that I can think of that depends so completely on a general lack of understanding of its essential nature than fiat money. [And "yes" I considered "politics" before I made the preceding comment.] :-)

I dont know where people get their information but the US dollar (as of yet) has not 'tumbled' or 'raised the price of oil'. Vs the Euro it is roughly the same rate it was 8 years ago and is actually stronger than it was a year ago.

I think people look at our deficit and say that it SHOULD sell off, but as yet, it has not.
Here is a chart:
link to freecharts

The US dollar to Canadian dollar ratio is at a 33 year low.  

I think this is a better indicator of the effect of petroleum deficiency on the U.S. dollar (that is, compared to the Euro).  U.S. and Europe economies have much of the same petrofears right now.  

floating currencies... the magic never ceases.

if the rest of the globe continues to allow the drunkard key employee any more 12 martini lunches, we're liable to watch him be double bound.

That the Fed picked March for discontinuing the M3 report always seemed very curious.

I have never seen a real interactive discussion (point-counter point discussion.)

What in M3 hides the flation of the money supply?

Well, nothing in M3 hides the 'flation of our money supply. It's plainly available. Check out these 5 articles from asset manager, Jim Puplava, in his Captain's Log (he likes to sail). He covers a lot on the US money supply and Peak Oil.

If you see M3 declining, we have deflation. If M3 is increasing, we have inflation. If M3 is accelerating upwards, we have hyperinflation.
Thanks for the link.

I really enjoyed the site.  However, he does not really address my question concerning M3. Maybe I am not clear.

What component of M3 is signficant enough to mask the true --or full--rise or fall of the money supply?  Repos?  If so, how?

Everything. Here's what the M's are for:
  • M0: The total of all physical currency, plus accounts at the central bank which can be exchanged for physical currency.
  • M1: M0 + the amount in demand accounts ("checking" or "current" accounts).
  • M2: M1 + most savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificate of deposit accounts (CDs) of under $100,000.
  • M3: M2 + all other CDs, deposits of eurodollars and repurchase agreements.
It's all "money." It all increases the money supply. The Fed (which is not part of the US government) purchases US Treasuries from the US gov. Thus, the Fed just created "money" out of thin air.

The trick is to be at the top so you are the first to spend the newly created "money." Prices have not gone up yet because that new "money" has not been injected into the economy. But once it trickles down to Joe & Jane America, all of the prices have gone up so they get no benefit. In fact, since they are on salary or hourly, they get no increase in their pay (except once a year) so they end up suffering higher prices with no adjustment in income. For us, however, we can get an edge over Joe & Jane America by seeing where that newly created "money" is going - commodities: particularly energy and metals.
Both. As dollar drops, oil price (in dollars) increases. As oil price (in dollars) increases, US current account deficit increases, putting downward pressure on US dollar. Almost a perpetual motion machine.
Where's Don Sailorman?

Don, if you're reading this send me an email. I have an invitation to my apocalyptic relgious cult . . .  I mean "eco-commune" waiting for you.

matt "at sign"



Yes, where is the Sailorman?  

I also need his economic expertise to explain what's going on with the relationships between the US $, oil prices based on the US $, and precious metal $.  

Whats going on is the tiger is eating his tail. We are using energy for society and also using energy to create more energy - the net gain on this is declining, so there are more dollars chasing fewer BTUS able to do work, which results in general inflation. Peak Oil, at least in its early stages, will be a financial cluster$%&#.

Don is probably on his yacht (consensually) raping an pillaging.

Well, at least smoking a Cuban cigar, watching a beautiful sunset, dreaming of women and pondering the realities of a world with less oil.
Hey where IS the Sailorman? I hope he's ok and just too busy um, working on something good or something, to have posted on here for a few days.

PO- collapse idea: Get your ham radio license. There's still a strong strain of the make-do, improvise, make it work, ethic in this hobby.

The ham radio idea is a very good one.  Also, what ever happened to CB's (10-4 good buddy!!).  

When crises strike, some of our older communication technology may become quite useful.

That's not fair. Don promised me he'd take me with him next time he want a-pillaging.



Don has been conspicously absent as of late.
How can ethanol EROEI be improved?
1)Change the feedstock. Farmers who now grow corn need to learn how to grow sorghum, sugar beets, etc.
2)Use less ammonia by converting to organic methods.
3)More fuel efficient farm equipment. Plug-in hybrid tractors?
4)More efficient irrigation methods. Inject pints under the crops instead of spraying gallons over the crops.
5)Build distilleries near powerplants to use waste steam for process heat. The temperatures needed for distillation and fermentation are relatively low and powerplants now send gigajoules up cooling towers.
6)Use silage as fuel for the fermenters and stills.
7)Heat pumps. This may be a stretch but if temperature differentials are low then coefficients of performance can overcome the inefficency of pump drives.
8)Differential solubility. There is a hydroscopic form of sulphur which causes the ethanol/water mix to split with ethanol sinking and water rising. Similar to how detergent separates grease from pots and pans.
9)Differential miscibility. Vegetable oil will absorb ethanol but not water. This reduces distillation energy requirements by roughly 85%. Don't distill and use the veggie oil/ethanol mix as biodiesel.
10)Cellulosic ethanol. Pushed by Bush which leads me to believe when seen. Any of this on the retail market yet?
11)The BRI process. Converts syngas to ethanol via a bioreactor with electricity as a byproduct.
12)Use solar/wind/hydro power. Takes fossil fuels out of the equation.
Maybe your #2 includes permaculturist Blume's idea of using the DDG byproduct for 110% of fertilizer needs?
Incidentally, JN2, I responded to your post in the other thread. What they reported for the Saab BioPower was a 12.5% increase in fuel consumption, not a decrease. Here is the passage:

Saab has yet to announce official mpg figures, but the performance boost from E85 comes with an approximate 12.5 per cent increase in combined consumption.



At a cost of 12.5% reduction in fuel consumption.

RR, you're right. I understood that mpg was 12.5% less, eg 20mpg instead of 22.9mpg. I just used the wrong word to describe it :) Nevertheless, -12.5% is much better than -30%, no? And not a bad price to pay for 20% extra power and 15% extra torque? Presumably an equivalent powered (but smaller) E85 engine would get better mpg than gasoline?

That's just the thing. In theory, I can see that as a valid argument. But I personally have not seen it demonstrated. I have seen claims that due to the higher octane, and because ethanol burns at a lower temperature it will be more efficient, but I haven't actually seen anyone show that to be the case in a controlled test. Every controlled test I have ever seen showed a drop in gas mileage.


Go to greencarcongress and take a look at what MIT is doing with ethanol direct injection- ups allowed compression ratio and gets a lot better fuel economy. Of course this is in the lab, but realworld possible nevertheless.  Just like a hell of a lot of other good stuff we are not doing but could. Lazy, stupid us.
I found a direct link:

Right now, it looks like they just have calculations to show the viability. They haven't actually done it yet. When someone actually demonstrates an improvement in gas mileage in an engine running on ethanol, I will get ready to climb aboard the ethanol bandwagon. But I have seen too many ideas that looked good on paper, but not so good in practice. I will be anxious to see how they progress.

One thing the article did mention, though:

Only a small amount of ethanol--less than one gallon of ethanol for every twenty gallons of gasoline--may be required to achieve the large increase in efficiency.


OK, you are right, I could'a swore they had actually done it in the lab.  Maybe that's because I clearly (?) remember batting this idea around in a grad house  bull session 50 years ago.  Anyhow, the idea is "obvious" and old, but we didn't have the electronic gadgets then to actually do it.  That goes for a lot of other old but good ideas- after all, thermodynamics hasn't changed-  but we now have geewhiz ways to actually do them, and oughta get going, now that the world is a different place.
Before you could begin to realize such benefits, you'd actually have to design and engine to run on ethanol, not just adapt one designed for gasoline.  I hear the automakers touting their E85 "technology" - but what have they actually done?  Change some materials in the fuel system so they won't degrade in ethanol, and change the programing of the engine control computer to adapt to a different air/fuel ratio, and maybe adjust spark timing.  Ooh, big deal.  

Except the Saab, of course.

