Drumbeat: July 27, 2013

On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities

For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread.

Alarmed by what they say has become an existential threat to their business, utility companies are moving to roll back government incentives aimed at promoting solar energy and other renewable sources of power. At stake, the companies say, is nothing less than the future of the American electricity industry.

JPMorgan Mulls Physical Commodities Exit Amid U.S. Review

JPMorgan Chase & Co. said it plans to get out of the business of owning and trading physical commodities ranging from metals to oil, three days after a U.S. Senate panel questioned whether banks are abusing their ownership of raw materials to manipulate markets.

The announcement also comes as JPMorgan negotiates a settlement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that may include a $400 million fine and other penalties, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

JPMorgan Commodities Exit May Sap Liquidity Until Others Step in

A decision by JPMorgan & Chase Co. to exit its physical commodities business would temporarily reduce market liquidity before other companies quickly take its place, according to analysts and traders.

New York-based JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank, said yesterday that it’s “pursuing strategic alternatives,” including the sale or spinoff of its commodities business, after an internal review. The statement came three days after a congressional hearing investigated whether deposit-taking banks should be allowed to trade raw materials such as oil and industrial metals.

JPMorgan owns and trades financial and physical commodities including crude oil, natural gas and power, and describes itself as “one of the world’s leading energy market makers.” The bank may be the first to exit physical commodities, though others may follow if regulations are changed, as suggested by Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat whose subcommittee of the Senate Banking Committee held the July 23 hearing.

WTI Caps Weekly Drop as China Cuts Manufacturing

West Texas Intermediate crude fell, capping the first weekly drop in more than a month, on speculation that China’s plans to cut excess manufacturing capacity will reduce fuel consumption.

Futures slid 0.7 percent after China ordered more than 1,400 companies in 19 industries to cut excess production capacity this year, part of efforts to shift toward slower, more-sustainable economic growth. WTI reached $109.32 a barrel on July 19, the highest level since March 2012, on signs the U.S. economy is rebounding and on declining crude supplies.

Citi's Morse: Oil Prices Have Peaked For The Year

Citi’s chief commodities analyst Ed Morse says oil prices have peaked for the year.

In a taped segment with Yahoo finance today, he also reiterates his call that the “peak oil” theory is dead.

California Gasoline Gains After Carson Refinery Reports Upset

California-blend gasoline on the spot market in Los Angeles strengthened against futures after an area refinery reported a breakdown.

Tesoro Corp.’s Carson plant reported the upset early today, according to a filing with the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The refinery previously filed notice it would flare from July 24 to today as part of planned work.

Are Even Higher Gas Prices Around the Corner?

A big surge in renewable credit prices has some analysts predicting a shortage of gas just as the mid-term 2014 elections approach. A problem for Obama?

Energy Rigs in U.S. Advance by 6 to 1,776, Baker Hughes Reports

Oil and gas rigs in the U.S. increased by six to 1,776 this week, according to Baker Hughes Inc. The advance was the fourth in a row.

Oil rigs rose six to 1,401, the Houston-based field services company said on its website. Gas rigs were unchanged at 369. The total U.S. count reached the highest level since March 15. Rising output from U.S. shale formations have boosted domestic oil production to a 22-year high.

"Biggest Oil Discovery In 50 Years" Debunked

You'd think a discovery equivalent to Saudi Arabia would have been pretty big news, but I hadn't heard about it. Let's spend about 5 minutes and dig into this. The announce was in January. The current company market capitalization is roughly 900M$. CONCLUSION: This isn't a very big deal.

Shell Bids for Forties Crude; Surgut Offers Urals Via Tender

Royal Dutch Shell Plc wasn’t able to buy North Sea Forties crude even after raising its bid to a higher level than the previous day. There were no bids or offers for Russian Urals blend in the Platts window.

Chinese Oil Companies Move Up on Fortune Global 500

For almost 15 years we have been beating the drum of the importance of the oil business for the world, a far cry from peak oil and the cacophony of climate change nonsense. Chinese demand for oil and gas has provided and continues to provide an additional accent. It is moving towards the domination of the oil business and commerce. Chinese oil companies have obliged and filled a void in that country and they have influenced the oil business in hitherto unthinkable ways. More than $200 billion have been invested by Chinese oil companies to buy oil and gas properties throughout the world.

Death and divisions in Egypt after judge orders Morsy jailed

Cairo (CNN) -- Any use of force to end mass protests staged by supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy will only result in more death, the country's interim interior minister said Saturday.

The warning from Minister Mohamed Ibrahim came as dozens were reported killed overnight in clashes between Morsy's supporters and those opposed to his rule, an escalation of violence that has raised concerns among Western leaders about the stability of a key ally in the region.

Rising sectarian war hits Iraq oil export

BAGHDAD/MOSUL, Iraq (RTRS): Iraq’s Sunni insurgents are targeting its main northern oil pipeline, undoing plans for a massive increase in exports as violence reaches levels unseen since the darkest days of civil war. Iraq’s ambitious plans to ramp up its oil output have been held back by poor maintenance and technical problems. Violence is making the situation worse, and, if it continues to escalate, could have a measurable impact on global supply. Death tolls for the past three months in Iraq have been the highest for five years, since the days when rival Sunni and Shiite militias fought for control of neighbourhoods and battled 170,000 US troops.

Today, the Americans are long since gone, but sectarian animosity has re-emerged, fuelled by resentment among Sunni Muslims at what they perceive as domination by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite majority.

Nigerian LNG exports gas

LAGOS (AFP) – A blockade on exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Nigeria has been lifted following a partial resolution of a tax dispute between the gas firm and the maritime agency, the company said Friday.

Iran on verge of electricity shortage, again

Iranian Energy Ministry warned that, if citizens do not decrease electricity consumption, electrical outages will be inevitable, Jahanesanat daily quoted Iran's Energy Ministry as saying.

Oil Minister: Iran Playing Undeniable Role in Energy Security

"One of the main topics on the Munich agenda was the place of our country on meeting energy needs," Qassemi said in an interview following the Munich Security Conference earlier this month, and added, "The Islamic Republic of Iran guarantees transferring millions of barrels of oil from the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz indicating its importance in view of its geopolitical location, an issue that hardly can be ignored."

"In the Munich Conference, we stressed that unilateral sanctions imposed by the US were illegal and declared that even though the Islamic Republic of Iran has been able to run its oil industry and moves toward domestic manufacturing to meet its needs, the United States' illegal sanctions have jeopardized development of energy and its security around the world."

Myanmar opens doors to Big Oil, but investment pitfalls still lurk

After decades, Myanmar's rich energy reserves are now available to foreign companies. But sectarian violence and cronyism may still give some companies pause.

Russian Gazprom acquires gas infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Kyrgyz Energy and Industry Minister Osmonbek Artykbaev signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation in the field of transportation, distribution and sale of natural gas in Kyrgyzstan, Russian ministry reported.

George Mitchell, a Pioneer in Hydraulic Fracturing, Dies at 94

George P. Mitchell, the son of a Greek goatherd who capped a career as one of the most prominent independent oilmen in the United States by unlocking immense natural gas and petroleum resources trapped in shale rock formations, died on Friday in Galveston, Tex. He was 94.

Groundwater verdict against Exxon Mobil is upheld

NEW YORK — A federal appeals court has upheld a $105 million verdict against Exxon Mobil for contaminating New York City’s groundwater.

The city sued Exxon Mobil for the costs of removing a gasoline additive known as MTBE from drinking wells in Queens.

