Podcast

Robert McFarlane: Open Fuel Standards Are Critical to Fighting the Peak Oil Catastrophe

Friday, February 25, 2011, 5:47 PM

"Well, I wish I had a more hopeful answer for you. You've nailed it. We really are very likely to face either a disruption violently [by terrorism] or a political decision by OPEC to change the price of oil to $200 to $300 per barrel and literally destroy the global economy."

So predicts Robert McFarlane in today's interview, which focuses on current U.S. energy policy and the risks it faces. Mr. McFarlane's many decades of public and private service in both the Middle East and global energy markets make him uniquely qualified to opine on the merits (or lack thereof) of the energy strategy that the U.S. is pursuing.

He sees the U.S. as committed to a foolish "monopoly-fuel" system that leaves it dependent upon and dangerously vulnerable to the actions of external players, including those hostile to U.S. interests. And as the impacts of Peak Oil begin to be felt, he believes it is a near certainty that our country - along with the global economy - will experience great shocks which we have no plans currently in place to address sufficiently. The solution lies in creating a viable market for alternative fuels, which is in our power to do, provided we can muster the political and civic will. And do so quickly. 

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Robert C. McFarlane (runtime 34m:39s):

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In this podcast, Robert and Chris discuss:


How we can change from our current flawed policy (i.e., rely heavily on oil imports and go to war every seven years when our interests are threatened) without having to wait for new technologies to save us. We have the technologies we need to become energy self-sufficient; what we need is the national conviction to apply them (e.g., biodiesel, ethanol, methanol, gas, electricity). Consumers can then decide at the pump which one(s) to use. Once enough government-funded infrastructure is in place, private capital will begin to fund the system, as investors are able to see a market-driven mechanism for receiving a return on their investment.

As with our recent interviews with David CollumJoe SaluzziJim RogersMarc Faber, and Bill Fleckenstein, Robert ends the interview with advice for the listener, including contacting your representatives in Congress, expressing your concerns, and asking them to vote for the "open fuel standard." Doing nothing is a mandate for the current monopoly system.


Robert C McFarlane served two tours of duty in Vietnam, then held positions as Special Assistant for National Security Affairs under President Ford and National Security Advisor & special representative to the Middle East and under President Regan. After his reitrement from public service he founded Global Energy Investors a developer of energy infrastructure projects in Asia and South America, and Energy and Communications Solutions LLC which focused on projects in Russia, Turkey and other emerging countries. He serves currently as Chairman of McFarlane and Associates Inc, a consulting firm focused on advancing techonologies in the national and homeland security domains. He now dedicates much of his time to peace-making efforts in the Middle East and reducing US dependence on foreign oil.

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86 Comments

P20Man's picture
P20Man
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Viable market for alternative fuels

"We have the technologies we need to become energy self-sufficent; what we need is the national conviction to apply them."

Like www.Plastic2oil.com

dps's picture
dps
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This is what we need to

This is what we need to write to congress about.  I think it should have been bolded above, so I'll do it here:

open fuel standard

... dons

buenijo's picture
buenijo
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Modern Steam Car is the best solution

A compact and powerful external combustion automotive engine would be unmatched with respect to multi-fuel capacity. This is a viable solution that is unfortunately all but completely ignored and/or misunderstood.

A modern steam car would see many advantages over existing technologies:

- It would drive as an automatic, but require no clutch or transmission.

- Fuel economy would be similar to conventional gas cars during highway driving, but much higher during city driving.

- The use of varied fuels would not affect the performance or the efficiency of the engine, and the engine could use these different fuels without any modifications. It could even use them simultaneously. Furthermore, the fuels require far less refining as compared to internal combustion engines. This will lower costs as a large portion of these costs is tied up with the capital and energy required in the refining process. Lowering these costs may also lead to some fuel options becoming economical viable.

- The emissions would pass the most stringent smog standards with no emissions controls equipment required, meaning no costly and complicated catalytic converters, fuel/air sensors and delivery components, or computer controls.

- The weight and bulk of the system would be no greater than conventional gasoline automotive systems in use today.

- They are inherently quiet without using noise suppression equipment

- They do not require oil lubrication. Modern steam systems can be water lubricated.

See Cyclone Power Technologies for an example of a modern automotive steam system currently in development:

www.cyclonepower.com

dennislamason's picture
dennislamason
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Open Fuel Standard

Chris Martensen

First off,  I am impressed that you interviewed such an incredible guest, the man is an integral part of the United States recent history.

Sadly though, I am shocked and surprised that Mr. McFarlane supports such flawed legislation. The Open Fuel Standard is at best a poorly thought out first step. Any solution that involves Ethanol or Bio-Diesel, is merely the result of the agricultural industry attempting to gain market share from the petroleum industry. Niether industry has America's best interests in mind.

One must remember when former Washington D.C. insiders speak publically, they have an agenda that represents corporate interests. The only question one should have, is which corporate interest Mr. McFarlane is currently representing. Given Mr. McFarlane's repeated comments regarding Ethanol and Bio-diesel, I think it is obvious his consulting clients are Cargill, ADM, etc.

Now for the objective truth:

The first step must be use of our natural gas reserves period. These reserves are plentiful and will buy the needed time for the country to solve the longer term problems associated with Peak Oil. There is no easy approach, all solutions have merit,  but any mass solution that involves agriculture is a poorly thought out concept at best. While cellulosic ethanol sounds good, the simple truth is plant matter requires water to grow... lots of water, and lots of petroleum to harvest and process.  I am fairly certain you and your readers are aware of the long term issues surrounding population growth and water requirements.  That water would be best used to grow edible crops not automotive. (Assuming one is looking out for the entire country, as opposed to large agricultural interests)

If you want freedom from the Middle East, use natural gas, it is that simple.

