DrumBeat: February 24, 2007

Refinery pinch will squeeze drivers' wallets
A combination of a late dose of cold up north, a major refinery fire, the usual industry maintenance and the change from winter to summer gas blends is squeezing supplies.

"The problem is not crude oil supply," said Ben Brockwell, director of data and pricing with Oil Price Information Service in Lakewood, N.J. "There's not enough refining capacity."

The Next Attack

Terrorists in Iraq are becoming proficient at blowing up oil refineries. Similar plants in a handful of American cities represent our greatest vulnerability. We could easily be making them less dangerous. But we’re not.

Rural Maine Scrambles in Midst of a Propane Shortage

Propane dealers are scrambling for supplies, with some driving to Detroit and Ontario to restock. Gov. John Baldacci has increased the hours to deliver propane and is urging conservation and priority shipments for hospitals and nursing homes.

Eni Confirms Fears about Kashagan Oil Field Problems

Italian oil and gas giant Eni SpA (E) confirmed investors' fears about delays and cost overruns at its mammoth Kashagan oil project in Kazakhstan, but insisted its strong position in the growing European gas market and its alliance with Russia's OAO Gazprom will power the company forward.

Tony Juniper: Peak oil, climate change and the role of local communities

It was very interesting to hear his take on peak oil and climate change, the dangers he identifies of linking the two refers more to what I call ‘old paradigm peak oilers’ such as Robert Hirsch with their plans for the tar sands and coal to liquids, than to those of us seeing peak oil and climate change as the Two Great Oversights of Our Times which signify a complete rethink of many aspects of our lives. It was also interesting to hear his vision for a world beyond oil…

Climate Change, Peak Oil And Nuclear War

Damocles had one life threatening sword hanging by a thread over his head. We have three...

A Fighting Chance

After decades of resistance and delay in responding to the world’s most pressing twin challenges - peak oil and climate change - it’s hard to believe, but governments the world over, from federal to local, are finally starting to take serious action.

Venezuela offers to cure Nicaragua's oil ills

President Hugo Chavez met Friday with President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua to discuss an array of Venezuelan assistance programs, capping an unusually frenetic week for this country's efforts to enhance its political and economic influence in parts of Latin America.

PDVSA: 7B Barrels Certified in Orinico Belt

Some 7 billion barrels of crude oil have now been certified in Venezuela's Orinoco Petroliferos Strip, the state oil company Petioles de Venezuela (PDVSA) said Thursday.

Another 235 billion barrels of heavy crude are expected to be certified across the strip, however, only 20 percent can be extracted due to technological limits, PDVSA vice president Luis Verma said.

Somalia: An Oily Cliché

While undoubtedly, the U.S. and its Ethiopian proxy conqured Somalia and “liberated” it from the clutches of Al-Qaeda primarily for geostrategic reasons (possible launching point to attack Iran, more friendly territory close to Arabic Sudan, more ports under their control, a possible regional base for the AFRICOM command post, potential launching points to protect the Strait of Hormuz [the primary shipping point of Middle Eastern oil], etc), Somalia is awash in unspoken oil and provides a tantalizing business opportunity.

Qatar launches $18bn gas project

Qatar yesterday launched a mega gas-to-liquids (GTL) project in partnership with Royal Dutch/Shell that will cost up to $18 billion, $10bn of which have already been earmarked.

ConocoPhillips: Corocoro Field Output May Start Mid-2007

ConocoPhillips (COP) said Friday that its Corocoro field in Venezuela could start producing oil in mid-2007, later than originally expected.

EPA: Hybrids Not As Fuel-Efficient As Thought

"I feel we got ripped off. I bought the truck and they said I would get 33 mpg -- I'm only getting 22.6," said Ray Terilli, who drives a hybrid.

"The engineering that created those statistics is joke. It is way outdated," said motorist Joe Cohen.

Solar World: China becomes a growing force

'Thin film will be the future,' solar energy markets expert J. Peter Lynch told United Press International, referring to an emerging type of solar technology that relies on much thinner solar panels than the traditional black panels on many rooftops today. 'As more and more Chinese (thin film) companies (go) public, they will drive prices down and shrink margins.'

PG&E eyes power grid plan to boost electric cars

California's biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., is considering a plan to charge fleets of battery-powered cars overnight with wind energy and let consumers sell back some of the stored electricity during the day.

The perilous fantasy of energy independence

The paradox of today’s quest for energy independence is that pursuing it actually increases energy insecurity. However much politicians who call for energy independence might prefer it otherwise, the market has chosen oil as a staple energy source. So governments should ignore neither the valid interests of oil exporters, on whom consumers in their countries depend, nor exporters’ reaction to the rhetoric of energy independence or to steps taken to achieve it. Isolationist politicians may not care about other countries, but they should think twice lest they harm their own.

Regulatory adviser speaks about nuclear power, weapons

The world is heading toward another atomic age, a nuclear regulatory adviser for Argentina said Thursday.

Abel Julio Gonzalez said countries have to develop nuclear power to deal with the global fossil fuel shortage.

Oil prices reach a new high for the year

Oil prices reached a new high for the year during a volatile session Friday, driven by tensions with oil-producing Iran and expectations of continued pressure on U.S. petroleum product supplies

California and colorless green ideas

Aside from a few dead-enders on the political right, climate change skeptics seem to be making a seamless transition from denial to fatalism. In the past, they rejected the science. Now, with the scientific evidence pretty much irrefutable, they insist that it doesn't matter because any serious attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions is politically and economically impossible.

Give up chocolate or desserts for Lent? No, give up your car! Try auto-fasting. (In German only, alas.)

Saudi Arabia to Hike Gas Exploration on Demand Surge

Saudi Arabia is gearing up to meet surging domestic demand for natural gas that is key to sustaining its industrialization drive, experts say.

Amid rapid industrial expansion, Saudi Arabia is seeing a record surge in gas demand. Between 2005 and 2030, consumption is forecast to rise threefold to 14.5 billion cubic feet a day, according to recent data from the country's Petroleum & Mineral Resources Ministry.

Shell delays decision on oil shale production

A decision by Royal Dutch Shell on whether to begin commercial oil shale development won’t happen by the end of this decade as planned because the permit process has taken longer than expected.

Oil worker shot dead in Nigeria

Unknown gunmen have killed a Lebanese construction worker on his way to work in Nigeria's oil-rich city of Port Harcourt, say security sources.

Electric cars get White House showcase

President Bush peered under the hood of an all-electric sport utility truck parked at the White House Friday and said his goal of reducing gasoline use by 20 percent over the next decade is realistic.

"I firmly believe that the goal I laid out — that Americans will use 20 percent less gasoline over the next 10 years — is going to be achieved, and here's living proof of how we're going to get there," Bush said on the South Lawn after examining the truck and a car that had a battery tucked in its trunk.

Where Bush would steer energy R&D

Overall federal spending on energy research in real dollars is only one-third what it was at its 1978 peak, according to a Harvard University analysis. Some also question the administration's emphasis on nuclear research, saying other promising technologies could be applied sooner to climate and energy-security issues.

Israel denies report that it is preparing for an attack on iran. interpretation : Israel is already prepared for an attack on iran

From Reuters

U.S. developing contingency plan to bomb Iran: report
Sat Feb 24, 2007 7:51PM EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Despite the Bush administration's insistence it has no plans to go to war with Iran, a Pentagon panel has been created to plan a bombing attack that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President George W. Bush, The New Yorker magazine reported in its latest issue.

The special planning group was established within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent months, according to an unidentified former U.S. intelligence official cited in the article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the March 4 issue.

The panel initially focused on destroying Iran's nuclear facilities and on regime change but has more recently been directed to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq, according to an Air Force adviser and a Pentagon consultant, who were not identified.

The consultant and a former senior intelligence official both said that U.S. military and special-operations teams had crossed the border from Iraq into Iran in pursuit of Iranian operatives, according to the article.

Having US military forces cross into Iran is a hostile act and a casus belli

Special Ops has been in an out of Iran for years. Is it a surprise they don't much like us?

I always enjoy reading articles by the folks over at Whiskey & Gunpowder.

Today Byron King, their Peak Oil guy, posted two articles about his attendance at a speech by Shell Oil's President John D. Hofmeister. Hofmeister is on a 50 stop tour through the US talking about energy.

Byron King's articles are always worth a read and these two are particularly worth a look.

The Shell Answer Man and Peak Oil (Part I)
The Shell Answer Man and Peak Oil (Part II)

I've set these links to start up in a new window so you don't lose your [new] tags.

That is a really good write-up. Thanks for posting the links. And I couldn't agree more with Byron's comment:

But then again, educating the public about the nation’s energy supply and answering peoples’ questions on the subject might just be more important over the long term than squinting at a few more spreadsheets full of obscure data or buttering up the stock analysts.

Yes, I just spoke to Byron by phone the other day. He knows his stuff. I recommend his articles for TOD readers.

Give up chocolate or desserts for Lent? No, give up your car! Try auto-fasting. (In German only, alas.)

Auto-fasting? I thought you were talking about Zimbabwe.

In spite of the horrifying situation in Zimbabwe, your post gave me the first (guilty) smile of the day.

Glad to oblige John, we're here for the audience, after all.

By the way, the auto-fasting craze seems to be gaining popularity closer to home as well:

US Economy Leaving Record Numbers in Severe Poverty

The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen.

A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 - half the federal poverty line - was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.

The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

Israel seeks all clear for Iran air strike

Israel is negotiating with the United States for permission to fly over Iraq as part of a plan to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

To conduct surgical air strikes against Iran's nuclear programme, Israeli war planes would need to fly across Iraq. But to do so the Israeli military authorities in Tel Aviv need permission from the Pentagon.

A senior Israeli defence official said negotiations were now underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an "air corridor" in the event of the Israeli government deciding on unilateral military action to prevent Teheran developing nuclear weapons.

A senior Israeli defence official said negotiations were now underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an "air corridor" in the event of the Israeli government deciding on unilateral military action to prevent Teheran developing nuclear weapons.

Shouldn't be too much of a problem

Let's take a trip down memory lane.

Iraq's interim government was sworn in Monday after the United States returned sovereignty to the nation two days ahead of schedule.

etc. etc. etc.

One thing Arabs seem to have in common is a hatred of Israel. No wonder we are surging troops into Baghdad. This is going to cause riots. The current Shiite government is an Iranian ally.

The democrats need to get their act together and forbid Bush to foster aggression against Iran. You don't need to be a genius to know that Iran will respond against us. It is a back door into expanding the war.

I first heard about auto-fasting in an email:

During my year in Europe last year, I read about "Autofasten" in the church bulletin and in the streetcar. Because German can be described as a 'Lego' language, many words being built up from smaller words, I tried to break the word into its components so I could understand it. So does this refer to 'not eating in your car'? Could it mean 'automatically not eating'? (If so, I wanted to learn more...) Finally I learned to my delight that it is an initiative of both the Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany and Austria to care for the environment by encouraging people to think of their use of their car for the period of Lent.

One could register to participate in the program, after which one would receive a hefty notebook filled with charts, data, ideas to try out, and inspirational thoughts from the churches. For example, it lists as benefits: reducing smog, giving the climate a break, doing something good for your health, not getting stuck in traffic jams, and something else that escapes my ability to translate, but may have something to do with one's soul and successive generations. Sponsors included the city, provincial and federal governments, the public transit associations, the national train service, the climate association, bike stores, sports companies, newspapers, etc. At the end of the program, feedback was collected and bikes and transit passes were awarded as prizes to lucky participants.

Indeed "autofasten" has been promoted for a couple of years in Germany. But there is only a a neglible number of people, I think, who actually participate. Very much like the "carfree day" (22th of September) which has been held for a decade or so, meanwhile in entire Europe, and which is completely unheeded by 99,9 per cent of all motorists.

There were four really carfree november sundays in Germany during the 1973 oil crisis. I loved skating on the roads in that november. Lots of people went out in these foggy, cold days strolling on the car lanes.
I would like to see a carfree sunday once a month, europe-wide preferably. It would be great fun especially during the summer and it would save a lot of CO2.

Hi gang, I have been on vacation for a couple of weeks. I missed all the great posts on TOD. I got in late last night and this morning I tried to catch up on a few things I had missed. Glad I caught Nate Hagen’s great article: “Climate Change, Saber Toot Tigers and Devaluing the Future.” It was the best thing I have read on TOD in months. And I must say that I agree with Nate on every point he brought up. And I must take issue with some of those who disagreed with Nate. But I will limit myself to just one poster, Science Ed Guy. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2243/162793

This was a great post by Science Ed Guy, the kind I really enjoy reading, but Ed has simply been misinformed. Ed seems to believe that before the arrival of Columbus to the New World, Native Americans lived in perfect harmony in some kind of sustainable utopia. In fact, he seems to think that this was the case in most of the world.

In fact, before the advent of worldwide shipping, there were societies living on islands all over the world and the simple fact that they were there supports the claim that societies can and frequently do find ways to live stably on existing resources. Easter Island was probably more of an anomaly than the norm in that part of the world.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Warfare, starvation and misery have always been the norm, not just on the islands but everywhere else in the world as well. In fact the very reason the very remote islands of the Pacific were occupied in the first place was because of warfare, starvation and misery. When the islands became so overpopulated that they could no longer support the population, a certain segment of the population were put on outrigger canoes to find a new place to live. And it is highly likely that only a tiny fraction were successful in find an Easter Island or a Hawaiian Island group. The vast majority of those putting out to sea probably perished at sea.

