Jul 30, 2009

France must shut down nuclear plants due to heatwaves

The Times Online is reporting that France have been forced to close down a third of its nuclear power stations this summer due to heatwaves:

"France is being forced to import electricity from Britain to cope with a summer heatwave that has helped to put a third of its nuclear power stations out of action.

With temperatures across much of France surging above 30C this week, EDF's reactors are generating the lowest level of electricity in six years, forcing the state-owned utility to turn to Britain for additional capacity.

Fourteen of France's 19 nuclear power stations are located inland and use river water rather than seawater for cooling. When water temperatures rise, EDF is forced to shut down the reactors to prevent their casings from exceeding 50C."

It seems thirsty nukes can't take the heat and that climate change puts nuclear energy into hot water. A question we must all ask our self: as the planet is warming up, is nuclear really a smart move?

Source Blog: green-blog.org

Jul 29, 2009

Breakthrough Ultracapacitor Technology for 250 mile range

A lengthy interview of Ian Clifford of Zenn Motors who indicates that EEStor will publicly prove its breakthrough ultracapacitors soon. (H/T Talk Polywell
The ZENNCity electric car which would be the first vehicle to use these batteries has a 52kwh 250 mile range EESU that would only weigh 280 pounds.

EEStor is building a state of the art pilot production plant that is very significant. The Zenn Motors CEO and others have seen the EEStor plant.

EEStor is to deliver a production prototype off of the production line by the end of 2009. Once they deliver a production prototype it is a production unit that is production ready.

EEStor stores their energy at around 3500V. Zenn Motors would step that down to operating voltages likely in the 600 V range. Very very high efficiency drive system operating at much higher voltages than any other current EV drive system. That does a number of things. It increases the drive efficiency, it makes the components somewhat smaller, and ultimately less expensive and obviously for mass commercialization that's a very important consideration.

Read full at nextbigfuture

Jul 23, 2009

The Next Great American Bubble Cap-and-trade

The Great American Bubble Machine - Rolling Stone
Illustration by Victor JuhaszFast-forward to today. It's early June in Washington, D.C. Barack Obama, a popular young politician whose leading private campaign donor was an investment bank called Goldman Sachs — its employees paid some $981,000 to his campaign — sits in the White House. Having seamlessly navigated the political minefield of the bailout era, Goldman is once again back to its old business, scouting out loopholes in a new government-created market with the aid of a new set of alumni occupying key government jobs.

Gone are Hank Paulson and Neel Kashkari; in their place are Treasury chief of staff Mark Patterson and CFTC chief Gary Gensler, both former Goldmanites. (Gensler was the firm's cohead of finance.) And instead of credit derivatives or oil futures or mortgage-backed CDOs, the new game in town, the next bubble, is in carbon credits — a booming trillion dollar market that barely even exists yet, but will if the Democratic Party that it gave $4,452,585 to in the last election manages to push into existence a groundbreaking new commodities bubble, disguised as an "environmental plan," called cap-and-trade.

The new carboncredit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that's been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won't even have to rig the game.

It will be rigged in advance.

Here's how it works: If the bill passes, there will be limits for coal plants, utilities, natural-gas distributors and numerous other industries on the amount of carbon emissions (a.k.a. greenhouse gases) they can produce per year. If the companies go over their allotment, they will be able to buy "allocations" or credits from other companies that have managed to produce fewer emissions. President Obama conservatively estimates that about $646 billion worth of carbon credits will be auctioned in the first seven years; one of his top economic aides speculates that the real number might be twice or even three times that amount.

The feature of this plan that has special appeal to speculators is that the "cap" on carbon will be continually lowered by the government, which means that carbon credits will become more and more scarce with each passing year. Which means that this is a brand new commodities market where the main commodity to be traded is guaranteed to rise in price over time. The volume of this new market will be upwards of a trillion dollars annually; for comparison's sake, the annual combined revenues of all electricity suppliers in the U.S. total $320 billion. Goldman wants this bill.

The bank owns a 10 percent stake in the Chicago Climate Exchange, where the carbon credits will be traded. Moreover, Goldman owns a minority stake in Blue Source LLC, a Utahbased firm that sells carbon credits of the type that will be in great demand if the bill passes. Nobel Prize winner Al Gore, who is intimately involved with the planning of cap-and-trade, started up a company called Generation Investment Management with three former bigwigs from Goldman Sachs Asset Management, David Blood, Mark Ferguson and Peter Harris. Their business? Investing in carbon offsets. There's also a $500 million Green Growth Fund set up by a Goldmanite to invest in greentech … the list goes on and on. Goldman is ahead of the headlines again, just waiting for someone to make it rain in the right spot. Will this market be bigger than the energyfutures market?

"Oh, it'll dwarf it," says a former staffer on the House energy committee.

Please read full by
- Rolling Stone

Pebble Bed Reactors Safety and Feasibility

“First and foremost, this generator will be the safest nuclear power plant ever designed and built,”
The major safety issue regarding nuclear reactors lies in how to cool them efficiently, as they continue to produce residual heat even after shutdown. Gas-cooled reactors discharge surplus heat and don’t need additional safety systems like water-cooled reactors do. The HTR-10 was subject to a test of its intrinsic safety in September 2004 when, as an experiment, it was shut down with no cooling.

Fuel temperature reached less than 1600 C and there was no failure.

“Using the existing operating HTR-10 reactor at the Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology of Tsinghua University in Beijing, we have already done what would be unthinkable in a conventional reactor—we switched off the helium coolant and successfully let the reactor cool down by itself,” said Wu.

Read full
from nextbigfuture

More on pebble bed reactors:
There have been some articles that are critical of the design and safety of pebble bed reactors and claim the demise of pebble bed reactors.
Here is the rebuttal of the criticism of pebble bed reactors. Dr Albert Koster, PBMR (Pty) senior consultant, nuclear safety, replies directly to criticisms of the PBMR reactor.
....In respect of the pebble bed modular reactor, we put all technology options in our generation planning process only once they are proven, and the PBMR must still be proven."

New engine has half the diesel particulate matter emissions.

Amtrak California Repowers Toward a Greener Future
"This is really a big step for Caltrans. We took a proactive role to get a cleaner locomotive on the tracks, and we're proud to see this project through. It aligns with Governor Schwarzenegger's objectives to clean up Caltran...

The Caltrans locomotive was upgraded (by EMD) with the latest microprocessor-controlled locomotive engine technology for lower emissions, increased fuel economy, greater reliability and predictable maintenance costs.

The newly upgraded locomotive will now achieve EPA Tier 2 emissions performance - two levels cleaner than required for this model.

Amtrak California is operating fifteen of the F59PHI locomotives and the goal is to convert the entire fleet to this new cleaner performance level, eventually reducing operating emissions by nearly 50 percent.

Read full press release here

Beneficial Biofuels Consensus

Beneficial Biofuels: Leading National Experts Reach Consensus

From ScienceDaily — Biofuels can be produced in large quantities and have multiple benefits, but only if they come from feedstocks produced with low life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, as well as minimal competition with food production.

This consensus emerges in a new journal article by researchers from the University of Minnesota, Princeton, MIT and the University of California, Berkeley.

The world needs to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, but recent findings have thrown the emerging biofuels industry into a quandary. We met to seek solutions," said the U of M's David Tilman, a noted ecologist and lead author of the paper.

"We found that the next generation of biofuels can be highly beneficial if produced properly."

The article, "Beneficial Biofuels—The Food, Energy and Environment Trilemma," will appear in the July 17 issue of Science. Tilman, a resident fellow of the U of M's Institute on the Environment, said the paper resulted from a year of conversations and debate among some of the nation's leading biofuel experts.

To balance biofuel production, food security and emissions reduction, the authors conclude that the global biofuels industry must focus on five major sources of renewable biomass:
    * Perennial plants grown on degraded lands abandoned from agricultural use
    * Crop residues
    * Sustainably harvested wood and forest residues
    * Double crops and mixed cropping systems
    * Municipal and industrial wastes

These sources can provide considerable amounts of biomass, at least 500 million tons per year in the United States alone, without incurring any significant land use carbon dioxide releases.

"We need to transition away from using food for biofuels toward more sustainable feedstocks that can be produced with much less impact on the environment,"

Read full from ScienceDaily

Jul 22, 2009

Energy and Global Warming News for June 22nd: GOP nuke plan to cost consumers up to $4 trillion; 98% of green product claims may be greenwash

Ouch....Please read full from the climateprogress reel

Climateprogress detailed the escalating costs of nuclear power in my May 2008 report, “The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power,” which noted a “reasonable estimate for levelized cost range … is 12 to 17 cents per kilowatt hour lifetime, and 1.7 times that number [20 to 29 cents per kilowatt-hour] in first year of commercial operation.”  On December 31, Time noted that nuclear plants’ capital costs are “out of control,” concluding “Most efficiency improvements have been priced at 1¢ to 3¢ per kilowatt-hour, while new nuclear energy is on track to cost 15¢ to 20¢ per kilowatt-hour. And no nuclear plant has ever been completed on budget.”

Then a January 2009 study for CP put the generation costs for power from new nuclear plants at from 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour — triple current U.S. electricity rates (see “The staggering cost of new nuclear power“). 

Now we have:

New reactors could increase consumer costs by $4 trillion — report

Consumers could pay $1.9 trillion to $4.4 trillion in excess costs if 100 new nuclear reactors are built instead of using renewable energy and energy efficiency to provide the same electricity, according to a new report by a consumer advocate and senior fellow at Vermont Law School.

The report released yesterday said cost estimates for new nuclear reactors are currently four times as high as estimates made at the beginning of the “nuclear renaissance.” New reactors will cost 12 to 20 cents per kilowatt-hour — at least 6 cents per kilowatt-hour more than electricity provided by renewable energy and energy efficiency, the report says.

“The nuclear industry cannot live up to the hope and hype because nuclear reactors are mega projects … that are site-specific and prone to delay and disruption,” Mark Cooper, a senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School and director of research at the Consumer Federation of America, said during a teleconference yesterday.

American shoppers misled by greenwash, Congress told

More than 98% of supposedly natural and environmentally friendly products on US supermarket shelves are making potentially false or misleading claims, Congress has been told. And 22% of products making green claims bear an environmental badge that has no inherent meaning, said Scot Case, of the environmental consulting firm TerraChoice.

The study of nearly 4,000 consumer products found “greenwashing” in nearly every product category – from a lack of verifiable information to outright lies.

Even the experts are confused. Case, whose firm runs its own Ecologo certification programme, admitted he had bought a refrigerator only to find it failed to meet its claims of energy efficiency.

“My refrigerator used twice as much energy as advertised,” he told members of the House of Representatives committee on commerce, trade and consumer protection. The hearing amounted to a crash course into the perils of the new green marketplace for the committee. Congress is looking at how to guide consumers through a thicket of competing claims on so-called greenness.

Record hunger: one billion people are going hungry worldwide

A new estimate by the UN FAO estimates that one billion people are currently going hungry: the highest number in history. Largely exacerbated by the global economic crisis, the number of the world’s hungry has risen by 100 million people.

The economic crisis has led to more hunger due to lower wages and layoffs worldwide. In addition, food prices still remain high after the food crisis that began in 2006: food prices remain 33 percent higher today than in 2005.

Read full from the climateprogress reel

EPA's cellulosic ethanol estimates proved wrong by fraudulent company

The EPA issued a report not long ago stating that the U.S. would produce 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2010, with 70 percent of this production expected to come from a single company in Alabama called Cello Energy. The EPA might have put a few too many eggs in a single basket this time.

Cello Energy was recently found guilty of fraud in a federal court in Alabama. The court found the company lied to a major investor about their ability to produce ethanol sourced from non-feedstock materials and was passing off an oil-based product as cellulosic ethanol. Whoops.

Cello now needs to pay $10.4 million in damages. What does this mean for the U.S. cellulosic ethanol market? If domestic producers can't reach the 100 million gallons target, then the Government can issue credits that would allow producers to be paid up to $3/gallon. Alternately, the industry will be given additional time to meet the goal.

[Source: Green Car Advisor - VIA AutoBlogGreen]

Implantable Device for Monitoring Cancer and Biomarkers Developed

MIT researchers have developed a device, right, that can be implanted into a tumor to monitor how it responds to treatment

MIT, Boston General Hospital and other researchers have developed an implantable device for monitoring cancer.

An implantable diagnostic device that senses the local in vivo environment. This device, which could be left behind during biopsy, uses a semi-permeable membrane to contain nanoparticle magnetic relaxation switches. A cell line secreting a model cancer biomarker produced ectopic tumors in mice.

Short term applications for this device are numerous, including verification of successful tumor resection. This may represent the first continuous monitoring device for soluble cancer biomarkers in vivo.
MIT has an article on this from May 2009.

Read more by nextbigfuture

Jul 21, 2009

Green Infrastructure Webcast on Green Streets and Operation & Maintenance

Green Highways and Green Streets are increasingly becoming critical elements of community strategies to create a sustainable infrastructure for the 21st Century.

The integration of green technologies into street right-of-ways is allowing communities to develop innovative approaches for stormwater retrofits of urban areas that incorporate many of the benefits of Green Infrastructure, including urban heat island reduction, job creation, and energy savings. The first half of this webcast will present case studies, state-of-the-art research, green transportation industry resources, and successful partnerships for implementation, such as the Green Highways Partnership.

Even the best designed stormwater practice can fail if not properly maintained. The second half of this webcast will include a discussion of Seattle Public Utilities Green Stormwater Infrastructure Program and Natural Drainage Systems maintenance practices. Seattle Public Utilities has developed a Natural Drainage Systems Maintenance Manual which addresses issues such as vegetation, system functionality, hardscape, infiltration failure, and safety. This webcast will also include numerous lessons learned from Seattle's experience, and examples of O&M manuals developed for specific projects.

This EPA webcast will be held June 28, 2009 from 1:00 to 3:00 Eastern time.

To sign up for this free webcast, go to www.epa.gov/npdes/training


Water is Missing from Renewable Energy Equation

The latest report from Lux Research, "Global Energy: Unshackling Carbon from Water," observes that while new energy sources and extraction methods may reduce carbon intensity, they often impose increased water usage.

"On a planet where only 0.008 percent of the water is renewable, such tradeoffs will become an increasingly important consideration for executives and policymakers," said Michael LoCascio, a senior analyst at Lux Research and the report's lead author. "Fortunately, many of the technologies and approaches needed to reduce water intensity are here today, or on the horizon."

The report, according to the company's press release, provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of how all the major conventional and alternative fuel and electricity sources balance their carbon dioxide and water intensity, as well as other important factors like cost and scalability. It also analyzes how alternative energy sources, improved extraction and efficiency, water recycling technologies, and improved energy distribution could help increase the environmental and economic viability for given energy technologies.

The report finds that:

  • Retrofits and upgrades will make coal and natural gas electricity sources more water and/or energy efficient. Representative solutions include boiler water treatments, like electrocoagulation, advanced ion exchange and membrane electrolysis, as well as dry condensers and cooling tower water recapture.
  • New and improved extraction technologies will be employed. Exploitation of oil sands and improved deep sea extraction will continue to make oil the cheapest, if dirtiest, source of energy for automotive drivetrains. But water recycling technologies like desalination and hydrocarbon recovery could reduce the water- and carbon-intensity of oil extraction from new sources like the tar sands.
  • The slow roll-out of transcontinental high-voltage DC transmission lines will hinder low-carbon, low-water energy sources like solar and wind. Biofuels use far too much water and are capable of providing too little energy to make up more than a few percent of global needs.
  • Nuclear is the only low-carbon, low-cost energy source that can reliably meet future electricity needs, but water is its Achilles' heel. However, advanced designs promise to increase efficiency and reduce water intensity, while placing plants on the coasts decouples them from increasingly scarce fresh water sources.
Water and WasteWater News

Like we didn't know CELLPHONE DANGER IN CARS!

Are we really surprised by this?
In 2003, researchers at a federal agency proposed a long-term study of 10,000 drivers to assess the safety risk posed by cellphone use behind the wheel. They sought the study based on evidence that such multitasking was a serious and growing threat on America's roadways.

But such an ambitious study never happened. And the researchers' agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, decided not to make public hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the use of phones by drivers - in part, officials say, because of concerns about angering Congress. . .

The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002. . .

That letter said that hands-free headsets did not eliminate the serious accident risk.

The reason: a cell phone conversation itself, not just holding the phone, takes drivers' focus off the road, studies showed.

The research mirrors other studies about the dangers of multitasking behind the wheel.

Research shows that motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.
Read full by NY Times

Mazda offers commercial leasing of hydrogen hybrid vehicles

Mazda Motor Corp., a major Japanese automobile manufacturer, commenced on March 25, 2009, commercial leasing of the Mazda Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid, a hydrogen hybrid vehicle that offers substantially improved performance thanks to the addition of a hybrid system. Mazda is the world's first automobile manufacturer to begin commercial leasing of a hydrogen hybrid vehicle.

Read full at Japan for Sustainability

The SmartGrid expensive boondoggle... needs a brain

A Costly and Unnecessary New Electricity Grid
A national interstate system for distributing power may prove an expensive boondoggle.

Energy experts generally agree that the electrical grid in the United States needs to be upgraded if the country is to increase its use of renewable-energy sources like wind power and significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

But plans to string new high-voltage lines to bring wind power from the midsection of the country to the coasts, where most of the demand is, could be expensive and unnecessary, and a distraction from more urgent needs, some experts say.

A new national grid, which has been likened to the Interstate Highway System constructed in the 1950s, has been proposed by groups such as the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank, and AEP, a large utility; elements of the plans have been included in recent federal legislation.

But such a plan is "only a dream," says Paul Joskow, president of the Sloan Foundation and a professor of economics at MIT.

"It's expensive. It's politically contentious. In the end, I think you're better off spending the money on other things."

A national system would also be expensive. A study by the utility AEP suggests that a new national system of 19,000 miles of high-voltage lines would cost $60 billion. It's unclear whether the costs of such a system will be competitive with other approaches to reducing emissions, says Steven Hauser, vice president of grid integration at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in Golden, CO. "It may be cost effective to build it from North Dakota to Chicago; building it to Boston or to Los Angeles may not," he says. "From a cost point of view, where's the point of no return?"

What's more, advances in technology could change the economics involved and make long-distance wind transmission projects obsolete. For example, far-offshore wind farms could be located just a few dozen miles from major cities and provide wind power that is cheaper and more reliable than wind farms on land.

Read full from

Pic Source G.E. & smartgridnews

Thorium theory - giving dumb nuclear a brain and a chance...

No one can disagree that nuclear power done wrong can have 'earth changing' effects, but few can agree that modern man can handle all of the waste, cost, water and safety issues surrounding nuclear energy as a replacement for fossil fuels.

Can Thorium theory and Fast Breed save nuclear's and our future? Maybe.