While I applaud Mr. McFarlane's service to our country, I am curious as to why he ommitted the only real near term solution, namely domestically produced natural gas. While natural gas is not the only long term solution, it is without a doubt the best near term solution. Mr. McFarlane seemed to gloss over that fact, and I thought I should point it out .

For the record, I have no consulting clients and I represent only the best interests of the American public. Cool

Dennis Lamason

r101958's picture
r101958
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An interesting and

An interesting and informative podcast. One subject came never came up though and I guess it may have remained in the background out of respect for the guest. That subject is EROEI. Some of the 'fixes' mentioned in the conversation are not viable due to very low EROEI. I am glad, however, that you pointed out that what we have is a predicament as opposed to a problem.

Tycer's picture
Tycer
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Nice first post Dennis.

Nice first post Dennis. Welcome.

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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The fragile mind.

I like McFarlane. Nothing clears the sinuses better than being shot at.

My mind raced like an explosion of squirrels up various topics while listening to the interview. I will now round them up.

I felt your frustration at the obtusness of the Herd.  What we have here is Cognitive Dissonance.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

We have to find out how the Brain works. Here is a good place to start.http://www.amazon.com/Master-His-Emissary-Divided-Western/dp/030014878X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298691139&sr=1-1 "The Master and his Emmissary."

How to reduce a tome to a sound bite?  You have two brains. One deals with the gestalt, and one with linear logic. (Men build airships. I am a man. Therefore I build airships.)

Now the upshot of the way the wetware works is that unless Reality is experienced by the Gestaldt right brain it cannot be intergrated into the Logic of the Left.

So, given this reality, I shall now attempt the impossible.

The answer is not chemical burning. Chemical burning is so yesterday. We have to make use of the Weak and Strong Forces.

"18 hours * 16 kWh = 288 kWh = 1,037 MJ. That is the amount of energy in 26 kg of gasoline (7.9 gallons). Given the size and weight of the device, this rules out a chemical source of energy." from http://www.lenr-canr.org/News.htm

Oh well. 

I tried.

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Cyclone Power

@Buenijo.

Your Cyclone Power Technologies and my Low Energy Nuclear Reactions are a marriage made in heaven.

Brainless's picture
Brainless
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Now move shops and offices

Now move shops and offices close to where people live and you won't need a car most the time. Cuts gasoline usage by 90%. When everyone starts swiching to natural gas, then that will peak ina few years and then we are back to square one.

I moved to Thailand and am now staying in Bangkok. I have everything i need within a 500m radius, that includes school, park, shopping, work (from home office), sport center etc.. Still Bangkok is a city with continuous traffic jams and sometimes complete deadlocks. Why? I guess people like to stay inside their car and spend 4-5 times as long to travel the same distance as i do walking, sure it is warm outside, but at least 5 degrees of that can be contributed to the cars running their airconditioning non stop. Still more than 90% of the people living here don't have a car, so the 10% is poluting the air and jams public transport for the other 90%. It is just silly. For me a gradual rising price to at least 500$ a barrel oil seems the only way to force us going forward.

Back in my own country The Netherlands everyone is starting and finishing work at the same time causing again major traffic jams. A 10 minute drive is then at least 1.5 hour. Solutions to solve that are easy but are never implemented. You wonder why? I am convinced everyone is afraid of change, even when it makes your live better.

What i think needs to be done is take out the car for the home to work, home to shopping , home to school etc travels. Everything around us is build to be reached by car only, that is just stupid. Start with that and save lots of fuel countering the effect or rising prices. The oil that is still available is much to usefull for other purposes then just dragging a block of steel from one place to another.

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I second Dennis (Welcome!)

I second Dennis (Welcome!) and Brainless.  As much as I could grant McFarlane his status due to his actions, which are considerable, I just don't see his suggestions being that relevant to our main predicament.  Transportaion fuels are crucial right NOW because of our screwed up system- one person, one car, out-of-season fruits available year 'round from halfway around the world, etc.  Don't forget all the tires and brake pads, air filters, miles of highway that constantly need maintenance, etc.  I'm sorry, but I just don't see another alternative fuel system as being a game-changer, at least not sustainably.....On the other hand, maybe not sending the billions of $$ overseas for fuel WOULD a game changer that may address the main prediciment- economic- though TPTB getting wealthy now  will continue to amass more with a new fuel system economy. I'm thinkin' live-work situations and a decent mass transit system and localized food production. Too many people wanting too much energy- and goods, and food- from a fixed system.  How will Robert's ideas address that long-term?  Did I mention climate change?  Aloha, Steve.

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Spot On Dennis

It is reflective of industrial culture that the focus so often seems to shift from how to live within natural energy constraints to "how do we keep the cars going?".   There are much more serious consequences to deal with, and besides, the cars are a major part of the problem.

LogansRun's picture
LogansRun
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Doesn't anyone know who this

Doesn't anyone know who this scumbag is!!???  Anyone?

First:  He's a CFR Member (this should tell you everything, but some are more dense than others)

http://www.cfr.org/about/membership/roster.html?letter=M

Second:  Was the man behind Oliver North in the Iran Contra Affair!

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/293519/Iran-Contra-Affair

Third:  Has attended Bilderberg

http://www.muckety.com/Robert-C-McFarlane/12378.muckety

Having this man looked at positively on this site makes me sick.  Anyone that knows anything about the above organizations, knows that membership is NOT for the betterment of mankind!  I question the agenda of this site.

[Moderator's note: This post is a violation of the forum rulesIt reads as a direct personal attack against an invited guest, and fails the "dinner table" test spectacularly.  Corrective action with the user has been undertaken.]

Subprime JD's picture
Subprime JD
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LR: The fact that someone

LR:

The fact that someone from these organizations is talking about peak oil is a big deal.

ao's picture
ao
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?

LogansRun wrote:

Doesn't anyone know who this scumbag is!!???  Anyone?

Just what I read in The Nightgale's Song.  Hard to get a complete read on him from there.  He was presented like the others ... as a flawed human being, just like all the rest of us.  I didn't get the sense he was a terribly bad guy.  Accurate or inaccurate?  I often wonder how many CFR members and Bilderberg attendees are malevolent vs. misdirected.  Some, there's no doubt, are not good people.  Some, I think, just get swept along by the position and the power, not fully understanding the really big picture.  

Tycer's picture
Tycer
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We've been taken over, Ahhhhhh!

LogansRun wrote:

 I question the agenda of this site.

OMG! Dr. Martinson's been co-opted AAAARGGH ! RUN FER THA HILLS

LR, Thanks for pointing out McFarlane's ties to the uninitiated. Don't fret, we've not run amok nor joined the CFR.

alexros's picture
alexros
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Where is the solution?

I agree that we are in the begiinning stage of a huge energy crisis.

I was listenning to the proposed 'solution' and kept wondering if Mr. McFarlane is fully informed. Food prices are already rising in this country while the EPA has just allowed 15% of etanol content. Maybe his proposal is to cut forests to produce etanol? Brazil is cutting forests 'succesfully' for many years...

Agree with Dennis here, but want more details about natural gas usage in cars.

Sadly, but I don't see other options except major investments to alternative enrgy sources.

Alex Rosin

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green_achers
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Evil SOB

I started to write a long-winded response to this before I read Logan's Run's, and am glad I can bag most of that.

Let's just say I'm very skeptical that someone who spent his career destabilizing the world, promoting terrorism and projecting US empire on the unwilling has suddenly had a late-life conversion and is now interested in "peace making."  It's a lot more likely he's doing what all the rest of the retired "made men" of discredited administrations do, and that's peddling his influence for the benefit of high-paying vested interests.  That this site would give an obvious shill like this a platform to do so lowers my estimation of the critical judgement of its owners.

DurangoKid's picture
DurangoKid
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So, McFarland is a ratbag. 

So, McFarland is a ratbag.  To be a sucessful ratbag, one must have a good idea of what's what and who's who.  Of course what one does with that informations is telling, but that has little bearing on the veracity of the data.  McFarland is an insider and insights to insiders, especially from the horse's mouth, merrit attention.  He has operated in the instituitons of power and knows how they work and who the key players are.  Yes, he's trying to turn a buck on that information, so he's just like all the others.  We need to handle him as one would a rattlesnake.  Like it or not, rattlesnakes are an important part of their ecosystem.  You can't really describe their habitat without including them.  Just remember they're also full of venom.

rxstacey's picture
rxstacey
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I 2nd LR

check out "lindsey williams on alex jones" on youtube

LogansRun's picture
LogansRun
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What I don't like

Obviously you have to listen to the troll.  And with this, dissect what's truth from what's "agenda".   But understand, this guy doesn't do anything without an agenda to support his croney buddies. 

What I'm having a problem with, is that the site is giving this guy a forum to spout his views in the first place.  Why is the site looking for views from someone with his past?  Personally, this guy shouldn't be given the chance on this forum to forward his agenda, no matter what the subject is.  He's shown from his past, that he's evil. 

This person is the exact opposite (morally/ethically), of what CM.com is supposed to be about.   

Just my opinion.  Everyone doesn't have to agree, nor approve.  But I think everyone needs to think about this issue. 

[Moderator's note: This post is a violation of the forum rulesIt reads as a direct personal attack against an invited guest, and fails the "dinner table" test.  Corrective action with the user has been undertaken.]

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McFarland interview

Thanks for this interview, Chris.  You successfully required RM to play ball in your park without conceeding any of his grandiose visions of the future.  If we are going to change the discussion, more if we are going to have a discussion, about planning for the future we are going to need to draw the defenders of the realm into situations where reality is the measure of progress not the capitalist agenda.  It would not be reasonable to expect RM to morph into a realist based on one CM interview but the mere fact that he did not run off when Chris used the dreaded words "peak oil" is a victory for the cause.

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Doug
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No one was more outraged at

No one was more outraged at the orgy of criminality and bloodshed that was Iran-Contra than I.  Many of the participants should still be in jail, perhaps including McPharlane.  But, I would suggest that even psychopathic murderers have a good idea or two rattling around in their heads.  I actually subscribed to Foreign Affairs for a number of years, and found the articles well informed and scholarly for the most part.  So, I'm not willing to reject someone's ideas and perspectives just because he/she was a member of CFR.

I don't know the relative merits of Open Fuel Standards, but I certainly think they should be considered on an objective basis and not be rejected because of who presents them.  If nothing else, CFR members tend to be pretty bright folks.

Doug

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This is our dinner table

Hello everybody,

Recent inappropriate comments on this thread require me to make some statement about the purpose of these threads.

Chris refers to himself as an "information scout," and this site serves to provide access to a range of views and opinions surrounding energy, economy, and the environment.  It is the essence of informed decision-making that intelligent persons will seek out and consider the views of a wide range of people on a given topic.  Once received, these diverse views may be analyzed in light of their factual accuracy.

The purpose of this site is not to search only for guests who cleave to the "party line", and proceed to publish only those views.

Robert McFarlane devoted his time and energy to discussing his views seriously with Chris.  He is a guest at our inclusive dinner table.  If any user wishes to comment on the factual basis for his views about energy, then that is why these forums exist.  But any user who wishes to "boo" and "hiss" a guest away from our table simply because they disagree with them seriously misunderstands the purpose of this site.

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Mr. McFarlane is only partially right...

Yes, the U.S. imports between 65% and 70% of its oil but Europe, Japan, India and China also import substantial amounts of the oil they use. Therefore, disruptions to oil production, refining and distribution will affect more that just the U.S. Americans have a false sense of security regarding the continued availability of plentiful supplies of oil because the political leadership of this country has lied about oil depletion going back to President Nixon. President Carter might have been the only president who really grasped the nature of the oil depletion problem and he got voted out of office in 1980. Comments about hostile interests and their goals are just speculation designed to induce fear rather than understanding and are only suitable for political propaganda. New energy-related technologies are not going to "save" us from the irreversible decline in global net energy. The U.S. "energy policy" up through President George W. Bush was having $20/barrel oil. National conviction like technology is not a source of energy. Bio-fuel alternatives will never be produced in the quantities needed to replace current oil use. Mr. McFarlane should have a conversation with Dr. David Fridley (Post Carbon Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) on the subject of bio-fuels and be disabused of the idea. We are already using 37% of our corn production to produce ethanol, which is a net energy loser. In a world of hunger how can anyone justify using corn to run automobiles? The "solutions" to our energy predicament are more radical than anything Mr. McFarlane and perhaps Mr. Martenson are prepared to talk about publicly. The political class will never have that conversation with the American people either because peak oil = peak capitalism = end of economic growth.  Their only response to the situation will be to start WW III. How could it possibly be otherwise?

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Tommygun
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Interviews

I really enjoyed the interview with David Collum. He seems genuine.

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Damnthematrix
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Where is the solution?

alexros wrote:

I agree that we are in the begiinning stage of a huge energy crisis.

I've come to realise that we are not so much heading for an energy crisis as one of over consumption.....

Mike

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thatchmo
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Thanks Jason.  Appreciate

Thanks Jason.  Appreciate the "tune up".  I like the "dinner table" analogy.  Aloha,Steve.

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
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There are no solutions to Peak Everything..

twessels wrote:

Yes, the U.S. imports between 65% and 70% of its oil but Europe, Japan, India and China also import substantial amounts of the oil they use. Therefore, disruptions to oil production, refining and distribution will affect more that just the U.S. Americans have a false sense of security regarding the continued availability of plentiful supplies of oil because the political leadership of this country has lied about oil depletion going back to President Nixon. President Carter might have been the only president who really grasped the nature of the oil depletion problem and he got voted out of office in 1980. Comments about hostile interests and their goals are just speculation designed to induce fear rather than understanding and are only suitable for political propaganda. New energy-related technologies are not going to "save" us from the irreversible decline in global net energy. The U.S. "energy policy" up through President George W. Bush was having $20/barrel oil. National conviction like technology is not a source of energy. Bio-fuel alternatives will never be produced in the quantities needed to replace current oil use. Mr. McFarlane should have a conversation with Dr. David Fridley (Post Carbon Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) on the subject of bio-fuels and be disabused of the idea. We are already using 37% of our corn production to produce ethanol, which is a net energy loser. In a world of hunger how can anyone justify using corn to run automobiles? The "solutions" to our energy predicament are more radical than anything Mr. McFarlane and perhaps Mr. Martenson are prepared to talk about publicly. The political class will never have that conversation with the American people either because peak oil = peak capitalism = end of economic growth.  Their only response to the situation will be to start WW III. How could it possibly be otherwise?

Hi twessels, and welcome to the fray.....  in my opinion, your post on this thread so far is easily the wisest.  What I want to know is, did Chris fill this guy in about the ERoEI of his proposed "solution"?

Some of the proposals on this thread, like steam engines (not picking on anyone in particular or any one single idea) leaves out the fact that the problem is population....  there are so many people wanting to drive cars today (and growing like topsy in China) that it doesn't matter which technology you may wish to put under the hood, it will end in tears because it still is over consumption.

I personally know someone who made a gasifier for his car.  He actually drove it from QLD to Canberra (Australia) and back several years ago on firewood!  That's 1500 miles at least.  But he made it abundantly clear to me that if we all started doing this, all the trees in the country would be cut down in no time.  The fascination with driving automobiles is stunning.  Get over it though.....  I'm starting to think very few of us will be driving anywhere within five years, and maybe a lot less if there's a revolution in Saudi Arabia.  The looming crisis isn't so much about oil as it is about over consumption and Limits to Growth.  I would've thought anyone who's seen the CC at least once would frealise this.....

Mike

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Cyclone Power Systems

buenijo
The Cyclone engine looks promising.  Are you affiliated with the company in some way?
 


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Our dinner table?

While I don't want to chase anyone away, I do wish that Chris Martenson had revealed and discussed MacFarland's background as a CFR member, Bilderberger and Iran Contra criminal.  It seems to me that if these issues were not discussed in the interview (and I haven't listened to the whole thing) it was quite the missed opportunity.

Moderator Jason, is it your goal to prevent anyone else from discussing these aspects of MacFarland's career in this forum, provided it is done in a civil matter?

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nestor_andreu
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Bicycles are great...

...if cities are prepared for them. Using cars just to move people around is very inefficient (unless maybe if the car is full). If walking or going by bike is impossible, then it is preferrable to use public transportation. Which means cities must have a good public transportation network. If not, then small scooters are usually enough to move around. Unless of course one has to carry bulky things.

Cars are not bad by themselves, they are currently being abused. Also, as someone already said, cities must be designed to minimize energy used for daily transportation.

Concerning the interviewee, I'd say that his notable past should have been explicited from the beginning, although it is quite clear to me from its references cited by Chris that he is quite mingled with the system (in all its pejorative sense). It is anyway interesting to see how such people react to the questions posed here. It is also surprising to see them around here. But hey, even Chris used to be vice president of such big pharma as Pfizer.

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The energy we waste = the largest oil well in the world.

Take a look at LLNL energy flow charts.  By design the US rejects over 60% of our fuel as waste heat.  Denmark rejects about 6%.  The difference is about 54%.  Oil and coal make up about 54% of our fuel input.  Adopt the Denmark model and we do not need oil or coal.  Look at Denmark District Heating and start with the link to history.  Denmark became energy independent in 1998.

Also look at the water flow charts at LLNL energy flow charts.  You will see we use almost as much water throwing away energy (cooling thermoelectric power plants) as we do for irrigation.

38% of fuel in Denmark is biomass and garbage.  New York is hauling its garbage to Ohio and South Carolina.

Denmark mines the smoke stacks for various metals.  And as Chris points out, the smoke stacks may be richer ore that our remaining mines.

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McFarlan's Multi-Fuel Requirement Not Practical

I was disappointed in the podcast interview with Robert McFarland. His idea that we should all write to Congress demanding they pass legislation requiring cars and light trucks be able to burn gasoline, ethanol, methanol, and bio diesel is a dangerous idea. First, its the kind of law politicians love because it allows them to claim to have "done something" but it forces the auto makers into a technological corner trying to comply with an impossibly expensive regulation. If the auto makers fail, the politicians can blame them for not trying hard enough. Remember how GM tried to build an electric car to meet a “zero emissions” mandate by the state of California. It was a disaster and GM took the blame for the fact that an electric car that would only go 9 miles under adverse conditions was not acceptable to most motorists. Toyota decided not to even try to build a “zero” emissions car, but instead to develop a “low” emissions car and came up with the imminently practical and profitable Prius. Ironically, GM's patriotic attempt to try and comply with the California law contributed to their ultimate bankruptcy.

A spark ignition (gasoline) engine will not burn diesel or bio-diesel because the octane rating of diesel or bio-diesel fuel is much too low. If you build a spark ignition engine with low enough compression ratio that it will get by on diesel fuel it will be very inefficient. This means a multi-fuel engine must be a compression ignition (diesel) engine. Diesel engines are heavier and more expensive and making a diesel engine suitable foe gasoline and/or ethanol or methanol is a challenge because of the high cetane rating (explosiveness) of these fuels under the high pressures in a diesel engine as well as the fact that they do not lubricate the fuel pump like diesel fuel does. The US Army's 2 ½ ton truck has a diesel engine that will run on gasoline, but it's only recommended for limited use in an emergency.

McFarlane states that Brazil uses light car and light trucks that run on any combination of gasoline or ethanol, but the the ethanol situation in Brazil is totally different than in the US. They produce ethanol from abundant sugar cane and burn the waste (bagasse) to generate energy to run the ethanol plants. Therefore, they produce ethanol with a net energy gain. In the US we produce ethanol from corn, whereby we use as much energy in planting, fertilizing, watering, harvesting, drying, shipping, and distilling the ethanol as we get back out of it. Using over 40% of our corn corp for ethanol leads to higher food prices world-wide. This is tragic for the world's poor and ironically has contributed to the rebellions in Middle East, leading to lower oil production and higher oil prices. The ethanol mandate is a truly tragic piece of political fool-heartyness.

McFarlane states that cellulose ethanol is just around the technological corner. This is not true. I have friend who is knowledgeable in cellulose ethanol technology and he says we're not even close. Have you ever wondered why all the world's plants use cellulose as their structural building block when there are hoards of hungry microbes and larger animals who would love to eat it (cellulose passes right through cows and other herbivores without breaking down)? Cellulose is exceptionally difficult to break down, and that's what what must be done to produce cellulose ethanol. If you expend more energy breaking down the cellulose than you get out of the ethanol produced what's the use.

McFarlane needs to catch up on technical details on what he's recommending before he gets people to swamp Congress with demands for legislation requiring multi-fuel vehicles.

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I appreciate the variety of

I appreciate the variety of guests and opinions presented at this site, and objective, scientific analysis of their views.  One can learn a lot whether they agree with a particular view or not. 

The possibility brought up by RMof an oil supply disruption due to hostile actions, aside from predictable declines in production rate, seems like another risk which I hadn't previously considered much.  Another good reason to just get  used to using a lot less energy!

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Just some thoughts...

Just a reminder, although I post under "Thomas" I am DC mentioned above. (Thanks for the support you guys provided.)

Aristotle noted that an educated man can entertain an idea without necessarily endorsing it. I think it is amazing that Chris got RM to do the interview. As a reminder, Paul Craig Roberts worked with Reagan as well and he is a cult hero of those who worry about abuse of power. (Wikipedia would have told anyone interested who Robert was, so ignorance of his past is no real excuse.) 

The CFR is (may be) misunderstood. There are something like 20,000 members--the Who's Who of geopolitics. There are also some very impressive fellows, including noted Austrian economist Ben Steil, Sabbastian Malaby, and the always whacky Amity Schlaes.  It has been said by someone very close to me and part of the CFR that, although everybody who comes into the CFR has an agenda, the CFR itself is relatively non-partisan. Its goal is to get these guys talking about geopolitically profound issues. (That may be a little idealistic, IMO.) Although it should be looked at with a wary eye, the CFR may be less than it is cracked up to be. 

With that said, I was relatively confident that the single message had an underlying agenda. Didn't seem all that well hidden. The comments above about Brazil being very different than us seem appropriate to me. I am not particularly optimistic that biofuels will have a place in the future, except as an inefficient source of liquid fuels. What makes peak oil so disquieting to me is that I am not very confident that adequate substitutes are on the distant horizon. 

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Reply to Kirktim about Cyclone

Hi Kirktim. I am not formally affiliated with the company. I have only followed their work with great interest over the last several years, and I am an investor. If you are interested to know more about their engine systems, then feel free to ask. I can likely answer your questions. For now, just know that theirs is a serious effort to bring steam power back for small and medium scale applications. They have the tools and the talent to do it. Also, as far as I can tell they're doing things the right way by cutting no corners... that is, by not making the same mistakes that others have made in the past in trying to bring back steam power.

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Wasted Heat

I agree. What we need to do is decentralize power generation to the point where most of the waste heat can be put to productive use in water heating, water distillation, space heating, and adsorption air conditioning. Steam systems are ideal for this purpose.

Check out the Waste Heat Engine by Cyclone Power Technologies that is designed to capture heat from various industrial processes to produce electricity. Also, the steam exhaust (which is primarily saturated water in this engine system) from this system can be easily put to use in the heating applications discussed above. Saturated water/steam is an excellent medium for transferring heat. In fact, many cogeneration systems use waste heat to first produce saturated steam before putting the heat to use.

Also, Cyclone is developing a biomass fueled 10 KW power plant for residential use that used the Waste Heat Engine. The system can be operated for extended periods at very low power to make the most of cogeneration. It can easily provide all of the electricity, space heating, water heating, and air conditioning (using an adsorption chiller... see sortech.de). It could use wood pellets, wood chips, or even natural gas. Might be a good use for junk mail too, or lawn clippings.

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Automotive Fuels

I agree that most biofuels in limited production today are simply a very bad idea... particularly corn ethanol. But I am optimistic about the prospects for biofuels derived from algae, and also ethanol using the Coskata process (bacterial fermentation of ethanol from CO and H2 generated from direct biomass gasification... or coal gasification). Natural gas may be used as a transport fuel. Coal may also be used as a transport fuel directly in external combustion engines like the Cyclone (it has already been fueled by coal dust with a propane pilot flame). A coal slurry can also be used in an external combustion engine. Oil can be derived from coal using a process currently in use in South Africa. Battery electric cars are fine for small passenger cars that see limited range... otherwise, I think they're too costly to be a viable solution.

In my opinion, fuel oil made from algae and used in modern steam cars is the best solution long term. Algae oil has a very high energy density, and it can be burned perfectly in a modern steam automotive system with no refining at all (collected straight from the cracker that lyses the cell walls releasing the oil). I say keep biomass and coal around for stationary power generation... but these power plants should be downsized and decentralized so the waste heat can be put to use as much as possible.

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Spam Alert

Enough with the pump job.

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Mr McFarlane is on the board

Mr McFarlane is on the board of Myriant Technologies, Inc. (Myriant), a privately-held, biotech developer and manufacturer of renewable bio-based chemicals.  He was also the main architect of the 'Star Wars' defence initiative which proved to be unworkable, incredibly expensive, and rather mad. He doesn't appear to have a very good record at predicting workable and reasonable future technology. Furthermore he has a vested interest in promoting biotech fuel. Both these facts should be borne in mind when listening to this podcast.

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methanol/ethanol ideas v. ecological issues

Ethanol is currently providing us with ~8% of our gasoline, but uses 40% of our corn crop.  This says nothing of the amount of water used on the crops themselves, & then in the processing of the ethanol in a time where falling water tables/water shortages are becoming more of an issue.

Even if you use methanol or biomass or biodiesel, won't this really chew up massive quantities of food supplies & water that could be better used elsewhere?

Or there an implied, unspoken message from Mr. McFarlane that "it's too late in the game re: Peak Oil to worry about what inflating food costs will do to all the other countries.  We need to take care of Americans."

It's not lost on me that a Machiavellian solution to Peak Oil, if you are sitting in the American seat at the global table, is to simply burn up all your excess food supplies as fuel.  This will not only reduce dependence on foreign oil, but as we have seen in the last month, prove to be a very effective means of cutting emerging market demand & governments from power through starvation.  Interestingly, that is what may currently be going on.

As a human being, I don't like the thought of that, but it is "a solution" in the strictest sense of the phrase.  Any thoughts?  

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McFarlanes biofuel views

Yossi,

Your post was worthy and your point is valid. Thanks for sharing. pass the prune pudding please...dinner is not over with our guest yet.

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McFarlane's arrangement with Sudan & Qatar

Early in the interview, Chris and Robert discuss McFarlane's involvement as an "honest broker" between the Sudan government and the Darfur rebel leaders.  Chris says this is "incredible work".  However, the Washington Post has documented that this arrangement was initiated by the Sudanese government, which then arranged for Qatar to pay McFarlane's consulting fee, simply to create the illusion that McFarlane is a disinterested third party.  The story also mentioned that McFarlane lobbied various US officials on behalf of Qatar and Sudan, without registering himself with the State Department as an agent of a foreign government.  

Qatar is one of the more liberal Islamic states, but it is run as an autocracy under Sharia law, and it is also a key OPEC member -- exactly the sort of government McFarlane is constantly warning us about in the interview. 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/29/AR2009092903840.html?sid=ST2009093000189

McFarlane said he became interested in Sudan during an interfaith trip to the region with members of Congress in 2007, and he has done consulting work in southern Sudan since then. In November 2008, McFarlane recounted in an e-mail, he was approached by a former business partner, Albino Aboug, on behalf of Sudan's government.

"Albino asked whether I was willing to discuss with senior representatives from the Khartoum government how to foster negotiations between Khartoum and the Darfur rebel groups and also how to move toward renewed diplomatic negotiations between our countries," McFarlane wrote. "I agreed to do so."

In early January, Aboug and McFarlane met in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with Babiker, who is currently stationed as a Sudanese diplomat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; it is unclear whether a Qatari representative was present, and McFarlane declined to provide details. The Qatari Embassy in Washington did not respond to telephone messages.

What followed was a month-long exchange of e-mails and documents between McFarlane and Babiker, culminating with McFarlane's contract with Qatar.

[....]

During this time, Babiker was in regular communication with senior Sudanese intelligence officials about McFarlane, the documents show.

The documents suggest that the parties were keen to avoid public links between McFarlane and Sudan, with McFarlane stressing the need for a third party such as Qatar.

Yet an Arabic-language memo from Babiker to an unidentified Sudanese superior on Jan. 25 refers to the need to "provide the necessary money for the activities of the group," according to a translation. A week later, McFarlane sent an electronic copy of the proposed contract with Qatar to Babiker "for your consideration" before it was signed, the documents show.

McFarlane also drafted a letter from Qatar inviting himself to the contract signing, then sent the language to Babiker to pass on to Qatar for approval. The final contract was signed in Doha, Qatar's capital, on Feb. 9 with Sudanese officials present, according to the records.

McFarlane, whose salary under the contract is $410,400, according to a fee schedule sent to Babiker, said he has "no basis for assuming" that Sudan is funding any part of the contract.

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Podcast

RE: Strategic Oil Reserves

Anyone have any information on what pace of consumption this is based upon?

My thinking is that if planning is "projecting" a 6 month supply based on rates of consumption of say, 1995, leadership might end up with a nasty disaster on their hands. 

RE: Caliphate

I suggest people educate themselves on this topic. CFR or not, it's no joke. The crisis in Europe, specifically France, Britain, Netherlands and Denmark is showing what happens when people refuse to take part in established legal systems that hold them accountable. If they are allowed to establish their own (Sha'ria), they can't be held criminally liable for any crimes committed against non-Muslims (Kafirs). 

Not my idea of a bright future based on the priniciples of Classic Liberalism I hold dear... The exact opposite, in fact. Think "Inquisition".

RE: Open Fuel Standard

I think several posts became wrapped around the axle on the issue of Methonol/Ethanol.

If the open fuel standard allowed cars to burn those - in addition to Biodiesel - as was stated, this would actually address many of the serious concerns I have personally, regarding shortages and the maintanance of mobility.

I see biodiesel as a great interim approach to fuel shortages. Not only can you still it yourself with the proper equipment, it's significantly cleaner burning and would help take the burden off an already stressed fossil fuel market. 

This podcast was timely for me, I've been researching which would be the "best" diesel vehicle to purchase over the last few days, and think it's time to start a thread on the matter.

Cheers, and thanks very much for an excellent interview with a very insightful guest.

Aaron

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Luckily, as intelligent

Luckily, as intelligent adults, we can each decide to take what we will from any given source.  My approach is to listen to everyone, even (especially?) if I disagree with them because that's how I learn things that I may not have known.

My purpose in interviewing Mr. McFarlane was to get his views as a former NSA on the current geopolitical situation as it relates to risks to the flow of oil from the middle east.  I learned things for which I am grateful, feeling like I got something of a glimpse into how a high level player in the power game is viewing the world. Whether I agree with their assessment or not is utterly besides the point for me, the value is in accepting that this happens to be the way they see the world.

And, as you will see in my upcoming book, I hold an especially dim view of biofuels, but since the purpose of the interview for me was the geopolitical situation I chose to let several contestable points about biofuels slide.  

As always, take what you will and leave the rest.

Finally, we are going to run interviews and guests with whom we may entirely, thoroughly, and completely disagree because we want to avoid building an echo chamber.  This is a time to remain limber and vigilant.

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Just to repeat...

major kudos for getting RM to do the podcast. If you can get Gaddafi, that would be cool as well. (I am being facetious but not sarcastic.)

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Contradictory Goals

Are we missing the obvious?   Congress dictates more and more safety features which add considerable weight, then it dictates inceases in MPG on the order of 35%.   We definitley don't have scientific minds in Congress.   Why have vehicles become so heavy?   Is it because fat Americans like fat vehicles and want 100% Collective Safety (which is actually less Personal Safety)?

As for getting off oil, it seems hybrids and nuclear fission power power would be the way forward, but we have the anti-Nuke Religion in the USA saying Nukes are too dangerous though France seems to mind just fine generating over 70% of its electricity from nuclear fission power plants.

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Next guests?

Thomas wrote:

major kudos for getting RM to do the podcast. If you can get Gaddafi, that would be cool as well. (I am being facetious but not sarcastic.)

Heck, while we're wishing for points of view different from our own, I say we do it big time and get a Bernanke interview.  Seriously.... I would love to see Chris interview him.  How he answers and what he says (or probably more likely, what he doesn't say) might give a better indication of the Fed's true degree of confidence in their current course.  I think what ultimately happens with the currency and economy (and by extension, to us) is very much determined by how far the Fed goes, and whether they'll stick to their guns until the bitter end or if they eventually get cold feet and give in to pressure.

So Chris and Adam, let us know how that Bernanke interview request goes Wink

- Nickbert

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McFarlan's Interview and Reality

The interview with Robert McFarlane was conducted like all Chris Martenson interviews where the guest is probed for his ideas and then given sufficient time to explain himself and flesh out those ideas. Unlike most TV hosts, Chris doesn't cut his guests off every 10 seconds and jump in with his own thoughts. I also like hearing from people with various viewpoints. In addition, Robert McFarlane is a high profile individual who has been around the seats of power for a long time. You don't get to be the National Security Adviser or get invited to the CFR and Bilderberg Group meetings by being a nobody.

But, this is what makes listening to McFarlane so terrifying. How can he hang out with the movers and shakers of the world, yet have so little knowledge of how things actually work from an engineering standpoint. I get the same feeling when I watch members of Congress propose ideas which violate the laws of chemistry and physics. For instance in June 2009 the House of Representatives passed a bill that would require the US to reduce green house gas emissions to a level 83 percent below that of 2005 by 2050. This would put our per capita CO2 emission below those of emitted around 1875, before the introduction of electricity, the internal combustion engine, the airplane the motor car and indoor plumbing. They had no idea how such an amazing feat was to be accomplished but they passed a bill requiring it.

With what's going on the Middle East I wouldn't surprised I we are into gas rationing by summer. If that happens the crazy ideas will be flying. We can't afford to waste time chasing chasing after “success is just around the technological corner” ideas like McFarlane's. In the Middle Ages alchemists thought turning lead into gold and development of an elixir to prevent aging were “just around the corner”.

We have all kinds of energy technologies that actually work. We've got massive amounts of natural gas in the US which only costs around $4.00 per 1,000,000 Btu, whereas bulk gasoline costs around $2.75 per 125,000 Btu (making natural gas 5.5 times cheaper) and Clean Energy Fuels Corp (CLNE) can convert existing gasoline vehicles to natural gas right now.

The Europeans have converted much of their car fleet to modern diesel engines. Anybody who's been to Europe and driven one of these high torque cars with a 5-speed knows how much fun they are to drive. Here is a list of 25 of them that all get at least 64 miles per gallon in combined driving. Compare that to the pathetic 22 / 33 city / highway mileage with an American standard transmission 4-cylinder gasoline Accord or Camry, and don't forget you get less mileage with ethanol blended into your gas. We could start importing them next week and building them here quicklyn if the our goverment would cooperate. http://www.bovinebazaar.com/deisel.htm

The Germans were making coal into motor fuel during WWII. The South Africans improved the process during the 1980's and the Chinese are building massive coal-to-oil plants right now. The US is the Saudi Arabia of coal. Too bad we can't use existing technology it to make it into motor fuel.

The rest of the world is engaged in a nuclear power plant building boom, lead by China. Electricity from existing US nuclear power plants costs less than 2 cents a kWh, but instead of building more nuclear plants we are building windmills to produce tiny amounts of electricity for 15 cents a kWh which is of little practical value anyway because it's intermittent and unreliable and we're building solar arrays to produce even more tiny amounts electricity for 30 cents a kWh which are also intermittent and unreliable. The US developed nuclear power 50 years ago, but now we can't get a new plant past the catch-22, Rubik's cube, quagmire maize erected by our government.

The latest OECD Programme for International Student Assessment report compared 15-year-olds in 70 countries. US students ranked 14th out of 34 OECD countries in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. This may may help explain why President Obama made a trip to Arcadia Florida in 2009 for the commissioning of the “largest photovoltaic solar facility in the nation” that can produce on average about 5 megawatts of electricity, equal to about 0.0046 as much as decent sized nuclear plant. Or how Congress people can describe $61 billion a year in spending cuts as “massive: and “Draconian” when $61 billion amounts to 0.017 of the federal budget. Maybe it also explains why Americans like Robert McFarlane can talk so well, but struggle with scientific and engineering realities.

 

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Speaking of adult thinking...

Shall we explore what it means to develop our thinking skills?  I can think of a few rules of thumb; certainly others can add more:

--Small minds talk about people. Average minds talk about things. Big minds talk about ideas.

--Where a man stands on any issue depends on where he sits.

--Nobody is ever completely right or completely wrong. 

--It is often worthwhile to understand another person's view, even if you completely dissagree with him.

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