In the islands and on every mainland around the world, malnutrition was the norm. Here is George Huppert describing “Life After the Black Death” in a small French town called Sennely:

Malnutrition was the norm. One third of the babies died in the first
year and only one third reached adulthood. Most couples had only one
or two children before their marriage was broken by the death of one
parent. “Yet, for all that, Sennely was not badly off when compared
to other villages.”

A great book pointing out that this was also the case for Native Americans as well as hunter-gatherer tribes everywhere in the world is “Constant Battles” by Steven LeBlanc. Starvation in complex societies was a way of controlling the population:

The practice of “starving” part of the population within a complex society was subtle. If certain segments were subsisting on a bare minimum of food and other resources, they wouldn’t die immediately. There would be higher infant mortality and lower birth rates, and people would be more likely to die from disease. Actual famine with direct deaths also occurred, and still does today. All these factors are better attested to among recent states, where there are good statistics, than for chiefdoms…..

A chiefdom’s ability to enforce subadequate diets, controlled starvation was probably much more limited than a state’s. In chiefdom-level societies, if certain portions of the population were under resource stress, they could ally themselves with a different chief, revolt, or fight internally. Consequently, warfare as a means of solving the provisioning problems was much more prevalent among chiefdoms, which is probably why both ethnographers and archaeologists see much more evidence of warfare at the chiefdom level.

And from “Against the Grain” by Richard Manning:

During the periods of famine in Europe, local death rates often ran to 80 percent of the population, both from starvation and from the diseases that strike hunger-weakened people. Furthermore, those death rates reflect a higher toll on both pregnant and lactating women, because of their greater nutritional needs. The menstrual cycle is suspended in hungry women, so even those who do survive don’t reproduce. All of this combines to level population…..

As the Han Dynasty was founded, in 200 B.C., a single famine killed about half of China’s population. The emperor Gao Zu issued an edict permitting people to eat or to sell their children as meat, thus lending sanction to a long-established practice. A written report from 2,600 years ago notes: “In the city, we are exchanging our children and eating them, and splitting up their bones for fuel.”

But all this seems so foreign to modern day society. And because it is so horrific, many deny that it ever happened and certainly deny that it can ever happen again. But is because of this great abundance of energy, supplying in turn a great abundance of food, that the population has exploded. But it cannot possibly last. There are limits.

If there is ever a time of plenty this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored.
- Richard Dawkins: River Out of Eden

Ron Patterson

Warfare, starvation and misery have always been the norm, not just on the islands but everywhere else in the world as well.

I really doubt this. If you get a chance, check out the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunter-Gatherers. It's a recent publication and contains the latest thinking.

Most of pre-Columbus North America was controlled by agrarian groups whose lives may indeed have been more miserable on average than hunter-gatherers or our own.

But, at least for hunter-gatherers, the notion of "primitive" life being "nasty, brutish, and short" has long been put to rest.

Asebius, please quote a few passages from this book that states that historically hunter-gatherers were not prone to warfare but lived in peaceful and sustainable groups. I don't think there is any historical evidence to support such a theory.

The book cover shows a modern day hunter-gatherer sorting berries on a woven blanket. The table of contents show this to be a book of essays by many authors on primarily modern day hunter-gatherers.

Modern day hunter-gatherers can usually be divided into two categories, those who have been influenced and changed by modern day innovations and those that have not been so influenced.

The former include the !Kung of the Kalahari Desert, the Aboriginal Australians, the Inuit Eskimos and a few others. These people have been so greatly influenced by modern weapons and culture that they bear only a vague resemblance of their former tribes. The Inuit for instance, use rifles to hunt seals and have outboard motors on their boats. Studying these people today tells us almost nothing about how they lived in the past.

The latter group includes the Yanomama Indians of the Amazon and several tribes still at war with each other in New Guinea. The Yanomama often raid other tribes and kill even the children of that tribe. In New Guinea we find the same thing along with cannibalism.

In the past warfare was a way of life among the !Kung, the Australian Abroginals, the New Guinea tribesmen and all other hunter-gatherers around the world. The evidence supports this and I think the book you quoted will also support this. The book you refer to is called the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunter-Gatherers. Well, here is an article based upon the work of Cambridge Archaeological Journal and I would bet that they both agree. But since the book you reference is a book of essays by many authors, I am sure you can find one or two who still doubt the "Constant Battles" of the hunter-gatherer past. For instance some still maintain that all the evidence is symbolic. From the first URL below:

Several commentators object that the Australian rock art may portray symbolic or ritual events that had nothing to do with actual warfare.

Such evidence is however found all over Australia as well as around the world.

“Seeds of warfare precede agriculture - war among hunter-gatherers”

The above is a fantastic and very short article. And here is an even better article describing the almost constant warfare among the hunter-gathers of New Guinea.

One potentially important finding to emerge from this project is the overlooked influence of war on hunter-gatherer society and culture. The need to protect against attack by day and by night and to defend access to subsistence resources had strong effects on settlement patterns, social group formation and complexity, and ceremonial and ritual culture.
Hunter-gatherer scholarship has largely overlooked the importance of war, partly because of long-standing assumptions that warfare is a relatively recent emergence in human history and that hunter-gatherers lead a peaceful life. There is increasing evidence, however, that these assumptions are misplaced and that New Guinea’s foragers may more accurately represent the hunter-gatherer past.

Ron Patterson

The current view is definitely *not* that hunter-gatherers were warfare-free or non-violent. But, at the same time, the current view is that warfare and misery were by no means constant or even present in many areas.

Darwinian wrote:

The latter group includes the Yanomama Indians of the Amazon and several tribes still at war with each other in New Guinea.

The Yanomama are agrarians in many ways and the warlike Papua New Guinea tribes are very agrarian.

I'm very partial to the thesis that the introduction of agriculture in any form greatly increases the likelihood of endemic warfare and misery. For instance: high population densities (sustainable only by agriculture) and warfare go hand in hand for much of human history.

The current view is definitely *not* that hunter-gatherers were warfare-free or non-violent. But, at the same time, the current view is that warfare and misery were by no means constant or even present in many areas.

The current view? And just who, or what group of people hold the authentic "current view?" Of course no tribe or group of people are constantly at war. That would be impossible. War is something that happened only when circumstances dictated. And it was dictated whenever the population of an area overrun its resources.

Humans starve only when there are no other choices. One of those choices is to attempt to take either food, or food-producing land, from someone else. People do preceive resource stress before they are starving. If no state or central authority is there to stop them, they will fight before the situation gets hopeless.
- Constant Battles, page 70.

Warfare, in both our agrarian past and our hunter-gatherer past was, in the vast majority of cases, brought on by food scarcity. If there were never a scarcity of food or resources, it is highly likely that there would never be warfare. But since it is our nature to multiply to the very limit of our existance, we have warfare. But the evidence suggest that warfare, in the past, has been far more frequent than you suspect Asebius:

Counting societies instead of bodies leads to equally grim figures. In 1978 the anthropologist Carol Ember calculated that 90 percent of hunter-gatherer societies are known to engage in warfare, and 64 percent wage war at least once every two years. Even the 90 percent may be an underestimate, because anthropologists often cannot study a tribe long enough to measure outbreaks that occur every decade or so (imagine an anthropologist studying the peaceful Europeans between 1918 and 1938). In 1972 another anthropologist, W.T. Dival, investigated 99 groups of hunter-gatherers from 37 cultures, and found that 68 were at war at the time, 20 had been at war five to twenty-five years before, and all the others reported warfare in the more distant past. Based on these and other ethnographic surveys, Donald Brown includes that conflict, rape, revenge, jealously, dominance, and male coalitional violence as human universals.
- Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate, Page 57.

Ron Patterson


Here's a link to the intro to The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers.


They don't really quarrel with your prevalence of warfare thesis. (Ember and Dival which Pinker refers to in your quote, are cited) They do quarrel with the idea that hunter-gatherers generally lived constantly on the edge of survival, experienced their lives as miserable, and found food hard to get.

See page 10 of the pdf (the first page of the intro) and see also page 14, the section entitled "Divergences".

If all this seems like a contradiction, the answer may lie in the form of warfare practiced. i.e. How sport-like was it? How often did casualties occur?

The authors of the encyclopedia intro also talk about how warfare seems to have been sparked and intensified by the stresses of colonial presence.

Asebius, thanks for the reference. I found it very interesting. Of course no one claims that hunter-gatherers lived in a constant state of misery and starvation. Prehistoric Homo sapiens suffered from the same “feast to famine” cycle that has plagued all other species since life evolved.

The intro to “The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers” was a great read but I recognized it as basically Boasina in nature. I don’t know if you are aware of it but Franz Boas, and his disciples which include Ruth Benedict, A.L. Kroeber, Leslie White, Robert Lowie, Margaret Mead and at least half a dozen other noted anthropologists of the early twentieth century, have been largely discredited except in a few anthropological circles that still hold tight to the tabula rasa theory. But even in most anthropological circles Boas disciples are becoming scarce. Steven Pinker laid waste to the theory in “The Blank Slate”.

I claim that, unless the contrary can be proved, we must assume that all complex activities are socially determined and not hereditary.
- Franz Boas

We are forced to conclude that human nature is almost unbelievably malleable, responding accurately and contrastingly to contrasting cultural conditions.
- Margaret Mead

The Boasian school of anthropology states that culture is everything and genes are nothing. War is culturally driven; the environment can be sustained or destroyed depending upon the culture of the tribe living in it and so on. Sociobiologists or those better known as Evolutionary Psychologists, hold a different view.

Basically it is a human universal that when people get hungry, very hungry, there is little they will not do to obtain the food necessary for their survival and the survival of their offspring. And this includes going to war with their neighboring tribe if this is what it takes. And because of the nature of nature, there have always been times of famine. Which means, that in virtually every hunter-gatherer group, there have been times of warfare.

Ron Patterson


I'm aware of that debate and have read Pinker's Blank Slate. Own it in fact. I don't dispute the existence of universals among human collectives.

However, the universals that you are suggesting in this thread go way beyond his position. (ex "it is our nature to multiply to the very limit of our existance"). You won't find them in his book. That is Malthus, not Pinker.

Time doesn't permit me to get into this now. We'll pick it up later.

A quotation from page 1 of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers:

They lived in relatively small groups, without centralized authority, standing armies, or bureaucratic systems. Yet the evidence indicates that they have lived together surprisingly well, solving their problems among themselves without recourse to authority figures and without a particular propensity for violence. It was not the situation that Thomas Hobbes, the great seventeenth-century philosopher, described in a famous phrase as "the war of all against all." By all accounts life was not "nasty, brutish, and short." With relatively simple technology -- wood, bone, stone, fibers -- they were able to meet their material needs without great expenditure of energy, leading the American anthropologist and social critic Marshall Salins to call them, in another famous phrase, "the original affluent society." Most striking, the hunter-gatherers have demonstrated the remarkable ability to survive and thrive for long periods -- in some cases thousands of years -- without destroying their environment.

on page 5, however, the issue of violence is discussed and the authors talk about the need...

to temper any attempt to present an idealized picture of foraging peoples. First the foragers as a group are not particularly peaceful. Interpersonal violence is documented for most and warfare is recorded for a number of hunting and gathering peoples.

Emphasis in the original for both quotes.

I am reminded of the Mongols under Genghis Khan. Not agrarian, not starving.


I'm very partial to the thesis that the introduction of agriculture in any form greatly increases the likelihood of endemic warfare and misery.

100% agreed. Not just increased population density, but the increased investment in the land. That makes it a lot harder to walk away from conflict.

And you are correct: the Yanomamo are not hunter-gatherers. They are a horticultural society.

Two books come to mind. One is 1491 by Charles Mann, the second "Mayflower" by Nathaniel Philbrick. Both of these books document the mistaken assumptions of the early permanent european settlers in the Americas in the 1600's. They did arrive on a continent with more than enough to go around. They assumed it was a land of plenty and this helped them initially to justify their presence in someone else's land. There was more than enough to support the indians as well as the europeans, or so it seemed. THis phenomenon was not the norm before 1491, however. The indian population along the east coast had been decreased by 50 to 90% due to measles, influenza and small pox in the generation before the arrival of the pilgrims and others whose writings became the history of america. Massasoit had bailed out the pilgrims over and over again only bc/ he needed their help against other tribes after losing 90% of his men in the few years before the pilgrims arrived. The pilgrims were aware that a large percentage of the native population had just died, but they were blissfully unaware of europe's role in the pandemic deaths, and also failed to connect the dots as to why the land seemed so plentiful.

Science Ed Guy surmised that pre-columbus native americans were peaceful and enlightened because some iriquois cheifs claimed to make decisions based on the effects to the 7th generation distant. Thus, an example of a society not discounting future consequences.

He goes on then:

"Can you imagine anyone considering the impact of their decisions on the seventh generation? This idea seemed impossible to me when I first thought about it. But then I considered what the discourse might be like in that society, and I realized that if everyone talked that way regularly, then they might have gotten pretty good at seven-generations-later considerations."

As rare as that would be today even with our enlightenment and full bellies, I could easily imagine that it was much rarer in pre-historic societies, hunter gatherer or agrarian.

Science Ed Guy concludes:

"....I don't want to blame it on human nature. I instead want to blame it on our culture that was already pathological a century or two or three ago when white men were wiping out the indigenous peoples who had so much wisdom."

I would argue that our society, the society of hunter gatherers, and indeed most societies through antiquity, outside of perhaps some buddhist monks have been pathological BECAUSE of human nature.

The pathology of both the europeans and native americans at first contact is well documented by the Cabeza De Vaca narrative.


In response to Ron's mentioning of the Inuit Eskimos, there is a fantastic documentation of their life circa 1922 in the DVD Nanook of the North.

I believe that one of the more definitive compilations of the hunter-gatherer adaptation is provided in Lee and DeVore's (1968) "Man the Hunter." One of the main conclusions of the book is that hunter-gatherers to not live near the edge of starvation, exhibit greater health, and enjoy more leisure time than agricultural societies.

Hunting and gathering societies cover a wide range of adaptations and environments, both prehistorically and those known from European contact, and it is probably unwise to generalize from isolated examples. Because archaeologists have focused much research on the great transitions, the record is probably biased in favor of hunter-gatherers under stress, such as toward the end of the last ice age. Or, among hunting and gathering societies pressed into marginal habitats, such as following the expansion of early Neolithic cultures into western Europe.

So, one might ask in general, if hunter-gatherers are able to maintain population numbers which are generally stable, or with extremely low growth measured over immense periods of time, how is this possible? Even including a variety of documented biological processes, the practice of infanticide may have been prevalent throughout time.

As a further note, the great anthropologist Marvin Harris has a particularly engaging view of the sweep of human history in his book, "Cannibals and Kings" (1977). It's interesting that he cites the work of Hubbert in his last chapter and is pessimistic, to say the least, about the transition away from fossil fuels. If nothing else, it is a great read.

So, one might ask in general, if hunter-gatherers are able to maintain population numbers which are generally stable, or with extremely low growth measured over immense periods of time, how is this possible? Even including a variety of documented biological processes, the practice of infanticide may have been prevalent throughout time.

Probably, but also keep in mind that the practice of long breastfeeding (up to the age of five) and constant exercise (from walking all day) depressed the birth rate. Births were likely naturally spaced 3-5 years apart, rather than every year as among sedentary peoples. Women could not carry more than one child at a time, and there were no strollers back then, so spacing childbirth so that the older child was walking before the next one came along was important.

And birth control was not necessarily infanticide back then. There are other methods - including (gasp!) abstinence. It's inconceivable to the average American, but there were many cultures where men were expected to observe post-partum sex taboos. They may go four or five years without sex after a baby is born. Commonly, the reason given is for the health of the mother. IIRC, the Dani of New Guinea are one example. Anthropologists simply could not believe that they really did that, and staked out the huts at night, expecting to find a lot of sneaking around. There wasn't any.

Parts of this documentary were staged and are not accurate reflections of Inuit way of life.


What does all this prove? That people are like yeast, and the first ones there get plenty of sugar, but the descendants have to content themselves with vinegar and alcohol?

When white people came to the Columbia River basin there were tribes living here in some degree of harmony, and they had been doing so for at least 10,000 years. Starvation was not reported to be a major problem. Within 200 years the European descendants have destroyed the fish runs, the forests, and threatened the viability of the ocean. Now the starvation will begin

When white people came to the Columbia River basin there were tribes living here in some degree of harmony, and they had been doing so for at least 10,000 years. Starvation was not reported to be a major problem.

NeverLNG, I need your source for that, a URL would be nice or at least a book reference and quote from that book. All evidence suggest that this is just another myth, that the Indians along the Columbia River basin were no different from those living along the California Coast. Such myths exist for just about any Native American tribe you can name, but the evidence suggest otherwise. This book documents it all.

Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage

Ron Patterson

Lewis and Clark sure didn't think too much of the Columbia river indians.

The pacific northwest would be an abboration to the norm since the environment is especially productive.

Anyways, all of this would have little predictive value for evaluating the future since the population is a about gazillion times more now.

Hi Ron,
good comments, this all too prevalent view of hunter gatherers/early agrarians living in some kind of utopia needs to be challenged whenever it appears. Here in NZ we hear a similar national myth about the original Maori inhabitants. Vast destruction has been caused by European settlers after the early 1840s but the Maori's certainly did the best with their more limited tools available to erode the environment (introduction of the rat, extermination of the Moa and its dependent ecosystem etc). Also mounting evidence that a considerable amount of the bush clearance originally attributed to early white settlers in the north (around Auckland etc) was actually Maori driven. As for the tribes involvement in warfare, rape, pillage and cannibalism - well the evidence is overwhelming. One only has to look at the site of now derelict Maori settlements to see that defence was a major consideration - they often remind me of the placing of Medieval European castles.

All of which does not get us too far other than emphasising that any future back to basics agrarian system is not likely to be a place of unmitigated sweetness and light.

These arguments about "human nature" don't prove much, because it's too easy to pick and choose examples from anthropology to "prove" any point of view you want. I hate to be cynical, but the reason these ideas of the innate violence and savage nature of mankind are so popular today is because they are related to the the rulers need to stir people up for war, and justify them carrying out a policy of "divide and conquer, divide and rule." It reminds me of the sociasl Darwinism of many years ago, which was used to justify slavery, colonialism, war and ruthless capitalist exploitation. For another view of native American societies, go back and read Louis Morgan's classic book Ancient Society, or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery Through Barbarism to Civilisation (1877). The United States Constitution was partly based on the society of the Iroquois Indians. And read some of the old writings of colonial days in America about all the people who ran away to join the Indians, because Native American society was so much better than the white man's society. Benjamin Franklin, for one, wrote about that. If you claim that our new science is always better than the old scientific works, let me say: In the social sciences, science doesn't so much as progress forward in a straight line, as it changes to meet the needs of the rulers of society (to follow the new party lines).

For a more nuanced view of the nature of warfare in small scale societies, Kelly, Raymond C. 2000 Warless Societies and the Origin of War Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, is especially good.

Hi Darwinian,

I'm afraid I will have to presume upon your patience here as I am pretty low on URL's for the moment and will be relying on the anecdotal and personal experiences; if you find anything you just can't buy I will try to back it up later if you wish.

From what I have heard the idea of 'cooperation' in Darwin's On the Origin of Species is a barn burner of a success story compared to the 'survival of the fittest' phrase...not sure but maybe 90 to 1 or 2. (Please don't ask me to back that up unless you know of an on-line version that I can do a word search on.)

Following from that and judging by experience I would expect that the primary wiring of us guys is to cooperate and generally whoop it up. I will miss the secondary wiring for the moment and to move on to the tertiary wiring or as I term it the "Hay-wiring Aspect of Man or Woman" or the (HAM) or (HAW) of it all. This HAM/HAW comes into play when the individual or group finds their nourishment needs unsatisfied, as in when the bar is closed just before you order that last beer for the night and the bartender yells to the bouncer...' get this haywire bastard out of here!'
Now the sex drive the secondary wiring is (generally) considered a non food item of desire and if unsatisfied plays right into that same tertiary wiring HAM/HAW. But the terminology for the tertiary is separate and usually found in phrases like ...'Get that horny little devil out of here' (HLD).

Haida Indian tribe up here on the British Columbia coast would often play the role of HLD and hop in their canoes and do a bit of southern raiding . They would take Indian maids and weren't adverse to taking back a bit of free male labour. As far as I know they were for the main Only in HLD mode then. The sustenance aspect, HAM, would come into effect only if they were tuckered from all the rowing and if mustard and rye bread were available.

Hope you are still glad to be back, I understand you went up the Zambezi to play pinochle with the natives?

Best wishes,

Black Bald.

From what I have heard the idea of 'cooperation' in Darwin's On the Origin of Species is a barn burner of a success story compared to the 'survival of the fittest' phrase...not sure but maybe 90 to 1 or 2.

Black, you would be wrong here. The term "Survival of the Fittest" is mentioned 11 times in Darwin's Opus but the word "cooperation" is not mentioned even once. Check it out if you do not believe me. Here is the entire text of "On the Origin of Species".


You can do a search on the "cooperation" and then on "Survival of the Fittest" and do the count yourself.

Cooperation, except in the case of alliances between males, (or females in matriarchal species such as bonobos or hyenas), and within gregarious groups such as lions and wolves that hunt in packs, plays no role in evolution. While such species must cooperate within the pack or pride, they never cooperate with other packs or prides. In Homo sapiens cooperation is necessary within tribal groups but never between tribes.

Darwin never stresses, or even mentions cooperation as a mechanism of natural selection.

Of course there are symbiotic relationships between plants and insects or animals but that cannot be truly regarded as cooperation.

Ron Patterson

As a simple supplement to Darwin, Kropotkin's 'Mutual Aid' is fairly good science - http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4341 (and it looks as if Project Gutenberg has a new 'cover' per book - amazing how such things evolve).

From the very beginning of the Introduction -
'Two aspects of animal life impressed me most during the journeys which I made in my youth in Eastern Siberia and Northern Manchuria. One of them was the extreme severity of the struggle for existence which most species of animals have to carry on against an inclement Nature; the enormous destruction of life which periodically results from natural agencies; and the consequent paucity of life over the vast territory which fell under my observation. And the other was, that even in those few spots where animal life teemed in abundance, I failed to find --although I was eagerly looking for it-- that bitter struggle for the means of existence, among animals belonging to the same species, which was considered by most Darwinists (though not always by Darwin himself) as the dominant characteristic of struggle for life, and the main factor of evolution.'

Kropotkin's basic field research seems as well founded as Darwin's - both were individuals accurately described by the term natural philosophers, though Kropotkin's seemingly idealistic goal of creating a society based on mutual aid seems to have not borne much fruit, while the evils of late 19th/early 20th Century Social Darwinism are all too plain.

It is often striking to see how a man's thinking can be terribly twisted, a point raised by Kropotkin in one direction, and confirmed by the social darwinists in the other.

Ah, the recurring discussions - seems like old times, with a gorilla hanging out.

Just adding Kropotkin's work for completeness - even among strict Darwinists (and Kropotkin most certainly saw himself that way), the discussion can be wide ranging.

Hi expat,

Thanks for the link (Kropotkin), I think I may be in line for some lumps in the head and need all the cooperation from neo-Darwinian primates that I can get to avoid a thorough thrashing.


Black Bald.

Hi Darwinian,

Yes quite likely I am wrong about the 90 to 1 bit...that's the thing T.V. viewing is made of. Thanks for the link to the Opus; it is one of those things I have been meaning to read, or at least graze in along with the Bible (King James Version) and the Koran.

I have a premise for you: That cooperation is a higher order survival factor than 'culling of the herd' or 'survival of the fittest,' if not a more basic one.

My examples on purely genetically coded behavioral level are the Honey Bee and the Ant.

On a learned behavior level (though, I think, there is a genetic component) my example is the Northern British Columbian tribal animal the salmon/herring fisherman. A tribe which I spent several years a member of. This animal depends highly on cooperation in the form of shared time, labour and knowledge. The members who do not cooperate are generally excluded from this sharing especially the sharing of knowledge which is generally disseminated in all the associated social activities of this tribe, as Coffee and Bull S. on the back deck and boozing in the Bar. In essence the uncoooperative wither and die.

I hope you will take a good whack at this as I am sure you will agree shared wisdom and rigorous debate raises all boats, (we won't mention leaky ones though will we).

Thanks for taking my last post in good humour as that was the way it was meant.

Black Bald.

Peter Corning has written extensively on the issue of cooperation in evolution and holds that cooperation is the more basic principle. You might add to your list of tomes 'Holistic Darwinism'. It is not a light read. Corning presents an extremely detailed case for considering all aspects of human evolution and cites extensively (40 pages of references). My distinct impression is that over the past 30 years there has definitely been a trend in the direction that Corning is writing about as far as evolutionary theory goes. Another good read, and related is 'Unto Others' by Sober and Wilson.

Hi ET,

Neither local college nor local public library has either, this surprised me as they are usually pretty good. I have found the following link which looks to be an article predating the book, so will go from there for now. Hope I find the book before the lights go out all over the world so I can find out if we really are a very cooperative species and that 'all that stuff' (ATS) after P.O. wont happen after all. (hope Darwinian doesn't see what I just wrote and beat me over the head with it.)



Black Bald.

bb, to paraphrase mickey gilley "the girls all get prettier at closing time "

I prefer to imagine:

  • living on current solar income
  • every product being truly recyclable or biodegradeable
  • sustainable agriculture

We can do this.

We can do this.

We could but we won't.
You did not read the latest Nate article Climate Change, Sabre Tooth Tigers and Devaluing the Future, or at least not closely enough.

"We can do this" only with a small and stable population. And how do we do that?

What is more likely to be documented; the mundane or the exceptional?

The USA and Europe were doing that just fine, until the elites in government decided that the situation required tens of millions of immigrants.

Just close the borders and deport the illegals.  That will fix 90% of the problem right there, and the other 10% shouldn't be nearly as difficult.  (To some extent, immigration causes the problem; immigrants from many places to the USA are far more fecund than the people in the originating countries.)

Hi EP,
I guess racism shows its face in many ways.
But you are right.
Just think how pristine and pleasant the US, or my own country of Oz, would be today if the North American Cheyenne et al, or the Australian Koori et al had stopped the savage white man migrating to their respective homes.
Talk about fecund - the English and Irish must go at it like rabbits to have overpopulated as they have done.
It would fix 100% of the problems IMO.

I guess racism shows its face in many ways.

It mostly shows itself in leftist attempts to win arguments by shutting down any challenge of its orthodoxy without addressing the facts.

The facts include on the order of a million illegal Mexican immigrants each year (who would have a total fertility rate of 2.5 at home) to the USA, where their TFR jumps to nearly 2.9 (p. 43).

Just think how pristine and pleasant the US, or my own country of Oz, would be today if the North American Cheyenne et al, or the Australian Koori et al had stopped the savage white man migrating to their respective homes.

Yes, I'm sure you're pining for the days of those wonderful, bio-solar, non-patriarchal Aztecs.

Or maybe not.

I find it rather amusing that anyone would argue about whether primitive people had wars or not, or starved in tough times. OF COURSE THEY DID!! Even more amusing is the proposition that in an age where we, this enlightened species of techo-worshippers, suffer all the same problems, that somehow we are better than the hunter-gatherers. Leaving that aside, PLEASE TAKE NOTE! They were living on the solar budget. Surely this is a GLARING and TELLING fact that should alarm the bejeezus out of anyone with even a vague scientific sensibility. We have reached 6.8 billion SOLELY because of fossil sunshine. We are drawing down the bank. Soon, the teller's window will be closed for the vast majority of people on this planet. That means we will return to that solar budget limited population. We live on energy, not technology. Technology consumes energy. Energy is not equivalent to technology. Technology does NOT produce energy. It merely extracts, collects, or concentrates either fossil sunshine or current account sunshine. When the fossil sunshine stops, so stops our 6.8 million strong footprint. Don't believe that we will somehow just up our portion of the solar budget and make everything right. No matter how you slice it, the planet needs x amount of solar input to keep the closed ecosystem rolling. The minute we dip into that maintenence energy flow and redirect it to our own ends, the planet begins to die. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, we have already crossed that point.

Patterson has it exactly right with his final quote from Richard Dawkins. We have reached the greatest flow of energy this planet will ever achieve. (Except, of course, when the earth, in 4-5 billion years, is boiled alive by our sun's leaving its main sequence and swelling into a red giant. Plenty of energy then.) Having reached this ultimate energy flow, the energy bank will call in its debt. Excess life, primarily human, will find itself woefully short on energy. This usually results in discomfort, perhaps rigor mortis.

We live on energy, not technology.

Cherenkov, Yours is a good argument for when the next person says "The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones"

"We live on energy, not technology."

"Cherenkov, Yours is a good argument for when the next person says "The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones"

We live on a black goo, a thin invisible gas, and the splitting of the atom, none of which would have even been known to exist or be useful without technology.

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom


I'm with you all the way, up to the last point, where I will put a question mark:

We have reached the greatest flow of energy this planet will ever achieve.???

I feel that we can outdo that flow yet, with nuclear, perhaps by frantic building of reactors, not out of the question, but much more likely, with nuclear bombs.

Either of the two might yet top our present energy flow. Not for long though.

We're not the kind of guys, not the system, to go whimperingly. We'll bang. We like bangs, what can we say?

I think we can do one last big one to outdo all we did before, and that would be a fitting end to all we call civilized.

(contents deleted)

We live on energy, not technology. Technology consumes energy. Energy is not equivalent to technology. Technology does NOT produce energy. It merely extracts, collects, or concentrates either fossil sunshine or current account sunshine.

True so far, but you end with a horrendous non-sequitur:

When the fossil sunshine stops, so stops our 6.8 million strong footprint.

That would only be true if:

  1. Current account sunshine was insufficient to supply that footprint, or
  2. Technology was unable to collect enough of that energy to do the job.

The facts are that humans consume about 400 quads of energy (from both fossil and net primary productivity) per year, while the Sun delivers that much energy to Earth's disc about every 40 minutes.  Even if we restricted ourselves to wind power, the total available wind energy on Earth is upwards of 2000 quads/year.

The barriers to a sustainable population of 6.8 billion are not physical.  The technological barriers will be overcome within the next 30 years, probably sooner.  If there are any real barriers they are outside the purview of engineering.

Engineer Poet said,
"If there are any real barriers they are outside the purview of engineering."


You say, "The technological barriers will be overcome within the next 30 years, probably sooner."

I say it needs to be sooner, and there is the heart of the emergency. This is a timed race ladies and gentleman. If we keep pushing back when to start, we risk allowing an emergency that could reduce the communication/coordination/control/command abilities of our scientific/technical establishment to the point that the difficulty in getting the alternatives and the logistical support for those alternatives increase exponentially.
Long story short, we are running out of time. We wasted a third of a decade after the 1970's crisis, and still refuse to begin even relatively painless, almost invisible changes to enhance efficiency, and begin the "diffusion" of alternative technologies. There is no doubt the alternatives exist and they are revolutionary. There is also no doubt that they are useless sitting on the shelf or in the hard drive of some research facility somewhere (where? If an emergency hit and brought down the Internet, could we even find them or find the technicians to develop them? Could we even find each other?)

I have never been a doomer, but Simmons is right....if we refuse to begin change now, even doomers like Kunstler will seem like cornucopians.
But of course, on TOD, I am preaching to the chior....:-)

Roger Conner
Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom, (but if we refuse to move even one cubic foot, that mile is infinity)

i understand and agree with what your saying but i would like to add.
the hunter gatherer life is the bare minimum way we can live, if that can't be done well we are basically fsked.

This may only be a matter of semantics, but do wars, high infant mortality and periodic deadly outrigger forays preclude the notion of a population being sustainable? In other words, would not an island with a population of 5000 to 10000 for millenia be considered sustainable even if methods that are brutal by our modern measures were required to acheive sustainability?

"If there is ever a time of plenty this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored."

In times of plenty, the islands population grows temporarily to 12,000. Later a drought comes and the population dies back to 8000. It then grows to 13000. There's a resource war between two competing tribes decreasing the population to 6000...and so on, but if this pattern continued long enough, would we not conlude that there is a sustainable population on this island of say of somewhere in the thousands? Times of plenty and times of starvation/poverty fluctuate around a sustainable mean. If birth control methods could be imposed, the island might sustain 8000 people indefinitely without the painful corrections. Perhaps I just don't understand the definition of sustainable.

Phineas, what most people mean by "sustainable" is a group, tribe or nation living in peace and harmony with no warfare or hunger. They control their popultion so that it does not exceed the carrying capacity of their territory. Of course this is a pure myth. Such a society has never existed and likely never will exist. As Nate pointed out yesterday, we have stone age brains that evolved in the skulls of hunter-gatherers. We behave the way we do because people that behaved in such a manner had a much higher survival rate than those that did not behave such.

We behave the way we do because:

Not only are human societies never alone, but regardless of how well they control their own population or act ecologically, they cannot control their neighbors’ behavior. Each society must confront the real possibility that its neighbors will not live in ecological balance but will grow its numbers and attempt to take the resources from nearby groups. Not only have societies always lived in a changing environment, but they always have neighbors. The best way to survive in such a milieu is not to live in ecological balance with slow growth, but to grow rapidly and be able to fend off competitors as well as take resources from others.
Steven LeBlanc, “Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage” page 73

Ron Patterson

Ok, I see the distinction. An island might be able in theory to sustainably support 8000 humans. But, for the reasons you indicate, no human population could ever manage to live on it sustainably.

Phineas, what most people mean by "sustainable" is a group, tribe or nation living in peace and harmony with no warfare or hunger. They control their popultion so that it does not exceed the carrying capacity of their territory. Of course this is a pure myth. Such a society has never existed and likely never will exist.

That is not my definition of "sustainable." Except the control the population part.

They control their popultion so that it does not exceed the carrying capacity of their territory. Of course this is a pure myth.

There is considerable evidence that the above is not a myth. Infanticide was a common technique to control population. Hunter-Gatherer warfare was very noisy but not very lethal; they lacked the technology found on the Somme.

I firmley believe that if a man cannot document his claim then he has no business making them.

Ron, I apologize that I am going from memory of reading done during college, and so cannot quote documentation.

That said, I recall reading that the ancient Egyptians managed to sustain a continuous urban culture in an area strictly circumscribed by desert for about 5000 years.

They were known to be wealthy and have agricultural surplus and were repeatedly attacked as a result; nonetheless they never collapsed due to either internal or external stress. For example, early in their culture they were conquered by people they called the "foreign kings"; after a few generations they overthrew some of them and assimilated the rest. Much later they were attacked by people from the Tigris/Euphrates region and pursued them across the Sinai. They soon correctly perceived this to be an energy sink and pulled back into their valley. They were finally overrun by their long-term rivals from upriver, the Nubians, who then became assimated. After the Greeks and Romans, whose culture was committed to military empire, finally crushed the Nubian pharoes, the culture withdrew to above the cataracts.

So, it's true that other people tried to take their agricultural surplus by force. But it's also true they stayed in their valley for milenia without catabolic collapse. It can be done!

As an aside, the ancient Egyptians seemed little interested in technological progress. They were overrun by the "foreign kings" in part because they were unprepared for an adversary with chariots; they then assimilated that technology. They also continued to use flintknapping long after they had bronze tools; the blocks for the pyramids were aparently shaped with stone tools! Part of the reason that they were no match for the Greeks and Romans was that they had no iron weapons; in fact their bronze stylized sickle-shaped thingies were basically clubs! They appear to have had little interest in conquest and empire.

I am so sorry the remnants of this culture were extinguished by Islam; I would love to understand what about their culture seems to have made them largely satisfied with what they had.

Notintodenial, there needs to be a distinction made here. Of course societies have existed for hundreds, even thousands of years. But Phineus asked the question, what do we mean by sustainable? And I thought I knew but now it is obvious that we all have different meanings for the term.

Yes the Egyptians existed for thousands of years. But they did not control their own population as such. Famine, war and disease took their toll. Famine would, on occasions, take a very large percentage of the population. The Egyptian society was sustainable only because the death rate was so high. Any culture can be sustainable if the death rate matches the birth rate.

The argument is whether the death rate rises to match the birth rate, or does the birth rate drop to match the death rate? I maintain that the former has, historically, always been the case. But in a perfect society, the latter would be the case. One poster maintained that infanticide was used to keep a population sustainable. But this is just another way of increasing the death rate. Does how the death occurs change the fact that the death rate increases to meet the birth rate? It does not really matter if a child dies of starvation, killed by the enemy tribe or smothered by its parents, the result is the same.

So what do you mean by sustainable? Okay, choose your own meaning. It is my contention that Homo sapiens have always lived to the very limit of their existence. The population has, historically, always been kept in check by a high death rate. And that death rate can be caused by war, famine, disease or infanticide.

This does not rule out that in some cases people do voluntary limit their offspring. There are always exceptions. But in the larger picture people, like all other species, will multiply to the very limit of their existence.

Ron Patterson

Umm, that would be immediately after the Black Death? Umm, maybe this was a particularly bad time? Not that anyone would've picked late medieval France as an example of the most clement of times or places.
I was Huppert's student. Certainly there were times, esp. after his wife's death, when he took a dreary view. Any making the unfounded leaps Darwinian is wont to would've had little mercy.
Look around at the architectural and artistic treasure left by medieval France and tell me these people were always so beaten down they had no agenda but finding the next bowl of spoiled rancid maggoty gruel. Certainly survival has usually been harsh, the comfort we have known recently makes any sober accurate accounting of daily life before the late twentieth century sound horrific. Personally, I am more appalled by strip malls and cluster bombs. If life were so bad as you make it sound humanity would have perished many times over.
I never agreed with Huppert about anything either but his intellect and scholarship are substantial. Hope you enjoy it.

Umm, that would be immediately after the Black Death? Umm, maybe this was a particularly bad time? Not that anyone would've picked late medieval France as an example of the most clement of times or places.

On the contrary, this was a particular good time for all of Western Europe. Well, good compared to life before the Black Death anyway. The Black Death wiped out about one third of the population, opening up vast areas of farm land for the landless.

Life in Sennely was not typical of life in the cities. Huppert goes into great detail is describing the difference in such small farming villages, the smaller cities where the absentee landlords and most artisans resided, and the cities like Naples and Paris where the aristocracy resided. Sennely was a typical village of 500 to 700 persons.

The village's reliance on grain for bread-making as its chief crop is more than typical--it is universal.........

Sennely is a typical self-sufficient village near the French City of
Orleans. It consists of subsistence farmers whose needs are supplied
locally: rye grain for bread, cattle, pigs, apples, pears, plums,
chestnuts, garden vegetables, fish in the ponds, and bees for honey
and wax.

Population and resources are more-or-less in balance because of the
poor health of the residents: they tended to be stunted, bent over,
and of a yellowish complexion. By the time children were ten or
twelve, they assumed the generally unpleasant appearance of their
elders: they moved slowly, had poor teeth, and distended bellies.
Girls reached the age of 18 before first ministration.

Malnutrition was the norm. One third of the babies died in the first
year and only one third reached adulthood. Most couples had only one
or two children before their marriage was broken by the death of one
parent. 'Yet, for all that, Sennely was not badly off when compared
to other villages.'

But being a student of his I am sure you have read the book. What part of the book did you disagree with? After all, it was basically a history book and Huppert does reference every fact in the book to the source from which he obtained it. Many of the references are from such things as city council meetings and town records. If a man documents his every claim, what is there to disagree with?

As you might have guessed I am a stickler for documentation. I firmley believe that if a man cannot document his claim then he has no business making them.


Ron Patterson

Sometime you should read the pastiche you make of history.
Why is it, in your view of history, that we are always at war if no one ever has a pot to piss in? What do I gain by raiding my neighbor if my neighbor has less of nothing than I do? How is an army sustained in the field if every peasant and farmer has a bare cupboard? If the children are all the runts of Sennely where do you find anyone to throw a spear, brandish a sword or club? Why do I go to France and find so many rural buldings as old as the Black Death that still stand? And delight the eye? Do cretins, morons, stunted cripples build barns that endure for hundreds of years?
I shall perhaps overstate the case to make a point. I respect my old professor and his art. And I have not read the book, published long after I was out of class. He was a vain ambitious man, eager to curry favor, quick to adopt the manners and prejudices of those who would advance him. He held the lower orders, then or now, in contempt. The sharpest confrontation I had with him occurred while he was lecturing on medieval guilds and making the claim that seven year apprenticeships had no function but to limit labor supply, artificially inducing shortages and higher wages for the masters. Because there was nothing conceivable a tradesmen would need to know that might take so long to learn. I asked him if he would hire a carpenter to work on his own house who was purely self-taught, had been doing the job only a few months, offered the absolute lowest bid, and bad-mouthed the union.
In a class full of the sons and daughters of union men that sort of got everyone focussed. He lost that round. And remained a gentleman.

For starters Oldhippie, it is quite obvious that you have not read the book written by your former teacher George Huppert because every question you asked is answered clearly in the book. And your ad homonym attacks on him have no bearing on the truth or falsity of his statements. But I will attempt to answer your questions.

Why is it, in your view of history, that we are always at war if no one ever has a pot to piss in?

I have never held that view and neither do any of my posts reflect such a view. You just made that all up. Is that a common practice of yours?

What do I gain by raiding my neighbor if my neighbor has less of nothing than I do?

Obviously we are no longer talking about rural France here but, I assume, hunter-gatherer societies. But in case you are, the rural residents of Sennely did not raid each other’s cupboard. Hunter-gatherer societies depended upon their territory for substance. They gathered roots, tubers, grubs and berries and hunted food on their territory. A neighboring tribe, due to the overpopulation of their own tribe, would wish to take over that territory for themselves. Hunter-gatherer war was the result.

How is an army sustained in the field if every peasant and farmer has a bare cupboard?

The answer to that question is so obvious I am shocked that anyone would ask it. The peasants were so poor because the absentee landlords took their share of the crop, then the state took their share in taxes and that left little for the poor peasant. Taxes from both the peasants and the absentee landlords supported the army.

The ad homonym attacks upon Huppert will not be addressed because they have no bearing upon his research or this discussion. Plus I must add, I seriously doubt everything you say about him. People who engage in ad homonym attacks instead of logical argument should never be taken seriously.

If you cannot answer a man’s argument all is not lost. You can still call him vile names.

Ron Patterson

here's some ad homonym(sic) for you: I find your above posts a bit windy and egotistical. You're point is good, we can't romanticize hunter-gatherer societies. But history is not just a squalid organism factory--there are aspects of our past that can be mined for treasures. There's such a thing as learning from the past.

Okay, I meant Ad Hominem. My spell checker missed it because that is a word also, just the wrong meaning.

But Derix, you are the perfect example. You apparently think an ad hominem attack is legitimate. People who can only make ad homeinem attacks are, apparently, lacking in the ability to make logical, rational arguments. They only know how to call people names.

And I really don't give a damn if my posts are windy and egotistical. My main concern is; are they accurate? Are they legitimate? Or, are they illogical?

In other words Derix, a sound and valid argument is all that concerns me. If your main concern is simply deriding people with smear tactics, then I have no argument with you. Please return to the schoolyard and try your tactics on the other kiddies.

Ron Patterson

C'mon now, don't be a Darwinazi :) --I added a little argument to my first post too to show where I was coming from. I was objecting to what seemed like an attempt not just to temper the over-romanticization of pre-agricultural human history with reality but to drag those ancestors of ours that might have a thing or two we could re-discover to our benifit through a meat grinder of genetic damnation. Certainly there was no society on any pacific island or in any secluded corner of the jungle that lived sustainably and peacably by any acceptable contemporary definition. But there were aspects here and there of some - and even of that historic period in general -that to a degree approached these standards in ways that are valuable to re-examine in a contemporary context.

But there were aspects here and there of some - and even of that historic period in general -that to a degree approached these standards in ways that are valuable to re-examine in a contemporary context.

Ehhhh, exactly what are you talking about here? Here and there? Where is that? How about an example. Please give us a reference here.

And exactly what does "re-examine in a contemporary context" mean? I haven't a clue as to what the hell you are talking about. How do we re-examine hunter-gatherer, or even medieval societies in a contemporary context? Oh sure we can imagine ourselves contemporaries of those people but we would only be fooling ourselves. We can never truly put ourselves in their place and we would be lying to ourselves if we pretend that we can. All we have is the archeological record of prehistoric societies and the written record of medieval societies. We must make do with that.

Ron Patterson

Every characterization is not an ad hominem. The rest of your points deserve less attention.

And it's clear you didn't read the book either. Or can't read. Your witless explication of social obligation and taxation comes out of your own woolly head. You have no idea whatever how military forces were raised, maintained, what they were used for, and haven't thought a moment of how they behave and are constrained to behave in action.
Throw out as many citations as you want, you are only making it up as you go, with knowledge of the modern world your only reference point.

A chiefdom’s ability to enforce subadequate diets, controlled starvation was probably much more limited than a state’s....

That NYTimes article missed the little tidbit about how the military is sticking its nose under the tent in Maine's propane distribution scenario via MEMA and the federalized Guard. That came up last night at a dinner with a bunch of those who had been active in the 80's in Central America. A long pause and then "that's not going to turn out well". This was all in the context of the Church supporting the military death squads in the midst of the poverty and plunder. The discussion then turned to which Central American country seemed like the best place to move back to.

cfm in Gray, ME

Re "Constant Battles", one of my present favorites.
review found here.

One of the important learnings going from hunter gatherer to modern society is that farming allowed a tenfold increase in population, just as the energy boom since the 1750 coal oil, gas allowed for a further 5 times population increase.
I can personally add.
In Denmark on penisula Stevns,farming started approx 4000 BC ( flint- stone age)( first traces of ancient ploughs has been found below one of the accurately dated graves). Year 1700 AD the grain yield was 5-7 grain harvested for each sowed - 5-7 "fold".
The poor had 5 fold, the rich had cows, and the dung made 7 fold possible. Below 5 fold people starved and died, above 6 fold people got rich. Simple as that.

Now in 1994 when I still had my farm I harvested 50-55 fold wheat- with fertilizer plus biocides.
So energy, better crops, fertilizer, all associated with energy use allowed a factor 10 increase compared to the pre- energy society.
In 1998 I did a calculation on the energy payback of my farming. LCA- "cradle to grave" yielded an EROEI of 5-6, all included.

I have no doubt that when people start feeling the lack of resources, many othervise peacefull will think about expanding and taking what they need. This is part of the "constant battles conclusion"
Only a well etsablished societal- state structure can prevent this from ending in fighting. Anyplace, anytime.
And, off course powerfull states might feel that they have a first right to other peoples resources..
kind regards And1

on the economic front, the federal reserve meets last month. so quiet, so austere.they say this at the end of the meeting:

The Committee judges that some inflation risks remain. The extent and timing of any additional firming that may be needed to address these risks will depend on the evolution of the outlook for both inflation and economic growth, as implied by incoming information."

....so reassuring....while out the back door, they're printing money like crazy....but then they don't report M3, the widest measure of money supply, anymore. but we can go to our old friend john williams shadow government statistics:

....hmmmm, M3 growing at 11% a year!...interesting also is the apparent inverse relationship between M1 and M3. my take- people can't use "their house as a bank" anymore, since their house value is going down, they're mortgaged to the hilt, and the only thing left is the meager savings that they have left in the bank...savings, as measured by M1 has gone negative. the fed is trying desperately to shore up the financial implosion brought on by the housing bust by furiously increasing money supply.

dr. joe,
over at stockcharts.com, talks about the yield curve ( a comparison of short and long term interest rates) inverting since november:

"To refresh your memory... Nine out of the last Nine Recessions were preceeded by an inverted yield curve."

...and finally a very arcane measure of the health of the subprime mortgage market, the ABX-HE index

..here's theroxylandr's view:

Let’s make a conclusion now. The subprime market is stalled. All BBB and BBB- papers from both H1 and H2 of the last year require from 25% to 30% of upfront payments to protect them. This is impossible, nobody’s gonna pay that. The subprime market is dead.

The investment grade “A” papers require 7.5% payment. It’s horrible, but still possible. The prime market is in major trouble.

....pretty strong words. so, let's see...inverted yield curve,check.housing bust,check. mortgage banking bust,check. fed printing money,check. deck chair rearrangement on the titanic, check.


All of this is what led Marc Faber to described the US 30 Treasury Bond as the "World's Worst Investment."

Marc also thought that something akin to hyperinflation is possible in the US.

It's really an "interesting" time. We are seeing strong inflationary effects in food and energy prices, but strong deflationary effects in the housing/auto sector.

Daniel Yergin, et al, tell us that high oil prices are temporary, and in effect, are encouraging us to continue to buy and finance large homes and autos. The US personal savings rate has been negative since the second quarter of 2005, when oil prices started spiking.

IMO, the US has been going into debt to outbid regions like Africa for declining oil exports, but a lot of people can't borrow against their homes any more, and they can't sell because the loan is larger than the declining value--thus the skyrocketing foreclosure rate.

And yet, Yergin, Jackson, Lynch, Huber, et al, are--in effect--still encouraging Americans to continue to borrow and spend.

A note on foreclosures (from the Housing Bubble Blog):

“With a historic increase in foreclosure cases Jacksonville (Florida) Legal Aid is now turning people away. ‘About 60 days ago we realized we reached capacity, despite foreclosures coming in the door 20 to 30 a week,’ said Jacksonville Legal Aid Director Michael Figgins.”

“With just four lawyers working foreclosure cases he says his office is overwhelmed, and can’t take new cases.”

You can listen to a one hour interview with Mike Stathis at www.financialsense.com

It sounds like he is predicting an inflationary depression.

America's Financial Apocalypse: How to Profit from the Next Great Depression
by Mike Stathis (Paperback - Oct 7, 2006)

For nearly three decades, America has been gradually losing ground to the developed world in many critical areas. The result is that the American standard of living has been in decline for over two decades, with the middle class having been affected the most. Meanwhile, the rich have gotten wealthier and now America is a nation controlled by corporate America.

Hidden by two-income households and open access to credit, declining living standards have gone unnoticed by most Americans. Spending beyond one's means has become the American way of life and is encouraged by the government. In contrast, saving is almost unheard of in America. As a result, this once power nation has changed from the world's largest creditor to the world's largest debtor. Decades of over consumption by Americans can only last so long before a day of reckoning occurs.

The deflation of the Internet Bubble resulted in the paper loss of over $7 trillion dollars, yet most people seem to have already forgotten the most scandalous charades in U.S. history by Wall Street and corporate America. And now, as the retirement assets of tens of millions of Americans are in question, an even larger number are caught up in the largest real estate bubble in our history. As we enter the two next decades, 76 million baby boomers will retire, most of them in poverty. Thus, the generation that was responsible for creating the greatest bull market in U.S. history may, through no choice of its own, also be the same group that causes an economic meltdown due to decades of government mismanagement, inadequate planning, and overconsumption. During this same time frame, many expect the global oil production is gradually decline due to what is known as the peak oil theory. Obviously, this has enormous consequences of its own.

Today, America is in the final preparatory stages that will lead to a massive economic meltdown resulting in the Next Great Depression, as over 46 million Americans already have no healthcare insurance, Social Security will be inadequate for the 76 million baby boomers who will retire over the next several years, energy prices will remain high for some time, and for the first time ever, Americans can no longer live with the comfort knowing that they are safe on their own soil. These issues will only get worse and when the appropriate triggers are set off, a domino effect will commence, sending the stock and bond markets into a downward spiral.

This book claims to represent the most detailed and exhaustive analysis of America's current and future economic plight, as well as that of its capital markets. Rather than making bold claims supported by scant data, this book makes use of several hundred figures, tables, and charts, as well as over 700 references to support the premise that a depression is inevitable for America. Finally, the final three chapters address economic and market risks and provide investment guidance and strategy for investors to position themselves to profit before and during America's next great depression.

hey westexas,howzit bro?

i have thought about what was the message of the elimination of M3. the only answer i can come up with, is they knew back then what they would have to do. they are doing it now.

Wikipedia says:

M0: The total of all physical currency, plus accounts at the central bank which can be exchanged for physical currency.

M1: M0 + the amount in demand accounts ("checking" or "current" accounts).

M2: M1 + most savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificate of deposit accounts (CDs) of under $100,000.

M3: M2 + all other CDs, deposits of eurodollars and repurchase agreements.

So if M3 is growing at a fast and faster rate, M2 growth is steady, and M1 growth is negative, it means that "all the other funny money" in M3 - repos, derivatives, etc is carrying the ball. Somehow this is not comforting.

Daily Times, Pakistan -

"After all, a collapse in oil prices would be a death sentence for several new energy technologies, and, not incidentally, would increase demand for oil." (And wouldn't that demand increase, if only it could be guaranteed against the possible demands for OTHER energy sources, bring prices back up?)

"So what would come next? Would politicians, with their perpetual fascination with ‘independence’, attempt to eliminate dependence one commodity at a time?"

and of course, it all weighs in at the temple of the marketplace..

"However much politicians who call for energy independence might prefer it otherwise, the market has chosen oil as a staple energy source."

Well good for the market.. is it possible that the market may change its mind when this staple comes unstapled?

I feel like I've been trying to have a casual conversation with my pusher about the various merits of rehab.

The new Pemex report is out giving Mexico's January oil production.

They recovered somewhat from the problems they had in December but January, Total Crude, is still 20,000 bp/d below November.

Pemex Total Crude (This is the figure reported by the EIA as C+C.)
Oct 3,173 tb/d
Nov 3,163
Dec 2,978
Jan 3,143


Ron Patterson

It looks like Mexico has been at 3.3 to 3.4 mbpd for 2003, 2004 and 2005. The net decline rate from 12/05 (3.4 mbpd) to 1/07 was about 7.4% per year. This would result in a 50% decline in production in 10 years.