UPS: Natural gas ‘game changer’ for cutting costs, emissions

United Parcel Service Inc., the world’s largest package-delivery company, said it can save 40 percent in fuel costs by running its long-haul semi-tractor trailer fleet on natural gas instead of gasoline or diesel.

Delay in Disclosing Leaks at Fukushima Is Criticized

TOKYO — Foreign nuclear experts harshly criticized the operator of the devastated nuclear power plant at Fukushima on Friday for its delay in disclosing that highly contaminated groundwater has been leaking from the site into the ocean.

Fukushima trench water crisis returns

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday that the trench problem at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has cropped up again and is sending highly radioactive water into the sea.

Gulf of Mexico oil spill: Did Halliburton cut a good deal with US Justice Department?

Halliburton will pay the maximum fine for a misdemeanour, but the $200,000 is equal to just under four minutes’ revenue for the company.

3 Tons of Oil Spills in Russia's Siberia

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) – A leak in the Omsk-Irkutsk pipeline cause an oil spill of some three tons in Russia’s west Siberia, emergencies situation officials said on Saturday.

Texas loses another battle against EPA

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Court of Appeals slapped down Texas’ most recent challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday — the latest defeat in Attorney General Greg Abbott’s lengthy legal crusade against the federal government.

Abbott had attempted to block the EPA from controlling the state’s system for issuing permits to power plants. That process has been under federal oversight since 2010.

U.S. appeals court rejects states' challenge over climate rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a legal challenge by Texas and Wyoming to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a 2-1 vote, said the states and various industry groups did not have standing to sue because they could not show that they had suffered an injury or that a ruling throwing out the EPA plan would benefit them.

National park visitors leave roadkill in their wake

Drivers in America's national parks are killing the very bears, deer, wolves and other animals they're hoping to see, says a new report seeking changes to the way park managers deal with conflicts between cars and wildlife.

Exxon Among Targets for Divestiture in Climate Push

Activist Bill McKibben, who helped turn an obscure oil pipeline project into a high-profile political fight, has a new target for his effort to curb global warming: energy companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp.

McKibben’s group, 350.org, is asking colleges, cities and churches to divest their financial holdings from a group of 200 companies that produce coal, oil or natural gas. So far six schools, 16 cities and 11 religious institutions have agreed to divest from those companies, according to his group.

Can Agriculture Reverse Climate Change? A Future Tense Event Recap.

Climate change is the gravest existential threat the planet faces. Whether we’re talking about flora or fauna, the damage that could, and is likely, to occur should give rise for alarm. To tackle such a complex problem will require major shifts in society. And one large sector that’s ripe for change is agriculture.

Yes, we should do something about the weather

The weather is broken. To some degree, this is because we broke it: While it is foolish to link any individual extreme-weather event to the larger climate, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the growing frequency and intensity of windstorms, floods, hurricanes and extremes of heat and cold is a consequence of higher levels of weather-system volatility related to a warming trend caused in part by human-generated carbon emissions.

If we broke it, should we fix it?

Arctic oil and gas drilling 'needlessly risky', says green watchdog

The government is failing to grasp the urgency of protecting the Arctic from new oil and gas drilling, according to Parliament’s green watchdog.

The Environmental Audit Committee, in a report published today, argues that the lack of oil spill response techniques, demonstrated by Shell’s 2012 Kulluk incident, makes exploring for new reserves in the Arctic “needlessly risky”.

Re: JPMorgan Mulls Physical Commodities Exit Amid U.S. Review

The headline understates the apparent decision to get out of the business of owning and trading physical commodities. The other Too Big to Fail investment banks appear to be trying to exit the field as well. They still want to play in the commodities markets, however. Maybe these guys see the writing on the wall about congressional concerns about the banking industry in general. It's possible that they want to head off the proposed return to the old Depression Era Glass-Steagall separation between commercial and investment banking, as the law introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren would do.


There's a similar story in the WSJ this AM, behind a pay wall...

J.P. Morgan to Sell Commodities Business
Move Comes Amid Regulatory Scrutiny of Wall Street

E. Swanson

Banks don't create wealth, they draw wealth from the creational activities of others. Basicaly a taux or a tax on wealth creation. Fair enough if they facilitate wealth creation. But when they simply use their unique position to place themselves as middle men between seller and buyer they become a tax or a drag on the real economy.

I believe this is where we are today, the financial industry has become a drag, a parasite, on the real economy. It needs to be removed to allow genuine economic activity to resume, because there are no longer the surpluses to allow such parasite to exist.

I suspect this parasite has wormed itself so tightly into the body of the economy that it can't be removed without killing the patient. That was its strategy all along.

I'm pretty sure the host is dead anyway, or close enough to it, as to make no difference. The parasites are beginning to feed of each other.

I wish it were so simple....

couldn't agree with you more about the current state of things. But would make two observations. First, our economy has become much more parasitic in the last 20 years and not just the banking sector. Think of all the people who earn a living just acting as middle persons. Think of two IPO's- Facebook and Groupon. Classic examples of parasites. As in any parasite-host relationship- some level of parasites can be sustained by the host after a point the parasite overwhelms the host. The other night I heard the story of a double major graduate from Caltech who decided that he would use his considerable quant skills to set up a hedge fund a clearly parasitic endeavor. Another example one of many of graduates from the top business schools deciding that they want to go into the "non profit" sector. With a few notable exceptions the non profit sector is largely parasitic- in as much it doesn't create wealth but distributes. If some of our brightest and best are going into the parasitic economy what hope is there for the larger economy.

But as we damn the banking sector lets remember that it wasn't always a parasite. Derivatives and mortgage backed securities were at a time powerful drivers of economic activity and wealth creation. In the case of the former in their early days they were useful tools to allow companies to access fixed rate financing and manage their currency exposure. MBS opened up home ownership to many people. I can still remember how you had to plead with the banker/building society/S&L to get a loan.

Not so sure we should call non-profits parasites. They used to be places for do-gooders, who were willing to eschew the chance of making the big bucks. If these guys are parasites, then the human brain is a parasite on the rest of the body. Directing how the body should interface with the external world world is a function that serves the organism, even if it doesn't directly capture of process food( except in the sense of a consumer).

There have been a few notable cases of CEOs of non-profits making several million dollars a year salaries...sounds pretty profitable to me.

Re: On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities

For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread.

So they can finally begin to make out the writing on the wall? Well, cry me a river! They should have spent those years finding ways to partner with their customers in mutually beneficial ways.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
Mahatma Gandhi

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win fire them."

From the Article: " rooftop solar electricity — the economics of which often depend on government incentives and mandates — accounts for less than a quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s power generation. And yet, to hear executives tell it, such power sources could ultimately threaten traditional utilities’ ability to maintain the nation’s grid."
Cry me a river, many states RPS goals are hundreds of times that: http://www.dsireusa.org/rpsdata/index.cfm - PV is the O N L Y NEW generation source where costs and production are known .. ie. BANKABLE. With net metering, there is no production meter that the utility can read to resale the power. Only kWh the Utility can see is NET EXCESS. The chance to do this right was blown during the botched electrical deregulation fiasco. Could have been a win-win. Now the IOU's Loose. Investment now elsewhere. Distributed Generation is unstoppable, Time to get busy, Lots O glass left to slap..

The best way to kill a monopoly is to stop feeding it.

There's nothing wrong with a monopoly PROVIDED it is well managed and gets adequate regulatory oversight.

Electrical power, communications, water supply and sewage, and roads, are natural monopolies where a single authority can make better use of resources than competing authorities.

