DrumBeat: May 15, 2007

Can Capitalism Be Green?

Capitalism has proven to be environmentally and socially unsustainable, so future prosperity will have to come from a new economic model, say some experts. What this new model would look like is the subject of intense debate.

One current states that continuous growth can be environmentally compatible if clean and efficient technologies are adopted, and if economies leave behind production of material goods and move towards services. This is known as sustainable prosperity.

Brian Czech, president of the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, a Washington, DC economic think tank, disagrees:
The idea that growth can be sustainable by dematerialisation is "nonsense", in Czech's opinion. Producing services requires use of natural resources like energy and the money generated will be used to buy something.

"Neoclassical economists at the World Bank, USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) and elsewhere continue to believe there are no limits to growth," Czech says.

Frontier Refining is shut down now, but a $105 million project going on behind the scenes has made it a work zone

"At the end of the whole process, we will have a plant that's been inspected and refurbished, and repaired and good for reliable and safe operation for another period of time," he said.

..."We will also have additional capacity to convert heavy oil into gas and diesel," he said.

While that won't increase the output of the plant, it will lessen the amount of asphalt the refinery produces.

Connecticut - GOP: Suspend Gas Tax

Legislative Republicans said today they will try to amend as many bills as possible in the final weeks of the session to suspend Connecticut's 25-cent-per-gallon state gasoline tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Jet fuel shortage averted at Yellowknife airport

Midnight Petroleum's resupply arrived after the Merv Hardie ferry crossing at Fort Providence opened for the season. The company's supply of jet fuel had dipped so low last week that fuel was being rationed and pilots told to fly into Yellowknife with their own fuel cache.

Imperial Oil, which supplies Midnight Petroleum, blamed last week's fuel shortage on the Mackenzie ice crossing at Fort Providence closing a week earlier than expected this year. The fuel was stuck on the other side of the Mackenzie River.

Hercules Offshore Responds to Unrest in Nigeria

Hercules Offshore said that it is taking precautionary measures with its liftboat operations in Nigeria because of the current unrest arising out of the recently held local and national elections and the resulting decision of its customer, Chevron Nigeria Ltd., to temporarily cease certain operations to protect the safety of personnel. In response to the unrest, Hercules has developed a security plan with Chevron. Under the plan, Hercules Offshore will evacuate all non-essential expatriate personnel from Nigeria. Hercules Offshore will also move ten liftboats currently operating for Chevron to a more protected area in Nigeria and temporarily cease operating those vessels.

The changing face of oilsands mining

The landscape of the oilsands mining sector is rapidly changing, and so too is the technology to process the tons of ore. Oilsands operators can now choose a new mining technology – mobile crushing - to use at their mine sites, depending on a number of factors. As part of its next expansion – Voyageur South – Suncor has announced it will start to replace some of its truck and shovel fleet with these mobile units.

China's oilfield of dreams

The discovery of a large oilfield in Bohai Bay off northern China is of great significance for Beijing's oil-security strategy, which is the key to sustaining the country's economic development. No wonder Premier Wen Jiabao said he was so excited upon learning the news that he could not get to sleep that night.

Five Leaders Make Caspian Energy Security Agreement

Leaders from five European and Caspian Sea nations agreed Saturday to work together on energy security issues and on a possible extension to Poland of a pipeline carrying Caspian oil.

Petroecuador Plans to Militarize Oil Ops

Ecuador's state oil company Petroecuador plans to sign an agreement next week with the nation's armed forces to protect all oil production operations in the country, Petroecuador said in a statement.

The agreement aims to stop theft, the cutting of secondary pipelines and other attacks faced by Petroecuador's production subsidiary Petroproduccion.

Russia: where's it heading in nuclear?

The civil nuclear industry of post-Soviet Russia has been beset with funding problems. Now, with the overhaul of the industry, is the country’s new build programme realistic?

Russia's Energy Strategy

To be globally competitive Russia needs a viable energy strategy The issue of energy security continues to dominate Russia's agenda. In his annual address to parliament, President Putin stressed this topic, too. While highlighting Russia's role as the world's largest oil producer in 2006, Putin lamented the sluggish pace of developing the nation's refining industry, which lags behind world leaders. Questioning Russia's ability to extract the maximum value out of its natural resources, Putin ordered the government to develop a set of measures intended to stimulate growth of the domestic refining sector.

Part I: Planning for a Climate-Changed World

As the global picture grows grimmer, states and cities are searching for the fine-scale predictions they need to prepare for emergencies--and to keep the faucets running.

The Chrysler Challenge: Embrace Fuel Efficiency

German automaker Daimler announced that it was selling Chrysler, at a rock-bottom price, on the same day that retail gasoline prices hit a record high: $3.07, on average, according to the Automobile Association of America. The timing of these two events was coincidental, but it underscores the challenges facing Chrysler and other U.S. automakers: how to transition from the Age of the SUV to the Age of the Prius, the popular hybrid car made by Toyota.

Rigged to Blow - Kunstler

Last week, a reader sent me an elaborate Powerpoint show put together by a Peak Oil "optimist," someone who believes that there are vast recoverable reserves of oil waiting to be be tapped out there – as opposed to those like myself who don't think new supply will offset declines in the known oil fields of the world. It seemed to me that most of this optimist's case was based on the fantasy that the tar sands of Alberta and the oil sands of the Venezuelan jungle will make up for what we no longer get out of places like Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, Cantarell in Mexico, West Texas, and the other old standbys.

Saudi and Kuwaiti butane and propane prices increased by 30 dollars a ton

The increase in the prices of the two liquefied gas products is attributed to the prevailing high crude oil prices, which hover at 60 dollars a barrel and to difficulties in meeting demand on the part of petrochemical producers, as well as to supply side tightness.

New gas pains: where is it all leading?

To a lesser extent, the term "peak oil" is popping up in a surprising number of conversations these days. Google gives you almost five million hits on the term in under a second. The idea is that we're running out of cheap oil, and as it gets more expensive to extract, it becomes harder and harder to keep up with demand. The price climbs. Shortages are the norm. Gas-out may take on a whole new meaning.

US government fans homeland terrorism fear: Washington consensus plans for martial law, nuclear terror holocaust, behind closed doors

This rhetoric coincides with a larger effort on the part of elite policy shapers to manufacture, and sell, a nightmare scenario to an American public that is beginning to distrust its government, at the very moment that the real possibility of a resource-depleted post-Peak Oil American dystopia, the decline of the American empire, is beginning to hit home in earnest.

What Glows In the Dark

The problem I find with apocalyptic visions of life after oil is that they forget one small thing--human ingenuity...

In a nutshell, peak oil is going to drive us into the future whether we like it or not. The tricky part is figuring out what's on the energy horizon. And better still, how to profit from it. One of the rising successors to oil's throne is nuclear energy...

Iraq and Big Oil

The reason we went to war in Iraq was not to get their oil, but to stop them from producing oil. Peak oil is a myth. I’ll have to admit it was an idea that I once believed until I found out that the oil companies wrote the report that founded the idea of peak oil. The cold unvarnished truth is that Cheney and his Big Oil friends have manipulated this war from its inception until now, all to increase oil profits.

Panel: Climate change will hurt Africa

Global warming isn't just a matter of melting icebergs and polar bears chasing after them. It's also Lake Chad drying up, the glaciers of Mt. Kilimanjaro disappearing, increasing extreme weather, conflict and hungry people throughout Africa.

Logistically, Liz has a vision

The scope of the problem is very big, with climate change and the looming prospect of peak oil [supply]. Freight is also very reliant on road transport, so if we run out of petrol suddenly, what do we do?

Gas prices hit a new record at the pump

Gasoline prices hit a new record at the pump on Monday, but gas futures prices fell on concerns that $3 gas will crimp demand. Oil prices, meanwhile, rose on reports of refinery problems in the U.S. and abroad.

The average national price of a gallon of gas hit $3.073 on Monday, up almost a penny from Sunday's also record-setting price, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Gasoline is now well above the previous record of $3.057, set on Sept. 5, 2005, soon after Hurricane Katrina.

Traditional production unfit for half of Kuwait's oil reserves

More than half of Kuwait's oil reserves will not be produced through cheap traditional methods, Deputy Director General of the Kuwait Institution for Scientific Research (KISR) Dr. Nader Al-Awadhi said yesterday. Kuwait's oil reserves are estimated at about 95 billion barrels, among the biggest worldwide. Most production, if not all, is being produced through traditional methods, Al-Awadhi told a KISR workshop on "Managing Carbon Dioxide for Improving Oil Production" that started yesterday.

He expected that the traditional methods would produce 45 billion barrels, but could not be used for the rest (i.e. 50 billion barrels). Thus, emerges the necessity of developing new feasible environment-friendly methods for producing heavy oils, he said adding that oil production operations over the past years had focused on light oil.

OPEC sees ample crude stocks to cover demand

OPEC said on Tuesday that crude oil inventories were more than enough to cover fuel demand during the peak summer travel season, rebuffing calls from consumers for more supply.

The monthly report from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries also showed members were keeping a lid on supply, despite a rise in prices to above $66 a barrel from about $50 in January.

Qaeda Suspects Planned Attacks on Saudi Oil

Four suspected al Qaeda members arrested in Saudi Arabia last year had planned to attack the kingdom's oil facilities and other Gulf Arab oil producers, they said in confessions shown on Saudi television on Tuesday.

Saudi police arrested the four in April last year in connection with a failed attack two months earlier on Abqaiq, the country's biggest oil-gathering facility.

Conoco oil project slammed with huge tax bill

Venezuela said Friday it had levied the largest tax bill in the nation's history on an oil project led by ConocoPhillips, the lone holdout in President Hugo Chavez's oil nationalization crusade.

Venezuela nationalizes foreign oil rigs

The Venezuelan government of firebrand President Hugo Chavez said Monday it was taking control of oil rigs from multinational firms, in the latest of a wave of nationalizations.

With the consumption of oil exceeding new finds the Peak Oil crisis is almost upon us

The growth in oil demand now exceeds the rate of new discovery - meaning a looming crisis for the industrial world!

Bush: Air quality changes will take time

President Bush responded Monday to a Supreme Court ruling by ordering federal agencies to find a way to begin regulating vehicle emissions by the time he leaves office.

US: New Russian gas deal bad news for Europe

A pipeline deal signed at the weekend by Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, giving Russia access to gas from the Caspian Sea, is bad news for Europe, US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said here on Monday.

"Europe needs to diversify its energy sources and Europeans should take due note of this," Bodman told a press conference during a meeting of the International Energy Agency.

Arguments in federal gas mileage suit

Lawyers for 11 states and several environmental groups told a federal appeals court Monday that the Bush administration failed to consider global warming when setting new gas mileage rules.

Bush vies to wean US off foreign oil

President George W. Bush, facing mounting disquiet about global warming and sky-high fuel prices, Monday ordered his government to slash America's dependence on foreign oil.

They ran our SHPEGS project on the mainpage of SlashDot last night.

There is also this related Shrinking Cost of Solar Thermal Article.

Do you have a Site Meter? If so, how much traffic did that bring in? How have the technical comments from the SlashDotters been generally supportive?

Slashdot has a lot of "first-post" comments that come in without reading the article. This is the 3rd time they have run something on the project, and although the comments aren't really negative, the value comes in in about a week when people with a real interest have read through all the information and thought about the idea for a while.

There is a lot of "it's not obvious until someone points it out" in a simple system and everyone has their own agenda, but since I improved the presentation materials and references, I really don't get much negative feedback. A small prototype has to be built to move forward.

Day Visits Pages Hits Bandwidth
07 May 143 750 2346 161.47 MB
08 May 164 616 3951 203.33 MB
09 May 493 1494 7476 641.40 MB
10 May 181 567 3098 300.14 MB
11 May 151 566 3658 335.37 MB
12 May 89 497 2965 294.59 MB
13 May 164 670 4465 368.93 MB
14 May 1863 10709 40518 3.10 GB
15 May 5255 29803 108976 8.04 GB

Back in January, it ended up being about 12,000 unique visits from the Slashdot article.

That's interesting. Back in the day Slashdot used to be worth 10,000 unique visitors in the first hour, tailing off depending on what other stories came along later. I saw that on a story we had posted. If they are really down at <5000 they must really have been hit by the Diggs and Reddits of this world.

check the alexia rankings, they tell the tale of the largely non technical audience.

the non-techies have gone to digg.

I still find reddit useful and interesting, mainly because the links all go back to the main stories.

Slashdot, inflammitory headlines/summaries, excellent community, excellent posts.

Digg exicitory headlines, horrible community, horrible posts

reddit typically accurate headlines, multiple submissions of similar stories(++ in my opinion), no comments in general

The higest impact will always probably be digg, as it is the lowest-common-denominator of the interet. Nothing wrong with that, however it has a definite audience.

Some of it is due to saturation and I get away with it because the project is not-for-profit and steam-punk, but a lot the Slashdot regulars have seen the SHPEGS information before.

The other thing is the posting of the details of the Microsoft patent infringement claims today. Slashdot is still very open source/anti-Microsoft and although there is geek interest in renewables, it's an IT crowd with a lot of personal and business investment in open source software.

The article activity on SlashDot is more spread out than it used to be. A large portion of the hits occurred more than 12 hours after the story was posted. The main link in the article also pointed to the TFOT article/nterview with a lot of redirects coming back from there today. Which I would interpret as people actually reading the TFOT article.

Day visits Pages Hits Bandwidth
14 May 1863 10709 40518 3.10 GB
15 May 9578 53219 194756 14.34 GB
16 May 306 2886 6548 407.07 MB

Looks like Prof Goose has added the Ghawar story to Slashdot. Visit the firehose and up vote it and we'll see if it gets posted.

Digg and Reddit appear to be blackballing theoildrum.com for the moment. I'd guess the small scope of the usual posters and the poor submission to acceptance ratio.

consider a different idea for the blackballing, perhaps denial. or unfamiliarity with any of the subjects. Who even knows what/where/who/when Ghawar is when its submitted, titles mean alot.(my opinion of digg is 12-20 year olds in terms of 'emotional intelligence' with some more mature individuals trying to cut the cheese)


there is a difference between 'selling' a point and convincing people.

i looked over the pdf.

one thing that was missing was the capital and ongoing maintenance costs.

Do you have an estimation of these?

one thing that was missing was the capital and ongoing maintenance costs.
Do you have an estimation of these?

It's difficult to have anything realistic without a prototype and then a demonstration sized system. I made some general estimations in the TFOT interview.

I would think that generally the costs would be in the order of magnitude of solar thermal projects like Nevada Solar One with the assumption that there is significant output gain in the air->heat transformer system and the entire system has similar output in a lower insolation location. Sorry for being vague, but the project is at best at the proof-of-concept stage and a long ways from feasibility studies. I would expect that integration with other renewable systems like bio-methane production and structure heating will help with feasibility, along with the location independence not requiring a large long distance transmission investment.

whenever you have an estimation, feel free to post an update on the web and shout it out. I'll come around looking. I don't forget much, especially if the project is as interesting as this one.

If anyone here has an interest in participating in an API conference call tomorrow, Wednesday the 16th at 2 p.m. EST, please e-mail me (the address is in my profile).

The topic is gasoline prices. If you think they are too high or that you are being gouged, and you write a blog, newspaper column, etc., then you are the kind of person they are looking to include in the call. They are looking to take tough questions, and while I will probably join in on the call, I am not the best person to grill them on gas prices (which I don’t think are high enough).

The call will feature chief economist John Felmy, as well as Ron Planting, who is API’s manager of statistical information and analysis. John testified before congress last week. You can read his testimony here.

Anyway, if you have some questions on gas prices, or about production related issues, drop me a note and I will get you in on the call. Ideally, you should be associated with some group (you could be Joe Blow from The Oil Drum), and you should have a couple of questions handy. The API said I can invite others to participate, but they want the list of participants beforehand.

The question I'd REALLY like answered is: "How can we get gasoline prices up even higher and keep them up to encourage energy conservation & efficiency?" My guess is that this question wouldn't go over very well.


Agreed, so how about a variation on the topic?

"From the perspective of Europeans, our gas prices are deceptively cheap. How do our prices stay so far below that which English or German Citizens pay, for example? (insert current EU prices) Is it a healthy energy or business policy that keeps this valuable resource 'artifically' cheap, instead of letting the rules of Supply/Demand determine what we'd be paying?"

Is that a useful way to put it in the language they would be able to hear?

Bob Fiske

This may help:

1 US Gallon equals 3.7853 litres
A pound sterling is worth 1.98 US Dollars (todays rate)

Therefore Yesterday I paid $ 1.8612 per litre or

$ 7.045 per US Gallon

Note: US and Imperial Gallons are not the same*

I am sure mainland Europeans are paying not dissimilar rates.

You have a way to go yet I think...

Still , maybe you will start to buy conventional cars that can do between 40 and 50 mpg (off the shelf, not uncommon)

* I think our gallons are bigger, like our condoms, hence we dont need such large, macho cars :-)

Instead of a "Don't fill up day" to push prices down, we should organize a "Fill up your car and jerry can day", to draw down gasoline inventories and push prices up.

If we raise gas prices in the U.S. via higher gas taxes, U.S. consumption will go down, but won't that just mean the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, etc.) will use more oil? The end result will be that they'll have strong economic growth and we'll have a recession. If the rest of the world doesn't also reduce consumption, how will it help the situation? Doesn't it just put more of the burden on the U.S.?

Jevon's Paradox bites again.

Antoinetta III

If you raised the gas taxes in USA to the European level, it would curtail the US gasoline consumption, and give us all moore time to mitigate the coming crisis. Is it really good for anybody, that 5% of the world population uses 25% of the global oil recources???

You in US are screwed anyway because of your high oilconsumption, and your living on credit. You will end up as a third world country.

It won't mitigate the coming crisis if other nations increase their oil consumption in response to lower oil prices due to lower U.S. consumption. Its the "prisoner's dilemma" -- The only way it will work is if all nation's cooperate and reduce their consumption. If only a few reduce, the others gain a (short term) advantage by buying the surplus oil while it is still cheap.

When world exports start to drop significantly, the nations at the front of the line will get their minimum needs met (they will cut back as well, but at a pace that their societies can accept). The nations at the back of the line will just have to do without.

So far, the nations at the back of the line are all 3rd World nations without strong exports. But Uncle Sam is next in line.

Today, we sell $2 for every $3 we buy and we export paper and ownership of US based assets to cover the rest. Basically the reverse for China.

China is working diligently to expand export markets in oil exporting nations (I remember reading that over a half million Chinese are working in Angola on a variety of development projects).

China will get what they want FIRST post-Peak Oil, as will the other strong exporters that have goods and services the oil exporters want in quantity. The USA will have to make do with what is left over (how many barrels of oil for Hollywood movies, Boeing a/c, wheat (no corn), and Microsoft licenses ?).

So we should build a non-oil transportation alternative ASAP, convert to VERY fuel efficient cars ASAP, expand bicycling lanes and parking ASAP, etc. to make what little oil we can buy post-Peak Oil go as far as possible.

The very *LAST* thing I would worry about is the United States conserving too much !

Best Hopes for Rational Planning,


If OPEC is defending a price floor (as they claim) they will just pull the oil off the market to match our cutback. So the oil will last longer.

That assumes that other nations won't increase consumption if the U.S. cuts back. That's my point -- other nations will buy the oil that the U.S. doesn't consume. China and India are growing very fast and they will take all the oil that the U.S. doesn't want. OPEC will never have to defend a price floor. The net result is that the U.S. will have a recession and other countries will benefit from more oil.

Why would higher gas taxes (particularly if other taxes were reduced as an offset) trigger a recession ?


Robert...if you care to ask these questions, I would appreciate it:

1 - Why are there so many more US refinery issues this year than what appeared as "normal" in the past?

2 - Why is the margin between wholesale gasoline price and retail price larger now than say 6 months ago?


I will ask those.

If others have questions, but don't want to participate in the call, list them and I will try to ask them.

Cheers, Robert

Hi Robert,

If you are going to field the questions, I have one:

"The current gasoline inventory tightness appears to be aggravated by lack of increasing gasoline imports, do you see the gasoline import situation improving significantly in the near term? If so, from where?"

Thanks for all you hard work Robert!

1. Are low gasoline inventories more related to refinery utilization or lower finished product imports?

2. Assuming lower finished product imports are playing a role, how much of this is due to the fall of the dollar?

For #1 my unsupported assumption is that we are experiencing the SAME frequency of maintenance issues as before. I would forward the fact that those who own the refineries are not incompitent, and have charted what "typical maintenance" should look like for a given year. (ie every year 25 +/- 2 issues are typically needed to be taken care of)

This refinery issues problem is an artifact of running the plants at HIGHER capacity. If you move from 75 to 95 percent of capacity downtime hurts production. The news seizes on the downtime (which was typical before) and tries to place blame(why is there so much downtime). The newspapers AMPLIFY issues at hand, and the issue here is low refining capacity.

I have no hard evidence to support my statements, however I may be inclined to do a simple google search for "refinery downtime" for the yearly ranges 2000-01, 2001-02 and all the way up to 2006-07.
It may yield something useful.

No, your comments are pretty much spot on. The refineries didn't suddenly start experiencing more problems than normal (although they haven't been quite the same since Katrina). What's really happened is that we require them to run in the 95 percent range in order to meet demand, and any blips are enough to upset supply. And the media notes the price increase, and reports on the refinery issues.

Robert, this relates to another question I asked you elsewhere about the upper bound of refinery capacity and for which I was told it was simply land. However, how feasible is it to operate a single refinery in partial operation mode? If you take a refinery down for maintenance, does it almost certainly guarantee that the entire refinery is down?

If so, then the downside to simply expanding capacity is loss of redundancy. In other words, 100 smaller refineries operating at 95% capacity but where one has a problem is a far smaller issue than 10 refineries operating at 95% and one having a problem.

Thus, while it is expensive, it would seem to benefit US (at least in the short term) to encourage the building of separate refineries as opposed to simply expanding existing ones. Of course, all refineries should be planned to allow expansion too. Perhaps a better question is what number of refineries would be better for the nation as a whole in order to provide reliability of supply? Yes, I realize this would entail some cost but it would seem to be a more easily manageable cost since the cost would be spread out over the lifetimes of the additional refineries rather than creating short term volatility in the market.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

...while it is expensive, it would seem to benefit US (at least in the short term) to encourage the building of separate refineries as opposed to simply expanding existing ones.

Given the implications of Stuart's essay yesterday. It seems likely that we will soon see less that 85 million barrels per day. So why ramp up? In that scenario, refinery capacity going forward will not be an issue.

The other elephant in the room is this... the domestic auto industry is already past peak. Sales stink. Chrysler was just sold. Ford will be next. Why chase that trend with refineries?

If you take a refinery down for maintenance, does it almost certainly guarantee that the entire refinery is down?

No. In fact, you almost never - and I would say probably never with a large refinery - take the entire refinery down. A small refinery, yes. But a large one with multiple versions of everything, no. Capacity will be diminished during the turnarounds, but not taken all the way down.

Incidentally, I just now saw your post. I guess I must have replied to someone else as you were writing this one, because my search of "[n" never showed this one as a new post. I don't know if there is a way around that, but I don't like the fact that when I write a response, everything is marked as read when I post the response (that is all the posts that were being written and were completed before I finished mine).

That's all from me for today.

Since the switch I noticed that too. When I post and its taken me a while the new posts posted in the mean time get marked off as read and you miss em.

Reply in new window and CLOSE the window after post.

I'll be on the call tomorrow too. I'm not an energy techie, but will be asking more about policies indicated by their analysis. Loose cannon jacking in from left field.

Stuff like:

When we can't produce what we need, then what? If there is, for example, a 15 or 20% shortfall in quantities, what sort of analysis have you done at API, what sort of options have you considered, what are you thinking?

cfm in Gray, ME

Reply in new window and CLOSE the window after post.

That doesn't help. It still nukes all the "new" flags for messages that are posted while you are reading and replying.

Apparently, this is a rather intractable database issue with Drupal.

I do not hit post till I have read all the [ new ] flags, then I renew just BEFORE I hit post. Thus any posts added whilst I was reading/writing, get their new flags.

Actually, I do this about 80% of the time. Self discipline ...

Best Hopes for Infinite growth in software quality (and music),



It would be nice if users could set backward their own "timestamp" within a topic -- say, a button to "rewind" by 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or whatever. Just a thought.

Ah, so we can imagine a refinery as a sort of holographic image, with subsets of the refinery being refineries in themselves? Good to know.

That raises another question - how often are refinery expansions an occurrence of expanding an already existing subunit that is capable of functioning on its own versus the addition of a new subunit that can function on its own? Again, I am thinking about redundancy here and curious as to what fraction, in your experience, of these expansions are of one form or the other?

Catch you later, Robert! And yes, the tendency of the drupal software to mark everything as read is annoying. I'm sure it can be fixed but may require custom code to do so.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

A series-parallel circuit is probably a better analogy.

But isn't running the refineries at a higher capacity cause them to require maintenance more often?

If you drive a car at 95% capacity (100 mph) all the time, you will need to do the fix it more often than if you drive it at 80% capacity (75 mph) all the time.

No new refinery has been built in the U.S. since 1976.

The oldest operational refinery in the U.S. was built in 1881 in Bradford, PA.

A number of refineries were aged and corroded. Unscheduled maintenance, fires, and scheduled maintenance when they had down time for switching from making more heating oil to making more gasoline and back again in the autumn has meant that demand is outstripping supply.

A number of nations; especially Russia and China have seen car sales grow rapidly. It may take about 15 years to build a refinery in some areas due to legal and environmental issues and lengthy construction contracts. There may be enough oil left in the world to last for years, there is not enough gasoline to keep prices low today.

With rumors of an imminent peak of oil production by 2015; companies might be reluctant to build new refineries.

Because of free market economies if there is gasoline in storage for sale in Europe and someone in Asia wants it, it might be sold and put in a special products tanker and moved. This drives the price up as people realize the inventories were shrinking and they had hoarding instinct. If prices stay high, refinery capacity expansion might eventually fill the gap if demand does not grow too fast. There are 100-200 fields in the North Sea of 10-20 million barrels a piece. All of these do not equal one Buzzard field and that was one of the largest discovery in the North Sea of the past decade. The North Sea is a micro-oilfield region compared to the world, yet the world is finite and what happened in small areas will eventually show up as a global trend.

Usually gasoline inventories should be building in the spring, this year the build was coming late and the summer driving season begins June 1. The hurricane season will offically begin the same time. There has been one named storm in the US Atlantic so far this year. If driving demand drops due to high prices the inventories might build and prices stabilize or eventually drop. The world has the lowest global gasoline inventories in the past 16 years. It is not as easy as send a tanker to the Persian Gulf and fill up with gasoline when gasoline consumption was up in OPEC nations as well.

Since the current spotlight in the US is on refineries, is TOD due for an article about US refineries or the "basics" of refinery construction and maintenance?

It would also be nice to know the state of affairs of refineries in other countries if the data is available. I am sorry I do not have time to do this research and I'm sure most is on the internet.

I know we have posted refinery info. here at TOD in the past.

Wikipedia is not bad if you want a description of the unit operations in a refinery.

Refinery design and maintenance issues would make for a long post.

I would not have all the data about refineries to be an authority. Had noticed that while oil inventories were rising, gasoline inventories were falling. Some simple math and voila; refinery bottlenecks.

I could not guarantee that peak oil will not happen until 2015 either. There was a month spike in 2005 in oil production that has not been surpassed to date, although average daily 2006 production was slightly higher than 2005.

A number of forces were converging to drive up the price of gasoline.


Is the API considering endorsing non-oil transportation alternatives ?

Specifically, 1) electrifying our freight railroads and shifting freight from truck to electrified rail (sneak in if you can "and trade 20 BTUs of diesel for 1 BTU of electricity") and
2) A crash building of Urban Rail with comparable trades and
3) Massive preference and facilities for transportation bicycling.

These measures could save more oil than ANWR can produce, and "production" can only increase.

And people that rely heavily on electrified transportation are little affected by higher gas prices.

Best Hopes,



You ought to join the call.


I got a call this morning from my parents and, as soon as I wrap up loose ends, I am flying out to Kentucky to help with my mother (not life threatening).

If I do not fly out tomorrow, OK.

Send the API my standard links (posted them again near the bottom of this DrumBeat).

Best Hopes,


Just found out that I will NOT be flying out tomorrow. I am on "24 hour notice" to get there when/if needed.

Yes, I would like to join the call (I know that it is about bedtime in Scotland, so respond tomorrow if need be.


I heard this on CNBC this morning and thought you might enjoy it. During Berkshire Hathaway’s recent investor meeting, apparently after discussing railroads' advantages over trucking:

Question: Why didn’t you buy railroads earlier? They’ve been on a run up.

Charlie Munger: Well, we’re stupid. We should have bought earlier, but at least we’re on it now.

I have always been charmed by the humility of Warren Buffet, a trait apparently shared by Mr. Munger. Humility is, IMHO, a good trait in investing.

I bought RRs earlier (a different set than Berkshire Hathaway) and have done quite well. Florida East Coast RR was just bought out, so I need to figure what to do with my money.

One advantage to BH ownership (especially when >50%, BN-SF is only ~10%) is a long term profits focus vs. short term. Something beneficial to the nation and economy as a whole. BN-SF goes through the area served by an electric utility alos owned by BH. OTOH, BH are NOT engineers, but financial guys. I am hoping ...

Best Hopes,


What I would like to know is that if capacity and import supply tightness are to characterize refinery issues going forward what message would refiners like to see getting out to the American consumer?

Would they like to see a push for acceptance of capacity additions or would they rather see a campaign aimed at transportation fuel conservation?

thanks in advance!

Would they like to see a push for acceptance of capacity additions or would they rather see a campaign aimed at transportation fuel conservation?

Ideally, they would probably like to sell more product. So they would probably like to see the permitting process streamlined. But I have heard a lot of insiders - including my own CEO, in private - call for increased conservation. Now, whether they think that way when the market is amply supplied, I don't know.

Peronally, I think we have a lot of fat to cut in the area of conservation. I think the U.S. could cut its oil usage by millions of barrels a day without too much long-term pain. But we won't do it. We will wait until the market does it to us.

I think the U.S. could cut its oil usage by millions of barrels a day without too much long-term pain. But we won't do it. We will wait until the market does it to us.
Wow! Yes so much fat. If we were a corporation we would certainly be doing some streamlining right now I'd imagine. It just seems that we are using too short a horizon if we don't push conservation.

If there is substantial damage to fuel infrastructure from any foreseeable above ground factor during one of these tight spots some sectors might have trouble recovering, no? How about a gasoline or diesel SPR?
thanks again!

The corporation I own, while only a small internet service provider, is seriously minimizing energy consumption. Far beyond the ROI. I see it as a matter of resiliency. We used to have maybe a dozen machines on 24x7 in the office - not including the colo - functions separated and redundant. Now we are putting all the functions on two machines, with others that can boot up to replace. And I wonder if those two can be laptops powered off PV. They will be on next hardware cycle. I want grid to go down and us to stay live. That's where I'm steering customers too.

I don't know that actually qualifies as "conservation" replacing server grade machine with a laptop. That might be sort of like replacing my 40mpg older honda with a prius. Too bad Moore's Law doesn't apply to cars. On second through, good thing it doesn't.

cfm in Gray, ME

As noted a couple of days ago in a Drumbeat, I have been impressed with the Apple Mac Mini (dual core Intel, choice of 1.6 or 1.8 GHz). Laptop technology in a compact form and power consumption in the 25 to 40 watt range (per blogs).

Can be operated under Windows (both Apple & 3rd party software AFAIK) and Linux.

6.5" rounded square, 2" high. Auxiliary drive (ANY ATA 3.5" drive) can be mounted in Firewire connected inclosure (6.5" rounded square) for extra storage capacity.

I would grid connect PV (perhaps and/or small wind turbine) and buy largest UPS available# (potentially several). Minimize power use (corded keyboards & mice, turn off Airport). In an extended blackout, turn off connection to grid and have PV/wind feed batteries. Wind would keep the all night drain on the batteries from happening.

# You do NOT need maximum watts drawdown, but maximum amp-hours. I might get a smaller UPS (with a 12 V lead acid battery) and attach an Optima yellow or blue top battery/ies in parallel.
Best Hopes,


"If we were a corporation we would certainly be doing some streamlining right now I'd imagine."

Well, a lot of corporations have been and are streamlining: aka outsourcing & lay-offs. How much more energy efficient can you get than to start load shedding one's own US employees who contribute to the consumption of 25% of the world's resources! That's one way of creating a portion of US demand destruction, albeit not a nice coordinated way.

As far as the US government goes, I believe it was recently reported that our armed forces are the biggest users of oil, but expecting that we'll be cutting back on all their wasted ways of use is far fetched. My gut tells me we'll continue to feed this foreign land orientated war machine even as the homeland goes belly-up. Now that's short-sighted!

"It just seems that we are using too short a horizon if we don't push conservation."


I do suppose the "US could [otherwise] cut is oil usage by millions of barrels a day without too much long term pain," but the "market" -- whether financial, political, social, or technological -- isn't properly set-up to engage such a "long term" "conservation" outcome without a vast short term upheaval. (Just what is a steady state resourse and economic based world like? Now try imagining getting there if we haven't any real ideas as to what it means.)

Hence, we'll continue to unquestionably genuflect before the holy shrine of the 'free-market' medicine of creeping oil prices (and all it's other betrayals of our long term prospects).

IMHO, this "market" reliance has usurped all our better senses while positing that the seven deadly sins will help promote and provide for Heaven on earth.

Count me a non-believer, at least until we suffer a lot more pangs of market placed based faith.

That's one way of creating a portion of US demand destruction, albeit not a nice coordinated way.

What you are describing here it seems is a kind of death by a thousand cuts to the US economy with fuel prices being one element. The slow, deliberate but uncoordinated elimination of the employment of the least affluent will be working it's way up. The unhappy progression is that while many have all the money (and energy) they can burn the subtle fact seemingly escapes notice until later on. In this pyramid scheme the viability of the whole depends on the survival of the majority.

My gut tells me we'll continue to feed this foreign land orientated war machine even as the homeland goes belly-up. Now that's short-sighted!

Mine too. TPTB will be in a position to prioritize. I see the producer world of energy having a long hand-out line of higher to lower priority users extending from the source to the last consumer. These include the extractor, the export consumer and his military, the 'protector's' military, the import country's government, agricultural production and transportation, and then finally the (optional) domestic consumer.

(Just what is a steady state resource and economic based world like? Now try imagining getting there if we haven't any real ideas as to what it means.)

We'd maybe start by doing triage. It might be noted if the typical present consumer of a product has a high degree of disposable income or not. What is the least productive and unessential product that is the most vulnerable to high fuel prices. (perhaps the junk food industry as a thought)

And on the other end what is the most essential and the least vulnerable to fuel costs. (perhaps locally grown produce) What steps can be taken to convert an unsupportable sector over to some more useful function? (unused motel space to workers quarters)(snack food production to local whole food processing) I think this will be happening de facto as failing businesses are either abandoned or taken over by new ideas. Will it take us to 'steady state'? We seem to be going to 'lower state' like it or not.
Since the proactive solution approach is not dominant then a more adaptive one may be our best shot.

Hence, we'll continue to unquestionably genuflect before the holy shrine of the 'free-market' medicine of creeping oil prices (and all it's other betrayals of our long term prospects).

IMHO, this "market" reliance has usurped all our better senses while positing that the seven deadly sins will help promote and provide for Heaven on earth.

Very powerful stuff. And true. The essence of peak oil, and what the market thinkers don't seem to realize, is how buoyed up every process has been by the unseen, nearly free, energy extravaganza of the past. The limited dispersal of this lifeblood in the future will mean myriad formerly successful business models will utterly crumble.
The synergy of collapsing consumerism coupled with surging energy costs to the producer will catch so many endeavors by surprise.

Have to acknowledge your conclusion that the natural selection process we will undergo will not be pretty. Also unfortunately the 'market based faith' probably has a ways to run yet.

As many folks begin to see futility in the growth based economy they will begin independently to take steps to build something more sustainable. There certainly will be alternatives tried. This new paradigm will not be utopia but hopefully it'll be better than living off the ruins of our consumer way of life!

Just what is a steady state resourse and economic based world like? Now try imagining getting there if we haven't any real ideas as to what it means

Interesting question. One thing I am certain of: "steady state" need not imply "static and unchanging". Creativity and discovery can continue to enrich our world and improve our quality of life, even given an unchanging level of resource utilization.

I am also certain that efficiency and productivity and conservation must become supremely important; these will be the primary values around which all economic and social and cultural activity must be oriented. Note that if a creative way is invented to do more with less, then this creates a surplus that becomes available to use to do something else that previously was not possible. Such gains (call it economic growth if you will) will be hard won, but not impossible to realize.

It follows from these premises that such a steady-state society/economy must be predicated on the elimination and avoidance of waste in all of its forms. The circle must be closed and everything recycled. Nothing must be produced or bought unless it is really truly needed; much modern marketing and advertising would become an utterly antithetical practice in such a society. Everything that is built must be super durable and repairable -- no more throwaway junk. Needless to say, anything that uses any form of energy must be as efficient as possible, and energy-using things must be kept as minimal as possible.

Avoidance of waste also means putting everything and everyone to their best productive use. How can inputs of scarce resources for the maintenance of grass lawns be justified when those yards could be put to more productive use growing fruits or vegetables? How can we afford for any able-bodied or able-minded person to just sit idle when there are socially or economically useful tasks to which they could be employed? Even if the value added by such work is minimal, and even if the pay for such work is therefore less than a living wage and must be supplemented, it would still make sense to engage such people to produce whatever added value that they can. Retirees and unemployed people sitting at home and doing nothing would thus become a distant memory in such a society.

There would still be banking and finance in such a steady state economy, but in a very different and probably much reduced form. A steady-state economy implies a steady state money supply; both inflation and deflation of the money supply must be prevented to avoid introducing distorting market signals into the economy. With a steady state money supply, the scope for returns on investment through either capital gains or interest would be considerably lower than what we presently experience. There would still be a positive rate of interest, because all productive assets -- incuding money -- would necessarilly have to have a rental value to assure maximum productive allocation and to avoid waste. In such an economy, if sufficiently complex, there is still plenty of room for a wide range of financial intermediation. I am less sure how much scope would remain for what is essentially speculation. In a steady state economy I would imagine that risk premiums would be considerably higher than what we work with today.

The above is by no means a complete outline of what a steady-state economy would look like, but I believe that these things are pretty much essential and inevitable.

How we get from here to there - that's another question!

I'd like to run the following through the TOD Meat Grinder and see if there is anything like a usable question for your conference call:

"Everyone is looking for a scapegoat in the rising prices of gasoline. How long do you suppose it’s going to be before someone starts touting these numbers in the main stream media?
The USA uses about 10 million barrels per day of gasoline. That’s about 400 million gallons being used by a population of 300 million or about 1.3 gallons per day.
There are some where between 10 and 20 million illegal aliens in the USA – Maybe more? If each is consuming the average USA number of 1.3 gallons, then the illegal aliens are consuming 13 to 26 million gallons of “our gasoline” every day. If all the illegal aliens were deported tomorrow then our consumption would drop by 13 to 26 mg/d and there would be 13 to 26 mg/d more going into inventory for a net gain of 26 to 52 mg/d. (6.5% to 13% of total consumption?)
In these very tight gasoline supply times that would very likely result in a drop in gasoline prices. I have no idea exactly what the price drop would be, but would be interested in hearing from the petroleum professionals here what they think the drop might be. As little as 5 cents per gallon to maybe $1.00 per gallon?
So, are all the legal citizens of the USA paying a lot more at the pump for gasoline because of the illegal aliens in the USA? Is Joe Sixpack forking over $30 more than he should have to if it weren’t for the illegal aliens being here every time he fills the tank on his SUV?
Could this be one of those issues that could start fueling the fires against illegal aliens (or even legal aliens)??"

And at least give me time to get my asbestos undies on before you TOD folks turn your flamethrowers in my direction.

You aren't the first I have heard argue that point, but I am not touching that one. Too much potential for misinterpretation.

I would bet that illegals are using less gasoline than average Americans. For financial, legal, and logistical reasons it is more difficult for them to own a car in the first place.

If we could magically find a way to remove all the illegal immigrants from the US we would trade what is probably a relatively small amount of demand for gasoline for a large amount of cheap labor. There is a good chance we would replace at least some of that labor with petroleum-powered energy.

Politically it's an argument with too many "what ifs." Big oil makes a much more identifiable target. Furthermore the anti-immigrant platform is a populist movement and does not share the support of business. It's also a geographically contrained issue as only 1 in 4 Americans believes that illegal immigration is a serious problem in their own community.

There are enough people in the US who are "fired up" enough about illegal immigration/undocumented people/whatever your preference that they need not make that series of intellectual jumps...requires too much thinking of our fellow Americans. At any rate, even on this forum, one regularly is confronted with xenophobic comments.

Jon, be careful what you sow.

Most of the people in the US are not native by any stretch of the word. They are all immigrants who wanted a better life and were willing to work their tails off to get it. The current group of "illegals" is no different, just a few years later than the rest of us.

Hate machines quickly build a life of their own. The Germans ended up destroying their own country and all around them.

Compassion is always a better plan. There are too many young people in Mexico for the number of jobs. We should be supplying free birth control and health care. Then there would be no need of fences and multi billion dollar patrol agencies and Mexico would be in excellent economic shape.

China's April Crude Oil Imports Rise 23 Percent to New Record


3.62 mbd

China imported more coal in April


China's coal imports rose 27.1 percent from a year ago to 4.92 million metric tons in April

1)Buying oil with dollars?
2)Converting dollars to oil?
3)Buying long term US debt?

I'll take door #2...and a tank farm for $500 mil. please.

I have though the Chinese would use those reserces for resources and it is the smartest play. Buy what you need with junk paper. Sweet!

Gas prices hit a new record at the pump

This "crisis" has been a long time in the making. I have been warning of this for months. If you watch the EIA inventory reports, it has been obvious that we were headed that direction. In fact, a month ago I even got into a little debate with Doug MacIntyre - author of This Week in Petroleum. He argued that prices were likely to fall from April levels. I argued that they would keep going up. See the second half of:

This Week in Petroleum 4-18-07

I am just waiting for Doug to concede that I nailed it. :-)

I am just waiting for Doug to concede that I nailed it. :-)

Predicting that gas prices will keep going up through summer is more like "thumbtacking it" or maybe "double-sided sticky taping it", but you were right. :)

Predicting that gas prices will keep going up through summer is more like "thumbtacking it" or maybe "double-sided sticky taping it", but you were right.

Understand, though, that I have been warning of impending trouble since February - and not just that prices would go up through summer. We all know that prices head upward when summer arrives, but I argued that this year was going to be remarkably tight and would likely see record prices. And the EIA actually disagreed, arguing on several different occasions that prices were likely to moderate. They also forecast that prices would top out well below $3/gallon.

You, Doug and FTX have provided great insight to this sub-crisis rushing towards us. FWIW, I think you nailed the price situation perfectly.

Didn't everyone pretty much agree that this week is a milestone per se?

IMPORTS of gasoline must rise significantly this week.

Or this summer will see new thresholds of price 'gouging' in the eyes of J.Q. Public.

Looking forward to the analysis of tommorow's inventory reports.

IMPORTS of gasoline must rise significantly this week.

At this point, I think it is impossible to avoid a record low inventory situation going into Memorial Day weekend. I would have to do some checking, but I think it would take an incredible inventory build.

FWIW, I do think gasoline inventories will rise tomorrow as the high prices start to bite into consumption a bit. But it's too little, too late.

Does this mean just high prices, or do you think there may be shortages in some areas?

A commenter on the housing bubble blog - in one of yesterdays threads noted that there were sporadic shortages in the Colorado Springs area.

There was a long thread on that story with gas price observations from around the country. The person who commented about the Colorado shortages, when asked how much he was paying, replied that he wasn't paying anything because he was siphoning fuel from a Lexus owned by one of the real estate agents at a nearby subdivision.

I think that was a joke...

Last summer they didn't bother siphoning - too many cars have locks on the fuel doors and anti-siphon devices in the filler neck.

Instead what they were doing is punching a hole in the bottom of the tank and sucking the fuel out - I guess they have some homebuilt gizmo that can do this in a somewhat inconspicuous manner. My recollection was that they were mainly going after big vehicles - ones with big fuel tanks. My little 15 gallons isn't of interest to them when there are bigger fish in the sea.

Talk about your really bad gas mileage. Try zero miles per gallon on for size. Perhaps they are transferring gas from gas guzzlers to Priuses and other high mpg cars. It's called direct action to deal with peak oil and global warming.

No, that's called theft.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

I see some potential for much higher prices if we don't dig out of this hole a bit. I don't think we will see any major shortages; maybe some like we have already seen. After all, there is still a pretty good cushion - 20 days or so of supply. But, this is much lower than normal, and as long as this is the case it will keep steady pressure on prices. And repealing gas taxes (which I just wrote about in my blog; thanks for the links) won't help matters.

If we skate by this summer with no major refinery upsets or hurricanes, we could see prices not too much higher than they are now. But with the current inventory situation, we may be one gulf hurricane away from breaching $5 in a hurry.

Do you remember that e-mail I sent to TOD Staff at the first of March? "Ominous OPIS"? That was when I was coming to grips with the potentially unprecedented gasoline situation this year. I should have bought a crapload of gasoline futures.

Of course at some point not that long from now we'll have to start talking about heating oil. It is not quite as big a deal as it used to be, but the refineries are going to eventually have to stop going full throttle out on the gasoline and start working on heating oil inventories.

20 days is not much cushion---it counts gasoline in product pipelines and barges/railcars, tankers, etc. We are very close to "just in time" for gasoline. The MBA's have been trying for this for years, to sweat out any surplus so as to not tie up cash in inventories, and they have succeeded in reducing the days of supply needed by about 40% over the past 25 years. We will have shortages, and they will cause some needed "demand destruction." They may also start some hoarding, which if it spreads, will compound the shortages. Last time, in the 1970s, the effect of the hoarding was hard to overestimate. Half a gas tank==say six gallons times 200 million vehicles is a lot of oil--about 30 million barrels, or about 4 days of supply. nearly a 20% drop from where we are in inventories. I am very glad I have a TDI too. This is going to be a 'Clusterf#ck' to kick off Kuntsler"s long emergency.

“They may also start some hoarding, which if it spreads, will compound the shortages. Last time, in the 1970s, the effect of the hoarding was hard to overestimate. Half a gas tank==say six gallons times 200 million vehicles is a lot of oil--about 30 million barrels, or about 4 days of supply.” Posted by c185pilot2000

But, how would this make any difference? Lets say my gas tank is 20 gallons, and that, co-incidentally, my regular driving routine causes me to use just about 20 gallons a week. So I drive my car until its running on fumes and tank up once a week, or drop in the gas station every day and top off my tank with two or three gallons; either way, I’m still only consuming 20 gallons a week.

Antoinetta III

You have created a new rolling storage tank, that had a one time demand (average) of 17 or 18 gallons.

There is significant new demand when everyone starts "topping" off their tank. One time, yes, but still significant.

I have heard that there is a significant jump in gasoline sales in New Orleans anytime there is a hurricane in the Gulf. Consumption does not increase, but sales do (and they drop a week later as the rolling storage tanks are emptied).


I certainly agree with Robert on the need for massive inventory change on the plus side to have ANY effect at this point. IMO, gasoline imports should have been increasing substantially 3 weeks ago just to make up the shortfall to date.

At this point, I think sporadic shortages are likely this summer.

BTW, siphoning has been in the news locally in TO here lately...and the prices are relatively pleasant at approx. $1 ltr. Not a good sign.

Tomorrow's Petroleum Inventory report holds a lot of weight. If it does not show a substantial uptick in gasoline inventories, I think we can seriously be nervous for this summer and beyond.

I have another idea for a guest post that I would be thoroughly unqualified to write. I am sure that there is someone here who could come up with something interesting.

The thing I am wondering about is the psychology of consumers right now. I see forums all over the internet where people are complaining about high gas prices - people are whipping themselves up into a sort of cyber lynch mob of some sort, and oil companies seem to be the major target, followed by the government (especially given that Bush & Cheney were oilmen) and of course environmentalists. There are always a handful of sane people who try and chime in and suggest various things, but many of those who are ranting seem to be beyond reason. In a way I suppose it reminds me of the Salem witch trials - similar sorts of irrational fears are at work.

Thus I guess my question then is what is really going on in the minds of the people?

My own guesses would have to do with how most people have placed faith of some sort in the "system" which allows people to go about their daily lives without having to worry about pesky things like what is in the news, and instead they can think about trivialities such as sports and Hollywood gossip. But the higher gas prices seem to be shaking people's faith in the system - and I guess leading to a form of cognitive dissonance. Their old view is that they expected that the system would have come up with cheap alternatives and allow everyone to continue on with life as usual. The higher gas prices are challenging this view however, but it seems that lots of folks are unwilling as of yet to admit that the previous world view was faulty, and this leads to hostility and causes people to invent conspiracy theories...

Anyways, that's my guess, but I am just pulling it out of my backside. I would be interested in seeing if there is someone who can speak to these questions in a more substantial way. I guess part of the reason I ask this is that I am wondering how we defuse these tensions before this mob psychology pushes governments to do silly things. Or can we defuse these tensions?

They just don't get it. They see it as a temporary problem.

Deffeyes predicted that volatility might mask the steady climb in prices, and I think he was right. This encourages people to think that high gas prices are just a blip, and discourages them from making adjustments.

I saw three articles this morning that tied in together. One was about other states wanting to follow Texas's lead, and temporarily suspend all gas taxes for the summer. Among them: New York. New York, unlike Texas, does not have a lot of spare revenue to return to the taxpayers. The money would presumably come out of their highway fund. Another was about how the New York state highway fund was going bankrupt, because of higher fuel and material costs, and because it's been raided to cover other expenses. The third was about how the nation's infrastructure was in poor condition, and little was being invested in maintaining it.

If we give up personal vehicles, it will not be because we planned to do so. It will be because we can no longer maintain the highway system, due to higher costs and shrinking revenue.

Good, the sooner the pressure builds and demand explodes for mass transit (rail and electric trolleys, major car pooling) the better. Let's take the nasty cherry-flavored herbal medicine while the infrastructure still has a bit of a pulse ;)

I read that as, 'nasty cherry-flavored urbal medicine'

Haha, like this:


But that's not good enough, let's go all the way (permaculture/natural farming/polyculture = resilience without fossil fuel inputs):



I agree...but I don't see it happening. Not until it's too late. Just look around. The first impulse is to lower gasoline prices, so people can keep driving.

And the first response that I've noticed from people is to drive even faster and more pissed off because they just put $80 of gas in their car (truck / SUV more likely)...

On interstates and other high speed roads every work pick-up (with ladder racks, tool boxes attached to the bed etc) I see blows by me - easily doing 75 - 80 mph. All are probably driving further away because of the increased competition for the jobs that are drying up with the home building market.

They drive angrily and aggressive but can't comprehend for a second that they are the source of the misery - they chose the F-350s, they can't make the connection between slower driving and better mileage (i.e. saving cash), they have no one to blame but themselves for continuing to feed the beast...

I thought higher prices might bring about more of a mix of driving styles and a general mellowing overall - from what I've seen in the last few years I think it's just the opposite - people seem increasingly frantic to me.

I think people might make the connection more readily if the price increase was steady and constant, rather than up and down.

People were starting to change after the Katrina spike. Sales of trucks and SUVs dropped, even in Texas. Used Priuses were selling for more than new ones. In my office, people started to carpool (some drive an hour each way to work, so it really helps). Others quit and took jobs with a shorter commute, or switched to departments located nearer their homes.

Now the prices are back up where they were in the Katrina days, but no one is making changes. They're used to the high prices, or they're assuming they'll go back down again, like they did before.

Tragedy of the Commons strikes again.

Labor is worth so much more than gasoline. If they pay 4.00 for a gallon of gas, drive faster, and get in an extra 15 min of work, they more than made up that gallon of gas.

And once gas is worth more than labor, life will be really bad.

Just tell someone that that cup of coffee from starbucks costs roughly seven times more than a cup of gasoline so shut the hell up

I've been noticing the opposite around here (Monterey, CA). While it was once the case that driving 65 on the freeway would have me passing no one and being passed by everyone, I now find (on those infrequent occasions when I do it) that there are quite a number driving at or below the speed limit.

I think some people are slowing down, but the now-slower drivers aren't moving to the right lanes. Meanwhile some people are going as fast as ever, which will lead to road rage and nasty collisions.

Off topic...the attitude problem will be solved when medical maryjane becomes available and the black market doubles. With a depression coming....I hardly find this without history's ryhme. When was prohibition repealed? Oh that's right four years after TSHTF. Gen Xr's any my generation are starting to find the nobs of power....

There is a proposal to study bringing back a Portland to Freyburg, Maine commuter train. I was told a poll was taken and 80% of the respondents preferred more roads to relieve congestion.

That would be perfect for us! We're just about to buy some woodland near Fryeburg, (and live in P-land) and I want some rail-access not too far away!

The poll? It'll change. Not soon enough, but at least the railbed is still intact (AFAIK).. the track looks pretty weathered, but I think the whole Right Of Way has been preserved, and so I'm glad it didn't just get swept into a hike-bike trail.. With luck, it can be adjacent hike-bike and rail.. don't know if that's possible.

Bob Fiske

Wow.. here's a recent story on it. Thanks for the heads up, k3.

"Re-establishing rail service has been endorsed by Gov. John Baldacci. And last week, the Legislature approved a $295 million borrowing package that includes $110 million for transportation projects, including $13.52 million for passenger and freight rail service.
Of that, $1.25 million would go to the Mountain Division line to help fund projects, including an engineering study and renovation of a two-mile stretch of track between south Windham and Westbrook."

... "Who wouldn't want to ride the train to Fryeburg to the Fryeburg Fair and not be tied up on (Route) 302?" Standish Town Councilor Louis Stack said.

Stack said communities from Portland to Fryeburg could benefit from the train. Companies in Portland could benefit from a commuter line for employees, while industries in western Maine could use the line to ship lumber, granite or other goods.

Diamond said the engineering study would assess the condition of the tracks, bridges and culverts along the line and list what improvements would be needed to handle trains.
"Not to have a pun here, but I think it's on the right track," Diamond said. "

.. Now to get Alan Drake's proposals for electrification to some of these people!

Best Hopes for Good Regional Infrastructure!

Bob Fiske

Thanks for looking that up Bob.
I am 3 miles from a former station. A 5th generation apple farmer tells me he once sent all his produce to Portland by the train. I expect we'll be going back to trains assuming we aren't overwhelmed by financial difficulties.

The themes from my recent campaign for Governor are turning up all over. This commuter rail, university buses going public, publicizing "private spaces", GrowSmart is shrinking, the Governor even considering replacing the National Guard. [I can't claim credit for all of this in Maine, but think of myself as part of the wave.] There is a simple and coherent communitarian political platform in peak oil relocalization. Rail, community gardens and order the Guard home. I'd urge everyone to consider running for major office - not to win this time necessarily, but to open up discussion about what must be done.

Alan Drake for Governor of LA. The media rank-and-file will be helpful; they know how bad the situation is. An uncharismatic and unknown geek like myself gets 25% of the vote in Maine. That's both leverage and a lot of fun. And hey, we're On The Beach; nothing to lose.

cfm in Gray, ME

There's still some idiot politicians out there who see mass transit as a waste of money.

Spending on California's roads, highways and public transportation systems would rise to $17.8 billion under Schwarzenegger's proposal -- an increase of $1.7 billion over the estimated expenditures for this budget year.
. . .
The proposal would steer $1.3 billion from the state's public transportation fund to other uses . . .

Why worry when you have a hydrogen hummer? California is not going to get anywhere near its carbon cutting goals with an attitude like that. Scwarzeneegger talks a good talk but he really doesn't truly understand where the rubber hits the road.

Hahahaha. Paid for by who, and built when? Good luck.

That's New York in the article. Where the Second Avenue Subway has been proposed since 1929 and has been going to be built Real Soon Now for at least forty years. Maybe they really will build it This Time. Or not. I won't believe it until I see trains running. Groundbreaking ceremonies mean absolutely nothing.

Rail (1) is hopelessly expensive, (2) is therefore a honeypot for corrupt politicians and contractors, (3) is a strong magnet for the endless litigation, delaying tactics, and bellyaching brought to you by the infinitely-entitled ADA crowd (viz. also the vast sums spent failing to build public toilets in NYC), and (4) has the serious political drawback that unlike roads, which reach everyone, it will only ever reach a small minority. The road system could revert to gravel and none of this would change.

So maybe, just maybe, as a long shot, you might possibly get a stinky diesel bus (or maybe a battery-operated bus?), but that's as much as most Americans now alive can expect ever to see.

Gee, how did a smaller and MUCH poorer United States of America manage to build (with truly primitive technology) subways in it's largest cities (see NYC for some) and streetcars in 500 cities and towns in twenty years ? (1897-1916)

I agree that institutional reforms in how we build are needed. Some form of standard design book (as exists for streets, roads and highways) would be needed instead of re-engineering EVERY time.

I have seen a 1903 manual that could form the basis for a modern book. (The 1903 primer was designed for engineers who were new to streetcars. Given the date of publication, it makes all sorts of sense).

Best Hopes,


Gee, how did a smaller and MUCH poorer United States of America manage to build (with truly primitive technology) subways in it's largest cities (see NYC for some) and streetcars in 500 cities and towns in twenty years ? (1897-1916)

They were on the right side of the resource depletion curve.

Also, it's far easier to build new infrastructure than retrofit the existing.

The rail lines were built with "coal, mules and sweat".

Coal (from memory) was extracted at slightly over 1 short ton/man/day (day was 12 hours long).

The impact of technology *FAR* exceeds any resource depletion issues. (Heading Out can speak to this from a professional POV)

Subways are dramatically easier to build today, especially when TBMs (tunnel boring machines) can be used.

In a few cases, rail was built (1897-1916) in advance of development, but the VAST majority of lines were built in built up areas.

The delta is that today, traffic lanes are sacrosanct and Urban Rail must fit in without taking ANYTHING (or very little) from the rubber tires. Back then, rail was seen as high volume (and high tech) and got first priority on street ROW.

Subways (other than stations) are little affected by surface development.

Best Hopes for Urban Rail (2008-2028),


I videotaped a TBM for the NYC-DEP, 'holing-thru' at Maspeth, Queens, for the WaterTunnel #3. The same TBM had drilled the 63rd St Subway tunnel under the East River, through which I rode many, many times!

"The Bronx is up and the Battery's Down, and People Ride in a Hole in the Ground. New York, New York.. It's a heck of a Town!" (I'm taking a Bus down there tomorrow.. and this is getting me all ramped up!)

Bob Fiske

I'm there on business travel right now, love taking the subway to work. A huge delicious cup of Starbucks in the morning still costs more than what it'd cost to run my TDI for the day back home, but at least I'm not sitting in traffic for 45 minutes.

Alan: The automobile alternative at the time was subpar or non-existent. Very little work has been devoted to high mpg autos so far. IMHO, most suburbanites will drive literally ANY type of automobile (e.g. 60 hp, 100 mpg)before they will resort to public transit. Suburbia will be the first shoe to drop, but first there will be a wave of high mpg autos purchased (IMO).

Per the collection of polls posted by Laurence Aurbach, roughly 30% of Americans want to live in TOD like environment IF IT WAS AVAILABLE. Building to satisfy this unmet market demand is a very good step 1, step 2 and even step 3 (as that 30% will likely grow).

I do agree that used Hummers are probably not a good investment, but I do NOT see a rush to hybrids or diesels yet. But that will surely come.

The used market, where the most price sensitive oil consumers buy their vehicles, will have to wait almost a decade for any significant % of high mileage cars.

How appealing will suburbs be if 1/3rd of the homes have been vacant for over 2 years (see tax collections, etc.) ?

Some suburbs will survive IMHO (with high mileage cars and other modifications), others will die.

Best Hopes,


Actually, hybrids are now Toyota's best-selling vehicles, with the Prius their biggest single seller. Of course, Toyota is also the world's largest car manufacturer.


But when did I start believing the cheap cost-free sentiments collected in POLLS? There's a bazillion things I want if a POLLSTER asks me, as long as there's no danger that I'll be confronted with ACTUALLY choosing it - and more importantly actually PAYING for it.

Gee, how did a smaller and MUCH poorer United States of America manage to build (with truly primitive technology) subways in it's largest cities (see NYC for some) and streetcars in 500 cities and towns in twenty years ? (1897-1916)

Because back then the politicians were merely venal. There was a competitive press back then, and no TV yet, so the newspapers had to actually compete for readership with muckraking editorials and investigative journalism. The politician's feet were held to the fire sufficiently to assure that at least occasionally they actually had to get something done, graft and kickbacks notwithstanding.

Today, our political system is even more broken than our transportation system. That's what will really do us in. If we had any chance at all of having even halfway effective political leadership, then I am certain that all of the good stuff that you and I would like to see come into play might have half a chance of actually happening. FEMA @ NOLA post-Katrina is a better indicator of what we can actually expect. It didn't have to be that way, but it is that way.

Americans still get to vote, and run for public office.

The most positive aspect of the New Orleans recovery has been the grass roots effort and HEAVY public involvement (everybody is trying to do something). Sales tax collections are running @ 90% of pre-K levels because EVERYONE (almost) is trying to spend every $ possible in Orleans Parish.

One measure is the 5,000 (including several friends and I) that marched on a Thursday noon to City Hall from all over the city (parade permits, whats that ?) against crime. Out of a population of perhaps 250,000 (not all adults), this was an impressive %.

We have Arnie Fielkow, the former Saints GM who was fired for trying to keep the Saints tied to New Orleans post-Katrina. First class NFL GM who could have gotten a job for $1.5 million in Seattle or Miami but is making $40K as a New Orleans City Council member. A couple of other reform City Council members as well that I like.

Democracy depends upon the citizens.

Best Hopes for Democracy post-Peak Oil,


The latest light rail extension in Denver was done way ahead of time and under budget. Clearly, there are places in America where the system isn't so broken. Despite the shitty press, Denver has a history of a pretty decent government. At least that was my impression when I lived there.

Maybe our public transportation could use a standard design book from some place that already uses public transportation successfully?

They have a much larger cadre of experienced engineers and others that have "learned on the job" over decades. I am unsure if they have a manual that they give to new hires that says "all they need to know" (never true of course).

The 1903 manual was designed for a quick ramp up, where experienced engineers (in other areas) were being brought into a new field.

But yes, German, Japanese, French (who are on a building spree !) language manuals should certainly be translated and adapted.

Best Hopes,


Gee, how did a smaller and MUCH poorer United States of America manage to build (with truly primitive technology) subways in it's largest cities (see NYC for some) and streetcars in 500 cities and towns in twenty years ? (1897-1916)

Let's count a few ways.

(1) Labor was practically free. The stories the folks in my grandparent's generation used to tell described what was for many nothing less than a harrowing living hell.

(2) Laboring was dangerous, see (1). Hardly anybody ever became a millionaire over an injury or even a death. The regulations that have made it far safer have also driven costs beyond the sky.

(3) The enormous taxes and health care costs we have now did not exist yet. If you were injured to the point of becoming a vegetable, you simply died, rather than being sustained indefinitely by the forced labor (perhaps realized in the form of taxes) of a dozen others. So the agencies doing the building paid only once for an hour's work, not twice or thrice as they must now.

(4) Life expectancy was far shorter - and retirement was often later, none of that retire-at-45 stuff enjoyed by today's lavishly coddled transit workers. The sort of pension overhead that's sinking San Diego did not exist yet, reinforcing (3).

(5) Transit vehicles were far simpler. Far fewer regulations of every sort. No requirement that every streetcar be a rolling ADA-approved hospital ward or that every bus have a hugely expensive kneeling mechanism requiring constant repairs and jamming with ice every winter - indeed some of the remaining museum pieces call for some considerable agility to board or to get off.

(6) Transit stations were far simpler and more compact, for similar reasons. Last time I saw something on the subject, NYC was installing ADA elevators at over $10 million a pop, and that isn't even a down payment on all the other nonsense.

(7) Far less conflict with existing infrastructure. The eighty years of corrupt fooling around with the Second Avenue Subway mean that if ever gets built, it will have to be jammed into an underground space that has grown far more crowded and breakable.

(8) [edit] Those builders were competing with horses and some bicycles, cars were not substantial competition yet. So they had the shiny new widget. And anything that reduced horse manure and the now-unimaginable vast disease-bearing swarms of flies and bugs would have been eagerly welcomed.

It's just not 100 years ago any more. We simply can't do what we did 100 years ago if we must adhere to today's regulations and standards. Which is why, for example, hardly anybody in their right mind proposes subway any more, it's almost all "light rail" or something of the sort. (Which, on existing ROW, may then get you into issues of train horns blasting all day and all night, courtesy of our good buddy and former DOT honcho Federico Pena.)

What is really needed is a carbon tax. I would be happy to see the gas tax go away in exchange. Doing such might provide the political cover to do what would otherwise be political suicide.

One was about other states wanting to follow Texas's lead, and temporarily suspend all gas taxes for the summer.

Do you have a link to that? Also, what was the link where that Texas politician made a silly statement like "the more you use, the more you save?" I didn't save that, but I meant to.

Thanks, Robert

Here's a link to gas price caps in Canada.

Here's the Texas article:

House OKs suspending gas tax

The other article I did not see online. I did post a link today to one about CT suspending their gas tax for summer.

Ah, my old A&M newspaper.

Thanks for that. I did see the one in CT. I guess they are going to abolish the laws of economics with these moves.

I guess they are going to abolish the laws of economics with these moves.

Should be a popular move. They might as well abolish such inconveniences as the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics while they are at it. That would be most helpful.


Leanan...even if people do "get it" no one really knows what to do about it. There is no one offering them a solution or alternative to get to their job or buy their groceries. People want to be told what to do. They are hoping if there is a real problem, either their local or the federal government will give them guidelines to follow.

There are plenty of things people can do on their own. We saw some of them during the Katrina price spike. Use of public transportation spiked. Sales of SUVs and trucks dropped. The Prius was so popular there was a waiting list of months.

And in my own office, people quit their jobs, or transferred to a division closer to their homes.

Granted, some of the things they did won't help the big picture. Like the people who transferred to jobs that come with a company car. (Though I guess that helps a little, because many of our cars are natural-gas powered, for air quality reasons.)

I think, if gas prices rose steadily, people would think twice about buying that McMansion an hour and a half from their job, or that monster SUV. But with the volatility...it's going to be a long time before people make serious changes.

I know there are things people can do (in the vein of ELP), but how many people really will do this on their own. We, at TOD, are a miniscule minority. How many people have the luxury of switching offices to be closer to home? I could do this right now, but cut my pay by 50%. It is not monetarilly worth it for me and my family right now. Now, if I am laid off, then I will definitely look for something closer, but I won't do it until I have to.

Historically, many presidents have called the public to action and the people have responded. There is now a vacuum in that category and if left on their own devices, people don't know how to act.

I know there are things people can do (in the vein of ELP), but how many people really will do this on their own.

I think most would, given a strong enough price signal.

How many people have the luxury of switching offices to be closer to home?

I think most people could cut down on their commutes if they had do. Either take a different job, or move closer in. Or carpool. If the economic incentive is there, they do it.

social signal

People want to be told what to do. They are hoping if there is a real problem, either their local or the federal government will give them guidelines to follow.

Well, we're not going to get it, at least here in the US. What we do get will be too little, too late.

What I'm more concerned about is the FedGov doing things that actually make the problem WORSE. That is a real possibility.

The first thing that must be understood is that by definition one-half of the population is below average in intelligence. This obvious reality has been carefully obfuscated by the education establishment, government, and mass media, but it is a profound truth. I remind myself of it daily, it really does explain a great deal.

Secondly, it must be understood that the US public education system has been going down the toilet for several decades now. A significant portion of the population has now passed through this failed system. They may be credentialed, but they are uneducated. They don't know how to think critically and logically, and they know next to nothing about economics, history, geography, or science. In other words, they are woefully unequipped to make any sense of the world in which they are now living.

Thirdly, it must be understood that the US political system is totally disfunctional. It is now structured to place in positions of authority people who lack the knowledge, wisdom, and character required to provide good government, or even anything close to it. What we have are the best politicians that money can buy. Lying and obfuscation are not just crisis management tools, they are SOP.

Fourthly, it must be understood that the news media are not in the business of providing objective and informative information to the general public. Most are owned by entertainment conglomerates, or at least have interlocking ties to them. The "news" media is in the business of selling ads and making their customers happy. Reporting on other people's misfortunes serves these purposes well. In depth, hard-hitting analysis of complicated subjects doesn't.

Don't blame the sheep for the result of poor leadership by the shepherds.

For the last 30+ years the GOP has worked hard at making the term "liberal" part of profanity. They sometimes call it the L word giving the impression that it is too vile a concept to be said in polite company. They have deified the term "conservative" to such an extent that people who actually express favor for liberal causes to label themselves as conservatives. At the heart of conservativism is a blind faith in authority figures and a reluctance criticise their statements. They teach discipline in our schools as being more important than curiosity and logical analysis of ideas. Having pounded into them that "because I said so" is the end of discussion it is little wonder that understanding about how the world really works is so rare. Another conservative concept is that if you do as you are told Daddy (aka the Republicans) will protect you from all the world's slings and arrows. That Daddy has utterly failed to protect us from the reality of Peak Oil leaves the masses groping for a cause of their suffering. It can't be Daddy's fault so they lash out at the most visible symbol which is the price of gas. We were good kids who bought the big SUVs that you led us to buy because that was what the rich were buying. Definitely a case of monkey see, monkey do. Daddy taught us that Daddy is never wrong. To question what Daddy says and does is unthinkable. There must be some other reason I hurt so much. Daddy says its those taxes liberals have forced on us. We must cut gas taxes because Daddy says that will fix the problem.
That so many Dems have fallen for the liberal is evil trap has led them to support some illogical ideas. They too have set the example of driving big SUVs and being driven around in big limosines and saying they would have protected us from those big bad oil companies if they were in charge.
The MSM give us the same idea that we shouldn't question Daddy and stop imitating him. A story about high pump prices is followed by an ad for the new Toyota Tundra or Cadillac Escalade. Advertising works. If it didn't work then companies would stop buying ads. Is it any wonder we are so nuts?

The "Daddy Party" vs. the "Mommy Party" . . . looks like America is in need of collective psychotherapy!


More like advance auctions. Both sides participate equally, they just use a different core constituency and by fanning conflict they prevent any meaningful social class discussion.

IMO they have been so successful at this that it is irreversible.

I don't support the GOP but Mr. Deplume's comment mischaracterizes Republican philosophy so thoroughly that it's hard to know where to begin. Example:

At the heart of conservativism is a blind faith in authority figures and a reluctance criticise their statements.

Surely you're kidding: Virtually every conservative I know will point out where the President has erred and what he should be doing instead. This is "blind faith in authority figures"?

Another conservative concept is that if you do as you are told Daddy (aka the Republicans) will protect you from all the world's slings and arrows.

Sounds like you're projecting: One of the major tenets of conservatism is that it's stupid and counterproductive for government to try to protect citizens from their own stupidity. Which party complains about "the nanny state", and which one embraces it?

We were good kids who bought the big SUVs that you led us to buy because that was what the rich were buying.

Oh, the GOP pushed you into that, did they? What utter nonsense. Or are you saying all the folks in the advertising business are Republicans?

