Thailand -- An Energy Case Study

[editor's note, by Dave] I had some input for this story from jdeely and Henry Coulter (TOD user name?). My thanks to them. These posts of mine on other countries tend to get few responses. I don't know whether to attribute this to lack of interest in other countries-- American/Euro centrisim --or other factors. I'd be interested to know your thoughts. We do live in the age of Globalization and high energy prices affect everyone everywhere on the Earth.

I thought I would do another story on how higher energy prices are affecting other parts of the world. In this case, I have picked Thailand. This story will focus a bit on the history of energy in Thailand and more on the affects of current prices on their economy and how this South East Asian country is trying cope with the stress this has caused. While there are large differences, there are eerie similarities with the United States, though on a smaller scale. We will also take a brief excursion to talk about natural gas use in vehicles.

It's always best to give the big picture first. And here it is from the EIA Thailand country brief.

Natural Gas (left) and Oil
Production Imports (right)
Click to Enlarge either image

A casual glance at both graphs reveals that Thailand is in big trouble and it's getting worse--just like America! Let's get into some details about what's currently happening there.

What's Going on Now?

From High oil prices hit Thailand hard (April, 2006), we learn
"I spend about 1,000 baht (26.60 dollars) to fill up my car, which is twice the amount it used to be when the price of petrol was 17 baht a liter," said Ariya.

The 34-year-old said the four-hour drive to the ferry pier, where she would board a boat to Koh Chang, was unaffordable.

"I was worried when it gradually rose to 21 baht a liter but now, at almost 30 baht, I just think it's a pity to own a car."

Throughout Thailand, consumers and businesses alike are suffering the impact of soaring global oil prices which have broken 75 dollars a barrel.

Filling up in Thailand

And here comes the inflation, reported at Thai inflation rises on higher fuel costs

Thailand's inflation rate accelerated in May to a seven-month high due to rising fuel costs, increasing prospects the central bank will raise borrowing costs again next week.

Consumer prices rose 6.2 percent from a year earlier after a 6 percent gain in April, the Commerce Ministry said Thursday on its Web site.

The Bank of Thailand has almost quadrupled borrowing costs in the past 20 months to control inflation amid surging fuel costs....

Thailand uses predominantly diesel fuel which the government had been heavily subsidizing. Naturally, they incurred a huge debt of 65 billion (bhat). So, subsidies are being reduced. TOD user jdeely (link at the top) had noted that in the 1st quarter of this year, citing Thai economy to increase slightly under high oil price and Thai Economy Grew About 6% in 1st Qtr, Thanong Says (Update2), that the Thai economy grew at an astonishing rate. However, with consumer price inflation rising at about 6.2%, one wonders ... well, you know what I mean.

Thai Natural Gas Production

There are remarkable similarities between the history of Thailand energy and that of the United States. We get a fine overview of the past and future of Thai energy policies from Thailand's developing gas and petrochemical industry by Khun Prasert Bunsumpun, the president of PTT Public Company Limited. First let's look at some basic facts about the present. Formed in 1978, PTT is the state-owned Petroleum Authority of Thailand. Bunsumpun tells us that 74% of Thailand's natural gas needs are supplied by indigeneous [controlled by Thailand] sources in the Gulf of Thailand. The rest is imported by pipeline from Myanmar [used to be Burma]. Just like the US, Thailand responded to the oil shocks of the 1970's and 1980's by restructuring their energy usage.
Three decades ago, Thailand’s dependence on oil import was over 90 percent of total domestic demand. The demand for oil tripled from 1980 to 2003 at an average rate of 8 percent per annum. The oil crisis in 1973 prompted the government to reduce the country’s reliance on imported energy and intensify exploration activities domestically, leading to discoveries of natural gas at commercial scale.

At present, oil represents 47 percent of the total energy consumption, followed by natural gas, coal/lignite, and hydro at 36 percent, 15 percent, and 2 percent, respectively.

So, this restructuring led to the creation of Thailand's natural gas industry starting in the 1970's. The leading developer then as now is Unocal Thailand, a division of Unocal. It is hard to resist saying that you can bet the Thais were probably delighted that the Chinese takeover of Unocal failed.

Given Thailand's poor conventional oil resources, it made sense for them to switch over their energy usage to natural gas. To that end, in an attempt to get away from diesel fuel and avoid their large trade deficits from their oil imports

PTT introduced natural gas for vehicles (NGV) in the transportation sector as a replacement for diesel fuel. Currently, 4 MMSCFD of gas is dedicated for NGV use. There are 28 stations in service, 17 under construction, and a total of 120 targeted for completion by 2008. There are currently about 4,300 NGV vehicles in operation today, with 40,000 targeted by 2008.

PTT is also in the process of developing a gas district cooling application for Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport to be completed for commercial operation by this year. The firm is also studying the feasibility of implementing gas district cooling at a major shopping and recreation centre. These projects could serve as a prototype for similar projects, enabling Thailand as a whole to benefit from the use of clean, efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly form of energy.

A brief note on natural gas for vehicles

This is often abbreviated as NGV. There are two types of natural gas to fuel vehicles, Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG, aka Propane) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). From the LNG Fact Sheet, we learn

Compressed natural gas (CNG) is natural gas pressurized and stored in welding bottle-like tanks at pressures up to 3,600 psig. Typically, it is same composition of the local "pipeline" gas, with some of the water removed. CNG and LNG are both delivered to the engines as low pressure vapor (ounces to 300 psig). CNG is often misrepresented as the only form natural gas can be used as vehicle fuel. LNG can be used to make CNG. This process requires much less capital intensive equipment and about 15% of the operating and maintenance costs.


Liquid petroleum gas (LPG, and sometimes called propane) is often confused with LNG and vice versa. They are not the same and the differences are significant. LPG is composed primarily of propane (upwards to 95%) and smaller quantities of butane. LPG can be stored as a liquid in tanks by applying pressure alone. LPG is the "bottled gas" often found under BBQ grills. LPG has been used as fuel in light duty vehicles for many years. Many petrol stations in Europe have LPG pumps as well.

What's the Future for Thailand?

While the NGV experiment made sense when natural gas was cheap, the whole venture is looking more risky now. Dr. Fereidun Fesharaki, president of Facts, Inc. and an energy adviser to PTT, has questioned the NGV investment.
Dr Fereidun Fesharaki ... said PTT Plc should reconsider its multi-billion investment in a network of natural gas for vehicles (NGV) filling stations....

Speaking at a public lecture on "The New Paradigm in the Global Oil and Gas Industry: Challenges for Thailand", hosted by the Petroleum Institute of Thailand on Tuesday, Fesharaki said that due to an expected convergence in the prices of oil and natural gas, gas will no longer be a cheap fuel and electricity producers will need to diversify to coal and eventually to nuclear power....

Answering a question regarding PTT's huge investments in a network of NGV filling stations, Fesharaki said compressed natural gas was not a sustainable solution, although it may work well as a propaganda tool for governments. "You must ask why the US or Europe hasn't done this. Compressed natural gas is only good in those countries where there are low gas prices, like Saudi Arabia or Qatar," he said.

[editor's note, by Dave] I have always wondered about exactly why high natural gas prices are closely tied to the price of oil. I suspect this may be related to the fact that most natural gas is associated dissolved and therefore production of oil and gas are closely linked. However, it probably has to do with energy market forces I don't understand. If someone else has a better idea about why this is so, please feel free to comment so I can become better informed.

Thailand is apparently ignoring Fesharaki's advice so far, no doubt due to the skyrocketing price of diesel fuels. See PTT takes on NGV conversions. But, Thailand is also making the usual moves. The natural gas future for the Thais is--you guessed it--imported LNG. To supplement new supply from additional pipelines still under construction, we learn from Bunsumpun that

LNG has become a major factor in the global gas industry. There are now abundant potential supply sources for Thailand, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Russia, and the Middle East. LNG price has come down because of technology improvement and competition. The supply is more flexible with an increasing trend of spot or short term contract sales.

For Thailand, LNG will be one part of PTT’s long term gas supply solution. As the Third Pipeline will be filled by 2010, LNG will serve as a bridge before the Forth Pipeline is commissioned. PTT recently set up a company to joint invest in LNG’s full value chain. A location for the regasification terminal has also been planned to optimize the use of the organisation’s current distribution system. As cryogenic energy generated during re-gasification can also be used in other processes, the terminal will be developed in conjunction with gas separation or petrochemical plants to collectively optimize energy efficiency.

However, disturbingly, Thailand is turning to another energy source, coal. This Gulf Times article Coal gets Asia boost as LNG proves risky reports that "`Everyone thought the future was gas but the price has not come down and the flexibility on supplies has not been there. Government policy is emphasising coal`, said Bishal Thapa of ICF Consulting in New Delhi. Other Asian countries such as Pakistan and Thailand, hurt by the high cost of oil imports, are set to boost coal for power this decade". Thus we find reports like Egat plans coal-fired power plant for 2010 [Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand]. Aside from their use of NGV's I find all of this quite similar to what is going on in the US and elsewhere.

On the bright side, Thailand is making considerable investments in cleaner alternative energy sources. As we find in Thailand to develop own palm oil industry, the future is biofuels. [Sorry, you'll have to register to see this article]. Thailand wants to expand its production of biofuels to augment the sugar-cane, molasses and cassava sources they already use.

The Energy Ministry insists it see no need to import raw palm oil for bio-diesel production since local supply remains sufficient. Caretaker Energy Minister Viset Choopiban revealed on Wednesday that the ministry is going ahead with a plan to encourage local bio-diesel consumption so that farmers could earn alternative incomes from growing oil plants.

Under the plan approved by the cabinet in its roving meeting in the northeastern province of Burirum recently, bio-diesel with a 5 per cent mixture of palm oil (B5) will be made available countrywide by 2011 and with a 10 per cent mixture (B10) by 2012.

In other words, around 8.5 million litres of bio-diesel will be consumed daily.

But there are problems with the transition.
However, gasohol’s sudden popularity has resulted in demand outstripping domestic production capacity, forcing oil firms to go overseas to secure ever-growing quantities of ethanol.

“The situation is tough for the government. We’re facing complicated problems with regard to the supply of sugarcane, molasses and cassava, which are domestic materials for ethanol,” said Chumnong Sorapipatana, energy chairman at the Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment at King Mong-kut's University of Technology Thon Buri.

The operations of three ethanol plants have been suspended and construction of 18 delayed due to the uncertain supply of materials, he said.

Global prices of sugar and molasses are on the rise, so ethanol-producers cannot compete with other buyers who export them as foodstuffs.

Hence, the move toward palm oil. Whether use of biofuels in Thailand will be cost-effective depends on the nature of their agricultural practices, which are probably far less fossil fuels intensive than growing corn as in the US. Perhaps the Thais will be able to emulate some of Brazil's success with sugarcane.

In Conclusion....

We find that Thailand, like many other nations including the US, is having trouble coping with higher energy prices. They are using the best strategies available to them just as other countries try to maintain economic growth in the face of rising fuel costs. This concludes the Thailand case study.

[editor's note, by Prof. Goose] And what is Asia's growth going to look like? Look here.

Dave, thank you very much for this article.  I often get frustrated with the extreme US-centric mindset of many participants in TOD.  Thanks for the reminder that the US is just 5% of a larger world.
Hey Micro, good point, but how about starting a site about Peak Oil in New Zealand that's this good? Then people will troop on over there and talk about Peak Oil outside the US, maybe with a New Zealand-centric slant....
I found this statement particularly interesting,
"The 34-year-old said the four-hour drive to the ferry pier, where she would board a boat to Koh Chang, was unaffordable.

"I was worried when it gradually rose to 21 baht a liter but now, at almost 30 baht, I just think it's a pity to own a car."

It seems that once a "car culture" has become established, long commutes quickly follow

Jevon's strikes again - when I was a kid the bus was 25 cents no matter how long the ride, you guessed it, 2 and 3 hour rides became common. I've taken the bus from way out in the sticks into "town" and it was over 3 hours. That was routine.

For quite a while going to school, 3 hours a day devoted to the bus was my daily routine.

Cars* = crack.

*(buses too)

Note that China is drastically curtailing its gasoline exports, because of exploding domestic demand. Chinese car sales are up more than 50% year over year.
I read that today too.  Should be interesting as more exporters cut back and keep it for domestic use.  
IIRC, China is also reducing its subsidies so increasing the likelihood of producers wanting to sell locally. Fuel is so highly subsidized in Iraq, for example, that smugglers make a mint buying it cheap locally and selling it outside the borders...
I don't think here at TOD we're US/Euro centric, its just that we concentrate on the "big boy" consumers (US/China/UK, etc) and producers (SA/Russia/Venezuela, etc), while at the same time we tend to skip over "small fry" consumers and producers, since we don't feel they figure into the PO situation in a significant way.
I don't agree with the "they don't figure into the PO situation" statement but I do agree with you that we tend not to acknowledge the "small fry"...

In the US we've been desensitized to so much... It's the "Rubber Neck" affect.  Nobody cares if a bug hits your windshield, but a motorcyclist, now that's something to slow down and take a gander at...


Yep the US is the poster child for the cars/oil/Olduvai problem. Just like a road accident, if it's big and gory, just gotta look!! You might see a severed leg and guts!
I didn't quite get it... a motorcyclist hitting your windshield?
I think it was a quarterback's head.
Size matters, that's the material point, get it?

bug = small
motorcyclist = large

bug = who cares
motorcyclist = damn I have to see that

But if a motorist hits my windshield I pretty much don't see anything else, whether I want to or not. Nevermind :-)
Ok I didn't get your meaning, sorry :-P
I posted this a week ago.  Please note that what they call "light rail". we call "subway", "Rapid Transit" or "Heavy Transit Rail".

You neglected this important aspect of reducing oil demand for transportation.  The first three have been quite well recieved, thus the dramatic step of announcing three new lines at once, instead of one at a time.  Bangkok will soon have six high capacity subways or elevated rail lines.

Thailand to build three new light rail lines in capital city
06/06/2006 22:13:55

Thailand has approved a $US 4.4 billion project to build three new light rail lines in Bangkok, with bidding expected to begin at the end of the month.

A government spokesman says the government believes the projects are critical to Thailand's economic development in terms of investment and competitiveness.

Bangkok already has three light rail lines.

I'm sorry I missed your contribution about new light rail lines. It's yet another aspect of the situation which fits in with the general tenor of my post.

Thanks for the information. I'm sure there are other things I missed as well.

I was struck by an article last year about Thai fisherman who were tying up their boats, because they could not afford to pay for the diesel fuel.

There was an article in the WSJ yesterday about "backpack kids."  These were US kids that were going hungry on weekends because their parents were having trouble paying for both higher energy expenses and food.   The only reliable meals the kids got were at school, so volunteers are organizing to provide backpacks full of food for the weekends.  I'm not sure what the plan is for the summer.

The common theme?  Here and in Thailand, Peak Oil is having a real impact--initially on the poorer members of society--and then on the rest of us.

This is why I have gradually become more serious in warning those of us who are smart--or lucky enough--to own domestic energy reserves that this is not the time for ostentatious consumption.    

Wow that is scary considering school food these days - back in my day, the school food was cooked up by old ladies in hair nets who cooked stodgy, boring, but really very nutritious food. OK so maybe cloudy jello with cottage cheese put in it for dessert and meatloaf and spinach etc don't exactly thrill you but it was balanced, nutritious stuff.

Now the schools are selling (selling, which means if you're poor no lunch!) Taco Bell or Micky-D's food which is NOT balanced. Sure the milk in the old days always seemed kinda funky but it was far better for us than the soda kids get now, and hey, you could blow hellacious bubbles in the milk (insert straw and blow  = fun).

And, this "backpack kids" thing must be a real black eye for the Empire because I can't find a thing on Google about it. I'm a pretty good Googler and can usually find stuff, but this is one article that's been disappeared.

fleam said: "And, this "backpack kids" thing must be a real black eye for the Empire because I can't find a thing on Google about it. I'm a pretty good Googler and can usually find stuff, but this is one article that's been disappeared."

So your theory is that they printed it in the Wall Street Journal, then went through the internet and erased all traces of it?

I find it very strange that people can sit on a website where they can write whatever they want, then think that the government is blocking any and all dissent. Is there any evidence that newspapers are not allowed to publsih reports on certain topics? Or a prohibition on new that might make the US look bad?

Stick to conspiracy theories related to oil. At least those make some sense.

With energy being at the top of the list of caoncerns that we here at TOD have.  I would alos like to thank you for your work.  I think that it is compelling to note the behavior of those who don't have the money available to choose between X and y.  Unfortunatly I think it will have to be hard on us here in the US to get off our McButts and get going.

My thanks also to Westexas and Khebab,  very unselfish.

In your good story you ask:

"I have always wondered about exactly why high natural gas prices are closely tied to the price of oil. I suspect this may be related to the fact that most natural gas is associated dissolved and therefore production of oil and gas are closely linked. However, it probably has to do with energy market forces I don't understand. If someone else has a better idea about why this is so, please feel free to comment so I can become better informed."

This is just "an idea" i.e. no data, just speculation...

Lets consider 3 types of use for oil & gas: Electricity generation, home heating, and process heat for industries. Combined, these uses I would guess account for a significant portion of demand. If the cost per BTU from one or other fuel had a significant spread, or even more so a diverging trend, it would make sense for many of the users to swap out the type of burner they were using and switch fuels to the cheaper option. In an "ideal" market this would happen and prices would be driven down...

But since the market is far from "ideal" on the sellers side i.e. closer to a pseudo-duopoly at least at the regional level it is in all sellers interest & ability to keep their prices close enough to each other so as not to provoke this downward see-saw in income, i.e. to stay as price setters, not price takers.

This is not an argument in support of "price fixing by big oil", but just to suggest that a rising tide lifts all boats from the sellers point of view

The unstoppable rise of coal seems to be coming from lo-tech applications rather than synfuel. These include replacing less reliable hydro, replacing increasingly expensive NG and as a heat source for making cement and fuels such as ethanol. So long as less developed countries have few restrictions they will probably get a bigger share of the world's coal burning industries. That's assuming the employees can get to work.

Thailand looks to become increasingly dependent on coal, but in what I would call mid-tech - modern coal fired power plants. Thailand has a very active civil society movement (NGOs), which have shut down any effort to develop large dams and previously caused two very large (1200-1800 MW) coal fired power plants to be cancelled.

You will see protests against coal plants in Thailand 100 times bigger than any protests against rising fuel prices this year.

Ethanol production, on the rise in Thailand, is fuelled by sugar cane waste - no coal input.

"You will see protests against coal plants in Thailand 100 times bigger than any protests against rising fuel prices this year."

And for how long? Once shortages occur the ratio will be reversed, granted.

Please note the large hydroelectric dam being built in Laos (below) with 94% of the output being sold to Thailand.  This is the largest in a series of hydroelectric power exports from Laos.
The Laotion hydroelectric dam Nam Theun 2 will provide 5,636 GWh to Thailand each year.  This si almost half of their 2004 electricity demands.  In addition, almost half of their current electricity is "purchased", much from Laos.

So with 2.5% self generated by hydrolectric power, an upcoming 50% from a new large project and significant hydroelectric purchases already, Thailand will be much "greener" and their carbon footprint much reduced.

And Bangkok transportation of peaple (not goods) will revolve around their six (and more later I suspect) elevated rail lines and subway once completed in a few years (3 to 4 ?), run by hydroelectric power.

So I think the summary above missed some positive major points.

Yo! AlanfromBigEasy -- re: "I think the summary above missed some positive major points"

I already acknowledged that I missed the hydroelectric & rail lines development in a comment above. Thanks for adding this important information to my Thailand case study. Your comments are just what I was looking for (as opposed to motorcycle crashes).

But, what the hell do you want me to do, apologize for missing out on some stuff? There's just so much I can do in a report like this. I spent hours getting together the information I put together as it is. I'm not writing a book here. Obviously, what I wrote is not the whole story but it's a big part of it. Be sure to read the paper I referenced here in Stuart's post on energy consumers according to the 2006 BP statistical report.

Ease up a bit, OK?

best, Dave


Post some links so we can all see the information you are referencing, OK?


for GWh production from the new hydro project in Laos

Thai electricity production/consumption statistics

Short notice of three new rail lines.  

A new piece of data there.  It is interesting that US$4.4 billion is a "stop-gap" measure to get something built ASAP while they bicker over where to build the rest of the national mass transit system that is budgeted for US$16 billion !!!

A good reaction to PO ! One that can "make a difference".

Sorry, I did not mean to sound pedantic.  

These developments are related to areas of my personal interest, urban rail and hydroelectric/renewable projects.  It still took me an hour to find good details on the "NT 2" project (and I STILL do not know the head).

However, they do cast a much more positive light on the Thai reaction to PO.  They are turning away from coal & oil and towards a renewable source (with the fossil fuels kept for backup in dry years)  AND Bangkok (where 9 of 60 million Thais live and their only large city) is having a positive transportation revolution.

Announcing three major Urban Rail lines, for US$4.4 billion, to all be built together ASAP puts the United States to shame !

As is replacing half of their electrical production with renewables (even if it is from a neighbor).

I have to admit that I don't know offhand what Thailand does to make money. I've heard about their tourism, I presume they have some farming, some fishing, but what do they manufacture?

Last year, James Howard wrote this article about some small countries, Eritrea, Indonesia, Sudan, etc., dropping out of the oil game:
Like Thailand, Indonesia also had to stop subsidizing auto fuel. Is Thailand in any danger of joining these countries?

Well according to our friends at the CIA this is what they make etc:

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 49%
industry: 14%
services: 37%

Agriculture - products:
rice, cassava (tapioca), rubber, corn, sugarcane, coconuts, soybeans

tourism, textiles and garments, agricultural processing, beverages, tobacco, cement, light manufacturing such as jewelry and electric appliances, computers and parts, integrated circuits, furniture, plastics, automobiles and automotive parts; world's second-largest tungsten producer and third-largest tin producer

$105.8 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:
textiles and footwear, fishery products, rice, rubber, jewelry, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances

Exports - partners:
US 16.1%, Japan 14%, China 7.4%, Singapore 7.3%, Malaysia 5.5%, Hong Kong 5.1% (2004)

"...what Thailand does to make money."

The company I work for is expanding rapidly in Asia, and Bangkok is our Asian engineering and technical support center, along with a lot of manufacturing facilities. The Thai have relatively low labor costs (compared to North American or European), business-friendly regulatory and legal environment, low real estate and infrastructure costs (again, compared to US or EU), and they are close to suppliers and markets in Asia (meaning China - everyone wants to be ready to expand their market share in China).

How they are any different from half a dozen other South Ease Asian countries... they're not, really. (but don't tell 'em I said so).

In most years, hydroelectric power is Laos's laregst export, all sold to Thailand.  That is about to take a major step up.  Better than importing oil for electricity.
Construction has started on the US$1.45 billion, 1,070 megawatt Nam Theun 2 Hydroelectric Project in Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), and work to mitigate the environmental and social impacts of the project on the people living in the project areas is ongoing.

NT2 will enable Lao PDR to export 995 MW of electricity-generating capacity and electrical energy to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. The hydroelectric project will also supply 75 MW of electricity for domestic use in Lao PDR. The project is expected to generate annual revenues to the Government of Lao PDR (GoL) averaging about US$30 million (nominal) per year during the first ten years while commercial debt service is paid, then rising sharply thereafter to an average of approximately US$110 million (nominal) from 2020 to 2034. If the revenues are spent efficiently, and transparently - in accordance with project agreements - NT2 could provide significant, incremental support to Lao PDR's poverty reduction and environmental management efforts.

The project was approved on March 31, 2005 by the International Development Association (IDA) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

Great review Dave. IMO the second world countries are an excellent choice for studying the immediate effects of PO. For those worried primarily for the suburbs and the Hummers their situation should represent a quick preview of what will follow on US ground in a few years. IMO it is amazing how 2 presumably totaly different countries like US (or UK) and Thailand react in such a similar way:
  1. Rush for coal
  2. LNG
  3. some baby-steps for nuclear

As I suspect 1) and 2) will be miscalculated (aka tragedy of the commons) and 3) will not be sufficient/on-time, the long-term picture looks grim. Semi-industrialized countries like Thailand are particualrly exposed as they both are oil-dependant and don't have sufficient capital to invest in alternatives.
To me the key fact in this story was the diesel subsidies. IMO countries that subsidize fossil fuels face much more difficult transitions than those who don't (or those who actually tax fossil fuel use). There is the obvious economic impact but more importantly, subsidy schemes always indicate a paternalistic view of the government's role. Such expectations are very hard to change but also very hard to fulfill once external factors such as PO come into play. The result is people feeling betrayed, abandoned and angry. If you take the example of post-communist countries, people there have had 20 years to learn to fend for themselves but are still susceptible to ridiculous rhetoric of paternalist demagogues (including socialists as well as nationalists). Living in an oil-subsidizing society is not going to be easy at all.
Hmm, more Thailand news - does anyone in the US know that today, in Thailand, 46 bombs went off within a half hour?

(deafening silence)

The only reason I know about it is I read something called which is often shakey and flakey, but has little peepholes through the US censorship curtain at times. has the story on this. And urbansurvival had a link.

Now, 46 bombs going off, that well coordinated, is a major piece of news. It's probably in the news most places, but not in the Empire. News here is.... well, I haven't checked, probably some football player pinched someone's butt on TV or something.

OK just checked Drudgereport, cnn, etc and no news about the massive coordinated bombing campaign in Thailand.

However, the US "media" doesn't disappoint, Drudge does have some Thailand news, seems two Thais cheered when Italy got a goal in the World Cup (big soccer game now ongoing) and they were shot for that.

Oh, and in real news, someone stole J-Lo's wedding video! And unlicensed midwives get prison!

You must not have been looking very hard. I found it on CNN in about 11 seconds. Everytime someone posts a story about how the MSM isn't covering something, I look it up - and can almost always find it.

I heard about this story because my Mother called me last night worried because she heard about it from the MSM in the US. I went to the gym, ate dinner, and spent time with my co-workers here in Thailand and none of them thought it was worth mentioning. It came up in our morning meeting today in passing, but no one has mentioned it since.

It did make the front page of both local papers. But if you really think this is some kind of proof that the empire is censoring your news, I'll definately start ignoring your posts on energy.

There is a huge difference in between the International Version and the US Version.  Up towards the top right hand corner, you can click and flip between versions.  Very different slant...all  I enjoy looking at both versions.


thank you Dave, this case study is sweet

this case study is the evidence i need to
show how all "doomers" don't know anything
about economics. kunstler and his end of
the world friends think that there will be
some sudden change in the world but all the
poor countries will have demand destruction
and there will be more oil for rich countries

The "doomers" are correct about poor countries.
It will go from bad to worse in africa, asia and
latin america.  but the richer you are the less
you have to change and the rich people will change
very little.

The other "doomer" problem is that they all complain
about massive wasteful consumption but the increase
in price will help the crazed consumer prioritize
their budget and the price of oil will stay
below $90/barrel.  

So the peak-oil "doomer" like kunstler is wrong
but the inflation "doomer" could be correct because
inflation is much more emotional than energy

the rich get richer and the poor are doomed and forgotten

sorry to be a classist capitalistic jerk but
these are the reasons while progressive energy
legislation will be passed in other countries
but never in the USA. the USA is the richest and
most ignorant country on the planet.

Wonderful summary of Thailand. I live in Thailand and recently changed my car over to NGV. Cost me about 53,000 baht, and I am now saving 700 baht per week in fuel. The latest figure is about 13,000 cars in the Kingdom have been changed, and they are pushing for 500,000. Note also that the Thai government has guaranteed a price cap on natural gas for 2 years in order to encourage conversion.