If  you believe the DOE you get a 25% to 40% drop in fuel efficence using E85 rather than gasoline, depending on which model and engine you have.
i keep forgetting what DDG means (dry distiller's grain) which i should not, as a former chemist, homebrewer, gardener, and baker. ;-)

malted grains are very nutritous, and if you haven't done anything funny to them before the sparge, they work in muffins etc.  would they mulch?  sure, within the limits of other high moisture (no real need to "dry" them) and nitrogen.

on the other hand ... they might just go fine into all the energy/sports bars we constantly eat in the 21st century.

vermiculture works quite well, i'm doing it in order to close the loop on input independence.

worms work~!

We need to find balance between cellulose, lipids, protein and carbohydrate for byproducts apart from liquid fuels. For example I'd say lack of cellulose rigidity is the problem with algae which creates separation problems.  A syrup made from worm composted trash could be an easy way to recycle nutrients. There seems to be no way of avoiding GM technology, both for fermentation yeasts  and high oil yield legumes. In fact I'm preparing a field for GM canola. We're at the bottom of the learning curve with all of this with time running out.  
I wrote a blog essay on this about a month ago. I covered some items on your list, and some you didn't mention:

Improving the Prospects for Grain Ethanol


RR, just read your essay, thank you. Doesn't Blume's point about using DDG as fertilizer address some of your concerns?

By the way, I agree with your general point that corn is a lousy ethanol crop; sugar beet and sugar cane have so much better yields per acre and better EROEI. Why do you believe corn is so prevalent? Corporate corruption a la ADM?

RR, just read your essay, thank you. Doesn't Blume's point about using DDG as fertilizer address some of your concerns?

After reading Blume's essay, I don't trust him as a credible source. I don't know whether using DDG as fertilizer will work. But I know that some of the other things he said were plainly wrong, or blatant exaggerations. I would have to see someone demonstrate this in practice before I am willing to accept it.

Why do you believe corn is so prevalent? Corporate corruption a la ADM?

It is mostly political, and ADM has a lot of connections. I bet >90% of the people who support ethanol do not understand why there is a controversy over grain ethanol. The politicians, especially from the corn states, play it up as home grown fuels, helping farmers and the American economy. It plays quite well, especially in Peoria.


I don't know whether using DDG as fertilizer will work.

DDG is MUCH more interesting as a weed killer.    Go research the effect of fungus on seeds, then re-evaluate the 'credibility' of Blume.

My questioning of his credibility is not because of his DDG claims. It is because of other claims he made in the same essay, which are not supported by the facts, or were blatant exaggerations of the facts. I documented some of them here:


i'm not sure i'm following this DDG as fertilizer, but i'm follwing it as "weed killer" even less.

let's start with general principles, that the way to gradually build soil quality is to grow stuff, and plow it all under.  when you cart away any part of crop you deplete the soil, and need to add supplements to make up the difference.

when people grow grains, cart away the seed and the straw, they are taking away lots of nutrients.  when they extract sugars from the seed, and then return the de-sugared seed (as DDG) all they've done is improve the equation.  they are doing better than carting away all the crop, but not as well as plowing the whole thing under, either.  this is an improvement, but taking away something (sugars + byproducts + losses in transport and conversion) means that over time you will lose nutrients.

... on fungus i believe one of the key reasons we dry grains so carefully is that they are quite fungus-friendly in their natural state.

and the straw,

No one is claiming the carting away of 'straw' with normal corn production.

but i'm follwing it as "weed killer" even less.

Well go research the actual process.   The DDG causes a fungal bloom, when attacks and kills weed seeds.  

Try groing a garden patch and use some corn meal if you doubt the process.

Corn silage is a popular forage for ruminant animals because it is high in energy and digestibility and is easily adapted to mechanization from the stand-crop to time of feeding.

and on the fungal bloom ... are you concentrating grains originally from a large acreage into a smaller application?

I certainly have seen fungal blooms when high-nitrogen mulches are used in gardens, but I think the concentration is a big factor.

I sense that this DDG argument is not working with equal source and destination areas.

We were talking past each other than.

The use of corn silage in an open loop feedcycle will deplete the land.

Mr. Blume's idea (and patent) does not address that.   What it describes is:

Removal of Starch from corn and making ethyl alcohol from that removed starch.
The left over is oil and protein.   That left over bits can be used as food for animals or as a weed killer.
In the case of using the material for cows, you don't want the starch anyway.

The use of silage for energy is not something addressed by Mr. Blume.  

A perfect system would only remove CH4 or C2H5OH or so from the fields. The atoms making up the desireable energy molecules can all come from CO2 in the air and water. But you can never get a perfect system, wonder what would be good enough?
i think my real problem comes when i try to imagine this in the steady state - one grows corn, harvests the seed crop, extracts the sugars, and returns the residues.

the part my intuition has trouble with is that you can take away enough to make ethanol energy positive and economic, and yet return enough to ensure perpetual harvest.

it might work with crop rotation, legumes, green manure, but then you are back to good low input practices, i think.

i think my real problem comes when i try to imagine this in the steady state - one grows corn, harvests the seed crop, extracts the sugars, and returns the residues.

That would be the simplist state...only the seed has the chance to leave the farm.

the part my intuition has trouble with is that you can take away enough to make ethanol energy positive and economic, and yet return enough to ensure perpetual harvest.

Simple.   You are tryinmg to figure out how to get 86 million barrels of oil a days energy.  I don't see how either.

Oil has external costs like the time it takes to make and the CO2 it unbinds that are ignored.  The cost of a military maintained to keep oil flowing has a cost.    All 'hidden' VS the up front costs of land taxes, eq to grow/make the alcohol and labor.

Oil use and the accounting around the use has created distorted expectations.  The age of cheap energy is over.

I thought we were talking about a process that would provide steady state, closed circle, ethanol permaculture.  If not, I've been on the wrong vibe here.

If we are just talking about growing corn, and returning spent grains to the field, that's fine.  It's just a variation on ancient agriculture (we've been returning crushed grape residues to the vinyards for millenia).  That will reduce, but probably not eliminate the need for other inputs.

I do think that spent grains are kind of high value for that though.  If they haven't been treated with something to make them inedible, they'd probably work as an input for chickens, hogs, ..., or humans.  Nutritionally they probably aren't that far from a Clif bar.

... and return poop to the fields.

You are tryinmg to figure out how to get 86 million barrels of oil a days energy.  I don't see how either.

That do not matter in this discussion. The most relevant things are if this technology works in physical and economical way and for how long. If that is ok it will fill a small part of our energy needs, any addition is usefull.

That do not matter in this discussion.

Actually, it do matter.

Because the economy is 'designed' with growth in mind.  
Because people are used to the present system.

When you have to take away from others, the people who now have less don't like it.   And the more people who are not liking things being taken away while seeing others who still have what they now lack means more who will react in a violent way.   And most of the readeres here will get cought in the crossfire.

13) Start with the ethylene feedstock from a cracking plant. Add a catalytic step to add water: C2H4 + H2O => EtOH. Saves all that messy cultivating and distilling.
You are correct on this, and this is probably still the cheapest and certainly the quickest way to produce ethanol. But I don't believe it is eligible for all those subsidies.


Is it agreed that,globally,food production has peaked? It seems like crops for fuel is catching on big time and therefore acres available for food production are going to decline steadily.Have not seen any comments in the MSM media about this. It will not be pleasant for those persons who need food more than fuel.
Hello BrianT,

I agree, and once Peakoil really hits us hard-- we will prefer to spend our last bucks to drink the booze to forget our troubles, than put it into our cars to drive in aimless joyrides.  Who is the bigtime petrologist, that when asked how he personally deals with Peakoil replied, 'Good bourbon'.

We need to start a new cultural tradition that whenever the stein of beer reaches half-empty: the drinker shouts out Peakoil before finishing the mug!

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

Sometime after it's too late, we'll have a better appreciation of that ethylene feed. Now we're just making plastic bags and water bottles from it.

We could be making synthetic vodka...

