Receding Horizons

April 27, 2007 at 10:31 am
Contributed by: Chris


This longish article was broken into two parts for Energy and Capital (here and here), but I have reprinted it whole here for convenience.

In it, I discuss the paradox that many highly-anticipated oil and gas projects around the world are being delayed or cancelled due to the high cost of oil…when the high cost of oil was supposed to make them economical.

I think this is an important dynamic to be aware of as we cross into post-oil peak terrority. Our expectations for future production may not be fulfilled.

–C (more…)

Air Force Breaks Ground on Largest Solar Farm in North America

April 26, 2007 at 9:35 am
Contributed by: Chris


Here’s my latest piece for the Green Chip Stocks subscription file, which they graciously allowed me to reprint here.

Admirals, Generals Worried About Climate Change

April 20, 2007 at 10:01 am
Contributed by: Chris


Here is my latest for Wealth Daily, about a new report by retired military brass about the national security implications of climate change, and what should be done about it.

Fighting Terror with Hypercars

April 13, 2007 at 1:31 pm
Contributed by: Chris


Here is my latest for Energy and Capital, about the intense lobbying for alternative vehicle designs (“hypercars”) and alternative liquid fuels, by a slew of former statesmen and CIA heads. These security hawks are all about renewable energy. Since I now find myself allied with some members of the neo-con rogues gallery, I think it’s a fascinating movement…especially as contrasted with the foot-dragging approach of the administration.

Climb Aboard the RPS Express

April 12, 2007 at 7:58 pm
Contributed by: Chris

Here’s my latest article for Green Chip Stocks, about the proliferation of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) all across the country. Almost half the states now have an RPS and that number is growing rapidly.

Google Earth brings Darfur crisis to life

April 12, 2007 at 5:19 pm
Contributed by:


This is interesting: a collaboration between Google Earth and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The latter’s Genocide Prevention Mapping Initiative “seeks to collect, share and visually present to the world critical information on emerging crises that may lead to genocide or related crimes against humanity” and has used Google Earth as a platform to present their information.

This first effort is a very effective display about the genocide that is happening in Darfur. Using Google Earth, you can zoom in, find villages that are burning or destroyed, find photos, videos, and other media about each trouble spot, and find links to related information. It also features high-resolution imagery that “allows any user to see the systematic destruction of tens of thousands of homes, schools, mosques and other structures. It also reveals the sprawling refugee and displaced person camps, often identified by thousands of white tents strewn across the desert.”

More such presentations are planned. You can also use the platform to make your own presentations.

That’s how you make a war real, and generate public support for stopping the genocide. This is the kind of work that the mainstream media used to do, and that I wish they still did. Kudos to the USHMM and to Google for this compelling presentation!

Get started here:


Matthew Simmons interview on Financial Sense Newshour

April 9, 2007 at 7:40 pm
Contributed by:


Matthew Simmons was interviewed a few days ago on the Financial Sense Newshour with Jim Puplava. This was an excellent interview, and quite comprehensive, lasting a full 41 minutes. There are very few people in the world who know the oil and gas markets as well as Simmons, so it’s great that he’s getting the opportunity to tell the whole truth about oil, rather than just quick little soundbite moments where he’s pit against some pollyannish economist, as has been the case up until recently. Bravo to Puplava for featuring the issue so prominently on his show! Check it out.

Go to and listen to the interivew for April 7, “Topic: The GAO Report on Peak Oil.”

No Time To Lose

April 7, 2007 at 11:05 am
Contributed by: Chris


This article, which I wrote for last week’s Energy and Capital, is one I’ve been wanting to write for some time now: a top-level survey of all the major energy sources, and where we now stand in their production. It’s a very sobering situation, one that The Street really hasn’t yet grasped. If this doesn’t get you to thinking about your Plan B, then I don’t know what will. Please share it widely.


