Nuke Puke Disposal Plan

Fukushima-Simpsongc2Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 11, 2015

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Amongst the numerous other problems we have with Climate Change, Population Overshoot and Geopolitical Conflict, one of the main worries these days amongst KollapsniksTM is the residue of the Nuclear Power Industry which grew up in the aftermath of WWII, when a few brilliant scientists applied the ideas Albert Einstein had about the equivalence of Matter and Energy, most remembered by the famous equation E=mc2.  What that tells you is that the amount of Energy contained in a bit of "matter" (the stuff around you) is equal to that amount multiplied by the Speed of Light SQUARED. For the mathematically challenged, "squaring" means multiplying a number by itself. The speed of light by itself is pretty darn fast, so square it and you get a REALLY big number!  Lots of energy contained in Matter, if of course you can convert the matter to energy, and figuring out how to do that was not in Einstein's Department.  Einstein was a Mathematician and Theoretical Physicist, not an Engineer.

However, this potential source of Energy and POWER was pretty seductive, particularly in a big time WAR like WWII, where if you could harness said energy, you could make a REALLY BIG BOMB, and wipe out entire cities with it.  The RACE WAS ON between the scientists on either side of the Pond as to who could figure out how to do this first!

The Krauts put together their team…

German Experimental Pile - Haigerloch - April 1945.jpgThe German nuclear weapon project (German: Uranprojekt; informally known as the Uranverein; English: Uranium Society or Uranium Club), was a clandestine scientific effort led by Germany to develop and produce nuclear weapons during World War II. This program started in April 1939, just months after the discovery of nuclear fission in December 1938, but ended only months later due to the German invasion of Poland, after many notable physicists were drafted into the Wehrmacht.

A second effort began under the administrative purview of the Wehrmacht's Heereswaffenamt on 1 September 1939, the day of the Invasion of Poland. The program eventually expanded into three main efforts: the Uranmaschine (nuclear reactor), uranium and heavy water production, and uranium isotope separation. Eventually it was assessed that nuclear fission would not contribute significantly to ending the war, and in January 1942, the Heereswaffenamt turned the program over to the Reich Research Council (Reichsforschungsrat) while continuing to fund the program. The program was split up among nine major institutes where the directors dominated the research and set their own objectives. Subsequently, the number of scientists working on applied nuclear fission began to diminish, with many applying their talents to more pressing war-time demands.

The most influential people in the Uranverein were Kurt Diebner, Abraham Esau, Walther Gerlach, and Erich Schumann; Schumann was one of the most powerful and influential physicists in Germany. Diebner, throughout the life of the nuclear weapon project, had more control over nuclear fission research than did Walther Bothe, Klaus Clusius, Otto Hahn, Paul Harteck, or Werner Heisenberg. Abraham Esau was appointed as Hermann Göring's plenipotentiary for nuclear physics research in December 1942; Walther Gerlach succeeded him in December 1943

The Amurkans put together their team… August 1939, prominent physicists Leó Szilárd and Eugene Wigner drafted the Einstein–Szilárd letter, which warned of the potential development of "extremely powerful bombs of a new type". It urged the United States to take steps to acquire stockpiles of uranium ore and accelerate the research of Enrico Fermi and others into nuclear chain reactions. They had it signed by Albert Einstein and delivered to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt called on Lyman Briggs of the National Bureau of Standards to head the Advisory Committee on Uranium to investigate the issues raised by the letter. Briggs held a meeting on 21 October 1939, which was attended by Szilárd, Wigner and Edward Teller. The committee reported back to Roosevelt in November that uranium "would provide a possible source of bombs with a destructiveness vastly greater than anything now known."[2]

Briggs proposed that the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) spend $167,000 on research into uranium, particularly the uranium-235 isotope, and the recently discovered plutonium.[3] On 28 June 1941, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8807, which created the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD),[4] with Vannevar Bush as its director. The office was empowered to engage in large engineering projects in addition to research.[3] The NDRC Committee on Uranium became the S-1 Uranium Committee of the OSRD; the word "uranium" was soon dropped for security reasons.[5]

In Britain, Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls at the University of Birmingham had made a breakthrough investigating the critical mass of uranium-235 in June 1939.[6] Their calculations indicated that it was within an order of magnitude of 10 kilograms (22 lb), which was small enough to be carried by a bomber of the day.[7] Their March 1940 Frisch–Peierls memorandum initiated the British atomic bomb project and its Maud Committee,[8] which unanimously recommended pursuing the development of an atomic bomb.[7] One of its members, the Australian physicist Mark Oliphant, flew to the United States in late August 1941 and discovered that data provided by the Maud Committee had not reached key American physicists. Oliphant then set out to find out why the committee's findings were apparently being ignored. He met with the Uranium Committee, and visited Berkeley, California, where he spoke persuasively to Ernest O. Lawrence. Lawrence was sufficiently impressed to commence his own research into uranium. He in turn spoke to James B. Conant, Arthur H. Compton and George B. Pegram. Oliphant's mission was therefore a success; key American physicists were now aware of the potential power of an atomic bomb.[9][10]

At a meeting between President Roosevelt, Vannevar Bush, and Vice President Henry A. Wallace on 9 October 1941, the President approved the atomic program. To control it, he created a Top Policy Group consisting of himself—although he never attended a meeting—Wallace, Bush, Conant, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and the Chief of Staff of the Army, General George C. Marshall. Roosevelt chose the Army to run the project rather than the Navy, as the Army had the most experience with management of large-scale construction projects. He also agreed to coordinate the effort with that of the British, and on 11 October he sent a message to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, suggesting that they correspond on atomic matters.[11]

As we all know now, the Amurkan Scientists beat the Kraut Scientists in this Horserace, and these were the results at Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

Talk about TERRORISM!  Beheading a few Journalists is NOTHING compared to this!  You got entire countries quaking in their boots if they won't Kowtow to you and accept your Dollar as World Reserve Currency!

At the point in the war these two Weapons of Mass Destruction were dropped, the Nipponese were already FINISHED.  They were beaten back to their own islands, their fleet had been destroyed in the Battle of Midway.  They could simply have been embargoed and left to starve, but nooooo… a demonstration of POWER was necessary to make to the rest of the world (the Ruskies in particular) aware that we were mean sons of bitches, and don't fuck with us or we will incinerate you in a heartbeat. as all that was, it may turn out that the worst of the Nuke Puke curse brought on by the insatiable appetite for POWER in the species Homo Sap will not come from the Wartime use of Nukes as Bombs, but from the Peacetime use developed after the War to generate Electric Power for the growing energy consumptive society.

Nuke Puke Power Plants sprung up like mushrooms in the aftermath of WWII, and now there are something like 400 of them sprinkled around the Globe, mainly in the FSoA and Europe, but quite a few other places too. The Chinese want to build still MORE of them to boot!  Even though the coal is coming dirt cheap these days, they would like to be able to breathe the air in Beijing without having to wear an Activated Charcoal Filter mask all the time, but of course still keeping the lights on and juice for the Factories to produce toys to be sold at Low, Low Prices Every Day at Walmart.  Who will have working money to BUY those toys also remains an open question these days.

Global Nuclear Power Plant Distribution

As you can see by the map above here, the worst Bad Newz on Nukes is on the eastern side of the Mississipi River in the FSoA, in Europe and in Japan.  The Chinese will catch up here if they can, but chances are things will go south before they have opportunity to build too many of them.  Also it should be noted that this does NOT include all the Nuke Puke reactors aboard Aircraft Carriers, Submarines and in various research facilities in Universities around the globe.

The BIG PROBLEM nobody ever came up with a real good solution for was what to do with the SPENT FUEL from these reactors.  NOBODY wanted Nuke Puke in their backyard, the NIMBY problem.  For a while the Salt Mines in Yucca Mountain were proposed as a dumping ground for Nuke Puke, but after a few $Billion$ were spent developing this White Elephant, this idea got shelved.

The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, as designated by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act amendments of 1987, is to be a deep geological repository storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and other high level radioactive waste. It is located on federal land adjacent to the Nevada Test Site in Nye County, Nevada, about 80 mi (130 km) northwest of the Las Vegas Valley. The proposed repository is within Yucca Mountain, a ridge line in the south-central part of Nevada near its border with California.

The location has been highly contested by environmentalists and Nevada residents. It was approved in 2002 by the United States Congress. Federal funding for the site ended in 2011 under the Obama Administration via amendment to the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, passed on April 14, 2011.[2] The Government Accountability Office stated that the closure was for political, not technical or safety reasons.[2]

This leaves US non-governmental entities, such as utilities, without any designated long term storage site for the high level radioactive waste stored on-site at various nuclear facilities around the country. The US government disposes of its waste at WIPP in New Mexico, in rooms 2,150 feet (660 m) underground.[3] The Department of Energy (DOE) is reviewing other options for a high-level waste repository and a Blue Ribbon Commission established by the Secretary of Energy released its final report in January 2012. It expressed urgency to find a consolidated, geological repository, and that any future facility should be developed by a new independent organization with direct access to the Nuclear Waste Fund, that is not subject to political and financial control like the DOE.[4]

What's wrong with Yucca Mountain as a repository for the Nuke Puke?  Well, besides the fact nobody in the neighborhood wants this toxic waste in their backyard, it will take constant maintenance in order to keep the shit from either melting down or going super critical and blowing up.  Who is going to pay for that maintenance for the next 1000 years…no wait 1,000,000 years?

So what to do with this shit?

Fire it off into space heading for the Sun on one of Richard Branson's spaceships?  The Sun is already a nuclear fireball, so that should be OK, right?

A few small problems with this idea.  There is Tons of this shit out there, every last one of the Nuke Puke plants has spent fuel ponds with 30 or 40 years worth of Puke in them.  We are not talking a few small communications satellites or glorified RVs we put into low earth orbit and call them "Space Stations", we are talking Container Ship loads of the stuff!!!!  How much Rocket Fuel do you think it would take to jack all that up even to low earth orbit, much less get it out of the Earth gravity well and hurtling towards the Sun?  Answer: a lot more than we got available here. problem even if you had this much energy to do the job is the slight issue of ACCIDENTS occurring, since you would need 1000s of rocket flights up carrying the Puke into space.  Just ONE of them explodes like the Challenger did, and the Puke rains down on everyone.  Not a good scenario there obviously.

There is another location right here on Earth though where lots of nuke puke resides already, the Core of the Earth, generally composed of Uranium because it is so dense.  It provides the internal heat engine for the planet through fission (the Sun works opposite, Fusion of small elements to larger ones).  How to get the man-made Nuke Puke down there though?

Well, there are spots under the ocean floor where the crust is pretty thin, and as the plates move over one another, in some spots there are subduction zones, where part of the crust of the earth gets pushed down into the Mantle and gets recycled there.

One such zone is located in the Marianas Trench, the very deepest canyon in the Pacific Ocean.

The Mariana Trench or Marianas Trench[1] is the deepest part of the world's oceans. It is located in the western Pacific Ocean, to the east of the Mariana Islands. The trench is about 2,550 kilometres (1,580 mi) long but has an average width of only 69 kilometres (43 mi). It reaches a maximum-known depth of 10,994 m (± 40 m) or 6.831 mi (36,070 ± 131 ft) at the Challenger Deep, a small slot-shaped valley in its floor, at its southern end,[2] although some unrepeated measurements place the deepest portion at 11.03 kilometres (6.85 mi).[3]

At the bottom of the trench the water column above exerts a pressure of 1,086 bars (15,750 psi), over 1000 times the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level. At this pressure, the density of water is increased by 4.96%, making 95 litres of water under the pressure of the Challenger Deep contain the same mass as 100 litres at the surface. The temperature at the bottom is 1 to 4 °C.[4]

Now of course, the idea of taking Nuke Puke and dropping into the ocean is a big turn-off for the environmentally conscious, not to mention there are all sorts of International Treaties that make this illegal.  This does not however seem to stop the Japanese from unloading millions of gallons of Nuke Puke contaminated water from Fukushima into the ocean, and so far nobody from the Hague has arrested the TEPCO managers either.

The Marianas Trench Nuke Puke Disposal PlanTM though is significantly different than the current Nipponese method of dumping the Nuke Puke straight into the bay next to Fukushima and letting it then disperse across the entire ocean.

In this method, you're not actually disposing of the Puke into the ocean, but rather into the crust of the earth BENEATH the sea bed.  I don't think there are any international treaties covering that, or who owns it either.  Also, there is no NIMBY problem, since nobody's backyard is even CLOSE to that.

How do you get the Puke into the crust?

Drilling Capsules!

In this case, rather than working against gravity and trying to lift up the Nuke Puke, gravity helps you and accelerates the capsule on the way down, and like a Rifle Bullet it will begin to spin if designed as a screw shape.  It will drill itself into the ground on impact.  The material contained inside can be glassified and solidified so it won't dissolve in the water, and then after that the Earth itself does the work subducting this zone back into the mantle!  Problem Solved! 🙂

Can such a plan be implemented before complete collapse takes hold?  Unfortunately probably not for numerous reasons.  First of all, if you start shutting down the Nuke Puke plants, you're going to have shortfalls in electric power wherever they supply the grid, and nobody wants to see their lights go dark, so we'll probably keep them switched on until it is too late.  Then you have the issue that environmentalists would likely oppose the plan, and exactly how you would finance it also is pretty tough to figure.  So in all likelihood the eventual outcome is a vast number of meltdowns and a lot more radionucleotides in the environment.  Whether Homo Saps can survive that and for how long and where remains an open question, but the Tardigrades should make it through at least.

Tardigrades are extremophiles, and can survive just about anything, extreme heat or cold, lack of water, radiation, the WORKS!

Tardigrades (also known as water bears or moss piglets)[2][3][4] are water-dwelling, segmented micro-animals, with eight legs.[2] They were first discovered by the German pastor Johann August Ephraim Goeze in 1773. The name Tardigrada (meaning "slow stepper") was given three years later by the Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani.[5] The phylum has been sighted from mountaintops to the deep sea, from tropical rain forests to the Antarctic[6] Tardigrades can survive in extreme environments. For example, they can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water (100 °C), pressures about six times greater than those found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than the lethal dose for a human, and the vacuum of outer space.[7] They can go without food or water for more than 10 years, drying out to the point where they are 3% or less water, only to rehydrate, forage, and reproduce.[3][8][9][10]

So, anyone suggesting that the Earth will be "barren & lifeless" in anywhere near the near term as Guy McPherson did in a recent essay either doesn't know the biology of tardigrades or else they are being purposefully melodromatic.  There are even extremophilic organisms which thrive in wicked conditions, such as around the Sulfur vents on the sea floor.  None of these organisms are going to the Great Beyond anytime too soon, no matter what happens to the higher life organisms currently populating the planet, including Homo Sap.  Nothing short of an impact with a Planet Killer Asteroid is going to wipe out all life on Earth in any kind of near term timeline.

If past history is any guide, Global Average Temperature will top out at 25C, as it always has even in the Pleiocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)

25C is a cakewalk for a Tardigrade, and in fact many organisms can survive this AGT, just as they did through the millenia of the PETM.  The ancestors of Homo Sap were among those creatures.


Can, Will Homo Sap make it through this Zero Point, the 6th Great Mass Extinction Event on Earth?  Maybe, maybe not, but either way the planet won't be lifeless for quite some time to come.  For eukaryotic organisms (both unicellular & multicellular species), the Earth's environment should hold up for another 300M years or so, when the Sun starts fusing so much Helium that its radiation output will make the Earth too inhospitable for anything but a few prokayotes.  Even the Tardigrades will be toast.

In the meantime, the objective of all living creatures is to live as long as they can until they eventually, inevitably succumb to death.  Nothing lives forever, not even Planets live forever.  Far as life goes on Earth, it is already in its senecense, the equivalent in the human lifespan of being 90 with a 100 year life expectancy.  How much longer we can survive remains an open question, although the timeline of 15 years to Human Extinction is highly improbable.  The further out on the timeline you go, the more probable this is.

In the immortal words of Chuck Palahniuk:

One thing is certain, there is no possibility for survival if you quit and say it's all OVAH already and hopeless.  You make your best effort to survive as long as you can, and then when you no longer can, you will die.  Just like every other life form that was ever born on the face of the Earth.

It ain' OVAH till the Fat Lady sings for you though.


The Oil Crash: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Off the keyboard of Ugo Bardi

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Published on Resource Crisis on May 11, 2015

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The recent oil price crash signals the impending demise of the oil and gas industry as a major world energy producer. That should be a good thing, in principle, but something wicked may still come out of the process.

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

With the ongoing collapse of the oil prices, we can say that it is game over for the oil and gas industry, in particular for the production of "tight" (or "shale") oil and gas. Prices may still go back to reasonably high levels, in the future, but the industry will never be able to regain the momentum that had made its US  supporters claim "energy independence" and "centuries of abundance." The bubble may not burst all of a sudden, but it surely will deflate.

So, what's going to happen, now? The situation is, to say the least, "fluid". A great rush is ongoing to convince investors to place their money where there is still some chance to make a profit. I think we can identify at least three different strategies for the future: 1) more of the same (oil and gas) 2) a push to nuclear, and 3) a push for renewables. Let's see to examine what the future may have in store for us.

1) A push for more gas and more oil. The oil&gas industry has not yet conceded defeat; on the contrary, it still dreams of centuries of abundance (see, e.g. this article on Forbes). It seems unthinkable that investors would still want to finance uncertain enterprises such as squeezing more oil from exhausted fields or, worse, from difficult and expensive technologies such as coal liquefaction. But you should never underestimate the power of business as usual. If people feel that they absolutely need liquid fuels, then they will be willing to do anything to get liquid fuels.

The main problem with this idea is not so much its technical feasibility. By throwing every resource at hand at the task (and beggaring the whole economy in the process) it would not be impossible to fool peak oil for a few more years. The problem is a different one: it is with climate change and with the fact that we are running out of time. If we keep burning hydrocarbons, we just can't make it: the industrial society cannot survive the resulting warming and the associated troubles. That is true if we keep burning at the "natural" rate, that is along the bell shaped curve. Imagine if we try to keep growing, instead (as all politicians in the world say we should).

All this is becoming well known and, as a result, a push toward further hydrocarbon production (or, God forbid, more coal) will be possible only if accompanied by a strong propaganda campaign destined to silence climate science and climate activism. Some symptoms that something like that is in the making are evident enough to be disturbing. Consider that none of the Republican candidates for the US 2016 elections supports the need for action on climate change, that in Florida government employees are not allowed to use the term "climate change" or "global warming," that NASA has been defunded on anything that has to do with climate change, and more. Then, a certain logic starts to appear: "muzzle the science and keep on burning". Something very wicked this way comes…..

2. A new push for nuclear. This option would not be so bad as the first, more hydrocarbons. At least, nuclear plants do not directly generate greenhouse gases and we know that it is a technology that can produce energy. Nevertheless, the hurdles associated with its expansion are gigantic. The first and foremost problem is that the uranium mineral production is not sufficient for ramping up nuclear energy from a few percent of the world's primary energy production to a major fraction of it – to be able to do that would require investments so large to be mind boggling. To say nothing about the need for rare minerals in nuclear plants: beryllium, niobium, hafnium, zirconium, rare earths, and more; all in short supply. Then, there are all the nightmarish problems of nuclear waste disposal, safety, and strategic control.