One aspect which you don't mention is that there is definitely talk of using biogas to supplement methane reserves for poor farmers. Properly processed through readily available MEA, a nearly pure methane stream can be created from most agricultural stock. The investment for this is very inexpensive, and would lead to concentrations of compressed methane gas all over rural Thailand. Methane could become another value added for farmers. Methane production from just 12 pigs could give the average Thai farmer another 10 baht per day in income.

The idea of CNG is part of a much larger plan to provide methane refuelling stations all throughout the country. Of course, this will never support business as usual growth of the Thai economy, however it will provide a safety net consisting of some level of sustainable energy for the indefinite future, at least enough the get the produce from the fields to the markets.

Also, once you have an infrastructure for methane, that same infrastructure can be used to provide fuel from wood gasification. A couple of rai of farmed eucalyptus can provide almost 4 MWh of energy a year in the form of compressed wood gas. While lower in value than methane, wood gas can be produced in much larger quantities.

I fully and completely support the Thai government and PTT in this venture. I believe they are doing the right thing for the country, and I suspect other agricultural countries in the world will one day use the Thai model as a reference for what is possible.

Finally, if there are any other Thai readers out there, please contact me. I have been trying to find other like minded people interested in peak oil and living in Thailand.

I found statistics for the new Laotian hydroelectric dam, but nothing on what Thailand buys today from Laos other than just over half the power is bought from someone.

The new dam will allow natural gas currently burned for electricity to be used for cars, correct ?

Is the Electricity Generating Public Co the only electricity retailer in Thailand ?

I was quite impressed by the plans to spend 550 billion baht (US$16 billion) on mass transit.  Is this almost all fro Bangkok or do small cities alos get something ?  I am interested in what plans are being considered beyond five elevated and one subway line in Bangkok ?

What about improving rail travel between cities ?

In your opinion, how much difference will many new rail lines make ?

Thanks :-)

EGAT (Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand) is currently the only power producer in Thailand, and will be for the indefinite future. A recent attempt to privatise the company was blocked by the courts due to corruption, and the entire deregulation planned has now been scrapped. (I don't think their new name, Public Co. actually exists anymore after the court ruling, but I could be wrong.)

The work on the 3 new subway lines and 2 extensions to the skytrain in Bangkok has recently been been revitalized and now appears to be going forward again. I am cautiously optimistic that they will proceed this time, however the current political situation in Thailand makes that highly questionable. Very few  people trust the current government to honestly let a contract for construction. Personally, I don't care how much corruption is involved. I wish they'd just do it before it is too late.

The mass transit extensions will not help anyone outside of Bangkok, however recently there has been talk of upgrading the entire rail system in Thailand from the current 1 meter track to an international 1.4 meter standard. This is still preliminary, however I believe this can only help the country. The degredation of the rail transport system in Thailand is surpassed only by Cambodia, where you can walk faster than the trains move. It's currently much faster and convenient to take a bus in Thailand than to get on a train.

Upgrading the rail lines is a necessity. Given the amount of money this will take though, I wouldn't hold my breath. All the talk in the paper the last few weeks has been about economic slow downs, inflation, unemployment and falling tax revenues. In the current environment I don't know how any government will allocate the hundreds of billions of baht necessary to upgrade the rail lines.

The vast majority of the Japanese railroads are 1067 mm gauge.  Only the high speed lines are standard gauge (I am unsure about Metro lines).  A very useful system using tighter gauge.

IMHO, Thailand should spend monies on electricifcation and other improvements on their major railroads rather than widening the gauge.

Thailand has a rail link with Malaysia which is used and any gauge change would involve them.  And changing the gauge means new rolling stock and at least a year of disrupted operations.

I took a few photos which I will post below. One aspect that gives me worry is that the Thais already utilize many fuel saving methods of transportation, therefor there is very little low hanging fruit for better conservation.

This is the way most of the workers come to our factory. If enough workers live in a close area, the will also use the pickup truck 'bus' transportation.

Here is a photo of workers going to the site

And another where goods are transported by cart behind the motorcycle