Bee Concerned

April 6, 2007 at 5:56 pm
Contributed by:


I’m taking a brief break here from my energy journalism to post this story about a subject that has been popping up on my radar pretty frequently lately: the mysterious disappearances of bees, all around the world. In addition to the news clip below, see these:

India, whole colonies are missing:


And in
Colorado and 23 other states, same thing…possibly a 40% loss rate:


But in
Florida, they just killed a huge swarm that had taken over a tree:


And in
Oregon, the population is up 18% and the honey harvest up 35%.

If anybody out there has additional info on this story, please send it to me.



Excerpted from Solar Living Institute Newsletter, Vol. V, No. 3 — March 13, 2007

U.S. honeybees are suffering from “colony collapse
disorder.” Beekeepers in 24 states say these
essential pollinators are simply disappearing, with
losses of 30% to 60% on the West Coast and, in
some cases, more than 70% on the East Coast and
in Texas. “I have never seen anything like it,” says
California keeper David Bradshaw. “Box after box after
box are just empty.” Perplexed scientists are testing
theories including stress, toxins, and viruses. It’s not
the first time bees have met a mystery fate, “but it’s
never been on a scale like this,” says bee specialist
Dennis van Engelsdorp. With bees pollinating more
than $14 billion of U.S. seeds and crops a year —
every third bite we eat, according to industry buzz —
those with full hives stand to benefit. “It’s supply and
demand,” says a keeper who expects to earn
$520,000 for a month in California’s almond orchards.

For more information:

U.S. Government Admits Peak Oil Threat

April 5, 2007 at 9:16 pm
Contributed by:


Last week’s release of a new GAO study on peak oil was a watershed event. Here’s my report on it for Wealth Daily


U.S. Government Admits Peak Oil Threat

By Chris Nelder

April 5, 2007

At long last, the U.S. Government admitted last week that peak oil is a reality.

Thanks to the relentless efforts of Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD) and Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) and their Congressional Peak Oil Caucus, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has performed a comprehensive study of the peak oil issue.

Their report, titled “Uncertainty about Future Oil Supply Makes It Important to Develop a Strategy for Addressing a Peak and Decline in Oil Production,” pulls no punches, either.

It warns that the U.S. is unprepared to deal with the decline of conventional oil, and is likely facing price shocks. “The consequences of a peak and permanent decline in oil production could be even more prolonged and severe than those of past oil supply shocks,” it says, and adds that the decline “would be neither temporary nor reversible.”

Anybody want a marker on $100 per barrel? $200?

As the title of the report implies, the U.S. is late in developing its response to the problem, partly because of uncertainty about the available data on oil reserves and production. “There is no coordinated federal strategy for reducing uncertainty about the peak’s timing or mitigating its consequences,” it says.

No, there is no coordinated federal strategy, because up until just recently, there were plenty of voices in the federal government denying that peak oil was even an issue.

But those days are behind us now, and this report is really a watershed moment in the debate. It comes from one of the most sober and respected agencies in the world, one right at the heart of the U.S. government.

What this means is that now we may be able to move beyond the political, often uninformed debate that has prevailed on the peak oil issue, and start focusing on facts and probable outcomes.

The authors of the report surveyed 21 previous peak oil studies, from the sublime (Bartlett, Deffeyes, Bakhtiari, Campbell) to the ridiculous (IEA, CERA, Exxon, Lynch) and observed that most studies project the peak to occur some time between 2000 and 2040, noting the many factors and unreliable data that make such projections difficult.

For the record, I have read many of these authors’ studies, and the ones I most respect all project a peak somewhere between 2005 and 2020, with 2015 a good median of consensus.

The report also noted that liquid fuel alternatives now in development–everything from biofuels to alternative transportation technologies–are not a panacea, because they could be limited by several factors, including the increasing cost of corn, the immense expense of adding ethanol-compatible infrastructure (pipelines, tanker trucks, storage tanks, and filling stations), and the sky-high cost of alternative engines such as hydrogen-burning fuel cells.

Consequently, a conservative but probably realistic projection is that alternative technologies could offset about 4% of U.S. petroleum consumption by 2015, up from 1% today.

Under that scenario, the study notes that “an imminent peak and sharp decline in oil production could cause a worldwide recession.”

It takes a lot of guts for a governmental office to use the R-word like that, especially in an administration that’s hostile to that message.

On the more optimistic end of their projections, they note that if the peak comes significantly later, we may have the time to overcome some of the technical challenges, and could potentially displace up to 35% of U.S. petroleum consumption by 2025 or 2030. (One observer made the wry comment that the word “could” appears in the report 84 times, and “uncertain” appears 87 times.)

So this report wasn’t your usual EIA- or IEA-style “don’t worry, be happy” pabulum, and the GAO isn’t offering any pie-in-the-sky alternatives. It’s realistic, and provides a rational basis for our national dialog about energy.

I give it two thumbs up–way up.

I also give the conclusion of the report top marks for honesty:

The consequences would be most dire if a peak occurred soon, without warning, and were followed by a sharp decline in oil production because alternative energy sources, particularly for transportation, are not yet available in large quantities. Such a peak would require sharp reductions in oil consumption, and the competition for increasingly scarce energy would drive up prices, possibly to unprecedented levels, causing severe economic damage. While these consequences would be felt globally, the United States, as the largest consumer of oil and one of the nations most heavily dependent on oil for transportation, may be especially vulnerable among the industrialized nations of the world.

The authors recommend that the Secretary of Energy develop a strategy for addressing peak oil, and make it a priority. They specifically call for better monitoring of oil supply and demand, and improved information on oil reserves, projected production, and the realistic capacity of alternatives.

Wow. I have long waited for this day, but little did I expect that it would be so satisfying!

The mainstream media, for its part, managed once again to summon the courage to run out and shoot the wounded. The very day after the GAO report was released, CNBC interviewed the world’s top oil banker, Matthew Simmons, about peak oil. And for once, they let him get the straight story out.

“I believe–and I have for some time–that we are on the verge of actually replacing ‘global warming’ by this term ‘peak oil,’” he said. “It’s not a kook issue, it’s a reality, it’s a physical reality. We have demand roaring ahead and supply is faltering.”

Commenting further on the extremely tight balance between supply and demand, he continued, “There is a likelihood that by this summer, demand will start to fast outstrip supply, and we can tolerate that for a few weeks, but then actually that spells ‘shortage’ as opposed to high prices.”

Noting that Saudi Arabia has only a glut of heavy sour crude, which the world doesn’t need any more of than it now consumes, and that Mexico’s oil fields are in irreversible decline, “a disaster happening before our eyes,” with a depletion rate that might be as high as 25%, he warned, “That is so dangerous to the United States economy, you cannot believe it.”

Speaking alongside Simmons on the program, energy analyst John Kilduff admitted that we are “tremendously vulnerable” and lamented that oil prices have come down from last year’s highs, because that has caused us to “take our eye off the ball.” “We are absolutely held hostage” to unfriendly countries that still have significant amounts of oil, he said.

Simmons concluded: “The fossil fuel era is basically waning, as far as meeting the unbelievable, insatiable demand, and we don’t have any solutions. The best new oil basin we will ever find is called ‘conservation.”

And there you have it. The top oil industry banker in the world–a guy who makes his living financing oil projects–says that our salvation is in conservation.

Any further questions?

Until next time,

Chris Signature


EPA Refuses and Loses, but Business Chooses

April 5, 2007 at 12:41 pm
Contributed by: Chris


Here’s the second article from Green Chip Stocks, about the recent Supreme Court ruling against the EPA, and an upcoming Asia-Pacific business summit that will focus on global warming and energy security.


Clearing the Way for Solar

April 5, 2007 at 12:36 pm
Contributed by:


I’m posting two articles to the blog that were published behind the subscription wall of Green Chip Stocks this week. Thanks to them for allowing me to republish them here.