I come from a country where we have a monopoly supplier, Eskom, and for years we had reliable power and the lowest rates in the world for electricity. Unfortunately in recent years the regulators wouldn't let them put up prices and build new capacity, saying it will "harm the poor". Now we have steeply escalating prices and power cuts as they embark on a crash course to build new power stations in a hurry.

Any enterprise will suffer under bad management, public or private. Ask the British. They privatized their water supply. They're regretting it now. Corner-cutting and profit-maximizing are not what you want to see in essential services.

There are alternatives to private, defacto monopolies or state run utilities: Co-ops. The electric utility in our area is an EMC (electric membership cooperative), essentially owned by the customers (members). Any excess annual charges (overages) are either returned to the members or committed to necessary improvements. Shortages generally result in rate hikes. Members pay an annual membership ($20 here) to be part of the co-op. The books must "balance" each year. With many cooperatives, members also have certain voting rights (like shareholders).

Prospective members also pay for most of the costs of initial service (connection/construction/equipment fees, etc.). Bringing service to our homestead was going to cost in excess of $15,000; one of the reasons we chose to go off-grid.

That's the way it was here when I moved in. The regulation was, they would run 1000ft. and you paid the rest for service to your home. In my case I built my place almost 3000 ft from their line, and it was going to cost me about the same as you.

I told them to go ahead and run their 1000 ft. and I would take it from there. They told me I couldn't do that, I said "watch me". Before they had finished putting the meter in, I had a high voltage line run the rest of the way underground, and two pad mount transformers installed.

The look on the Eng.'s face was worth the cost to me, when he saw what I had done.

Please don't use bad management as an excuse for a rotten business. If it is non-functional from the users perspective then it needs to be erased.

With the Arizona Corporation Commission 100% occupied by Republicans, the electric utilities will likely overturn renewable incentives in that state. They have already made progress.

Interestingly, Barry Goldwater's son is the public figure of the opposition to the renewables shutdown.

But, then we saw Georgia's Tea Party push through 525MW solar against the wishes of the utility. Perhaps the political winds are shifting?

Yep can't wait till we hae no more coal, gas, and nuclear electricity. Solar and wind FTMFW.

It is like the "buggywhips" speech from the movie "Other People's Money"

To paraphrase, once the car was invented and started to become popular, buggywhip manufactururs would start to decline, as horse use declined. And, that the very last buggywhip manufacturer was probably the best, but that they would still become extinct.

The same trend could happen to electricity utilities' iron grip, if enough people and businesses become more electrically independent.


I think there is a hard core of businesses, which are too energy intensive to become independent electricity producers. At the very least, if we go wind/solar bigtime, we will need to come electricity longer distances than we do today -not shorter. Sure some customers may drop their use to near zero, some may even disconnect from the grid, but I think there are a lot of energy hungry industries who would rather contract with someone else to supply the bulk of their power. And if we electrify some/much of the space/water/process heat that is currently done by burning fuel on site, the demand for electricity will go way up.

Distributed generation is certainly a challenge/stress on the existing utility model, but it won't do away with the need for a utility.

Yes, the trend through out this century will likely be to electrify things that used to be powered by fossil fuels. This will especially be true when the world reaches peak natural gas. For an urbanite heating his home and cooking with natural gas, his choices for conversion are rather limited. His choices are conservation, improve insulation, passive solar, solar hot water system, electric heat pump, electric resistance heating or cooking, induction cooking or microwave cooking. Everything else, like wood or coal, either do not scale or pollute too much. This is one reason why fossil fuel based electric grids around the world need to be proactively converted to renewable energy sources. We need to get crack'n.

New from Congressional Research Service [CRS] ...

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Natural Resource Damage Assessment Under the Oil Pollution Act

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill leaked an estimated 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, damaging the waters, shores, and marshes, and the fish and wildlife that live there. The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) allows state, federal, tribal, and federal governments to recover damages to natural resources in the public trust from the parties responsible for the oil spill.

The types of damages that are recoverable include the cost of replacing or restoring the lost resource, the lost value of those resources if or until they are recovered, and any costs incurred in assessing the harm. OPA caps liability for offshore drilling units at $75 million for economic damages, but does not limit liability for the costs of containing and removing the oil.

In the alternative, the Trustees may seek compensation from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, but there is a cap of $500 million from the Fund for natural resources damages.

The NRDA process in the Gulf is in the Restoration Planning Phase. The caps on the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and on OPA liability have captured Congress’s attention, as has Gulf restoration

Analysis of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a market-based compliance system in which obligated parties (generally refiners and/or terminal operators) must submit credits to cover their obligations. These credits—Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs—are effectively commodities that can be bought or sold like other commodities. For each gallon of renewable fuel in the RFS program, one RIN is generated.

From the beginning of the RFS program, there have been concerns with RIN generation and the RIN market. As the RINs are essentially numbers in a computerized account, there have been errors and opportunities for fraud.

… In late 2011 and early 2012, EPA issued Notices of Violations (NOVs) to three companies that the agency alleges fraudulently generated a combined 140 million biodiesel RINs in 2010 and 2011.

A dramatic increase in corn ethanol RINs in 2013 ($0.07 to $1.00 in six months) has raised additional questions about the RIN system and the overall RFS. To the extent that cellulosic fuel costs remain high in the future, the aggregate value of the cellulosic RIN market could be significantly higher than the total RIN market today. The higher value of this market might be a draw to actors looking to circumvent the law.

Potential well water contaminants highest near natural gas drilling, study says

A new study of 100 private water wells in and near the Barnett Shale showed elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium closest to natural gas extraction sites, according to a team of researchers that was led by UT Arlington associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry Kevin Schug.

On average, researchers detected the highest levels of these contaminants within 3 kilometers of natural gas wells, including several samples that had arsenic and selenium above levels considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. For example, 29 wells that were within the study's active natural gas drilling area exceeded the EPA's Maximum Contaminant Limit of 10 micrograms per liter for arsenic, a potentially dangerous situation.

The areas lying outside of active drilling areas or outside the Barnett Shale did not show the same elevated levels for most of the metals.

Twenty-nine private water wells in the study contained methanol, with the highest concentrations in the active extraction areas. Twelve samples, four of which were from the non-active extraction sites, contained measurable ethanol. Both ethanol and methanol can occur naturally or as a result of industrial contamination.

Surely by now there are scientific studies, with before-drilling and after-drilling samples of a significant number of wells? If there aren't pre-drilling samples, why offer any credence to the studies at all? It's little more conclusive than Gasland, though sensational enough.

Competing, and clashing wild unsubstantiated claims from both sides. Now, how can you determine whats actually true?

Don't you just love the adversarial system?

After We Stop the Machine, How Do We Create a New World?
... to skip doomer portion scroll half way down to 'Building the World We Want'

... This week, there were a number of economic democracy projects in the news. In Seattle a group, Community Sourced Capital, formed to help people invest in their local community. We know the value of shopping locally, now people are figuring out ways to invest locally to build their communities and avoid Wall Street.

Another alternative was announced in England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is telling the leading payday loan service, which charges 1% a day for loans, that the Church of England is going to put them out of business by starting its own credit union and working with non-profit loan agencies to provide less expensive loan services.

In Minneapolis, people have solved one of the big problems caused by the Wall Street banks: the housing crisis. They created an “eviction free zone,” as the world they want to see does not include throwing families onto the street. Their tactics include pressuring banks, blocking evictions (as with this example), occupying foreclosed homes and refurbishing homes. This kind of mutual support and local solidarity also builds community. The city of Richmond, CA became the first to use its power of eminent domain to seize underwater homes facing foreclosure and return them to the homeowners with reduced mortgage payments.

How About Coal Ash For School Lunches?