Here is some further insight into both:

Can thorium save the planet? - Prof Bob Cywinski, Huddersfield University
IT is impossible to open a newspaper without reading about climate change.
What is worse is that we are told that it is our fault because it is the carbon produced by the fuels we burn for transport and for energy generation that is driving global warming.

If this is the case, then prospects are gloomy:
the growth in global population stands at 165,000 per day. Assuming each of these new arrivals uses no more energy on average than current inhabitants of the planet then, just to meet their needs,
we will have to build the equivalent of a gigawatt power station somewhere in the world every single day. All of these new power stations, if fuelled with conventional fuels such as oil, gas or coal, will pump an additional 1,300 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere in just one year!

Surprisingly, even if we resorted to "clean" wind power, the cost of building and servicing the windmills would be an extra 13 million tons of carbon annually, not to mention the additional 80 thousand square miles needed for wind farms each year... and we would have to pray that the wind kept blowing!

These are the reasons that the Government has suggested that we simply cannot afford to ignore nuclear power, an energy source with a carbon cost only half that of wind. The problem is that, whether rationally or irrationally, public perception of nuclear power is coloured by issues of safety, the radiotoxicity of its waste, its links to nuclear weapon proliferation and concerns about its vulnerability to terrorism.

Clearly the nuclear option is very controversial. But perhaps there is a more acceptable nuclear alternative.

Thorium is four times more plentiful than uranium.
More importantly only 5,000 tons of thorium can produce all the energy needed by the planet for a whole year.
Although thorium itself doesn't undergo fission, it can be converted to fissile fuel in an energy amplifier. As thorium is burned, unlike uranium, it produces no plutonium, the highly toxic and potent ingredient of nuclear weapons.

In fact, existing plutonium stocks and other nuclear waste can even be burnt as fuel in an energy amplifier, rendering it safe for future generations
Clearly the energy amplifier has the potential to fill the gap of carbon-free nuclear power stations with a safer, cheaper and more sustainable form of nuclear power.

Huddersfield University and scientists from the universities of Manchester and Cambridge, are now developing a viable, cost-effective energy amplifier design developments and offer encouragement to research which might just save the planet. Read full from
Prof Bob Cywinski here

Research more:

Jul 20, 2009

Pickens - Show me the GREEN in energy.

Bloomberg... Pickens Said to Seek To Hedge Out

Too expensive?  Building and maintaining turbines like these at Ovenden Moor produces 13 million tons of carbon a year  Picture: wikimedia.org
Billionaire energy investor hit by losses and client redemptions in 2008, is raising money again...
Pickens, 81, met with potential investors in New York over the past two weeks, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. BP Capital LLC, his Dallas-based firm, is seeking to expand its Energy Equity Fund II, which invests in stocks and futures, and Energy Fund II, which trades futures only, they said. These are follow-on versions of funds that Pickens closed to new investors.

BP Capital, which manages about $500 million, had more than $4 billion at the start of 2008 before the original Energy Fund fell 98 percent and first Energy Equity Fund lost 64 percent, according to the firm’s marketing documents.

“Investors are much more cautious now and prefer to invest with the managers who have not made headline stories last year,” said Vidak Radonjic, managing partner at Jersey City, New Jersey-based Beryl Consulting Group LLC, which advises clients on investing in hedge funds.

Hedge funds are private, lightly regulated pools of capital whose managers can buy or sell any assets, bet on falling and rising asset prices and participate in profits from money invested.
Pickens typically holds his investments between three months and two years, according to the documents.

He is the biggest investor in his funds, owning about 20 percent.

Read full at

40 Times worse than CO2 methane belched out by megacities

The Los Angeles metropolitan area belches far more methane into its air than scientists had previously realized. If other megacities are equally profligate, urban methane emissions may represent a surprisingly important source of this potent greenhouse gas.

Atmospheric researchers have long had good estimates of global methane emissions, but less is known about exactly where these emissions come from, particularly in urban areas.

To fill this void, a research team led by Paul Wennberg, an atmospheric chemist at Caltech in Pasadena, estimated methane emissions for the Los Angeles region, then subtracted all known sources of methane, such as livestock, landfills and sewage. They ended up with an enormous amount of methane – about 0.14 to 0.34 megatonnes per year, or up to half of the total emissions that could not be accounted for by known sources.

This extra methane may result from higher than expected leakage from landfills, sewage treatment plants or natural gas pipelines, or it could be natural seepage from oil wells or other geologic sources, the researchers say.

Read full from newscientist

Tap the cause and use the source of CH4 - Methane Hydrates

The OilDrum Update on worldwide hydrates:
Since last years Hydrates updated, a survey on hydrates was carried out in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Seven deepwater slim holes were drilled last April as part of Leg II of the Joint Industry Project (JIP Leg II). The results were claimed by Dr Collett to be "very encouraging"

What are the hydrate in-place resource estimates?

In its 2000 report Oceanic gas hydrate research and activity review [pdf!] (MMS 2000-017), the MMS claimed (Kvenvolden 1993) that the distribution of worldwide organic carbon in gas hydrate (onshore and offshore = 10 000 Pg) was twice the amount of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas = 5 000 Pg). This figure was still being used by the USGS in 2006 (Collett et al). This was unrealistic because most hydrates are located in the first 600 m of recent oceanic sediments (water depth > 500 m) which covers a period of time of a few millions years, while fossil fuels sediments cover a period of about one billion years, with larger surface and thickness (>6000 m).

In his book "The Deep, Hot Biosphere" Thomas Gold in July of 1992 (which convinced the Swedish government to drill two wells on the Siljan meteorite crater looking for abiogenic oil and gas. He justified his theory by the large volume of oceanic hydrates:

The large quantities of methane hydrates (methane-water ices) found in many areas of the ocean floor, and thought to contain more methane than all other known methane deposits, suggest a widely distributed methane supply from below.

A Permafrost hydrate in sandy sediments is quite different from an oceanic hydrate in clay, mostly unconsolidated sediments. Permafrost hydrates were drilled in oil and gas producing basins: they are old accumulations and mainly thermogenic. Oceanic hydrates were drilled in oil and gas producing basins (e.g. GOM). In the North Slope hydrates seem quite uneconomical (the Mallik test was less than a CBM test) and their interest is negligible when Prudhoe Bay free gas reserves are still stranded (in unconventional production the size of the tank does not matter, it is the size of the tap!). It is a far future prospect, needing first a gas pipeline and much higher gas prices because of the small flow (no pressure because shallow depths). Collett et Petrotech 2009 (Geologic and engineering controls on the energy resource potential of gas hydrates [pdf!]) states that the maximum rate on Mallik 2008 was 4000 m3/d .

There is no production concept for oceanic hydrates, because no one knows how to extract them, if they mainly lie in unconsolidated impermeable sediments. Furthermore, the heterogeneity of oceanic hydrates (few centimetres vertically and few meters horizontally) seems to be a difficult obstacle to overcome.

Hydrate is the Santa Claus of many who do not want to change their way of life. But hydrate occurrences are hard to evaluate, mainly because of a lack of samples (cores), which is the only way to calibrate all the visible proxies: well logs and seismic data.

The GOM is now claimed to have the "most promising marine gas hydrate accumulations in the world", but unfortunately this is only wishful thinking without the coring, which is now planned only for 2011 or later. As usual, the data is incomplete to back up such optimistic claims, in particular for the GOM.

Read more from the OilDrum

Population is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the attic.

The environmental problem the world is loath to address
A quick question: What's the biggest environmental problem facing humanity today. Is it global warming? One would certainly think so judging from the actions of various governments, which are trying to reduce those manmade greenhouse gas emissions we hear so much about. Is it dwindling energy resources, running up against the limits of agricultural technology in feeding the earth's population, or perhaps diminished supplies of fresh water, without which life cannot be sustained?

All of the above are exacerbated by the continued growth in the number of people living on this planet. Overpopulation is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the attic. It is the most disastrous environmental threat we face, yet one whispered about rather carefully since there are no apparent solutions to it that are politically viable.

On May 24, the Times of London reported that some of America's richest people met secretly to consider how their philanthropy could be utilized to slow population growth and speed up improvements in health and education. The story said the gathering included David Rockefeller Jr., Warren Buffett and George Soros, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and media tycoons Ted Turner and Oprah Winfrey. The meeting was hush-hush, contrary to the normal trumpeting of gifts to good causes.

According to the report, these people, along with Bill Gates, have given away several tens of billions of dollars in the last 13 years to causes ranging from public health programs in so-called developing countries to ghetto schools closer to home. The secrecy may well have been prompted by the reality that many Third World leaders view contraception and female education as anathema to their societies. One guest reportedly said that a consensus emerged during the meeting that these givers would back "a strategy in which population growth would be tackled as a potentially disastrous environmental, social and industrial threat."

Read full from baltimoresun

Hat tip OilDrum

Toxic Anaerobic Digestion

Jul 19, 2009

Energy FAIL - open up protected area for few weeks of oil?

Haase comment: A picture of truth and a press release of deception...
Associated Press: The Obama administration is moving ahead with an oil lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico next month despite legal questions about whether the proposal and other offshore drilling plans initially drawn up under President George W. Bush went through a full environmental review.
"Secretary Salazar believes that it is important to move forward with President Obama's comprehensive energy agenda for the country," Barkoff said.
The decision comes four months after the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington blocked lease sales in Alaska, saying the Bush administration didn't properly study the environmental consequences.
The sale would pave the way for drilling in some 18 million acres in the western Gulf near Texas. The area comes as close as nine miles from shore in some parts and stretches as far as 250 miles out.
Interior's Minerals Management Service, which conducts lease sales, estimates the area could yield up to 423 million barrels of oil and up to 2.64 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The U.S. uses about 7.5 billion barrels of oil per year, so the estimated oil production is the equivalent of a roughly three-week supply. The nation uses about 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, so the estimated gas production amounts to nearly six weeks of consumption.
Read more via yahoo News

U.S. releases unclassified spy images of Arctic ice

natural color imagenatural color image
South Cascade Glacier August 28, 2000 and September 10, 2006
"That doesn't happen every day," said a person familiar with the government's decision. "This is a great example of good government cooperation between the intelligence community and academia. In the science community, we call it a no-brainer." 

Prius takes a ride to the US aboard solar-powered container ship

Whats next a wind powered ship ;-)
As the manufacturer of the world's most famous hybrid car, it seems only fitting that Toyota has now begun shipping its Prius cars to the US using a container ship that could also qualify as a hybrid. The Auriga Leader, the world's first freighter to be partly powered using solar energy, has made its maiden voyage to the US from Japan, arriving at California's Port of Long Beach earlier this month with a consignment of Prius cars and other Toyota vehicles.
Read more from Business Green

Administration to allow clear-cutting of 381 acres rainforest in Alaska's

Insane? ahhh.... yes.
The U.S. has the world's seventh highest rate of primary forest loss in the world.
Between 2000 and 2005, the United States lost an average of 831 square miles (215,200 hectares) of "primary forest" -- defined as forests with no visible signs of past or present human activities.
These forests, often termed "old-growth forests," have the highest number of plant and animal species and are generally considered a top priority for conservation by environmentalists and government agencies. Large expanses of American forests -- especially in the South -- have been converted for industrial tree plantations used for paper and wood production.
The announcement disappointed environmentalists who hoped Vilsack's policy would lead to a moratorium on road-building across 58.5 million acres of national roadless areas. Green groups are now bracing for more logging deals.

Comment from Ancient Native Americans:

BP bails on jatropha great hope gone for biofuel

BP has indeed given up on jatropha, the shrub once touted as the great hope for biofuels, and walked away from its jatropha joint venture for less than $1 million.

Goodbye to all that

Speculation abounded this summer that BP was ready to jettison its participation in the project with British partner partner D1 Oils. The original plan called for the investment of $160 million to turn the jatropha tree into feedstock to make transportation fuel. Now, BP will turn its alternative-fuel efforts toward ethanol in Brazil and the U.S., as well as biobutanol.

The not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper end to BP's jatropha adventure underscores a couple of key points. First, the inedible but hardy plant that just a few years ago seemed like it could revolutionize biofuels has turned into a bust. The initial attraction was that it grows on marginal land, so it wouldn't compete with food crops. But marginal land means marginal yields. And jatropha turned out to be a water hog as well, further darkening its environmental credentials.

Second, for all the ink spilt over jatropha-and Big Oil's interest in biofuels in general-the value of some of those investments really is miniscule. D1 Oils will buy out BP's half of the venture for 500,000 pounds-less than the price of a nice apartment in London-even though the joint venture is apparently worth more than 7 million pounds.

Read more by Keith Johnson WSJ Blog

EPA to open Great Lakes hearings Tuesday in Milwaukee

The Environmental Protection Agency has picked Milwaukee to kick off a series of upcoming public hearings on how to chart a course to restore the Great Lakes.
A public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday to discuss the federal government's proposed blueprint to begin fixing some of the troubles plaguing the world's largest freshwater system.
The EPA and its sister federal agencies are focusing their efforts on cleaning up sites contaminated with toxic waste, stopping the onslaught of invasive species, reducing surface and sewer pollution flowing into the lakes and restoring ecologically sensitive habitats.

OLED Breakthrough Yields 75% More Efficient Lights

 "Researchers at Korea's Advanced Institute of Science and Technology recently announced a breakthrough in OLED technology that reduces the ultra-thin lights' energy consumption by 75%. The discovery hinges upon a new method of creating 'surface plasmon enhanced' organic light emitting diodes that boast 1.75 times increased emission rates and double the light intensity." OLEDnet notes: "The finding was published in the April issue of Applied Physics Letters and the June 25 issue of Optics Express. It will be also featured as the research highlight of the August issue of Nature Photonics and Virtual Journal of Ultrafast Science."

Cap and Trade Winners and Losers - Study

American Public Power Association, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, report analyzes three different scenarios for allocating emission allowances and determines that the scenario that produces the lowest cost for consumers is one in which all emission allowances are allocated for free to LDCs, the utilities that deliver power to the customer. Although this scenario will likely result in higher electricity prices, it will also allow regulatory entities to use benefits from the allowances for programs...

Allocating allowances to merchant generators needlessly increases costs to consumers because it reduces the number of allowances available to LDCs which are required to use the allowances to mitigate consumer costs.

The report, based on credible electricity plant-specific data from the Environmental Protection Agency aggregates consumer and producer impacts by regions of the country. It demonstrates how allocating allowances to merchant generators will increase unproductive costs for consumers.

The report states: "One particularly dramatic manifestation of these effects is the windfall profits that would accrue to the owners of unregulated non-emitting generators (i.e. nuclear and hydroelectric) under cap-and-trade. This windfall would amount to several billion dollars annually."

Full Study Here (PDF; 47 KB)

Jul 18, 2009

100 nuclear plants help... NO 2030 wil

The Gristy Reality of greed... all the new oil and nukes will not build a sustainable or prosperous future...
US Electricity Consumption 
An inarguable fact 100 Nuclear power plants would cost nearly over a Trillion dollar and wouldn't put a dent in our use of fossil fuels.
And build a 1000 year depot of indisposable radioactive waste...
There are better 'Nuclear options' - the current ones they are regurgitating out, are not that.
Please Urge Our Candidates to Commit to a Better Plan

Jul 17, 2009

15 mile-long blob of unknown, 'gooey,' material

"The Anchorage Daily News reports that a 15 mile-long blob of unknown, 'gooey,' probably organic material is floating past communities on Alaska's North Slope. 
The US Coast Guard sent pollution experts to investigate, who determined that it was not an oil spill or other type of pollution, but were unable to determine what it is. A sample is currently being analyzed by experts in Anchorage, while the blob is following the current northwards."

"It's definitely not an oil product of any kind. It has no characteristics of an oil, or a hazardous substance, for that matter. "It's definitely, by the smell and the makeup of it, it's some sort of naturally occurring organic or otherwise marine organism."

"That's one of the reasons we went out, because in recent history I don't think we've seen anything like this," he said. "Maybe inside lakes or in stagnant water or something, but not (in the ocean) that we could recall ...

"If it was something we'd seen before, we'd be able to say something about it. But we haven't ...which prompted concerns from the local hunters and whaling captains."

Read full form Anchorage Daily News

Health Care Reform? Not about health and no one cares....

CBO has slammed the health care bill, saying it will increase costs and weaken the economy...  Ouch!

Jonathan Cohn of TNR had this "Exclusive" just three days ago:

A lot of conservative Democrats, not to mention Republicans, express two big concerns about health reform. They're worried that reform will cost too much. And they don't want a government-run insurance plan.

It's about to get a lot harder to make those two arguments simultaneously.

According to a pair of Capitol Hill sources, preliminary estimates from the Congressional Budget Office suggest that a strong public option--the kind that the House of Representatives is putting in its reform bill--should net somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 billion in savings over ten years.

Whoops, that turned out to be wrong.

Meanwhile, Ezra Klein -- a supporter of the Democrats' plan -- has a whole list of caveats and reasons to discount the "least surprising revelation of the day."

This is funny, from WSJ:

[CBO Director] Mr. Elmendorf went on to say that there is widespread support among health analysts for taxing health care benefits as a way to reduce federal outgoings on health care. Taxing individuals' health care benefits is extremely unpopular among many Democratic lawmakers.

Why are they rejecting single payer?
Single payer will save $350 billion annually* and could save 1,000's of lives... but who cares?

Single payer legislation (HR 676) will effectively make it crime to sell basic health insurance for profit.

The majority of Americans support single payer.

The majority of doctors support single payer.

Only the rip-off health insurance corporations and the politicians they fund are opposed.

China's 65mph 600 mpg future.... e-scooters

Time Magazine has an update: There are 100 million electric bikes in China
Last year (2008) Chinese bought about 90% of the 23 million e-bikes sold worldwide. Experts say that next regions to likely embrace e-bikes are Southeast Asia, where gas-powered scooters are popular, and India, where rising incomes mean personal transportation is starting to be in reach of hundreds of millions. Japan has seen steady annual sales of about 300,000 for several years, and in the cycle-crazy Netherlands e-bikes are beginning to take off. In the U.S., where bikes are still overwhelmingly used for recreation rather than transportation, e-bike sales are expected to break 200,000 this year, or about 1% of China's sales.

Motorcycles are too dangerous, cars are too expensive, public transportation is too crowded and pedal bikes leave you too tired

Higher Power Nanocrystalline Core Electric Bike Motor from Texas
- The device is an electric motor with a nano-crystalline core. It is the size of a casserole dish, and more powerful than a 600cc motorcycle engine. Okonsky’s company, KLD Energy, is supplying the motor to the Vietnamese motorbike company Sufat and by the end of the year he expects to startle Hanoi with something it has never seen before — a clean, quiet electric scooter that can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in under 10 seconds.

KLD Energy Technology's nanocrystalline core electric motor
E-165: Max Speed - 65 mph (100 km/h)
Range - 160 km (100 mi)

The high-performance motor system's technology innovates in several key areas to drive performance:
* With a high-frequency to low RPM ratio, the motor system does not require a transmission.
* Through the use of an innovative nano-crystalline composite material the motor conducts energy ten times more efficiently than traditional iron-core motors, eliminating the need for additional cooling mechanisms and enabling greater responsiveness.

Read more from nextbigfuture

Jul 16, 2009

Geothermal @!%%# most efficient - Now will they listen to me?

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)- As the Obama Administration pushed the energy bill through the House, government organizations and corporations are assessing renewable energy alternatives.

Which are the most efficient and improving the fastest? According to a new study from NYU Stern, geothermal and wind energy are more efficient, and are yielding greater returns on the R&D invested in them, than most other renewable energy alternatives.

NYU Stern Professor Melissa Schilling, an expert in strategic management and technology and innovation management, finds that the cost of generating electricity with geothermal or wind energy is a fraction of the cost of solar energy. More important, the performance of both is improving much more per dollar of R&D invested in them than solar technologies. This is the first study to explore the trajectory of performance improvement of renewable energy alternatives.

She examined data on government R&D investment and technological improvement and found:

* Geothermal energy is the most efficient renewable energy alternative and is improving the fastest. Wind energy is second.
* Fossil fuel technologies are no longer improving (in terms of efficiency) much – if at all. These technologies have likely reached their performance limits, though the government still spends far more on them.
* Geothermal energy could become cheaper than fossil fuels with R&D spending of as little as $3.3 billion.
* Both geothermal and wind energy technologies have been underfunded by national governments relative to funding for solar technologies, and government funding of fossil fuel technologies might be excessive given their diminishing performance.

The full paper was recently published in Energy Policy and is available here

Read about it more in the news here

Wal-Mart to measure the environmental impact of the products it sells in its stores.

NEW YORK, July 15 (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's biggest retailer, is preparing to hold a meeting on Thursday to announce the development of an index that will be used to measure the environmental impact of the products it sells in its stores.

'This summit represents a key inflection point in the process of designing and launching Wal-Mart Sustainability Index, which is the tool Wal-Mart buyers will use to evaluate their 60,000 suppliers and determine the hundreds of thousands of products that end up on store shelves,' the company states on a website designed for the event.
Article Controls

Wal-Mart said in a press release on Tuesday that it would hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss its plans 'to address consumers' increasing expectations for more sustainable products and how measuring sustainability can drive innovation in the supply chain and in products consumers purchase.'

Read full from Reuters Via Frobes

AIG Closed Climate Change Program Last Month

Last month American Insurance Group (AIG) closed its climate change program, which included keeping an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. The only thing left is the Global Marine and Energy division, but nothing that directly tackles climate change. The Global Marine and Energy division contains some of the “company’s most robust portfolio of renewable energy providers,” as a New York Times article put it.

AIG has not released an official statement about closing the climate change program, so the reasons why it closed it are only speculation. However, according to Treehugger, “It's assumed that it was a budgetary decision--clean energy is deemed too risky, too low on reward right now.”

AIG has received about $180 billion from the government to keep it afloat. Treehugger made the following observation about AIG closing its climate change program:

It's kind of ironic, really--the company that had a hand in creating a global recession by making unsustainable investments was on the brink of making some of the most important, most sustainable investments of all.

 CLICK HERE to Continue Reading

LED parking lot lights at Wal-Mart stores nationwide?

DOE Retailer Energy Alliance Partner Wal-Mart Holds Grand Reopening of Store Featuring LED Parking Lot Site Lighting

The Wal-Mart Superstore, the first retail store to feature light-emitting diode (LED) parking lot site lighting, based on specifications developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Retailer Energy Alliance, will reopen on July 15, 2009, in Leavenworth, Kansas. The Superstore will serve as a test site to determine the viability of expanding LED parking lot lights at Wal-Mart stores nationwide.

Wal-Mart is one of 43 retailers that are actively engaged in DOE's Net-Zero Commercial Building Initiative (CBI) as members of the DOE Retailer Energy Alliance (REA). REA members work with DOE and the national laboratories to advance the development and market adoption of net-zero energy commercial buildings. The alliance has attracted large and small retailers who are committed to reducing the energy costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and overall operating risks of retail businesses. The primary aim of DOE's energy alliances is to create specifications for promising energy efficiency technologies, test their viability in order to encourage use, and drive down costs.

The specifications for the LED lighting were sponsored by DOE and were developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and retailers nationwide to address energy-efficient lighting opportunities. DOE's Solid-State Lighting Program provided technical assistance.

LED parking lot lighting is a new technology that has potentially enormous energy savings. LED lights are more precise in their direction, reducing waste light and limiting glare. DOE and its national laboratories predict that LED parking lot lights will reduce parking lot energy needs by more than 50% and maintenance costs by more than 80% compared to traditional parking lot lights. For retailer sites that are open 24 hours a day, traditional lights must be replaced every two years; LED lights will be replaced every 10 years on average.

For more information about CBI and the work of the energy alliances, visit the Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative Web site.
Printable Version

Full story at EERE

“There is simply no way to avoid sacrifice.... President Cancels Address on Energy; No Reason Offered.”

Five Presidents together celebrating 30 years of lip service on energy independence!

New York Times -  The Times blared, "President Cancels Address on Energy; No Reason Offered."
Some of the notables spoke in apocalyptic terms.

For 10 days a country already speechless with rage had a leader who said nothing....

...then on July 15 — 30 years ago today — at 10 p.m., President Carter and 100 million people finally faced each other across that familiar Oval Office desk. What they saw and heard was unlike any moment they had experienced from their 39th president. Speaking with rare force, with inflections flowing from meanings he felt deeply, Jimmy Carter called for the "most massive peacetime commitment" in our history to develop alternative fuels.

Contrary to later spin, the speech was extremely popular. The White House was flooded with positive calls. Viewers polled while watching found that the speech inspired them as it unfolded.

The real reason is probably that there was never any way the Jimmy Carter we all know would avoid saying:
"There is simply no way to avoid sacrifice." Where the speeches of Reagan and Barack Obama evoke the beauty of dreams, President Carter insisted on the realities of responsibility and the need for radical change. Mr. Carter's sense of our own accountability, his warnings about the debilitating effects of self-centered divisiveness were the speech's true heresies.

They are also the very elements that keep it relevant today.

Read more from New York Times

The REAL problem is not CO2 - the water wars

Guardian - India prays for rain as water wars break out
Everyone stood around, looking down at the hole in the ground. The pipe is dry. "It is a terrible thing, that people should be fighting over water," said Shanno.

The monsoon is late, the wells are running dry and in the teeming city of Bhopal, water supply is now a deadly issue. Gethin Chamberlain reports
It was a little after 8pm when the water started flowing through the pipe running beneath the dirt streets of Bhopal's Sanjay Nagar slum. After days without a drop of water, the Malviya family were the first to reach the hole they had drilled in the pipe, filling what containers they had as quickly as they could. 
Within minutes, three of them were dead, hacked to death by angry neighbours who accused them of stealing water.

The population of 1.8 million has been rationed to 30 minutes of water supply every other day since October. That became one day in three as the monsoon failed to materialise. In nearby Indore the ration is half an hour's supply every seven days.

The UN has warned for many years that water shortages will become one of the most pressing problems on the planet over the coming decades, with one report estimating that four billion people will be affected by 2050. What is happening in India, which has too many people in places where there is not enough water, is a foretaste of what is to come.

Everyone stood around, looking down at the hole in the ground. The pipe is dry. "It is a terrible thing, that people should be fighting over water," said Shanno.

Read full from Guardian

New York Times - Iraq Suffers as the Euphrates River Dwindles

“Maaku mai!” they shout, holding up their rusty sickles. “There is no water!”

The shrinking of the Euphrates, a river so crucial to the birth of civilization that the Book of Revelation prophesied its drying up as a sign of the end times, has decimated farms along its banks, has left fishermen impoverished and has depleted riverside towns as farmers flee to the cities looking for work.

The poor suffer more acutely, but all strata of society are feeling the effects: sheiks, diplomats and even members of Parliament who retreat to their farms after weeks in Baghdad.

“We have a real thirst in Iraq,” said Ali Baban, the minister of planning. “Our agriculture is going to die, our cities are going to wilt, and no state can keep quiet in such a situation.”

“The old men say it’s the worst they remember,” said Sayid Diyia, 34, a fisherman in Hindiya, sitting in a riverside cafe full of his idle colleagues. “I’m depending on God’s blessings.”

“There’s no water in the river that we drink from,” she said, referring to a channel that flows from the Euphrates. “It’s now totally dry, and it contains sewage water. They dig wells but sometimes the water just cuts out and we have to drink from the river. All my kids are sick because of the water.”

Read more from
New York Times

Jul 15, 2009

Current climate models are fundamentally wrong

"In a nutshell, theoretical models cannot explain what we observe in the geological record," said oceanographer Gerald Dickens, a co-author of the study and professor of Earth science at Rice University.

"There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the way temperature and carbon are linked in climate models."

"You go along a core and everything's the same, the same, the same, and then suddenly you pass this time line and the carbon chemistry is completely different," Dickens said. "This has been documented time and again at sites all over the world."

Read full from sciencedaily

Also on same article - Global Warming Predictions Are Overestimated, Suggests Study On Black Carbon A detailed analysis of black carbon -- the residue of burned organic matter -- in computer climate models suggests that those models may be overestimating global warming ... read more sciencedaily

Profit on the plight of others

People do stupid things for other people who don't to easily profit on the predictable peak predicament.
(there is an ant & grasshopper analogy here?)

While most who read this blog will continue to invest in our renewable and sustainable future it is hard to ignore the obvious investment opportunities in 'finite resource' markets.

As we make a cataclysmic choice NOT to reduce our nations energy and oil demands in the next decade... I have to look at the reality of investing in this 'plight for profit'.

It is called 'buy low, sell high' - Unlike my IRA or 401K, it works 100% of the time ;-(

From Seeking Alpha 'How to Invest in Peak Oil'
Suddenly there was very little peak oil talk. Today oil is around $60/barrel - and dropping. It is time to again visit peak oil thinking.

Several factors influence oil’s price. The fundamentals, of course, are supply and demand. Wars and rumors of wars, especially in the oil rich Middle East, can drive prices sharply higher in just minutes. Quantitative easing (printing of money), technological advances, Middle East stability, market manipulation, “herd mentality”, all influence oil prices.

So, any discussion on peak oil must also consider non-fundamentals.

Oil fields, once put into production, go into decline as the easiest to recover oil is drawn off first. In fields all over the world, the “easy stuff” is now largely gone. Even the massive Saudi Arabian fields are in decline. This is true of course for all resources. Consider copper: In early settlement days large copper ingots were found simply lying on the ground in parts of Michigan as gold nuggets were found in parts of California.

No one finds gold or copper lying around for the taking any more. We need to dig massive, miles wide, holes in the ground, thousands of feet deep. South Africa goes deeper and deeper to tap their prolific gold fields, yet production is in decline. Yes, I know this article is about oil, not gold or copper. The principle is the same though, we must exert greater and greater effort to extract natural resources.

New discoveries can drastically affect prices. In 1901, in southeastern Texas, after drilling down over a little over 1000 feet, the Spindletop oil well suddenly exploded up, oil gushing 150 feet into the air. Spindletop, originally expected to produce 50 barrels a day, initially produced an unheard for the time 100,000 barrels a day, more oil than anyone knew what to do with. By 1902 the price of oil had declined to an all time low of 3 cents a barrel. Previously most US oil had come from the less prolific Pennsylvania fields. Read about Spindletop here.

Now, with over one billion cars worldwide predicted by 2010, we know exactly what to do with with oil and gasoline.

We still occasionally find huge oil fields. However, they are miles deep, under the ocean, rock and salt or locked in tight shale formations. Read Kurt Wulff’s SA article about the large Petrobras finds off Brazil. In the US it has recently been estimated North Dakota’s Bakken shale may contain up to 500 billion barrels, yet only 3-4 billion is recoverable at today’s prices (see here).  Conclusion? Another “Spindletop” effect is extremely unlikely.

How to invest in today’s environment?
I think: play the extremes, at least the best you can - admittedly not easy. Don’t like to play? Wait for a dip, invest in some good companies and hold on. My best guess (hopefully an educated guess, but that is debatable) is that the recession/depression will drive prices down to below the $45 barrel range, then maybe stabilize (though stability in this market is rare) for a few years. Long term, 3-5 years out, prices will rebound much higher as world economies improve and supplies contract. Middle East unrest, of course, will at least in the short term, drive prices up considerably.

Natural gas will be much less volatile as the US if finding lots of it. Look for a slow substitution of natural for gasoline in vehicles...

Read more from
Seeking Alpha 'How to Invest in Peak Oil'