Nevertheless, if it were possible to convince investors to pour money into nuclear energy, then it would be possible to see an attempt to restart it, despite the various problems and disasters that have given to nuclear a bad name. An attempt to do just that seems to be in progress. President Obama is said to be considering a massive return to nuclear and investors are told to prepare for a gigantic surge in uranium prices. Will it work? Unlikely, but not impossible. Something wicked this way comes……

hafnium as a neutron absorber, beryllium as a neutron reflector, zirconium for cladding, and niobium




Read more at:

3. A big push for renewables. Surprisingly, the renewable industry may have serious chances to take over from a senescent oil industry, leaving the nuclear industry standing still and gasping at the sight. The progress in renewable technology, especially in photovoltaic cells, has been simply fantastic during the past decade (see, e.g., the recent MIT report). We have now a set of methods for producing electric power that can compete with traditional sources, watt for watt, dollar for dollar. Consider that the most efficient of these technologies do not need critically rare materials and that none brings the strategic and security problem of nuclear. Finally, consider that it has been shown (Sgouridis, Bardi, and Csala) that the present renewable technology could take over from the current sources fast enough to prevent major damage from climate change.

It looks like we have a winner, right? Indeed, the atmosphere around renewables is one of palpable optimism. If renewable energy picks up enough momentum, there will be nothing able to stop it until it has catapulted all of us, willing or not, into a new (and cleaner) world.

There is a problem, though. The renewable industry is still tiny in comparison to the nuclear industry and especially in comparison to the oil and gas industry. And we know that might usually wins against right. The sheer financial power of the traditional energy industry may well be enough to abort the change before it becomes unstoppable. Something wicked may still come……. (*)

(*) "Something wicked this way comes" is mainly known today as the title of a 1962 novel by Ray Bradbury. Actually, it comes from Shakespeare's Macbeth..

Update on US natural gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

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Published on Our Finite World on August 25, 2014


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On August 6, I wrote a post called Making Sense of the US Oil Story, in which I looked at US oil. In this post, I would like to look at other sources of US energy. Of course, the energy source we hear most about is natural gas. We continue to be a net natural gas importer, even as our own production rises.

Figure 1. US natural gas production and consumption, based on EIA data.

US natural gas production leveled off in 2013, because of the low level of US natural gas prices. In 2013, there was growth in gas production in Pennsylvania in the Marcellus, but many other states, including Texas, saw decreases in production. In early 2014, natural gas prices have been higher, so natural gas production is rising again, roughly at a 4% annual rate.

The US-Canada-Mexican natural gas system is more or less a closed system (at least until LNG exports come online in the next few years) so whatever natural gas is produced, is used. Because of this, natural gas prices rise or fall so that demand matches supply. Natural gas producers have found this pricing situation objectionable because natural gas prices tend to settle at a low level, relative to the cost of production. This is the reason for the big push for natural gas exports. The hope, from producers’ point of view, is that exports will push US natural gas prices higher, making more natural gas production economic.

The Coal / Natural Gas Switch

If natural gas is cheap and plentiful, it tends to switch with coal for electricity production. We can see this in electricity consumption–natural gas was particularly cheap in 2012:

Figure 2. Selected Fuels Share of US Electricity - Coal, Natural Gas, and the sum of Coal plus Natural Gas

Coal use increased further in early 2014, because of the cold winter and higher natural gas prices. In Figure 2, there is a slight downward trend in the sum of coal and natural gas’s share of electricity, as renewables add their (rather small) effect.

If we look at total consumption of coal and natural gas (Figure 3), we find it also tends to be quite stable. Increases in natural gas consumption more or less correspond to decreases in coal consumption. New natural gas power plants should be more efficient than old coal power plants in producing electricity, putting downward pressure on total coal plus natural gas consumption. Also, we are using more efficient lighting, refrigerators, and monitors for computers, holding down electricity usage, and thus both coal and gas usage. Better insulation is also helpful in reducing home heating needs (whether by electricity or natural gas).

Figure 3. Layered US consumption of coal and natural gas, based on EIA data.

Another factor in the lower electricity usage (and thus lower coal and natural gas usage) is fewer household formations since 2007. Young people who continue to live with their parents don’t add as much electricity usage as ones who set up their own households do. Low household formations are related to a lack of good-paying jobs.

Coal Production / Consumption

US coal production hit its maximum level in 1998, with production tending to decline since then. US coal consumption has been dropping faster than production, so that exports (difference between production and consumption) have been rising (Figure 4).

Figure 4. US coal production and consumption based on EIA data.

In 2012, about 16% of coal produced was exported. This percentage dropped to about 10% in 2013, with greater US coal usage.

Coal tends to cause pollution of several types, including higher carbon dioxide levels. It also tends to be less expensive that most other fuels, so world demand remains high. Worldwide, coal use continues to grow.

Nuclear and Hydroelectric

Hydroelectric is the original extender of fossil fuels. Hydroelectricity using concrete and metals became feasible in the 1800s, when we began using coal to provide the heat necessary to make metals and concrete in quantity. The first hydroelectric power plants were put in place in the US in the 1880s.  As recently as 1940, hydroelectric provided 40% of the United States’ electrical generation.

Nuclear electric power was the next major extender of fossil fuels. The first nuclear power was added to the US energy mix in 1957, according to EIA data. The big ramp up in nuclear began in the 1970s and 1980s. Similar to hydroelectricity, nuclear requires fossil fuels to build and maintain its plants making electricity.

If we look at the US distribution of fuels, we see that in recent years, nuclear has been a much bigger source of energy than hydroelectricity.

Figure 5. US Energy Consumption, showing the various fossil fuel extenders separately from fossil fuels, based on BP data.

The above comparison includes all types of energy, not just electricity. The grouping GeoBiomass is a BP grouping including geothermal and various forms of wood and other biomass energy, including sources such as landfill gas and other energy from waste. Note that GeoBiomass, Biofuels, and Solar+Wind are hard to see on Figure 5, because of their small quantities.

If we look at hydro and nuclear separately for recent years (Figure 6, below), we see that nuclear has tended to grow, while hydro has tended to fall, although both now seem to be  on close to a plateau. Hydro tends to be more variable than nuclear because it depends on rainfall and snow pack, things that vary from year to year and month to month.

Figure 6. Comparison of US nuclear and hydroelectric consumption, based on EIA data.

The reason why hydro has tended to decrease in quantity over time is that it takes maintenance (using fossil fuels) to keep the aging power plants in operation and silt removed from near the dams. Most of the good locations for dams are already taken, so not much new capacity has been added.

Nuclear power plant electricity production has grown even since the 1986 Chernobyl accident because the United States has continued to expand the capacity of existing nuclear facilities. I do not expect this trend to continue, for a variety of reasons. Not all such capacity expansions have worked out well. The capacity expansion of the San Onofre plant in California in 2010 experienced premature wear and is now being decommissioned. Many of the nuclear plants built in the 1970s are reaching  the ends of their useful lives. Unless we add a large number of new nuclear plants in the next few years, it seems likely that US generation of nuclear electricity will be falling over the next 20 years.

Other Energy Types

It is easier to see other energy types if we look at them as a percentage of US total energy consumption. The following is a graph of “renewables” as a percentage of US energy consumption, using EIA data:

Figure 7. Renewables are percentage of US energy consumption, using EIA data (but groupings used by BP).

A person can see that over the long haul, hydroelectric has tended to shrink as a percentage of energy consumption, as energy needs grew and hydroelectric failed to keep up.

The GeoBiomass category is BP’s catch-all category, mentioned above.1 It (theoretically) includes everything from the wood we burn in our fireplaces to the charcoal briquettes we use to cook food outdoors, to home heating with wood or briquettes to the burning of sawdust or wood pieces in power plants. It also includes geothermal, which is about 6% as large as hydroelectric, and is increasing gradually over time. Based on EIA data, biomass isn’t growing either in absolute amount or as a percentage of total energy consumed.

Biofuels are liquid fuels made from biomass used to extend oil consumption. In the US, the major biofuel is ethanol, made from corn. It is used to extend gasoline, generally up to 10%.  A chart of production and consumption shows that US biofuel production “topped out,” once it hit the 10% of gasoline “blendwall”.

Figure 8. US biofuel production and consumption, based on EIA data.

Biofuels now amount to 5.7% of US petroleum (crude oil plus natural gas liquids) consumption. In recent years, the US is a slight exporter of biofuels.

Corn ethanol currently takes about 40% of US corn production, according to the USDA (Figure 9). Greater corn plantings would put pressure on land usage for other crops.

USDA corn use, from USDA site.

If someone figures out how to make cellulosic ethanol cheaply (perhaps from wood), it presumably will cut into the market for corn ethanol, unless the blend wall is raised to 15%. Without additional ethanol coming from a source such as cellulosic ethanol, such an increase in the maximum blending percentage would likely be problematic.

Wind and Solar PV

Wind and Solar PV are sources of US electricity, so really need to be compared in that context. If we compare nuclear, hydroelectric, and all renewable electricity other than hydro (including electricity from wood, sawdust, and waste, and from geothermal, in addition to wind and solar) we see that in total, all other renewables are approximately equal to hydro electricity in quantity:

Figure 10:  Hydroelectric, other renewables, and nuclear as a percentage of US electricity supply, based on EIA data.

If we look at the pieces of other renewables separately, we see the following:

Figure 11. Wind, solar/PV and other renewables as a percentage of US electricity, based on EIA data.

Wind energy has indeed grown in quantity. Solar/PV is growing, but from a very small base. The remainder, which includes geothermal, wood and various waste products, is growing a bit.

A major issue with wind and solar is that we badly need a “solution” to our energy problem, so these are “pushed,” whether they are really helpful or not. Some issues involved:

(a) Cost effectiveness. Studies (such as by Brookings Institution, Weissbach et al., Graham Palmer) show that wind and solar PV are not cost-effective for reducing carbon emissions. If we want to reduce carbon emissions, conservation or switching from coal to natural gas would be more cost effective.

(b) Peak supply or peak affordability (demand in economists’ language)? The peak oil “story” often seems to be that because of inadequate supply, oil and other fossil fuel prices will rise, and substitutes will suddenly become competitive. This story is used to support a switch to wind and solar PV and high priced biofuels, since the expected high prices of fossil fuels will supposedly support the high cost of renewables.

Unfortunately, the story is wrong. High prices of any fuel tend to lead to recession because wages don’t rise to match the high prices. Also, a country using the high-priced fuel tends to become less competitive compared to countries that don’t use the high-priced fuel. The net effect is that prices don’t rise very much. Instead, manufacturing moves to countries that use less-expensive fuels. Oil prices may fall so low (relative to the cost of oil production) that oil producers sell their land and increase dividends to shareholders instead; in fact, this seems to be happening already.

(c) Hoped for long-term life. If fossil fuels have problems, can “renewables” have long life-spans in spite of those problems? Not that I can see. It takes fossil fuels to maintain the electric grid and to produce any modern renewable, such as wind, or solar PV or wave energy. Wind turbines need frequent replacement of parts, and solar PV needs new “inverters.” Wood and biomass will have long lives, if not overused, but these won’t keep the electric grid operating.

(d) Apples to oranges cost comparisons. There are a few situations where wind and solar PV are used to substitute for oil–for example, on islands, where oil is used to operate electricity generation. In these cases, wind and solar PV are likely already competitive, without subsidies. In these situations, per capita use of electricity can be expected to be very low, because exports made with such high-priced electricity will be non-competitive in the world market-place.

The confusion comes elsewhere, where substitution is for natural gas, coal, or nuclear energy. Here, the savings to an electric company is primarily a savings in fuel cost, that is, the cost of the natural gas, or coal or uranium. The plant’s manpower needs and its cost of electric grid maintenance will be the same (or higher). There may be costs associated with monitoring the new sources of electricity added to the grid or additional balancing costs, and these need to be considered as well.

If we want to maintain the electric grid so we can continue to have electricity for a variety of purposes, the “correct” credit for intermittent renewables is the savings to the power companies–which is likely to be close to the savings in fuel costs, or about 3 cents per kWh on the mainland United States. This is far less than the “net metering” benefit (offering a benefit equal to the retail cost of electricity) that is often used for grid-tied solar PV. It is also generally less than the “wholesale time of day” cost of electricity, often used for wind.

Germany is known for its encouragement of wind and solar PV, using liberal funding for the renewables. This approach has adverse ramifications, including high electricity costs, less grid stability, closure of some traditional natural gas power plants, and rising carbon dioxide emissions. A recent article called Germany’s Electricity Market Out of Balance by the Institute for Energy Research summarizes these issues.


It would be great if we had a solution for our non-oil energy issues, but we really don’t. The closest we can perhaps come is scaling up natural gas consumption some, and reducing coal’s current portion of the electricity mix. We currently have a large amount of coal consumption relative to natural gas consumption (Figure 3), so we ourselves have good use for rising natural gas production, if it should actually take place.

The “catch” in scaling up natural gas consumption is a price “catch.” If the price of natural gas price rises too high relative to coal, then electricity production starts switching back to coal. If, on the other hand, natural gas prices don’t rise very much, not much of an increase in production is likely to be available. Producers would like to export (a lot of) natural gas to Europe, as a way of jacking-up US natural gas prices. This seems like a pipe dream. See my article The Absurdity of US Natural Gas Exports.

Nuclear is a big question mark. If the United States starts taking much nuclear off line, it will leave a big hole in electricity generation, especially in the Eastern part of the US. Germany and recently Belgium are starting to experience the effect of taking nuclear off line. It is hard to see how wind and solar PV can play a very big role in offsetting the nuclear loss.

Politicians need to have a “solution” they can call an energy savior, but it is hard to see that renewables will play more than a small role. Biofuels seem to have “topped out” for now. Wind and solar PV are still growing, but it is hard to justify subsidies for them, as part of the electric grid system. Solar PV does have uses off grid, if citizens want their own source of electricity, with their own inverters and back-up batteries. There are also business uses of this type–for example, to operate equipment in a remote location.

I have not tried to cover all of the various smaller items. There may also be growth possibilities for items that I have not discussed, such as solar thermal for heating hot water, particularly in warm parts of the United States.


[1] I have used BP’s GeoBiomass grouping for convenience, but I am adding together EIA data amounts. What is included in the “biomass” portion of GeoBiomass seems to vary from agency to agency (BP, EIA, IEA), because of different definitions of what is included. For example, is animal dung burned as fuel included? Is fuel that is gathered by a family, rather than purchased, included? I am using EIA data for US renewables in Figure 7, since its long-term data series is probably as good as any for the US.

West Isolating Itself with Sanctions Against Russia

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on July 30, 2014


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July 30, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – Citing the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 as impetus, US President Barack Obama announced stronger sanctions against Russia leveled by both the US and EU. This comes after previous sanctions implemented before the downing of MH17 failed to garner support across Europe, leaving the US measures politically and economically impotent. In the wake of American sanctions, pundits, politicians, and corporate-lobbyists decried Europe’s desire to continue doing business with Russia, claiming US sanctions alone would only hurt US corporations leaving a void gladly filled by Europe and others. 

MH17 – The Convenient Impetus 

With the “serendipitous” downing of MH17, this geopolitical calculus changed abruptly, and US President Barack Obama, even while admitting investigations were ongoing, invoked the tragedy to justify both the pressure put on Europe to finally impose stronger sanctions against Russia, but also as a means to sell the decision to a public targeted by weeks of baseless anti-Russian propaganda 

Clearly MH17 is being exploited, and especially so since investigations are still under way and no conclusions – or even preliminary results – have been announced. At face value, the West exposes itself as shameless opportunists leveraging human misery to advance their geopolitical ambitions. But Washington, London, and Brussels’ actions also raise serious suspicion over their possible role in the downing of the aircraft. While evidence is forthcoming, a motive for the West to have shot the aircraft down and blame Russia has been demonstrably established. 

Despite the “convenience” of the MH17 tragedy and the expediency with which the West has exploited it, this latest attempt to ram through ineffectual sanctions indicate increased desperation from Washington, London, and Brussels, not a renewed initiative in Ukraine, or against Russia as a whole. 

Sanctions Don’t Work

Sanctions haven’t worked against nations many times smaller and economically weaker than Russia, and they won’t work against Russia. In fact, the sanctions will instead motivate Moscow to build stronger ties elsewhere, as well as become stronger internally. Many of the sanctions will not even bite for years to come – if ever. Europe was initially reluctant to level sanctions against Russia, not because of any particular affinity for Moscow, but because they would suffer economically as a result of implementing them. Western think-tanks bemoaned Europe’s insistence that the “pain” be shared equally – pain the sanctions were surely to cause all those who agreed to them. 

It took the shameless political exploitation of a tragedy to twist Europe’s collective arms into agreeing to the measures now being taken, measures that will immediately begin effecting European nations dependent on long-standing economic ties with Russia and ties that cannot be easily replaced.

Japan likewise, citing nothing other than a desire to “cooperate with G7,” issued new sanctions against Russia – Japan also being a nation that cannot afford narrowing prospects for its declining economy.

ITAR-TASS News Agency in an article titled, “Japan prepares to impose new sanctions on Russia,” stated:

“Japanese government is preparing to impose new sanctions on Russia, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Wednesday.

“We are preparing to take additional measures, including freezing of bank accounts. We intend to give a proper response with an emphasis on co-operation with G7 partners,” Suga said.

Russia responded by pointing out Japan’s inability to establish independent foreign policy of its own and instead pursue self-destructive edicts dictated by Washington. Indeed, what the West is doing is isolating itself from a growing mulipolar world that refuses to recognize or remain beholden to a waning unipolar international order centered around Wall Street and London. While the US, EU, and Japan constitute immense economies, technology and progress elsewhere has led to emerging economies that have the potential to eclipse them all. In China alone, Russia has been looking to hedge economic risk by developing ties with the growing nation.

Despite attempts to disrupt growing Russian-Chinese relations through terrorism and political subversion, sanctions against Russia and continued belligerence as part of the West’s “pivot to Asia” serve only to drive these two emerging powers closer together.

The Myth of Ukrainian Self-Determination 

In addition to citing MH17 as grounds for leveling new sanctions, Obama also claimed that Ukraine had a right to determine its own destiny and therefore continued interference from Russia could not be tolerated. This betrays the true genesis of the current Ukrainian conflict. The current regime occupying Kiev was installed by NATO to serve EU interests – with US Senator John McCain whose National Endowment for Democracy (NED) subsidiary, the International Republican Institute (IRI) funded the various fronts that led and supported the 2013-2014 “Euromaidan” mobs, literally taking to the stage during the protests to offer support for the Neo-Nazi Svoboda Party in Kiev

What the US means to say is Russia’s interference with NATO’s plans to subvert, overthrow, and replace political orders along Russia’s borders with belligerent NATO proxies will not be tolerated – a similar scenario that played out along Russia’s borders when Adolf Hitler’s Nazis likewise carried out a regional campaign of covert and outright military aggression ultimately aimed at Moscow itself.    

Rush to War? 

Provocations against Russia are increasing, as is the rhetoric to attempt to sell some sort of wider confrontation between NATO and Russia. Unfortunately for the West, sanctions, grisly disasters they “serendipitously” stood to benefit from but can’t, and even attempting to wind up their respective populations for a military confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia appear only as “bad, worse, and the worst” of all possible options. 
Analysts fear growing desperation from the West who can neither move forward, nor retreat, will resort to increasingly desperate and destructive tactics to change the tide in Ukraine, and against Russia and the growing multipolar order it represents. But when sanctions and what appears to have been a false flag attack have failed utterly, what is left besides war? However, even war is an untenable prospect for the West – that while feasible and likely to catch most off guard as an opinion not considered to be on the table – it is a prospect that could initially succeed but ultimately backfire just as Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union did during World War II. 

But when it’s not the money or the blood of the special interests driving this confrontation with Russia being spent, what does the West have to lose by trying?  Russia will have to continue being smart, patient, prudent, and let the West’s ill-intents destroy itself. No matter how weak or desperate the West may appear throughout was appears to be irreversible decline, the one mistake to be made would be underestimating what Washington, London, and Brussels could do in their death throes. From theaters along Russia’s immediate peripheries, to interests across the Middle East and North Africa – Syria included – maximum vigilance is required to guard against the vindictive spite of an antiquated, dying international order.

Open Letter to Nicole Foss

Off the keyboard of A. G, Gelbert

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Published in the Comments on The Automatic Earth on August, 2013


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Commentary on video by Nicole Foss on farming and energy saving

Fossil fuels and renewable energy discussion with Nicole Foss including the importance of climate science data to energy resoures.

Historic proof that manufacturing all the renewable energy machines and infrastructure needed to transition to a 100% Renewable Energy world economy can be achieved in two decades or less: The mass produced Liberty Ships of WWII

Three different future scenarios

Nicole Foss shares the story of how she has reduced her energy needs by 90%.

I watched and listened to the above video from a 2011 Sustainability Conference. You said you felt the energy resource poor England, with 60 million people, convinced you to sell your townhouse and buy a 40 acre farm in Ottawa with 7 barn outbuildings.

You went about reducing your energy needs by 90%, have some sheep, chickens and other farm animals, a dog sled team for winter transportation, rent out some of the land, make your own hay, grow vegetables and have extended the growing season with a greenhouse.

Your plan for making use of renewable energy was based on power with less moving parts so you avoided wind power and obtained 3 kW of PV non-tracking panels for an off grid system.
You didn’t hook up to the grid for feed in tariff (FIT) extra money because you don’t want your power going to “public uses”, don’t believe FIT will last 20 years and, in the event the grid went down, you wouldn’t have the benefit of power because a grid tied system did not allow you to store energy in batteries.

There was an easy way around that. You buy your battery bank and keep it charged from the grid, not the PV panels. You have an electrician set up a switch from the inverter to the grid so that if grid power is lost, you just isolate yourself from the grid and the PV panels will then be able to keep your batteries charged and you are supplied with power until grid power comes back.

But from your comment about “public use” of your PV electricity and your feelings about the imminent collapse of feed in tariffs (FIT), it appears that you were more influenced by Libertarian ideology than pure logic.

After all, the community that you are fostering and the responsible, low carbon footprint behavior that you are engaging in by keeping your energy sources nearby and renewable (except for the gasoline, diesel and grid tie for your electric range and other high power demand appliances) energy wood fired heating system for the house and the greenhouse (when temperatures are below freezing) is really about survival of Homo sapiens, is it not?

I don’t agree with drawing a line at the grid connection and thinking you have no responsiblility to share your power with the larger community. But, I’m grateful to you for trying to live within your means and your sound advice to your children to avoid debt like the plague.

I too believe in being debt free and have been so for over a decade even though I do have to pay for the 1/3 acre of land I rent where my manufactured home sits.

I assume, because of your belief in some type of imminent civilizational collapse, that you are designing your lifestyle to be independent of industrial civilization. You are convinced that it is all going to go away.

I don’t think so but I’ll discuss that later. If a collapse is imminent, your actions are logical. If it isn’t, you are doing yourself and humanity a favor by living closer to the land and within your means. That is most prudent of you even though 80% or more of the human species does not have the option of owning one acre to farm, let alone 40.

Considering how most people with a townhouse in England (like most of the rich EVERYWHERE that own the mining corporations, factories and are the major corrupting influence that spurs goverments to fight resource wars) ignore the huge carbon footprint that the population of the developed countries have, I admire what you have done to break the mold of that unsustainable lifestyle by setting a sustainable, boots on the ground, example to lead the way in what all of us MUST do if humanity is to survive.

I was particularly gratified that you seriously considered walling off a section of your house in the winter to keep the heating costs down. I am of the opinion that if the human population was limited to only being able to heat, cool and plumb 500 square feet per capita, a sustainable renewable energy based world would be easily achievable. Of course that would entail a commensurate restructuring of industrial capacity and a 90% downsizing of large fuel hogs like the U.S. military and “security” state bureaucracies.

You mentioned that your geothermal system goes down 140 feet. Are you aware of the advances in passive geothermal systems that use geofoam above a large open land area to keep the land from very low temperatures?

The most common uses of Geofoam are as a lightweight fill and as insulation. Some specific applications of Geofoam are outlined below.

Unstable Soil Substitute

Roadbeds & Runways (pavement insulation)

IOW, the land above the frost line is insulated too so, for all practical puposes, there is no frost line. Since you make your own hay, it is conceivable to use hay bales instead of geofoam.

Any passive geothermal loops placed down to the 140 feet below insulated soli with no frost line, but in a much larger area than a home footprint, will keep you quite comfortable. Also, the fact that your house is old means that it must be very poorly insulated compared with modern thermal mass based structures like the earthships.

I’m sure you are familiar with them. Old houses may have historical, traditional and sentimental value but they have next to zero value as low energy use living structures due to their draftiness unless you want to be bundled up with warm clothing all winter like our ancestors were.

Another “automatic” way to provide heating when you most need it is a wind turbine. When wind speed increases in the winter, that’s when you lose most of your heat from conduction. If you have a wind turbine that, like your PV array, is not only stand alone, but additionally does NOT go through an inverter but just sends DC into a resistance heating coil in some important part of your house, you will automatically get more heat in direct proportion to the strength of the wind.

I bring that up as something to think about. I don’t think you need to be overly concerned with the reliability and longevity of wind turbine moving parts. The reliability of the rotating parts of these machines has been proven by the fact that the old windmills in Texas and the midwest are still being made (now many converted to generating electricity).

They have 40 to 50 year life spans and no wind storm is going tear them apart unles it tears your house apart too. As you know, windmills, prior to the fossil fuel age, were used to pump water, mill crops and several other tasks that, without these pre-industrial Renewable Energy devices, would have been onerous.

In the United States it may be said that the conestoga, or covered wagon, settled the west and the colt 45 tamed the west. I will add that the windmill was the major
force in developing the western United States.

[/size=10pt]The covered wagon is no longer used as a means of transportation. The Colt 45 is no longer worn as a side arm and known as ‘the peace keeper.’ However, the windmill, that other great symbol of the nineteenth century American West, is now becoming the twenty-first century symbol of renewable energy.

Now that is staying power! [/size]

I am certain that John D. Rockefeller did not like windmills at all. I believe he was that fine fellow that said, “Competition is a sin”. He also said THIS:

“Try to turn every disaster into an opportunity. ”

Attributed in The Rockefellers (1976) by Peter Collier and David Horowitz

Measured in today’s dollars, Rockefeller is the richest person in the history of mankind.

Considering the mindset of this fine fellow and his descendents in the fossil fuel industry, it is not far fetched to believe than when an opportunity wasn’t “presenting itself” due some competitive nuisance (like ethanol), they would contrive a “disaster” for said competition that they could then turn into an OPPORTUNITY (I.E. PROFIT). More on that below.

It seems that we can see where the modern, consciense free expression,” Never waste a crisis” originated. I don’t think Karl Rove and the Bush family invented the idea of deliberately creating a crisis in order to obtain a profit or stifle competiton, do you?


Fossil fuels and renewable energy discussion with Nicole Foss including the importance of climate science data to energy resources.

At any rate, with all that wood you have, you should do all right if the winds don’t get too high from global climate change. Humans, according to science, cannot function when average wind speeds are 50 mph or greater. Let us hope that global climate change doesn’t produce such average wind speeds.

I heard this information and a lot more about the massive threat to humanity that global climate change represents and the absolutely vital requirement that we stop burning fossil fuels now, not 50 or a hundred years from now, from a panel of scientists including James Hansen. The climate catastrophe is upon us and is baked in for up to a thousand years. This is not hyperbole.Video here:

I will refer to this a few more times in this document.

The ten indicators that climate scientists are monitoring are all going into uncharted territory promising a climate that humans have never, ever been subjected to. See the article I posted on my channel (written nearly three years ago) with some recent charts I added at the top.

Please ignore the snark I included in that post. I am just a bit tired of having the data I present here being viewed as questionable, debatable, or some tree hugger’s hysterical opinion.

Did you know one of the founders of a Disinformation Think Tank (The George C. Marshal Institute) created to defend the Reagan SDI star wars boondoggle (when 6,500 of the top scientists signed a document refusing to work in it) and, after the cold war ended, switched to adopt the “Tobacco Strategy” of sowing doubt about the global warming science, had been previously president of Rockefeller University?

What does propaganda fostered by the fossil fuel industry for the purpose of denying Global Climate Change have to do with the subject of this letter to you?

A lot. I’ll get to that but now I wish to remind you of a response you wrote to me in a comment forum about a year ago when I complained that you had not figured in the cost of poisoned aquifers from fracking gas drilling in the EROEI of fracked gas. I further said that, given the fact that Renewable Energy does not pollute, it actually is more cost effective than fossil fuels.

Why wait a year to answer you? Because I ran into exactly the same talking points in several other comment forums when the subject of fossil fuels versus renewable energy came up. So I set about to research your claims and predictions.

I have answered the statements and predictions you made. Nearly 100% of your predictions have not come about. In fact, in some cases the exact reverse of what you predicted has happened.

Also, some of your statements were factually incorrect at the time you made them, not just a year after you made them. Please read them and tell me if you have revised your views in these matters.

I have included your statements in exactly the same sequence as you made them without any alterations whatsoever.

Your statements are in brown color

My response in blue

Renewables represent a drop in the bucket of global supply.

(Phase 1)

Energy from renewable resources—wind, water, the sun, biomass and geothermal energy—is inexhaustible and clean. Renewable energy currently constitutes 15% of the global energy mix.

They are having no effect whatsoever on fossil fuel prices.


(Phase 2) So the huge demand destruction in fossil fuels this past year was ONLY related to the depression we have been in since 2008!!? Why then, didn’t said demand destruction occur THEN? Why did that demand destruction DOVETAIL with the explosive growth of energy and wind in the USA in 2011 and 2012?

Charts: The Smart Money Is on Renewable Energy
—By Tim McDonnell
Mon Apr. 22, 2013

IEA Predicts Wind to Double and Solar Solar to Triple in 6 Years

The European Investment Bank (EIB), the world’s largest public financial institution, has announced that, effective immediately, it will no longer finance most coal-, lignite- and oil-fired power stations in an effort to help Europe meet its climate targets.

They are more expensive than fossil fuels

(phase 3)

When you account for the effects which are not reflected in the market price of fossil fuels, like air pollution and health impacts, the true cost of coal and other fossil fuels is higher than the cost of most renewable energy technologies.

In the July 2011 PE magazine article “Why We Need Rational Selection of Energy Projects,” the author stated that “photovoltaic electricity generation cannot be an energy source for the future” because photovoltaics require more energy than they produce
(during their lifetime), thus their “Energy Return Ratio (ERR) is less than 1:1.”Statements to this effect were not uncommon in the 1980s, based on some early PV prototypes. However, today’s PVs return far more energy than that embodied in the life cycle of a solar system (see Figure 1).Their energy payback times (EPBT)—the time it takes to produce all the energy used in their life cycles—currently are between six months to two years, depending on the location/solar irradiation and the technology. And with expected life times of 30 years, their ERRs are in the range of 60:1 to 15:1, depending on the location and the technology, thus returning 15 to 60 times more energy than the energy they use. Here is a basic tutorial on the subject.

because of their very low EROEI


(phase 3) See above. The EROEI of fossil fuels is lower than Renewable energy EROEI.

However, today’s PVs return far more energy than that embodied in the life cycle of a solar system (see Figure 1).

Their energy payback times (EPBT)—the time it takes to produce all the energy used in their life cycles—currently are between six months to two years, depending on the location/solar irradiation and the technology. And with expected life times of 30 years, their ERRs are in the range of 60:1 to 15:1, depending on the location and the technology, thus returning 15 to 60 times more energy than the energy they use. Here is a basic tutorial on the subject.

Energy Payback Time = (Emat+Emanuf+Etrans+Einst+EEOL) / (Eagen–Eaoper)
Emat: Primary energy demand to produce materials comprising PV system
Emanuf: Primary energy demand to manufacture PV system
Etrans: Primary energy demand to transport materials used during the life cycle
Einst: Primary energy demand to install the system
EEOL: Primary energy demand for end-of-life management
Eagen: Annual electricity generation in primary energy terms
Eaoper: Annual energy demand for operation and maintenance in primary energy termsThe traditional way of calculating the EROI of PV is EROI = lifetime/EPBT, thus an EPBT of one year and life expectancy of 30 years corresponds to an EROI of 1:30..

Scientific Investigations of Alcohol Fuels 1890 – 1920

Studies of alcohol as an internal combustion engine fuel began in the U.S. with the Edison Electric Testing Laboratory and Columbia University in 1906. Elihu Thomson reported that despite a smaller heat or B.T.U. value, “a gallon of alcohol will develop substantially the same power in an internal combustion engine as a gallon of gasoline. This is owing to the superior efficiency of operation…”62 Other researchers confirmed the same phenomena around the same time.

USDA tests in 1906 also demonstrated the efficiency of alcohol in engines and described how gasoline engines could be modified for higher power with pure alcohol fuel or for equivalent fuel consumption, depending on the need.63

The U.S. Geological Service and the U.S. Navy performed 2000 tests on alcohol and gasoline engines in 1907 and 1908 in Norfolk, Va. and St. Louis, Mo. They found that much higher engine compression ratios could be achieved with alcohol than with gasoline. When the compression ratios were adjusted for each fuel, fuel economy was virtually equal despite the greater B.T.U. value of gasoline. “In regard to general cleanliness, such as absence of smoke and disagreeable odors, alcohol has many advantages over gasoline or kerosene as a fuel,” .[/b]the report said. “The exhaust from an alcohol engine is never clouded with a black or grayish smoke.”64

USGS continued the comparative tests and later noted that alcohol was “a more ideal fuel than gasoline” with better efficiency despite the high cost.65

The French War Office tested gasoline, benzene and an alcohol-benzene blend in road tests in 1909, and the results showed that benzene gave higher mileage than gasoline or the alcohol blend in existing French trucks.66

The British Fuel Research Board also tested alcohol and benzene mixtures around the turn of the century and just before World War I, finding that alcohol blends had better thermal efficiency than gasoline but that engines developed less brake horsepower at low rpm.67
On the other hand, a British researcher named Watson found that thermal efficiencies for alcohol, benzene and gasoline were very nearly equal.68

These experiments are representative of work underway before and during World War I. The conclusions were so definitive that Scientific American concluded in 1918: “It is now definitely established that alcohol can be blended with gasoline to produce a suitable motor fuel …”69 By 1920, the consensus, Scientific American said, was “a universal assumption that [ethyl] alcohol in some form will be a constituent of the motor fuel of the future.”

Alcohol met all possible technical objections, and although it was more expensive than gasoline, it was not prohibitively expensive in blends with gasoline. “Every chemist knows [alcohol and gasoline] will mix, and every engineer knows [they] will drive an internal combustion engine.”70

And then along came Prohibition and saved the day for gasoline.
So a ‘Prohibition law “disaster” for ethanol was a rather convenient profit opportunity, was it not? It is quite conceivable that a “disaster” was CREATED (Rockefeller “donated” millons to the Temperance movement.) for ethanol in order to “Try to turn every disaster into an opportunity. “.

After all, competition was a “sin” for the Rockefellers and big oil. It may be “real politik” but it certainly isn’t cricket. The terms “free market” and “level playing field of energy resources” ring rather hollow in the “real world” of big oil market rigging and lawmaker bribing, blackmailing or bullying.

I dare say not much has changed.

Alcohol from grain and potatoes, at about 25 to 30 cents per gallon, was far too expensive to compete with petroleum, but alcohol from Cuban molasses, at 10 cents per gallon, was thought to be competitive.

Some observers suspected a conspiracy in the fact that Standard Oil of New Jersey had financial ties to the Caribbean alcohol market. The influence of an oil company over the alcohol industry was “a combination which many will regard as sinister,” said Tweedy.59

In 1942, Senate committees began looking into the extent to which the oil industry had controlled other industries, including the alcohol industry and the rubber industry. Attorney General Thurmond Arnold testified that anti-trust investigations had taken place into the oil industry’s influence in the alcohol industry in the 1913-1920 period, in the early 1920s, and between 1927 and 1936. “Renewed complaints in 1939 were brought to the anti-trust division but because of funds no action was taken,” Arnold said.60

Then the investigation of 1941 which exposed a “marriage” between Standard Oil Co. and the German chemical company I.G. Farben also brought new evidence concerning complex price and marketing agreements between du Pont Corp., a major investor in and producer of leaded gasoline, U.S. Industrial Alcohol Co. and their subsidiary, Cuba Distilling Co.

The investigation was eventually dropped, like dozens of others in many different kinds of industries, due to the need to enlist industry support in the war effort.

However, the top directors of many oil companies agreed to resign and oil industry stocks in molasses companies were sold off as part of a compromise worked out with Arnold.

Ethanol WAS ALWAYS a superior fuel to gasoline even WITHOUT the horrendous pollutants that an ICE burning gasoline produces. And ethanol requires NO CATALYTIC CONVERTER.

Every nasty, negative naysaying thing you have heard about ethanol from it using up food crops to having a “low” EROEI to corroding engines from increased water vapor to it being less economical than gasoline is DISINFORMATION and I can prove it point by point.

**”The gasoline engine became the preferred engine for the automobile because gasoline was cheaper than alcohol, not because it was a better fuel. And, because alcohol was not available at any price from 1920 to 1933, a period during which the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol was banned nationally as mandated in the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment was repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment on December 5, 1933. In time to produce alcohol fuels during World War II.

By the time World War II ended, the gasoline engine had become “entrenched” because gasoline remained cheaper than Alcohol, and widely distributed – gas stations were everywhere.”

and very large fossil fuel dependency.


(phase 3) Maybe that was true in 1980 but NOW it is only partially true. Norway has about 100% penetration of renewable energy in their electric grid. Other highly industrialized countries have high penetration as well. This mean the electric arc furnaces for smelting steel and other high temperature thermal processes dependent on electricity are using very little fossil fuels to make renewable energy machines in these places.

Also Nuclear power plants, something neither you nor I favor, have always been made with fossil fuels but that never stopped our government from making or heavily subsidizing that new energy technology. Why should it be different for renewable energy machines?
Observe below the Renewable Energy penetration of the electric grid in various industrialized countries

Electric Grid Renewable energy Penetration in Selected Markets

Although we technically do not have PV manufacturing plants or Wind turbine manufacturers driving EV trucks or mining with EV machines as well as powering their factories with wind and PV or some other renewable energy, it’s just a matter of time.

WHY? Because of the HIGH EROEI of Renewable Energy devices. They pay for themselves in a few years and then, as long as they are properly maintained, last a number of decades while using ZERO fossil fuels throughout the entire period.

The fossil fuel powered internal combustion machine is not competitive with Renewable Energy technolgies UNLESS fossil fuels retain their massive subsidies and continue to limit the market penetration of renewable energy systems in the USA and elseware with the threadbare excuse, and untrue allegation, that they are “too intermittent”.

The Great Transition, Part I: From Fossil Fuels to Renewable Energy
Lester R. Brown

In fact renewables is a minomer. The sun will continue to shine and the wind to blow, but steel is not renewable and neither are many other essential components.

Six Terrawat hours a year of energy is expended each year in the USA just to make the internal combustion engines and spare parts. How come you never complained of this massive amount of energy involving “non-renewable” steel used in manufacturing internal combustion machines?

Renewable Energy devices terminology refers to the FACT, that once they are constructed, they don’t USE fossil fuels to output energy. And the metal used in Renewables is not high temperature alloy metal like that required for internal combustion engines which makes it recyclable with LESS energy than that required for internal combustion engine metals.

In fact, we need far less steel and other metals to replace the entire internal combustion independent infrastructure with renewable energy WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL MINING by just cannibalizing the internal combustion machines for Renewable Energy machine metals as we make the transition.

Yes, I know about the rare earth metals mining pollution. I can only remind you of that phrase, “drop in the bucket” compared with the benefits of doing away with fossil fuels altogether.

For As Long As The Sun Shines: The Non-Crisis of PV Module Reliability

The demand and price collapse will kill much of renewable development,

Prices have gone up for fossil fuels even as demand has gone down. This has actually spurred the switch to renewables , not dampened it.

Retail Prices (Dollars per Gallon) 2012-2013

Volatile fossil fuel prices make renewable energy more attractive

especially at a large scale.

(phase 3)

To date, we’ve committed over $1 billion to renewable energy project investments, signed … It may also be more feasible to build larger power installations …. and match their demand with utility-scale solution

You cannot run an industrial society on intermittent energy sources with low EROEI.

The Renewable energy blend eliminates intermittency and the low EROEI claim has been proven, not just inaccurate, but the exact reverse.

CSP technology can also be coupled with energy storage, one of the hottest topics in the renewable energy industry this year. Plants that include energy storage with molten salt can store solar power and dispatch it in the early evening and into the night. Tex Wilkins from the CSP Alliance thinks this application could make PV, which is often viewed as a threat to CSP, a complimentary technology. “The ability of CSP with storage to dispatch its power to the grid in the early morning and evening can combine with daytime PV to spread out the use of solar power from the time people get up early in the morning until they go to bed late at night,” he explained. Wilkins said that in five years most CSP plants will include energy storage. Van Scoter from eSolar said in five years he expects that most CSP projects will include molten salt or ISCC technology. “There is also a high potential for projects involving industrial process heat, EOR and desalination,” he said.
All CSP experts said that utilities are just beginning to recognize CSP’s value – a renewable energy able to provide base load, dispatchable power. According to SkyFuel’s Mason, “This attribute of CSP is its main differentiator from PV and wind, and will ensure its increasing uptake in the power market.”
Intermittency Of Renewables?… Not So Much

For As Long As The Sun Shines: The Non-Crisis of PV Module Reliability

Feed in tariffs are already being cut worldwide, and without them renewable power is not competitive.

This is a generalization and is inaccurate as well.
It is also a faulty comparison. The MASSIVE subsidies fossil and nuclear fules get dwarf any feed in tariff “advantage” for Renewable energy.

If all fossil and nuclear fuel subsidies were removed, the ridiculously tiny Renewable Energy subsidies in the form of feed in tariffs and other paltry incentives would be even less significant than they are now.

I know you are adverse to feed in tariffs. It is not logical for you to be adverse to FIT and not ALSO be adverse to fossil fuel subsidies like THESE:

Expensing of Intangible Drilling Costs

Percentage Depletion Allowance

Deduction for Tertiary Injectants

Geological and Geophysical Expenditures

Exception for passive loss limitations for oil and gas

Enhanced oil recovery credit

Marginal oil well credit

You eliminate ALL THE ABOVE and the pittance that FIT represents can be eliminated quite easily, thank you very much. Just google fossil fuel and nuclear power subsidies to date in the USA alone and then look at the tiny sliver of a percentage of subsidies for renewables to date.

Of course, fossil fuel industries want renewable enrgy to go away and are doing everything possible to make that happen. Eliminating FIT would be one step to that goal while keeping fossil fuel subsidies intact.

Said Brian Jennings, ACE executive vice president, in a release, “If oil companies cannot stand on their own two feet after 100 years of clinging to certain taxpayer subsidies, Congress shouldn’t hurt American consumers by repealing the RFS, a policy that helps level the playing field with oil a little bit by giving people affordable and renewable fuel choices.”

Since we cannot run this society on renewables, our society will have to change.

A logical conclusion based on the low EROEI incorrect premise and the intermittency incorrect premise.

With an incorrect premise, you will always come to the wrong conclusion.

The fact that renewable energy has grown in leaps and bounds for over three years now is proof that it is a more profitable energy source, as well as being non-polluting after manufacture, than the poisonous fossil fuels.

The renewable energy percentage use targets are INCREASING, not decreasing as you incorrectly believe. Here’s just one example:

Vermont may have more foresight than other states it its ambitious 90% renewable energy target by 2050, but it’s really the sign of a paradigm shift in energy, says Dave.

Prepare For Disruptive Solar Technology
In 2013, the landscape is drastically different. Solar power is here to stay, and the major manufacturers should be motivated to make big moves.

We will have to learn to live within our means.

Most people in the world already do. It’s people with giant carbon footprints that don’t.

I think what you are doing in lowering your carbon footprint is laudable but be aware that every time you board an aircraft, you have just used up about 6 months worth of the carbon footprint of a person in the third world. That doesn’t help.

This article was not about poisoned aquifers. I have written about that before though. I cannot cover everything in every article or there would be no focus. Of course fracking is obscene, the environmental risks are huge and a few well connected individuals are making a killing from the ponzi scheme. The price collapse will eventually prevent it, just not right now when there is still money to be made.

Yes, the environmental risks, and damages as well, are already huge. Fracking adds insult to injury. It’s time to stop supporting this biosphere killing technology, regardless of the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on governments and policy.

The country is in the midst of an unprecedented oil and gas drilling rush—brought on by a controversial technology called hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
Along with this fracking-enabled oil and gas rush have come troubling reports of poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths, industrial disasters and explosions. We call them Fraccidents.

The numbers are bad even with externalities excluded, and are of course much worse with them. Some of these things are very difficult to quantify, and over-quantification doesn’t really help anyway.

Well, it DOES HELP the frackers in attracting investment capital to have energy experts publish EROEI numbers above 1:1, does it not? A real world EROEI woud remind these planet poisoners of the repercussions of their actions AND make it HARDER for them to get investment capital.

The less happy the EROEI numbers, the less inclined they will be to engage in criminal and toxic activity. If energy experts don’t do it, who is, besides the scientific community which is getting drowned out by the bought and paid for media?

I can show you a Buffalo University study about three years old (not the snow job that came later falsely claiming it was peer reviewed and forced to recant) that proved conclusively that Uranium traces would come up in the process of fracking and invade the aquifers, not at radiactive dose danger levels but as heavy metal pollutants.

There’s a LOT more bad stuff going on out there. If you don’t know about it, you should.

Gas fracking corruption posts:

‘Fracking’ Mobilizes Uranium in Marcellus Shale, UB Research Finds

This is real politik – the way the world really works.

You mean that’s the way the POLITICAL WORLD works.
The planet and the biosphere, according to serious, objective, proven environmental science, will become uninhabitable if we do not stop burning fossil fuels within a couple of decades (See video above in this document of panel of scientists where one British Scientist actually says that the REAL, “real world” is about to overwhelm the perception managed “real politik, real world” the fossil fuel industry and most of mankind falsely believe they live in. Note: Part 2 of that video is extremely informative as well.).

The intransigence of the fossil fuel industry in this matter is a given. They wish to avoid liability for the damage they have casued so they have, for several decades, (See the George C. Marshal Institute) launched a campaign of disinformation to claim there is NO climate threat whatsoever.

The disinformation has used the scare tactic that we are running out of fossil fuels. Sure, according to latest estimates, we have about 37 years left of oil and slightly over 100 years of coal.

I certainly think those numbers don’t translate into an imminent collapse UNLESS the fossil fuel fascists (that isn’t hyperbole) engineer one as an additional scare tactic.

Don’t tell me the industry famous for contrived price shocks and oil resource wars is not capable of that.

Here’s a PRIME example of what the fossil fuel industry has done to the USA and the world:

A quote from the following Peer Reviewed book:

Dilworth (2010-03-12). Too Smart for our Own Good (pp. 399-400). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

“As suggested earlier, war, for example, which represents a cost for society, is a source of profit to capitalists. In this way we can partly understand e.g. the American military expenditures in the Persian Gulf area. Already before the first Gulf War, i.e. in 1985, the United States spent $47 billion projecting power into the region. If seen as being spent to obtain Gulf oil, It AMOUNTED TO $468 PER BARREL, or 18 TIMES the $27 or so that at that time was paid for the oil itself.

In fact, if Americans had spent as much to make buildings heat-tight as they spent in ONE YEAR at the end of the 1980s on the military forces meant to protect the Middle Eastern oil fields, THEY COULD HAVE ELIMINATED THE NEED TO IMPORT OIL from the Middle East.

So why have they not done so? Because, while the $468 per barrel may be seen as being a cost the American taxpayers had to bear, and a negative social effect those living in the Gulf area had to bear, it meant only profits for American capitalists. ”

Note: I added the bold caps emphasis on the barrel of oil price, money spent in one year and the need to import oil from the Middle East.

Consequently, all extrapolated future scenarios the Peak Oil people come up with must have their premises scrutinized to see how much of that is fossil fuel propaganda.

I have. The collapse scenario does not add up.

In that video above, the scientific community makes it crystal clear that there is easily another 100 years of coal, a much more polluting fossil fuel than oil, available regardless of the state of petroleum depletion.

So it is not realistic to say everything is just going stop one day from a chain of collapses in economies. The available fossil fuels are still TOO available.

The worsening weather will be the ONLY thing that will spur change unless the 1% performs a coup d’état on the fossil fuel world power structure and even then we already passed the point a couple of decades ago when bioremediation was going to be fairly straight forward.

So the Peak Oil people and preppers, like you, are doing themselves a world of good by preparing for a lower carbon footprint and learning many low tech survival skills because, even in the best of the three scenarios I envisioned (no die off), we will still have to reduce our carbon footprint until we get all the bugs out of the 100% renewable energy PLUS 20-40% carbon sequestering economy implemented to GET BACK to below 350 ppm.

You are wrong to think it will all collapse but you are right to prepare for hard times and horrible weather. Hansen said the atmospheric and oceanic inertia is nearly 100 years. I had thought it was only about 30 years.

That means we are experiencing NOW the effects of our generated pollutants (if you say the incubation inertia is 50 years or so) as of 1963!

Consider all the pollutants that have poured in to the biosphere since then and you start to understand why brilliant people like Guy McPherson are so despondent. There is NO WAY we can stop the pollution/bad weather clock from CONTINUING to deteriorate for another 50 years (or 100 if Hansen is right) even if we STOPPED using all fossil fuels today.

I’m not in charge and neither are you. But clinging to this fossil fuel fantasyland of cheap power and all we “owe” it for our civilization is not going to do anything but make things deteriorate faster.

If enough people reach the 1%, maybe they will wake up. It’s all we can do in addition to trying to foster community.

The system, as defined by the fossil fuel fascist dystopia that currently runs most of the human affairs among the 1 billion population in the developed world that are saddling the other 6 billion, who are totally free of guilt for causing it, with this climate horror we are beginning to experience, IS quite stubborn and does not wish to change the status quo.

Mother nature will force it to do so.

Whether it is done within the next two decades or not (i.e. a swtch to 100% PLUS bioremediation Renewable Energy steady state economy) will dictate the size of the die off, not only of humans but thousands of other species as well.

We are now in a climate cake that has been baked for about 1,000 years according to atmospheric, objective, proven with experimental data, science.

My somewhat quixotic hope as fleshed out in the following article is that the 1% will respond to the crisis with a crash program to bioremediate the biosphere as a matter of enlightened self interest.

If the crash program to switch to renewable energy is to begin soon, I expect the trigger for the crash program will be the first ice free arctic summer (according to my estimates :icon_mrgreen:) in 2017.

So I would use that future melting now as a rallying point to wake people up and join in the effort to ban fossil fuels from planet earth. Expect the fossil fuelers to counter that polar ice melting catastrophic reality with propaganda about what a “wonderful” thing it is to have a new ocean to shorten ship traveling (i.e. TANKERS) distances. So it goes.

But if things go well for humanity and the 1% galvanize to save the biosphere and their stuff :icon_mrgreen:, we will witness the dismantelling of the centralized fossil fuel infrastructure, it’s use and, more importantly, the relinquishing of political power worldwide by big oil.

15 April 2013
James Hansen1. Exaggeration? I have been told of specific well-respected people who have asserted that “Jim Hansen exaggerates” the magnitude and imminence of the climate threat. If only that were true, I would be happy.
[b]“Magnitude and imminence” compose most of the climate story.[b]

It’s about money and power.

Correct. It has ALWAYS been about POWER (which always brings easy money).

It has NEVER been about ENERGY beyond CONTROLLING the spigot to we-the-people.

That’s why the fossil fuel industry simply didn’t switch to the much more profitable and economical renewable energy technologies long ago (they certainly have the money to do so); they simply could not figure out a way to retain POWER and CONTROL with a distributed, rather than a centralized energy system.

The expansion phase of the bubble concealed that for a while by floating many boats temporarily.

No comment except that the forces of nature will overwhelm any bubble mechanics that corrupt central bankers or Wall Street can come up with.

The importance of financial activity pales in the face of climate change.

I wish that wasn’t the way it worked, but it does, whether we like it or not. All we can do is to understand our situation and make the best of it.

Renewable Energy is making life and profits more and more difficult for the fossil fuel corporations.

But you are right that they run the corrupt system and do not want to cede their power (even if it kills all of us).

Robert F. Kennedy Jr: In the next decade there will be an epic battle for survival for humanity against the forces of ignorance and greed. It’s going to be Armageddon, represented by the oil industry on one side, versus the renewable industry on the other.

And people are going to have to choose sides – including politically. They will have to choose sides because oil and coal, they will not be able to survive – they are not going to be able to burn their proven reserves.

If they do, then we are all dead. And they are quite willing to burn it. We’re all going to be part of that battle. We are going to watch governments being buffeted by the whims of money and greed on one side, and idealism and hope on the other.

This ends my response and rebuttal of your statements and predicitons.

Do you now recognize that what you told me, wittingly or unwittingly, was fossil fuel anti-renewable energy propaganda?

I have shown the error in your statements and request you reconsider your position on everything you said to me.

The fossil fuel industry and those who side with it, regardless of appearing to take a pro-environment position in their personal lives, are hurting our chances for a viable biosphere.

Those who, instead, simply stand their ground on the settled climate science and state unequivocally that fossil fuels must be BANNED from human use forever and the fossil fuel industries dismantled while a massive transition to a lower carbon footprint and 100% plus renewable energy economy takes place, are the only hope Homo sapiens has.

The question is, which side are you on?

Typical phases of resistance to renewable energy, as descriped by Dr. Herman Scheer are as follows:

Phase 1 – Belittle & Deny the Renewable Energy Option

Phase 2 – Denounce & Mobilize Against the Renewable Energy Option

Phase 3 – Spread Doubt & Misrepresent the Challenges in the Disguise of General Support

(Note: reaching Phase 3 doesn’t mean that Phase 1 & 2 will disappear.)


Historic proof that manufacturing all the renewable energy machines and infrastructure needed to transition to a 100% Renewable Energy world ecnomy can be achieved in two decades or less: The mass produced Liberty Ships of WWII.
The other day, a knowledgable mechanical engineer I know stated this concern about the colossal challenge and, in his opinion, impossibility of switching to renewable energy machines in time to avoid a collapse from an energy to manufacture and global industrial capacity limitation in our civilizational infrastructure.

He said:

I admire your enthusiasm, and I agree with many of the points you make. Yes ICE waste high EROEI consistently, yes fossil fuels and conventional engineering has a warped distorted perspective because of the ICE, and yes we have an oil oligarchy protecting its turf.

However say we hypothetically made all the oil companies dissappear tommorow and where able to suspend the laws of time and implement our favorite renewables of choice and then where tasked with making certain all of societies critical needs were met we’d have a tall order. The devil is in the details and quantities.

Its the magnitudes, its 21 million barallels per day we are dependent on. Its created massive structural centralization that can only be sustained by incredible energetic inputs. Not enough wind, and not enough rare earth material for PV’s to scale and replace. We have to structurally rearrange society to solve the problem. Distributed solar powered villaged, not bit cities and surely not suburbia. I fear we’ll sink very useful resources and capital towards these energy sources (as we arguably have with wind) when the real answer is structural change.

I have shown evidence that there are several multiples of the energy we now consume available just from wind power. This data came from a recent study by Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Scientists.

He thinks we CAN’T do it even if we had enough wind because of the colossal challenge and, in his opinion, impossibility of switching to renewable enrgy machines in time to avoid a collapse from an energy required to manufacture and global industrial capacity limitation in our civilizational infrastructure.

His solution is to survive the coming collapse with small distributed energy systems and a radically scaled down carbon footprint. Sadly, that option will not be available to a large percentage of humanity.

Hoping for a more positive future scenario, I analyzed his concerns to see if they are valid and we have no other option but to face a collapse and a die off with the surviving population living at much lower energy use levels.

I’m happy to report that, although the mechanical engineer has just cause to be concerned, we can, in reality, transition to 100% Renewable Energy without overtaxing our civilizational resources.

This a slim hope but a real one based on history and the word’s present manufacturing might. Read on.

I give you the logistics aiding marvel of WWII, the Liberty Ship. It was THE JIT (just in time), SIT (sometimes in time) and sometimes NIT (never in time because it was torpedoed) cargo delivery system that helped us win the war.

This was a mass produced ship. These ships are a testament to the ability to build an enormous quantity of machines on a global scale that the U.S. was capable of over half a century ago.