This week five environmental groups – Waterkeeper Alliance, the Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and EarthJustice – released a report on coal ash pollution. The report, Closing the Floodgates: How the coal industry is poisoning our waters and how we can stop it

According to the report,

- Nearly 70 percent of the coal plants that discharge coal ash and scrubber wastewater are allowed to dump unlimited amounts of arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury, and selenium into public waters, in violation of the Clean Water Act
- Only about 63 percent of these coal plants are required to monitor and report discharges of arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury, and selenium.
- Only about 17% of the permits for the 71 coal plants discharging into waters impaired for arsenic, boron, cadmium, lead, mercury, or selenium contained a limit for the pollutant responsible for degrading water quality.
- Nearly half of the plants surveyed are discharging toxic pollution with an expired Clean Water Act permit. Fifty-three power plants are operating

So what did the Republican House do about this? The Hill: House votes to blunt EPA regs on coal ash

Miss., Ala. govs call for oil sands assessment

MOBILE, Ala. — The governors of Mississippi and Alabama said Saturday their two states will partner to study oil sands resources.

The Republican governors signed a memorandum of understanding that commissions the assessment of oil sands in both states, according to a news release. Bryant said Mississippi and Alabama can learn from Canada, where the extraction of oil sands has been successful.

The resource is known as the Hartselle Sandstone, an underground layer that stretches from north-central and northwest Alabama into northeastern Mississippi. A recent study found an estimated 7.5 billion barrels of oil located in the reserves, the governors say.

The Blip

What if everything we’ve come to think of as American is predicated on a freak coincidence of economic history? And what if that coincidence has run its course?


The article doesn't mention the huge rise in fossil fuel consumption that powered the Industrial Revolution, and the plateauing of that supply. But it certainly would fit right in with the rest of the reasons they provide for a crest in the standard of living.

I thought it was a pretty interesting article. Your thoughts?

The first part of American decline did indeed come in the 1970s, though in retrospect it was overcome. Its legacy was the decline of the industrial working class, dystopian science fiction, and an economic system increasingly reliant on imported energy and goods.

But the world system was so resilient that we were able to enjoy those energy and goods in abundance, and we in turn powered the information technology revolution.

One does get the sense that this story doesn't have that far to go anymore. Only the doomers now have a somewhat coherent, if still forming, vision of the future that aligns with the facts.

The optimists no longer have anything to offer. What next is a legitimate question. We surf the internet and go shopping forever? We live to 150 years old and become trillionaires? It just doesn't compute.

TL:DR, sounded like a load of crap.
Was their any mention on the huge stockpile of untapped natural resources the US was sitting on? Forests, farmland, herds of bison, coal, gas, oil, unexploited fisheries, the siler and gold mines and copper, tin etc.? The US was and still is a major producer of all these and more. It's because the land was full of them, unlike most of the world.

Here's the original study by Robert J. Gordon that the article is based on:


Interesting. It does mention energy costs as an issue.

It reminds me a bit of The Slowing Pace of Progress, and Horgan's The End of Science. And, I suppose, Joseph Tainter's declining marginal returns.

The low-hanging fruit is picked first, in science and technology as well as among oil fields. If you have a college degree, can you really expect your children to be better educated than you are? So, maybe they'll have graduate degrees. But then how do their children be more educated than their parents? Have multiple PhDs? Is that really reasonable, or worthwhile?

Similarly, do we really want to double our standard of living every generation? Isn't there a point where you are "rich enough"?

My siblings are marginally better educated than my parents. Our incomes are significantly higher, especially since our spouses also worked at least some. Yet our overall standard of living isn't as good, perhaps due to our own choices.

My parents had a smaller house but more land, and drove further to work but less to other events. They ate out not at all, and grew a garden. Dad worked long hours, but Mom worked less. None of us played competitive sports or did anything more expensive than musical instruments. All of us went to a marginal public school, but worked hard and excelled. All of us went to state colleges and got STEM degrees. All of us are competitive and do well. All of us are independent and don't require a lot of interaction with others, though we don't disdain it.

My kids go to private school and have expensive extracurricular activities. The older ones go to state schools, but they are far, far more expensive than when I went, and the courses are not as rigorous, even in STEM. So far, it looks like about half my kids will do something technical. I worry about the other half, but they are so much more social and at least as motivated and competitive as I was. Oddly, they seem to require continual interaction with us parents and others. Strangely, neither they nor their friends really seem happy alone, nor are they really happy with themselves.

Through no direct input from me, my kids do not plan to have anywhere near as many children and my parents did, nor than I did; perhaps none at all. If they become dinks, even with a job half as good as mine, they'll have money to burn. Heck, maybe they'll even help me stay alive when my retirement disappears, assuming I can't work until I die.

I think this is what the future holds, for another few generations: a bigger gap between Haves and Have-Nots, fewer kids, and harder times getting ahead. The middle class will be smaller, but well educated. Lower class will large become ignorant, except for the motivated few who bootstrap through technical trades. Unless a killer bug comes through (increasingly likely with each passing year, IMHO), I think US population will grow until the bottom half goes hungry, and birth control becomes a necessity and children are a burden (for the lower class today, that does not seem to be the case). This could still be 50 years out.

My take is that Canada and Australia will do a little better, and most of the world will do worse. I already struggle to understand why the UK and Japan are doing as well as they are. Resources will always be a critical factor.

Paleocon--I would not read too much into the differences between you and your children. Some of the differences you describe are not cultural necessarily. The need for social contact is one of the central individual differences in human personality. Extraversion and introversion have nothing to do with pathology, per se. If your children have different vocational interests from you, that is not something to be feared. While we, as a society, need better educated STEM folks, artists have been around for at least 40,000 years. Some individuals will choose artistic and social occupations because it is more natural for them, thus more satisfying, regardless of income. In a no-growth society, the number of artists who will make good livings, small as it is now, will shrink. We will be very poor indeed if we eliminate all workers with an artistic or social bent.

Good advice. Its frustrating as a parent, since the educational boost you are most capable of giving them isn't the one they want. You are thinking, if only I had had a parent who wanted (and was capable) of providing what I want to provide to you- what a waste. In any case pushing them to make it your choice rather than their's doesn't (in my opinion) work.

No, you cannot push a youth, and the harder you try the worse it works. You can lay things out there, and hope they pick up on it.

Drive and ambition count for a lot, too. A passion for excellence and willingness to work hard increase anybody's odds for success. Good connections and luck don't hurt, either...

What some clearly try is to replace some of the drinks of youth with kool-aid.

Drive and ambition count for a lot, too. A passion for excellence and willingness to work hard increase anybody's odds for success. ~ Paleocon

Excellence and a good way of life doesn't seem to require much in the way of drive and ambition at all, unless it is the drive and ambition that one doesn't screw up the planet any more than those with drive and ambition (such as for their wage slaves) already have.

"The work ethic has become obsolete. It is no longer true that producing more means working more, or that producing more will lead to a better way of life.

The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet- unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact.

Neither is it true any longer that the more each individual works, the better off everyone will be. In a post-industrial society, not everyone has to work hard in order to survive, though may be forced to anyway due to the economic system... the social process of production no longer needs everyone to work in it on a full-time basis. The work ethic ceases to be viable in such a situation and workbased society is thrown into crisis." ~ André Gorz

"The important thing to understand about collapse is that it's brought on by overreach and overstretch, and people being zealots and trying too hard. It's not brought on by people being laid back and doing the absolute minimum. Americans could very easily feed themselves and clothe themselves and have a place to live, working maybe 100 days a year. You know, it's a rich country in terms of resources. There's really no reason to work more than maybe a third of your time. And that's sort of a standard pattern in the world. But if you want to build a huge empire and have endless economic growth, and have the largest number of billionaires on the planet, then you have to work over 40 hours a week all the time, and if you don't, then you're in danger of going bankrupt. So that's the predicament that people have ended up in. Now, the cure of course is not to do the same thing even harder... what people have to get used to is the idea that most things aren't worth doing anyway..."
~ Dmitry Orlov

"Others believe that the concept of 'hard work' is meant to delude the working class into being loyal servants to the elite, and that working hard, in itself, is not automatically an honorable thing, but only a means to creating more wealth for the people at the top of the economic pyramid." ~ Wikipedia

It's hard to accomplish a purpose in life without some modicum of drive. If your only goal is to meander through life, that may be easy enough to do in the good times, but if things get harder then survival itself may be difficult.

Some people are always going to be on top, and some on bottom. My take is being on top offers options that being on bottom does not. If you are purposeful and strive diligently to be excellent on the bottom, though, I imagine some topper will find you useful.

Best option may be to opt out as much as possible, and strive to be excellent and successful at doing things completely differently. Kinda like Todd.

I'm ok with different levels of personal drive; my concern is with their external effects, including some, often questionable, notions, like of top and bottom.

Those on the top are able to have many actual human slaves below them through the magic of "Investment Capital" - whereby you place some of your money into investments and earn income off of it by doing nothing. Of course there's someone doing the work - but it's not them.

Maybe we will have breakthroughs in human cognition? Brains augmented with electronics? Presumably we are accumulating knowledge on training etc. And of course scientists 75years ago, couldn't have dreamed of the computers and lasers and ..., we take for granted. better tech & knowledge racing against the depletion of low hanging fruit.

I see brains diminished by electronics.

And education failing and becoming out of reach for many.

There may be more knowledge but it is very unevenly distributed, with most receiving little of it.

The trends I see are for the worse, not the better.

With brains increasingly occupied with irrelavancies, superficialities, and misinformation it becomes more difficult for minds to aquire knowledge. Too much noise in the signal. The fast food age of information begets an epidemic of mental diabetics.

Thanks. I was looking for some way to describe the kind of changes I see in people younger than me -- mental diabeties sounds pretty close to the mark. It is interesting to note that having more information to look at merely means that people tend to look at the information they like.

We just have to remember the Dune books by Frank Herbert. It addresses the concept that hardship builds capabilities, while "softness" hinders such capabilities.
The perfect example is that every machine we have to “help” our activities ends up with our total dependency. My wife's aunt knew in her head all phone numbers of every employee on the place she worked. Now that our phones have memory we lose our own memory abilities.

I suspect that the historical “success” of the US has much to do with this country receiving emigrants that had difficult lives as with its natural resources…

"Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one"
-- Bruce Lee

"Every Automation is an Amputation" - Marshall Macluhan

Good stuff, guys... We seem so very far down the path of diminishing returns, that perhaps anything 'new-and-improved' is, at best, the very slight reversal of a diminish... which I guess, for some people, is awesome, advanced and/or indistinguishable from magic.

comment courtesy of Liliputian Gel™ "Small amount applied daily! That's it!"

I thought it was a pretty interesting article. Your thoughts?

yeah, It's really interesting that the article somehow seems to miss the big white elephant in the middle of the room! How is it possible to ignore that this timeline can be overlaid almost to a tee with all the datapoints of the history of humanity's sudden winning the lottery of access to fossil fuels and then exploiting it.

Those enormous amounts of extremely energy dense fossil fuels, first coal to start off the industrial revolution and then oil and gas to power all of our innovations on which we have built our modern industrial civilization. That is what has allowed all of what we take for granted today to have come into being.

Inovation in science, medicine, fantastic feats of engineering, technology, agro-industry, the green revolution, etc, etc... not to mention an exponential increase in human population. All courtesy of millions of years of stored fossil sunlight which we have exploited over the last 200 plus years.

It is therefore no coincidence then, that at some point in the late sixties or early seventies, this great acceleration began to taper off. That was when the United states encountered it's peak in oil production as had been predicted by M. King Hubbert, back in the late 50s.

Now our entire global civilization is contracting because we are encoutering physical and ecological limits to growth. We live after all on a finite planet with finite resources and we have built our civilization on a finite fuel.

It is a myth that we can forever depend on our ingenuity to find technological solutions to our predicament. The laws of thermodynmics do not allow us to continue with a growth paradigm off into far distant future.

Brynjolfsson's, claim that “Growth is not dead, notwithstanding!

All economies are subsidiaries of Global Ecosystems Inc. The laws of Physics and Thermodynamics must be obeyed by all of them. No exceptions allowed!

May 'Growth' RIP!



"this timeline can be overlaid almost to a tee with all the datapoints of the history of humanity's sudden winning the lottery of access to fossil fuels and then exploiting it."

Not exactly. The first industrial revolution was not triggered by the discovery of fossil fuels. It was caused by the discovery and exploitation of the American continents. Fossil fules had nothing to do with that, those came later and fueled the second industrial revolution.

Not exactly. The first industrial revolution was not triggered by the discovery of fossil fuels. It was caused by the discovery and exploitation of the American continents. Fossil fules had nothing to do with that,

Minor quibble, I said access to, not discovery of.

The first Industrial Revolution really got going in Great Britain, back around the beginning of the 19th century and it was powered by coal, which is, as far as I know, a fossil fuel. As a matter of ironic fact, the first primitive steam engine was patented by Thomas Savery and was developed in the mid 17th century to pump water out of coal mines.

The Industrial Revolution was certainly not caused by the discovery of the American continents which happened long before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution back in the late 15th century.

Without the capital and wealth and resources from the colonies, there would be no industrial revolution and no use of fossil fuels. The invention of those was made possible be the huge wealth coming from the Americas. As you said yourself in your second paragraph.

I certainly do not claim to be a Historian.

While I believe that British colonies around the world provided both natural resources and potential markets for nascent British Industry in the second phase of the Industrial Revolution. What I said was that this was not the cause of the Industrial revolution. I think there is a very strong correlation between their having access to coal and the start of the Industrial Revolution happening in Britain. To be clear there were other important factors as well. See Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel.

I'll go with Wikipedia:

Another theory is that Britain was able to succeed in the Industrial Revolution due to the availability of key resources it possessed. It had a dense population for its small geographical size. Enclosure of common land and the related agricultural revolution made a supply of this labour readily available. There was also a local coincidence of natural resources in the North of England, the English Midlands, South Wales and the Scottish Lowlands. Local supplies of coal, iron, lead, copper, tin, limestone and water power, resulted in excellent conditions for the development and expansion of industry. Also, the damp, mild weather conditions of the North West of England provided ideal conditions for the spinning of cotton, providing a natural starting point for the birth of the textiles industry.

Britain already had all the necessary conditions for starting the industrial revolution without having to count on external resources. Most importantly they had coal which was the fuel.

Interesting Talk by Gregory Clark. at The Enlightenment 2.0 Conference 2007


He doesn't quite connect the dots to fossil fuels either.

I think this might be a rewriting of history. It is my understanding that the reason that British had to bring in new taxes on American colonists was that the British needed to defray the cost of their American colonies- particularly the cost of the French Indian wars.

Britain became the global power in the 19th century- after the start of the industrial revolution. It acquired colonies after the industrial revolution not the other way around. There is no doubt that the colonies sustained the industrial revolution- after all they needed markets to sell the production that the IR made possible.

particularly the cost of the French Indian wars

That was the name of the North American portion of the Seven Years War, which ws a struggle between the two global superpowers, England and France. A big part of the contest was about who got access to India. But, (as far as I remember), yes the British spend a lot winning the Americas for the empire (of which the colonists were members) and they felt those colonists owed part of the cost, hence the raising of taxes.

Interestingly that war was sparked by G. Washington's disastrous first military expedition to the Ohio Country (to serve notice to the French who (in British eyes) were transgressing on British territory). There was a clash with a band of French, and the Indians in Washington's expedition didn't understand the gentlemanly "rules of engagement", and scalped some captured French officers. The French demanded Washington be turned over as a murderer. And in expanded into the first global war. I think of it as world war zero.

This argument looks likely to break down on rhetoric. What exactly counts as part of the industrial revolution? How key are the economic/political/social conditions as well as the technology to its inception? Many of these are judgments of degree.

I'd say the political conditions in Britain were set in motion by the glorious revolution of 1588. But that was really an importation of what was happening across the channel in Holland. One thing the Dutch has started doing, was using peat for industrial fuel (not quite a fossil fuel). But the thing got off to a slow start, so placing a start date on it is going to be subject to interpretation.

The Dutch were pre-industrialists. Between peat fuel (chemical to heat energy), windmills and waterwheels (mechanical harnessed energy), and ships, the Dutch were a surprisingly powerful nation for a century or more.

Really I think it was the steam engine, converting chemical energy to mechanical, that really launched the industrial revolution. Steam ships, trains, factories, tractors, and so forth made all the difference. The next great transition was mechanical to electric, and electricity to everything (heat, mechanical power, light, etc.) that continued the ramp up, with oil and then gas lending their part.

20th century added nuclear....and that looked very promising but really hasn't panned out. Instead, electronics technology, medicine, and chemical fertilizer were probably the key inventions. Solar and wind are playing a small part, and hydro too, and probably without oil we'd be living on those just as happily, but with a lot fewer neighbors and a slower-paced life.

The Netherlands are no longer the rulers of the world. Neither are the British. Soon enough the US won't be either. What will power the next winners?

This argument looks likely to break down on rhetoric. What exactly counts as part of the industrial revolution? How key are the economic/political/social conditions as well as the technology to its inception? Many of these are judgments of degree.

Again, I'm not a Historian but I think that we can accept Wikipedia's dates for what constitutes the historical period generally accepted as the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to some time between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power and the development of machine tools. It also included the change from wood and other bio-fuels to coal. It began in Great Britain and within a few decades had spread to Western Europe and the United States...

...The First Industrial Revolution evolved into the Second Industrial Revolution in the transition years between 1840 and 1870, when technological and economic progress gained momentum with the increasing adoption of steam-powered boats, ships and railways, the large scale manufacture of machine tools and the increasing use of steam powered factories.

Emphasis mine. I continue to contend that access to coal was a very important component in the the Industrial Revolution really picking up steam >;-)

The Industrial Revolution began before 1800 with the development of centralised manufacturing and mass production by mechanised methods, in cotton mills such as New Lanark here in Scotland, powered (initially at least) by hydropower. The cotton was grown by non-mechanised means overseas, shipped in by wind-powered sailing vessels, and transported from the ports to the mills by horse-power. So fossil fuels are not essential for industrial development!

Of course, the metal for the machinery in those early mills was probably smelted with the aid of coal, and it's certainly true that coal usage rocketed upwards as the Industrial Revolution developed further.

It's also true that mass-production of pots and crockery occurred much earlier in both the Roman and Chinese empires, but never developed further into a full-blown Industrial Revolution. You can argue this was because coal mining hadn't been developed yet, but I suspect that's too simplistic, and that a whole range of cultural, economic and social factors were involved.

It's also true that mass-production of pots and crockery occurred much earlier in both the Roman and Chinese empires, but never developed further into a full-blown Industrial Revolution. You can argue this was because coal mining hadn't been developed yet, but I suspect that's too simplistic, and that a whole range of cultural, economic and social factors were involved.

Yes, I would strongly agree with the premise that access to coal alone does not an industrial revolution make.
I would be the last person to dismiss out of hand cultural, economic and social factors,let alone the significant technological advances of the time. So all of those things had to exist.

Here is a very interesting paper by two economists presenting data that contends coal had but a minor role to play in the British Industrial revolution. Having only taken a cursory look at their data and conclusions, I still remain somewhat skeptical.

Coal and the Industrial Revolution, 1700-1869
Gregory Clark (UC-Davis, Economics) and David Jacks (Simon Fraser, Economics)

They do at least acknowledge that there is another side to the story.

But the partisans of coal as the key transformative element of the Industrial Revolution have
not conceded, and in recent accounts of the Industrial Revolution, most noticeably in the work of E.
A. Wrigley and Kenneth Pomeranz, coal is still the key actor. Both argue that the switch from a
self-sustaining organic economy to a mineral resource depleting inorganic economy was central to
the British Industrial Revolution. Indeed, Pomeranz’s account of the Industrial Revolution was
recently dubbed “Coal and Colonies” by one reviewer.5 Pomeranz argues that Britain, in contrast to
China, had accessible deposits of coal near population centers. That, rather than differences in
innovative potential, explains British success and Chinese failure. The exploitation of the coal in the
Industrial Revolution did, however, required dramatic technological advance: “technological
expertise was essential to Europe’s coal breakthrough.” This was supplied by the arrival of steam
power in the form of the Newcomen engine in 1712.

Here's an interesting talk from Deirdre McCloskey whom they cite in their paper as one of the economists who consider coal to be but a bit player in the overall progress of the Industrial Revolution.
In this talk she isn't talking specifically about the Industrial Revolution but I find it interesting because it gives some insight into a certain world view which I think goes to the heart of the matter of cultural, economic and social factors that are involved.



Possession of resources is not enough. Russia can probably rival America in that respect. Yet it is forever playing catch-up, with a far lower standard of living.

Or the Congo. Very rich in resources but very poor in every other respect.

You need effective government and enterprising, skilled people who are prepared to take a risk as well as resources.

America gained a huge infusion of skills in the 1930s when refugees from Hitler's Europe flocked to the States.

As for enterprise, it might be something you probably don't think about -- bankruptcy laws. Here, bankruptcy is terribly damaging. You really don't want it to happen to you. I understand in the States bankruptcy is far less onerous and many entrepreneurs who failed go on to try again until they succeed.

Bankruptcy laws in the states have been rewritten to benifit the corporation and crush the individual. They're used in the states to walk away from union contracts and pension liabilities

Union contracts and pensions are just more bad debt. Nobody should depend on promises that can't be kept.

Before we gouge union workers and stiff elderly pensioneers, can we at least ask corporations and the .1% to start paying their fair share of taxes? And while we're at it, how about asking them to explain why U.S. CEOs need to be paid 400X what the average worker makes?

You guys still have it good. If you own money to someone here (even commercial banks), they will keep harassing (including physical violence) you till you pay up or commit suicide or get an injunction from the court (which is very difficult).

Implementation of law is non-existent and the system is just impossible to fix.

The problem for us is more one of the direction of change, its getting tougher and tougher if you aren't born into it, whereas, I suspect in India while its tougher on an absolute scale, the time rate of change as least has the right sign.

The problem is that the nation state is too big. A vestige of colonial rule and the age of oil. I'd imagine that in a situation where there are smaller constituencies life would still suck but at least people would be able to protest and set up their own systems which have grown organically. Right now that's impossible.

Generally larger economic blocks outperform smaller ones. Something about economy of scale, and specialization. Europe tried that without combining states, but its unclear how that experiment is going to play out.

In any case, excepting a few small outliers (Bhutan, North Korea, Cuba?, Iran?(sanctions)), the world has largely been absorbed into the global capitalist system.

I don't think people elect governments to economically outperform others, they do it to manage their own problems and if it doesn't solve their problems all that economic performance is useless. Anyways terms like economic performance is Market PR, they are loaded with doublespeak. Economic performance didn't do Iceland a lot of good, representative democracy did though.

It's quite clear that democratic systems don't scale up infinitely, at a certain stage, it's no longer a democracy.

We have very pro-worker legislation here. We also have 30% unemployment because no one wants to hire workers if they can possibly help it. It's just too much trouble dealing with the grievance procedures, unions, and the Dept. of Labour. As a consequence, we have five million taxpayers and fifteen million on welfare. Unsustainable in the long run.

Somehow, you have to reward your most enterprising citizens for taking risks and employing people, while providing decent living conditions for all. I don't know what the right formula is.

I don't know what the right formula is.

I think a major key is moderation. Go too far in terms of labor friendly and you get the problems you describe. Go too far in the opposite direction and you get a different set of problems. Somewhere in the middle is probably optimal, although determining that relies on judgment. Is fairness more important than the fastest possible economic growth? The problem is people -and especially political movements tend to run to extremes.

"America gained a huge infusion of skills in the 1930s when refugees from Hitler's Europe flocked to the States."

A century earlier it was Germans trying to get out from that series of wars, including many of my ancestors.


Look at all those light blue counties. Even allowing for the big families they had once they got here, there were a lot of Germans immigrating.

Alberta may cancel leases of some oil sand companies

Alberta just made 10 oil sands companies victims of their own industry's success.

Production has been growing so rapidly that Fort McMurray, the oil sands boom town located in the heart of northern Alberta's bitumen reserves, is starting to burst at the seams. About 75,000 people live there today, but by 2030 that figure is expected to more than double to 160,000.

The government responded Thursday by sectioning off 55,000 acres that surround what is currently Fort McMurray (more than double the city's current landmass) as an Urban Development Sub Region (UDSR) earmarked for future development.

The trouble is, Alberta has already leased out that land in 32 pieces to 10 companies looking to develop oil sands projects. Those leases "will be cancelled, effectively immediately," Ken Hughes, Alberta's Energy Minister, told reporters on Thursday evening.

Large, Troubling Methane Pulse Coincides With Arctic Heatwave, Tundra Fires

... On July 21-23, a large methane emission in which numerous sources caused atmospheric spikes to greater than 1950 parts per billion flared over a wide region of Arctic Russia and the Kara Sea. This event was so massive that an area of about 500 x 500 miles was nearly completely filled with these higher readings even as a much broader region, stretching about 2,000 miles in length and about 800 miles at its widest, experienced scores of large pulses. You can see a visual representation of these emissions in yellow on the image above, provided by Methane Tracker which compiles data provided by NASA’s Aqua Satellite.

As noted above, this major event coincided with a large Arctic heat wave and numerous tundra fires that raged throughout the region. Another unprecedented occurrence in a summer of strange weather and mangled climate.

Average global methane levels are currently around 1830 parts per billion. This level, about 1130 parts per billion higher than the pre-industrial average of 700 parts per billion represents an additional global warming forcing equal to at least 28% of the added CO2 forcing provided by humans.

Paradise Lost
Many of us who have been paying attention to the state of the world over the last half century have now begun to realize with growing horror that the progressive deterioration we have been tracking shows no signs of resolution In fact, to some of us it looks as though there is no way to resolve this deepening crisis. The end of the track is in sight. The planetary factory is in flames, and all the exit doors are barred.
The main difficulty I have with all the technical, political, economic and social reform proposals I've seen is that they run counter to some very deep-seated aspects of human behavior and decision-making. Mainly, they assume that human intelligence and analytical ability control our behavior, and from what I've seen, that’s simply not true. In fact it’s untrue to such an extent that I don’t even think it’s a “human” issue per se.

Brazil faces prolonged regional wheat shortage after frosts

... four consecutive mornings of frost destroyed as much as 10 per cent, or 300,000 tonnes, of the wheat crop in Parana, home to about half of Brazil's annual wheat output.

Brazil typically produces only about half of its annual 1-million tonne domestic wheat demand.

Argentina, which supplies Brazil with most of its foreign wheat, recently closed its exports of the grain due to its own record high prices and tight supplies. Limited supplies in Uruguay and Paraguay have all been bought.

Dry area expands in western U.S. Corn Belt -Drought Monitor

Abnormally dry areas expanded in the U.S. western Corn Belt, including the top crop state of Iowa, over the past week to put much of the corn crop at risk, according to a weekly drought report.

"The next seven to 10 days are going to be critical. If they don't get rain during pollination time then there's going to be some serious crop damage," Richard Heim with the National Climatic Data Center and author of this week's Drought Monitor told Reuters.

New Braunfels, TX enters Stage 3 water restrictions as drought worsens

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas -- After weeks of watching the Edwards Aquifer slowly dip down below the 640-foot mark, New Braunfels Mayor Gale Pospisil announced on Friday that the city will be moving to Stage 3 water restrictions as of Monday, July 29.

From AccuWeather Rescues, Damage from Flooding Near Charlotte

States of emergency for major flash flooding have been issued in Catawba County, N.C, northwest of Charlotte, Saturday.
Fifty-eight roads were closed as of 4:20 p.m. EDT, Pettit said. Six of the roads received significant damage that will caused them to be closed for a minimum of three months,
"All small creeks and streams in [central Catawba County and western Lincoln County] are overflowing their banks, and some are well out of their banks," stated the National Weather Service's Greenville-Spartanburg Office. "Numerous roads are impassable due to flood water."

"As much as 10 inches of rain has fallen across [central Catawba County and western Lincoln County] since about 4 a.m. EDT."

Hickory, N.C., located in Catawba County, recorded more than 5 inches of rain from 4 a.m. to noon Saturday. Runoff from the rain has flooded several streets.

E. Swanson

Sounds like we're going to have to get our Republican legislature to outlaw flash flooding like they did sea level rise.

NFU claims extreme weather poses biggest threat to British farming

Erratic swings from floods to heatwaves and drought in recent years have seen many harvests devastated. The UK went from being an exporter of wheat to becoming an importer in 2013. Scientists are clear that climate change is increasing extreme weather both in the UK and around the world.

My field corn is suffering here in the maritime Pacific Northwest. We have had over a month of dry weather. My early corn is tasseling but not silking. If it silks soon, I can hand pollinate from a later variety, which will hose up the genetics but at least give me a yield. If it doesn't silk soon, it's toast.

I'm frightened for the children.
Because I'm certain that the curtains gonna fall.
And the sunshine we've been waiting for will turn to rain
And the rainfall we've been waiting for will turn to sun.

The ogallala, too.

Annually, the North Plains district measures more than 400 monitor wells, which were expected to show an average decline of about 3.5 feet most recently, said Dale Hallmark, a district hydrologist. That is substantial, and reflects the water-intensive nature of crops like corn.


Argentina, which supplies Brazil with most of its foreign wheat, recently closed its exports of the grain due to its own record high prices and tight supplies. Limited supplies in Uruguay and Paraguay have all been bought.

That actually contradicts something I read recently on Chris Martenson's blog. It actually is exactly what I had expected would happen.

the Export Land Model as applied to food

Food exports reverting back to the local population may sound like a logical process but it's not. I believe the export land model won't happen with factory-farmed petrochemicaly produced food. Large multinational corportions, commodities markets, or socialst governments will sell food to richer countries and let their citizens starve. This happened in Argentina due to socialism and could easily happen in the USA due to corporate interests.

Apparently it seems that at least for now, the Argentine government prefers its citizen have bread... and the Brazilians can eat cold cake.

Weather Extremes: Cold Snap hits southern South America (and More!)

It has been a wild week for temperature extremes with the amazing heat wave in north central Siberia juxtaposed with an unusual cold spell in portions of Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina occurring simultaneously almost exactly opposite one another on the planet.

Between 20-25th July a mass of very cold air suddenly froze a large area of southern South America (where temperatures had been running above average for weeks prior to the abrupt change).

Snow was recorded for the first time since 1996 at Catamarca, Argentina (28°S and located at about 500m/1,650’), and cold rain (temperatures of 5-6C/41°-43°°F) at sea level altitudes like Florianopolis, Brazil. Montevideo, Uruguay also experienced rain with temperatures as low as 3C (37°F). The town of Campos Novos, Brazil (at an elevation of 947m/3,100’) had a high temperature of just 3.6°C (38.5°F) and low of -2.7°C (27.1°F) on July 23rd, a daily average of almost freezing (0.9°C/32.8°F). There was no precipitation at the site that day, if so it probably would have been snow. In fact, a little snow was reported in Brazil in the hills above nearby Curitiba for the first time since 1975.

The cold air actually filtered as far north as the western part of the Amazon jungle near the Equator, with 7°C (44.6°F) at Rio Branco, Brazil (10°S latitude) and 16°C (60.8°F) at Leticia, Colombia (4°S latitude). Both are low-level sites in the Amazon Basin.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world…

The unrelenting heat wave in north central Siberia continues with Svetlogorsk (on the Arctic Circle) recording its 13th consecutive day (as of July 26) with temperatures above 30°C (86°F). Meanwhile, all eyes are turning to Western Europe where a potentially historic heat wave is expected to develop this weekend and continue into next week! There is a chance that some all-time national heat records may fall in some countries like Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Hungary when all is said and done.

All these unusual extremes in weather couldn't possibly have anything to do with climate change, right?

Correct. All Real Uhmurikans know that "Climate Change" is a liberal myth and front for cap-n-trade scams run by people who donate money to Democrats, and enrich greedy scientists fishing for grant money. God is in control of the weather, and in any case would never let His Chosen Ones suffer from such a thing --unless, of course, this is the onset of Armageddon, in which case... Good news!

Haleeee-uh lew ya!

Good rant Harm! I've often wondered if the same one's that 'believe' their salvation will come in Rapture are the same one's in denial about AGW. What better way to achieve climate change apocolypse than to resist change that may avert it. Maybe secretly they are saying to themselves, "No, please don't do anything to slow or stop it!", while outwardly rejecting the idea completely."

Some more 'Pure coincidences' …

Jet stream instability causes record rainfall, summer flooding of Lake Champlain

Record-breaking rainfall drenches New Brunswick St. Stephen floods after 165 mm of rain falls on Friday

Record rainfall for Asheville, NC in July Last time we had so much was 1905

… atmospheric rivers seems to be the new normal.

There is some discussion of a collapse of the 3 Hadley cells into a single Hadley cell in the NH. Chaotic weather would reign till the system stabilized. Needless to say, organized agriculture would cease.

Where have you seen discussion of the 3 Hadley cells collapsing in to one? I'd be interested in reading that speculation...

Yes, I 2nd the request to know more about the potential convergence of the 3 northern hemisphere Hadley cells into 1. I know what a Hadley cell is but have not heard before they even could combine. Tried doing a Google on possible convergence but came up snake eyes.

No kidding - the collapse of the Hadley cells into one would be epochal, I would think. A real shift into a new meta-stable state, with godz know what implications for everyone's expected climate, as they've come to know it. References, please!

Perhaps not exactly what you are looking for but interesting nonetheless:


The atmospheric response to a THC collapse:
Scaling relations for the Hadley circulation
and the response in a coupled climate model.

It was posted by: Allen W. McDonnell on Arctic Sea Ice Blog http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2013/07/second-storm.html

I have been reading reports lately that indicate a complete absence of Arctic sea ice in early summer could be the trigger to flip the northern hemisphere into the hothouse mode just as it was when last the Earth had 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere. Several researchers have been modeling the effect of an ice free Arctic ocean and the majority of runs show that the Ferrel cell of atmospheric circulation would grow from its current Equator to 30 north range and encompass the entire northern hemisphere.

See http://www.fields.utoronto.ca/programs/scientific/10-11/biomathstat/Lang...



The studies don't say how long the Arctic has to be ice free, it could take a decade or more for the transition to happen once we are there, but at the rate we are going now I don't think it is nearly as far off in the future as we have been lead to believe by the IPCC.

The Langford presentation seems to demonstrate how the climate can flip quite abruptly with very little delta Temperature change. For the math challenged the last 10 slides explain the conclusion in english.

All of our predictive models are based on our current three cell system, so this would be a very black swan.

Interestingly, the NH could flip to a stable single cell system while the SH could remain a 3 cell system.

Hold on to your buttocks, we haven't seen anything yet.

greenish - you'll probably see no difference that close to the equator - as long as the ocean THC doesn't change radically.

I think a lot rides on what they mean by ice free. Does it mean less than a million square kilometers at the end of the melt season. Or does it mean icefree from July to October? Or does it mean icefree even in winter? Those seem to me to be quite different things.

A summary of Langford's presentation:

Arctic ice melts warming the Arctic decreasing the temperature difference between Earth's equator and north pole. When the temperature difference is small, the Hadley cell abruptly expands northward to the pole switching the northern hemisphere from icehouse climate to greenhouse climate.

My observation: Move your rear end to the southern hemisphere below -30 degrees latitude before the climate shifts in the northern hemisphere restoring the tropical climate experienced by the dinosaurs. Such a transition ought to reap havoc on plants and crop yields.

Antarctica has been anomalously warm this year, more so than the arctic. The climate is too dynamic and complex to predict future weather patterns over any specific region, IMO.

I did not mean to imply the Antarctic ice would never melt. Because there is much more ice in the Antarctic than Arctic, centuries will pass before it melts. Most of the ice also sits on land which prevents warm sea water flowing underneath hastening the melting. The northern Hadley cell will not extend to the Arctic when it becomes ice free in the summer. For the temperature difference between equator and pole to be small, the Arctic will have to be ice free in the winter too. There will have to be enough heat in the Arctic sea to make that happen. Langford did not estimate when this might happen.

Thanks for the link and information, Seraph. Makes sense that could happen as temp. difference between poles and tropics wanes enough.

Seems like Greenland melt is picking up the pace …


Cheaper supermarket teas could cause fluoride related illnesses

Drinking some cheaper supermarket tea blends can push people's fluoride intake over daily recommended levels, and put them at increased risk of skeletal and dental illnesses, a University of Derby study has found.

Laura Chan, who carried out the study for her PhD at the University of Derby, said: "The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is a fluoride accumulator, with mature leaves accumulating most of the fluoride.

"When tea is harvested, these older leaves may be used to produce lower quality, stronger teas such as economy teas, whereas the bud and newer top leaves are used in the manufacture of higher grade and speciality tea products.

FDA warns of steroids in vitamin B supplement

The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to avoid a vitamin B dietary supplement from Healthy Life Chemistry by Purity First because it contains two potentially dangerous anabolic steroids.

Steve from Virginia has posted his third Monday Mayhem at Economic Underground, which is a Drumbeat replacement: