DrumBeat: August 19, 2006

[Update by Leanan on 08/19/06 at 9:13 AM EDT]

Economic Impacts of U.S. Liquid Fuel Mitigation Options [PDF]

A new report by the authors of the "Hirsch report": Roger H. Bezdek, Robert M. Wendling and Robert L. Hirsch. It's sponsored by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The world is consuming more oil than it is finding, and at some point within the next decade or two, world production of conventional oil will likely peak. Peaking will lead to shortages and greatly increased prices and price volatility. In addition to peaking and its consequences, there are widespread concerns about the growing United States’ dependence on oil imports from both an energy security and a balance of payments standpoint.

This study considered four options that the U.S. could implement for the massive physical mitigation1 of its dependence on imported oil:

• Vehicle fuel efficiency (VFE)
• Coal liquefaction (coal-to-liquids or CTL)2
• Oil shale
• Enhanced oil recovery (EOR)

We've hit the big time! From National Geographic:

...With gas prices high and the future of world oil production uncertain, interest in alternative fuels is surging.

But ethanol, a fuel now widely used in Brazil, has been the subject of an often polarized debate in the U.S.

The controversy has been playing out recently both in science journals and on energy blog sites such as The Oil Drum.

Proponents like Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla argue that ethanol can replace gasoline, while opponents counter that not enough agricultural land exists to meet more than a fraction of the country's energy needs.

...But another outspoken ethanol critic, oil industry analyst and blogger Robert Rapier, has endorsed the E3 Biofuels approach, calling it "responsible ethanol."

Natural Resources are Fuelling a New Cold War

Oil and gas supplies are becoming scarcer and more expensive. The hunt for the world's remaining resources is creating new alliances and the danger of fresh conflicts. China is moving aggressively to sate its growing appetite for energy, potentially setting up a confrontation with the United States for the dwindling resources of the Middle East and Africa.

State subpoenas Prudhoe owners over oil spills

Zimbabwe changes fuel pricing policy

GOVERNMENT and the oil industry have - with immediate effect - fixed the price of diesel at $320 and that of petrol at $335 a litre for all users in the country.

This effectively means that farmers, Government and public transporters, who were accessing fuel from the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) at a heavily subsidised rate, will have to pay the new increased prices, while private motorists, who were being charged around $700 for a litre of both petrol and diesel, will now pay less.

Nigerian militants release German worker as government cracks down

China Power Grids Strained by Heat, Drought

Petrol $2 by Christmas

A WORLD oil expert predicts the price of unleaded petrol in WA will crash through the $2 mark this summer.

London-based expert Chris Skrebowski arrives in Perth today for talks with the WA Government and to speak at a conference about the oil crisis.

Pumping the fear factor out of oil: As more production comes online over the next few years, prices may ease by as much as $20 a barrel.

Oil industry plans for price correction, not crash

Don't panic; we've been here before

Hello TODers,

Except for those in hurricane devastated areas, many Americans do not remember the long and stressful gasoline lines of the '70s & '80s gas crunches.  The Asphalt Wonderland had a temporary crunch back in 2003.  Perhaps a look back to refresh our memories is called for:
PHOENIX, Arizona (AP) -- Three hours after she started to search Monday, Judy Bergeron was finally able to find gas for her sport utility vehicle. She first had to visit five stations, and then wait in line for about 45 minutes at the last one.

Motorists in the nation's sixth-largest city found stations with the pumps blocked off by yellow caution tape, or with lines that stretched a block or more. One gas station attendant called police because some patrons were getting upset and others were cutting in line.

There was no way to tell how many stations were affected because as some ran out, others were getting topped off by tanker trucks. But the problems, which seemed to come to a head Sunday, were seen throughout the city.

What I found as most fascinating is how cellphones were used to gain a preferential advantage:

Some tanker drivers would call each other to exchange delivery times and location info, then they would call their families or buddies to tell when and where the deliveries would happen.  You would see vehicles start to line up at an empty gas station a few minutes before the tanker rig arrived so that they would be served first and minimize their waiting time.

I recall some queues at empty stations would even have pickups with trailered boats lined up before the tanker arrived-- clearly these people had inside information-- no gas shortages for them.  Other 'early birds' would not only fuel their vehicles, but would also fill-up extra gasoline cans, presumably for home power equipment, construction machinery like backhoes, etc if this 'early bird' was an independent construction contractor, or maybe they just wanted extra gasoline to hoard.

Those 'out of the info loop' would be at a decided disadvantage until they spotted a forming queue, or saw a tanker pull into a gas-station.  They would quickly pull into the waiting lineup, then they would immediately grab their cellphone to alert their inclusive fitness circle of friends and families.

I believe more pipeline breakdowns due to corrosion, ala BP's Prudhoe Bay example, are forthcoming, and we all know Peakoil will make fuel availability much worse.  Supply and demand pricing is helpful for the long-term macro-effects, but does nothing to alleviate the local micro-economic condition of people wastefully driving around from one gas station to another seeking to refuel.

This desperate search is extremely stressful if your vehicle is already running on fumes. The past history of gas station queue violence is readily documented for all to read; detritovore addicts clearly will go nuts to get their next fix.  Fuel thefts by siphoning, cutting gaslines, or even puncturing gastanks to get the last drops have been discussed here before.  There have even been tanker drivers who had their rigs hijacked by gunpoint in the past!

I think we TODers need to discuss what might be the best way to mitigate this potentially violent postPeak problem of the black market in inside information and wasteful fuel searching in urban locales.  Here are a few of my ideas:

  1. Any vehicle queuing up at an empty gas station before a tanker arrives clearly had access to inside info--they will be assessed an extra 50%/gal or be limited to only five gallons at the regular price.

  2. Any oil industry employee who discloses the critical dispatching info of tanker-truck deliveries will be terminated. This is also good for preventing hijackings.

  3. A tanker driver will only be told to drive to a certain neighborhood, then when GPS-monitoring confirms that the rig has arrived in this locale, only then does the dispatcher cellphone call to inform of the final destination.  This will prevent the tanker driver from having time to alert family and friends.  A neighborhood may have 15 gas stations of the same brand-- the trucker has no idea which one of these fifteen is his delivery point until nearly the last minute.

  4.  Anyone seeking to merely 'top off' their tank will not be allowed to purchase fuel.  You cannot buy gas if your gas-guage reads more than quarter-full--this should effectively end the desire to hoard by keeping one's tank full.

  5. Your vehicle's VIN number will be assigned to one gas station of each brand in your neighborhood, and you will be required to scan this barcode before purchasing.  You are then free to choose the best price among these competing brands secure in the knowledge that you will find gas somewhere in your immediate local--no more desperate searching over a broad swath of urban real estate.

  6. You are free to purchase gas at any other gas stations from your assigned stations, but you will be charged any extra $1/gallon for not wisely watching your fueltank indicator and conserving.  If your neighborhood community is good at fuel conservation by everyone pedaling bicycles often, then when you finally go to purchase gasoline--it will be cheap-- no Jeavons' Paradox applies from outside customers scooping up the intentional reduced demand savings.

Okay, these proposals maybe workable or not--I have no idea, but I welcome better ideas and discussion on any methods to minimize gasline queue violence for the postPeak Era.  Remember, each year it will get continually worse until we successfully transition to PHEVs, mass-transit, and bicycles.

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

I would propose a system with gas-credits, like a creditcard.
Every car owner them will be entitled to buy a certain amount of gallons of gas every month.
These will be taken of your gas-credit-account.
Credits not spend can be saved for next month. Or can be sold to others via the internet.
Extra credits can be hand out tho those that give special service to the public, like house doktors.

The second thing I would propose is to abolish payroll tax and  
compensate the loss of government income by raising the tax on   oil products.

The idea of replacing the Social Security tax with a petroleum tax is one of the dumbest ideas that keeps popping up on TOD. How do you propose Social Security meet its obligations as petroleum supply declines?  There are those who believe retirees and the disabled deserve to starve or freeze because they failed to properly invest income they never had.
You'd have to have a mechanism to constantly adjust the (carbon, gas, etc) tax as sales volumes fall.  Maybe easier and less stressful for everybody to just have a much larger personal income tax exemption that adjusts yearly.
It is my understanding that American retirees as a group are one of the support bases for GWB and the Rethugs. It is hard to have sympathy for anyone who votes Republican yet cannot take care of themselves.  
No, they aren't. Rich, white retirees are more likely than not to be Republicans, but ordinary white people are not. It's just some people you know, not the many you don't.
I vote Republican, can take of myself and I have 14 families that depend on me (my employees) for good judgment.    How about that responsibility to navigate the PO waters.
tom deplume-

I don't think that replacing the Social Security tax with a petroleum tax would have any worse problems than the Social Security tax. For one thing, once there is little oil, there will probably be much less income to tax, so the Social Security system will have problems, no matter what we do.

I personally am pretty much a doomer when it comes to the US monetary system - I am afraid it will fail fairly early on, once people figure out about peak oil, and lending institutions stop making twenty or thirty year loans, including mortgage loans. Even the present downturn in the housing industry, if it gets worse, could hit the monetary system pretty hard.

Another thing to keep in mind is that at any point in time, there will be only so much of quite a few things available - oil, food, fresh water.  The current monetary system or some new monetary system can help divide these goods up, but it can't make any more than there is in total.

With all these issues, I think that people should not count on social security, medicare, medicaid, and other social programs. We may luck out and get a little from them, but if there is not enough to go around, social welfare progams are likely to be cut. Private pensions are not likely to fare a whole lot better - they depend on the stock and bond markets to fund them, and will have problems if there are many bankruptcies, or problems with the monetary system.

I have not always voted for the Dems but I have never voted for a Republican even though I am middle aged, Christian, a white man, and blue collar. Perhaps it's my impaired sanity.
There's a simple way around that, too:  use the fuel-tax money to rebate Social Security taxes on the first $X of income.  As fuel taxes decline, so does the rebate.
A much better idea, speaking as one who recently started an early draw of SS.  Those who don't want to plan on SS are welcome not to do so, but there are a lot of voters who have a certain attachment to the idea and a great many of us are not Republicans.
I don't think this is ultimately workable. Instead, let the market provide the solution - fuel station operators can change the prices of the petrol they sell, can't they?
What do you think is not ultimately workable? Th gas-credit system or the trade-in payroll-tax for gas-tax?

The creditsystem actually uses the free-market. As I propose, the credits can be sold, so the highest bidder can get the most gasoline. But at the same time, the poor people and the not-so-in-need-of gas people get money for their sold credits.

Why would this not work?

I guess I am speaking from an Australian perspective. I'm unaware if massive shortages have occurred here. At least, 'hijackings' are unlikely due to our rational gun policies.

The scheme would require some kind of massive, centralised planning to be enforceable. Charging individuals differing amounts for fuel is the first error, in my opinion. Also assuming that anyone queueing up at a fuel station has 'insider information' - what if all stations in an area are out of petrol? Does that criminalise every person queuing?

It seems you're presenting this idea in the context of some kind of future American society. Instead of working to socialise fuel, I would hope that by 'then', we would have moved away from ICE passenger vehicles.

I also wonder if you're trying to solve the problem from an oil-producer's perspective, or government perspective - basically capitalistic or socialist approaches to the situation.
Checking fuel guages, VIN etc. would all require extra personnel - why not just get some armed guards/police to secure fuel stations, and allow them to sell available supplies for whatever price 'the market' reaches 'equillibrium' at?
Price spikes + extra security seems to solve the issue for me.
If American neighbourhoods devolve into armed confrontations, you only have your military-industrial complex to blame.

Or, simply ration fuel - weren't 'they' already doing that for truckers somewhere?

Why make things more complicated than necessary?

Just about every gasoline pump in the US has a credit card payment slot. Simply allocate, i. e. ration gasoline to a reasonable average user rate, and require all gasoline purchases to be made by credit card. No more gallons on the card, no gasoline.

If there is a problem with that concept peddle it as a homeland security measure, in that we can monitor the driving of terrorist. The folks in the asphalt paradise will lap that up 8-)).

Rationing by allocation will get you long waiting lines & empty supermarkets. It is the most efficient way of wrecking the economy. Have we all forgotten the USSR?
If it comes to the point where we actually have a shortage and need to resort to extreme measures, do you really think the economy is going to be humming along fine?  Hopefully higher oil prices will push us away from ICE cars before the point where we have to start rationing fuel.  At that point the economy is wrecked period...doesn't really matter how you try to solve the crisis.  
Hello Roger,

I believe rationing by price is always more effective than rationing by quantity, and is much easier to administer to boot.  But I see no reason why we couldn't easily setup a two-tier pricing system that would benefit relocalization forces in detritus use, limit the worst of Jeavons' Paradox, yet still respond overall to the international price of crude/barrel.  Scanning the barcode VIN # is much better than the odd-even day rationing we had back in the earlier days and all the corruption it created.

For example, my little scooter combined with my lack of owning a cellphone puts me at a decided disadvantage in moving to the 'early bird' front of the gasoline queue.  A pickup owner, with a cellphone for inside info, and extra gas cans in the back of his pickup can beat me to the forming queue every time.  My attempts at Powerdown are working against me, even if I can afford the 4 gallons to fill my tank, if when I finally reach the gas pump--none is available. Yet, long-term, I want the price to go as high as possible, so others will be forced to eventually downscale in their vehicle use too.  

Trust me: I had the gas siphoned out of my '69 GMC pickup in the early seventies--It was no fun waiting 24 hours till my even-day came up, then waiting in a hours-long queue in the blazing sun with a five gallon gas can to later heft a quarter mile home for the partial refilling of my tank.

Riding a scooter vs. driving my old pickup effectively triples my energy circle's radius; I can cover a much larger territory, if needed, for the same cost.  But, by staying within the original radii or less; by trying to relocalize myself as much as possible, it creates big savings for me and the environment.  With the two-tier system, I could buy 1/4 gallon outside my neighborhood, pay the distance penalty cost, yet know that I have adequate fuel so that when I get back to my neighborhood, that I can refill near my house at the going market rate.

Rationing by price as a function of your distance from home is how nature imposes it controls--I am merely proposing the same for us humans.  A predator cannot seek prey further than it's abilities to bring the bacon home to feed Momma and the kids; it's energy level constrains it to patrolling a discrete territory-- as detritus energy becomes limited, I suggest we must all learn to travel in increasingly smaller circles.

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

I would recommend just getting an electric scooter and some form of self power generation.  Then you won't have to worry about this problem if it comes to pass.  
Hello Rlaws,

My speculative proposals allow the gas station owners to set the market price; to respond to supply & demand, but it will be a two-tiered 'roaming' system to help promote Westexas's HELP idea of conservation and relocalization, and reduce the postPeak tendency of detritovores driving all over the place seeking fuel when spot shortages become commonplace.  Otherwise, unless you and me have access to  the local inside info, we can always expect to be forced to the end of the line, no matter how much we are willing to pay per gallon.  In short, a black market in fuel info is more valuable than a black market in fuel supply.

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

My speculative proposals allow the gas station owners to set the market price; to respond to supply & demand,...

Bob, gas station owners make about five cents per gallon, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. They are at the mercy of their suppliers as far as the price is concerned.

After Katrina and Rita last year, the wholesale price in many of places jumped far more, per gallon, than their profit margins. As a result many station owners did not have enough money to buy a new load. Many had to bag off their pumps until they could raise enough money for a load or else wait for the wholesale price to drop.

My point is, with such tiny profit margins, how on earth can service station owners "set the market price"? They get whipsawed by the market price just as much as we consumers do. They have no control over the market price.

What am I missing Bob? Is there something in your proposals that give them more control?

Ron Patterson

In Mississippi I believe it is impossible to raise prices on the same load of fuel, or at least it was in the state of emergency after Katrina. However, in Florida it is not and I saw a nearby gas station raise their prices 3 times in one day, a total of 19 +/- cents (without any deliveries). So they are making more money off the same load of fuel. Seems like they are making more money than normal, not less.
Hello Darwinian,

Thxs for responding.  I don't claim to be an expert on gas station operation: I did not know that operators can be so severely whipsawed by their suppliers. I thought that they had much greater control over pricing decisions [within legal bounds], potential profit margins, etc to manage their considerable investment in a gas station.  Sounds like a lousy business to own, even more so postPeak, unless they can be legislated more business freedom from their suppliers.  For the same type of gasoline, and all from the same pipeline, gasoline in my neighborhood can vary by seven cents or more per gallon-- so there must be some local pricing power at work.

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


I am not sure it cost that much to get in the Gas station business. In most cases around here (NJ)the stations are owned by the companies and are just leased by the people that run the operation.They are pretty much under the thumb of the companies.

Yes, they vary by as much as seven cents here too Bob, but that is between different brands. Exxon or Shell is much higher than Murphy Oil, (Wal-Mart), and so on. Locally owned stores are usually buy into a franchise for their gasoline. These are usually the cheapest brands on the market. They price as low as they can and still get business. Of course thay can raise prices as much as they like, but then they drive away their business, gasoline business as well as the rest of their stuff.
I think the difference between high rent and low rent districts is often ... no surprise ... rent, land costs.
thats why they are your one stop shop for just about any junk food you can imagine. because they earn so little on gas, they use it as a means to get you in the door so you can buy higher profit margin items.
One huge problem with your scheme is that it would allow the suppliers or government to punish individual areas (like voting districts) by cutting off fuel to them and forcing their residents to both travel farther AND pay a surcharge.

I know a gas station owner who has had to constantly borrow more and more money to pay for the gas when it arrives. The oil companies pretty much want COD. Since he has more money borrowed and rates are up his interest cost are up. To make it worse more and more people are using credit cards to pay for the gas. The credit card company's charges are on the gross amount of the sale, which is higher cutting into the profit. I have read where some gas stations are spending $1000.00 a week and more in credit charge charges.

I was in various small business for 40 years. Many weeks I paid my employees on Friday and hoped I would do enough business over the weekend to cover the payroll. If there was a snowstorm I was in trouble. This is called (playing the float). It is even harder to do now that checks clear faster. When you are in this kind of situation, and many gas stations are, it is very hard to raise prices higher then the competition when you need the cash to pay the expenses.

Many things seem easy in theory but putting into practice is much different.

Depends on the state... it might be considered "gouging" the consumer
This sort of thing would be greatly helped by a bit of "price gouging". Economics is useful in the micro short term, not just the macro short term.

The hurricane evacuations, including the totally unncessary ones from some parts of Houston, would have been much safer and more orderly with some "gouging". A bit of "gouging" would also have saved much useless time and effort in Phoenix - and freed up gas spent driving in circles for useful purposes.

When the price is allowed to rise, the black market never forms in the first place and there's no need to worry about it. In addition, for example, the problem of people who refuse to plan ahead when a hurricane is coming disappears. They'd remember an $8/gallon last-minute price far better than any amount of governmental nagging and exhortation. Plus, they wouldn't top off their tanks along the way - and delay traffic in the process - unless they actually needed to. And they wouldn't re-wire their gas gauges to display whatever was needed. And they wouldn't be endangered by delays at long lines engendered by physical shortages or by elaborate bureaucratic qualification-checking procedures.

The trouble with complicated, dictatorial, bureaucratic approaches - price controls, rationing, martial law, etc - is that people devise workarounds, or it simply proves to be impossible to hire enough incorruptible bureaucrats (or fuel truck drivers) to enforce those approaches fairly. Either way, they provide people with powerful incentives to spend great gobs of time and money on evasion, at great expense to any effort at mitigation.

Politically, of course, there's a problem. Complicated oppressive bureaucratic approaches are an easy political sell because the attitude of the Great Shiftless Moron Mass is that no sacrifice is too great for somebody else to make when the chips are down. So the gas station people are supposed to stock up to the gunwales, and hang around until the wind reaches 120mph, the better to serve the blithely irresponsible who refused to prepare, and in order to punish them for being evil wicked gas station people, they're supposed to do all this for free. After all, it's great and glorious fun to bite the venal corporate hand that feeds us. And it's never politically correct to expect a voter to take responsibility for anything, such as filling the tank while the hurricane is still out at sea.

The political problem, though, is simply a known disadvantage of democracy - and likely one reason why the founders of the U.S.A. distrusted the short term whims of the people and didn't put direct (or more direct) democracy into the constitution. Their solution was representative democracy, but sometimes that doesn't work either, especially in the presence of electronic media, which short-circuit the originally-intended deliberative processes.

Great Shiftless Moron Mass ...

Tssk, tssk, tssk...
That is very politically UNcorrect, you seem to say :
With direct democracy the most irresponsible lead the show.
With representative democracy the most irresponsible STILL lead the show longterm PLUS the "representative" and "special interests" add their own gouging.

Do not despair of democracy, Iraq HAS democracy, only villains like Putin don't want democracy.

Don't see how any rationing type system could work.  Some ideas, particularly the truck tracking via GPS and final destination only known at the end of the drive, will be implemented as they are more useful to the oil distribution industry than actually stopping insider info.  We will always have insider info to a privileged few.  That is unavoidable.  The best rationing schemes would be actions taken by pump owners themselves.  They could limit their sales to X number of gallons per vehicle.  This would allow their best customers to be serviced and the supplies to be maximized over the most vehicles.  This seems the easiest and fairest method.  Coupled with price rises in the market, something like this would provide the maximum benefit with the least special privilege situations.  

On an individual level we all need to start doing everything we can to reduce our use of fossil fuels (but TODers already know this).  As the Israel/Lebanon war shows us, we are financing all sides of this type conflict by buying oil.  We finance Iran, Israel for the war, outsource our jobs to China and India, and then get to finance the reconstruction!  Surly a mad situation for the US.  

And no one could actually follow the truck due to its "cloak of invisibilty". No wonder the Hezbollah won the war.
#1 wouldn't work, because in stead of queueing up for gas ahead of time, they'd just circle the block like a vulture until the tanker arrived. No surcharge, and they would only lose, what, 3 or 4 places in line? They'd still be way up at the front of the line.


This strikes me as going at the wrong end of the problem. My inclination would be to increase taxes on energy and provide public transportation. Force the transition sooner rather than later.

cfm in Gray ME

Hello Dryki,

Your quote: "My inclination would be to increase taxes on energy and provide public transportation. Force the transition sooner rather than later."

No disagreement from me, but it seems our politicians will not react until the fuel crisis causes much violence.  I am hoping my speculative ideas [or better ideas by other TODers!] might mitigate this transition period as it takes years to build an effective and efficient network of mass-transit.  What are our best ideas that can belatedly implemented by our leaders during this interrim period?  Forcing rich and poor alike to shrink their wandering circles by imposing a draconian distance premium faster than relatively uniform supply and demand would impose seems to have some merit, IMO.  Otherwise, a wealthy person attempting to buy gas in a distant neighborhood will be quantity limited by a shower of rocks from the locals.  We are an extremely territorial animal at crunchtime.

Eventually, fuel will become so expensive and scarce that only the critical needs of the police, fire, and local military will be allowed to burn it, the remaining amount will be controlled by politically connected black marketeers carefully selling to the highest bidders, like DeBeers diamond control. Try to imagine a US that has burned all its native supply, and only one supertanker/ month reaches our shores.

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

The public transit solution is limited by the size and number of the buses or rail cars they use. The system I worked for could handle less than 2% of the county population at any point in time. Over the course of a working day they could sqeeze in maybe 6% of all commuters. I doubt if public transit as it now stands could handle more than 10% of all workers in America.
I talked to someone who lived in Paris. He claimed that the Paris metro had the capacity to accomodate the entire commuting population of Paris. If this is true, you could theoretically solve the commuting problems of any large urban center by building similar systems.
Hi Totoneila,

I have to withdraw a prior argument against your idea about educating the young to prepare for peak oil. I argued they were already hyperconsumers at a young age. Yesterday my 8 year old nephew was overheard saying we weren't going to have enough oil and we needed to make electric cars and electric windmills. He had more to say. I didn't tell him this, he had been listened in to one of my conversations. Don't know how his SUV driving parents are going to take his new found wisdom.

Nurture that new-found wisdom in the little one as much as possible!  Many people will try to put your nephew back into his hyperconsumer trance.  He may slip back into it, but you may plant the seeeds of awakening sooner or later.

I've watched my kids battle hyperconsumerism.  Often, I think they are losing.  They resent our relative material "poverty" but are also able to articulate ideas about our impact on the planet, and what options we already choose. They are usually proud that their parents are thinking about the environment the kids will inherit in a few years.

Most parents simply project "more of the same" and I guess assume that they willl be doddering about on some golf course when the kiddos move into their own McMansions with four car Hummer-storage units.

It is not the oil companies that dispatch the trucks. It is the individual gas stations that call the trucking company at all hours of the day and night to "immediately" go pickup a load of fuel for them at the terminal. If the station owners even think there is going to be an increase in wholesale gas prices they will call the trucking company to go pickup a load before the price increase starts. (as little as 0.01/gal will trigger this). My neighbor runs a small gasoline trucking business (about 8 tankers) and it is one crazy business to be in!
As to allocating fuel to each vehicle owner, that would be great. I own 10+ vehicles so would get a gas allocation for each vehicle. That would do wonders for the used car business.
And how do you diferentiate between the jock who just likes driving a big 4x4 pickup and the farmer/businessman who has to drive a big pickup?
You can't haul a load of sweet corn and mellons to the farmers market nor a load of shingles to reroof a house with a weenie electric toy.
I went through the 70's gas shortages in Arizona which were the result of government price control interference in the markets. Dump the anti-gouging laws and let the market determine the price. If the price goes too high they won't sell enough and they will have to lower the price to sell the stuff. Any government scheme is only going to cause more problems than it will solve.

This is an aweful idea.

So basically what you're saying is that rather than raise the prices (and punish the hell out of those people who own Hummers), you'd rather just have elaborate beurocratic checks so that the hummer owners don't suffer any worse than the people driving vespas.

You do want to actually save gas, right? Just raise the price. Voila, nobody going to fill up their boat anymore, fewer hummers on the street, and nobody driving around (or waiting in line) for hours to find gas.

It would suck for the poor, but that can be handled by giving those that are truly poor some sort of tax rebate or something. Just cut them a check if their income is below X, then those that don't use gas get rewarded for their lifestyle, those that do, well at least it doesn't hurt them so badly. The soccer moms won't be evicted by higher gas prices, but they'll feel the pain and maybe make a more sane choice of vehicle next time.

Sure, you will punish the people that own the hummers, but rationing by price punishes others, who dont own hummers but do need to get to work, often in smaller vehicles. Nurses on Night shift etc.

SUV type vehicles are getting more highly taxed in the UK. The idea being that Yummy Mummies driving 'Chelsea Tractors'in London feel some pain. The problem is, that a Sheep farmer operating in marginal land in the North of Britain, really does need his battered old Land Rover, yet he gets stiffed for the same tax as the Chelsea tractor driver. The tax increase is about 5 Starbucks lattes for the metropolitan driver or in the farmers case, about three additional sheep.

The question is do we really need an SUV / Large saloon. The simple answer absolutely not. Now maybe Fashion and peer pressure will kill off the Gas Guzzler craze.

Ultimately, turning up at the school gates / sports field /yuppie larve party in one of these will be social death. You know, a bit like lighting up a cheroot at a school play.

Personally, I would just fucking ban them. Unless you could prove you really need them and the bar of proof would be very high (''show me some of your sheep'').

From what I understand of American ownership of SUV's they are classed as 'trucks' and attract a tax rebate. Is this true? Then stop it. It is stupid. Proof that you really do need a 6000 lbs truck for you livelyhood should be a pre-condition of a tax rebate. Well sod that. If you are rich enough to afford a hummer 2, you dont need the tax rebate and you can in fact afford a $5000 / year tax on the damn thing. (The tax could be hypothecated to public transport or light rail projects).

Dont tell me anybody in an urban setting working in a ''soft hand profession'' needs a bloody hummer to get to , or continue his or her work.

Tradeable Carbon Credits have also been proposed. Not keen on this either. The rich can 'buy' these credits off the immobile poor and continue hogging the lanes and guzzling gas. Carbon Credits should be non-tradable. If you know you will run out of credit before the annual renewal, you may be tempted to think about Fuel Efficiency and non essential, discretionary travel.

If the rich can 'buy' other peoples carbon credits, then it is just a scam and will just dissolve social cohesion.

Picture this: the poor labourer walks to his job to repair the road so that the rich can continue joy riding in gas guzzlers.  

An outright ban has a chance of working. Social engineering the lines at a gas station does not. Generally I like the ideas here.

A few nitpicks.

If the laborer (lets take me, for example) that walks to work has credits, why should he not be able to sell them? That would punish those that don't drive. Drive, or you can't use your credits. Also a bad idea. If you want to make it fair and effective, give credits to everyone and let them sell them. Sure, some rich punk might still be able to drive his hummer, but if he has to put food on the table for 20 people in order to do so, then let him do it.

The plan shouldn't be to get rid of Bill Gates' hummer (lets imagine he has one...) the plan should be to get 90% of them off the road. Higher taxes will do that. Tax the hell out of gasoline, and then divide it up per-capita and mail the proceeds out to everyone. Drive less than average, you gain money, drive more than average, you lose money. The farmer needs it for his sheep, then I guess sheep are going to be a little more expensive. I think that'll be OK, and surely it's rare to begin with. Most SUVs cannot drive offroad without sustaining severe damage, despite the look of them, often they're more fragile than little economy cars. I seriously doubt many farmers have them.

''Drive less than average you gain money, drive more than average, you loose money.''

That may work. But it must be linked to carbon emmisions.

Why? What comes out of the tail-pipe is the key driver.
Example: A Nurse who may cut 15000 miles in a Civic may cause less pollution to get to work than a yuppie in an SUV that cuts 7500 miles. Chances are that the yuppie will cut in excess of 15000 miles anyway.

My problem with tradeable credits is that the poor (who cannot drive) enable the rich to continue an easy motoring lifestyle (they can afford to drive).

If the rich can drive / fly whenever , wherever they wish, then the reduction in carbon required for PO / GW mitigation will not happen.

We have a de-facto carbon trading system in place right now:

A Kalahari Bushman expells very little carbon. A member of any Western Industrialised Nation (WIN) expells a lot more carbon.

Is it right that the bushman should suffer the effects of PO/GW created by a WIN person?

No. It is not right.

Carbon rations should not be transferable. You get your ration and that is it. It does not matter how ''rich'' you are. And no, bellowing the phrase ''Dont you know who I am? '' Should cut absoloutley no ice. Then a WIN Person will then need to work out how to drastically reduce carbon emmissions.

A WIN person wont do this overnight. A WIN person cannot suddenly achieve the carbon - free status of a bushman.

That is not the point. What we in the West have to do is conserve as soon as possible and cut carbon use. But cutting frivolous carbon use must be an absoloute imperative.

That means all of us. The rich cannot be exempted by some kind of trade or 'special exemptions'.

Carbon trading would enable the rich to swap dollars (theoretical and increasingly useless bits of paper) for access to actual physical substances that can alter the climate and deplete a resource. They could do it just for their own pleasure and enjoyment.

Envisage this: two thirds of humanity use little carbon. All humanity get a 'carbon ration'.
The One third 'buy' the other two thirds hypothetical carbon ration. Nothing changes. The amount of carbon is the same.

Who knows?

However , one of the most positive aspects of the USA is that the population can adapt very quickly to changing circumstances. A manifestation of this is the success of Toyota when compared with the failure of GM and Ford.

People are not stupid. Cutting engine capacity will become the cool thing to do. People who insist on buying giant penis-extenders will , ultimately , be laughed at. (which kind of negates the reason why people buy these things in the first place).

At the end of the day, we all need to get to work.

Tradeable credits never going to happen. That would be egalitarian. What has been egalitarian in USA in past quarter century? Rationing by price, period.
1) At least in America, sales of SUVs are way off:

washingtonpost.com (free registration required):
Truck and SUV Sales Plunge as Gas Prices Rise
GM, Ford Hit Hardest in September

Yeah, that was from last September. So, how about something more recent (as in, a few hours ago):

Sales wane, so Ford adjusts
At Claycomo, F-150 truck production crews will be idled for several weeks in months ahead.

Bahrain's Gulf Daily News:
Ford puts production brake as sales slump
NEW YORK: Struggling auto giant Ford Motor said yesterday it was slashing its US vehicle production as it battles to recapture customers who are deserting its gas-guzzling SUVs in favour of Japanese models.

US Auto Sales Drop in July As Toyota Surges
August 2 2006: 9:19 AM EDT
DETROIT (Reuters) -- U.S. auto sales slid 17 percent in July as Americans shunned trucks and opted for more fuel-efficient cars, catapulting Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. past Ford Motor Co. into the No. 2 spot for the first time.

So -- as to whether we should ban them, well ... people are already getting the message. Personally, I don't think yet another law is going to do much. And I'd hate to see the bureaucracy that would go around determining, "Ok, this one for your business will give you a tax credit, but this one for this business won't." And are we really going to hire the police, equip them, buy them cars, and pay for their gas so they can go and check every business that claims a tax credit for a Suburban?

(because I'm assuming you know that the Hummer-sized credit was already phased out in 2004, and it's only a Suburban-sized credit. And that it's only if the vehicle is purchased by a business. Right?)

Gas-guzzler tax? All for it. Especially on a recurring basis. And, if people decide to pay for these behemoths, that's fine. Just use the proceeds to be specifically earmarked for energy conservation projects (personally, I like projects that will reduce electrical and natural gas usage -- those are likely to have less of an effect on the price of oil).

It's amazing to me that when people get into these "Ford vs. Toyota" type of pizzing matches, they think that all Toyota does is build hybrid Priuses...let's take a bit of a broader view, with return to commentary at the end....


What is "Micro-Mini Cogen"?


What does this have to do with Toyota?

"First developed a couple of years ago in Japan, the G60 is the brainchild of Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd., a cutting-edge subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp., and maker of about 85% of the auto parts for the parent company, "as well as parts for virtually every major automaker in the world," notes Aisin admirer Bill Cetti, chief executive officer of the Leesburg, VA-based Eco Technology Solutions LLC (or ECOTS; www.Ecotsusa.com). Aisin also delves into technologically innovative energy systems like the G60, which was originally developed for Daihatsu. Power generation is especially prominent at Aisin Seiki, he adds, "with almost every type of DG product you can think of under development there right now."

Sorry about the caps, but there must be some way to get people to see that what we are suffering most from is a crisis of will and intellect, not a crisis of fuel.  PLEASE, look back, we have known for decades this time would come!  Why do you think we talked about solar and wind and nuclear fusion and underground cities and meglev trains and product design and industrial design for the last half century?  We knew, we always knew we would need it!  Then we forgot we would, stopped educating our children on creativity, aesthetics, art, design, culture, and the interrelationship between these, and went down and bought retro Thunderbirds and gigantic trucks....(!!!!), how did a generation educated in the most liberal arts, designer, creative, original artistic environment you could dream of fall so far off the track?
Please do not let this happen to our young, do not go down the path of "damm what you think is creative and rewarding, get something that pays!!", path....do the noble thing, America actually needs the talant and creative inventiveness you showed when you were young.....whether your a banker or an engineer, a politician or just a customer.....Thank you

Roger Conner known to you as ThatsItImout

Cool. Please keep posting, Roger!
I'm counting on a price spike to provoke an emotional reaction, which you are alluding to. This should provoke some sort of government sponsored rationing in addition to all sorts of silly draconian measures against Chelsea tractors, as the scapegoating kicks off, to address the "inequality".

(I don't expect anybody to admit that they were living in a fool's paradise - they'd much rather pick on scoccer mums who talk about inane things as if they were important.. ;-) They are, afterall, genuinely irritating...)

The way I see it, this artificial rationing should check the price in the short term, but long term drive the price spike further as it mutes the short term price signals.

It may be happening already:


I posted this yesterday. The Author, Mary-Anne Sieghart of the Times / Sunday Times is er... what you would call a 'social commentator'. Very bright and very cute (in a middle aged male fantasy kind of way...). She picks up and amplifies trends. She pissed me off a year ago when she stated in one of her articles that the UK was self sufficient in oil. I wrote to her about PO and the depressing position of the UK. (even got a reply).

Point is: People like her (Yummy Mummies with kids to drop off, parties to attend, etc) actually make a difference. If MA Sieghart comes down on SUV's, then suddenly, the manufacturers of SUVs have a really serious problem.

Watch this space. MA Seighart may have just crippled an entire SUV industry...

You could make heavy fuel-inefficient trucks sufficiently uncomfortable that they were unappealing to all but actual workmen who needed the cargo capacity.

Anyway I support a "feebate"---transfer payments from buyers of low-efficiency vehicles to high efficiency vehicles, with perhaps exemptions only for "base level" trucks (no SUVs) with only utilitarian options: basic radio, no sunroof, no leather seats, no massagers, whatever.

lovely ideas--

but the last couple of administrations have effectively turned the legal system into an arm of the Cosa Nostra.  Who, exactly is going to protect us from the black market when the criminals are in charge?

Re:  Pumping the fear factor out of oil
"By 2008 or 2009 you're going to have a lot more spare capacity in Saudi Arabia than there is now," said Adam Sieminski, chief energy economist at Deutsche Bank.

What continues to amaze me is that the cornucopians will admit that regions do peak and decline, but they assert that the world--which is the sum of discrete producing regions--will virtually never decline (or that the peak is decades away, worst case).  

As I have said before, this is like saying that individual wells will peak and decline, but the field--the sum of individual wells--will never peak.

i have read khebab's post about oil field size distribution that concludes that small fields will really not make much of a difference to URR in a region ... but i look at figure 2 on that page and it appears that the cumulative production from small fields in UK  did help that region hit a second peak. of course, production declined fast from that second peak point.

cumulative output from small fields in a given region is constrained by the size of the region. take away the regional constraint - you have a very long tail of small fields. collectively, can't this huge long tail of small fields make an impact, at least in the short run?

I'm not quite sure I'm following. The assertion in the article seems much stronger and simpler than anything to do with summing up lots of regions. They seem to be asserting that the Saudi Arabian region, all by itself and operating at the margin, will solve the problem...
What these folks overlook is depletion. They count what is coming on line and forget to subtract what is coming off line. This past spring, Feb thru April, Saudi brought Haradh Gosp-3 on line and added 300,000 barrels per day of new production. Yet since September of last year, they have dropped 400,000 barrels per day in total production because of depletion. That is 700,000 down and 300,000 up. They are trying to climb a down escalator, and they are not running fast enough just to stay in one place.
And you are convinced that they are in this trend? That they are fighting a losing battle? Have you settled on a maximum sustainable(1 year) rate that they can acheive? Or a range? I'm most interested in your assessment at this time. In fact, I'm starting a database project right now and I'll take your submission as the one I use for Saudi. Just because it appears that you stare longer at the issue than anyone I know.
Since December twenty nations have been down by almost two million barrels per day. Eight nations have been up by less than one million barrels per day. (Combined totals for all.)

Yes, I think this is a trend. I think Saudi has peaked. Actually they peaked in 1980 at 9.9 million barrels per day, then choked off their output for over 20 years to keep prices high. Now they are producing flat out and reached their peak around the middle of last year. Now they are in decline. Yes, yes, this is a trend.

Going sailing right now. Back on line in about 5 hours.

Ron Patterson

I request that when you, Westexas etc give numbers (eg "down since december") that you specify the database. I figure you are using the EIA, but we know this has dicrepancies with the IEA and others and with different iterations of IEA. People also rely on BP for historical data, and MEES, petrologistics and others for current OPEC estimates.

I just think the contributions are more valuable knowing exactly which data source is being referenced, and possibly with some comments why one and not the other.

Thanks in advance.

The Decline in World Oil Production Versus the Top 10 Net Exporters' Decline

I've written a lot of stuff based on Khebab's technical work.  This was my first article, posted in January, 2006:

Hubbert Linearization Analysis of the Top Three Net Oil Exporters

My (slightly edited) concluding statement from this article:

"It would seem from this case that these factors could interact this year produce to an unprecedented--and probably permanent--net oil export crisis."

I thought that it would be interesting to compare the decline since December in world crude + condensate production to the decline in production from the top 10 net oil exporters (based on the 2004 list of top exporters).  As of the May, 2006 EIA numbers, the world is down 1.3% since December, but the top 10 oil exporters are down 3.0%.    Note that consumption is growing quite rapidly in most of the exporting countries.  My guess is that net oil exports from the top exporters are probably down by 4% to 5%.  

As I have been relentlessly pointing out, I think that we are looking at a series of bidding cycles for declining net oil export capacity, with the oil going to the high bidders and with the losers having to reduce consumption.   Soon, the developed and rapidly developing countries will be bidding against each other, instead of bidding against regions like Africa.


Is it posible to get the export figures for the top ten exporters or producers? Anyone know where.

This has the most recent data that I am aware of (total liquids):  http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/topworldtables1_2.html
Do you know if the export figures for Iraq treat the quantities used by the U.S. military as exports (I know the military is using refined products, not crude, but is the refining being done in Iraq)?  If not, it would be interesting to know how much "domestic" consumption is by the U.S.
Exports 2004

2004 data is the latest available. You will have to wait until next June for 2005 data from EIA. BP's data, while more up-to-date, does not break down individual countries in this detail.

If you look at the yearly changes in these numbers, take known production numbers for 2005 and 2006, and extrapolate consumption numbers for 2005 and 2006, you will see that nothing of significance has changed. With the exception of Iraq and Nigeria, maybe. Kazakh production is up, so their exports would be, too. Norwegian and British production continue to decline steadily.

Azerbaijan will probably be in the top 15 within 5 years.

I would still like to see the graph of

1 Saudi Arabia
   One Line being Production
   One line being internal Consumption

For the last (say) 10 years.

Same graph for Iran, FSU, North Sea, Mexico, etc.

Does the Consumption Line have a greater slope than the production?


One attempt (probably too optimistic):

Saudi Arabia's Ability to Export Oil

If you assume that SA has peaked now, then it looks like all exports stop in about 15-20 years.

Yea, that sounds about right to me.

I think it shows exports peaking in about 12 years, with all exports stopping about 2050.
thats what it shows, but it assumes that SA is going to have significant increases in production.  I seriously doubt that.  I expect that the drop-off that the graph shows starting around 2020 will actually start about 9 months ago.
Ah, I see what you mean.  You've cut out the portion of the graph from about 2010 to 2030.  

Hmmm.  I guess the domestic consumption curves raise the question: will exporters continue to subsidize their domestic consumption in the face of falling exports?  They may supply domestic consumption first, but will they keep prices low and sacrifice the foreign exchange they need to subsidize other things??

Westexas, any thoughts?

"As I have been relentlessly pointing out, I think that we are looking at a series of bidding cycles for declining net oil export capacity, with the oil going to the high bidders and with the losers having to reduce consumption.   Soon, the developed and rapidly developing countries will be bidding against each other, instead of bidding against regions like Africa."

Westexas, I'm inclined to agree 100% with this comment.  I was wondering if youv'e done anything to look at consumption patterns over recent years?  A quick look at the 2006 bp review data shows that the following countries had reduced consumption from 2004 to 2005 - USA and Canada (hurricanes?), Germany, France and Italy (on-going de-industrialisation), India, Turkey, Malaysia and Greece (poorer countries losing bidding war?).

If you have done any work on this I'd be interested to know - otherwise I was thinking of having a closer look at this, this week.

"If you have done any work on this I'd be interested to know - otherwise I was thinking of having a closer look at this, this week."

I've not done anything with recent consumption data.

"spare capacity" Does he mean pumps that are now spare  because they are useless only pumping water? Certainly there would be plenty of "capacity" It would be quite capable if it doesn't rust.
I was just watching the last half hour of a profile of Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva. Shiva and a group of Nordic activists were leading large local demonstrations against the water practices of Coca-Cola in Kerala.


Grist is shocked by the new Hirsch recommendations:

For peak oil geeks, the Hirsch Report is a document of near-Biblical significance. It was written by Robert Hirsch at the behest of the Department of Energy, and published in 2005. (You can read a summary here [PDF].)

It's disappointing, then, to hear what Hirsch personally recommends as a response to peak oil.

Hirsch on responding to peak oil

Hello Odograph,

First, BIG THXS to Leanan for the latest PDF from Hirsch-- I briefly superscrolled through it-- will study in detail later.

I must say I am impressed with the level of work in this latest Hirsch update--makes me wonder how much has already been supercomputer-modelled as Asimov's Foundation would suggest.

Okay, let me possibly address your concern.  On Page 85, Hirsch outlines the fifteen states that will most benefit from his proposals.  My speculative guess is that these states will be the future primarily detritovore habitats, and the other 35 will be strongly influenced to go the biosolar route.  But of course there will be great variability depending upon the local ecosystem, but I think we can surmise that the detritus infrastructure spiderweb will inevitably shrink to the geographic limitations imposed by Liebig's Law & ERoEI.  A successful biosolar Powerup will not be limited by these detritus constraints.

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


I posted the Grist thing as a heads-up.  I'm still formulating my response to this paper.

FWIW, I do lean toward it being a "scary scenario" but I'm not sure what path the authors really wants government to choose.

Given that government is largely a no-show on PO, I can only hope that market led changes will transform industrial society at a rate consistent with oil production decline.  On that (a) the jury is out, and (b) it might be beyond that 15-20 window anyway, and hard to call with full particulars.


I was wondering how I might contact you directly? I have some ideas I'd like to bounce off your venerable backside and cannot seem to find a way to get them to you.


1 TRILLION a year may be necessary with the technology he recommends.  IMO, we'll see at least that much if we wait until the peak and then shift into panic gear.

But I think it'd work better fast-tracking every alternative energy research program in the nation:  4G nuclear, PV, new hydro techniques, and bio, while working on capacity in the stuff that does work now: as much 3G nuclear construction as possible(limited by our supply of nuke engineers), wind, pumped hydro, mass transport, etc.

This study gives us $308billion initial costs plus $46billion/year for total fuel replacement on algal biodiesel.  Yes, it's overly optimistic, yes the algalculture techniques to produce the mentioned yields aren't perfected yet, but even if it's off by a factor of 10, it's still doable.

errata: Add in "solar thermal" under capacity.
Indirectly from the above Grist link, more reaction:

At supper that night there was discussion around the table as to whether [Hirsch] actually meant it or not. I wondered if he was putting it forward to say that it was a ridiculous scenario, and to argue that we need to rethink our attachment to the car. Richard Heinberg was adamant that no, Hirsch was perfectly serious, that he was saying that this is what we need to do. I had sat through the talk waiting for the bit where he said "so clearly, the US needs to break its addiction with the internal combustion engine, as to not do so will end life on the planet, be unfeasibly expensive, involve resorting to EROI-negative fuels and environmentally unacceptable fuel extraction processes, and will, as a certainty, kill us all". I wondered if I had missed something. I hadn't.

Robert Hirsch. Mitigation of Peak Oil: Making the Case: more numbers and some questions.

Well, yes, Hirsch is again not speaking the truth to power, but continuing with a "business as usual" approach and how to get there.  Environmental destruction clearly doesn't enter the picture. My questions for Mr. Hirsch: when does the easy motoring stop? Don't gains in efficiency lead to more driving and more consumption?  Perhaps he doesn't believe that more radical change is politically feasible, is the kindest way I can express it.  
BTW, I'm not doubting his intentions, as I've heard a radiocast of an interview with him a few months back.  He was clearly extremely concerned, even frightened, by his own conclusions in the first report.  This new one seems designed to get the government off the dime.
You  can't just use truth to slap power around.  They take it as an attempt to challenge their authority.  The result would be to make them go in the opposite direction.

I have found that those who crave and obtain power are not very bright outside the realm of getting and keeping power.  If you want their support, you have to tell them how your project will make them look good.  Interesting enough describing how an event will make them look bad has almost no effect on them.  They hear so many stories of doom and disaster that they dismiss them completely.  The philosophy is "If it's not on fire right this instant it's not a problem."

Very well stated.
Well stated post.  I think another issue in the relationship between "gloom and doom" predictions and those with a great deal of power is that the very powerful feel, at some level, that their power will provide insulation against suffering and that the poor and powerless can be invited to suffer in their (the power elite's) stead.  
The elites I have interacted with don't seem to even understand what poverty and suffering is.  They live so insulated from the rest of the population the concepts of hunger, eviction and despair are like fiction to them.  Raised in privilege and wealth they cannot conceive of the system that supports them failing.  It's really fascinating to watch them.  The ever present air of superiority and entitlement, the unwavering faith in the status quo and the constant struggle to be the alpha male.  Its like a trip to the zoo.

The level of cluelessness is just so prevalent that I am constantly amazed that our government continues to function at all.

The level of cluelessness is just so prevalent that I am constantly amazed that our government continues to function at all.

Faulty logic.
On the contrary cluelessness is the very reason is keeps "functioning" no one could bear it if they understood.

I searched the document for the word "warming" and came up with only two occurances--both in footnotes.

There are additional reasons why the timing of oil peaking is uncertain. These include undiscovered oil
deposits, lack of interest in further investment by producers, slow investment, environmental/global
warming legislation, significantly lower demand growth than predicted, and success in IOR - see the
discussion in Appendix E.

In addition, large volumes of CO2 may be available should carbon storage and sequestration efforts
progress in response to environmental and global warming initiatives.

Searching for "climate" produced only one hit, in the references, which points to an earlier paper by one of the authors.

The complete omission of any consideration of the added CO2 emissions, even just tallying the added costs to sequester CO2 from the operations, is striking. It is clear that the authors were pointedly told by the requestors not to discuss it.

This "reaction" is part of the problem. "End life on the planet"? What conceivable set of actions could possibly "end life on the planet"? CO2 has been well over  5000ppm before, for very long periods of time, while very complex "life" existed on the planet. That's at least five times higher than what anybody's contemplating today. Is somebody planning to electrolyze a major portion of the salt in the oceans and fill the atmosphere with chlorine, or something?

How can anybody expect to spur action - as opposed to laughter and paralysis - by painting such ridiculous and far-fetched scenarios?

I agree. Let me add my thoughts.

Nothing contemplated here will end life on the planet. Nothing contemplated here (with the possible exception of nuclear war) will substantially alter the human condition.

Only the wholesale destruction or obsolescence of infrastructurre is really a possibility. GW might destroy the gulf coast, again. Life goes on. Peak Oil might cause substantial energy disruptions, and will definitely cause us to transition to coal, nuclear, wind or solar, or some combination of the three. Life goes on.

Some people will die, they always do. They will probably be in the 3rd world, nobody is ever concerned about that. It is not right, but that's how it is.

The only question of any validity is how do we tweak our current system to eliminate or substantially reduce the disruption caused by GW and PO. That's the question. Living in caves is not the answer. Complex rationing systems while we slowly spiral down to the end of oil is not the answer. Conservation (see rationing) is not the answer, though it is likely part of any good answer. Running the world off of hamster farts, or tidal waves, or any similar insanity is not the answer.

We have exactly 4 sources of energy sufficient to sustain our current society. Some combination of these four will be chosen. People will not lie down and die, people will not give up computers and Air Conditioning. They may, with sufficient motivation give up their cars, we'll see. Either we pick the solution now, or it gets selected for us in the very near future. That's how it is. The only real question now is what combination of these technologies (coupled with conservation, hopefully) do we transition to. We pick, or the market will decide.

  1. Solar.
  2. Wind.
  3. Coal.
  4. Nuclear.

That is the only question.
Nothing contemplated here will end life on the planet.

Certainly, cockroaches are very resilient.

GW might destroy the gulf coast, again.

"GW" is a bit ambiguous here...

We pick,

"We pick" ?
Who the heck is WE?
Which "pick" do you see here at TOD?
Which "pick" do you foresee by TPTB?

or the market will decide.

Sure, Ethanol then CTL.
Guaranteed disaster.

It is really a pity that the world is "global" by now otherwise it would be a nice darwinist experiment to have separate ecologies and see how each policy fares in the (not so) long run.

Be reminded that the actual biodiversity as well as cultural diversity came from competing closed ecotopes and competing geosocial groups.
The fact that the Western Way came to dominate only means that it was the best for PREVAILING CONDITIONS (plus a bit of luck and some ruthlessness...), the conditions are changing.

Gentlemen Place Your Bets.

Well, by "we pick" I guess I just mean that someone makes a conscious decision, be it through the political process or grassroots, or whatever.

The decision we're making currently seems to be "not to decide" which just means that the market will decide, and pick coal. That's not a good idea.

The doomers don't really help this any. It is just not true that 2020 is going to look like mad-max, and everyone knows this. By clinging to that shred of insanity, they guarantee marginalization, which is just as well because they have no real ideas anyway.

It is much more useful to lay out the actual possibilities so people can go into this with their eyes open and realize where we're headed. Market decides is worst case scenario here, we don't want to end up there. Doomers encourage this trajectory by debasing most of the very real analysis out there with (gleeful, I might add) prophesies of doom that a child can see are unsupported.

I guess I just mean that someone makes a conscious decision,

You "guess you mean"?
You did NOT knew what you were saying?

Well, anyway what is YOUR "conscious decision"?
If you don't have some preference (right or wrong) are you really of more "help" than the doomers?

Again, "someone makes a conscious decision,"

Just need someone, just like magic, "where there is a will there is way", bollocks!
In the "reality based" reality things are more complicated than that!
I discussed this already before on TOD.

It is just not true that 2020 is going to look like mad-max, and everyone knows this.

Nah! NOT "everyone knows this", obviously some views differ.
There ARE arguments about possible impending collapse and doom Joseph Tainter, Jared Diamond, William Catton, David Price
Just hammering again and again optimistic mumbo-jumbo does not make an argument, much less a proof.

I am NOT a doomer but so highly pessimistic that I think that some places will "look like mad-max" by 2020, some already are, like Congo.
Of course "We" are much wealthier, smarter, etc... won't happen to us, yada, yada, yada...

The point is to have at least SOME places still functioning and keeping some levels of knowledge and civilisation, NOT JUST the gated gardens of the wealthy.
Because not only they won't make it for much long in the face of unanimous hostility but they DO NOT nurture any kind of civilisation, only being places of CONSUMPTION not places of CREATION, PRODUCTION and CULTURE.

My decision, nuclear power.

Ban coal outright. Nuke power for all electricity, and then start making hydrogen. Use the hydrogen to run the oil refineries at higher efficiency, and to make fertilizer and methanol, and thus improve the liquid fuel situation. Ban non-hybrid cars over the next few years. Work to get electrical farm equipment rolled out (the extra weight of the batteries isn't a problem for farm equipment, extra weight is generally good for them).

Get rid of wasteful practices, like using natural gas and heating oil for heat, use electrical heat pumps instead. At that point, the problem would be pretty much solved. Maybe we'd need a little bio-diesel to run the occasional car, but methanol could do a good job as well, and would be easily made using nuclear power. Two problems solved, Global Warming, and Peak Oil.

It is not that there are not solutions. One of the solutions will be chosen. Declare that it is impossible, and you abdicate your ability to help influence the decision.

Nuclear takes too long.  I'd go with wind.  We're already going that way: in the US there's 11 GW planned for 2007 - see page 8 of http://www.nei.org/documents/Energy%20Markets%20Report.pdf

The free market will get us there, just too slowly.   Higher CAFE and gas taxes would get us to plug-in hybrids pretty quickly, powered by wind electricity.

Nuclear power plants take 5 years to build, but the NRC bureaucracy takes several extra years. No new US reactor will be running before 2014-2015 if nothing radical happens.

Cut out the NRC, or at least give them a kick in the ass.

But wouldn't that compromise saftey? Nope. The NRC looks at two things, the site and the reactor design.

Let me give you an example. The Vogtle nuclear power plant has two reactors. Now the utility want to build two more next to the two current ones. As there are already two reactors at the site, the site is obviously adequate. No need for the NRC to check everything again, just check in the archives for the site description handed in when the first reactors were built. Second, the reactor design the utility want to use is the Westinghouse AP1000. This reactor has already been certified for construction and operation by the NRC, so no need to check this either.

So gentlemen, just let's start building ourselves some reactors. Right now.

Still, I like wind power too. Just not in my backyard (I have a reactor (almost, 70 km away) in my backyard).

CAFE, gas tax, fine by me. We pay 6 US dollar per gallon here anyway. I don't care as I drive an electric scooter.

hmm.  What would the NRC say?

What do you think of proliferation problems?

The NRC have no interest in reducing their own importance. I am sure they would go raving crazy if things were proposed to be done the way I say. But it works in other countries.

On proliferation I think people will get nukes (both weapons and power plants) no matter what we do.

They won't need the permission of their old colonial masters when it comes to choosing energy system. They'll build power reactors if they think it's good for them wether we do it or not.

When it comes to weapons people get them when they feel threatened. Stop telling the iranians that the US will invade them is likely to reduce their perceived need for nuclear armaments.

Sweden had a very succesfull nuclear weapons program in the 50's and 60's. The Americans told us to stop and that they would protect us. So we stopped. And then built the biggest (per capita) nuclear power fleet in the world.

The US already has nuclear weapons. Doesn't seem like a proliferation problem for more reactors to go in the US.

What is really going to cause proliferation is when the developed world (the nuclear powers) bid up the price of gas, oil, and coal so high that the developing world can't afford them. That's going to cause the spread of nuclear power, and perhaps even nuclear weapons. If we used nuclear from the beginning, the commodity prices wouldn't be forcing unstable and poor countries to go nuclear. Good example of this, Iran. They know it's foolish to burn their oil and gas to make electricity when it's worth so much on the open market, so nuclear it is. Doesn't hurt that they can make nuclear weapons too. If the oil and gas wasn't worth much, they would have neither the funds nor the inclination to go nuclear, and it would be more transparently hostile if they did.

Wind is good up to something like 20% of capacity. Beyond that the sporadic nature starts to cause problems. Plenty of countries that use 50% or more nuclear (France, for instance), none that use more than 50% wind, for exactly this reason. I don't expect there to be a country that uses more than 30% wind, now or ever, barring some great breakthrough in superconducting power grids or electricity storage.

A good first step, but won't get us to the endzone. Solar has pretty much the same problem. 20-30% each, probably no more.

Also, the European heat wave was made so much worse by the lack of wind to power the wind turbines. The sporadic nature of wind makes the grid less reliable, not more. Same with solar.

New Zealand has said that they can accept up to 35% wind without changes or further study.  Once they get close, they will study more and decide what, if any, changes are needed to their grid.

NZ is about half hydro, so that makes a BIG difference in wind intergration.

OK, I'll grant that, up to 35% of capacity. 65% is still an aweful lot though.
Also, the European heat wave was made so much worse by the lack of wind to power the wind turbines.

Where did you fetch that nonsense?

OK, perhaps I need to teach meteorology 101 as well.

" Wind power is unpredictable for the simple reason that the wind does not always blow at a constant rate. According to German electric and transmission utility E.On (NYSE: EON), Germany's installed wind capacity topped 14,000 megawatts (MW) in 2003, about 6,000 MW of which was in E.On's area of operations. But E.ON reports that, on average, less than one-sixth of that capacity--1,000 MW--was available to the grid. In other words, for a vast majority of the time, Germany's wind power plants were generating nothing close to their rated capacity.

Wind power isn't particularly effective at meeting demand during peak times, either. The problem here is, once again, the weather. Consider the times when electric power is in most demand, during summer heat waves or winter cold snaps.

A heat wave hit Europe back in the summer of 2003. The weather phenomenon was created by a huge high-pressure system over Europe. Such systems are characterized by extremely stable air and low winds. This is exactly why E.ON reports that wind power's contribution to the grid was near the lows for the year in the middle of that 2003 heat wave. "

here's the citation.


I was not denying that "Wind power is unpredictable".

HOW "the European heat wave was made so much worse" by the fact that " wind power's contribution to the grid was near the lows for the year in the middle of that 2003 heat wave ???

This is the CRAP!

Which percentage is wind power, in which countries, related to which deaths?
Any air conditioning failures reported?
Any blackouts or brownouts reported?
Have you been to the same mendacity school than GW Bush?

This is the CRAP!

Which percentage is wind power, in which countries, related to which deaths?
Any air conditioning failures reported?
Any blackouts or brownouts reported?
Have you been to the same mendacity school than GW Bush?

Crap all you want but your questions are irrelevant for the meterological fact that low winds correlate with high electricity demand. We can not depend on wind power, its a complementary power source that mostly saves fuel for other power sources.

Wind often (in Texas as one example) pften has a maximum when WINTER demand is at a maximum.  Wind + hydro (pumped storage if storage hydro is not available) work quite well together in creating a sustainable, reliable non-carbon source of electricity.

Summer (as opposed to winter) peak often happens at a wind minimum unfortunately.

A winter peak and a summer minimum would point to solar as a nice complement for wind.
YOUR response is irrelevant!

I was NOT arguing about "the meterological fact that low winds correlate with high electricity demand." but about the FACT that slaphappy use IRRELEVANT INNUENDO about the impact of such correlation.
I do agree with such "correlation" (actually, rather don't give a hoot, that's not my point) .

What I was asking is:
HOW "the European heat wave was made so much worse" by this "correlation"?
THIS pretense is CRAP!

So you are in connivance with slaphappy, BRAVO!  

Handling the load with small margins is much worse then handling the load with large margins. The public do of course not notice that anything is amiss untill the margins are used up.

Corporate pride in doing a good job and political oversight have to keep the margins high for the realy bad days.

This varies over time, the margins where slimmed down in Sweden to save money in spare powerplants untill we had to have a public call to conserver power to handle a few realy cold days withouth running out of running reserves to handle grid or powerplant faults. They reserves are now larger but not large enough for a realy, realy cold winter morning if our neigbours cant export to us. Its hard to get enough margins to handle more then the "10-year" winter. :-(

If our greens were successfull in changing some nuclear powerplants for wind power and expose us to the risk with cold and still winter days we would have to also buy dozens of gas turbines and burn expensive oil and that would be expensive and hard to motivate. They would like us to use up the margins and I rather have a stable grid at a reasonable cost.

Yada, Yada, Yada...

Still NOT talking about HOW "the 2003 European heat wave was made so much worse" !!!

You are correct in your criticism of my arguing, I were writing past you with my thoughts on how it is now and will be in a few years.
Are there any countries besides France that are over 50% from nuclear?

I think it's misleading to think of it that way.  Like Denmark, which trades wind energy with it's neighbors, France sells a great deal of nuclear at night when it has a surplus, and buys during the day when it has a deficit.  Nuclear is not very well correlated with overall demand either.

A number of complementary sources are likely needed, though I have to say I like wind and solar with storage best.

PHEV's and EV's will provide a nice buffer for daily and even weekly variance.  For longer periods something more is needed, perhaps biomass, pumped storage or hydrogen (keep in mind that a solution for variance only has to handle a relatively small % of overall demand).

"TPTB" is also a tad ambiguous, ALFM(at least for me).

To cull it all out?

Guns and food. Simple. You eat what you can defend or what you can kill.

All the rest is just 'conjecture'.

airdale....yeah I know, I'm a survivalist....
see ya on the other side

Remember, so many people will die in any complexity collapse that you just have to survive the first 12 months to be one of the long term survivors. That means a buried plastic barrel full of food in the woods and you will make it. Say, 200 dollars including the barrel.
Doesn't help you if you are found by desperate people who can see that you have food, are attacked by wild or feral animals or just get sick.
You need to do a lot more research about how much food you will need and how to properly store it.
Start here:
There is a resource available that contains excellent information about storing food:

...and buying long-term storage food packed in nitrogen that will last for up to 15 years (Ready Reserve):

I purchased a unit, including dry milk, beans, rice, etc., not because I fear the apocalypse, but because we are in a fairly remote area that may not be served well should there be an interruption in the supply of transportation fuel.

For example, after Katrina last year, the Colonial pipeline that supplies the East Coast with much of its gasoline, lost power and was 24 hours away from going bone dry before engineers got the pumps going again. Imagine the disruption that would have been caused by all gasoline stations along the East Coast suddenly and expectedly being without gasoline (albeit temporarily). I view the investment in the stored food as an insurance policy. I recommend it, even if your relatives might think you are a bit nuts, as mine do.

Solar, wind, waves, nuclear are for new electricity. Geothermal and Hydro have pretty much allready been tapped anywhere civilised (in the sense of having a stable government) where they make sense.
Coal to methanol, tar to methanol, and offshore gas to methanol are not even going to make up for depletion, so we will have to switch to battery cars.
We have exactly 4 sources of energy sufficient to sustain our current society.

Bullshit, none of these 4 sources can come even close to sustaining our current society, or providing enough food to feed six and one half billion people.

People will not lie down and die,

Some will, some however will fight for every last morsel of food, then die. A very few will survive.

people will not give up computers and Air Conditioning.

Yes they will. It is really naive to simply believe that we will just find something else and life will go as usual.

Our way of life will last forever! Yeah Right!

Food was not contemplated, only energy.

As for energy, any of the four would be more than enough. Coal would only last a little while, but the other three would last as long as there's air and sunlight.

is. The only real question now is what combination of these technologies (coupled with conservation, hopefully) do we transition to. We pick, or the market will decide.

   1. Solar.
   2. Wind.
   3. Coal.
   4. Nuclear.

Solar, ok.   Wind - wind is solar effects of heating   Cola - old solar energy expressed as plants.  

Nuclear - very old solar bodies

Lol, it all comes from stars, agreed.

What did moby sing, "We are all made of stars" I think it was.

Yes that was an extreme statement but how extreme is it? It is certainly possible to envision scenarios right now where billions of human beings die within the space of a generation of two and the total population of homo sapiens drops by 50%, 75%, or even 90+%. So how extreme is that statement, where in certain cases 9 out of every 10 people you currently know, are dead from starvation, exposure, disease, or violence? How extreme is that statement compared to the asinine notion that, no matter what else happens, the merry state of endless growth can go on forever and ever?

Which of those extemes is really the more laughable?

Well, sure. And it is possible to drive ourselves insane by envisioning endless improbable but possible science-fiction scenarios. Such insanity even seems to be the goal of the "precautionary principle" - spending life jumping at shadows and worrying to death over minor risks, instead of living life. After all, the Earth could get hit soon by an asteroid coming well off the plane of the ecliptic, from some angle where nobody's looking. Or we could get hit hard by a previously unknown and highly contagious bacterium or virus.

So many possible but implausible scenarios, so little time. Might it not be more productive to work on scenarios that actually stand a reasonable chance of happening, and that we are capable, in principle, of doing something about? How much do we need to worry about vague abstractions like "endless growth"? Didn't Herbert Stein or somebody point out that if it's impossible, it will inevitably stop?


Happy shiny faces?....I don't see it.

The ones you might wish to reach with this message are sadly out bingeing on everything in sight. Pallets of junk food are being rolled in endless chains out of Sam's Club all day long. One can never have enough chips and softdrinks can they?

Who is going to be the referee when the guns and bullets come out? When a errant soccer mom can easily without a minutes thought take out three motorcyclists plus two cyclists, not even be aware of it and continue her cellphone conversation as she rolls on thoughtlessly? She will suddenly have a transformation when she is not allowed to go to the hairdresser once a week?

I don't live in your world I guess. Each trip on my HD to the smallish nearby city can have several seconds of sheer heart stoppping terror, as I try to be a wise consumer of the remaining energy by traveling wisely.

This is not your grampa's society anymore.

Implausible? Whatever.

And no, airdale, we won't see PaulS "on the other side". He'll be one of those dead.

And it is possible to drive ourselves insane by envisioning endless improbable but possible science-fiction scenarios.

Yes, improbable ,the key word is improbable.
But Peak Oil is NOT improbable, it is a certainty even if timing and modalities are uncertain.
It is the lofty scenarii of "energy replacement" which are HIGHLY improbable.

What my point was (happy shiny faces) was the current attitudes in this culture. They are NOT alturistic, by a long shot. In fact many are downright onery and extremely self-centered.

My example was the soccer moms who tend to spread angst whereever they go by their attitudes. Mostly centered around chocolate parties, SUVs and cellphones, being the most visible.

Do they give a red rat's ass about surviving or making do when it comes to that? Nah.They won't be willing to give up anything.

This is the Amerika we see today.

This is the Amerika today which will not happily go to alternatives that cut deeply into their lifestyle and conspicious comsumption habits.

They will die off fast when faced with what they consider untenable situtations.

I don't see the a bright future based on the above.

Our highways deal in death. Road rage,etc. How will those attitudes play out when TSHTF? I think the answer is obvious.

Very cool.  I spotted a reference in the new Hirsch report, and found it as another on-line PDF.

A Half Century of Long-Range Energy Forecasts: Errors. Made, Lessons Learned

I've only time to skim, and want to return to it myself in more detail, but jumping to the conclusion:

In conclusion, a review of the past energy forecasts illustrates how complex and difficult such forecasting is. It is especially sobering to realize that projections of just 15 to 20 years into the future can end up very much in error. Future long-term energy forecasting efforts must therefore take great care to avoid many of the pit-falls of past attempts to peer into the future.

I weak conclusion for those who wish to plot our long-term future.  Just 15 to 20 years and we are off the beaten track.

Take that cornucopians (and doomers) who have it all figured out.

From that paper, here is one of the reviewed reviews.

Energy Future: Report of the Energy Project at the Harvard Business School.

Robert Stobaugh and Daniel Yergin, editors.

1979, 23 years, 1977-2000.

Extremely pessimistic as to prospects for increased energy supply; oil imports must be limited to their 1977 levels; a 40% reduction in energy consumption from 1979 levels is possible; substantial federal R&D expenditures and policy incentives for energy conservation and renewables are required; major problems are market imperfections and institutional barriers.


This report appears to be a big stinking pile. I can't read any more of it. I sure hope somebody here has better ideas than this.

Before proposing any government involvement the goals have to be clear. In my opinion there are two major goals which have valid reasons to attempt to mitigate the impact of peak oil. The free market will not acheive these goals.

  1. Maintain a comfortable level of food and shelter for everybody.

  2. Minimize environmental destruction.

The low EROEI options and environmentally destructive options should not get any support at all. These options like CTL and oil shale should have to meet high environmental standards. If they are not profitable too bad.
That "A Half Century of Long-Range Energy Forecasts" paper is worth looking at, even though it is bad news - good news.

The bad news seems to be that people won't change their energy use patterns if they can help it.  That means that we probably won't have too much pre-adaption.  Just a few oddballs like us, and a few venture capitalists like Vinod.

The good news, which I think is in the gaps of that report, are that when hit over the head by high prices and shortages, people do change.  That's what happened in the late 70's and early 80's when the "surprise" was falling consumption per capita.

This really leaves me, as I try to be a realistic moderate, with some real unanswered questions.  Since I can't call the status quo a big win on energy (cornucopain style), I have to wait, and see what the new pattern will really be.

...falling consumption in the US perhaps, but rising in Asia as they might get to at least half the per capita consumption of the West before severe demand destruction kicks in. I think in the next couple of years we will hit these points. Of course I'm still waiting for the $38 per barrel oil predicted by Danny boy Yergin.
It is obviously designed to provide political cover for embarking on either CTL or Oil Shale. Everything is in place:

  1. job creation

  2. big tax revenues

  3. corporate profits

  4. big risk if we don't

  5. payoff if we do (keep driving!)

  6. a carrot (fuel efficiency--which won't be pushed anyway)

No need to mention EROEI, because this is classical economics.
Concerning this report, if they had called me up I would have told them the bad news for the price of cup of coffee. A number of other folks here could have done the same thing.

I guess that's why I don't make the big bucks.

Ahhh, if only I had a dollar for every costly consultant's report explaining the blindingly obvious to one government agency or another...
Re: This study considered four options that the U.S. could implement for the massive physical mitigation1 of its dependence on imported oil:

  1. Vehicle fuel efficiency (VFE)
  2. Coal liquefaction (coal-to-liquids or CTL)
  3. Oil shale
  4. Enhanced oil recovery (EOR)


Re: #1 Yes, obviously.

Re: #2 CTL -- very expensive, no short term help, climate disaster

Re: #3 see #2

Re: #4 This is of interest. They are talking about using CO2 injection for recovering "stranded" oil. The most optimistic estimates I've seen (having studied this) is 1.0/mbd by 2015.

Now, it is a pity that mass transit was not considered and especially, electified transportation of all kinds including cars.

Considering #2 through #4, we might as well bend over, put our heads between our knees and kiss our [this space left intentionally blank] goodbye.

I went through the first 60 pages of the pdf and gave up in disgust.  The options reviewed were not at all creative (as you note no eletricfication and I'll include PHEV's, conservation, town planning, etc.).  But what ticked me off was that it was oriented toward business as usual.

I simply see the BAU approach as non-viable from almost every point of view ranging from environmental to resource to population to economic.  I would have expected more from people who did such an excellent job in the first report.

I think you are underestimtating the vast problems we have before us.

We'll need it all, CTL, kerogen, oil sands, everything.

Anyway, I found a really good and exhaustive interview of Bezdek who were a part of the team that wrote the report. They talk about suburbia, plug-in hybrids and other stuff.


There's also a really scary interview with Bob Hirsch. I met him in the spring of 2005 and know that he is a very, very serious and competent guy. Hearing these words from him is very different than hearing it from some arts academic doomer.


Define "need".  If we make a rapid move to PHEV's, we could supply local transport on 1/3 of our current oil consumption (or less) even if we still burned oil to run it; combined-cycle gas turbines are sufficiently better than auto engines to allow that.

It will take quite some time for world oil production to fall to 28 mmbd.  In the mean time, the USA alone is ramping up wind-turbine production at 40% or so per year; we may see efficiency + alternatives grow our useful energy supply faster than depletion can shrink it.

To Engineer Poet, who said,
"It will take quite some time for world oil production to fall to 28 mmbd.  In the mean time, the USA alone is ramping up wind-turbine production at 40% or so per year; we may see efficiency + alternatives grow our useful energy supply faster than depletion can shrink it."

Correct, and a real view of the world and the possibilities.  But what will hold us back? Bezdek said it EXACTLY in the interview linked in the poast you reply to, and exactly what I have been saying since I came here....I gotta' love this guy, who closes the interview with the following statements:

JB- What advice do you have for young people just getting out of college and starting a career? What would be a field for them to study or a lifestyle to plan?

RB- "First off, don't buy a Hummer. Secondly, something else we're looking at is what the work force implications of this may be. I think that the energy field will be a good field to get into for the foreseeable future. And unfortunately, you look at all the energy specialties, petroleum engineering, mining engineering, nuclear engineering, chemical engineering and chemistry- any of these enery related science and engineering specialities- the enrollments have gone down, in some cases as much as 80%. So, just when we need these people the most, there not going to be there. So, anything related to the energy area, be it fossil, nuclear, renewable energy efficiency represents a pretty good career path for the foreseeable future."

EXACTLY correct.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

PHEV's are a game changer, a disruptive technology. If we get those into production there is nothing to worry about. Then we won't need shale oil, CTL or any of those things.
Very disappointing that PHEV's or EV's aren't mentioned at all.  The closest they get is hybrids.  

Shoddy work.

Hirsch does write some interesting stuff in Appendix B.

There is another broad range of policy options, some of which are currently being
utilized, that seek to improve transportation fuel efficiency by changing the basic
structure and patterns of personal transportation. These range from efforts to
encourage people to use public transportation and to car pool to more basic structural
reforms in land use planning and tax policies, as well as public investment in high-speed
intercity ground transportation -- such as developing the types of bullet trains found in
Europe and Japan. Also included under this broad classification are policies such as
congestion pricing of highways, the encouragement of telecommuting, the
establishment of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, and the institution of parking
charges designed to discourage driving, especially by single-occupant vehicles. While
these can provide a useful supplement to efforts at fuel conservation, several of them
would require drastic changes in national policies that may not be politically viable.
However, new public attitudes toward the risk of global oil depletion or the growing
dependence on oil imports could change the political equation.
Re: #2 CTL -- very expensive, no short term help, climate disaster

Re: #3 see #2

There is one big difference between 2 and 3. While I agree that it can't be scaled up quickly, and would be a climate disaster, #2 could provide a net energy benefit. There is still no indication that oil shale will ever provide a net energy benefit.

Yeah, people argue about that all the time (the EROEI for oil shale). We have no idea how or if liquids from this kerogen embedded in marl rock will be produced. HO seems to think there's some promise there. We'll see in twenty years.

Also, my understanding was that CTL was commercial below 50 USD barrel of oil... I thought it was just about the cheapest alternative. Why do people think it is "very expensive".
Also, my understanding was that CTL was commercial below 50 USD barrel of oil...

That's a moving target, though. Steel is a lot more expensive now than when oil was at $30 a barrel. I bet if you ran CTL economics right now, you would find that the break point is higher than $75/bbl for oil.

okay, I understand we have some inflation, but surely that applies to the cost of building windmills and solar panels as much as CTL. I had the impression that CTL was relatively inexpensive versus the alternatives. So I am asking the contributor above to qualify his statement that CTL is "very expensive".
Also, I do remember as recently as a couple of months ago, Sassol of South Africa launched a feasibility study with China to produce around 1mbpd CTL and at that time they  claimed it was competitive with oil at 50 USD.
RR, see my post on your blog, and this http://www.morningjournalnews.com/include/articles.asp?articleID=3536

The latest cost and construction time estimates for CTL seem to be dropping, not rising.

The conventional estimates are $6.5B and 5-7 years construction time for 80k/day, which gives a capital expenditure premium of $15-20/barrel, which is not bad given that it creates diesel that sells for more than $80/barrel (i.e., no refining step like for oil).  The problem is the enormous risk of such a large project with such a long lead time - the lead time is longer than the longest oil futures contract, making hedging difficult.

In the article they say $4B and 4 years construction time for 96k/day.  That's a big improvement, and gives a capital expenditure premium of $9.20 at 7% interest, or very roughly the cost of refining oil into fuel.  That's likely to have a very fast payback.

CTL is terrible for global warming, but I suspect it's coming faster than we think.  It's time for our society to make a commitment to efficiency improvement & electrification of transportation and renewables for electrical generation.  Sadly, given how cheap coal is, to do it we'll have to make a commitment to paying a premium to prevent Global Warming, which we're not ready to do.

Bah, ban new coal and gas plants. Nuclear power is just as cheap, especially when financed by sovereign rate loans (the State loans money at 1 % effective interest with a payback over 30 or 40 years). Works wonders for wind power too as it has an even higher capital cost per kWh than nuclear has.
"Bah, ban new coal and gas plants. "

I'm with you.

I'm not so enthusiastic about nuclear.  It has a number of problems, especially it's long lead time, and weapons proliferation.  None of them seem fatal to me, but I don't think we really need it.

We wont realy need baseload nuclear power since we have plenty of ... ?
Hydro? nope
Oil? nope
Gas? nope
Coal? Ok, there is still a lot.
Wind? Not baseload.
Wind is baseload. It's just intermittent and limited to 20 % of grid capacity.

Turn it around. Who would call wind peak load?

Wind can neither handle base nor peak load.
Wind power is a complemet that can not be scheduled and its volume is limited to how other production and consumption can be controlled. It saves fuel(water) for other production and you can run chillers, heaters, hydrogen production and other on/off loads sometimes but not allways.

Its like heating a small bakery with the heat from the mornings bread and owens, a nice addition but you need something more for the other 12h, storage or another heating system.

While what you say is perfectly true, the question if wind is baseload depend on how one define baseload. Anyway, wind has low operating costs and hence operate all the time when the wind is blowing.
The analogy of a small bakery is revealing.  A small operation cannot tolerate variance (aka intermittency).

Large countries (or regions), with thousands of generation sources, and hundreds of millions of consumers have much more flexibility.

Perhaps more importantly, wind is a beautiful complement to PHEV's and EV's, which provide storage and a wide variety of opportunities for load management.  In fact, because each kilowatt of PHEV/EV charging demand could actually reduce system instability more than each additional kilowatt of wind power increases it, the combination of wind and storage of PHEV/EV is made in heaven.  Each kwhr of PHEV/EV charging will probably enable 1.25 kwhrs of wind production, allowing wind to replace both 1 kwhr of oil and .25 kwhr of coal.

This presupposes VERY unAmerican behavior by EV owners.

I believe that the vast majority will want to recharge as soon as they get home.  Your load to generation match will be true for only a small minority IMHO.

One could have a cheap computer fix that.

For example, the standard program is that it charges power when power is cheap and discharges power when power is expensive, and on top of this there is a timer function which decides when the vechicle is fully charged (say 7 in the morning).

It should of course be automatic. And one should easily with just the push of a button change the timer function to "5 a clock in the evening"  or "in two hours".

It would be pretty simple.

Managing behavior according to price signals is VERY american.  What cell phone owner doesn't pay attention to peak and off peak pricing??

It just requires time of day pricing.  The 2005 federal energy act makes planning for that mandatory across the country.  Cars these days are computers that happen to have an engine and wheels, so automating response would be easy.

What cell phone owner doesn't pay attention to peak and off peak pricing??

I don't !!

I am a reluctant cell phone user (only post-Katrina due to necessity) but I buy $100 at a time and refill as needed.  I have no idea on rate differentials, etc.

I did kind of wonder about the rate to Iceland to call client's cell about 50 yards away in conference hall though :-)

Alan, this is the second time we've had this conversation.  What do you think of what I'm saying about time of day pricing?
I believe that only a few Americans will respond to it.  And most of those will be early adopters.

A reluctant EV buyer, beaten into it by sky high gas prices and  perhaps taxes, will want to recharge ASAP.  'Just in case".  The economic delta will not be enough ($1 per night ?) to likely change majority behavior.

Consumer behavior is an unknown that we can only guess at for now :-(

And it is not quite the panacea that you suppose.  Wind in almost all areas is "weak" in the summer.  Natural gas or coal will recharge the batteries for several months even in very high wind penetration areas.

Sorry, but squeezed for time on my way home from hospital.

I will sort out grid effects more soon as well.

And Urban Rail has indirect savings 2 or 3 (or more) the direct savings from transfering people from gas car/SUV to rail.  Your analysis looked only at direct savings.  The APTA #s do NOT reflect the full potential of power savings (2006 #s will look better than 2004 just due to load factors +; many agencies do not decouple peak cars off peak (labor vs. energy), etc.).  So I also disagree that EVs have the same energy saving potential as Urban Rail.

When I was in Miami at 2004 APTA conference, 15 of 23 building cranes were within 3 blocks of a Metro station.  EVs will NOT have that energy saving effect.

So I also respectfully disagree that EVs save as much energy as Urban Rail.  That said, we will need to do EVERYTHING post-Peak Oil to mitigate the messy corner we painted ourselves into.  

"Consumer behavior is an unknown".

Yes, we're guessing a bit here.  I believe that there's data out there on how people respond, and I suspect that most people respond pretty well (for instance, I think most people are pretty careful about cell phone timing - I think your disregard of that is the exception, and I think if you think about your reluctance to use a cell phone you'll agree you're not a typical cell phone user), but I don't have hard data.  Info, anyone?

If you think about your example ("A reluctant EV buyer, beaten into it by sky high gas prices"), you'll agree that this is in fact someone who is responding to price signals.  Reluctantly, perhaps, but responding.

Now, I think the logical first step is plug-in's.  Plug-ins offer security: you never have to worry about the battery range, you just get cheap transportation for your daily commute.  If you go further than the battery range, you just switch to gas.  I think such a person would be happy to have their car wait until 8pm to get reasonably priced electricity, or wait until midnight (or whenever during the day the prices are lowest, if the pricing is dynamic to reflect wind power availability) to get really cheap power. The difference between peak pricing might be $.35 per kwhr and $.05 per kwhr, and if you're using 10 kwhrs per day the difference is $3/day, or maybe $75 per month.  That's significant.

I'll have to research seasonal wind power distribution - I know it varies by area, and off-shore is more reliable, but I don't remember the details.

On rail vs PHEV/EV's:  I agree, rail will save more. OTOH, If you compare the most efficient EV transportation to the most efficient rail, probably the difference compared to gasoline transportation is 88% savings for EV and 95% for rail.  I don't think that last 7% makes that much difference.

I think your 88% is a bit high.  Closer to 80% (STILL VERY GOOD !) is probably closer.

I agree that we need both; and I can see the potential for a mad rush to just one, EVs.

Does the delta (7% or 15%) matter in the long run ?

In the short run, it is FAR more important to get off oil.  But when the longer run arrives, using x2.5 to x4 times as many resources will matter.  The delta will have an effect.

I agree that we need EVs and PHEVs yesterday and all solutions will be required ASAP !

But if all that we do is just EVs and PHEVs, the US is setting itself up for another crisis in a generation (IMHO).

I can see a synergistic effect between EVs & wind energy; but I think that you overstate the positive interaction.  They are not a "match made in heaven", but an imperfect compliment to each other in many, but not all, cases.

But imperfect "good things" are to be promoted !  That is the essence of the "Silver BB" approach, which is widely supported on TOD.

There are no perfect solutions to Peak Oil, just a collection of imperfect ones.

Ah, I think we're essentially in agreement - we need both, and both will help a lot.

You're concerned that rail will be neglected, and I think you're right to be concerned.  I'm also concerned that BOTH rail and PHEV/EV's are not getting the attention and acceleration they need....

I make the point that both are good energy solutions because I fear that people will get discouraged, thinking that rail and localization are the only answers, and that these solutions are too large and will take too long.

For the long term (25 years+), I think electricity from renewables will be quite abundant and cheap.  Now, I certainly like densification, and I think it has many virtues for improving our quality of life and environmental footprint, so from that point of view I agree that an emphasis on personal transportation and suburban sprawl is a bad thing.

Re wind and PHEV/EV storage: I think that to the extent that vehicle storage is needed for short term variance, that price signals will get us there.  I still have to look at the seasonal variance question - that may be beyond the scope of battery storage, unless batteries get astonishingly cheap.  That might be the realm of biomass, pumped storage or hydrogen (keep in mind that a solution for variance only has to handle a relatively small % of overall demand).  An interesting and important question, though it will only be important in the next 50 years (at least in the US) when we get serious about reducing coal usage to reduce GHG's.  More than 50 years out is silly to worry about - in that timeframe technology undreamt of will undoubtedly eliminate current energy limitations.  I know that sounds utopian, but it's really true - there are just too many ways to solve these problems already visible, and many more will emerge. It's the transition in the next couple of decades we have to worry about.

Now, as to nitpickin details:  if you do the math, you'll find that the average existing gas vehicle uses the equivalent of about 1.6 kwhrs per mile.  EV's like the Tesla (and the Prius in electric mode)use about .2 kwhrs/mile.  Hence the 87.5% reduction.  On the one hand, the .2 figure may be an ideal figure, on the other these are very likely to get more efficient (from improved power electronics, reduced wind resistance, etc).

Again, though, I should stress that I think rail should be promoted, along with PHEV/EV's.

I like rail.  I live in transit oriented development.  Rail is what I use most, and I prefer it for most travel.  It's easier, less stressful, allows relaxation or work during travel, etc, etc.  It has been diminished by  a variety of restrictions and car & truck-oriented subsidies, and that's a loss for everybody.

But, I want personal transportation for some things, and I think most people feel that way.  I think you and I agree that we need both.

    They are talking about using CO2 injection for recovering "stranded" oil. The most optimistic estimates I've seen (having studied this) is 1.0/mbd by 2015.

    Dave, I¡¯ve found something more optimistic than you have [adding a decade].

According to the DOE¡¯s ¡®Project Facts¡¯ text entitled ¡°Recovering ¡°Stranded Oil¡± Can Substantially Add to U.S. Oil Supplies ¡°, and dated April 2005, the wider used of state-of-the-art CO2-EOR technologies could yield ¡°enhanced national energy security from an additional 2 to 3 million barrels per day of domestic oil production by 2025¡±.  In other words approx, ¨ö of current US production. Wow!!!

Sounds a bit on the cornucopian side to me, but there you are.
¬¯¬Ö¬Ù¬Ñ¬Þ¬Ö¬ä¬ß 2;í¬Û ¬¬¬Ñ¬â¬Ý

That came through quite garbled here.  Would you mind stripping the Unicode or whatever and posting in ISO-8859-Latin1?
Engineer Poet et al,

Apologies for the cockup. Here we go again:

"They are talking about using CO2 injection for recovering "stranded" oil. The most optimistic estimates I've seen (having studied this) is 1.0/mbd by 2015."

    Dave, I've found something more optimistic than you have [adding a decade].

According to the DOE's "Project Facts"  document entitled "Recovering Stranded Oil Can Substantially Add to U.S. Oil Supplies" and dated April 2005, the wider used of state-of-the-art CO2-EOR technologies could yield "enhanced national energy security from an additional 2 to 3 million barrels per day of domestic oil production by 2025."

See www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/oilgas/publications/eor_co2/co2_eor_factsheet.pdf

In other words approx 50% of current US production. Wow!!!

Sounds a bit on the cornucopian side to me, but there you are ...

After looking at the production curve for Weyburn, I find that quite believable.

But it's only a stopgap measure.

Looks like the U.N.-brokered cease-fire is starting do unravel already.


I wonder if that means the "fear premium" will return to oil prices.  I never really bought into the fear premium for Lebanon.  I think the down turn in price has more to do with a slowing economy.

Paraphrasing from my comment above on the new Bezdek, et. al. report -- energy indepence isn't the only thing you can kiss goodbye.

Israel Carries Out Raid Deep Into Lebanon.

Israeli aircraft and commandos carried out a raid deep into Lebanon on Saturday, clashing with Hezbollah forces near Baalbek and killing three, Lebanese officials said. One Israeli officer died.
So much for that ceasefire. The price of oil dropped this week due partly to a lack of bad news.

Guys, I am making a powerpoint presentation on peak oil. Anyone has a link to Yibal production profile/ figure?
Thanks in advance.
Solar energy is hot stuff

Once a distant technology that just sat on roofs, solar power has become a tool we can hold in our hands

Adam Vaughan
Thursday August 17, 2006
The Guardian

I don't follow this closely, but it does seem there has been a move from promises to higher production over the last few months.

Of course, in California the cells are going to IMO bizzare highway projects.  On Highway 101 in NorCal (or was it SoOr?) there were these big signs (big) replacing what used to be the old danger diamonds which would say "curve ahead, X mph" but as you got closer (depending on your speed, all very tech) they'd flash "slow down!" and then "your speed is Y mph".

I guess that shows how rich we (think we) are, that we spend our new solar cells on new applications.  I hope they save lives long-term (and not just during the novelty stage).

They've also been replacing those little gas generators on the trailers that support highway construction signs - big flashing yellow arrows and the like. Not a bad idea, actually.

Of course, as the price comes down, look for vicious feuds between neighbors and maybe the occasional shooting, over shade trees versus sunlight reaching solar panels. After all, every silver lining has a cloud...

The reduction in electricity for AC because of shading your solar roof is going to be far more than you will lose because of loss of solar power from that shade.
If all the roofs in America were shaded, we could shut down all the gas fired plants we use to power the AC in summer. It's just an order of magnitude the other way.
I keep wondering how much you could benefit by shading your (Hot Climate) Roof with Solar Panels, leaving ample airspace beneath, so as to cut down on your AC needs.  Of course, that much PV would be hard for most people to afford.. I've been suggesting to my Father-in-law in Phoenix to just build 'prop' solar panels above his roof, for the shade, for the status.. maybe for giving lipservice to the use of Solar.

Bob Fiske

The blockbuster is thin-film, which will arrive in 2007 in the Nanosolar plant near San Francisco.  It will supposedly drop the price of cells by a factor of 4 or 5, and crank out 430MW of cells per year.  (I've heard that 430MW described as being equal to one-fourth of the world's installed capacity, but I don't know if that's accurate.).

More solar wonderfulness on my site, including a spreadsheet you can use to calculate the impact of multiple Nanosolar plants over a period of years:



LouGrinzo, Right on. I wrote about this before. The 1,2 punch of nanosolar and A123 nanotech lithium ion batteries will make not only locally produced, grid tied electricity feasible but also cars that are recharged at home at less cost than we presently pay for fuel. This is a major development and while we undoubtably will see some pain from the rest of the Club of Rome's concerns, including water supplies and availability of fertilizer and various commodities, it is the most promising development I have seen in years. The race is on to produce enough of these goodies before we run out of the necessary energy to make them.
 Lou/ Treeman,
 I'm going to buy some alt energy gear this year. I figure buying alt energy every year to maximize the federal tax rebate. ( I think that is 28% of spend up to $2,000)
 Is this new solar tech close enough to commercial production that I should hold off on solar and go with micro hydro or wind  this year?
 or will I be waiting year after year?
 I appreciate your thoughts on this.
I believe the federal tax credit is only good for this year. Also check to see if your State has any programs. I put a 2.3 kw grid connect system in this year costing $22k. After the Federal credit and State rebate it will cost $12k. I figure the payback is 23 years if electricity rates reman the same. Our State rebate money for the year was used up in less than 3 months, the program is so popular. How does the system work? We have just had a connect fee of $7 and change per month since April 1 when the interconnect was made. Plus we have built up 45kwh credit towards winter. I am guessing electricity rates will double within 5 years. Some or all of the new thin film technology is polymer based. My installer told me it is subject to UV degradation so only lasts 5 years versus 40+ for silicon. You need to check this out before buying.

There is very little speculation involved in solar hot water. The latest technology uses thin films encased in vacuum tubes to achieve 92% efficiency. I have been generating hot water this summer at 145 degrees. The back up boiler has come on very few times this summer. (a string of cloudy days will do it) I believe payback with oil backup is less than 10 years here in Maine with system rebates.
Good luck.  

  Thanks for the info Khaos. I live in Georgia and I don't think Georgia offers anything in the way of state tax incentives for alt energy. Hopefully, we will see the light soon.
 I agree with you that the cost of electricity will trend up in the long term. What I have seen regarding solar hot water looks good too.
 Surely, the Feds will renew/ improve the alternate energy tax rebates as they expire.
I wouldn't wait.  There's so much demand for PV that they'll be able to sell it at the same price as conventional PV for several years.  The price will eventually plummet, but even then you'll have significant balance of system costs for a retrofit - those costs will come down more slowly.

PV will be cheapest for new construction, like CA has mandated for 2011.

Speaking of promising technology, or technology promises, ...

250 MPG Extreme Hybrid One Step Closer

In May, AFS Trinity announced it had filed a patent for an Extreme HybridTM drive train that makes possible a plug-in hybrid that will travel more than 250 MPG as a car and more than 150 MPG as an SUV. Furia said, "This agreement is important not just as a validation of our technology but also as a clear path toward its commercialization. We have been talking with carmaker OEMs in the U.S. and in three other countries for several months. Once we complete an agreement with one or more of them, we will be able to specify the model and price of the vehicles we can offer to PIP participants.
I just did a back af the envelope calculation of what it would take to shift 25% of US crude oil consumption (5 Mbpd) to wind-generated electricity, based on a rough estimate of 1500 KWH/boe.

It would take about 1 TW of nameplate generating capacity at a capacity factor of .25.  1 TW is approximately equivalent to the total electrical generating capacity of the US today.

Given a capacity factor of .25 this means that the grid capacity would  need to increase by around 30%.

It would require an investment of about $1.5 trillion for the turbines alone.  Amortized over 20 years this is $75 billion/year.

The operating cost of the full capacity would be $50 billion/yr.

To this $125 billion/yr we need to add the cost of the land to site the farms, the cost of adding grid capacity, the cost of switching the end-use mechanisms from oil to electricity etc.  Let's say that adds another $75 billion/yr.

According to this speculation, it would cost the USA $200 billion/yr to replace 5 Mbpd of oil.  this is $200 billion to replace 2 billion barrels of oil - right on $100/bbl.

Now, this casual analysis completely ignores such issues as the material, enginering and fabrication requirements needed to increase the current wind power installations by a factor of 20, nor does it factor in the cost increases over the next 20 years due to the depletion of metals and petroleum.

I'm still agnostic on whether it can or should be done.  This exercise is simply intended to point out how much silver BBs cost...

Thanks! Would you mind organizing the envelope and sharing all the numbers here at the Oildrum?

I want to electrify our transport system and I need to understand the magnitude of the job. Is this possible? When do we need to start? I only wish that Hersch had addressed this solution in his list of mitigation scenerios because it is the only one that I could support.

So many people with their hearts in the right places are expecting this silver bullet to just appear, rolling down the line like the Silver Streak all shiney and ready to go. This effort sounds like the Manhattan Project that rebuilt Europe after WWII and is going to require EVERYTHING we've got. thanks in advance.

Peter Starr

Well. Switching all cars to plug-in hybrids would reduce oil consumption by 70 % while increasing electricity consumption by 5 %. At least in Sweden.

US per capita oil consumption is about twice as high as Swedish per capita oil consumption while Swedish electricity consumption is maybe 15-20 % higher than US electricity consumption.

"This effort sounds like the Manhattan Project that rebuilt Europe after WWII "

Actually, the Manhatten Project resulted in the destruction of Hiroshoma and Nagasaki in the 'dieing' days of WWII. Europe fortunately was spared.

Meant to say the Marshal Plan. Must have been some sort of deep-seated negative wish fullfillment.
Here's a slightly tighter analysis.

We want to replace the energy of 25% of current US crude oil imports with wind generated electricity at current costs:

The BTU content of a barrel of crude oil is given as 5.8e6,  The conversion factor is 3413 BTU/kWh, so the heat content of a barrel of oil is 1699 kWh.

The heat content of 5Mbpd would be 5e6*1699 = 8.5e9 kWh
Given that it is produced over a day, this requires 8.33e9/24=3.54e8 kW of generation capacity.

Given a 25% capacity factor, this will require 1.4e9 kW of nameplate capacity.

According to http://www.energy.iastate.edu/renewable/wind/wem/wem-13_econ.html, the cost per kilowatt in a large-scale wind farm approaches $1000 USD, which is confirmed by the California Energy Commission at http://www.energy.ca.gov/distgen/equipment/wind/cost.html.  Let's say they are optimistic, and the real costs are 25% higher.

This means that the turbines required to replace the raw heat energy of 5 Mbpd of crude oil would require 1.77e12 USD.  That's $1.8 trillion USD.  The current US GDP is $11.5 trillion

The rest of the calculations required to bring this into the real world are much more vague.  They depend primarily on what the electricity will be used for, what other energy uses it replaces, and what the relative efficiencies of the two sides of that equation are. The other imponderables are the externalities - the replacement cost of displaced equipment, the cost of upgrading the electrical transmission infrastructure to support a capacity increase of 30% (the current generating capacity of the USA is about 1e6 mW, or 1e9 kW according to the IEA at  http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat2p2.html.  Then we have the physical limitations.  Does the USA have the industrial capability, personnel or material resources required to put such a program in place over a reasonable time frame?

A program like this spread over 10 years ( to mitigate a 3% decline in US oil supply) would still cost $180 billion per year just for the turbines.  That's 40% of the current US defense budget, every year for 10 years, to mitigate a 3% decline using wind power.  And at the end of that you still need to keep spending, because the oil will still be going away.

This is a long-winded (sorry) way of saying that if predictions of 2-5% declines are correct, wind won't cut it.

Where you see defeat, I see the potential.  Given that electric cars tend to post equivalent mpg figures at least 4 times that of the conventional automobile, your 25% replacement starts looking more like 100% replacement.  Add on top of that other improvements in efficiency (i.e. smaller cars, no SUV's or trucks "as cars"), and improvements in home efficiency/conservation (freeing up other sources of electric power) and things start looking up.  Even if you go for a more conservative 2 time increase in efficiency, your 3% figure jumps to 6%, and from 25% to 50% replacement.

We don't even have to go electric to get a multiple of 2 increase in fuel economy...older VW Rabbit Diesels got around 50mpg, older civics ~40mpg, even the Echo of today gets near 40mpg.  There are even multiple 4 cars like the Loremo, and VW 1-litre which are plenty capable of being produced.  But people have to give up driving behemoth SUV's and Trucks as if they're cars, and preferably give up cars as if they're bicycles and feet.

But still, that'd just be a stopgap if our population keeps growing.  We're also not likely to do anything that smart, and that's where I see defeat.

GG, here are better numbers.  To replace the 140B gallons/year, or 9M barrels per day used by ALL light duty vehicles, with electric vehicles (PHEV's, of course, would provide somewhat smaller reductions of gas, and use less electricity):

They would need about 57 GW in average generation: 210M vehicles x 12k miles per year divided by 200whrs per mile divided by 365 days, 24 hours.  That would be about a 13% increase from the average consumption of 440GW, and could be handled by charging at night.

That would mean about 240 GW of wind at 29% capacity factor (the US average in 2004 - 2005 was 31%), at a cost of about $260B at $1.1 per watt of wind generation, or $26B per year.

As Engineer-Poet notes, your calculations don't convert properly to take into account the roughly 15% efficiency of gas engines.

My point with this post was not to analyze what we need to do to keep our cars running, but rather to take a look at the magnitude of the cost to replace the energy we now have available.  I hear a lot of people saying "put in lots of wind turbines and we'll be fine".  I don't buy that for a second, because I think the overall cost is much higher than people expect.  The good thing about wind is that it can be installed incrementally.  The bad thing about it is that it needs to be done incrementally, and we just don't have that many turbine fabs yet.  The time horizon may sneak up and bite us if the peak happens too soon and the curve on the other side is too steep.

You're assuming that this electricity would be used to power cars, as a direct substitution for vehicle fuel.  While my post is mute on that point, I can see many other ways in which the energy substitution could take place.  An obvious one is that some of the the electricity replaces NG used for home heating, and we see more and more resistive heating being used.

I think, since it's just energy after all, that we will use it for a lot of things - cars and rail and home heating of course, but also industrial processes - we're going to need   energy to make the turbines, for instance.  Then there's hydrogen electrolysis, providing heat energy for CTL and oil sands production - all kinds of applications, each with its own underlying efficiency. That's why I didn't tie the electricity to a particular application, but instead stopped at the heat-replacement level.

What it comes down to is that oil is very cheap energy, and electricity isn't.  From where I stand, the only real solution is to change our notion of business as usual.  The world will move down the energy curve, and each of us will get fewer years of life to use it.

But, why do you believe wind electricity is expensive?  It's about $.06 per kwhr without subsidies wholesale - retail at the plug maybe $.10 .  That's about 17% of the current cost of powering cars:  a kwhr could power an EV for $.02 per mile ($.10 divided by 5 miles per kwhr), and $3.00 gas powers a standard 25 mpg car at $.12 per mile ($3/25mpg).

Electricity powered geothermal heat pumps are the cheapest way to heat or cool a house, counting all lifecycle costs, even now.  Powered by wind at $.10 they'll be cheaper than current nat gas heating, and a lot cheaper than propane, or resistive electric.  No one builds resistive electric heating these days except where very little heat is needed.

Electricity is much, much cheaper than oil at $70/barrel, and much more plentiful in the long run. And it's costs won't rise much, except in the unlikely (and desireable) event that we decide to require CO2 sequestration from coal plants - then it would go up some, though not that much in the larger scheme of things, in part because that would reduce the building of coal in favor of wind (and eventually solar).

Now, I do agree that there's a delay in building wind turbines.  Right now there's 11 gw planned for 2007 in the US.  I suspect we'll be able to ramp up to building as much as we need (50-100 gw per year) in less than 10 years. At that point it start to reach a market saturation point because of intermittency (a point that will be much higher with the storage from PHEV's and EV's), and solar will begin to take over.

Of course, PHEV's and EV's probably won't ramp up to where we would like them before 10 years from now, either.  That's one big reason we're vulnerable to oil shocks in the next 10-15 years even in the best case.

I can see why you tried to deal with heat energy: it makes things simpler.  Unfortunately, it just doesn't work.  Electricity is much more useful than heat: it takes between 2 and 8 units of heat to generate a unit of electricity, and a unit of electricity can be turned into between 2 and 8 units of heat.

So, a unit of electricity can power a car about 7 times as far as a unit of heat, and a unit of electricity can heat a home as well as many units of heat.

Can you clarify what units you're talking about here?  My understanding is that the heat conversion efficiency of resistive heating is quite high, as is the heat conversion of a modern condensing gas furnace.  The main difference in cost is the fuel price, and right now oil and natural gas enjoy something like a 2:1 advantage over electricity in terms of raw kWh cost.

I also wonder if electric cars remain such an attractive proposition when fleet replacement costs are factored in?  Losing 25% of our transportation fuel implies a replacement of a similar proportion of the fleet.  This could happen over 5 years - well inside the normal life cycle of an automobile.

Let's say that lifestyle changes reduce this proportion to 15% of the fleet, and that an average PHEV costs $15K.  15% of 150 million cars is 22.5 million, making the fleet replacement cost over a third of a trillion dollars.  This at a time when the country will be in a major recession...

"Can you clarify what units you're talking about here?  My understanding is that the heat conversion efficiency of resistive heating is quite high, as is the heat conversion of a modern condensing gas furnace.  The main difference in cost is the fuel price, and right now oil and natural gas enjoy something like a 2:1 advantage over electricity in terms of raw kWh cost."

Oil and gas are less expensive than electricity by about 2:1 because it takes very roughly 2 BTU's of gas to make a BTU of electricity, using a conventional generation process, which is called a heat engine.  But, a heat pump is the mirror image of a heat engine: you put in 1 BTU of electricity, and the heat pump produces 2 or more BTU's of heat.  Actually, that ratio can be as high as 10-12 btu's output for each BTU of input. An air conditioner is an example of a heat pump: it can move 10 btu's of heat from inside your home to the outside, using 1 btu of electricity  (that's measured by the SEER rating).  A heat pump moves heat from the outside (either the air, in temperate zones, or the ground (geothermal heat exchange) in cold areas).  

So, from one point of view resistance heating is basically 100% efficient. But, from another, it's 10-25% efficient when compared to the best use of electricity in a heat pump.  That's why electric heat pumps, even now, are substantially cheaper to buy and operate than gas heating.  There are about 1M geothermal heat pump installations in the US,  and installations are growing at a 40% rate per year.

Car engines are also heat engines (using heat to create engine motion), but they're much less efficient than central plants.  They're about 15% efficient.  That, combined with the fact that retail gasoline is only about 20% cheaper than retail electricity even on a simple BTU basis ($3/gallon, $.1 per kwhr and 36.6 kwhrs/gallon), makes it about six times cheaper to run a PHEV/EV on electricity.

"I also wonder if electric cars remain such an attractive proposition when fleet replacement costs are factored in?  Losing 25% of our transportation fuel implies a replacement of a similar proportion of the fleet.  This could happen over 5 years - well inside the normal life cycle of an automobile."

Most US households have more than 1 vehicle: 210M vehicles, about 100M households, so new vehicles get more use than old ones. New sales are about 17M per year, so 5 years of sales is 85M vehicles, accounting for 40% of cars and probably 60% of gas usage.  If 70% of new vehicle sales were plug-ins that cut gas use by 60% each, we would cut gas usage by 25.2% in 5 years.

So, it's doable, if someone will just...start...selling...a...plugin.

Maybe in the next couple of years.

An obvious one is that some of the the electricity replaces NG used for home heating, and we see more and more resistive heating being used.

"resistive" !!!
It is absolutely moronic to use ANYTHING but heat pumps for heating, no matter what the primary fuel for the heat pump is, you could even build wood powered heat pumps.
Nick is right on this one.

Another place where a good understanding of thermodynamics makes a LOT of difference.

I would disagree - not with what's the better technical solution, but in terms of what will actually happen.  Heat pumps are obviously the better  solution for new construction, especially in buildings where sufficient land or a water source is available.  However, we may find ourselves in a situation where existing  homes with no option for retrofitting heat pumps (high density urban homes with no land, and owners with no capital) discover that resistive heat has gotten cheaper per BTU than NG or heating oil.  In that case, a trip to Home Depot for baseboard heaters is suddenly on the honey-do list.
However, we may find ourselves in a situation where existing homes with no option for retrofitting heat pumps

Not necessarily so, an air-to-air heat pump is just air conditioning in reverse.
Plus you rely on "resistive heat has [got] cheaper per BTU than NG or heating oil" which is speculative.
For instance, if the electric car takes hold the market may balance the prices the other way around (for a while at least), the EV still keeping the advantage of better efficiency.

Regarding the cost of electricity vs. oil, of course it's speculative.  However, I think it's a pretty safe bet.  Electricity at the plug is about $0.10/kWh where I live.  A barrel of oil contains about 1700 kWh, which gives it a cost of $0.04/kWh. This means that if electricity costs stay put and oil goes to $170/bbl, they at parity.  It's virtually an article of the Peak Oil faith that oil prices will go that high and higher as depletion starts to bite.  The notion that the cost per kWh of electricity and oil will cross over at some point is hardly an extreme speculation.

"If the electric car takes hold" strikes me as a much more tenuous speculation than that, given the  the resource and cost requirements for fleet replacement over the probable timeframe for the requirement.  Electric cars will only become popular in North America if they are perceived to have the same utility at lower cost than their FF brothers.  They may start to penetrate the market to some degree over the next 5 years, but only if the majors decide to support the idea.  So far that committment is sorely lacking.  What that suggests to me is that EVs will only take off once depletion has set in and caused at least a doubling of fuel prices.  Once we're in that situation, we may already be in a recession, and that alone will make the fleet replacement costs a severe problem, not to mention maintaining the production, distribution and support systems the new fleet will require.  We're much more likely to simply see people drive their existing cars much less.

Again, I believe that whatever new electrical capacity is brought online as oil depletes will be used for many purposes, at many different efficiencies.  Trying to define the prospects for specific technologies in that environment is an exercise best approached with extreme caution and nice wide error bars.

As you might have guessed, I have no (zip, zero, nada) faith that technological solutions are either possible or appropriate. I think the scale of the looming crisis is going to utterly swamp any remediation efforts we can put in place, at least down to the community level.

I found these comment on air source heat pumps at http://www.hydroonenetworks.com/en/efficiency/heating_cooling/heat_pumps/

An air source heat pump is used in conjunction with a back-up heating system. During the coldest periods it is more efficient for the back-up furnace to provide the heating.


Compared to electric resistance heating, an air source heat pump may save you up to 30% on your annual heating bill

It's obviously a useful technology, but I'm not turning cartwheels yet.  When the cost/Btu of NG and heating oil passes 70% of the cost of resistive electric heat they will become more attractive.

Again, there are lots of nice gizmos out there that people in developed nations can and will take advantage of.  However, absent a true disruptive technology that addresses more than one element of the problematique, we are left with population reduction as the only medium term "solution".

This is a badly written, or out of date article.

"During the coldest periods it is more efficient for the back-up furnace to provide the heating."  is misleading.  A heat pump is always more efficient.  What they mean is that the backup is cheaper because the heat pump heat gain becomes relatively low - this of course depends on the backup fuel being much cheaper, which is the kind of thing you've been talking about.

"Compared to electric resistance heating, an air source heat pump may save you up to 30% on your annual heating bill"

What they should say is that your overall lifecycle cost will be lower.  Your monthly bills will fall by much more than 30%.

I found these comment on air source heat pumps at http://www.hydroonenetworks.com/en/efficiency/heating_cooling/heat_pumps/

An air source heat pump is used in conjunction with a back-up heating system. During the coldest periods it is more efficient for the back-up furnace to provide the heating.


Compared to electric resistance heating, an air source heat pump may save you up to 30% on your annual heating bill

It's obviously a useful technology, but I'm not turning cartwheels yet.  When the cost/Btu of NG and heating oil passes 70% of the cost of resistive electric heat they will become more attractive.

Again, there are lots of nice gizmos out there that people in developed nations can and will take advantage of.  However, absent a true disruptive technology that addresses more than one element of the problematique, we are left with population reduction as the only medium term "solution".

My too brief review of your analysis suggests that you ignore a VERY important point !

5 million b/day does NOT have to be replaced with an equilavent # of wind electricity BTUs !

Figure 1 wind BTU for 20 oil BTUs in the 2+ million b/day that intercity heavy trucks use.

EVs may get a 2 to 1 efficiency gain.

Urban Rail gets somewhere in the 4 to 1 to 6 to 1* effiency gain in direct travel efficiency.  But add in the "other TOD" and 20 to 1 gains seem reasonable over time via induced changes in the urban form.

* If we have a price spike, and Urban Rail load factors head towards crush loads, even greater efficiency gains will be seen.

I am sure (based upon ridership data) that 2006 will see Urban Rail as being more energy efficient than in 2004.  Urban rail did not improve technically, but ridership did.

Ummm, how magical are electric motors? I'll buy a BTU factor of two for electric cars or trucks but not a factor of 20. Maybe even a factor of 3 if someone ever has the good sense to get rid of the differential and transmission, and put electronically controlled motors right in the wheel hubs or on the truck axles - but I wouldn't hold my breath for the liability issues ever to be worked out on that one.

I'll buy a larger factor for rail some day in the very far future, around the time of the third or fourth or fifth major generation of wind turbines. It's not that rail doesn't get a large factor now, it's that it will take 'forever' to peform social re-engineering of "urban forms". At anything like the current glacial rate of building-out, it would probably take centuries even to make a small dent in energy consumption by passengers/commuters. And what's left of the freight system is mostly either saturated or dilapidated, and it's mostly not being expanded or electrified.

Any building-out whatsoever faces severe NIMBY/BANANA issues of the sort going on in Rochester, Minnesota right now. People need to sleep, so nobody wants obscenely loud horns hooting past 24/7, which is what the Federal Railroad Administration, having effectively outlawed quiet zones, now requires. And nobody wants their town constantly cut apart by passing trains. Or semi-permanently cut apart  during all the interminable and unnecessary hysterical fuss that follows any derailment in these lawyer-infested times. Alternatively, one might build lots of overpasses or tunnels, but building enough of them to maintain a 'walkable community' is so fearsomely expensive as to be essentially a non-starter.

Just look at the Second Avenue Subway in New York, or, rather, don't, because after sixty years of plans and massive bond issues, there's still hardly any sign of it. Then ask, if it takes sixty years and countless billions of dollars to not build 15 or 20 miles in NYC, and it takes decades to build 20 or 30 miles in other places, how long will it take to build the thousands and thousands of miles it would take just to restore a Pacific Electric level in LA and build something similar in two or three other large cities? Is anybody considering building without Federal funds? Is anybody considering disempowering NIMBYs?

They aren't magical, they're just being compared to a really lousy alternative.

The lithium-ion Prius+ is claimed to consume about 200 Wh/mile, in all-electric mode.  Compared to 46 MPG on gasoline, the energy in the fuel is (126000 BTU/gal / 46 MPG * 1054.4 J/BTU / 3600 J/Wh) = 802 Wh/mile.  So yes, real-world examples are 4 times as energy-efficient on electricity than on liquid motor fuel.

What the heck, let's compare to the roughly 23 MPG of the fleet currently.  Then you get 1,602 wh/mile, and an EV that is 8 times as efficient as the current norm.

GliderGuider, here's the source of the discrepancy in calculations.

hmmmm.  This indicates that the Prius is about 25% efficient thermodynamically, and the average ICE is about 12.5% efficient (Take into account the 10-17% loss in refining, and you're down to about 11% utilization of the energy in the oil).

OTOH, electricity from wind probably faces 10% transmission losses to get to the plug (sort've comparable to refining losses), and perhaps 10% from plug to wheel (with li-ion).  So, maybe EV's are about 7 times more efficient as ICE's.

Please see http://strickland.ca/efficiency.html for a plethora of comments on transportation energy efficiency, and a large table of data gleaned from many sources.

"Ummm, how magical are electric motors?"

They're not magical, but they are a whole lot more efficient than internal combustion engines ever can be - on the order of 80-90% versus 20-30%.  Add in the bonus of being able to use far more than maximum constant power for a short time and you have a vastly superior drive system.  Consider, for example, a trolleybus being able to climb a hill using double or triple the normal maximum power output of the motor, versus a diesel bus struggling to even get started at the low torque range near idle speed.  Then, of course, there is the possibility with electric motors of generating energy to slow down, rather than wearing out friction brakes.  The most extreme example I've seen is a light rail vehicle that was able to recover 42% of the energy used for propulsion through regenerative braking (see Siemens study of Combino tram in Basel, link provided on my page).

The other technology with a large advantage is steel wheel on steel rail versus rubber on (asphalt, concrete, whatever).  Add in the possibility of dramatically reduced wind drag by presenting one "front" over a very long vehicle and together it is no surprise that trains are the most efficient mode of transport.

How efficient?  It depends on the mode of service and ridership, of course.  Hence the large table of data at http://strickland.ca/efficiency.html

Judge for yourself, and let me know what you think.


That should take you to the EPA rating for the Rav4EV...if it doesn't, type "EPA RAV4 EV" into google and hit one of the first links.

Fuel Type     

MPG (city)    

MPG (highway)    

MPG (combined)    

So this would be about 250 gigawatts of baseload capacity,
or about 80 large nuclear plants with three or four reactors. apiece.  At 5 to ten billion capital cost, that's less than the turbines, and we know that they will produce close to the rated power (aveeraged over 80 of them).

In reality of course the logistical bottlenecks for wind and nuclear do not overlap and it's best to pursue both.

What this says to me is that actually electrificaiton of personal transportation by plug-in hybrids is not at all unreasonable to attempt.

Your costs on nuclear power are way off. 1 GW nuclear capacity costs about $2 billion dollars. That's $2000 per kW. The nuclear industry claims they can build at like $1000-1700 per kW, but I'll believe that when I see it.
You're assuming far too great conversion efficiency from crude oil to useful work.  1500 kWh is 5.4 GJ; compared to the raw energy value of crude at about 6.1 GJ/bbl, you're assuming nearly 90%.  The conversion efficiency from crude to gasoline is less than 83%!  DOE says tank-to-wheels averages even less than that, at 12.9%.

A better figure is probably 900 MJ or so to replace a barrel of crude in transportation work.  That's 250 kWh.  Converting 5 mmbd, roughly 52 GW.  Much more manageable, no?  I figured that conversion of the whole thing would take less than 200 GW.  I think that estimate is still in the ballpark.

Most of the figures I see for EV's have them in the efficiency range around 130mpg equivalent.  So knock off 30mpg equiv for hand waving sake, and you've likely got about a 4X efficiency increase in electric mode.  So your 25% replacement suddenly becomes 100%, and because of the 4X increase in efficiency, the $100/bbl oil equivalent would feel more like $25/bbl.  If you were feeling rediculously conservative you could arbitrarily cut those numbers in half and they still don't seem that bad.
I am frustrated by Hirsch & Bezdek's refusal to consider electrification of transportation as a cost-competitive, viable and FAR environmentally superior alternative !

I have called Hirsch at his home office (during business hours) three times and he did not have time to discuss the draft I sent him.  I asked Bezdek at the May Peak Oil conference in DC and he said it would have "only local impacts".

Well, do it in enough locations and the impact will be global !!

I have a draft I am working on that I will share here as a last attempt at sanity !  (Sorry, but that is how I feel about doing CTL & tar sands but not electric rail).

I can understand the position that our position is SO bad that we must do CTL & tar sands despite GW (I do not agree on a large scale) BUT to ignore the environmentaly and economic oil alternative that grows instead of depleting, has positive economic benefits, etc. is not ....

Frustrated in Kentucky

BTW, surgery Monday, in hospital & rehab for nine days.  About to add DSL to parents phone line :-))

I just read the Bezdek interview Starvid gave above.  It's an interesting read.  I think they see themselves doing hard as nails top-down analysis, and their midset is shaped by that.  They look at past human behavior.  As that applies in this case, perhaps the low accumulation of energy savings from such local efforts forces pessimism.

I'd hope they'd endorse your work and the work of others, but ... they might feel wary, because past predictions counted too much on cultural change.  (See the "Half Century of Long-Range Energy Forecasts" if it fits down your phone line.)

As I've said elsewhere, I'm afraid we won't see real mobilization until world oil production actually falls year-over-year (due to production decline and not geopolitics etc.)

Best wishes to all out there ...

Unfortunately, they may just be facing reality.  The suburbs and exurbs are never going to support electrification, because it would start in the more urban areas and they will resist being taxed unless they see a benefit to themselves.  On the other hand, few urban areas can afford electrification without the suburban tax base.

Much as coal is hated here, it is much easier to convince a governor or a few CEOs to pony up the cash for a CTL plant than 100,000's of people to cough up money for electrification.

I've wondered if there was structure to be discovered in the sprawl.  Who was that economist who won a Nobel Prize for the idea that two people could find each other in a city even if they (a) knew nothing of the city beforehand, and (b) did no preplanning for the eventuality?  The idea was that each would deduce the most likely meeting place.  It would have to be one of the things for which a city has only one (town hall, main branch library, etc.)

Anway, that's a ramble leading to the fact that some things sort of equi-position themselves here in the Orange county sprawl.  Mass transit from major mall to major mall might make a good basic mesh.  Etc.

... not saying I've got it figured out, but I'm wondering what structure could be discovered.

Thanks Alan. I share your frustration. Hirsh et. al. have done us a service (even if it is misguided) by revealing the magnitude of even the most obvious solutions. Perhaps they intentionally see themselves as the Cassandras proving the pointlessness of the quasi-petroleum solution.

Peter Starr

Alan, can you (ignoring the matter of sourcing)compare the energy consumption of electrified rail vs diesel electric motors per ton mile?
Electric motors have an efficiency of over 90 %. Ship diesel can reach 50 %. Maybe train diesels are also in the 45 % area.
With respect, this does not answer my question.  The electricity may be generated at a coal plant with a xx% conversion efficiency and then is transported to the rail line with some further loss.  I want to know if an electrified rail system uses more or less energy than a diesel electric powered system.
That shouldn't be that hard to calculate.

Let's say my above numbers are correct (they might or might not be).

Okay, you take the diesel and pour it into the engine. The efficiency is 45 %.

The other alternative is that you take the diesel and pour it into an oil power plant. The efficiency is 45 %, then the transmission is 95 % and then the electric motor is 90 %. 0,45*0,95*0,90= 0,38 %

So in this way the diesel train is more efficient (but the diesel engine could of course have a lower efficiency than 45 %, and then everything changes).

Generating the power in another way (hydro for example) makes the electric train twice as efficient due to the high efficency as the hydro plant.

But it's an irrelavant comparison as we have a liquid fuel crisis, not an energy crisis.

Electric is good not mainly because it's efficient but because it does not require liquid fuel and it can be generated in many different ways, and because it's really cheap energy.

Your power plant efficiency of 45% is a bit on the high side.
Yeah, I thought that to at first, but if they can build ship diesels with a 45 % efficiency, why shouldn't they be able to build stationary diesels with that efficiency?
and because it's really cheap energy.

Electricity is not "magically" INTRINSICALLY cheap.
It all depends on how it is produced.

Of course you are right.

But electricity is cheap when you live in a country where the State decided early on that electricity should be cheap and hence built the cheapest possible kind of power plants, that is hydroelectric and nuclear ones. I happen to live in such a country, and I don't worry at all over power costs when I charge my electric scooter.

Even if one lives somewhere where the people in charge where such damn fools as to decide that one should burn natural gas to generate power I am sure you will see that a BTU of electricity is still cheaper than a BTU of oil.

Whilst I do have some sympathy for your catchphrase:

...we have a liquid fuel crisis, not an energy crisis.

I think it is a little disingenuous, since some 30% of our total energy is `liquid fuel' wouldn't a liquid fuel crisis also represent an energy crisis to some degree? This is doubly true if you accept that depletion arguments true for oil are also applicable to gas with minor alterations.

Well, I think it's important to point that this is not just a generic "energy" crisis, as different uses of energy are rather weakly interconnected, and this is especially true for transportation.

For example, we can't resolve this crisis by just building more nukes and windmills (even though they will help some by displacing oil use in industry and for heating). We can generate power, heat our homes and have industry without cheap oil, or really without oil at all. But we can't manage anything like the kind of transporatation we have today without oil. More than 95 % of all transportation relies on oil as its energy source.

Or in the words of Robert Hirsch:

Oil peaking represents a liquid fuels problem, not an "energy crisis" in the sense
that term has often been used. Motor vehicles, aircraft, trains, and ships simply
have no ready alternative to liquid fuels, certainly not for the existing capital
stock, which have very long lifetimes. Non-hydrocarbon-based energy sources,
such as renewables and nuclear power, produce electricity, not liquid fuels, so
their widespread use in transportation is at best many decades in the future.
Accordingly, mitigation of declining world conventional oil production must be
narrowly focused, at least in the near-term.

http://energycommerce.house.gov/108/Hearings/12072005hearing1733/Hirsch.pdf#search=%22liquid%20fuel% 20not%20energy%20crisis%20hirsch%22

Although correct I think we should add that airplanes can be operated on CTL. I understand South Africa use 50% oil 50% CTL in some jets and are close to approving 100% CTL powered jets. I think this is important because I have heard several times that we have no way to operate jets without conventional oil and I think this is just not true.
Mountains vs. Flat lands.

Figure a 3 to 1 gain (or better) in mountains (I will look for old Ed Tennyson post) and about 2.5 to 1 gain on plains.

The braking energy feed back into the line is part of the superior mountain gain.  But the ability of electirc motors to generate twice rated HP for up to an hour and stay at excellent efficiency helps to (4 electric locos = 7 diesel electrics in mountains.  Those extra diesel just idle most of the time).

These are "real world" #s from operating railroads BTW.

Sorry to hear about your surgery.

Alan, I share your frustration. There is no better solution to a liquids fuel problem than getting people out their cars. Electric rail systems could be used in urban/suburban centers for commuting. Businesses must be located in a "rail friendly" way. There's so much that can be done.

I am frankly puzzled by this latest document and your report that Bezdek and maybe Hirsch are not taking electric transportation seriously. My thinking was that NETL had commissioned the study and created the "energy independence" agenda for it. That may not be the case. The report makes an obvious case for alternative forms of transportation since it says we can not count on the solutions it analyzes. Increasing mileage is OK, I won't argue against it but I will point out that it may merely encourage driving by reducing personal fuel costs (at first). Costs must go up to discourage driving. True conservation means not using your car at all.

What's going on? What kind of politics is this?

Good luck. I'm a fan of yours.
Ok, well, since Robert features prominently in the National Geographic piece as a supporter of E3, it would seem appropriate for him to react to the claims in the article about EROEI for shit-to-liquids (couldn't help myself), since 50:1 is unheard of for any energy form except 1930's oil (does he agree with the claims?):

Langley says the three-part combination of feedlot, methane generator, and fuel processor will allow the company to make ethanol at less cost and with far better energy return than traditional methods.

"The normal process is, you put one BTU [a unit of energy] in and get two BTU out," Langley said.

"What we do is radical. We put one BTU in and get 46.7 BTU out."

What that means, he continues, is that "producing 1 gallon [3.8 liters] of our ethanol is like producing 23 gallons [87 liters] of traditional ethanol or 15 gallons [57 liters] of gasoline."

Plenty of hydroelectric projects get 100 to 1 EROEI.  I think Karahnjukar is about 1000 to 1 over it's 400 year projected life.
Right, that's why a google leads me straight to:

"Kárahnjúkar highlands - The dissapearing land

"ALCOA, National Power Company and the Icelandic Government are about to destroy this land for what they claim will be huge financial benefits for Iceland. They have however not been able to show that the dam will be profitable and if the price for the electricity will be anything close to what the other aluminum smelters in Iceland are getting this dam will lose money, lots of it, all the time.

1000:1 for 400 years? I hope you don't seriously believe that. It's the free for all and something for nothing all over again. Hydrodams are as destructive as anything you can find, but the bad part shows up in different places and timeframes from other energy forms. 2nd law. No escape. Say no more.
(Silting seems to make 400 years a pipe dream

If rivers dry up, how do we calculate the EROEI for what causes them to dry up? Should we try, or do we just take that in stride and look the other way? The loss of biodiversity, wetlands, et al, does it figure in our numbers?

What is the EROEI effect of global warming? Is it real? Do we ignore it because we don't know? Is it smart to move from one kind of pollution to the other? Less CO2, more mercury?

Be good Alan.

Some numbercrunching on this:
They want to produce 24 million gallons and want to use manure from 30000 cows to fuel the still:
manure from 1 cow produces about 450kWh/year, so they have 30000cows*450kWh/cow*3.6Mj/kWh=4.8e7 MJ per year available.

Pimentel gives the steam needed to distill the ethanol as 36,600 MJ/ha.
You can get about 1000 gallons per hectare per year. So
24 million gallons will need 24,000 hectare of corn which will need 24,000ha*36,600 MJ/ha=8.8e8 MJ as steam in the still.

So 4.8e7 MJ available from manure and 8.8e8 needed to fuel the still. This is 5.5%.

Even if you produce all your steam from renewable sources, eliminating it as "EI", the ERoEI will be something like 2.5:1 (without energy credits for by-products).

No doubt, this is the best way to improve the ERoEI of corn-ethanol, but their claims of 50:1 are pure BS.

Ok, well, since Robert features prominently in the National Geographic piece as a supporter of E3, it would seem appropriate for him to react to the claims in the article about EROEI for shit-to-liquids (couldn't help myself), since 50:1 is unheard of for any energy form except 1930's oil (does he agree with the claims?):

The 50/1 claim is not remotely credible. I have no idea how this guy is coming up with this number. I have their energy model, and if memory serves me correctly the calculation came out to be 3/1 or so. With some efficiency improvements, they might push that up a bit more. But 50/1 is crazy talk. You can't pull oil out of the ground for that.

The 50/1 claim is not remotely credible. I have no idea how this guy is coming up with this number. I have their energy model, and if memory serves me correctly the calculation came out to be 3/1 or so. With some efficiency improvements, they might push that up a bit more. But 50/1 is crazy talk. You can't pull oil out of the ground for that.

Thanks for your reply, Robert. It looks like this "guy" is, let's say, using you and your endorsement of his product, to make a claim you don't support. The article makes no distinction between you and the 50:1 claim. In other words, it looks very much like you agree with it.

From the National Geographic piece:
"But another outspoken ethanol critic, oil industry analyst and blogger Robert Rapier, has endorsed the E3 Biofuels approach, calling it "responsible ethanol."

You might want to be careful with this and distance yourself from it through the appropriate channels. starting with National Geographic.Where did they get that "endorsement" quote? Did they call you?

Interesting to me that this 50/1 claim got the troops all fired up. Discussions of nuclear at TOD bring out claims of 500/1 and it passes muster.
Turkey offal is one thing. Tiny uranium pellets with the energy content of 3 barrels of oil (or 200 barrels with breeding) is quite another.
Or wait, "shit-to-liquids" ? We aren't talking about the Carthage turkey-to-oil scheme are we?

Anyway, my point still stands. Just replace "turkey offal" with "shit" above.

Where did they get that "endorsement" quote? Did they call you?

No, I wrote an essay about the E3 process:

E3 Biofuels: Responsible Ethanol

What I endorsed was their approach. If we are going to make ethanol as fuel, we need to close the loop as much as possible so we aren't just turning fossil fuels into ethanol. But I certainly don't endorse any grandiose EROEI claims.

I read your report on E3 on this site.

I have a few questions on the 'loop' where harvesting the
cattle manure is part of the cycle.

Did they or you consider the cost of removal of the manure from the pastures?

We raise a lot of cattle where I live. I used to also. Sold a bunch of my land to my neighbors who raise cattle. They grow their own hay as well on some of my old hayfields.

Here is the problem. Cattle running on land keep the soil fertilitiy high. Keeps the N,P and K up in the proper ranges for grasslands management. They eat the grass/forage and return the N,P and K via manure. The hay you feed them has its nutrients(N,P,K) also released into the range they are located in and consequently you do NOT have to fertilize that ground.

HOWEVER you must supply very large amounts of N,P and K plus sometimes other trace elements to the hay fields or else in short order they just become weed patches.

Last year my neighbors discovered this and were quite shocked at the huge cost of replacing the fertility that forage removal cost them.

In fact I dont' think they are actually making any profit at all on their cattle operation. They have let all the land return to poor quality forage as a result.

One head of cattle usually requires 2 acres when the dry matter(roughage plus protein) is taken into account.

There are many areas of cattle management that most are not aware of, calving problems, deworming, fly and insect predation, breeding maintance and so forth and so on. The list is quite large. Some just let the bull manage the herd and 'open all their gates'. They tend to have bad looking cattle and just get by.

So why do they do it, my neighbors? Simple...Tax deductions I believe. And the land escalates in value also. I sold it to them for $800/acre..Right now its valued at $2500 - $3,000/acre.

The Dept of AG has 'crop uptake' values that show how much N,P and K are removed by the hay cropping and must be replaced if one wishes to replenish them and must do so in any event or suffer the results of 'neglected land'.

The results are noxious weeds , thistles, johnson grass and broom/brome sedge,biterweed,pigweed and mare's tail in huge quantities, just to name a few.

The cost of keeping forage acreage in a productive state can be overlooked as a rather large cost factor.

Just wondering.


Did they or you consider the cost of removal of the manure from the pastures?

They aren't removing it from pastures. They have the cattle in feedlots.

Of course the loop is not completely closed. It will still be mildly unsustainable. My point is that it is a step in the right direction.

The 50/1 claim is not remotely credible. I have no idea how this guy is coming up with this number. I have their energy model, and if memory serves me correctly the calculation came out to be 3/1 or so. With some efficiency improvements, they might push that up a bit more. But 50/1 is crazy talk. You can't pull oil out of the ground for that.

I believe the 50:1 claim was for the plant alone, treating the corn as energy free.


You are correct. I forgot about that table. I had seen it before, and I contacted them about it because I didn't think it was plausible. They agreed, and said they need to update some of their information. That 50/1 claim is based only on the ethanol plant, and is now known to be in error based on information they gave me. They don't now expect to be able to supply 100% of their distillation needs from the digester, but they did when they made the 50/1 claim.

However, I still think this is a great improvement over the way ethanol is made today in the U.S.

Ok, so 1930's oil had an EROEI of 50:1.  What is today's oil EROEI?  Is there a graph that shows the EROEI for the world over the last 100 years?  

Is it logical to assume that post peak, EROEI is going to plummet?

Is the following statement true:

80mbpd @ 25:1 = 133mbp @ 15:1 ??????

Basically not only are we going to have less oil going forward, but it's going to have a lower EROEI as well...

From the Global Public Media link given above by starvid.
JB- What is the reasoning behind why this report was requested? Who requested it and why was it requested ?

RB- As we completed work last year for the world situation, the obvious logical question arose, what implications are there for the US? What are the costs and benefits? What are the possibilities? And we talked with various people at DOE at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. It was universally decided that the second report would be useful and necessary.

OK, everybody sing: I love a report (the bureaucratic & consultant version of I Love A Parade)
JB- Now, in your vehicle study, were the electric plug-in hybrids studied as a mitigation option? This technology is rapidly emerging among inventors and the other interesting caveat is the fact tht most US vehicles usually travel only 12,000 miles a year, which is about 35 miles per day. It seems to work fairly well with the plug-in hybrid concept. Was that considered in the report due to the fact that it could potentially have tremendous gasoline savings?

RB- We included hybrids and plug-in hybrids and diesel hybrids as part of the vehicles fuel efficiency option. There are various ways for the US transportation fleet to become more fuel efficient. Plug-in hybrids, of course as your know, are a minuscule portion of the market. Presumably in the future there will be a much larger share. How large a share, and how fast they penetrate is unknown, is open to question. I've talked to a lot of people about plug-in hybrids and many advocates are very passionately devoted to them. But there are still some very serious economic and technical problems that have to be worked out before plug-in hybrids can be mass marketed. People have pointed out that the average trip is only X number of miles that you can use a plug-in hybrid and so forth. That is true, but for the 10,15 or 12% of trips that are much longer and require a much heavier carry capacity, are you forcing them to buy an additional car? Plug-in hybrids are much more expensive than a conventional vehicle right now. So, many issues have to be worked out but again our message is that all the options need to be investigated and stressed. There is a lot of things that can be done with today's technology which could actually increase the fuel efficiency of a conventional vehicle. Then you have hybrids, you have diesel hybrids, plu-in hybrids; so you have a whole portfolio of options that hopefully can be used to significantly raise vehicle fuel efficiency. But again over the past 20 years average fuel efficience has been decreasing, not increasing.

Plug-in hybrids "have some very serious economic and technical problems". Concerning the economic problems, those can be fixed by policy. The technical problems, as enumerated here, are not show stoppers. By the way, the word "train" does not appear in this interview. Can these folks say the word "Europe"? How about the word "Eurostar"?

You can fix economic and technical problems, what you can't fix is the way people frame the problem.

Generally, what we have is this.

  1. A report that defines a liquid fuels transportation problem
  2. A report that says there are serious "economic and technical" impediments to plug-ins

The report doesn't solve #1 (CTL, Oil Shale, EOR) and won't embrace rapid adoption of #2. Useless.

We are one big oil shock away from shortages and a recession that would be so fearsome that the Great Depression could be a fond memory. How's this for a "economic and technical" problem?

Or this

And if we wait long enough, we won't need an oil shock. It will just occur through the inexorable working of things.

I'm a little disgusted.

There is a feedback loop between energy and economy.  No doubt.  It's also a sad fact that we can most afford to change our cars etc. when we least need to.

The 70's crisises got us off the stick, but caused painful recession (without descending into full depression).  I'm kind of thinking that's what it will take again.  Maybe with the past warning of the 70's more of us will get out in front of this one ...

FWIW, California numbers show a shift to small cars (good) but also a slowing of overall car sales (bad).  70's redux?


Personally, I think both trends are good. Fewer cars being sold = fewer cars being made = less use of energy. It's waaaaay more energy efficient to keep an existing car on the road than to make a new one.

And, if people are deciding that they should prepare themselves economically for a potential downturn, well ... again, given the situations, I think that's a good thing.

I agree in part.

Some good stuff at the link below, as the Union of Concerned Scientists starts to gather itself for a response to the CNW marketing study.  One big:

Heather L. MacLean and Lester B. Lave of Carnegie Mellon University published a 1998 life-cycle assessment which concluded that 85 percent of energy use associated with a conventional vehicle's life cycle is attributable to operation. Only 15 percent is attributable to manufacturing and disposal.

So we could do the path, on how inefficient the car is, and how many miles it is expected to drive in its remaining life.

More here:


Geez, what a string of typos: "One bit" and "do the math" are the ones I see right off.
Here's a problem. I can say Europe too. But what does it mean? How many Americans are willing to live in regions with the enormous population densities that prevail at those spots in Europe where the train service is actually close-by, reliable, and frequent? For example, train service is very good in Holland (but not quite as good in outlying areas of The Netherlands) and in metropolitan France (i.e. the Paris region). But those two regions are somewhere north of twice as densely populated as New Jersey, a place often ridiculed on late night TV. And the actual urban density in the built-up areas near the train lines often well exceeds that of Brooklyn, New York. Can you say, "no, thanks"?

The picture is wonderful, but, of course, it was caused by politicians and their wacky corrupt distribution controls, not by the 5% or so physical shortage. The fact that politicians can turn shortages into emergencies is nothing new - after all, they've done it routinely with water for five millennia now, in the violent hydraulic empires of the Mesopotamian region.

Good rail service does not require really high density.  You speak of "Europe" yet what is the population density of, say, Sweden?  It is roughly 2/3s that of the United States, yet they have frequent service on many lines, including 200 km/h tilting trains and service across the Oresund link to Denmark.

From http://www.sj.se:80/content/1/c6/01/45/89/Discover_Sweden.pdf

Eskilstuna-Stockholm 20 trains/day
Goteborg-Stockholm 16 trains/day
Malmo-Stockholm 14 trains/day
Stockholm - Kopenhamn 14 trains/day

The population of Stockholm is 774,000, of Goteburg is 487,000, of Malmo is 272,000 - and those are the three biggest cities.  Ok, but maybe they're all close together?  Nope.  Goteborg-Stockholm is 3 hours, and that's using the X2000, which can travel at up to 200 km/h.   Malmo-Stockholm is 4.5 hours.


See also

I am not Swedish and have never been to Sweden, it just seemed an obvious counter-example to me.  The difficulty in the United States is primarily one of attitudes and of subsidies - stop subsidizing roads and things just might change.

As for getting to and from the train station - that's what public transit is for. :-)  Failing that, use your car, or you can even get a taxi as part of your train ticket.


Stockholm has 100 subway stations but few tramlines, most were disbanded to make room for cars when the subways were built wich also were when we changed from left to right side driving. One significant new "heavy tramway" line has recently been built and significant extensions are proposed and planned for but the budget allocation is right now about 10 years into the future. There are also some long term planning for subway extensions that either add one or two stations or a dozen. Most investments right now and for the next about 10 years are for heavy commuter trains on the regular railway lines.

Only two complete tramway systems survived in Sweden. The one in Göteborg where it is the backbone of the collective traffic, subway type extensions have been proposed but were too expensive to build in the clay. A smaller town Norrköping with about 100 000 in population has one that probably survided on nostalgia and it is now being extended.

Planning for tramways and the German idea for running tramlines on new city track in combination with railway lines is fairly popular but nothing is decided yet.

The model for the commuting investments is the Stockholm region and the main motivation is the demonstrated positive effect of getting slowly shrinking towns to become prospering ones by making it possible to commute to one of the prosperous larger cities. We are becomming a beads-on-a-string society where the rail strings are becomming more important and the distribition of the beads make it easy to love close to rural areas and nature. One common political argument is to add the sunk infrastructure cost of a distant town with the investment cost when people move and compare this with the railway upgrade cost. The trouble with that argument is that you realy cant be sure that people will follow the model.

Rail travel and long distance rail travel is currently expanding, this year seems to become a record year and the bottleneck is right now lack of rolling stock due to deliveries and breaking in of new trains taking longer then planned. The real rail nerds say it is due to scrapping old rolling stock too soon but keeping it in usable shape would have cost more. Lots of junk has for a long time been kept in an almost usable shape, se more below. The bulk of long range railway passenger traffic is now in the black making some money. The rest and the commuting is subsidized.

The running and reinvestment budget for rail tracks is currently about 4200 million SEK, $520 million and the new investment budget is about 7200 million SEK, $1000 million. I dont know if this is a lot or a little, the total km of railtrack run by this budget is 11697 km. It gives an average of 44000 dollars per km for maintainance and reinvestment and 86000 dollars per km for new tracks, stations and so on.

There is planning and work to further electrifie even if all major tracks are electrified, raise the axle load and enlargen the loading gauge and numerous small capacity enhancements but the bulk of the investment and reinvestment money goes to a short list of very expensive projects, mostly tunnels. Our equivalent to the "big dig" fiasco is a rail tunnel thru "hallandsås" more then ten years behind schedule and several times over budget and still building. Both Stockholm and Malmö are getting very expensive de bottlenecking mostly commuter train tunnels below the city centers to provide for future traffic growth. Göteborg argues for one, being the second town in size and all and that could be the most expensive one of them all. :-/ None of these projects compare well on strict economical calculations and are priortized with society altering arguments. The overall line lenght but perhaps not track lenght is still shrinking due to too little maintainance money left for the lightly used tracks.

The reason we have this railway network is the railway boom during industrialization, the heavy industrial loads and first world war prompting electrification and the second world war making it a mobilization issue. Long range heavy freight traffic has allways been profitable, about the same situation as in the USA. The rest of the freight have mostly died out but intermodal transportation of containers and traliers is growing since some years. The railway network were an important part of the prepare-for-another-second-world-war part of our very ambitious could war military and civil defence planning during the 50:s an 60:s and less so during the 70:s. The 70:s oil crisis probably saved a lot of rail and prompted the development that later led to the tilting fairly high speed trains to travel fast on old curving track. Then the green movement became a big supporter of rail. During the car boom epoch in the 50:s and 60:s and troubled times for rail the subway and commuting train commuting grew enourmously in Stockholm, partly due to it being physically hard to build roads in Stockholm due to all the water but fairly cheap to tunnel thru the exelent granite bedrock.

The railway upgrade work for freight has USA as the major inspiration. We would like to be as efficient in hauling heavy cargo.

I guess a main difference between Sweden and USA have been that we hold on to old sunk investments for longer in hope of reusing them and remember tough times for at least two generations. Swedish train nerds can talk for hour of lines that should not have been closed and torn up but quite a lot made it.

I guess the cold war hurt the americans greatly in a number of ways. We seem to have talked ourselves into a nuclear war being survivable, wich is true for a small one, that the main fight will be somewhere else and that we could prepare for something that would be worse then the second world war. Wich we did for about one or a few million million SEK about quarter or half of a trillion dollar while fairly happily living our daily lives. We missed out on a lot of alternative civilian investments but it anyway built in some
resilance in our society. Unfortunately lots of it were clumsily scrapped in the draw down after the cold war.
You seem to have given up on civil defence etc, spread out to get away from primary targets and partied for the day while spending a very large part of the cold war money abroad.

Its curious that we reacted with fairly defensive long term planning and you with offensive short term planning but the long term do of course not matter if you loose the short term.

Sorry for rambling, I am trying to find useful simmilarities on how we reacted on the second world war and the cold war compared with the combination of climate chage and peak oil. It should tell something about what is reasonable and possible to do. Both problems are of the same magnitude and require significant investments and social organization to handle well.

Great text!

Do you live in Uppsala? I read that you were at the Miljövänner för Kärnkraft (Environmental friends supporting nuclear power) meeting this year.

And using the experiences of WW2 and the Cold war planning is a really great idea.
I live in in the Saab aviation and university town Linköping.
Home of the Gripen fighter and Swedens largest biogas plant and perhaps also the biggest biogas car/bus fleet.

People have pointed out that the average trip is only X number of miles that you can use a plug-in hybrid and so forth. That is true, but for the 10,15 or 12% of trips that are much longer and require a much heavier carry capacity, are you forcing them to buy an additional car?

What an idiot!  He is talking about a plug-in hybrid like it's an all-electric vehicle and doesn't realize it also has a gasoline engine to support the longer trips!  And he's supposed to be an expert on energy?

I certainly hope he just mispoke.
To belabor the obvious, the new Hirsch report is major.  Therefore it deserves its own thread.

Further, it's so major that I think TOD should formulate a response.  This would have sections/chapters on each of the 4 alternatives, written by appropriate different TOD experts, and additional chapters on useful mitigation options (rail electrification by Alan, etc.)  Clearly an editor would be required to pull it all together, draft a conclusion etc.  Unfortunately though I have editing skills I don't have the technical expertise for such a project, but I'm sure the right combination exists in the array of talent represented here.

I'd like to see this proposal seriously considered and discussed.  The report is going to get a LOT of press and a timely response could be a rare opportunity to get some clear thinking into the MSM instead of circling around endlessly in cyberspace.  

If the editors tackle this I'd also suggest examining the assumptions implicit in the opening section:

The purpose of this study was to assess the economic implications of simultaneously initiating major crash rograms, on both the supply and demand sides of the economy, aimed at rapid reduction of U.S. dependence on imported oil. Whether the reader believes this type of crash program is doable, or even wise, is secondary to the purpose of the study.

IMO, the assumption is that they have in hand the one socially acceptable crash program.


Re: the one socially acceptable crash program

That is correctimundo now that invading oil producing nations is no longer socially acceptable.

It may not be socially acceptable but that doesn't mean we are done trying.  Don't dismiss an attack on Iran just yet.
I'm the one who posted the first story at TOD on the possible consequences of an attack on Iran based on the work of Seymour Hersh.

Iran, Apocalypse Now?

I haven't changed my mind. Don't take this personally -- this is a general statement and is not directed at you per se. I often find that I say things on a public forum like this and they end up being completely distorted and misinterpreted by responders.

I'm getting sick & tired of it.

David Cohen -

'No longer socially acceptable' to WHOM?

I wasn't aware that the Bush regime has changed either its neocon ideology or its neocon foreign policy.

It appears that they are just looking for an excuse to launch a massive air attack against Iran, and I fear that if they can't come up with a real one, they will manufacture some sort of 'Tonkin Gulf' incident or maybe even a 9/11-scale terrorist attack.

The failure of their Iraq adventure and, by proxy, Israeli's failure to wipe out Hezbollah has not humbled them at all. In fact, I think it will make them even more desperate to blow the entire wad on one final roll of the dice while they are still in power.  Delusional people do scary things.

I will point out that there is a big difference between what Bush & Company do and that action being acceptable to the majority of Americans.

Why is that so hard to understand?

Because Bush and company got reelected?
David Cohen -

No, it is NOT hard for me to understand that.

But, the point is that the Bush people (regime) don't give a good godamn whether the American people find what they're doing acceptable or not. They are in charge, and they call the shots.

After all, they are lame ducks, and as such, they have nothing to lose. So, that is why I fear they are going to go for broke; and that, in my view, means some form of major military action against Iran before they leave office in January 2009.

Of course, their chances of success are nil, and it will all end very badly. That is what is probably in store for us.

As I have said before, the Bush regime does have an energy policy, and that policy it to militarily dominate the Middle East.  Israel is directly intertwined into this policy, and that very fact makes the situation an order of magnitude more messy. This whole thing is just not gonna work.

....  Ah see a bad moon rising ....

joule  I agree.

As we contemplate the nature of the problems and try to come up with and actually try to take steps to address the implications of peak oil in the context of global climate change and various other habitat limitations, TPTB are working as hard as they can to create conflict upon conflict.

Issues are clouded by stirring as many ancient fears and superstitions and prejudices as possible, but behind this is an effort to kill off (mostly by proxy) as many people as possible, and to do so in such a way as to intimidate (terrorize) the rest of the people into compliance.

Control of resources --at the moment, oil -- is seen as a "vital interest."  That "we the people" are enslaved via our addiction to petroleum makes the task of winning compliance much easier in the USA.

TPTB have no plans to share power now or later, let alone resources.  Political processes have become fully subverted.  We  "choose" from a political menu of options made to suit TPTB, and if things slip up somewhere it is easy for TPTB to marginalise and even ostracise isolated political opposition.

The agenda seems to be managing the big Die Off as much as possible, while denying that any sort of Die Off is occuring, or that it is largely anthropogenic.

"Last Man Standing" is chosen as a strategy, even though it is ultimately eco-cidal and so suicidal.  "Powerdown" does not seem to be an option at all.  Perhaps this is why this latest report pretty much stuck to an approach that emphasises maintaining the status quo in the USA.

"That is correctimundo now that invading oil producing nations is no longer socially acceptable."

No, what is not "socially acceptable" is invading oil producing countries and then losing.

Let's be honest here, if we had stormed into Iraq and contained the chaos, and now Iraq was belting out full oil production, the only place you could find a boomer complainer about the war would be at a medical marijuana shack on the backside of San Fran....what made everybody mad is that we invaded an oil producing country and essentially turned it into a non oil producing country.....have you ever noticed how all the wars defined as "good wars" are the ones we won?  Nobody really minds war too bad if you win them....

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

I agree and I've already initiated that process. We'll see if the others want to take it on.

No guarantees.

I also agree, and alas, must work for a living and keep up with various family and local commitments.

Having said that, I'd be up for participating in development of a TOD response.

Maybe just a day's specific focus on the report would be a good start, as has been suggested.

Perhaps a state of anarchy has now arrived in which the views of the public now carry more weight than 'expert' opinion. This shown by the MSM increasingly referring to websites such as TOD. It was TOD that burst the ethanol bubble, not the MSM. On many issues there seems to be a kind of consensus among TOD readers except for a few violent objectors. Examples of consensus views are electrification of transport, oil peaking now and carbon taxes. On the other hand I can't tell whether a majority support increased nuclear. This is a new kind of democracy when bloggers can influence legislators more than paid lobbyists.
Boof wrote

"It was TOD that burst the ethanol bubble, not the MSM."

What's the evidence for this?  Don't get me wrong, I want to think that too.  RR's work was excellent.  

At the very least TOD gave considerable impetus to the arguments against ethanol. Consider the timing
  1. the MSM talks up a silver bullet technology
  2. suddenly the eulogising stops
  3. by chance it had just been trashed in TOD

My impression was that people once thought Pimental et al were just being contrarian and mean spirited about ethanol. However after an extensive public discussion the jury had given its verdict. Credible argument and sheer weight of numbers won the day. That makes it tough for any journalist or even General Motors marketing department to hold the line. Without bloggers the debate could have gone on for years.
I will say this. I have had quite a large number of journalists contact me for more information on the ethanol debate. I have seen government officials at the highest levels reading some of my ethanol essays. I think the public perception on ethanol is changing, but it will remain with us due to the politics. But, I think more and more people realize it is not the silver bullet that proponents claim.
Most of the economic benefit of public transit comes from not having to maintain a car. The economic benefit of not having to pay for gasoline is definitely secondary. So when the dollar collapses and cars get very expensive, public transit will come into it's own for retired people. There will be tremendous pressure to make the buses leave the central cities where the poor people live and go out to the suburbs where the retired people live and allow them to get rid of their cars by not replacing them.
Maybe we will replace the cars by minivans? Labor costs will be high, but minivans don't require traing to drive like the regular buses, so you can use cheap, nonunion, teenage, labor.
But will the retirees actually continue to live in the suburbs?  There is a strong move back into the city by singles, gays, empty nesters, DINKs, and many others. (http://money.cnn.com/2006/06/15/real_estate/return_to_cities/index.htm)

The poor who have inhabited the inner city are increasingly moving into older suburbs while the residents of those areas either move intown or to the exurbs.  If transportation costs continue to increase (which they almost certainly will), housing in cities will have an increasingly valuable premium.

I expect that many of the same people who didn't want mass transit in their suburbs will be the same people voting to continue to keep mass transit out of the suburbs because they don't want to pay for it now that they have taken over the transit rich areas and also they won't want the expansion for the same ugly reason they didn't want it when they were suburbanites... it gives the poor better mobility which includes mobility into their neighborhood.

The big question to me is what will happen to middle class families with children.  They have been the biggest boosters of the suburban automobile focused lifestyle.  When the poor start going to their schools, what will the reaction be?  So far it appears that they've simply moved to the exurbs but for how long will that be a viable choice?

FWIW, Grist has another article with their angle on things:


I'm trying to figure out how much energy (electricity) a large electrified urban rail system uses. I only need rough numbers. For example, how big of a hydroelectric dam would you need to run a subway system such as the ones in New York, London, or Paris?
A TGV train transporting 800 people at 300 km/h consume 12 MW.

So a subway train transporting 200 people at 100 km/h, maybe 1 MW? How many subway trains do you want? 10? 100 ? 1000? All drving 24/7? Just build yourself a single nuclear reactor.

The thing is, trains consume only a neglible amount of electricity.

Thanks Starvid.

Now I know how to do the calculations. Multiply the power of the electric motors on each train by the number of trains and then multiply the result by the number of hours that the trains run. This gives the energy used assuming that each train is always running at maximum power. In real life, the energy used would be even less.

"In real life, the energy used would be even less."

Correct.  Using maximum power only provides you with an upper bound.  With electric motors the upper bound is of some use, in the case of internal combustion engines in road vehicles it is useless as the maximum power is typically an order of magnitude greater than what is required for constant speed travel.

Take a look at http://strickland.ca/efficiency.html

For example, a TGV Duplex total power rating is 8800 kW (11800 hp).  If maximum power were required to sustain it at 300 km/h, that would be 29.3 kWh/km.  Actual consumption measured in use, including accelerating and stopping at both ends plus 3 intermediate stops from Paris to Lyon, is 18.0 kWh/km (see my page for links to references for all figures), not much more than half of the figure calculated from the maximum power rating.

Speaking of the TGV Duplex, it apparently has an average 80% occupancy rate - over all travel!  In terms of gasoline-energy-equivalency I calculate the TGV Duplex in this service (Paris-Lyon with 3 intermediate stops) to obtain the equivalent of 506 passenger-miles-per-gallon!  If full the figure would be 632 passenger-miles-per-gallon.  And that's for service at 300 km/h.

By the way, I too am looking for hard data on electrical consumption of subway systems.  If you have the train-miles and passenger-miles of the NY subway system, as well as total energy consumption, that would be great.  I would add the result to my page.

It is astounding how little the public seems to know or care about energy efficiency.  An order of magnitude difference in efficiency should be an important consideration in planning, shouldn't it?


Thanks for the info.

It would be interesting to see how those numbers change
if superconduction material at room temperature existed.

"Today, the NYC Subway is the city's largest user of electricity. AC operates signals, station and tunnel lighting, ventilation and miscellaneous line equipment, while DC operates trains and such auxiliary equipment as water pumps and emergency lighting. The system's 215 electric substations receive high- and low-voltage power from the New York Power Authority, at voltages as high as 27kV AC, prior to transforming it for use within the system. The subway's third rail requires 625 volts DC for operating the trains. Power is distributed throughout the system via 2,500 miles of cable, which passes beneath 7,651 manholes located throughout the city. The power required to operate the subway system during peak hours is about 500 MW. And at 1.8 billion kilowatt hours, the subway's annual power consumption equals that of the city of Buffalo, New York."


That's what I told you, nothing. 500 MW peak load, 1.8 TWh per year. New York City has a population of about 8 million people so I guess average (not peak) power use is about 8000 MW, and maybe twice as much.

Subway power use is still irrelvantly small.

From a previous post, I understand that per APTA's 2006 Public Transportation Fact Book, Table 55, "Bus and Trolleybus National Totals, Fiscal Year 2004", that Heavy Rail (e.g. New York subway, Washington Metro, BART -- Table 81) carried 14,354,281,000 passenger miles or 3,683,674,000 kWh, for a whrs/mile of 257 (light rail and trolleys were higher, but accounted for only 11% of "rail" miles).

257 whrs/miles is about (or a little higher than) what the Prius and Tesla use.  EV's and rail are very roughly similar.

I just don't see an energy efficiency rationale for promoting rail over EV/PHEV's.  Now, I see a lot of other reasons: congestion, speed & convenience (for SOME uses, though definitely not for some others), promotion of urban lifestyle (though...to me rail seems to work almost as well with suburbia as it does with urban life), safety, lower stress, etc.  are all good reasons to like rail over personal vehicles.  Just not energy.

The big thing with rail is that it's here on the market today, and it has been for a hundred years. That's just not the situation for EV's (says the guy who drives an EV). ;)
And I take the train everyday.

I like trains a lot. I'd like to see them promoted.  It's a shame that planes, trucks and automobiles (to echo a movie title) have been promoted (and subsidized) over them.

Both trains and EV's are about 8x as efficient as gas automobiles.  Both will help enormously, and when people are envisioning a future I see no reason to exclude small personal EV's, at least on energy grounds.

There were a series of posts on a previous Drumbeat about why the MSM doesn't take PO seriously.  Look at this thread.  It is a mishmash of conflicting ideas, recomemdations, suggestions and beliefs.

Where the hell is any kind of consensus?  We can't even agree whether (and why) the new Hirsch report is a piece of crap supporting business as usual and doomed to failure or some sort of potential major fork in the road.  


The MSM is largely a corporate propaganda machine. More and more people are not taking the MSM seriously. There are more ideas here in one drumbeat than the MSM will cover in a year.
It is a mishmash of conflicting ideas, recomemdations, suggestions and beliefs.

You say that like it's a bad thing.

Oh, I think there's a consensus that it's not very high quality.  

My objection: they really don't even consider plug-in hybrids and EV's.  They say they did in interviews, but if you search the report, it's clear they really didn't.

Protests erupt after Nepal fuel price hike

Just found on Yahoo. people are getting a little ticked off, and this is just the start. Wait till the USA gets hit with price increases that rock your world! And you thought the hurricane Katrina aftermath in N'awlins was a shocker!

That VW 1 liter car that gets 235mpg is looking pretty nice!

Geewiz said,

"That VW 1 liter car that gets 235mpg is looking pretty nice!"

It is more than pretty nice.  It is an example of art engineering at it's finest.  Another example comes from Diahatsu


Now interesting is to look at people's reaction to such work, and we cannot discount the planning, effort, and intellectual hours spent in designing items like these.  Take for instance, the short number of feedback posts on the Volkswagen effort, for example.  They actually make people furious!  The effort is considered a waste, of no value because they are not useful in the "current lifestyle".  People should think about what an idiotic example of toy engineering the first Benz patent wagon mush have seemed in 1885.  But that bit of toy engineering, slow, expensive, difficult to build, seemingly useless  (idiot, take the damm train!), is the root of how we got to where we are now, peak oil and all!

What cars of the type designed in prototype form show is that even if oil production drops by 30% and then to half it's current amount, and then to 30% it's current amount, and finally to a tenth, the age of the automobile will not end.  People will accept these type of alternatives over walking miles in driving thunderstorms any day of the week.  If I live in the suburbs, and have to get 10 or 20 miles to work, shopping, school for children, then this is a way to do it....it may look odd at first, and we have to leave the Saint Bernard at home and not let him kiss the kiddies goodbye, but....it's a sacrifice we will learn to make....and it will seem pretty good compared to Heinberg's and Deffeyes predictions that I will walk on foot away from a half million dollar investment in my home, and go into the woods to scour roots and berries and drink pond water.....the technology haters will lose out on this one, and their dream of a new dark age will not prevail....IF, the big IF, we educate a generation of artful engineers and artful designers NOW.  As it has always been so shall it always be.  Information, education, and mental effort will decide the winners and leave aside the losers.
And as it has always been and will always be, it will be more fun and more bearable to be a winner.  Think about it before you teach your kids to flee to the wilderness.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

I'm going to have to disagree with your big "IF", and propose the big IF to be consumers and conventional economics.  You can obviously see that the technology is there, the VW 1 litre, Daihatsu UFE-3, Loremo...these are technologies which, if gasoline supplies were quartered ferchrisakes that people could still keep cruising.  Check out the old VW Rabbit Diesel at around 50mpg, older civics at 40mpg, the Echo @ 40mpg, the Prius...technologies which if gasoline supplies were halved people could keep cruising.  There's nothing sci-fi about a 26 year old VW Diesel Rabbit.

We have the technology, we just won't (90%IMOchance) implement it in time.  What will then happen is that conventional economincs - that is, the system we go by today and view the world - will take that initial perturbation caused by the lessening of supplies and amplify it.  People will be put out of work, which will cause more people out of work...and people will starve because there's "no money" to pay for it, not that there's no food...and technologies which could have transitioned us to less energy intensive future but still maintaining all of the good things that have come about will be "too expensive" and no one will "be able to afford it."

Even at that point a crash WWII style rationing program and New Deal type of relief programs (with the goal of renewable energy, conservation) could cause things from going too far down the tubes and set things back in the right direction.

I have neither the faith nor the proof in humanity to believe we'll do it.

That is $2/Liter not $2/Gallon

The $2/litre is Aussie dollars.

Current price of fule in Australia is Aus 1.40/Litre

There was an earlier question on where to get data (charts) on Yibal. Although I can't provide the URL, Simmons & Co has a page "Oman's Yibal Field: A Worthy Case Study" that uses the SPE paper #93884 as its data source. Question: Although NanoSolar's thin film PV looks most interesting, has anyone calculated how much "C" "I" and "G" the CIGs process will take per plant per year? The price of copper is already out of sight, and (IF) CIGs PV is going to push up demand in an incrementally important fashion the production costs cited by Nano perhaps ain't going to happen. PS: While I'm on the company's informal "waiting list," looks like all initial production is going to go to Germany where a Germany company is going to convert the film into panels.
Michael Ruppert has fled the USA

"My permanent exodus from the US was actually ordained thirty years -- to the month -- before I left for good on July 18th, 2006. It was thirty years ago that my then-fiancée, a career contract agent for the CIA, disclosed to me that "her people" were interested in giving a major boost to my career with LAPD if I would become involved with her "anti-terror" operations that involved "overlooking" (i.e. protecting) large drug shipments coming in while facilitating the movement of large quantities of firearms going out. I refused to compromise my ethics as a police officer and -- as I wrote on page 6 of Crossing the Rubicon - "that has determined the course of my life ever since.""

This is stunning news and a sobering article.  A couple years ago I hosted Mike's lecture on 9/11 at Sacramento's Crest Theater and had a chance to spend some time with him.  Truly a man of integrity unafraid to lay out the terrible vision which confronts us all:

The US is a nation where the "non-negotiable" and unsustainable "American" way of life is propped up by global conflict, out-of-control military spending, massive and unsustainable debt, and an increasingly-aggressive fascist police state. It is a nation where all US citizens who do not resist and disconnect from this paradigm enjoy their ever-diminishing privileges with the guilty knowledge that somewhere else, hopefully in some "other" country, others are paying the price for it.
What's wrong with electric cars?  We can build and drive these cars TODAY.

Take the car or truck you currently drive and convert it:  http://www.austinev.org/evalbum/