As we have discussed, this decline--as predicted by Khebab--corresponded to Mexico crossing the 50% of Qt mark on Khebab's HL plot.

Of course, the problem that they are facing is the accelerating Cantarell crash. David Shields is predicting that Cantarell will decline from about 2.0 mbpd in 12/05 to 500,000 bpd in 12/08.

for those who haven't seen it J.D.Ligon's in your face take on china and the u.s., "ha,ha,ha, america". you'll laugh, you'll cry...or maybe you'll just laugh

dang, bad link. here's a good link to ha, ha, ha, america.

ha ha ha not so funny.
Me like low walmart price on Huffy Bike. Oh no my brother loose bicycle making job.
Me like low Bimart price on Microwave. Oh no cousin loose microwave building job.
Me like cheap prices on Harbor Frieght tools. Oh no uncle tool making job.
Me like watching B-Ball player earning millions, endorse Nike shoe products for millions. Oh no friend loose shoe making job.
Me no like look in mirror - made in china.
Me vote for automatic minimum wage increases. Oh no call center close down-move to India. My kid loose job.
Me buy play station 2, getting fat, buy healthclub membership.
Me buy big house cost big bucks to heat. Oh no price is rising.
Me buy big car cost big bucks to drive. Oh no price is rising.
Who do I blame...

my friend,pogo,tells me that we're to blame. i tend to agree with him.

Yes, I agree, but that isn't ussually how it works. Someone else will get blamed. My bets are on "illegal imigrants", the brown skined ones, that are easier to identify. If cantarell collaspes like they think it will this only make it worse for both sides. may we live in interesting times.

Give up chocolate or desserts for Lent? No, give up your car! Try auto-fasting.


Maybe not this week, after the 12-20 inches of snow now falling are in place. I don't read German, so I may be missing something, but the headline seems enough: are these people off their rockers? Sheesh, I thought Germany was far enough north to have winter - and a good winter ought to be enough to put paid to this sort of silliness. (I suppose it would be forgivable in September, by which time people have long forgotten about the last winter and aren't yet thinking of the next one.)

"However, for those of us campaigning on the climate change issue, we do need to have the peak oil question in mind, because irrespective of what we do about climate change, there is going to be an additional shock that’s going to be economically significant, IF NOT QUITE DANGEROUS (jokuhl's emphasis), coming from the oil price shooting up at some point in the not too distant future, very likely."

The Tony Juniper interview is a telling reminder that there are those who are focusing so intently on Climate, that their awareness of energy issues has not, necessarily, let them conclude that there would likely be signifigant real dangers involved in an energy shortfall, not just some 'price discomforts', not the least of which would be our capacity to re-engineer our various systems to preclude or handle these very climate problems. These weights are the two ends of the bolo that is winding around our necks..

Bob Fiske

From yesterday's Drumbeat, posted by Starship Trooper:

Your posting caught my eye because I was recently in a debate over the EIA being "experts" in ths stuff (gas and oil). My challenge to the "opposition" was to find something, anything, with regard to production of natural gas and oil where the EIA has actually gotten things "right." I can produce a very long stream of things they've gotten wrong.

My contention: in recent years is that the EIA does a great job (and service) in collecting and compiling data after the fact, but since about 1998 their ability to predict anything accurately concerning production and/or cost has been sorely lacking.


In Andrew Weissman's most recent commentary, he devotes the first six or seven pages to cataloguing EIA's emphatically wrongheaded predictions on natural gas price trends. Though I can't really recommend the rest of this very long article, the first quarter of it works well as one-stop shopping destination for this one purpose.


I don't think John Kenneth Galbraith had EIA in mind when he said: "If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error"

Can anyone recommend a good book on crude oil from a geological/chemical point of view? I want to learn and understand more of the science behind oils' formation and location.

Many thanks.

Some of the chapters in the following book would address the topic:

"Elements of Petroleum Geology" by Richard G. Selley

You can order it used on Amazon for about $50.

Deffeyes' first book is great for that, if you haven't read it.

I assume his second book is, too, but I haven't read it yet.

Thanks guys, i'm going to read up books on both authors.
The first book is quite expensive but I will still buy
as I'm trying to get as broad a knowledge as possible.


Saudi Aramco has discovered a new oil field southeast of Ghawar in the Eastern Province.

On Feb. 11, the Dirwazah-1 well tested oil in the Unayzah reservoir at 15,310 feet. The well flowed 3,915 barrels per day of oil with 11.9 million standard cubic feet of gas per day at 4,466 psi wellhead pressure on a 32/64 inch choke. Under normal production completion, the well is expected to flow at a higher rate.


So much for the assumption that all of Saudia Arabia's oil fields were discovered before the western oil companies left.

So much for the assumption that all of Saudi Arabia's oil fields were discovered before the western oil companies left.

I don't recall anyone making this assertion. What people have asserted is that most of the large fields have been found.

I'm developing several oil fields in Texas--35 years after we peaked--so Peak does not mean that we stop finding oil fields. It means that we generally can't offset the declines from the older, larger oil fields.

We know, with the exception of Ghawar, that every single oil field that is or was producing one mbpd or more is now in decline. We just can't confirm the Ghawar decline.

In any case, despite average monthly crude oil prices being about two-thirds higher than the average price 20 months prior to 5/05, world and Saudi crude oil production are--as predicted--declining.

So much for the assumption that all of Saudia Arabia's oil fields were discovered before the western oil companies left.

Alan, I don't recall anyone making that assumption. The Hawtha Trend fields were discovered in 1989, long after the Western oil companies left. However it is true that no significant find has been made since the sixties. And that is still true.

Despite the fact that Allah S. Al-Saif called the find "significant", 4,000 barrels per day is 0.025% (1/2,200) of Saudi's November production of 8.8 million barrels per day. Of course they may increase the flow rate somewhat. And of course they must lay 70 kilometers of pipeline across shifting sand dunes to reach the pipeline at Ghawar. That will be a chore in itself. But when they do then one out of every 2,200 barrels of oil Saudi produces will come from this field. A whole lot more such significant fids will be needed to make a difference however.

Ron Patterson

Alan: Good news. Now they only need to locate about another 200 of these fields.

West Texas is coming to Dallas today. The sky in Dallas is brown, as a pretty strong dust storm is blowing in.

A pretty scary book to read is the "Worst Hard Time," about the people that stayed in place during the Dust Bowl years in the Thirties.

If I recall correctly, one of the predictions in "Winds of Change" is that we would see more drought and higher winds in the plains area in the US.

Update: it literally looks like something out of "The Grapes of Wrath" outside my office window right now.

The linked article has a really good discussion of climatic instability as well as the difficulties abrupt climate change could inflict on the human race.

No comment on the delays in the Kashagan oil project? Perhaps a million barrels a day that won’t be produced in 2008-10.

Interesting...my mom mentioned this one last week (she was born during that time). Will have to check it out. Was the option to move to Costa Rica available then?

Going to be warm.

Hello Darwinian,

Welcome back from your vacation. Just in case you missed it, Jay Hanson released a PDF entitled, "Thermo/Gene Collision: On Human Nature, Energy, and Collapse".

Fifteen years, plus or minus ten years, is when I estimate anarchy will reign in the United States.

As you well know, Jay has an amazingly accurate predictive record.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hello totoneila,
Could you be more specific about Hanson's track record? I'm considering featuring his article on my blog and would like to mention how his past predictions have turned out. Thanks.

Seadragon, You can check it out for yourself. Jay started the website http://dieoff.org/ and twenty of the articles posted there were written by him, one of them dating back to 1996 and several from 1997.

You can scan through them and get an idea of his early ideas. For instance Jay was predicting peak oil ten years ago, years before any of us ever heard of it.

"A Peak Under the Covers", 1997.

Ron Patterson

Thank you Darwinian, I will do that.

I'm surprised there has been no discussion of the news the Eni, the Italian oil company, announced their huge Khazakstan project will cost much more and, more importantly, not begin producing until mid-2010, two years later than previously thought. Isn't this a fairly dramatic set-back to the global supply picture?

I agree, looks like major news to me. The dogma peddled by the EIA etc is that in the near term 2007-2012 we will move into a period of global oversupply as various big projects (including this one) come on stream. It certainly would seem to change the potential balance in work such as Chris's megaprojects summary - I look forward to his update.

Although they don't give initial figures (just a 2019 plateau figure of 1.5mbd) one would imagine their initial production projections for the now missed 2008-2010 period would have been several hundred thousand b/d - that's a significant amount of oil deducted from potential production over that period which would have contributed at least some coverage to the downward grind of depletion elsewhere.

What with delays happening at so many other projects it seems very unlikely that the next 5 years will be anything like a period of surplus (if you take out the mounting possibility of global recession whacking demand that is)

It's probably not a surprise to most here. IMO, this is one of the biggest problems with the "bottom-up" estimates. They assume all the future production will come online as scheduled. I do not think that assumption is in any way justified.

In fact this is one of the top 5 global projects which was due to come on stream in the next 5 years:


In 2004 the 1st phase was due to come into production in 2006 with a peak flow rate of 450,000bd. On this timetable phase 2 would have come online to give 900,000bd in 2008 and phase 3 giving 1.2mbd in 2010.

In last years megaprojects summary (see above) this had fallen back to 450,000bd from 2008.

Now phase 1 is to start from 2010 - so its leaves a reasonable dent in the new megaprojects coverage in the period 2008-2010. Who's to say it wont be delayed further?

By the way can anyone tell me if Buzzard in the North Sea is now fully on line and how much it is producing? TIA>

Only 300,000 barrels a day by early 2011, if oil workers are protected from the poisonous hydrogen sulphide vapors. No, I am not kidding:


Crikey! Thanks for that. It gets worse doesn't it? Sounds as though the CEO is trying to sweeten the pill by claiming higher eventual production (a long way down the line). He will be well out of the hot seat 12 years down the line so he maybe prone to flights of fancy about that aspect. Sounds as though this could turn out to be more an albatross around their neck than a phoenix.

Whoever coined the phrase 'the days of easy oil are over' wasn't kidding. I'd love to hear what CERA has to say about whats happening to this project.

Very glad to oblige! Will that be VISA or MasterCard, sir? :-)

I realize the following link points to a shameless investment advisory plug, however the claims it makes should be rebutted and I don't have the knowledge to do so. The claim is that full spectrum 4d seismic imaging will revolutionaize the E&P industry and cause oil prices to drop to $30 by 2009 (The oil still has to be there for that to happen so that is brazen misdirection). They also claim that it was the advent of 3d seismic that cause a major drop of oil prices in 1982.

Here is the link to the plug.
A link to a discussion of 4d at SPE
and a link to the company I believe they are touting in link #1

What fun!

From the first article, all you need to read is:

In the last 24 months, since the company started making noise with their 4D seismic technology, their stock price has gone up 126%.

I still haven't figured out what the 4th dimension is.

4th D: time?

Yup. And that means that the description of 4D in that spamlike first article is a bit off-target.

Not sure if you are aware that here in Toronto we have a gasoline shortage caused by the Imperial Oil refinery fire. 25% of Imperial (Esso) stations are dry which is drawing down stocks at competitors' stations.Prices are as high as $1.00 CDN a litre (I think that calculates as $3.88 US a gallon).

About 3.30 USD per US gallon (3.8L)
I heard a guy talking on radio today saying: "it isn't the price that concerns me but the availability" .. I think we will be hearing that more and more frome everywhere in the future. Most stations were about 96.9 to 98.9 today but I saw one (an ESSO north of London ON) at 1.01/L

gasbuddy to the rescue; use the zoomer:

Hello TODers,

Recent .gov press release towards SuperNafta?

United States Strengthens Ties with Canada, Mexico
Neighbors coming together through Security and Prosperity Partnership

Washington – Cross-border security threats and efforts to boost trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico were the focus of the February 23 meeting in Ottawa, Canada, of top officials from the three countries under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP).

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, head of the U.S. delegation, joined her Canadian counterpart and host, Foreign Minister Peter MacKay, and Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa in a series of discussions that will set the stage for a third SPP meeting with President Bush, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Felipe Calderón in Canada later in 2007.

Dissenting opinion:
Fears of Canada-Mexico superhighway driving U.S. critics loco

Are North American governments secretly conspiring to build a "NAFTA superhighway," four football fields wide, from Mexico to Canada, to bypass regulatory controls and whisk goods swiftly to market?

If you believe some right-wing websites in the United States, it's all but a fait accompli. They insist a gargantuan project is in the works that will carve a 365-metre-wide swath through the continent's heart, with 10 traffic lanes, rail lines for freight and passenger trains, fibre-optic cable lines and pipelines carrying oil, gas and water.

Conservative commentators Pat Buchanan and Phyllis Schlafly, and websites such as WorldNetDaily, link the supposed superhighway to the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), a series of agreements being negotiated among the United States, Canada and Mexico. They fear the SPP will lead to a North American union similar to the European Union, with a resulting loss of American sovereignty.

If you've never heard of the NAFTA superhighway, it may be because no such plan actually exists. The whole idea, one American official recently told a congressional committee, is an "urban myth."

But some remain unconvinced, in part because the largely secretive SPP process has created an information void that provides oxygen for conspiracy theorists.

Most SPP work is being done by 19 working groups that meet behind closed doors. The project only surfaces publicly when politicians from the three countries gather for periodic updates, like Friday's SPP ministerial meetings in Ottawa.

