Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Millions in Japan freeze without heat, electricity"

"Millions in Japan freeze without heat, electricity".

Fast forward that to 2018 and fill in Chicago or Green Bay; Boston or New York City; Philadelphia or Cleveland.

The simple fact is this: We here in the U.S. are seeing our future circumstances now, in Japan. The nuclear mirage is over.

The energy crisis is far more than being inconvenienced by slightly higher gasoline prices (Gasoline makes  for a very poor heating fuel, btw. And when crude is cracked the primary output is 1 part diesel and 2 parts gasoline, with lesser amounts of other useful stuff). We cannot shift gasoline production over to heating fuel.  That just ain't the way things work.

The U.S. will need to shift HARD to Nat Gas heating, and it really won't have as much time as we might think.

Moreover, you know that debate on the Web about whether City or Country living is best in an energy constrained world? I think we have our answer (although defining "city" is an issue). Mega cities will be uninhabitable. Period.


Donal Lang said...

Its truly scary how fast it all goes down.

No electric = no lights, lifts, refridgerators, traffic control, computers, cash machines, .....

No road fuel = no food in just 2 or 3 days! And no personal escape route either!

Within a week, the average unprepared Joe is cold, hungry and isolated, and just waiting to be rescued.

Imagine that in New York or London.

Anonymous said...

One can use Japan as a model for what happens when you over extend yourself with debt to the point you have no slack to react to the disasters we all know happen occasionally.

Its kind of like when you get yourself in debt to the point you are living paycheck to paycheck. We all know eventually your water heater, roof, transmission, or something else is going to need replacement/repair and when that day comes (and it always does) it will push you over the edge economically.

If we continue down Japan's path (and we are) we will suffer the same consequences when our rainy day comes to pass. And it will.

Anonymous said...

Greg, what do you think will happen to the price/availability of NG if half of the north east converts over?

What about coal? We have more of it and NG might be better used as an alternative to oil for motor transport.

NG is certainly easier to transport to the home and it burns cleaner than coal. But coal would be much more difficult/costly to use as a motor transport fuel.


Greg T. Jeffers said...

Of course these commodities will climb in price. Look at the contango in Nat Gas as I write this.

Coal is already high and heading higher in the U.S. me thinks.

Dextred1 said...


A very efficient way to heat your home, but also dirty is coal in a cast Iron heater (used to be real cheap, I don't know now). I have never done it, but my parents used coal all the time when I was young and it was too damn cold to go out outside to get wood. We had a fuel oil furnace, but that was expensive compared to wood and a piece of coal during the night time.

Anonymous said...

This Japan reactor situation looks just like the type of incident that might bring down those 1,600 Trillion bucks worth of derivatives- along with the global economy. Japan is a critical player globally in terms of essential high-tech products.

I'm selling silver on the rationale that the global economy will get tanked on this event. Keeping gold.

But ready to buy again in view of the silver long-term story.


Anonymous said...

I guess the case is now settled as to whether spent fuel ponds can ignite if they don't have a continuous water source provided.

Exhibit Japan...

Stephen B. said...

NG is indeed a nice fuel for home heating, but there are delivery problems even now. Never mind how much NG is in the ground and can be produced, there have been many cold snaps in parts of the Midwest and Northeast where the ability to deliver NG is so pipeline/distribution line-limited, that school and industrial gas customers have been cut off to preserve gas for home heating. Sometimes even the NG power plants have had to curtail generation due to gas delivery constraints. Some combined cycle NG power plants are dual fuel and can switch over to diesel and fuel oil in case of NG delivery curtailments. We had a 460 megaWatt NG power plant proposed in our town and the thing that everybody freaked out at was the 2 million gallons of diesel that the developer proposed to store on site. (Our town uses well water and this power plant was going to be over the aquifer which killed the plant basically.)

Regarding the more general picture that is developing of our post Peak world, I have really been changing my thinking towards a more rapid, troublesome decline. That is, I've lost a lot of optimism over the past year, and this was true even before this earthquake example came along. For example, I held out hope that Peak People wouldn't be so soon, or so hard of a correction, but in the past year, looking at the food situation, I've come to the conclusion that it's all going to be much uglier, much faster than I once thought. The food supply and price situation played a big part in my changing thinking.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you Greg and a bunch of other blog regulars here might be changing your thinking towards the more disastrous end of things too.

Anonymous said...

@Stephen B:
NG is indeed a nice fuel for home heating, but there are delivery problems even now

Exhibit: New Mexico last month...

The "heat" as they called it, was shut off for five days because of rolling blackouts at the pump stations in Northern Texas. It was over a month ago that it happened and they're STILL having legislative meetings about how to reimburse all the people who were left without their "heat". I just couldn't help but thinking what would happen if there was some major damage to the infrastructure and it was shut off for weeks or even months at a time. I don't want to call them stupid, but uhhh, cmon, gimme a break with the "what are we supposed to do???!"


James m Dakin said...

coal isn't the long term solution. We hit Peak Coal BTU over ten years ago. Plenty left, all low grade/low energy.

PioneerPreppy said...

Things will decline slowly until they don't. The real question is how long can the powers that be keep the illusion alive?

Bottom line for me is don't count on anything you cannot provide for yourself. Nat Gas, coal, wood (if you don't own land with trees) etc. At least don't count on anything you don't have stocked and stored. Once transportation goes you won't get anything delivered.

Stephen B. said...

I guess that's what I'm thinking too Pioneer.

@Anon, re: NG.

Thanks for the New Mexico mention. I knew there was a more recent NG delivery fiasco that I had in mind that I couldn't quite put my finger on. You got it.

Anonymous said...

I think you nailed it. “don't count on anything you cannot provide for yourself.” Everything else is a luxury.

Anonymous said...


I’m an accountant but I did stay at a holiday inn the other night. Seriously, there isn’t much future in accounting so I am retraining. Originally in geology however they don’t do really fieldwork anymore since everything is subsurface and that is what I really wanted to do. So I may switch to petroleum engineering or geophysics. There is only about a semester and a half difference in the coursework for the three.

On the other hand there is nothing I said that requires any advanced technical knowledge to deduce; it was essentially all basic high school chemistry, physics and what you pick up just paying attention to what’s going on around you. That and a boiler safety course I had to endure that was dumbed down to about the third grade level.


Ps. Also posted @ 6:56 but forgot to sign.

Donal Lang said...

SG, I agree with the faster scenario. I think there are so many combining problems at the moment that its impossible to choose which particular combination will pull us down, but there's no resilience so it'll happen quite quickly and comprehensively. Everythings interconnected.

Your (US) NG problem is a case in point; if some people heat using oil, some electric and some gas there's not much problem. But if everyone sees oil going up and switches to gas or electric, the infrastucture can't cope. This even applies to wood!

Its even worse if you add in a switch of transport fuels, which is why electric cars won't happen without major electrical infrastructure investment (in what? Nuclear??)

PP; how much can you store? 3 months? 6 months? And what happens in 2 or 3 years time? Or as your kids grow up? I think emergency stores are important, but its not much of a plan.

Like I've said before here, I'd say the only real solution is to start being nice to your neighbours, get your family close and build the kind of resilient community you'd like your kids (and everyone else's kids)to grow up in.

PioneerPreppy said...


Obviously you have read very little I have written about self and community preparedness in comments here over the last several months. If only counting on what you can produce yourself or the stores you already have "isn't much of a plan" to you and your answer is simply being nice to your neighbors, well good luck with that.

My guess is one plus to rising austerity will be a lack of ability and/or willingness to support pencil pushing, progressive minded, managers who don't produce. Of course that will be up to each community individually. As it should be.

Anonymous said...

And the NM NG drama continues:


Le sigh...entitlement attitude at its finest.

Anonymous said...

PioneerRacist talks big like most survivalist nuts but it's obvious that when the shit really does hit the fan, he and his well-armed inbred band of Aryan Nation thugs will simply traipse off to the nearest group of unarmed people (preferably someone not of the Herrenvolk) to steal everything they have.