This one is about a new bill that would really grease the skids of the solar industry.


Clearing the Way for Solar

By Chris Nelder


New legislation was submitted to Congress this week that could sweep away many of the obstacles to widespread solar adoption.

The "Solar Opportunity and Local Access Rights Act" (SOLAR Act) is sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) and Michael Ferguson (R-NJ). (Good thing it wasn’t submitted to the House Financial Services Committee, where chairman Rep. Barney Frank has given the order that he doesn’t want to see any more bills with cutesy names contorted to make an acronym.)

The SOLAR Act would accomplish in one fell swoop what has taken many years, and many separate bits of legislation and consumer lobbying efforts, to achieve here in California.

As a solar designer, I have personally encountered all of the obstacles the bill addresses, even here. I could tell you horror stories for days. For example, here in my little town, I can pull a building permit for a solar system over the counter in about 15 minutes with zero permit fees and no complicated electrical code questions, partly because my customers and I lobbied the local town council and asked them to encourage green development in town. But just five miles up the highway, in a neighboring town, a permit for the very same solar system would cost about three grand, require four to six weeks to get, require five copies of a complex permit set on 11×17 or 24×36 paper only, and require a big, ugly, 18” tall extra DC disconnect standing vertically on the roof…all because it’s a different building department with a different fire department.

Worse, there are over a dozen such jurisdictions in the northern Bay Area that I have to contend with, a veritable rat’s nest of differing regulations and requirements, where each one might require solar systems to meet different editions of the National Electrical Code, or even the whimsy of the local building inspector or fire chief.

And that doesn’t even include a whole other rat’s nest of CC&Rs (“covenants, conditions and restrictions” that dictate standards for specific housing developments and neighborhoods), many of which don’t want to see any “ugly” solar panels on their roofs.

The SOLAR Act would:

Require HUD to issue regulations that would prevent CC&Rs from prohibiting solar systems on a roof (similar legislation already allows anyone to install a satellite dish) and expedite approval of solar system applications.

Limit permit and licensing fees to $500 for residential systems, and $10,000 for commercial.

Require FERC to set national standards for interconnecting solar systems to the grid, putting an end to the confusion over electrical standards and connection methods.

Require all utilities to provide “net metering,” an arrangement whereby any excess electricity produced by a customer’s solar system is pushed back onto the grid and credited to the customer at retail electricity rates.

Clarify that renewable energy credits (RECs) generated by the solar system are the property of the solar system owner, not the utilities, which have tried a variety of tricks to grab them.

Allow federal agencies to enter into power purchase agreements with renewable energy providers for up to 30 years.

The SOLAR Act, if passed, will be a huge boon to the solar industry, clearing the way for widespread adoption of solar across the entire country. It will also be a huge relief to those of us in the business, who just want to install solar systems, not become experts at navigating an obstacle course of regulations.

So, more power to the Congressmen from California and New Jersey. I ardently hope they can get their legislation passed.

Until next time,

Chris signature


Blog madness…check out my shared articles

April 4, 2007 at 4:23 pm
Contributed by:


I was recently turned on to a blog and Web reader tool by Google, called Google Reader. It’s a type of reader for RSS feeds. It’s pretty cool, doesn’t require any installation, and has a lot of features.

Not only does it integrate the blogs and sites you add to its list, but you can publish your collection as an RSS feed also, which in turn can get incorporated into other readers, which could also be published as feeds… it gets deep after awhile!

It’s a great way to stay up on your favorite blogs & Web sites. Check it:

You can mark articles as “shared” will show up on a page for others to see. Mine is
here. Those articles are also listed in the right-hand column of the home page.

That page also has an RSS feed of its own, so you can subscribe to that in your own reader.

It’s a very cool way to stay abreast of GRL, articles I read, and other blogs and sites you may read. Give it a whirl.


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