So far, anxiety about the purported NAFTA superhighway has been confined to the United States. Activists in Canada, by and large, don't quite know what to make of it, though the Sierra Club has expressed concern that NAFTA super-corridors could be used to pipe Canadian water to American markets.

Even the Council of Canadians, never shy about expressing alarm about anything that furthers "deep integration" with the U.S., declined comment. "We're trying to figure out what's going on, like everyone else," says spokesman Stewart Trew.

U.S. to Allow Mexican Trucks
Pilot Program Resolves Nafta Issue but Upsets Teamsters, Lawmakers

WASHINGTON -- Following a decade of dispute, the U.S. will open its highways to Mexican cargo trucks, in a move that could alter the economics of the domestic trucking industry and is already uniting some American lawmakers, unions and trucking companies to oppose the change.

The Transportation Department on Friday said it is starting a pilot program that could begin as soon as April that will allow 100 Mexican trucking companies unfettered access to U.S. roads. Under the program, both drivers and trucks must first pass certain safety checks designed and overseen by U.S. officials in Mexico. The program could eventually be expanded to include additional Mexican trucking firms.

If the trial succeeds, the U.S. trucking industry could change drastically. Mexican drivers are paid one-third to 40% less than their U.S. counterparts, who make an average of about $40,000 a year. An influx of Mexican truckers would be a boon for U.S. businesses with production lines in Mexico, by decreasing costs and delays from the current need to shift U.S.-bound goods at the border to American trucks from Mexican ones. According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. imported $198 billion of goods from Mexico in 2006.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Bob, check Stoneleigh's first headline yesterday, it's very revealing. See also the second article: "Is Mexican labour the answer for the oilsands?"

I scripted the link to go to my comment, but do see the original Globe and Mail article. And while you're at it, please note that the writer says this:

top politicians from all three countries meet in Ottawa to advance a continental security and prosperity partnership first struck in 2005

See that? There's no capitals. Even though the Security and Prosperity Partnership, SPP, is a known entity by now, it's published as if it were an accidental term.

This article is crucial, let it sink in. Why do we need Mexicans to work in Alberta, when Pemex needs all the help it can muster?

More Mexican labour needed in oil patch, executives say

Canada and Mexico should accelerate efforts to import temporary Mexican energy workers to alleviate the skills shortage in Alberta and other provinces as oil sands development ramps up, top North American CEOs will recommend today.

They will also call for Canada, the United States and Mexico to start work on harmonizing regulations and standards in three sectors: financial services, transportation, and food and agriculture, The Globe and Mail has learned.

The 30 chief executive officers make up the North American Competitiveness Council, formed last year to advise political leaders on strengthening economic ties between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

They're tabling a 63-page report with 51 recommendations today as top politicians from all three countries meet in Ottawa to advance a continental security and prosperity partnership first struck in 2005. They include U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Industry Minister Maxime Bernier.

Glad to see that 34 people are making decisions for 443,110,000 of us.

Too bad I can only indirectly vote for two of them.

If you recall from my numerous Foundation postings: all it takes is a small but secretive group to direct and optimize decline. Isaac Asimov detailed this a long time ago in his Foundation Series.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

The Canadians will not be impacted with a superhighway cutting through Canada, since approximately 70% of Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the US border. The highway will just stop within the border to unload goods. The US will be essientially cut in half by this highway, we will all ask each "hey what side of the superhighway do you live?" east? or west? It will cut counties and states into 2 pieces. It will be drastic to those impacted directly.

hey bob,

MT legislature is already rallying against SPP. a friend e-mails:

Rep. Diane Rice's HJ 25, to oppose the Security and Prosperity Partnership of
North America, has passed the House of Representatives on second reading,
93-5. Still has to pass the 3rd reading.

to see the bill language.

Hello Steverino,

Thxs for the link. It wil be interesting to see how this all plays out over time. Will some states accept SuperNafta willingly, or will it drive them toward legal Secession? Will the average American and Canadian accept a huge and cheap labor flood from Mexico when Pemex crashes? Or is the plan to create a huge slave class to push 150 million wheelbarrows? Will Canada realize how they are selling their children's future by exporting their resources so cheaply and in such large volumes south? If Canada withdraws from NAFTA, will Americans draft Mexicans to invade & fight up North? How many Canadians can survive if the US military drives them north of the Arctic Circle? If hyper-inflation takes off--can the Amero currency become the new fiat dollar? Will Mexico withdraw from NAFTA to hoard what FFs they have left? Would SuperNafta aid the creation of large biosolar habitats or would it work to prevent them in a postPeak world? Is the open borders plan to facilitate most of us becoming migratory with untold millions moving along the SuperNafta SuperHighway in response to the four Seasons? I don't have any answers.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than YEast?

Hello TODers,

Is the Grim Reaper getting ready to extend the Zimbabwe Syndrome to Zambia?

Zambia: The Impacts of Flooding on the Country

It is very clear that the flooding in Zambia will pause more challenges if not problems for this country. At the moment crops have been washed away threatening hunger in various parts next year.

At community level, there is very little being done to observe basic public health. The major source of cholera outbreaks are the crowded shanty townships. The situation there has been compounded by unplanned structures.

There is no sanitation to talk of while pit latrines sprout anyhow and anywhere with very little effort to manage them.
10,000 translated Humanure Handbooks would be of great benefit to this country. Will North Americans learn in time, or will we create nationwide: massively unhealthy superbowl latrines like the LA superdome again?

NRDC weblink: Swimming in Sewage
The Growing Problem of Sewage Pollution and How the Bush Administration Is Putting Our Health and Environment at Risk

Bush budget cuts Great Lakes funds
$688M request for national sewage fund is $578M less than 2004

The Bush Administration and Congress have whittled away money for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's national Clean Water State Revolving Fund in each of the last few years.

That fund is the main source of federal money that states use to help municipalities finance sewer projects, including Toledo's unprecedented $450 million in sewage improvements due to be phased in by 2015.

This is occurring across the country. Buy your hipwaders, water filters, and strong disinfectants while you can.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Khebab or anyone want to comment on these numbers (below)from yesterday in an article by Vaclav Smil? My guess is he is using all liquids. The graphs khebab posted Jan 15 seem to tell a different story, but they are month to month, rather than full year. I would guess 2005 had a couple of bad months because of storms.

"Well, the numbers for 2006 are in. And they show that even after OPEC once again cut its production (by 1.2 million barrels a day effective November 1, 2006) in order to arrest yet another rapid fall in prices, the global oil supply for the entire year rose once again, by about 0.85 million barrels a day. That is about 42 million metric tons a year, or more than the annual output of Oman or nearly twice the annual extraction in Azerbaijan, a major oil power on the Caspian Sea. But once we take into account the need to replace worldwide reserve depletion (currently amounting to more than one million barrels a day) this means that some 2 million barrels of new oil found their way on the global market, an equivalent of adding a bit more than UK's entire North Sea production or Iraq's annual extraction."

Hello TODers,

Who is killing Putin's enemies?


Hopefully, the TODers in Europe will give their viewpoints on this.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Putin, Putin's goons, or Businessmen/Mobsters dependent on Putin

How is Az?

Hello Oilrig Medic,

How is AZ? Well, it appears the operators of the nation's largest nuclear facility at Palo Verde have been in a "state of denial". The NRC lowered their safety rating to just above a forced shutdown--which provides power for approx 4 million homes:


Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Who is killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians? Bush and his goons.

If they run, they are VC...If they don't run, they are well disciplined VC.

Interesting. This article states that 13 journalists were killed while (I have seen this turned into 133 in some newspapers) as if they were all enemies of Putin. Paul Khlebnikov was a serious critic of Boris Berezovsky. When the groups and journalists who regularly engage in lame conspiracy theories about Putin even *bother* to mention gangster Berezovsky's motives then they *may* have some credibility. Some of those 13 journalists died in regional towns where they were reporting on corruption. Putin was not an issue in these cases since Putin did not create the corrupt mess, that was Yeltsin's responsibility. Putin does not depend on regional corruption to stay in power and unlike Yeltsin he has actually reversed its progression. Read Khlebnikov's book, Godfather of the Kremlin, for a picture of Russia in the 1990s and the disaster that was "shock therapy reform". To attribute this criminal mess to Putin is beyond obscene.

The article you link to is rather absurd to somebody who has more than a cursory knowledge of the issues involved. It is actually trying to make it look like crime and corruption have increased after 2000. Nobody in the west will understand why Putin is popular in Russia if all they get is this sort of propaganda. For the average Russian, the standard of living has increased at the same time as crime and corruption have decreased (these processes go together).

Politkovskaya was very prominent, mostly in the west, a few years ago and had faded together with the war in Chechnya. Since this article engages in speculation and insinuation let's follow their standard: what is the motive to kill her now? Revenge? Surely not to shut her up since nobody stopped her reporting everything she felt like saying before. However, her death is quite useful to smear Russia and help oil the rebirth of the new cold war. It is sad to see people reading this junk and buying into it. Very similar to all the acceptance of the cornucopian drivel spewed by the MSM about energy.

You'll have to ask Jerome a Paris at TOD Europe. No doubt he'll tell you it's all a wicked plot by the west to defame Russia and blacken Putin's name.........

Poor west, it is always under attack from the truth. All the focus on Putin and his nothing country (at least this is what the MSM have spent the last 15 years drilling into the credulous heads of their audience) just when the west's torch bearer USA is screwing over Iraq and screwing its image. Hmmm, I wonder why. Funny how all the lemmings keep on believing the "gospel" of the MSM even after the WMD lie and the endless repetition of the Pavlovian trigger phrase "axis of evil". Now this MSM is busy paving the way for the war on Iran. Why don't you, andyh, sign up for the war on Iran and then the war on Russia. It is your manifest destiny to teach all us foreign evil-doers all about your precious values.

Jeez I thought apologists for Russian strong man tactics had all died out a few years ago.........

You make one heck of a jump in guessing my position viz the MSM, the West etc based on the above comment. Hasty or just testy?

The Gruniard (as its fondly known to its UK readers and the source of the Putin story) is not generally held up as being one of the pillars of the military industrial establishment, but then I guess unlike its predecessor in the 1930s its becoming concerned about the potential rise of an authoritarian strong man in Russia, who doesn't seem that keen on grass roots democracy. I can assure you they have spent sufficient time elsewhere on attacking the failings of the western democracies, so all power to them for seeking an even handed approach. Something to be learned here perhaps?

Iran to Open Euro-based Petroleum Exchange Soon

Wonder if Iran's new Petroleum Exchange using Euros will be a threat to the value of the US dollar?

How will the US respond to this new Petroleum Exchange?


Iran oil bourse to open soon

Sun, 25 Feb 2007 00:39:13
Iran's petroleum exchange will begin operation in the near future, said the secretary of the country's High Council for Free Trade and Industrial Zones on Saturday.

Mahmud Salahi said Iran decided to establish a euro-based oil bourse on the Persian Gulf island of Kish, because "there was no such oil trading body in the region."

"Iran's oil bourse could help many countries transact petroleum under more favorable conditions," he said.

He did not say when exactly the bourse would open.

The official also said that senior officials from the Oil Ministry and the Kish Free Trade Zone Organization (KFTZO) will meet with members of the Majlis (Iran's parliament) Energy Commission in the near future to discuss issues related to making the groundbreaking project operational.

Salahi said the KFTZO and a number of other Iranian bodies have made large investments in the project.

The oil bourse would transact petroleum, petrochemicals and gas in various non-dollar currencies, primarily the euro. It would also establish a euro-based pricing mechanism for oil trading, or oil marker as it is called by traders.

The three current oil markers are all U.S.-dollar denominated.

The two major oil bourses are the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) in New York City and the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) in London. The Iranian bourse would establish a fourth oil marker, denominated by the euro.


This story seems to have been doing the rounds forever (well at least 18 months that I recall). It never seems to quite come to fruition though. Maybe this time.

The Iranian oil bourse ranks right up there with "the Russians have drilled ultra deep wells, are are sitting on trillions of barrels of abiotic oil, but won't let the world know because it would drop the price to a dollar a barrel", and
"The Trilateral Commision is taking over the world!".

I am so glad we had a few dozen posts explaining the truth about hunter gatherers though. Coming a day after a great leading illustration in technicolor of a Sabre Tooth Tiger attacking a Wooly Mammoth, we are achieving that great "cutting edge of technology" feel....:-)

Roger Conner
Remember we are only one cubic mile from freedom

Folks, do not forget about our fellow energy bloggers at Wall Street Journal,


After a nice burst of "energy" (pun intended) I have noticed the traffic has dropped off some there, and we want to show WSJ that folks care enough about this topic to make a blog there worth doing....it gives us a chance to preach to more than just the choir on this stuff :-), and maybe even catch the ear of some fo the PTB in the financial community....

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

I just posted a couple things...wow...it's rather easy to post there...no sign up or anything.

I think it would go a long way for each of us to take time out to put in some comments over there.

This is really a unique opportunity to turn up the awareness dial a few notches.

It was a good excuse to have some fun writing senryu.

Unfortunately, someone configured their software so that you cannot insert paragraph breaks.  Worse, there's no preview to see how badly they munged your formatting.  What was a model of clarity can read like mud after their filters are done with it.

OK. You convinced me to drop a comment in their box as well.

Who's next?

Pemex has announced that 2006 All Liquids supply was 3.7 mb/d (2.0% less than 2005), confirming the TOD-Europe feature segment that recent MSM reports of Mexican production decline are grossly exaggerated. Congrat's Eaun!

January's 3.6 mb/d supply rate is significant in deterioration only when one compares it with 3.7 mb/d back in September 2006. The danger in microanalysing monthly figures is again obvious: *false conclusions*



I am not generally prone to write much on economic matters, such as the so called “housing bubble” followed by the so called “housing collapse” (gee, just as darkness follows day, isn’t it amazing how that works?), firstly, because (a) I am obviously not an economist, and (b) I will be discussing the issue with folks who (b) obviously not economists. However, the constant stream of posts here on TOD show that the housing and mortgage issue is something of a fixation here, so I thought I would like to use the only asset I have, my gray hair and the years of watching these things come and go, to just pass a few comments, more for my own education and enjoyment than to sway the opinions of anyone else.

First, let us agree on some general terms and historical overview, if we are able:

(a)Does anyone here not believe that the housing market was overheated and showing all the signs of a speculative bubble at least throughout the period of the last 1990’s-early 2000’s? Because the premise of my views are based on the premise that the housing market was in fact overdone, and is still being overbuilt and the product overpriced to speculative investment.
(b) Does anyone here not believe that there must be an upper limit to the number of houses/condos/townhouses that are needed by people in the U.S., and there must be an upper limit to the price they can pay?
(c) Do not these facts lead one to believe that there must be some type of leveling and then decline in the housing market, both in houses/condos?townhouses built, and in the price that these properties can sell for?
(d) Does anyone here doubt that energy has an effect on the ability of people to pay large mortgages or their willingness to continue to take large risks in real estate investment of what ever type in that it pulls a greater share of money out of the pocket of potential real estate investors?
(e) Does anyone old enough to remember the 1970’s agree with my premise that these are exactly the same conditions that we saw in the collapse of the American real estate market, followed by the collapse of the S&L industry in the late 1970’s early 1980’s?

Now we get to the more controversial stuff....I will simply pose some questions...
(f) Do we accept the premise that the United States did in fact survive the 1970’s/’80’s housing and S&L collapse?
(g) Do we accept that the 1970’s housing collapse did not in fact demonstrate (1) Peak oil (2) The collapse of the American currency (3) The End Of The World As We Know It? (4) Fascism overtaking America (5) or impending social collapse (in fact, the period of the late 1960’s/early ‘70’s was much more chaotic socially)?
(h) Do we agree this time, however, that things could be different, and we may indeed be at the point of (1) Peak oil (2) The collapse of the American currency (3) The End Of The World As We Know It? (4) Fascism overtaking America (5) or impending social collapse?
(i) Do we also agree however that the housing market, already admittedly in the late stages of a speculative bubble, would not be a reliable indicator to tell us if any of the above is in fact now at hand?

So, what are we waiting for?

If we are assuming we are at the point of the bursting of the speculative bubble in housing (which historically, how all speculative bubbles end) then we are awaiting complete capitulation. This is the point at which NO ONE will jump into a speculative mortgage (more on that in a moment) and everyone agrees that the housing market is so overbuilt that housing prices can only go DOWN (inverse of the prior 10-15 years, in which it was agreed by all that the prices of townhouses/houses/condos could only go UP.

Are seeing complete capitulation? You folks tell me what you think, but I don’t think we are anywhere near it yet.

Oh sure, there are books starting to appear, such as the quoted one,

America's Financial Apocalypse: How to Profit from the Next Great Depression
by Mike Stathis (Paperback - Oct 7, 2006)

(Notice the uncanny echo of the books of the early 1980’s,
“Howard J. Ruff’s How to Prosper In the Coming Bad Times”, interestingly written just before the greatest 20 year period in investing and economic history in the U.S.!)

However, all the evidence I am able to see tell me that we are not yet near capitulation, the pain will have to get much worse.
In Kentucky, we are still building houses/townhouses/condos like crazy, in a market in which only a decade or so ago, most Kentuckians did not even know what a condo or townhouse was!

It is important to recall that the population of Kentucky has not gone up substantially in the last 10 years, and that most folks had homes before then....so where is the market coming from? This is something else new to Kentucky....”speculation” real estate. I know a retired school teacher who owns six rental units. I know a clerk/supervisor at a local business who owns a condo on the East Coast (I am not making this up, folks!), I know of a local lakefront development that has sold 4 housing units to the same family, as a man has talked himself, a daughter, a brother, and his own wife into separate homes, on the premise that they will only go up.
On paper, so far, they have been right....in the case of one unit, they could have sold this last summer, at $180,000 up on the unit!
But they did not....because they are going to go higher, no need to rush out.....

Why is this important? Because there are many people who are not heavily leveraged in the house they live in (the person mentioned above who owns the East Coast condo owns his own home on several acres outright....bought and paid for).

These people will lose the “paper wealth” they hoped to achieve, NOT the home they live in. Once more, they will have failed at “beating the market”. (where have we heard that before, maybe the stock market run up, or the silicone valley crash, or the “euro currency” boom, or the commodities boom?)

Now some will have come out very well, if they got in at the early stage and got out early....the “greater fool” method of investing. But it is the “last in, last out” who will be hit hardest, probably losing some money after the costs/fees/taxes/expenses are taken out. Remember, these are folks who only a few years ago, knew nothing about the whole idea of “speculation” real estate, until the great bubble makers, the brokers and investment sales types, clued them into the latest “beat the market” scheme.

Of course, for the average schmoe who just wants a house to live in, this will be a good thing, as the market is filled with townhouses/condos/houses at a more realistic price. Again, a lot like the 1970’s. The greatest killer in the investment game is the idea that “this time, it’s different”. More times than not, it isn’t. But, you never know, do you, it just may be....this time.....are you willing to bet your retirement on it?

What have we missed? Ohhhhh, the energy price. Now, of course we have seen high gas prices, and heating/cooling costs have went up. But as percentage of total income, how much? Let me pose it as a question: James Howard Kunstler aside, does anyone here really believe that the recent run up we have seen in energy costs has driven people out of their homes? Has it been great enough, long enough to do that? If that is the issue, why are they still able to drive around in vehicles that get a half to a third the fuel mileage they could be getting by a simple trade in?

Again, I can only go with what I see....my friends with the lakefront property and the East Coast condo’s are still driving about in a nice mix of SUV’s, Pickups, and German luxury cars....and show no sign of having to give them up just yet....and for the moment, are still holding on to the “speculative real estate”.
We will see which they give up first.

Roger Conner Jr.

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

We MAY see a coincident decline in housing (bubble burst), skyrocketing energy prices AND a severe recession.

Posit today's economy with $28 natural gas and $160 oil (oil must maintain a 6x NG price other than short periods). However, the real estate building boom is what ended the last recession should start the next recession as it stops.

What other parts of the economy today are growing fast enough to offset the loss of building and related jobs ? Wind turbines, yes, but they are still too small to offset housing. And oil & gas drilling is another, too small, offset. Nothing else that I can see.

A hot summer and cold winter will see shortages and North American NG prices skyrocket. $28 is well within range. Our NG prices can help drag oil prices up via substitution (which may be tight with Mexican, North Sea, Saudi and other depletion). Increased US demand for oil to substitute for NG will only drive prices up. "Fear" is an investment mode that reappears periodically.

Which way will the Fed go ? If inflation kicks up, real estate may not have been a bad investment. However, the Fed has nothing but bad choices in such a situation. Unemployment (whether 9%, one Fed choice short term) or 12% (another Fed short term choice)) will increase fear and foreclosures.

About this time, I want my investments in oil & gas and (not or) in nations that will do reasonably well post-Peak Oil. Diversity in a group of investments that will do "OK" post-Peak Oil (under some scenarios) is the best path IMHO.

Depending on the scenario, there will be a support level for US real estate at some point. In the 1930s it was at about 12% of 1929 values. I could see the US having a support level below that of 1936 (inflation adjusted). Too many "must sell" sellers vs. too few people with ready cash willing to take a risk on real estate that may have no value in a post-Peak Oil world.

I think you are wrong in taking $60 oil & $8 NG and saying "everything is all right" and then extrapolating to significantly higher prices in the future and saying "everything will not be too bad". Everything is not linear in economic response.

Best Hopes,


Roger and Alan...
Many questions about circumastances.
When did we move off the gold standard? Back then in 29 it was gold, wasn't it 34 when we moved off the gold standard. Today the fed is printing paper money - easily increased/decreased. Our latest recovery is from building, fueled by low interest rates and "housing ATM" spending. I think we are heading for problems as this changes.

IMO the Fed is clearly in a "catch 22". The fed stimulated the economy from the last recession with unbelievably low rates. What was the discount rate 1/4 of 1%? They almost ran out of room to move. Take it absurdly (slightly) farther and you would be at the point of paying people to borrow money. It was surprizingly close to 0%. I think this point gets lost on so many people because things have improved. This was very, very strong stimulation, hence the housing boom...
How willing will the rest of the world be to fund our debt. without getting agreater return for two reasons 1) with increasing money supply(the missing M3) you have to get a greater reurn to offset the Feds intentional decline in value. 2) The risk of a world decline in the value of the dollar. I think you see this in other countries valueing oil in currencies other than the dollar. The dollar/sterling has changed from 1.34 US /1 s. to 1.95US /1 s in @5 years. Same with the canadian dollar as well. Gold, silver, copper, etc. etc..
So what is the fed going to do?
1)Cut rates to stimulate the economy? Making saving ($) worse and increasing prices of other assets. Creating inflation(?)
2)Raise rates to satisfy investor concerns with returns on invested ($) in debt? Raising the cost, and decreasing the ability, of people's ability to borrow and spend. Didn't we just spend our way to recovery?

I'm not so sure the fed has (good) options at this point. The history of paper money(s) would tell us they will print money (which they are).
May we live in interesting times...


Both you and Alan make a strong point....that being the reduction of interest rates to an almost unbelievably low level after 9/11 to retain the life of the economy and avoid a major recession then.

With both (a) the need to offer external investors a better return and (b) the need to hold growth to at least a realistic level, the bet has to be that the interest rates will rise, and we will try to "meter" the slowdown into a soft landing.

It must be rememebered that interest rates can still rise by almost record increase for the period time discussed compared to historical periods of the same time span and we still would be below historical interest rates compared to the1970's and far below interest rates endured by other nations.

It would however almost certainly brake the housing bubble for awhile, but many in the fed almost surely see that as needed and unavoidable in any event......as an old car salesman I once knew used to say, "take your beatin' and get it over with...." :-)

Remember we are only one cubic mile from freedom

Yes interest rates can rise and probably will(are). I remember the days of 18% interest, wage and price controls...yikes. "take your beatin' and get it over with..." I think this is in the cards...

One cubic mile is alot of energy!!!


Alan said,
"I think you are wrong in taking $60 oil & $8 NG and saying "everything is all right" and then extrapolating to significantly higher prices in the future and saying "everything will not be too bad". Everything is not linear in economic response."

Alan, I hope that was not exactly the impression I left...:-)

First, right now, I do not feel that "everything is o.k.", for the simple reason that I think we are already behind schedule on massive mitigation efforts to reduce fuel consumption. Even if you assume that peak may still be some years away, these efforts will not be easy, nor fast to implement (I am going with the "Hirsch assumptions" on this), and we need to reduce our imported fuel consumption simply for geo-political and greenhouse gas reasons if nothing else....

On "everything will not be too bad", it's impossible to know, you said it exactly correctly with the line "Everything is not linear in economic response."

On th other side, I do think that it is possible to overreact, and throw out wildly outragous doom scenarios, based on what we all knew had to happen....that being the correction in the housing market and a rationalization in the whole investment arena after two decades of the largest expansion in history. The correction HAD to come, energy issues or not, and the energy issues can and probably will exacerbate them to at least some extent. We should be careful about throwing around wild scenarios of hoards of refugees from the suburbs however, as it undercuts the message I think is more important: The need for rational change, and the need for caution in assuming any one scenario is certain to come to pass.

Roger Conner
Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

Car free days:

Those 4 car free days in November/December 1973 in Germany - mentioned in an earlier post - actually resulted from Sunday driving bans enforced by police. Tankers failed to arrive in Rotterdam in the required numbers after the OPEC embargo, triggered by the Jom Kippur war.

Very soon, we'll see again a discussion about how to solve the problem of physical petrol and diesel shortages. Market forces (=higher prices at the bowser) may not necessarily lead to an optimal distribution of scarce resources. Just consider this: high income earners gas-guzzling around in fuel hungry 4WDs on fun rides while tradesmen who need their truck to move materials and tools could go empty or can't afford the gas. There will be no way around some sort of a quota system, maybe even combined with a cap on price increases otherwise inflation will kill the economy.

Already in 2005, the IEA organised a workshop entitled: how to save fuel in a hurry


I have read the IEA document you link and it is a good one, and shows that pretty radical reductions in fuel consumption are at least possible if a real emergency situation were to prevail. It is interesting reading.

On your other point "Just consider this: high income earners gas-guzzling around in fuel hungry 4WDs on fun rides while tradesmen who need their truck to move materials and tools could go empty or can't afford the gas."

Exactly correct, and that is why I have said for a long time that it is so hard to get conservation efforts to take hold among the "blue collar" folks.

As long as they see the prosperous riding around like always, in comfortable cars, boats and planes, and living in large homes and apartments, the whole "cut back" movement just seems like another form of elitism, i.e., "you conserve, so I can drive." I must tell you that people newly arriving to the whole "peak oil" discussion, friends of mine, have accused the whole movement of being elitist in this way, and a visit to a "peak oil" gathering does nothing to assuage this concern, as one sees nice cars and SUV's in the parking lot, and a gathering of generally prosperous suburbanites, who seem very concerned about other peoples energy use....

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom