Fun & Games with the Power Grid

August 30, 2007

And you thought power crises were things that only happened to other nations…

The California Independent Service Operator Corporation, who runs California’s power grid, have declared a Stage One Electrical Emergency.   A quick look at the graph on CASIO’s website shows that expected demand is going touch the maximum available electricity resources, which I believe would mean a Stage 3 Emergency, and rolling blackouts for parts of the state.

This isn’t a unique occurrence, for California seems to have  power problems every summer.   It’s good to keep in mind that almost 40% of elctricity generated in California comes from natural gas, which appears to be having supply issues much like petroleum.

Why I Don’t Focus on Sustainability Much…

August 27, 2007

Miranda over at Simple Living has been taking some brickbats recently from readers from the sounds of it. For those of you who don’t read her blog (and if you don’t you should IMO), she and her family have been taking some massive steps towards reducing their energy usage (see her Riot for Austerity post for details) by 90% or more. It’s a laudable goal, and while she’s not there yet, she’s making good progress, and at any rate she’s doing a hell of a lot more than I am on that front.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recent Adventures in Food Prep

August 25, 2007

I’ve been trying some new recipes and whatnot in recent months and have finally uploaded some photos to share.

Photos & notes after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hurricane Dean: Good News/Bad News

August 20, 2007

Well, it appears that Dean will stay far enough South that it will miss the US and (more importantly for this site), the US oil infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico. Dean looks like it’ll slam into the Yucatan Peninsula near the border with Belize as either a Cat 4 or Cat 5 storm, will lose a lot of strength over land, re-intensify a bit in the southern GOM, and then hit mainland Mexico again.

The good news (for us anyway) is that Dean will avoid major population centers and won’t hit the US directly at all. The bad news is that it’ll smack into the Cantarell oil complex and will likely cause some damage there. Oh, and the next storm in line appears to be forming in the Atlantic now, though it’s far enough north that it’ll likely avoid the Gulf, and if it does organize into a storm, it may just spin through the Atlantic and not hit the mainland at all. We’ll have to see. All I know for sure is that we’re just starting to hit the peak of hurricane season now.

Locally, we got a fair bit of rain over the weekend, though not nearly as much as people in Southern Minnesota. A house in our development was hit by lightning, which made a hellaciously loud thunderclap, and my son got to watch the local fire department use their ladder truck to good effect while putting out a small fire, and inspecting the roof of that unfortunate house. The hole was small, but there was at least 3 hours where the rain was running right into the attic.

Clock is Ticking on Las Vegas’ Water Supply

August 17, 2007

Found this in the comments section at The Oil Drum:

The news coming from the Southern Nevada Water Authority Thursday about the valley’s future water supply is worrisome. Unless we act quickly, there will be no water for hundreds of thousands of Las Vegas Valley residents in just three years.

The problem can be solved, for a while at least, by spending at least $45 millon on new water pumps at Lake Mead. How long the lake could support such extra water demand is an open question as well, for water levels are falling year over year. Keep in mind that Las Vegas already banned sod in front yards in 2004, so they have already taken some steps towards reducing needless water usage.

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Interestin’ Stuff

August 17, 2007

There are times life is slow, and times life turns fast. We appear to be entering into the left lane of life for a while…


  • The stock market continues to see-saw around. It drops during the day and then makes amazing comebacks late in the day. Whether this is truly ‘bargain hunters’ (well-coordinated ones at that), devious machinations of the Fed and their minions, or computerized trading programs deciding it’s time to jump back into the pool I don’t know. The fun & games with subprime mortgage debt continues, with Countrywide Financial (i.e. the largest mortgage company in the USA) feeling the heat hard enough to tap an $11.5 billion dollar line of credit. As explained here, this is akin to you or I getting behind on our bills and having to go to one of those payday loan shops for a loan to go to the grocery store. If your dad finds out about this, he’ll probably give you hell for being such an idiot with your finances. In a similar vein, Moody’s is punishing Countrywide by downgrading it’s corporate bond rating from A3 (pretty good) to Baa3 (one step above junk). Any further downgrading of Countrywide’s rating will spell disaster for the company, as many institutional funds would be forced to sell any bonds now rated as junk. This is the largest home mortgage lender in the country folks, and they have minimal exposure to subprime loans. It’s another example of how the liquidity binge of the last five yars or so is now unwinding and catching a lot of other companies, investors and others in it’s net… and this is probably just the start of this cycle. Read the rest of this entry »

An Excellent Intro to Peak Oil

August 16, 2007

If you haven’t seen Gail Tverberg’s in-progress booklet on peak oil, you really should take a look.  It presents a lot of timely information in a neutral and balanced tone.  This is especially important when introducing new people to the subject.  I like Kunstler’s writing, but it can be terribly off-putting for some people, and information about our potential (I’d go so far as to say probable) energy future is too important to everyone to allow it to stay pigeonholed as it has been so far for the most part.

Read the booklet and pass the link on to anyone you think would be interested in the subject.

Possible Hurricane in the Oil Patch?

August 13, 2007

I filled up my car this morning and was feeling pretty good about it. Gas was costing $2.65 per gallon for unleaded, and my wife had gotten a coupon from a local grocery store giving us $.45 off per gallon up to 12 gallons, so I filled up for around $2.20 per gallon… a nice deal.

Just now a work colleague told me that gas had jumped $.20 in the last hour. The reason?

This one is a long ways away from the Gulf, but it’s projected trajectory doesn’t look too good. Things can change, and perhaps the storm will either shift direction or lose power if it hits the gulf.  If the storm *does* hit the gulf, though, watch out.   Key West has been reporting a string of abnormally high low temperatures in recent weeks, including 87 F during the week of July 26th.  High air temps mean higher water temperatures, and that means stronger hurricanes.

We’ll see what comes with this storm, but it’s nice to see that our friends in the gas station business are already acting to lock in higher profits.   Since I just filled up this morning, I personally should be good to go for around ten or twelve days before having to fill up again.   Prices never seem to drop as fast as they rise, though.

USDA Predicts Higher Wheat Prices

August 12, 2007

I’ve been thinking about purchasing a grain mill off and on for several months now. I’m enjoying my first forays in the baking world, and am looking to expand my repertoire from the no-knead Italian peasant bread and whole wheat loaves I’v been doing so far. From what I’ve read, milling your own flour can have a dramatic effect on the quality of the finished product, so acquiring a mill seems like a logical next step.

Another good reason to buy a mill is that you can purchase the wheat berries in bulk, since they will keep for a very long time, which, if you read the news, might be an extra incentive.

I don’t think we’ll see shortages, but increasing prices seem to be in the cards. We’re seeing inflation in food prices across the board, but we could see an extra jump in the prices of bread, cereal and other similar products if the spring wheat harvest comes up light. Buying a couple of sacks of wheat berries might b a good idea… now to find places locally where I can buy in bulk.

HT: Urban Survival

The Fed in Action

August 10, 2007

The Fed has pledged action to stabilize the markets

To see what they’re doing, check out this chart from BullandBearWise… the green bars represent additional liquidity being offered by the Fed, and the blue line shows how much is being accepted to member banks. Long story short, the Fed is shoveling digidollars into the market as fast as they can. You can almost feel your dollars losing even more value…

UPDATE: Nothing like 38 billion dollars to try and stabilize things…