Yes, I now have a correction for my organinc chemistry professor, Dr. Weller, who said "The cheapest way to make ethanol is to catalytically add the elements of water to ethylene." — The cheapest way to make ethanol is under a government subsidy.
As this is an open thread, I thought I'd start on something that will affect southern England this summer.
One thought that has occurred to me is what may happen this summer if southern England has to use standpipes. For most of the rest of the world, this may come as a surprise, but southern England has had little rain for the past 2 winters and our reservoirs are drying up. Northern England and the rest of the UK have had enough rain and/or have a smaller population in relation to the rainfall they have received. If southern England has to start using standpipes by the side of road and water bowsers in the streets to supply drinking water, how are the elderly or infirm going to cope? An eighty year old man or woman is not going to be able to carry a 20 litre plastic cannister to the stand pipes and walk back again with it filled up. Will they be able to lift the plastic can up onto a table, tip it on its side so water can be poured out? Very unlikely. And how many times a day will this procedure be done? As the average person in southern England uses 160 litres a day, an elderly couple is going to need 16 trips each day. It is unlikely that they will manage that, and who will have the time to do it for them? People in tower blocks are going to have a hard time getting water back to their flats. This is not really connected with Peak Oil, but is one of the side effects. Not many people realise how much energy is needed to move drinkable water around the local area, and then remove the wastewater afterwards. This drought will bring home to many people how much water weighs and how inconvenient it is not to open up a tap and have clean, drinkable water pour out of it. At least people in southern England only have to walk down a street to get drinkable water, not a couple of miles in sweltering conditions.
How much energy will be available in twenty/thirty years time to purify and move water around the underground pipes? And what happens if there is a drought in thirty years time. How will water be delivered then? I doubt there would be spare diesel for the water tankers.
"As the average person in southern England uses 160 litres a day, an elderly couple is going to need 16 trips each day. It is unlikely that they will manage that, and who will have the time to do it for them?"

Ummm... none except for the rich will be getting 160L per day if it comes to standpipes and tankers regardless of how fit they are, there won't be nearly enough tanker supply so some sort of rationing scheme will be imposed.

Somebody will have to dust off those old Civil defense handbooks from WWII when the blitz had broken up the water lines in the cities to work out the numbers and methods I guess.

Most of that 160 L I'm guessing is for flushing the 'loo. Under rationing that happens 1 or 2 times a day per household, not per person, the tank being filled from the top with the used cooking and hand washing water.

If it's yellow, let it mellow
If it's brown flush it down

Kinda catchy, huh?

Wasn't that said by Ed Koch during NYC's 80's water shortage?
I have no idea - I heard it years ago from a friend.

It's pretty gross, but you won't forget it!

I actually do wait until it's worth flushing to flush.

And, I kind of have this habit of showering every other day, years and years ago I lived where there was a drought and we (the populace) were asked to do that on the radio, and at least a good number complied. and while if I feel the need to shower I shower, the natural habit is every other day.

People in England, or anywhere else, are not going to get 160L a day out of a standpipe or from a bowser. They're going to get maybe a couple of gallons a day, drink with and cook with what they need, and bathe when they can. And smell bad, it's human.

It is probably good for your skin to not shower every day and let it rest and take care of itself without soap and moisturising lotions.
Exactly. I was having trouble with itching dry skin. Now I shower once a week and problem is gone. I hand wash the hot spots everyday. I don't urinate in the tiolet. I pee in a jar and dump it down the sink with a small burst of water to clean things up. I wonder if urine is valuable enough as fertilizer that we really should be collecting it.
I wonder if urine is valuable enough as fertilizer that we really should be collecting it.

Peak Phophorous.    The USGS is claiming 130 years of 'economically mineable Phophorous.'   Urine has such, and is in fact the way the chemical leaves the croplands...never to return.

Just figure out a low energy way to be rid of the Sodium.

IIUC, activated carbon (such as found in "terra preta") holds phosphorus as well as nitrate.  If it allows sodium to be washed out, that's almost exactly what you want.
that's almost exactly what you want.

Running urine into an oganic pile results in 'white powder fingers' on the outside/edges of the pile.    That white powder is Potassium nitrate and it  was how they used to make saltpeter.

The 'old way' of obtaining Phosphorus was:

He let urine stand for days in a tub until it putrified. Then he boiled it down to a paste, heated this paste to a high temperature, and drew the vapours into water where they could condense. To his surprise and disappointment, however, he obtained instead a white, waxy substance that glowed in the dark.    Later people added sand for a more complete reaction.    

Instead of white P, you'd like red.   I've been pondering using straight electrochemistry...getting rid/reducing/forcing the reaction to a non-soluable Na would still leave the 'other valuable' bits.  Another option would be hydroponics and figure what salt-loving plants would be worthwhile.   Alas, salt(s) buildup would still be an issue in a hydroponic system.  

Finally, having alot of land to pee on would be a solution.

Until relatively recently, the custom in the U.S. was to bathe once a week (Saturday night before church).  

Many Europeans still do the once a week or even once every two weeks bathing routines.  IME, it's often a point of conflict among exchange students.

We didn't used to wear clean clothes every day, either.  Clean clothes every day is courtesy of the washing machine, because it's too much work otherwise.

An odd coincidence is that the time used for washing clothes has more or less stayed constant. But the work was much harder in old times, hard enough to damage your health.

I assume that we in a post peak oil future will have washing machines that last for 30+ years and wash larger batches more seldom to conserve expensive electricity and hot water.

We switched to a front load washer several years ago to reduce the water use, and we dry most loads on delicate.  The next step will be to go to line drying.  

However, if we wash in cold water, I think the washer is still viable for a long time.  The energy to run the motor is not that extreme, certainly compared to anything that is heating water.

Even the water-heating burden disappears if you heat it with solar, or if you reclaim the heat for space heat.  You're left with the cost of pumping and treating the water, and a bit of soap.
Troy, New York is nicknamed "The Collar City."  Why?  Because they used to be known for manufacturing detachable shirt collars and cuffs.  To save labor, people would just button clean collars and cuffs onto their shirts, instead of washing the whole shirt.  The collars and cuffs were the part that got dirty, so they'd just wash those.

Less frequent bathing is harder on the clothing, I must say.  There used to be an old series of TV ads in the U.S., for a detergent.  Housewives would be embarrassed when their husbands were caught with "ring around the collar."  I never had any idea what "ring around the collar" was, until I went to boot camp.  They (intentionally) didn't give you enough time to shower, sometimes for days at a time.  Eventually, you end up with a faint dark stain on the inside of your shirt collar, where it rubs against your neck.  It's something that, IME, you never see if you shower daily.

Check out this washing machine:

I've been really pleased with mine. My last box of soap powder lasted my family of five eighteen months. We also save on power to run the motor (and the well pump because it uses so much less water). The clothes come out almost dry due to the high spin speed.

Thank you for the washer recommendation, Stoneleigh!
I smell future purchase.
Got an email from Zap:

Now is your chance to get your 'sneak preview' and test drive of one of the first production XEBRA 100% Electric Vehicle in the U.S. This XEBRA is the ONLY 100% Electric Vehicle that travels over 25 mph in the U.S.

I guess they don't know about the Tango.

Prepare yourself for a whole new driving experience. XEBRAS do not attempt to behave like other vehicles. They are unique. You will soon find out when you test drive the XEBRA that they are quiet, yet agile.
Imagine a world filled with silent XEBRAS instead of noisy internal combustion engines. On top of that they are a fun, compact and affordable All Electric Vehicle!

The Test Drive!
Plug ZAP! into your calendar for Saturday, May 13th. We invite you and your associates to test drive the XEBRA, offer your feedback to assist us in future versions, as well as order your own special addition XEBRA.

ZAP! Test Drive will be held at

Sonoma County Fairgrounds
1350 Bennett Valley Rd.
Santa Rosa, CA 95402  

Sounds like they're getting serious, but that's too far for me to visit.

According the their website here:

is 40 mph max and 40 mile range max on lead acid batteries, also its a 3 wheeler, with 1 in front and 2 behind. That would make it non-road- legal in Canada, does US law differ in this?

I would not expect the market for enclosed golf carts to be large in the land of car culture except perhaps in gated retirement communities or some such, but I might be wrong...

john milton -

Well, a four-wheel vehicle is inherently stable, and a two-wheeled vehicle (such as a motorcycle) is also relatively stable (provided the rider knows what he's doing).  However, a three-wheeled vehicle is something else again. It can be just bad (the old Morgan three-wheeler, or it can be really bad (a customized Harley three-wheeler with giant rear tires).

There is a very good reason that there are no three-wheeled vehicles in (common) production today. Not all innovative ideas are necessarily good ideas.