The Liberty ship model used two oil boilers and was propelled by a single-screw steam engine, which gave the liberty ship a cruise speed of 11 to 11.5 knots. The ships were 441.5 feet long, with a 57 foot beam and a 28 foot draft.
The ships were designed to minimize labor and material costs; this was done in part by replacing many rivets with welds. This was a new technique, so workers were inexperienced and engineers had little data to go on. Additionally, much of the shipyards’ labor force had been replaced with women as men joined the armed forces. Because of this, early ships took quite a long time to build – the Patrick Henry taking 244 days –
but the average building time eventually came down to just 42 days.
A total of 2,710 Liberty ships were built, with an expected lifespan of just five years. A little more than 2,400 made it through the war, and 835 of these entered the US cargo fleet. Many others entered Greek and Italian fleets. Many of these ships were destroyed by leftover mines, which had been forgotten or inadequately cleared. Two ships survive today, both operating as museum ships. They are still seaworthy, and one (the Jeremiah O’Brien) sailed from San Francisco to England in 1994.

These ships had a design flaw. The grade of steel used to build them suffered from embrittlement. Cracks would propagate and in 3 cases caused the ships to split in half and sink. It was discovered and remediated.

Ships operating in the North Atlantic were often exposed to temperatures below a critical temperature, which changed the failure mechanism from ductile to brittle. Because the hulls were welded together, the cracks could propagate across very large distances; this would not have been possible in riveted ships.

A crack stress concentrator contributed to many of the failures. Many of the cracks were nucleated at an edge where a weld was positioned next to a hatch; the edge of the crack and the weld itself both acted as crack concentrators. Also contributing to failures was heavy overloading of the ships, which increased the stress on the hull. Engineers applied several reinforcements to the ship hulls to arrest crack propagation and initiation problems.
Heavily loaded ship, several countries have, as do we, a much greater industrial capacity. It is inaccurate to claim that we cannot produce sufficient renewable energy devices in a decade or so to replace the internal combustion engine everywhere in our civilization. The industrial capacity is there and is easily provable by asking some simple questions about the fossil fuel powered ICE status quo:

[size=10pt]How long do ICE powered machines last?

How much energy does it require to mine the raw materials and manufacture the millions of engines wearing out and being replaced day in and day out?

What happens if ALL THAT INDUSTRIAL CAPACITY is, instead, dedicated to manufacturing Renewable Energy machines?

IOW, if there is a ten to twenty year turnover NOW in our present civilization involving manufacture and replacement of the ICEs we use, why can’t we retool and convert the entire ICE fossil fuel dependent civilization to a Renewable Energy Machine dependent civilization?

1) The industrial capacity is certainly there to do it EASILY in two decades and maybe just ten years with a concerted push.

2) Since Renewable Energy machines use LESS metal and do not require high temperature alloys, a cash for clunkers worldwide program could obtain more than enough metal raw material without ANY ADDITIONAL MINING (except for rare earth minerals – a drop in the bucket – :icon_mrgreen: LOL- compared to all the mining presently done for metals to build the ICE) by just recycling the ICE parts into Renewable Energy machines.

3) Just as in WWII, but on a worldwide scale, the recession/depression would end as millions of people were put to work on the colossal transition to Renewable Energy.

[size=14pt]HOWEVER, despite our ABILITY to TRANSITION TO 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY, we “CAN’T DO IT” ??? because the fossil fuel industry has tremendous influence on the worldwide political power structure from the USA to Middle East to Russia to China.


IOW, it was NEVER

1. An energy problem,

2. A “laws of thermodynamics” problem,

3. A mining waste and pollution problem,

4. A lack of wind or sun problem,

5. An environmental problem,

6. An industrial capacity problem or

7. A technology problem.

EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE ABOVE excuses for claiming Renewable Energy cannot replace Fossil Fuels are STRAWMEN presented to the public for the express purpose of convincing us of the half truth that without fossil fuels, civilization will collapse.

It was ALWAYS a POLITICAL PROBLEM of the fossil fuel industry not wanting to relinquish their stranglehold on the world’s geopolitical make up.

It drives them insane to think that Arizona and New Mexico can provide more power than all the oil in the Middle East. Their leverage over lawmakers and laws to avoid environmental liability is directly proportional to their market share of global energy supplies.

They are treatened by Renewable Energy and have mobilized to hamper its growth as much as possible through various propaganda techniques using all the above strawmen.

It is TRUE that civilization will collapse and a huge die off will occur without fossil fuels IF, and ONLY IF, Renewable Energy does not replace fossil fuels. It is blatantly obvious that we need energy to run our civilization.

It is ALSO TRUE that if we continue to burn fossil fuels in ICEs, Homo sapiens will become extinct. This is not hyperbole. We ALREADY have baked in conditions, that take about three decades to fully develop, that have placed us in a climate like the one that existed over 3 million years ago.

We DID NOT thrive in those conditions or multiply. This is a fact. We barely survived until a couple of hundred thousand years ago when the weather became friendlier and even then we didn’t really start to populate the planet until about 10,000 years ago.

The climate 3 million years ago was, basically, mostly lethal to Homo Sapiens. To say that we have technology and can handle it is a massive dodge of our responsibility for causing this climate crisis (and ANOTHER strawman from Exxon “We will adapt to that” :evil4: CEO).

Fossil fuel corporations DO NOT want to be held liable for the damage they have caused, so, even as they allow Renewable Energy to have a niche in the global energy picture, will use that VERY NICHE (see rare earth mining and energy to build PV and wind turbines) to blame Renewables for environmental damage.

In summary, the example of the Liberty ships is proof we CAN TRANSITION TO RENEWABLE ENERGY in, at most, a couple of decades if we decide to do it but WON’T do it because of the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on political power, financing and laws along with the powerful propaganda machine they control.

Three different future scenarios

What can we expect from the somewhat dismal prospects for Homo sapiens?

1) Terrible weather and melted polar ice caps with an increase in average wind velocity in turn causing more beach erosion from gradually rising sea level and wave action. The oceans will become more difficult to traverse because of high wave action and more turbulent seas. The acidification will increase the dead zones and reduce aquatic life diversity. But you’ve heard all this before so I won’t dwell on the biosphere problems that promise to do us in.

2) As Renewable Energy devices continue to make inroads in fossil fuel profits, expect an engineered :evil4: partial civilizational collapse in a large city to underline the “you are all going to die without fossil fuels” propaganda pushed to avoid liability for the increasingly “in your face” climate extremes.

3) Less democracy and less freedom of expression from some governments and more democracy and freedom of expression from other governments in

direct proportion to the percent penetration of Renewable energy machines in powering their countries (more RE, more freedom)

and an inverse proportion to the power of their “real politik” Fossil Fuel lobbies in countries. (more FF power, less freedom).

The bottom line, as Guy McPherson says, is that NATURE BATS LAST. Nature has millions of “bats”. Homo SAP has a putrid fascist parasite bleeding it to death and poisoning it at the same time. The parasite cannot survive without us so it is allowing us to get a tiny IV to keep us alive a little longer (a small percentage of renewable energy machines). It won’t work.

But the parasite has a plan. The IV will be labelled a “parasite” (the villain and guilty party) when Homo SAP finally figures out he is going to DIE if he doesn’t fix this “bleeding and poison” problem. Then the real parasite will try to morph into a partially symbiotic organism and Homo SAP will muddle through somehow.

I think that the parasite doesn’t truly appreciate the severity of Mother Nature’s “bat”.

Three future Scenarios:

1. If the parasite (as a metaphor for a fossil fuel powered civilization) does not DIE TOTALLY, I don’t think any of us will make it. :emthdown:

2. If the the parasite takes MORE than 20 years to die, some of us will make it but most of us won’t. :emthdown:

3. If, in 2017, when the north pole has the first ice free summer, all the governments of the Earth join in a crash program to deep six the use of fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine within a ten year period, most of us will make it. :emthup: :sunny:

A word about political power and real politik living in a fossil fuel fascist dystopia.

IT simply DOES NOT MATTER what the ‘real world”, “real politik” geopolitical power structure mankind has now is. IT DOES NOT MATTER how powerful the fossil fuel industry is in human affairs. The ICE and fossil fuels have to go or Mother Nature will kill us, PERIOD.

Pass it on. You never know when somebody on the wrong side of the Darwininan fence will read it and join the effort to save humanity.

Save as many as you can!


Podcast: Nicole Foss (Stoneleigh) on Energy-Part 2

Off the microphones of Nicole Foss, RE & Monsta

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 7, 2013


Discuss at the Podcast Table inside the Diner

In this Podcast, Nicole, RE and Monsta discuss the Energy issues confronting Industrial Society as the Age of Oil comes to a close.

We delve into the economic and environmental issues surrounding both Nuclear Energy and Renewable Energy resources such as Solar, Wind and Hydro power.  How will credit contraction affect the development of future energy resources?  How will the Waste Disposal and decomissioning problems for the current generation of Nuclear Power Plants be handled?  Is Thorium Nuclear a viable option?

What are the true calculations for EROEI for Renewables?  How is the Renewable paradigm being pursued now, and is there a better way to develop these resources?

All this and much much more in the Podcast!


The Week That Was in Doom May 19, 2013

From the Keyboard of Surly1

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 19, 2013

Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 In which we walk around the weekly cultural signifiers that indicate that we are, week by week, proudly and confidently approaching the zero point with the same cheery sense of self-assurance with which lemmings are said to approach a cliff.  The Week That Was In Doom, might otherwise be known “as things that make you want to guzzle antifreeze,” with apologies and a tip o’ the Surly Crown of Thorns to Charlie Pierce. Pass the Prestone, hold the ice. And see what the rest of the crew will have, will ya barkeep?

 “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” –H. “Rap” Brown

We started out the week by celebrating Mother’s Day in traditional American fashion, meaning blowing the shit out of a bunch of people with guns.

Nineteen people have been wounded in a shooting at a Mother’s Day parade in the US city of New Orleans, police say. The victims included two children who were grazed by bullets. Police say most injuries are not life-threatening. It is unclear what sparked the shooting in the city’s 7th Ward on Sunday afternoon. Police say three suspects were seen fleeing the area. The incident happened at about 14:00 (19:00 GMT) at the intersection of Frenchmen and Villere streets. “Shots were fired with different guns,” a police statement said. “Immediately after the shooting our officers saw three suspects running from the scene.” The statement said 10 men, seven women, a 10-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were wounded by gunfire. FBI spokeswoman Mary Beth Romig said they had “no reason to believe it was an act of terror, just street violence”.


For my money, Rising Hegemon’s rising snark sums up the whole proceedings just fine.

What could be more American  

Than this headline?

It is unclear what sparked the shooting, which happened in the city’s 7th Ward on Sunday afternoon. Police say two or three suspects were seen fleeing the area. Police said that, as well as the 12 people with gunshot wounds, one person was injured in the ensuing panic.

It is all part of a typical week of gun incidents in this country, which the NRA would like to have you completely ignore. Cue Lee Greenwood.

By the end of the week, two brothers with gang ties and a history of drug offenses had been arrested for the deed, the narrative in place, the crime scene tape pulled up, so everything is hunky-dory again, right?

Two brothers with a history of drug arrests and suspected ties to a neighborhood gang each face 20 counts of attempted second-degree murder in a shooting spree that brought a sudden bloody end to a neighborhood Mother’s Day parade.



 Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.    ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


How really depraved are we? Really? (h/t Joe P.) Earlier in the week I found myself arguing that the story could not possibly be true, but I discoved that the only problem here is my own paucity of imagination.

Rich Manhattan moms hire

handicapped tour guides so kids can

cut lines at Disney World

The “black-market Disney guides” run $130 an hour, or $1,040 for an eight-hour day. “My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours,” crowed one mom, who hired a disabled guide through Dream Tours Florida.

“You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge,’’ she sniffed. “This is how the 1 percent does Disney.”

The woman said she hired a Dream Tours guide to escort her, her husband and their 1-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter through the park in a motorized scooter with a “handicapped” sign on it. The group was sent straight to an auxiliary entrance at the front of each attraction.

Someone on Facebook observed that at least this gave some occasional employment to the handicapped.  Sometimes we are left without words. And sometimes the news comes pre-loaded with its own layer of snark.



Those paying attention to continued congressional treason and the incompetence and misfeasance of the Obama administration were treated to The Benghazi Dumb Show and Obama’s IRS shooting itself in the foot. Charlie Pierce’s take:

Obama’s IRS answer probably won’t satisfy Republicans demanding a public apology from the president and insisting the story indicates Obama’s White House is run like Nixon’s. But the president put himself on the same page with elected officials of all political stripes Monday who demanded to know more about what happened at the IRS and the firing of those responsible for any malfeasance. No. It won’t satisfy them. He could have climbed up on a cross and driven nails into his own palms and that wouldn’t have satisfied them. Why is that the point? The media has no affirmative obligation to decide that a “political circus” has broken out and that it has no job left except to write play-by-play on what the monkeys are doing. Obama’s White House is not like Nixon’s any more than it is like the court of Robert The Bruce. Because some Republicans are still carrying old Watergate grudges around like goiters in their consciences is no reason for smart people to play along with it. Nixon’s IRS did not call out its own mistakes. Nixon’s IRS did not apologize. Nixon did not call a press conference and denounce the IRS for what it did, and this was because Nixon ordered the IRS to do what it did, and not even Nixon was a rancid enough bag of old sins to do something like that. So what is the purpose of throwing his name in there at all? Because the Republicans used it? That’s not good enough. In 2004, the NAACP actually got audited in the wake of its having been critical of the then-reigning Avignon Presidency. Remember how that dominated the Sunday Showz for months and led to endless hearings in both houses of Congress?

Dept. of Now They Notice. Funny how AP notices what many of us have been bitching about for about for a fking decade, governmental investigative overreach and the metatastized surveillance state,  when it’s their titty caught in a wringer:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news. The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.
Now there is some debate as to whether or not the seizure was justified,  on grounds of the ever-useful “national security” reason. Meanwhile, we are treated to the spectacle of editors drawing themselves up to their full Lilliputian stature and solemnly intoning on how the seizure of AP phone records is an insult to an independent press. How quaint. Actually it is the current state of the press that is an insult to an independent press.  you’ll recall that nobody said a damn thing when Eric Holder’s Justice Department took numerous mulligans on investigating white-collar financial crime. In the so-called independent press had very little to say when “Homeland Security” (sic) and its federalized local thugs employed overwhelming force against unarmed Occupy protesters.  But then that was somebody else’s titty, wasn’t it?
Again, Charlie Pierce’s take:

This is what got people sent to jail in the mid-1970s. This is the Plumbers, all over again, except slightly more formal this time, and laundered, disgracefully, even more directly through the Department Of Justice. And of course, this is not nearly good enough. And even if you point out, as you should, that the AP is hyping this story a little — The government “secretly” obtained the records? Doesn’t that imply that nobody knew the records had been seized? Wasn’t there a subpoena? The phone companies knew. — the ignoble clumsiness of this more than obviates those particular quibbles.

No Charlie, no subpoena, thanks to the quick work of our friends at Verizon Wireless.

When the feds came knocking for AP journalists’ call records last year, Verizon apparently turned the data over with no questions asked. The New York Times, citing an AP employee,reported Tuesday that at least two of the reporters’ personal cellphone records “were provided to the government by Verizon Wireless without any attempt to obtain permission to tell them so the reporters could ask a court to quash the subpoena.”

Customers of Verizon Wireless, take comfort in the knowledge that your company passed AP reporters’ phone records to the feds. Remember, muppets, “It’s The Network™.”






In other news, we learn that many of the troglodyte members of the House of Representatives, the mouth-breathing consensus who yearn so dearly for the opportunity to lay a dollop of tar on presumed 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with the Benghazi flap as the tar-laden cudgel, can’t even locate Benghazi on a map. Hilarity ensues.



And  in less amusing news,  the results of the preliminary investigation into the explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas came in. Or not.

Robert Champion, the ATF special agent in charge, said investigators have ruled out the possibility of an earlier fire, spontaneous ignition, smoking, weather or a 480 volt electrical system. He said investigators have not ruled foul play, or a problem with a 120 volt electrical system. The officials would not discuss the arrest of Bryce Reed, a volunteer paramedic and one of the first on the scene, who was arrested last week for possession of bomb making materials. The Insurance Council of Texas estimates the damage to surrounding homes and businesses will exceed $100 million.

Clearly, Texas investigators have also not ruled out attack by the Tsarniev Brothers, an alien energy death ray from a UFO, an attack by Al Qaeda, the Symbionese Liberation Army, or the work of a secret, “self-radicalizing” terrorist cabal led by Jimmy Hoffa and Judge Crater.  But never fear, the usual gaggle of self-righteous hypocrites are showing up for the cameras, squatting down and pinching off the expected pieties:

Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement Thursday evening expressing his appreciation to the investigators. “While the cause of the fire remains undetermined and the investigation continues, this tragedy has shown the world the definition of compassion, from volunteer firefighters across the state rushing to help their colleagues at the scene, to friends, neighbors and Texans stepping in to help those who lost so much in the blast,” he said. Texas U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz issued a joint statement thanking the investigators. “Our prayers remain with those struggling to recover and mourning the loss of loved ones. While the cause remains undetermined, it is our sincere hope that at the end of the investigation, the residents of West can find closure and begin to heal,” they said.

Thanks, investigolators, for the camera opportunity to flog a continued regime of deregulation. en, the Grey Lady herself took note  in the NY Times. Texas don’t need no stinking regulations:

Asked about the disaster, Mr. Perry responded that more government intervention and increased spending on safety inspections would not have prevented what has become one of the nation’s worst industrial accidents in decades.

“Through their elected officials,” he said, Texans “clearly send the message of their comfort with the amount of oversight.”

This antipathy toward regulations is shared by many residents here. Politicians and economists credit the stance with helping attract jobs and investment to Texas, which has one of the fastest-growing economies in the country, and with winning the state a year-after-year ranking as the nation’s most business friendly.

Raymond J. Snokhous, a retired lawyer in West who lost two cousins — brothers who were volunteer firefighters — in the explosion, said, “There has been nobody saying anything about more regulations.”

Texas has always prided itself on its free-market posture. It is the only state that does not require companies to contribute to workers’ compensation coverage. It boasts the largest city in the country, Houston, with no zoning laws. It does not have a state fire code, and it prohibits smaller counties from having such codes. Some Texas counties even cite the lack of local fire codes as a reason for companies to move there.

But Texas has also had the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities — more than 400 annually — for much of the past decade. Fires and explosions at Texas’ more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012.

Have a good look at what deregulation looks like. The explosion in April of a fertilizer plant near West, Tex., was so powerful that it registered as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake. McLennan, the county that includes West, has no fire code. Res ipsa loquitor. Awaiting the results earlier in the week, Pierce had it thus:

Whatever the investigators announce, the explosion will be linked to four decades of conservative-inspired deregulation, four decades of conservative-inspired corporate triumphalism, the deregulatory enthusiasm of every damn possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, and Rick Perry’s entire political career are pretty damn long, I’m guessing. But give up the e-mails, Holder! Ten more people died here than died in Benghazi.



In a development will be very satisfying to many readers of this page, particularly those who find room for cautious optimism in the growth of renewable energy and alternative fuels (thinking of you, AG), the nuclear industry had what by any measure has to be described is a pretty bad week.

Once touted as a successor, or at least a competitor, to carbon-based power, the nuclear sector has taken a beating as the momentum behind new projects stalls and enthusiasm for domestic fossil fuel production grows. Across the country, plans to build nuclear plants have hit roadblocks recently—a sharp turn for a sector that just a few years ago was looking forward to a renaissance. *** In recent weeks, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled against a proposed partnership between NRC Energy and Toshiba, citing a law that prohibits control of a U.S. plant by a foreign corporation. Elsewhere, Duke Energy scuttled plans to construct two nuclear reactors in North Carolina, while California officials warned that two damaged reactors could be shut down permanently if the NRC doesn’t take action to get the plants back online. The change in nuclear’s fortunes is staggering, given that the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power …. “Starting about four years ago, the industry felt it was in the middle of a renaissance” with applications for many new plants pending with the NRC, said Peter Bradford, a law professor and a former member of the commission. “They’ve gone from that high-water mark to a point at which … we’re actually seeing the closing of a few operating plants,which was unthinkable even a few years ago.”

 San Onofre, Palisades, Hanford, and even Shearon Harris near New Hill in Wake County, NC.    And none of this even includes anything new from Fukushima, where last week TEPCO engineers wanted to dump radioactive water right into the ocean.  Aging designs, expensive maintenance, which often turns into maintenance deferred, which in itself causes additional problems as corrosion builds up and makes restarting an idle plant even more problematic. Nuke plants are gifts that will continue to keep on giving; of that you may be sure.  Consider the implications when more local municipalities and utilities catch the virus Detroit has, of not having enough of the tax base and revenue stream to support infrastructure, and consider moving if you live within 50 miles of a nuke.


Of course none of this may make much difference if the sun has its way with us. We are told that a large solar flare may be a prelude to an entire year of heavy sunspot/solar storm activity.

The Sun erupted with a large solar flare in the direction of Earth early Friday morning, causing potential disruption to radio signals in the coming days and serving as a prelude to a period of heavy solar activity. The mid-level flare, classified as an M6.5 solar flare, “was associated with an Earth-direction coronal mass ejection (CME), a solar phenomenon that can send billions of tons of solar particles into space and can reach our planet days later,”according to Science World Report. While X-class solar flares are 10 times more powerful than Friday’s eruption, the radiation burst was the largest on record in 2013 and “caused an R2 radio blackout that has since subsided,” the site reported. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration classifies radio blackouts caused by space weather on a scale from R1 to R5, with R5 being the strongest. Scientists expect more such solar flares this year, because the Sun’s 11-year activity cycle is approaching its peak, expected to arrive in the closing months of 2013, Science World Report noted.

And now were told that NASA is warning that solar storms are possible. The implications of such an event are difficult to fathom. Current sunspots are said to be the diameter of 6 Earths, and some sunspot activity can lead to significant eruptions of radiation.

The Sun is currently reaching the peak of its 11-year solar cycle. The Solar Dynamics Observatory was launched by NASA in 2010. The observatory spacecraft is just one of many alerting NASA to signs of solar flares, or coronal mass ejections. One of the biggest concerns surrounding solar flares is the ability the storms have to take down our antiquated power grid. If a massive solar flare is directed at Earth, the fiscal destruction could be legendary. Both NASA and NOAA experts estimate the potential damage of such a direct hit would be in the trillions. The last major solar flare to directly impact Earth was in 1859, the Carrington Event. Telegraph wires reportedly snapped in half and caused multiple blazes. The folks of the 1800s were far less impacted by the solar flare than we would be today. Due to the computerized equipment inside vehicles built after the 1950s, nearly anything on four wheels (or two) would come to a screeching halt.

Just let the implications of that one sink in for a moment. Imagine a Carrington-type of event on top of the current economic and social dislocations we have. The mind reels.  We could be facing “a world made by hand” sooner than even Kunstler imagines.


According to Annalee Newitz,  We may be in for a disaster or set of disasters so profound they could kick off a series of mass extinctions. Of people this time,  in contrast to the mass extinctions that Homo sapiens has already caused for other species. Ms. new it’s has written a book, Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction,  that insists that human evolution has prepared us to survive future disasters.

Are we in the first act of a mass extinction that will end in the death of millions of plant and animal species across the planet, including us?

That’s what proponents of the “sixth extinction” theory believe. As the term suggests, our planet has been through five mass extinctions before. The dinosaur extinction was the most recent but hardly the most deadly: 65 million years ago, dinosaurs were among the 76 percent of all species on Earth that were extinguished after a series of natural disasters. But

185 million years before that, there was a mass extinction so devastating that paleontologists have nicknamed it the Great Dying. At that time, 95 percent of all species on the planet were wiped out over a span of roughly 100,000 years—most likely from megavolcanoes that erupted for centuries in Siberia, slowly turning the atmosphere to poison. And three more mass extinctions, some dating back over 400 million years, were caused by ice ages, invasive species, and radiation bombardment from space.


During the last million years of our evolution as a species, humans narrowly avoided extinction more than once. We lived through harsh conditions while another human group, the Neanderthals, did not. This isn’t just because we are lucky. It’s because as a species, we are extremely cunning when it comes to survival. If we want to survive for another million years, we should look to our history to find strategies that already worked. The title of this book, Scatter, Adapt, and Remember, is a distillation of these strategies. But it’s also a call to implement them in the future, by actively taking on the project of human survival as a social and scientific challenge.

So what promises to be another work of techno-optimism. Perhaps we will be smart enough, unselfish enough, and astute enough to employ strategies that will be necessary to save the bulk of humanity. Indeed, part of the mission statement of the Diner is to “Save as Many as you Can.” However my money is on the illuminati bunkering up and leaving a combination of disease, solar storms, acid rain and widespread dislocation to scour the Muppets from their earth.  Or so they think.


And Just so you know, the truth about lemmings has nothing to do with them committing suicide en masse by leaping off cliffs. it turns out that a Disney film, “White Wilderness,” used selectively shot and staged scenes that showed lemmings leaping off a cliff into water, and from there swimming out to the ocean to their Doom. (The film is still available on YouTube, for the curious.)  Turns out that the demise of lemmings, a voracious little Arctic vole, has much more to do with stoats, fox, owls and other predators. Far more so than cliffs.

 And here, in all the news that doesn’t fit for this week are some other links gathered liking gleanings from the field, and for which I lack the time and attention to  comment. You may find it of interest.   One thing is reasonably sure: next week will bring even more.

Brandon Smith on  terror, circular logic and the debasement of language in the quest for power:

GO’s article on vectors of human  extinction  

Personal extinction: Suicide rates in middle aged Americans- Mercola

America’s first climate refugees– with a tip o’ the Surly Crown o’Thorns to JoeP:

Net Energy End Game Theory…

Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia

Published on Economic Undertow on January 23, 2013

The time frame is less than two years: the world becomes net energy negative. At that point there is no turning the clock back.

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Gregor Macdonald discusses the end of inexpensive crude oil and the so-called production ‘Revolution’ hoopla with Chris Martenson’s (Peak Prosperity).

Gregor makes the point that the increase in crude prices after 1998 took a lot of analysts by surprise. Many predicted a decline to historical levels with drillers simply adding to output from inventory. This is a critical idea that remains in force to this day: that crude production is essentially low-cost, that crude is mis-priced, that manipulation is forcing prices higher, that prices will return to historical levels once manipulators are ‘surgically removed’ from the marketplace.

A fundamental principle of industrial modernity is oil can be wasted because it is cheap, it’s cheap because the only thing it’s good for is waste. The waste process is monetized, it is collateral for loans which ratchet the wasting process further along. After we borrow the first time, we borrow additional amounts in order to waste more as well as to service and roll-over the previous rounds of loans … Both the loans and the waste compound exponentially along with pressure on resources, the entire economy becomes saturated with debts and waste products while resources are exhausted.

What’s there not to like?

Problems emerge when crude oil is depleted and it becomes too costly to waste. If oil isn’t ‘waste-ably cheap’ customers cannot afford it, if the crude is not costly enough there are no returns for the driller. Our economic infrastructure has been built assuming cheap petroleum into the far distant future, our empire of ‘stuff’ is stranded by the high-priced variety … meanwhile, costly, difficult to extract crude is all that remains! Cost is the reef upon which the modern world has run aground: there isn’t enough margin remaining after paying the fuel bill to offer as collateral for new loans or to service debts … the fuel bill has to be very high or there is no more fuel!

A hundred years into the petroleum era and there are no ‘innovative’ scalable economic uses for crude other than to burn it! Despite massive conversion losses, cheap oil provides energy returns sufficient to support current living standards, not-wasting under the current regime doesn’t provide anything. Because of the absence of imagination and a shortage of high-cost/real value uses, the exhaustion of low-cost crude means the end of waste-based modernity: there is no ‘Plan B’.
Triangle of Doom 012113

Figure 1: From TFC Charts, continuous Brent monthly contract (click on for big). The top line represents what customers are able to pay, above that price there are no petroleum sales and price must decline as producers holding petroleum products cut their losses. The bottom line represents the ‘floor’ price that drillers must receive otherwise they cannot afford to bring new crude oil to the marketplace. There are a few things to keep in mind at all times:

– Since 2000, each incremental dollar (euro, yen or other currency) produces less crude than the dollar before. That is, today’s dollar produces less crude than yesterday’s dollar, tomorrow’s dollar will produce less crude than today’s. What is important is the relationship between the real cost of gaining fuel relative to the ability of the customers to meet this cost. This relationship is driven by the need of the driller to spend more in order to return less: this is net energy, it is currently declining, at some point net energy will become negative, that is, the use of energy will not provide returns, in the form of credit, sufficient to bring new energy supplies to the market.

– The gross amount of incremental credit available is the amount that the so-called customers are able to service at any time of roll-over credit that the establishment can cajole from lenders including central banks over a period of time. This incremental ‘serviceability’ or productivity of debt is decreasing … due to the negative feedback effects of high crude prices over time. See Charles A. S. Hall: ‘discretionary’ spending declines because more funds are diverted toward obtaining energy and away from the consumption of other goods and debt service, (PDF warning) Even though finance is creating more credit, that added credit is bringing less crude to the marketplace.

– It doesn’t matter how many discretionary dollars the establishment is able to cajole: at all times, the producer’s dollar is the same as the consumer’s dollar! Alternatively, the gallon of diesel fuel used by the driller is the same gallon (identical energy density) burned by the customer.

A change of the customer’s condition will have an adverse effect on the driller. The customer’s leverage or ability to borrow is increased at the expense of the driller’s leverage … and vice-versa … This is because money represents the same ‘energy cost’ to both.

Currency is nothing more than a proxy for the fuel used by the customer … which is the same fuel required by the driller to bring more crude into the marketplace. The driller cannot use one kind of dollar to gain fuel while the customer uses a different kind to waste the fuel.

Because modern ‘labor’ is waste, the customer must borrow … or some firm or institution must borrow for him. Gregor suggests workers were able to gain greater amounts in wages in the past when fuel was less costly: wages are credit, high wages represent the historical productivity of credit. Prices cannot rise further because the ability of customers to earn (borrow) is constrained by (relatively) high crude prices, the productivity of credit is diminished.

There are two sets of borrowers: customers and drillers. Both need to borrow to gain fuel. It costs more for the driller because he is constrained by geology while the customer is limited only by access to credit itself/wasting infrastructure. The relationship between the sets of borrowers conforms to game theory:
Crude Game Theory 1

Figure 2: Energy relationships in 1998 and prior, drillers and customers each borrow or don’t borrow. Not borrowing by either meant no economy and no petroleum produced which obviously did not occur. Both customers and drillers chose to borrow: drillers added to excess petroleum capacity making fuel more affordable. Customer borrowing became added gross domestic product (GDP). This amplified driller borrowing which made even more crude available at still lower prices!

There was no need to allocate between drillers or customers, they could ‘have it all’: by March, 1999 the world was …


Economist Cover 1

The famous cover for the Economist Magazine: it was an ugly cover … it was also incorrect about the future.

From 1998 onward, the productivity of each dollar invested in crude production over time has continually declined. This is the basis for the argument that Peak Oil occurred in 1998: that the baleful economic effects predicted to occur after Peak Oil started to be felt in 2000. To gain more crude oil drillers were required to add more wells, each well was more costly than the last, each well offered less crude oil than previous wells: the effect of this effort has been felt by oil consumers who have had to compete with the drillers for each dollar of credit.
Crude Game Theory 2

Figure 3: Post-1998, brutal new game, new mutually-assured-destruction theory!

Borrowing by customers returns less GDP, borrowing by drillers returns less crude. When drillers borrow alongside their customers, they cannot keep pace because demand is easier to create than supply: automobiles are more easily had than new oil fields. Attempting to add to GDP (borrowing by customers) increases demand for crude which exhausts inexpensive fields faster, this in turn adds to the credit requirements of the drillers.

– When drillers borrow alongside customers for diminished return, borrowing costs pyramid. The outcome is the same as when neither drillers nor customers borrow, there is no economy, all are bankrupted by credit costs.

– The choice is for the customer to borrow at the expense of the driller or the other way around. Both customer and driller must compete for the same credit dollar: one gains at the expense of the other. The customers’ need for funds is absolute, they must borrow more than drillers or they cannot buy anything and there is no GDP growth. Drillers need for funds is absolute, they must borrow more than the customers otherwise there is less fuel for the customers:
Bakken 012013

Figure 4: Bakken output declines by Darwinian: when drillers cannot borrow, local oversupply of crude cannot be sold to meet costs, the drillers retire drilling rigs. Meanwhile, Bakken wells deplete rapidly, there is no way for drillers to ‘catch up’ after they have stopped drilling. If crude is not affordable now it will be less affordable — to both customers and drillers — tomorrow.

A few more things to keep in mind as we descend into the net-energy rat hole:

– Oil prices can only decline as there is diminished returns on each energy dollar … diminished GDP, diminished credit availability, diminished ability to meet ever-higher real extraction costs. Real energy costs will increase relative to the ability to meet them … even when nominal costs decline. The result is a net-energy death spiral or ‘energy deflation’ similar to Irving Fisher’s Debt Deflation. Whatever the fuel price happens to be at any given time it is too high. The price falls to meet the market, but fuel is removed from the market because of the drop in price, the ongoing shortage reduces the ability of customers to meet the price which is still too high … etc. The ‘real’ price of petroleum becomes higher over time accelerated by inadvertent ‘conservation by other means’.

– The inability of drillers to meet costs or to borrow sufficiently is illustrated by Royal Dutch Shell’s pathetic efforts to drill exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, (Rolling Stone):


The year closed on a particularly low note when, on New Year’s Eve, the Kulluk – one of two drilling rigs Shell sent to the Arctic – broke free from its tow ship in rough weather and ran agroundon the rocky coast of Stikalidak Island while carrying more than 150,000 gallons of diesel. But even before this mishap, the experiment had already been a severe disappointment to the company. In July, the Kulluk’s sister ship, the Noble Discoverer, slipped its anchorage and narrowly avoided a similar fate. Construction problems and equipment failures delayed drilling; just a day after work finally began in September, the Noble Discoverer had to stop again to make way for an incoming ice floe more than 30 miles long. An oil spill containment dome failed a required safety inspection, “crushed like a beer can” by underwater pressure. The Coast Guard, which is already investigating the Noble Discoverer for criminally inadequate pollution and safety controls, is now launching an investigation of the Kulluk incident. And in further bad news for Shell (and the Arctic), the Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday that both the Kulluk and the Noble Discoverer repeatedly violated the Clean Air Act during the 2012 season.


The Kulluk is a 30-year old drilling barge that had been mothballed for 20 years before being brought back into service, the Noble Discoverer is 37-year old rust-bucket intended for duty in the relatively placid Gulf of Mexico. Shell’s Arctic effort is an improvised, cost- and corner-cutting jury rig rather than a serious effort, which would cost tens of billions of dollars and require many years of preparation that Shell seems unwilling to invest.

– Pretty much all the oil that has been- recovered since 1858 has been wasted in automobiles and to fight wars. When shortages appear, the contestants for the oil that remains will be militaries and drivers.

– When net energy becomes negative — when the cost to extract oil cannot be met by the customer — there will be physical shortages. These shortages will be permanent: oil that cannot be afforded by customers in the present will not be magically affordable when these customers are poorer in the future. There will be no further rationing by access to credit, reduced amounts of oil will not deliver additional credit.

– Oil producing states tend to be autocratic: look for Norway, Denmark, the US, Canada and Mexico to become single-party states like Saudi Arabia or Iran. Because of autocrats ability to control access to energy, they will gain ascendancy with their populations’ eager consent. What is at stake for Americans and the West is democracy itself: a choice between the right to have a say in our own affairs versus the false-promises of energy-driven ‘prosperity’ offered by autocrats … the choice between driving a car or having a functioning republic.

– Oil shortages will manifest themselves as food shortages: even though there is likely to be plenty of food in general, there will be areas without food due to distribution problems.

– The time frame is less than two years then the world becomes net energy negative. At that point there is no turning the clock back. Not every oil producing region is showing diminished returns, these exceptions are the remaining large conventional fields that offer equal- or greater returns for each energy-dollar invested in them. At current rates of draw, these fields are being depleted rapidly. It is not necessary to note the field or the rate of decline, only to note the price of crude relative to the ability of the customer to meet that price. The time that remains to our current way of doing business is how long it takes for these last conventional fields to decline.

– This in turn is the time remaining to ‘prepare’: to move yourself or your family to a more pleasant place, to become an activist, to find a less petroleum-dependent job, to learn a post-petroleum skill or gain a post-petroleum avocation. When the US becomes net energy negative, the amounts of fuel available will diminish sharply. So to will be the ability of ordinary citizens to access that fuel … this will be so until a new allocation regime is in place, likely to be some form of hard rationing. In the new regime, the only citizens that will be free from the reach of authorities will be those who do not use fossil fuels or petroleum at all.

EDIT: Coal, nuclear, hydro-power, solar and wind, natural gas and other prime movers are dependent upon cheap, plentiful supplies of petroleum to power the necessary ships, trucks, trains and other forms of transportation. When supplies of petroleum diminish (finger cutting across throat gesture).


Bayman Beachfront Blues

Off the keyboard of RE

Discuss this article at the Frankenstorm Table inside the Diner


As most people are aware by now,  most of the damage caused by Sandy came along the shoreline due to an impressive Storm Surge over a very long stretch of coast, one of the most densely populated coastlines on any continent.

Numerous iconographic Beachfronts were hit, the Boardwalk in Atlantic City basically destroyed and I suspect the newly renovated Coney Island Amusement Park did not fare much better.  The beach in the Rockaways where I made Sand Castles as a kid was hit hard, and many homes and biznesses in this aging beachfront community were simply washed out to sea.

Sandy didn’t just hit the poor and the middle class though, she was equally destructive of the multi-million dollar Mansions in the Hamptons where the Masters of the Universe go to play each weekend, sutffing themselves with Canapes and 500 year old bottles of Pinot Noir while they stuff the noses of Ford Models with coke prior to doing Channel Stuffing they practice on the Stock Market during the week.

Although there is no Beach on the Southern Tip of Manhattan Island, it’s not much more above sea level than the typical Beach is and also went under water for several hours, long enough to fill some Subway Stations and Tunnels with seawater, along with the basement Safes of some Securities firms holding $trillions$ in Stock Certificates in them, with some estimates putting the value of this Toilet Paper in the $36T range.

Hindsight is always 20-20 Vision of course, and after the fact here all the talk is about how to Build it Bigger and Better for Next Time, robust enough to fend off the worst that Mother Nature can throw out.

In terms of Large Public Works Projects, some impressive ones are being bandied about.  One is to build a huge underwater Seawall around lower Manhattan and the Port of NY/NJ that would deflect most of the energy of a storm surge.  Said Seawall would have some breaks in it that Tanker Ships could pass through.

This of course is similar to the Dykes built around the Netherlands holding back the Sea there, and overall on the engineering level this is some pretty impressive stuff for sure.  In the Dutch case though, the Dykes were built up over many Centuries of time and the marshy areas which were reclaimed were not very deep.  Although I am sure with modern heavy equipment, lots of Fuel and GOBS of Money the Army Corps of Bozos probably could build something like this it sure would not happen overnight, even if they do Print new Debt Money to do it.  The estimate on cost I read for this brainstorm is around $6B, but I am sure that estimate is made with the assumption Oil stays at $100/barrel for the decade it would take to complete it.

Thing is here, while this might prevent the worst Storm Surge from overrunning Wall Street, the deflected water is going to go somewhere, likely the Jersey shore to the left and the Brooklyn shore to the right.  So they will end up WORSE off after it gets built.

Another somewhat more reasonable Infrastructure Improvement I read about was to put Storm Doors on all the vulnerable Subway entrances and Air Vents and create “plugs” or “corks” to stuff in the ends of tunnels which exit into low lying areas.  Apparently Bangkok has such a system in place which allowed their subway system to keep running even during the regular and heavy flooding events they have been subject to the last few years.

Again though, nobody really explains where all the MONEY is going to come from to make all these improvements or how it would ever be paid off if you issue Debt to do it.  In the case of the Subway improvements, how high do you have to hike the Fare the Straphangers pay to actually pay this stuff off and then maintain it?  The subway system is ALREADY subsidized heavily, by you guessed it BROKE Goobermint.  The reason the system never gets Upgrades is BECAUSE it doesn’t pay for itself already.

Although little Newz is trickling out from the devastated Beachfront communities along the Jersey Shore and Long island, the pictures alone tell you that the rebuild costs are Unimaginable, and Goobernator Chris Christie has already said it will be “a long time” before these communities get their lights back on.  He should have added, “if ever”.

So, SHOULD people actually be LIVING so close to the shore in such vulnerable spots to the destructive Power of Mother Nature?  On the surface Common Sense says no, but there are many reasons why MOST of the population of Homo Sapiens does in fact live close to the shore.

First off, going right back to Ancient Civilizations which first used Boats for fishing and then trade, a large portion of the population has always made its living from the Sea.  So you naturally get towns and cities forming up at locations where boats can port up in relative safety, and in fact the Port of NY/NJ is one of the best protected harbors in the whole world on a geographic level.  That is WHY the Dutch dropped the settlement in New Amsterdam at the bottom of Manhattan Island.

Prior to the Railroads, once you got interior to a land mass to any great degree, any trade goods from other places became quite scarce and expensive.  Evne once you HAVE Railroads though, you need to have substantial numbers of people at the terminal end near the Seaport.  Still, you probably could organize it so only a Skeleton Crew of people are at the shoreline, and most of the people are far enough inland that they won’t get nailed with a Storm Surge.

The problem here is that people LIKE the Ocean.  they like swimming in it, surfing on it, tanning on the beach and Ogling the Girls in their Bikinis also.  Recreation is BIG BIZNESS, and there are Seaside Resorts in just about every Country and Island in the WORLD, and Seaside Communities that grow up around them to service the Tourist trade.  For some places like Hawaii, this Recreational tourist Trade is pretty much the only real economic driver they have, you just don’t earn all that much FOREX growing Pineapples and Macadamia Nuts.

Even for pitiful and aging Seaside Communities like Atlantic City, the Boardwalk and the Beaches are what set it apart from the Indian Reservation Casinos and Las Vegas.  In terms of Tax Revenue, it was a main source for New Jersey and that revenue is not coming back anytime too soon, and not until NJ spends a small fortune to do a rebuild.  Can they ever recoup what the spend in Taxation of a refurbished Atlantic City?  Highly unlikely of course.

Probably the most important econonomic driver for our Industrial Societies centered along the coastlines are all the Refineries and offload points for Tankers carrying the Crude from underneath the Desert Sands of Saudi Arabia and off the shore of Brazil and Venezuela.  The VLCC Super Tankers require specialized deepwater ports like the LOOP to function, and moving heavy unrefined crude through pipelines from them is costly on EROEI.  The closer you can make the Refinery to the offload point for the crude, the more profitable it is.   So you have many FSofA refineries near the shores of Lousiana and Texas, and on the Jersey shore also.  You need workers for those refineries who live nearby them, and again communities sprout up in vulnerable locations.

Trying to move all this infrastructure away from the shorelines is an impossibility as long as you want to maintain this sort of Industrialized culture, and overall most people who live inside such societies want them to continue onward as they have known them.  They want Lights On in their McMansions, they want Running Water in their Toilets.  They want the I-pads, Plasma TVs and SUVs too, but they at LEAST EXPECT that they can live in a heated home with running water.

While it does appear that the NY Shity Subway System has been brought back online for the most part, underplayed in NEWz Reports to date is just how much OTHER infrastructure has not been brought back yet.  As the Major Financial Hub of the Empire, Wall Street is the first one to consider on the Economic Loss level here.  Even though CONedison has brought Power back to Lower Manhattan, MANY Coomercial and Residential Skyscrapers can’t accept that power.  Why?  Because their basements were not hardenned against such a massive Flooding even tlike the Subways are, and most of their Electrics and Heating mechanisms are housed in their BASEMENTS, which in many if not most cases WERE Flooded Floor to Ceiling.  These include buildings like 125 Maiden Land &  55 Water Street, which houses offices for companies like S&P and services like UNICEF and Planned Parenthood:

At 125 Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan, a 17-story building not far from the East River, a disaster recovery company official involved with work on the building said that it would be months before it could reopen. Like many other buildings in the vicinity, he said, it was flooded and would need new transformers, boilers and other equipment.

Tenants include the United States Fund for UNICEF and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.


At 55 Water Street, where Standard & Poor’s has offices, the “restricted use” sign listed “severe flooding in basement, no fire alarm, no power, damaged face brick at loading dock.”

On Sunday night, water gushed from hoses that snaked inside the shuttered towers. Workers scrubbed and mopped lobbies.

Brookfield Office Properties, which operates One New York Plaza near Battery Park, where Morgan Stanley is a tenant, estimated that it would be three to six weeks before the building reopens.

These towers are not all strictly Bizness either, some are residential, often housing Eledrly people:

Many of the residential buildings in Lower Manhattan without heat house significant populations of elderly people, including Smith/Vladeck Houses and Southbridge Towers, a Mitchell-Lama building, according to Julie Menin, former chairwoman of Community Board 1.

A rapid Cleanup for many of these buildings is unlikely, because besides the damage to the electrical and heating systems, they also  have been contaminated with Oil and Gas Seepage from Sunken Carz:

Because cars and other vehicles were submerged, gasoline, oil and other chemicals poisoned the waters that entered the buildings. As a result, the buildings themselves will have to undergo special cleanups before people are allowed in. These cleanups could take weeks.

Precisely where the Management Companies for these buildings is getting the MONEY to do this Cleanup remains unclear.  Also unclear is whether Commercial or Residential Tenants inthese buildings will continue to pay Rent/Mortgages on spaces they can’t Work or Live in.

Larger companies in NY Shity have Multiple Office Spaces distributed through many Towers, so these companies are no doubt shuffling people around to some other spaces they have “doubling up”.  For the smaller companies though, they have to quickly find alternate locations to workout of, or else go Outta Biz.

So beginning with Wall Street on the Economic Level, you have huge hits here in 3 areas, Clean Up cost,  Insurance Liability and Payout and Lost Tax Revenue.  Those spaces don;t come cheap, and there are a lot of them “underwater” here now, around 400 large buildings in this Nabe “Yellow Tagged” by the Department of Buildings as Unsafe.

While Individually  not as costly, the AGGREGATE cost of all the Residential and Comercial Real Estate that went Underwater on Long Island and the Jersey Shore, along with the Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island Real Estate is likely much GREATER than even the cost of Out-of-Service Wall Street buildings.  An important factor to consider is how many people will continue to Pay Mortgages on housing and commercial structures which either no longer EXIST, or have been declared so Unsafe as to be Uninhabitable now.  Would YOU keep paying your mortgage on a McMansion so damaged you cannot live in it anymore?  Many if not most of these folks will eventually here walk away from these Properties.

Calculating the precise total here of lost revenue, lost taxes and cleanup costs is basically impossible at this point, and true Numbers as they come in will certainly never be reported.  The $50B “estimate” for damage here is a crock of shit, it is WAY higher than that, even NOT taking into account the possibility of $Trillions$ in Securities being “lost” in some Basement Safes.

One thing you can be certain of as the Money to Rebuild is distributed out, it will NOT be distributed out to the Individual Homeowners and Small Bizmen who lost their homes and livelihoods here.  The Money will be distributed out to Well Connected Corporations, Big Bizmen & Contractors with good Political Connections who get Cleanup work.  A bit of this will Trickle Down to J6P Construciton Worker who has been UE for a while and now will have Cleanup work for a few months, but once done those jobs will disappear as fast as they appeared here.  Those New Jobs are more than balanced out by the many people who LOSE their jobs here because their workplaces no longer EXIST at all, or the companies they work for are not on the Gravy Train to get the Big Loans to “rebuild”.

What many people on the Jersey Shore and Long Island just found out is that you CAN’T expect that Electric Power and Heat for your Biz or Domicile will remain in place, just as a whole bunch of people found that out when NOLA got hit by Katrina.  If you are not Well Connected enough to get the Big Money Handouts from Da Federal Goobermint to “rebuild” you are basically SOL here.  I am quite SURE S&P will be floated a $100M or $1B Loan from Helicopter Ben to repair THEIR Building, I seriously DOUBT  Emilio or Mohammed gets a $100K loan to repair his Bodega.

So across the board here, we at the very LEAST are looking at a version of Jimmy Kunstler’s Long Emergency, and incremental Spin Down of the quality of life for MANY formerly Middle Class people in the NY Shity Nabe.  Staten Island is QUINTESSENTIAL “Middle Class” Working Man territory in NY Shity, probably half the NYPD, Sanitation Department and NYs Bravest Firefighters live on Staten Island.  These are not “Welfare Leechfucks”, they were hard working people who bought into the Amerikan Dream, now turned Amerikan Nightmare.  Now they ALSO are the Underclass, and will be left Hung Out to Dry as the Big Money is passed out to Big Corporations in the Capitalist system to “rebuild”.So it has always been here in the FSofA, since Alexander Hamilton openned the First Bank of the FSofA, since Andrew Jackson tried to “Kill” the Second Bank of the FSofA and since Paul Warburg and Nelson Aldrich SUCCEEDED in resurrecting said Banking System for the Illumati on Christmas Eve of 1913 with the passing of the Federal Reserve Act after Secret Meetings on Jekyll Island.  Anyone who believes that “Freedom” & “Dmocracy” have EVER existed inside the borders of the FSofA is seriously deluded, victim of 300 years of solid and continuos BRAIN WASHING.

The thing is, once the Coastal Shities fail, the Interior Shitieshere in the FSoA will also FAIL,  though not necessarily from the direct attacks of Mother Nature from Hurricanes and rising Sea levels with bigger Storm surges.  They will fail as the energy supplies they need to operate fail to reach them from the coastline.  They will fail as the huge ports which service the Container Ships are damaged and destroyed by Mother Nature.

Here in Alaska the Port of Anchorage is aging and decaying, it hasn’t been rebuilt or even maintained all that well since the Big Quake in ’64.  Next decent quake we get there, it’s all rubble and I seriously doubt will be rebuilt.

The small Fishing Boats and Kayaks will last a while longer though, and people will still live and work near the Sea, from which ALL LIFE comes, until the Sea itself has life no more.  A dangerous place to be for sure as Mother Earth becomes more Geologically and Atmospherically unstable, you never know if you picked the WRONG day to go out Dip Netting the Kings when the run and a Tsunami comes your way here on the Ring of Fire.

If you do see the tide run out real fast though, drop the dip net, drop the fish and RUN LIKE HELL for the High Ground.  At least it slopes up pretty quick here in most places and you can get up 30 meters pretty quick.  Not so true on Long Island, where you gotta get inside a good mile from the shoreline to be up more than a few feet above Sea Level.

Anyhow, you can second guess all you like all the people who lived once on the Jersey Shore and in Coney Island and Rockaway Beach and on Fire Island too, but who will live there no more even if they did escape with their lives this time.  While you are at it, you might also second guess all the folks who live in Tornado Alley on the Texahoma border.  Not to mention all the folks who live in the Flood Plain of the Mighty Mississippi.  Not to mention all those folks living on top of the San Andreas Fault or in range of Sparks from tinder dry Forests in New Mexico and Colorado.  Wherever you are, eventually the Odds catch up with you, and you never know the day the Big Show will Come to a Theatre Near You.  The odds don’t appear to be improving here either, apparently 500 year floods now arrive 2 or 3 times a decade, and we get a new “Freak” event all the time like “Derechos”, “Haboobs” and “Frankenstorms”.

Perhaps the most IMPORTANT Second Guessing to be done here is WRT the Nuke Plants distributed out worldwide in ALL of these vulnerable locations.  Nuke Plants need a HUGE amount of Water for cooling, so they are always nearby major rivers or near the coast.  The cities and Ag Land these Nuke Plants provide energy for quite often are over geological fault lines and/or subject to drought or flooding.  There is nowhere “safe” to put something that has toxins that will last for Millenia, on a Millenial Timescale just about EVERY neighborhood gets hit with some kind of major disaster.

All Nuke Plants need to be Decommissioned, and all the spent fuel collected and sequestered off where it can do the least damage, perhaps in Antarctica or perhaps by sinking it into a subduction zone around the Marianas Trench, but it MUST be moved BEFORE, not AFTER the disaster strikes.

Will we have to sacrifice the Lights and the Flush toilets?  Most probably so, but at least perhaps then we will survive as a species and eventually come up with some better ways to manage the resources of the Planet we live on, and which gives us ALL life.  Its the only one we got, and we ain’t making out to any Exoplanets anytime too soon either.


Why Natural Gas isn’t Likely to be the World’s Energy Savior

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

Published on Our Finite World on October 17, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

We keep hearing about the many benefits of natural gas–how burning it releases less CO2 than oil or coal, and how it burns with few impurities, so does not have the pollution problems of coal. We also hear about the possibilities of releasing huge amounts of new natural gas supplies, through the fracking of shale gas. Reported reserves for natural gas also seem to be quite high, especially in the Middle East and the Former Soviet Union.

But I think that people who are counting on natural gas to solve the world’s energy problems are “counting their chickens before they are hatched”. Natural gas is a fuel that requires a lot of infrastructure in order for anything to “happen”. As a result, it needs a lot of up-front investment, and several years time delay. It also needs changes on the consumption side (requiring further investment) that will allow this natural gas to be used. If the cost is higher than competing fuels, this becomes a problem as well.

In many ways, natural gas consumption is captive to other things that are happening in the economy: an economy that is industrializing rapidly will easily be able to consume more natural gas, but an economy in decline will find it hard to scrape together funds for new ways of doing what was done previously, now with natural gas. Increased use of renewables seems to call for additional use of natural gas for balancing, but even this is not certain, because in many parts of the world, natural gas is a high-priced imported fuel.  Political instability, often linked to high oil and food prices, creates a poor atmosphere for new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities, no matter how attractive the pricing may seem to be.

In the US, we have already “hit the wall” on how much natural gas can be absorbed into the system or used to offset imports. US natural gas production has been flat since November 2011, based on EIA data (Figure 1, below).

Figure 1. US Dry Natural Gas Production, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Even with this level of production, and a large shift in electricity production from coal to natural gas,  natural gas is still on the edge of “maxing out” its storage system before winter hits (Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. US natural gas in storage, compared to five-year average. Figure prepared by US Energy Information Administration, Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report as of October 5, 2012.


World Natural Gas Production

The past isn’t the future, but it does give a little bit of understanding regarding what the underlying trends are.

Figure 3. World natural gas production, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy data.

World natural gas production/consumption (Figure 3) has been increasing, recently averaging about 2.7% a year. If we compare natural gas to other energy sources, it has been second to coal in terms of the amount by which it has contributed to the total increase in world energy supplies in the last five years (Figure 4). This comparison is made by converting all amounts to “barrels of oil equivalent”, and computing the increase between 2006 and 2011.

Figure 4. Increase in energy supplied for the year 2011, compared to the year 2006, for various fuels, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy data.

In order for natural gas to be an energy savior for the world, natural gas consumption would need to increase far more than 2.7% per year, and outdistance the increase in coal consumption each year. While a modest increase from past patterns is quite possible, I don’t expect a miracle from natural gas.

Natural Gas: What Has Changed?

The basic thing that has changed is that fracking now permits extraction of shale gas (in addition to other types of gas), if other conditions are met as well:

  1. Selling price is high enough (probably higher than for other types of natural gas produced)
  2. Water is available for fracking
  3. Governments permit fracking
  4. Infrastructure is available to handle the fracked gas

Even before the discovery of shale gas, reported world natural gas reserves were quite high relative to natural gas production (63.6 times 2011 production, according to BP). Reserves might theoretically be even higher, with additional shale gas discoveries.

In addition, the use of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) for export is also increasing, making it possible to ship previously “stranded” natural gas, such as that in Alaska. This further increases the amount of natural gas available to world markets.

What Stands in the Way of Greater Natural Gas Usage?

1. Price competition from coal. One major use for natural gas is making electricity. If locally produced coal is available, it likely will produce electricity more cheaply than natural gas. The reason shale gas recently could be sold for electricity production in the United States is because the selling price for natural gas dropped below the equivalent price for coal. The “catch” was that shale gas producers were losing money at this price (and have since dropped back their production). If the natural gas price increases enough for shale gas to be profitable, electricity production will again move back toward coal.

Many other parts of the world also have coal available, acting as a cap on the amount of fracked natural gas likely to be produced. A carbon tax might change this within an individual country, but those without such a tax will continue to prefer the lower-price product.

2. Growing internal natural gas use cuts into exports. This is basically the Exportland model issue, raised by Jeffrey Brown with respect to oil, but for natural gas. If we look at Africa’s natural gas production, consumption, and exports, this is what we see:

Figure 5. Africa natural gas production, consumption, and exports, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy.

In Africa, (mostly northern Africa, which exports to Europe and Israel), consumption has been rising fast enough that exports have leveled off and show signs of declining.

3. Political instability. Often, countries with large natural gas resources are ones with large oil resources as well. If oil production starts to drop off, and as a result oil export revenue drops off, a country is likely to experience political instability. A good example of this is Egypt.

Figure 6. Egypt’s oil production and consumption, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy.

No matter how much natural gas Egypt may have, it would not make sense for a company to put in an LNG train or more pipeline export capability, because the political situation is not stable enough. Egypt needs oil exports to fund its social programs. The smaller funding amount available from natural gas exports is not enough to make up that gap, so it is hard to see natural gas making up the gap, even if it were available in significant quantity.

Iran is a country with large natural gas reserves. It is reportedly looking into extracting natural gas for export. Again, we have a political stability issue. Here we have an international sanctions issue as well.

4. “Need the natural gas for myself later” view. A country (such as Egypt or the United States or Britain) that has been “burned” by declining oil production may think twice about exporting natural gas. Even if the country doesn’t need it now, there is a possibility that vehicles using natural gas could be implemented later, in their own country, thus helping to alleviate the oil shortage. Also, there are risks and costs involved with fracking, that they may not choose to incur, if the benefit is to go to exporters.

5. Cost of investment for additional natural gas consumption. In order to use more natural gas, considerable investment is needed. New pipelines likely need to be added. Homeowners and businesses may need to purchase gas-fired furnaces to raise demand. If it is decided to use natural gas vehicles, there is a need for the new vehicles themselves, plus service stations and people trained to fix the new vehicles. Additional natural gas storage may be needed as well. Additional industrial production is difficult to add, unless wages are low enough that the product being sold will be competitive on the world market.

Existing “pushes” toward better insulation have the effect of reducing the amount of natural gas used for heating homes and businesses, so work in the opposite direction. So do new techniques for making nitrogen-based fertilizer using coal, rather than using natural gas.

6. Touchy balance between supply and consumption. If additional production is added, but additional uses are not, we have already seen what happens in the United States. Storage facilities get overly full, the price of natural gas drops to unacceptably low levels, and operators scramble to cut back production.

The required balance between production and consumption is very “touchy”. It can be thrown off by only a few percent change in production or consumption. Thus an unusually warm winter, as the United States experienced last year, played a role in the overly full storage problem. A ramp up of production of only a few percent can also cause an out of balance situation. Unless a developer has multiple buyers for its gas, or a “take or pay” long-term contract, it risks the possibility that the gas that is has developed will not be wanted at an adequate price.

7. Huge upfront investment requirements. There are multiple requirements for investing in new shale gas developments. Each individual well costs literally millions of dollars to drill and frack. The cost will not be paid back for several years (or perhaps ever, if the selling price is not high enough), so debt financing is generally needed. If fracking is done, a good supply of water is needed. This is likely to be a problem in dry countries such as China. There is a need for trained personnel, drilling rigs of the right type, and adequate pipelines to put the new gas into. While these things are available in the United States, it likely will take years to develop adequate supplies of them elsewhere. All of the legislation that regulates drilling and enables pipeline building, needs to be in place as well. Laws need to be friendly to fracking, as well.

Growth in Exports to Date

Exports grew as a percentage of natural gas use through about 2007 or 2008.

Figure 7. World natural gas exports as percentage of total natural gas produced, by year, based on EIA data (older years) and BP’s 2102 Statistical Review of World Energy for 2010 and 2011.

In recent years, natural gas exports have fallen slightly as a percentage of total gas extracted. Thus, if world natural gas supplies have risen by an average of 2.7% per year for the past five years, exports available for import have risen a little less rapidly than the 2.7% per year increase. A major ramp-up in export capability would be needed to change this trend.

While we hear a lot about the rise in exports using LNG, its use does not seem to be adding to the overall percentage of natural gas exported. Instead, there has been a shift in the type of export capacity being added. There are still a few pipelines being added (such as the Nord Stream pipline, from Russia to Germany), but these are increasingly the exception.

The Shale Gas Pricing Debate

Exactly what price is needed for shale gas to be profitable is subject to debate. Shale gas requires the payment of huge up-front costs. Once they are drilled and “fracked,” they will produce for a long period. Company models assume that they will last as long as 40 years, but geologist Arthur Berman of The Oil Drum claims substantial numbers are closed down in as few as six years, because they are not producing enough natural gas to justify their ongoing costs. There is also a question as to whether the best locations are drilled first.

Logically a person would expect shale-gas to be quite a bit more expensive to produce than other natural gas because it is trapped in much smaller pores, and much more force is required to extracted it. In terms of the resource triangle that I sometimes show (Figure 8, below), it epitomizes the low quality, hard to extract resource near the bottom of the triangle that is available in abundance. We usually start at the top of the resource triangle, and extract the easiest and cheapest to extract first.

Figure 8. Author’s illustration of impacts of declining resource quality.

Berman claims that prices $8.68 or higher per million Btu are needed for profitability of Haynesville Shale, and nearly as high prices are needed to justify drilling other US shale plays. The current US price is about $3.50 per million Btu, so to be profitable, the price would need to be more than double the current US price. Prices for natural gas in Europe are much higher, averaging $11.08 per million Btu in September 2012, but shale gas extraction costs may be higher there as well.

The US Energy Information Administration admits it doesn’t know how the economics will work out, and gives a range of projected prices. It is clear from the actions of the natural gas industry that current prices are a problem. According to Baker Hughes, the number of drilling rigs engaged in natural gas drilling has dropped from 936 one year ago to 422, for the week ended October 12, 2012.

Backup for Renewables

One area where natural gas excels is as a back up for intermittent renewable energy, since it can ramp up and down quickly. So this is one area where a person might expect growth. Such a possibility is not certain, though:

1. How much will intermittent renewables continue to ramp up? Governments are getting poorer, and have less funds available to subsidize them. They do not compete well on when they go head to head with fossil fuels, nuclear, and hydroelectric.

2. When intermittent renewables are subsidized with feed in tariffs, and requirements that wind power be given priority over fossil fuels, it can provide such an unlevel playing field that it is difficult for natural gas to be profitable. This is especially the case in locations where natural gas is already higher-priced than coal.

The Societal “Recipe” Problem

Our economy is built of many interdependent parts. Each business is added, taking into account what businesses already are in place, and what laws are in effect. Because of the way the economy currently operates, it uses a certain proportion of oil, a certain proportion of natural gas, and more or less fixed proportions of other types of energy. The number of people employed tends to vary, too, with the size of the economy, with a larger economy demanding more employees.

Proportions of businesses and energy use can of course change over time. In fact, there is some flexibility built in. In particular, in the US, we have a surplus of natural gas electricity generating units, installed in the hope that they would be used more than they really are, and the energy traded long distance. But there is less flexibility elsewhere. The cars most people drive use gasoline, and the only way to cut back is to drive less. Our furnaces use a particular fuel, and apart from adjusting the temperature setting, or adding insulation, it is hard to make a change in this. We only make major changes when it comes time to sell a car, replace a furnace, or add a new factory.

In my view, the major issue the world has been dealing with in recent years is an inadequate supply of cheap oil. High priced oil tends to constrict the economy, because it causes consumers to cut back on discretionary spending. People in discretionary industries are laid off, and they tend to also spend less, and sometimes default on their loans. Governments find themselves in financial difficulty when they collect fewer taxes and need to pay out more in benefits. While this issue is still a problem in the US, the government has been able to cover up this effect up in several ways (ultra low interest rates, a huge amount of deficit spending, and “quantitive easing”). The effect is still there, and pushing us toward the “fiscal cliff.”

The one sure way to ramp up natural gas usage is for the economy as a whole to grow. If this happens, natural gas usage will grow for two reasons: (1) The larger economy will use more gas, and (2) the growth in the economy will add more opportunities for new businesses, and these new businesses will have the opportunity to utilize more natural gas, if the price is competitive.

I have compared the situation with respect to limited oil supply as being similar to that of a baker, who is trying to bake a batch of cookies that calls for two cups of flour, but who has only one cup of flour. The baker is able to make only half a batch. Half of the other ingredients will go unused as well, because the batch is small.

To me, discovering that we have more natural gas than we had before, is analogous to the baker discovering that instead of having a dozen eggs in his refrigerator, there are actually two dozen in his refrigerator. In fact, he finds he can even go and buy more eggs, if he is willing to pay double the price he is accustomed to paying. But the eggs really do not fix the missing cup of flour problem, unless someone can find a way to change eggs into flour very cheaply.

Basic Energy Types

To me, the most basic forms of energy resources are (1) coal and (2) oil. Both can be transported easily, if it is possible to extract them. Natural gas is very much harder to transport and store, so it is in many ways less useful. It can be made work in combination with oil and coal, because the use of coal and oil make it possible to build pipelines and make devices to provide compression to the gas. With coal and oil, it is also possible to make and maintain electric transmission lines to transport electricity made with natural gas.

I sometimes talk about renewable energy being a “fossil fuel extender,” because they hopefully make fossil fuels “go farther”. In some ways, I think natural gas is an extender for oil and coal. It is hard to imagine a society powered only by natural gas, because of the difficulties in using it, and the major changes required to use it exclusively.

In the earliest days, natural gas was simply a “waste product” of oil extraction. It was “flared” to get rid of it. In many parts of the world, natural gas is still flared, because the effort it takes to collect it, transport it, and make it into a useful product is still too high.

The hope that natural gas will be the world’s energy savior depends on our ability to make this former waste product into a product that will replace oil and coal. But unless we can put together an economy that needs and uses it, most of it probably will be left in the ground. The supposedly very high reserves will do us no good.

A Few Insights Regarding Today’s Nuclear Situation

Off the Keyboard of Gail Tverberg

Published originally on Our Finite World on August 14, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord of the Diner

The issue of nuclear electricity is a complex one. In this post, I offer a few insights into the nuclear electric situation based on recent reports and statistical data.

Nuclear Electric Production Is Already Declining

Figure 1. World nuclear electric production split by major producing countries, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy. FSU is Former Soviet Union.

According to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, the highest year of nuclear electric production was 2006.

There are really two trends taking place, however.

1. The countries that adopted nuclear first, that is the United States, Europe, Japan, and Russia, have been experiencing flat to declining nuclear electricity production. The countries with actual declines in generation are Japan and some of the countries in Europe outside of France.

2. The countries that began adopting nuclear later, particularly the developing countries, are continuing to show growth. China and India in particular are adding nuclear production.

The long-term trend depends on how these two opposite trends balance out. There may also be new facilities built, and some “uprates” of old facilities, among existing large users of nuclear. Russia, in particular, has been mentioned as being interested in adding more nuclear.

Role of Nuclear in World Electricity

Nuclear provides a significant share of world electricity production, far more than any new alternative, making a change from nuclear to wind or solar PV difficult. If nuclear electricity use is reduced, the most likely outcome would seem to be a reduction in overall electricity supply or an increase in fossil fuel usage.

Figure 2. Based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy

Nuclear is the largest source of world electricity after fossil fuels and hydroelectric, comprising about 12% of total world electricity. Wind amounts to about 2% of world electric supply, and solar (which is not visible on Figure 2) amounts to one-quarter of one percent (0.25%). “Other renewable” includes electricity from a variety of sources, including geothermal and wood burned to produce electricity. These can’t be scaled up very far, either.

Note that even with the growth of renewables, there is still very substantial growth in fossil fuel use in recent years. If nuclear electricity use is reduced, fossil fuel use may grow by even a greater amount.

Role of Nuclear in Countries that Use Nuclear

The world situation shown in Figure 1 includes many countries that do not use nuclear at all, so the countries that do use nuclear tend to generate more than 12% of their electricity from nuclear. This means that if a decision is made to move away from nuclear, an even larger share of electricity must be replaced (or “be done without”).

Figure 3. Based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy.

For example, in the Untied States (Figure 3), nuclear now amounts to about 19% of US electricity production, and is second only to fossil fuels as an electricity source. US nuclear production tends to be concentrated in the Eastern part of the US, so that nuclear amounts to 30% to 35% of electric production along the US East Coast. This would be very difficult to replace by generation from another source, other than possibly fossil fuels.

For countries that are planning to reduce their nuclear generation, nuclear electricity as a percentage of total electric production in 2010  are as follows:

  • Germany, 22%;
  • Switzerland, 37%;
  • Belgium, 52%; and
  • Japan 25%.

Unless these countries can count on imports from elsewhere, it will be difficult to make up the entire amount of electricity lost through demand reduction, or through a shift to renewables.

Nuclear Electric Plants that are “Paid for” Generate Electricity Very Cheaply

Nuclear power plants for which the capital costs are already “sunk” are very inexpensive to operate, with operating costs estimated at 2 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Any kind of change away from nuclear is likely to require the substitution of more expensive generation of some other type.

The electrical rates in place today in Europe and the United States today take into account the favorable cost structure for nuclear, and thus help keep electrical rates low, especially for commercial users (since they usually get the best rates).

If new generation is added to substitute for the paid off nuclear, it almost certainly will raise electricity rates. These higher rates will be considered by businesses in their decisions regarding where to locate new facilities, and perhaps result in more of a shift in manufacturing to developing nations.

Germany’s Experience in Leaving Nuclear

It is too early to know exactly what Germany’s experience will be in leaving nuclear, but its early experiences provide some insights.

One cost is decommissioning. According to Reuters, German nuclear companies have made a total of $30 billion euros ($36.7 billion) in provision for costs related to the cost of dismantling the plants and disposing of radioactive materials. According to the same article, Greenpeace expects the cost may exceed 44 billion euros ($53.8 billion). If the amount of installed nuclear capacity in Germany is 20.48 million kilowatts (kW), the direct cost of dismantling the nuclear reactors and handling the spent fuel ranges from $1,792 to $2,627 per kW. This cost is greater than the Chinese and Indian cost of building a comparable amount of new reactor capacity (discussed later in this article).

David Buchanan of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies did an analysis of some of the issues Germany is facing in making the change. Germany was in an unusually favorable situation because it had a cushion of spare capacity when it decided to close its reactors. When Germany closed its oldest eight reactors, one issue it discovered was lack of transmission capacity to transfer wind energy from the North to areas in the South and Southwest of Germany, where the closed reactors were located. In addition, the system needs additional balancing capability, either through more natural gas generation (because gas generators can ramp up and down quickly), or more electric storage, or both.

In Germany, natural gas is an expensive imported source of energy. The economics of the situation are not such that private companies are willing to build natural gas generation facilities, because the economics don’t work: (a) renewables get first priority in electricity purchases and (b) electricity from locally produced coal also gets priority over electricity from gas, because it is cheaper.  If new gas generation is to be built, it appears that these plants may need to be subsidized as well.

Increased efficiency and demand response programs are also expected to play a role in balancing demand with supply.

Not All Countries Have the Same High Nuclear Electricity Costs

We don’t really know the cost of new nuclear electricity plants in the United States, because it has been so long since a new plants were built. The new reactors which are now under construction in the state of Georgia will provide a total of 2,200 MW of generation capacity at a cost estimated at $14.9 billion, which means an average cost of $6,773/kW.

In China and India, costs are lower, and may drop even lower in the future, as the Chinese apply their techniques and low-cost labor to bring costs down.  The World Nuclear Association (WNA) in its section on China makes the statement,

Standard construction time is 52 months, and the claimed unit cost is under CNY 10,000 (US$ 1500) per kilowatt (kW), though other estimates put it at about $2000/kW.

In the section on nuclear power for India, the WNA quotes construction costs ranging from $1,200/kW to $1,700/kW, using its own technology.

If we compare the cost of  US planned plants in Georgia to the Chinese and Indian plants, the cost seems to be three or four times as high.

These cost differences also appear in comparisons on a “Levelized Cost” basis. The EIA in its 2012 Annual Energy Outlook quotes an US expected levelized cost of nuclear of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), anticipated for facilities being constructed now. The section on the Economics of Nuclear Power of the WNA quotes levelized costs in the 3 to 5 cents per kWh range for China, depending on the interest rate assumed. A cost in the 3 to 5 cents range is very good, competitive with coal and with natural gas, when they are inexpensive, as they are now in the United States.

Some of China’s nuclear reactors were purchased from the United States, and thus will be higher in cost because of the purchased components. But knowing that China has a reputation for “reverse engineering” products it buys, and figuring out how to make cheap imitations, I expect that it  will be able to figure out ways to create low-cost reactors in the near future, whether or not it can do so today. So the expectation is that China and India will be able to make cheap reactors (probably without all the safety devices that some other countries currently require) for itself, and quite likely, eventually for sale to others. Sales of such reactors may eventually undercut sales by American and French companies.

Interest in Purchasing Reactors

The interest in purchasing electricity generation of all kinds is likely to be greater in developing countries where the economy is growing and the need for electricity generation is growing, than in the stagnant economies of the United States, Europe, and Japan. If we look at a graph of electricity production of Asia-Pacific excluding Japan, we see a very rapid growth in electricity use.

Figure 4. Asia-Pacific Excluding Japan Electricity by Source, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review.

The Middle East (Figure 5, below) is another area with an interest in nuclear. It too has shown rapid growth in electricity use, and a historical base of mostly fossil use for electricity generation.

Figure 5. Middle East Electricity by Source, based on data of the BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Use of Thorium Instead of Uranium Would Seem to be a Better Choice, if It Can be Made to Work

I have not tried to research this subject, except to note that research in this area is currently being done that may eventually lead to its use.

Uranium Production is a Problem

World uranium production fell a bit in 2011, relative to 2010, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Figure 6. World Uranium Production, based on data of the World Nuclear Association.

Production from Kazakhstan is becoming an increasingly large share of the total. Production in both the US and Canada declined in 2011. Spot prices have tended to stay low, in spite of the fact that an agreement that allowed the US to buy recycled Russian bomb material reaches an end in 2013. There are no doubt some stockpiles, but the WNA estimates 2011 production to equal to only 85% of current demand (including military demand).

Figure 7. World Uranium Production and Demand, in an image prepared by the World Nuclear Association.

A person would think that prices would rise higher, to incentivize increased production, but this doesn’t seem to be happening yet, at least. The uranium consulting firm Ux Consulting offers the following comment on its website:

The market that we now find ourselves in is like no other in the history of uranium. Production is far below requirements, which are growing. HEU [highly enriched uranium] supplies and the enrichment of tails material make up a large portion of supply, but the fate of these supply sources is uncertain. Supply has become more concentrated, making the market more vulnerable to disruptions if there are any problems with a particular supply source. Another source of market vulnerability is the relatively low level of inventory held by buyers and sellers alike.

The consulting firm ends the section with a pitch for its $5,000 report on the situation.

A person would like to think that additional production will be ramped up quickly, or that the US military would find some inventory. Markets don’t always work well at incentivizing a need for future production, especially when more or less adequate current supplies are available when Russian recycled bomb material is included. The discontinuity comes when those extra supplies disappear.

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