I agree, the ZAP type configuration used to be legal here then lots of 3 wheel ATV's started getting made and sold. High speed turning led to them pitching forward and rolling over, a fair number of riders got killed and maimed. This led to the ban on this design.

The issue is that such a veh. gets into stability issues if the center of gravity moves outside the triangle defined by the contact patches of the 3 tires.

The motorcycle trike conversions are helped somewhat by having so much of their weight in the back, maybe the ZAP does the same thing with its battery pack, don't know... But if you unload the single front tire too much you start to create adhesion and handeling issues with respect to steering, since it is the only pivioting wheel I assume

Might be soon though. - CLEVER
3 wheeled vechiles.  I just happem to own one.  It's a Taylor-dunn.  Has 6-6v batts(36v).  Hauls an impressive 1 TON at speeds of close to @10 mph.  We use it on our nursery and have for years.  Stability--not so good.  Even with those heavy batteries over the rear axle you can still get it up on 2 wheels at low speeds(empty of course).  Here is my biggest question and we need a locomotive engineer to answer.  I know that trains are diesel electric-I assume that the power train(drive train) is expensive to build and that is why they are not used in cars or is it our 0-60 ASAP culture.  
Food for thought ....if an 80,000 lb semi can get 6 mpg why can't my delivery trucks be equiped with a wennie ass diesel and a 20 sp trany haul 12,000 lbs(total) and get 42 mpg??  I'll take 2 and a dealership please.  
DelusionaL -

Well, the reason that all diesel locomotives have a diesel-electric drive is quite straightforward. An internal combustion engine has very poor low-speed torque and wil stall out should the torque load get too high and/or the engine speed get too low. It just can't pull like a plow horse.

On the other hand, an electric motor has very good low-speed torque characteristics. You can start running an electric motor with good torque at zero speed and, provided the windings don't burn out, load that  sucker right up to full power until something starts to move. You just can't do that with an internal combustion engine.

So, even though having a diesel engine turn a generator which then produces electricity to power an electric motor has large losses, it is considered worth it to get that low-speed starting torque needed to get a long string of railroad cars in motion. A steam locomotive had that same capability but was very thermally inefficient.

The other thing is that large mechanical gearbox transmissions are very expensive to build. Then you have the question of how would you operate a clutch for something as big as a diesel locomotive?

As to the question of why a large semi trailer gets better gas mileage for its weight than a small truck, there are several reasons. First, it has a very low power-to-weight ratio. Which is why they typically have so many gears and take forever to get moving. It would be somewhat equivalent if your Ford Taurus had a  30 HP motor. Then, the frontal area of a semi is perhaps 2 or 3 times that of a passenger car, but its weight is over 20 times that of same. Thus, on a per-ton basis, there is less wind resistance for the semi than with the passenger car. This is the exact same reason why a large ship is so much more energy-efficient than a small one.

For many things there are definite advantages to being big.

  Did you ever hear about the multi-fuel hybrid that Saab or Volvo was working on in the 90's which used a micro-turbine directly driving an alternator (same shaft), from there going on to an electric drive and some battery storage?

  Since I haven't heard any more about them, I can only assume that they didn't work well.. or they worked too well.

  I don't know how well turbines scale down, particularly in a mobile situation, where gyroscopic and noise concerns might not be easily solved.


It was Volvo. My guess is that it was too expensive to do more then a demonstrator with the technology. My next guess is that some of the hybrid technology experice was usefull and perhaps it inspired the battery research done in Sweden?

I dont think it worked too well. Sweden is with nine million pop compared with international statistics too small to have one or even two car manufacturers even if Volvo now is a part of Ford and Saab a part of GM. They have not been shy with pioneering technical innovations faster then manny other car manufacturers, they need to be ahead or they will be outcompeted within a few years.

Although Saab Automobiles ought to be dead since manny decades. Saab Automobiles were more or less run as a rich finance house hobby with money from the truck manufacturer Saab Scania and some years from the fighter jet production at Saab. Their cars have allways been fairly large production run small and medium size concept cars done with too much manual labour. Its only recently that GM has forced Saabs production plants to be efficient.

There are rumours, probably from press releases that Saabs next engine will be ethanol optimized with the ability to also run on gasolene and not the other way around. All Swedish car and truck manufacturers seems to work with hybrid wehicles, most wehicles produced will probably be hybrids within a few years if the oil price keeps climbing.

jokuhl -

No, I'm not familiar with any turbine-electric drive for automotive applications, such as the one  you mentioned.

I do know that the Chrysler Corp. did a lot of developmental work on a gas turbine car in the 1950s and possibly early 1960s. Beside cost considerations (turbines require special steel and a high degree of precision in their manufacture), I recall that one of the problems was that a turbine can't go up and down in speed as easily as a piston engine, and it too has rather poor low-speed torque. And if I recall correctly, turbines tend to have a rather narrow speed band in which they operate efficiently.

 So the idea of linking the turbine to an alternator appears to serve the same purpose of as the diesel-electric drive in a locomotive, i.e., it decouples the speed of the  combustion engine from that of the driven wheels.  In other words, with a turbo-electric drive you can spool up the turbine to a very high speed to generate a large amount of electrical power which in turn is applied to the high-torque electric motor that actually turns the wheels.

However, I suspect that such a configuration could get quite expensive.

The Chrysler turbine was a 2-stage device with one turbine powering the compressor and a second free turbine powering the car. That free turbine produced max torque at zero rpm just like an electric motor. It used more fuel than a piston engine of the same power and had poor throttle response.
If you look at the brayton (gas turbine) thermodynamic cycle, you see two ways of getting high effiency- first, high compression ratio- meaning lots of compressor and  lots of dollars; or low compression ratio and lots and lots of recuperative heat exchanger- that is, running a hot exhaust which dumps its heat into the incoming compressed air before the burner.  Both ways are tough to do, and both ways are expensive relative to the same efficiency from the brutal old diesel, which gets its goodies from high compression in a dirt cheap cast iron cylinder and piston.  And the diesel works pretty well way off max power, while the brayton (gas turbine) goes to pot real fast when running off max.

HOWEVER (you guessed it) the stirling free piston-turbine alternator does just dandy in efficiency and off-design power and power/mass and $/power and runs on garbage.  That's what I am gonna put my lucid intervals on after I sell my dandy new automatic transmission for bikes.

You have a product to sell but you do not post your contact info, odd. If what you state is correct you are ahead of me who only have dozens of half done ideas, mixed thoughts and too much time without an income. But hopefully I will soon be part of a designing a small biomass using combinate.
Magnus.  I am selling a bike transmission patent, not a piece of hardware. So I am only talking to a few people.

As for that stirling engiine. After years of persuasion, I have only just now got the green light to go ahead with a serious development.  I am just now setting up a web site (not done yet!) which will tell everything about it.  It would be great -I believe- for biomass, and I am looking forward to trying to get the Swedes interested when I have a demonstration unit. They seem to be much more interested in biomass than people in the US.

It seems we are both in that very large class of people with too many ideas and too little money.

Biomass production, mostly in the form of wood, and its use to make paper, wood products and power both as heat and electricity is an established and prospering industry in Sweden.

The missing part for a realy nice local biomass future is production of bulk hydrocarbon chemicals including fuels. I hope that is a large part of our pulp plants futures the day paper get squeezed by replacement technologies and poor customers.

If you can make a wood pellet heated sterling engine that can run for a long time with minimal service it is probably fairly easy to sell hundreds of it even if it isent especially economical. If it do have a good economy you will sell thousands of it. The limit is probably the ammount of heat needed, small houses do not need to fire their boiler continously and intermittent electricity is not as usefull as a constant supply and can not pay back the capital investment.

This is kind of where I came out too - you need a pretty damn good fire to make the kind of electricity required, and it needs to be steady.  So that means you need a self feeding fuel, such as pellets or coal.  OTOH, in the winter this is mostly free heat, if you are heating anyway, and if one can scale down the electricity needed, it may work out well.

I hope to try out a sterling design I've been thinking about - not going for efficiency, but rather cheap and easy to put together.  

Note from friendly competition- before you take off after any stirling engine (note spelling) please read the stuff about free piston stirlings on the NASA space power site- They are getting high 30's in efficiency at a mere 100 watt power level and projecting life in decades.  Then look at the so called Bush engine (no relation, thank god, to youknowwho)  This one is really simple, being just a displacer and a couple of check valves taking in gas and blowing it out at higher pressure.  These things are REALLY simple!  And, if computers can be believed, also fairly efficient, but not quite as good as a real Stirling.  That's the one I am going for.  See you there.

Pellet stoves work fine with stirlings.

PS- the Bush engine (or thermocompressor) was used in the artificial heart program in the '80's.  You can find papers about it in the ME mags of the time.

Thanks for the tips (and yes I do know how to spell it - usually!).  I'm looking at it a little differently, in that I'm not that concerned with efficiency, I'm mostly looking at what can be made easily and inexpensively from readily available parts.  I don't really care what the technology is, flash steam would be ok too, although it isn't appealing in some ways.  But I will not be at all surprised if it turns out that one cannot make something useful in this manner.
I found a lot of uninformative hits on the first two pages Googling "bush engine".  I can visualize what I think you mean but I'd prefer to know exactly; got a good link?
EP, I am sorry to say that I too couldn't find any links here.  If you have access to the IECEC conference papers you will find reports on the artificial heart work.  A bush engine has a stirling displacer & heat exchangers, but the conventional piston is not there, instead just a valve plate  on the cold end of the cylinder with an inlet and discharge check valve.  The displacer goes in and out, the gas goes between hot to cold, the pressure goes up and down, and the  gas flows in and out. A thermocompressor. Easy to make one.

Vannevar Bush.  Famous MIT engineer of the first half of last century. He didn't do much with this cute idea of his, too busy with computers and stuff of great import to the war effort.

The thermocompressors I was able to find with Google image search are just venturi devices.  Guess I'm going to remain unenlightened for a while.
It is more simple than that: there is no mechanical transmission (of reasonable size/cost) that can handle the torque of a diesel locomotive's prime mover.

Also, steam locomotives don't have as great of a starting tractive effort as diesels.  Their power actually increases as they speed up.

Older DC motor diesels did have problems operating at low speeds for extended periods.  The new AC motor diesels can pull at low speeds or even stall without worrying about burnt commutators or brushes.  Of course, there is still a chance of melting the whole motor, but modern AC and DC locos have are controlled by computers, so a failure like that is uncommon in the real world.

Hybrid fans and other techno-geeks should have a look at the Green Goat.

3-wheelers work better if it's 2 wheels in front and the single one in back.

Where I grew up there was a dog in the neighborhood named Floto. He had one back leg, and the normal 2 fronts. He got around great. 3-wheeled vehicles where "they" take a motorcycle and put 2 wheels on the back do not work well. 3-wheelers with 2 idle wheels in front and one driven wheel in back work surprisingly well. They look odd, though. But they work.

Since previous posters didn't address the question directly:
if an 80,000 lb semi can get 6 mpg why can't my delivery trucks be equiped with a wennie ass diesel and a 20 sp trany haul 12,000 lbs(total) and get 42 mpg??
Because the fuel required is roughly proportional to energy consumption, not weight.

The OTR semi spends most of its time cruising at speed.  It burns fuel to climb hills and sometimes has to brake on descents (throwing energy away), but most of its fuel is burned to overcome air drag and rolling resistance.  The fraction of energy spent accelerating is relatively small.

The local delivery truck carries a small fraction of the semi's load, but it has a much larger proportion of the frontal area.  If it's a box truck, it probably has a much worse aerodynamic profile than the semi (which usually has fairings on the cab).  Last, the delivery truck is always accelerating and braking in local traffic.

If you took the delivery truck's load, squeezed it into a package shaped like a Prius on steroids and rolled it down the highway at constant speed, you could get great mileage... but you wouldn't have a delivery truck.

I disagree - 2 wheels in the front work just fine.  If you've ever seen front wheel drive cars racing, the inside rear wheel is invariably off the ground be several inches in tight corners (if they're doing it right anyway!).  
A three wheeled vehicle in the US is classified as a motorcycle, with all applicable motorcycle laws.

Three wheeled vehicles with two wheels in front and one in the back are actually rather stable, especially if the CG is kept low (like every other vehicle on the planet).

For probably the ultimate example of a three wheel car/motorcycle...I direct you to drool at the T-rex:

Performance: 0-60 mph: 4.1 sec.

Top speed: 140 mph.

Lateral acceleration:1.9g

The new issue of Discover (June 2006) has an article called "Slow Forward."  It's an interview with David Bodanis, about why technological innovation has slowed down despite all the money and attention given to high tech.

He's not a believer in "the end of science."  And frankly, I don't think he "gets" the big picture (Tainter, the cost of complexity, etc.).   However, he does seem to have an inkling of the problem of declining marginal returns, in a nibbling around the edges kind of way.  He blames the fact that we are so dependent on technology now.  We can't shut it down to tinker any more.  It's too dangerous to try completely new things, so we're stuck merely tweaking the old technology.  He also argues that the "always on" digital world doesn't allow people enough down time to think outside the box and come up with the truly innovative.  He thinks the reason young scientists today have trouble coming up with dissertations is not that there's really less out there to discover, but that they're under so much pressure from the system that they don't have the time and leisure to be truly creative.

He also thinks that, fat and happy as we are, we've become timid.  Safety has become more important than exploration for us.

So he thinks we could return to the breakneck  innovation pace of the past if we 1)  Shut down the all forms of digital communication outside of work hours and 2) Killed half the patent lawyers in the country.        

I suspect Tainter would argue that the problems he points out are classic "declining marginal returns."  

Anyway, I found it interesting that even tech optimists are acknowledging that technology really is slowing down.

Ah the "80/20" rule.  The first 80% of improvement comes from the first 20 % of effort the other 20% of improvement takes 80% effort and isn't cost effetive.    
I think of it as a circle. If the area grows linearly with time, then then radius is only growing in proportion to the square root of time. I don't think there's been a slowdown, I think there has been a slowdown in things that matter, that have major impacts. I was born in 41. The amount of real change I've seen is much less than my grandparents saw. They saw the coming of the automobile, the airplane, radio, TV (color too), rockets, the atomic bomb, and the beginnings of computing.

What did I see? Radios and TVs got cheaper, better, computers got smaller, faster, cheaper, cell phones, I'm starting to strain already, there's got to be more... . Most of the more is electronics, almost all of which is due to the silicon lithography and other semiconductor stuff.

I am not an end of science guy either -- John Horgan is full of, well, beans. But one kind of science has, I think, started reaching limits. And I would say that is the reductionist kind. We pretty much know what everything is composed of. But we really don't know how anything works -- even the cell for example, not as a whole, nor the earth as a system. There is, according to physicists (V. Flambaum) some signs that some constants of nature, aren't -- indicating that they are emergent, properties of the whole. We know about neurons, but little of how the mind works.

I think that's where science will go, has to go next. Right here on this site we are very much concerned about the role of energy in the evolution of society and its relation to geophysiology. This is crucial to our future, not some new whizbang gadgetry that improves the flavor of toast.

Well, to make it a fair comparison you don't tell us when your grandfolks stopped seeing i.e. when they died, and you have yet to die so presumably will see more... You should really define 2 non-overlapping time periods of equal length with the most recent one ending today and then we could make a run at it.
I am an "end of science" guy.  I think the reason young scientists have trouble finding good dissertation topics is because there are actually less of them out there.  So dissertations become "islands of trivia in a sea of minutia."  

Tainter argues that scientific and technological discovery are subject to the same diminishing returns as discovering oil and gas.  Yes, there will always be more out there to discover...but eventually, you reach the point where it takes so much effort for so little return, it's not worth it.  You can't run your society on either forever.

As Feynman said, there is plenty of room at the bottom.

We have only begun the work in understanding and using biotechnology and nanotechnology.

And theoretically:

Computing science is often primitive using old ideas embedded in new GUI:s.

Do we understand humans and humanity? There ought to be things left to do and understand to be able to create better societies to live in.

How do complex natural systems work? Can their behaviour be usefully predicted?

How do we create money and law in better ways within an inperfect system of inperfect individuals?

And on a bulkier level:

We have plenty of practical technical work left in making physical products easier to manufacture, repair and recycle.

We have not yet perfected fisson power with fuel recycling and fission product transmutation and management.

We have not perfected electro optical devices with LED:s lasers and photovoltaics.

There is probably plenty left to optimise in process chemistry.

There are thousands, no millions, of chemicals that we need to know more about to optimise practical use and avoid damaging humans and our environment.

I agree.  There's plenty out there that we don't know.   There always will be.

But it's going to be more and more expensive to find out, and harder and harder to turn it into something useful.

For example, nanotech is not something you can do in your spare time, with your own money and local materials.  If it were, it would be tapped out already.  Hence the rising cost of scientific discoveries - the lowest fruit is picked first.

Just as as there are plenty of hydrocarbons out there, but accessing them and getting them into useful form may take more energy than you get back from them.

it's going to be more and more expensive to find out


Good point. Research in "Basic" science has always been the province of the leisure class.

One has to have great wealth and free time in order to browse aimlessly through the endless mysteries of the universe (i.e. what is gravity? what are the unifying principles of the universe?) and by chance stumble across something useful.

Part of Jared Diamond's theory about the rise of civilization is that some groups of people were pure lucky to have the right kind of animals around them, capable of being domesticated and used for doing work (i.e. oxen) so as to thereby free up part of the populace to engage in advancement of technology.

The so-called progressive societies were not ones where the citizens were genuinely smarter (a.k.a. Yankee Ingenuity) but rather ones where the land was so bountiful that society could afford to support a leisure class that stayed in school way beyond high school, and got grants for pursuing a life of basic research.

Something of great significance occurred in the USA when governement and corporate powers started shutting down basic science R&D projects. They claimed they were getting "smarter" and developing only when there was clear profit at the end of the tunnel. However, the shutting down of basic R&D was a sign that our civilization was collapsing ... that it no longer had enough excess capacity to support research in basic science. We are past our scientific peak because we are past our economic peak ... and we still don't recognize that this has happened. Even when peak is in the rear view mirror, we refuse to admit it.

some things are more expensive, but others head the other way.  whole fields of computational science openned up in the last 30 years, riding on the heels of lower cost per FLOP (floating point operation).

computational chemistry barely known when i got my chem degree 25 years ago.  now, clusters able to do it are within the budget of most campuses (heck, many here probably have more FLOPS available than the first computation chemistry researchers).

The computer revolution is somewhat of an exception to the rule because Moore's Law drives the economics of the process to making every FLOP cheaper and cheaper, simply by cramming more and faster transistors on a computer chip.

However, if you trace back to the begininng of time, prior to Shockley et al's invention of the transistor, you willl find a time where the work in solid state electronics was in the realm of basic science. Folk at Bell Labs were doing it just for the science of the thing without knowing that there would be a profit at the end of the trail.

Today, the Bell Labs of old is a relic of history and there is no equivalent replacement for it. That means that the next great thing (equivalent to the transistor) will probably not be coming out of a US research lab. It will come from another country, one with enough excess production capacity to invest some of its resources into basic science.

lol, if it is an exception, it is an exception we were able to leverage across an entire world.  one particular, important, cascading result was that automatic gene sequencers were able to be built from inexpensive computers.

and why doesn't gene sequencing meet your demand for the next big thing?

When you use your advanced gene technology to build a better politician (... an honest, intelligent, benevolent philospher king kind), then we will have the "next big thing".

Until then, you are just spinning muck around at the bottom of the genetic soup bowl.  :-)

we've managed to improve health care a bit, even in the early stages of this technology.  i think it will be interesting medicine, once it all gets rolling.

(we are probably at the "descrete transistor" stage in gene science, with a long ways to go.)

I don't know if there is an end of science, but there is an ignorance of science. You can not magically violate the laws of science with more science. The limits to exponential population growth and peak oil are based on science, but we have not used this science to change our way of life. The harsh reality is that science can't put a hummer in every garage for 6.5 billion people. If we as a society understood science hummers would be illegal.
I think our science and a sustainable industry can put a hummer in every garage for 6.5 billion people if they only use it once every week or so. It is even easier if you hire a neighbours hummer every other week and then it even stops being a silly idea to have a hummer for every household.

The problem is not the size of our tools or toys but that too manny of us have limited ourselves to few options in our normal daily lives and that manny peoples status symbols are energy hungry instead of subtle.

Outlawing hummers solves nothing, making it easier to live withouth a car each or making other things then energy intensive stuff into status symbols solves a part of the problem.

Kære Magnus, Du skriver godt på engelsk. Men du bliver med ved at bruge for mange "n" i "manny" det er kun et - "many". Har det godt, ikke?
Tack för påpekandet. Jag skriver nästan alla mina spontana texter utan att använda stavningskontroll. Jag vill göra misstagen och kanske bli bättre, det räcker inte med att datorn rättar. När jag tvivlar slår jag upp ordet i ett lexikon och ibland läser jag lite mer i det.
Oh, Leanan, I couldn't disagree more. I agree with peak this and peak that, but I definitely don't agree with peak science. The hard stuff, the really interesting stuff is still ALL on the table. Yes, of course it's hard to find a thesis or research topic. Why? Because no one can afford to take any chances. You need a degree or funding. So you have to find some little niche where you can do something "new" and achievable within a reasonable timeframe instead of something really important and interesting.

I'll give you one very simple example of an idea that nobody will work on, but ought to be worked on. Dawkins says that life originated with the more or less accidental appearance of replicators (ur-DNA). This is brain dead, yet it is the reigning paradigm. On the other hand, Gaia, geophysiology, has gotten increased respect: the idea that earth forms an somewhat organismic system in which the cycling of elementary compounds (carbon, water, sulfur, nitorogen, etc.) which is to some extent stabilized by the presence of life on the planet. Life is the cycling of complex hydrocarbons within small entities, cells and bodies, etc. Is it possible that the larger cycles of geophysiology, i.e. cycling of simple compounds, induced or led to the cycling of complex hydrocarbons of cells and life? In other words, that the larger cycles of the planet led to the smaller cycles of the cell via some process of miniaturization? NO ONE is going to devote their life to that, although I wish someone would.

There are five or more  such projects I could outline for you -- not a one will be done anytime soon. No payoff, too much risk of no tangible results, etc.

I would be a magnificent research project to trace in some detail just the material flows in modern society, to make some estimate of the renewability of these various materials, the substitutability of one for another, the geographic distribution of the materials, the renewability, etc. This is just a generalization of what we're about on this site. Probably some part of this has been done, but I have not seen any really comprehensive effort.

These kind of things are quite different from most of (but not all) the science that's been done up til now. It involves trying to figure out how things evolve and work as total systems.

Actually, I am an "end of science" guy too, but not in the sense of science having reached any sort of limits. Here, science not being confused with technology or engineering - ecology as a science is still fairly unsystematic, and we do seem to be throwing away thousands of years of experience without learning much. Linguistics can be considered in the same light. And neither of these areas is particularly dependent on anything but a community of learning/sharing. Of course, there are times where portions of humanity are not contributing learning/share, but they tend to be gaps, not permanent.

What I do think is happening is a sort of social braking (though not really in the sense of complexity or diminishing returns). Science, in this case in the sense of technology or engineering, has become so threatening in so many senses. Some of these reasons concrete, some are illusory - you can decide which is which according to personal tastes. For example, the DU discussions tend to focus on radioactivity - I would focus on distributing a fairly 'new' heavy metal in massive quantities throughout a region and its eco-systems - after decades, centuries, or millenia, humantiy will be able to evaluate just one of our tiny experiments in changing our world. I am fairly certain we will not be judged as having been very scientific in how we created, processed, and distributed such problems, though.

After a burst of unbalanced technological 'progress' - look, nuclear power! Weather satellites! GPS precise carpet bombing! New, improved, powdered antrax! - the systems which produced such 'innovations' no longer seem capable of continuing forward without massive problems. It looks as if most people aren't interested in playing Kali, and don't trust anyone else playing the role either. And a lot of social mechanisms (yes, including parasites like patent lawyers) are returning a certain balance to how quickly 'progress' is made.

This is not the end of science - it may be the end of scientific progress, if by that is meant what most of us consider science - we are all children of the 'modern scientific era.' Personally, I think this slowing down is vitally necessary, as their is no way that the current bunch of 2 year olds running around should have the matches, gasoline, and lack of supervision they do - especially with the 2 year old being handled even more fun toys, like this button with the MAD cool flashing light.)  

This subject is fascinating, of course - and again, one of viewpoint as much as any 'objective' facts. There have been times of furious intellectual churning, and other times of relative peace. In both extremes, some people are content, and some not. But science, in the sense of human inquiry using certain rigorous frameworks, is not any more likely to slow down or die out now any more than it did when the Greek city states disappeared. It will have its peaks and valleys. The last several generations are looking at science from a peak, and all they see are valleys. Personally, I think the fog makes looking at the other possible peaks merely a leap into the unknown. (And to be depressing - I am quite convinced much 'scientific progress' is being hidden - marketing and psychology, for example, have a much larger database of empirical information and concrete interest in using it than most people seem to understand, and this has been true for several generations.)

not seeing the article, i don't know what measurement he uses to detect "slowing."  i hope he did better than the casual observer who looks back and compares centuries of improvements to recent weeks.  centuries beat weeks no matter how you do it.

i'd say the whole genome, cellular biology thing, was a good enough accomplishment for the last decade - to put us with any other 'best decade ever.'

oh, and there are also the "doubling times" and the rates at which new innovations reach X% of the population.  that is certainly getting faster and faster.  compare internet penetration in the late 20th century to telegraph penetration a century or two earlier.

I see three major obstacles to progress.

  1. The masses are ignorant.
  2. Most of our leaders are ignorant.
  3. The ignorant leaders are controlled by TPTB. The masses are fed a constant stream of propaganda by TPTB through the MSM. TPTB are TPTB because they are driven by insatiable greed for wealth and power. TPTB intend to use the harsh realities of peak oil to gain more wealth and power.

Some of us are blessed with intellectual and moral superiority. We want an humane and fair transition to a sustainable way of life for everybody. We can not accept the  short-sighted and selfish agenda of TPTB. Our intellectual and moral superiority can be used to enable positive progress.

  1. We must set the goals.
  2. We must develop the solutions.
  3. We must educate the masses to gain support for our goals and solutions.

The masses and their leaders must be educated.
Oh, hell, I'm packing up my house to move on Tuesday, I've imbibed a bit of wine and I think it's time for a bit of a rant.


Before I begin this stuff, I would like to say that TOD is the best information source on the web for understanding the reality of the world's energy issues. There are other good sites, but TOD is it, as far as I'm concerned

Here's the rant.

TOD contributors, the primary editors, contributing editors like myself and a large number of invaluable people commenting on the site have laid out the case unequivocably and convincibly that we're in big trouble going forward in time considering not just Peak Oil (light sweet crude, which has always been cheap and abundant--until now) but also Natural Gas. We all know that Coal and Nuclear are disasters waiting to happen. Alternatives do not scale up. This is all true. Don't tell me about riding your bike. I ride my bike but I'm not laboring under the illusion that it's making a difference.

We see many posts here detailing the negative affects the tight demand and supply situation is having on the world (I mean, all the countries with the exception of the big producers). Leanan especially (but others as well) keep us well informed.

I'm going to come clean here. The idea that investments made in the early 2000's (by IOCs or NOC's) given the long lead times from exploration to production is entirely offset by depletion rates. And the numbers are clear--we're not finding much more conventional oil and we're not going to. I know the CERA numbers and what Skrebowski sees in pipeline going forward. What there is to develop will be very expensive to produce. For example, Deep Water (Gulf of Guinea) will produce well until about 2011 at which time, like the North Sea, it will just tank and decline quickly.

I'm going to meet Jim Kunstler on Tuesday (first time!) and I'm sure he and I will have a lot to talk about. But I've just got to say that, historically speaking, I see humankind driving their SUV's toward a cliff and when it goes over the edge, there will be hell to pay.


best to all, Dave

Dave - rant on!'

I myself have imbibed 4 Anchor Steams and who knows how many SLAC zoomies, and I agree with you completely.

The future is not about gas or ethanol or biomass, it's about not using oil at all. Because the EROEI and population density is not going to support anything past AD 1600s agriculture, classic-era Edo or Kerala India etc culture, and that's if we're lucky.

Gas vs Diesel vs ethanol vs CNG will result in different downslopes, but in the end, we're all going Amish. There is so much inertia in the system we may not live, our generation, to see the end point, but that's where we're going.

I'm all for enjoy it while we can - if you're reading this you're on the Net, unlike most of the world population who's never made a phone call, you're a Have, so go to google video and watch Cosmos by none other than Carl Sagan. Great late 70s stuff! Learn and enjoy, because your descendents if you have any are going to think the moon is the mother of the tides or the daughter of the milky way or something. And forget about the planets. They'll be wandering hunters again.

From chain hydrocarbons to the superheterodyne circuit it's all going to likely be forgotten in a few generations at most so enjoy while you can. This does not mean burn more gas, it just means visit project gutenberg and walk to your library, enjoy while you can because it's all gonna go.

I doubt very much that we'll ever go Amish.  There are just too many tricks we're either rediscovering (terra preta) or inventing.  For instance, we can engineer crops to fix their own nitrogen and use leftover stalks and straw to make charcoal; the charcoal in turn can be used to turn phosphate rock into soluble phosphate ion.  Between the radical improvements in the energy required to fertilize crops and engineered soil which won't let nutrients leach away before roots take it up again, we'll beat that problem.

The world is awash in energy; what humans use in a year, the Sun delivers to us in about 40 minutes.  The sunlight that falls on a typical house's roof is more than enough to power everything the occupants do.  All we have to do is make our converters cheap enough, and fossil fuel and its depletion will be a historical curiosity like spermaceti.

Poet I'm with you on that, while I think long term, Amish is the future, it doesn't mean I plan to "go down without a fight". I'd really like to see some level of technology survive, and ideally, technology continue to advance without our trashing the planet. Ideally we'll see a much lower global population but that population educated and aware, a global Athens.

I don't think going to the grocery store for a packet of jerky in a hummer is appropriate technology though - humans are meant to exercise. Take your bike. Or at least walk to the bus stop. There's nothing wrong with line-drying your clothes, I've lived as much of my life using line-drying as not. "Appropriate Technology" is a late-60s/early 70s term I expect to come back.

I personally want to see radio survive, and am very happy to see the resurgence of CW (morse code) in ham radio and the lively QRP (low-power, easy to operate, generally built from kits) movement. Radio is only about 100 years old and yet, it's easy to imagine communications using low power CW existing just fine with 1600s technology; the only reason they didn't have it then is they didn't know it could be done.

Sounds like Peak Ale to me.
Dave, thanks for the HONESTY!!!

Nothing like a couple of good snorts to get some HONESTY out of a person.  Perhaps it's time to get our politicians stinking drunk and see what THEY have to say.  We all need to cut the B.S. quickly if we want to weather the coming storm.

When you see Jim on Tuesday, ask him why he's started dressing like Hunter S. Thompson.

His publicity photos used to show him in a bowtie.

One of the reasons I like Kunstler is the fact that I think he has really spoken his true beliefs for awhile now.

I once read that the per capita consumption of booze in D.C. is twice that of any state. If still true it explains a lot.
I live in DC and I am drinking so it must be true!
I for one live to see Kunstler in his "pin stripped suit" - he describes it as such in one of his missives on Clusterfuck Nation.

So now we start admitting we're all pissed off our faces because of impending doom.

That'll really help build trust in what we're communicating here.

This stuff is tricky to grasp when sober.

Stop making Kunstler out as a 'star' - this doesn't help - he's beginning to distance himself from 'cultish overtones' of peak oil anyway.  See last clusterfuck entry.

He IS a clever, funny and clear writer about the issues we discuss here, and has the Public Ear - but Ghandi he ain't.

Let me put it simply - I do not consider Kunstler a star, I shall stop here, I don't want to keep writing and belaboring the obvious all night.

I (and many others who are brave enough to face such things) do think we're headed back to where we were before the discovery of oil below the ground.

Nuff said.

The future's bright. The future's nuclear.

Fossil > Fission > Fusion

According to this slightly dated report, "Over the decade 1990-1999,governmental investment by IEA Member countries in Fusion R&D totalled about US $ 8.9 billion(2001 prices and exchange rates) with EU, Japan and US contributions covering almost all of the budget, in equal shares of roughly one third each."

They go on to say that the ITER will take ten years to build.

As long as fusion gets only such a derisory budget, less than a billion a year worldwide and as long as work proceeds only at such a leisurely, dilatory pace, fusion will always be the energy source of tomorrow.

That's the trouble with democracy (not that other systems don't have troubles too.) When it comes down to brass tacks, rather than just to easy answers to empty, consequence-free survey questions, the Great Shiftless Moron Mass will ignore the future, voting to loot whatever they can even if it's just to keep whatever they are familiar with going for one more day. See this for a fine example, or just search on "gas prices".

I consider Kunstler a "star."
Paul Revere didn't tiptoe down the street whispering "the British are Coming."  
If one is going to sound a warning he must be willing to make something of an ass of himself and wake up the sleeping.
Kunstler with his literary genius, and consistently entertaining "rant" is doing much to wake the people to imminent danager.
Paul Revere also didn't espouse a neighborliness that fell flat since he didn't actually know any of his neighbors when the lights went out in his little town.

Paul Revere didn't espouse preperedness and then, when the lights went out, discover all he had in his larder was a tin of smokes oysters and some stale toast or some such thing.

Paul Revere didn't rant on about the things wrong with the US's oil dependency but then also go on about how the war is good, necessary, and a wonderful thing since after all those evil Muslims really want to kill us all. (Revere would have known the Muslims just want to live their lives without their kids being killed by Israeli gunships and would have espoused the US get the hell out of the Middle East, an area Kunstler wants us to stay in, increase our forces in, and send our kids to - not HIS kids, if he has any they'll be in yeshiva thank you very much.)

And just how many books have you written?
And where do I go to hear you lecture?

Disagree with you totally.
Agree with Kunstler.

Well, here is where I admit defeat. I have written no books and have not given any lectures, at least not on Peak Oil. Kunstler has written books and given/gives lectures - therefore he is right.

In fact, since this site is ultimately about a quest for the truth, I suggest we find out who has written the most books and given the most lectures, because when we find that individual, we will find the one who knows the truth.

I personally suggest we check out Erich von Daniken, he published a ton of books and gave a ton of lectures. He can save us!

Kunstler does more good than harm, and is therefore an asset, not a detriment, to the cause of "getting the word out" to the  masses.  Criticizing an old man for not knowing all of his neighbors or for not hording a year's worth of food like some post-apocalypician nut is not a valid complaint.
Besides, Paul Revere had his faults as well.  
Anybody knows this genius?
And that Tallitsch "genius" is going to be what it will come down to, won't it? Vote for anyone who can bring gas prices down, no matter what eh?
Having just read the Sunday Times, there was a headline on Blair being given a deadline to resign/go by a large minority of the labour MPs. However, the kicker in the article as far as I was concerned was to do with Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary. Blair has just instigated a major cabinet reshuffle after a disastrous set of local election results. Jack Straw was demoted for two reasons, one was growing allegiance to Blair's rival Gordon Brown, and the second his dismissal of military action against Iran. Does this mean that Blair has given his poodle like response to Bush's summons for military action against Iran and is putting someone more on message in charge to justify action against Iran. Has the military action already been decided and it is now just a question of when (before September when the TOR missiles are to be delivered to Iran??).

And to be really nasty, will Blair hang on until Iran has been bombed and leave Brown to clear up the mess afterwards (another reason for military action by September, during the parliamentary summer recess and before the party conference season).

Scary stuff, thanks for pointing it out. However, I remember last year being convinced that Iran would be bombed in June by US/UK/Israel. It didn't happen.
The propagandists at the BBC have been working on behalf of the chimperor's Iran policy for a long time.  It is surprising that Straw even dared to oppose it.

Reading the BBC website news articles on Iran you would never know that the NPT allows Iran to enrich Uranium.  Also, a pillar of the NPT was the commitment of nuclear powers to destroy their nuclear weapons.  The USA rejected this obligation after the treaty came into force.  

When is Brown going to make his move? I know that if you strike at the king, you'd better be sure of killing him.
Still, I can't see Blair being able to beat off a challenge now. What do you think?
The newspapers seem to think Brown is making his move now, by using the word renewal (of leadership?). Brown is completely safe from Blair. If Blair sacks Brown, then the Labour Party will have a lot of infighting that could make the country/Party ungovernable. About half of Labour MPs are refusing to answer a survey, but 20% want him to go soonish and another 20% within a year. Blair is definitely holed below the water level now; it is just a question of when he sinks. As Harold Macmillan would say, "events, events", may overtake Blair's choice of when he wants to go. If Blair oversees the bombing of Iran, my feeling is that Labour will lose the next general election by a big margin and may even spell the end of the Labour Party itself as its splits itself down the middle with pro and anti war sections. I feel the British public will be massively against the bombing of a peaceful and acquiescent Iran, especially after we were hoodwinked about Iraq. Blair could fool the British public once, but twice won't happen. Blair won't survive a bombing of Iran if it is against the English feeling of justice. There is a spirit of fair play in the UK, and Iran is not behaving badly or dangerously at the moment. The US (and allies) are pushing for aggressive military action whilst Iran is trying to stick up for itself, (and antagonising the US as much as possible) and the British public know this. Bombing a peaceful looking Iran will look very bad for Blair in the UK, whilst bombing an aggressive and threatening Iran would be acceptable I feel, to the British public. Blair would go, bombing a peaceful looking Iran, but would probably survive bombing an aggressive and threatening Iran. A real fear is that bombing Iran is easy, stopping the effective declaration of war is not, and that is what worries the British public as much as anything. The American's didn't bother to plan on how to end the war in Iraq, what makes the British public think it will be anything different if the US bombs Iran. Why have two never ending wars going on in the same region at the same time, when we can't even cope with one never ending war. That is the real Britsh public fear.
Dear Mr. Essex,

I heard that the final nail in Jack Straw's political coffin was phone calls from the Whitehouse to Blair, letting him know the Bush adminstration was livid, because Straw had called plans to attack Iran with nukes, "nuts" and "inconcievable." Supposedly, Blair is right on message as usual, and regards Iran as the major threat to world peace and security. Replacing Straw, at a time like this, is ominous in the extreme. What it effectively means, is that Blair himself, has now taken completely control of foreign policy. This too is ominous, given his propensity for listening to supernatural voices, which conviniently  absolve him from taking personal responsibility for committing war crimes. To quote Black Sabbath, Blair is a Warpig!

Straw may even have been ready to resign, if it seemed an attack on Iran was inevitable. This could/would have been powerful weapon, and break on Britain joining the attack. Unfortunately, that potential weapon is lost. With Blair still in office, Britain will go to war again. So the only chance of averting this disaster, is to remove Blair as soon as possible. It will be interesting to hear what Straw has to say once the dust settles. Is he so angry at his demotion, that he wants revenge? Make no mistake. Blair will go anywhere Bush tells him to go. Whimps go to Bahgdad, real men go to Teheran!

Here are a couple of news blurbs from Japan regarding developments around Iran and its nuclear ambitions:

Japan looking into the ability to use FOREX laws to sanction Iran:
Progress on the GNEP program:
Possibly whatever comes out of the harangues at the UN will come down to an offer to Iran: participate in GNEP or we will assume you want to make bombs.
BTW, as of last month Japan has reduced the share of its imported oil from Iran down to 13.5%, a reduction from the 18.4% of the previous year.   Still, it will be difficult for Japan to go along with any boycotting of Iranian oil or using FOREX laws to control Iranian money.

In an unrelated (?) bit of news, from your friends at AlJazeera:    So the Saudi stock market isn't doing so hot.

What caught my eye though was this note buried in the article: "King Abdullah, whose media persona is of a modernising father figure, issued a decree on Sunday cutting domestic fuel prices by 30%."    

Times must be tough in the Saudi kingdom!

from the nytimes, an interesting read about why high gas prices may not be hurting the american economy as much as one would think. note i said the "american economy" - not the average american
We seem to have another @$%^*# spammer in our midst:

Just thought I'd let you know, Super G.

There have been several recent Matt Simmons presentations posted on the Simmons & Company site. I am still looking them over, but found the following to present a lot of information that he had not included in earlier presentations.

Sorry if these have already been discussed but I have been away for a while. I liked this from Simmons even better than the last url I provided:

Maybe it is just the crowd he was delivering his message to, but this group of slides seems to be much more technically oriented.