I like the framing concepts of 'strict father' and 'nurturing parent' as describing the differences between conservative and liberal views on what government should do. The so called 'nanny state' does not exist in the US compared to Europe or even Canada. The nurturing parent focuses on empowering persons to be productive people via good health care and high quality education. The strict father focuses on protecting us from outside threats and punishment of rule breakers. Neither party is 100% one way or the other. When we look at how the pundits emphasize that we are at war and should not criticize the commander and chief it is obvious who the strict father is. When welfare reform looked only at the poorest in our nation as not being responsible for themselves but not at tax abatements, depletion allowances, and sweetheart no bid contracts for wealthy corporations we know who isn't the nurturing parent.

The first thing that must be understood is that by definition one-half of the population is below average in intelligence. This obvious reality has been carefully obfuscated by the education establishment, government, and mass media, but it is a profound truth. I remind myself of it daily, it really does explain a great deal.

Fundamentally your thoughts in the entire post are there, but I would suggest that the situation is much worse.

When you say that by definition one half of the population ,,,,,,,, etc
You fail to take into account that in the US the average itself is quite low when compared to many other first world nations, perhaps even some not first world nations, so you pretty much have to use the square power of your evaluation to start dealing with reality and begin to understand how this is most likely to develop.

National average IQs do vary somewhat from a global average 100. Most are within +/- 10%. The figures I have seen for the US (no cite ready at hand, sorry) were in the 96-98 range IIRC. There are some east asian countries with national average IQs >100.

Remember that the IQ test, while generally valid, is not the most exact tool in the world. There is a small margin of error.

You are correct if you look at it in terms of IQ which should pretty much be the same everywhere on average if you leave environmental factors out, but I was mostly basing my comment on the state of the US public education system that you had also prominently mentioned.
It more resembles a entitlement thinking factory then a critical thinking or learning factory.

Yes, it is not that America has a particularly sub-par national IQ. It is just that we carry a double burden. Not only do we have the same 50% below average IQ population that everyone has, we also have a very large percentage of our above-average IQ population that has been grossly undereducated (or perhaps mis-educated or mal-educated would be better words for it).

Many countries consider it to be a major national challenge of primary importance to make the most of what little intellectual capital they have. The US makes as little as possible of the the great amounts of intellectual capital that we might have potentially had.

I don't think American IQs are particularly low. I do think we are less educated than many.

Part of it is good ol' American insularity. Ugly Americans, and proud of it. Perhaps because we such a large nation, we don't really have to learn other languages or learn about other cultures. Or even our own. We can't find Canada on a map, we tell people from New Mexico to go back to their own country, we don't know what language they speak in Hawaii.

Part of it that we were founded by religious fanatics, and it takes a long time for that kind of thing to fade. Evolution by natural selection, sex education, and religion are controversial here in a way much of the rest of the world cannot understand.

And part of it is a certain anti-intellectualism, as expressed by Rush Limbaugh's dig at the "elite": "educated beyond their intelligence." I read once that in China, every child is expected to learn calculus, so they all do, just as here in the U.S., everyone is expected to learn to drive, and does. Here, not all kids are expected to learn calculus, and those who do often get a certain amount of abuse.

A table of national IQ (amongst other things) can be found here

Some selected figures

US: 98
UK: 100
South Korea:106

make of that what you will. Theory goes that those regional groupings that had to fight to survive over pre-history tend to evolve slightly higher intelligences.

Theory goes that those regional groupings that had to fight to survive over pre-history tend to evolve slightly higher intelligences.

I don't think I buy it. Iran is ridiculously low. And there seemed to be a lot of fighting there in cradle of civilization.

I know they've improved, but I suspect so-called IQ-tests still have cultural biases.

No doubt there are dozens of theories about IQ, a highly controversial subject. My observation, having lived in South Korea, was the incredible devotion to eduction, and this was back when they were poverty stricken and still recovering from the Korean War. In any event, Asians clearly have much higher IQs than the rest of the world. Is their passion for education the chicken or the egg? I simply don't know.

Well, since I moved to the UK, I suspect that caused the UK to move up a point and the US to move down a point. :-)

Seriously, I am quite surprised to see that about Iran. I guess that's because the only Iranians I have known have all been educated. I have 3 in my group right now, and they all probably have IQs in the 150 range.

Incidentally, one has invited me to Tehran to meet his family. Should I go? I am thinking probably not, but he assures me that I will be completely safe with him. I told him I thought there were restrictions on the travel of U.S. citizens to Iran, but he said he could get me a Visa.

Part of the problem with Iran is that the population has been decimated.

The median age in Iran is 25.

The nation has seen much of it's educated population killed or leave the country, driving the IQ level down.

New Zealand and Australia always enjoy a bit of cultural sparring. One of our Prime Ministers once remarked that he didn't mind Kiwis (New Zealanders) moving to Aussie to live, as it raised the average IQ in both countries :-)

But joking aside, IQ is supposed to be a test of intelligence, not education. Therefore it doesn't matter what the average age of a population is (adult), or their education levels. That is the theory, anyway.

I suspect that what others have posted is correct however - IQ tests probably have cultural/educational biases... after all, they are based on normative testing (nowadays) with a standard deviation of about 15 points. If many of the educated have been killed or have left Iran it may well have affected their results...

"You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created."
Albert Einstein

Part of the problem with Iran is that the population has been decimated.
... The nation has seen much of its educated population killed or leave the country, driving the IQ level down.

Surely it's all Bush's fault.

Surely it's all Bush's fault.

No, it is Eisenhower's fault. Iran used to have democracy. In 1953 the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran (Mohammed Mossadegh) was overthrown and replaced by a brutal and corrupt pro-American dictator called Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The policies of Shah gave rise to Khomeini. The Mullahs wouldn't be ruling Iran today if the US had not overthrown Mossadegh.

The Iranians who flee the country are the smarter ones, and they contribute to a higher IQ level in for example Sweden, which have a lot of Iranian refugees.

Provided Bush doesn't start bombing them while you were there, you would probably be perfectly safe. There is a story of an Israeli in an aircraft that had to land in Tehran. He was worried, but they ended up giving him a present.

However you would probably have lots of hassle from the authorities here, asking questions about why you visited. Probably not worth the hassle.

You should definately go. I have a good friend who has travelled there and I'm sure you would find the experience fascinating. I don't think safety is a concern at all. Iran is quite safe. The media likes to portray Iran as a place of radicals and anti-American mobs, but that is propaganda. Iran is actually orderly, well educated, and quite American friendly. Don't expect Iranians to embrace US foreign policy, but they will be thrilled and happy to meet Americans.

Seriously, I am quite surprised to see that about Iran. I guess that's because the only Iranians I have known have all been educated. I have 3 in my group right now, and they all probably have IQs in the 150 range.

You hit the nail on the head! Most of the high IQ Iranians have left the country; the rest of them voted for Ahmedinejad :-)

That's a little unfair. The mullahs essentially blocked the more moderate candidates from the ballot, so it ought to come as no surprise that they ended up with someone like Ahmedinejad.

The IQ tests are supposed to measure intelligence, not education. How have yours evolved over the years? My whole range is less than five points over a forty-year span. So Iran's educational mess can't be the cause of a national average of 84, but it's also not credible to me that they're as a whole 5/6ths as "smart" as Americans. Don't discount cultural bias in testing too quickly.
And agreed that Persia has seen more continuous human conflict than any other place, so warmaking apparently isn't much of a driver of intelligence either.

The IQ tests are supposed to measure intelligence, not education. How have yours evolved over the years?

Mine has been tested twice - 20 years apart. Both times it was one of my teachers who requested and organized the test. When I was in grade school, I tested at 158. In college, 154. I often wonder how well I could have done had my parents realized the value of education. Their intent was for me to remain on the farm, and so there was absolutely no college preparation, nor funds for college. I had to do all of that on my own.

Thanks for finding, that is the list I remember seeing, and my recollection of 98 for the US was correct. I don't think much should be read into differences of 2-3%.

It adds up over 300 million or so.

Ok, you have invited me to "make of that what you will". Here it goes. :-)

There are so many difficulties inherent in testing that I find it unlikely it is even possible to have an unbiased result. The problem is inherent in the question itself: just what is "intelligence"? Go ahead, define it for me. There is the obvious problem of cultural bias, but the linked page suggests that can be dealt with by

tests carefully designed to exclude cultural bias (for example, spatial relationship tests based entirely on pictures, memorisation of digit sequences, and pure eye-hand reaction time)

Eye-hand reaction time?!? Video games make you smart? Ok, suppose eye-hand reaction time is an aspect of intelligence. How much of that particular test contributes to the overall score? Is eye-hand reaction time 5% of your intelligence? 2%? 20%? Some people have good spatial relationship skills, some people don't have them at all. Some people have excellent language skills, some do not. Which person is more "intelligent"? Are engineers more intelligent than translators? Are history professors more intelligent than airline pilots?

I am not trying to say it is all bunk, but it's, well, not that far from it. I certainly dispute that the figures are anything you can rely on to make general statements about a population. Trying to measure human intellectual ability as one single number is doomed to failure.

Yes, video games make you smart. ;-)

There have been some studies that suggest playing video games will improve your scores on spatial relationships tests - to the point that the traditional difference between males and females vanishes.

If that's true, though, it suggests that judging spatial relationships isn't an innate ability that can be tested for indepedently of culture.

So maybe the problem with Iran is they just don't have enough Nintendos over there.

Here's my chance to toss in a little experimental effort I made last week. Has to do with intelligence and education and TOD concerns all at once.

Some middle school students, reputedly the brightest of them, came out to my place for a little exposure to the oil depletion problem. I did so with a game. Some of them I sat on a bench and labeled consumers- home, transport, farm, etc. Each got a cottage cheese container to hold their oil demand. They were instructed to dribble out their oil (water)at a proper consumption rate.

Another kid got a big bucket labeled REFINERY, with a lot of oil (water) in it, and was instructed to mete it out fairly to the clamoring consumers.

Another hard working kid got to be the oil company. His job was to run to the nearest well, take its contents to the refinery, run back to the next well, farther away, to get the next cheese container, and so on. Each well was not only farther away, but held less oil, and what was held kept getting muddier and muddier, so toward the end, there was nought but mud in the well, and that a hell of a long way from the refinery.

And, worst, the number of consumers in each category kept getting bigger.

Things got frantic fast. Lots of noise, complaints of scarcity, dirty oil, absence of service, the whole thing that TOD loves to gripe and warn about. The kids really got into it.

After the final collapse into that famous gorge, and I was able to restore sanity and composure and collect all the dirty cottage cheese containers, we talked about it. Turns out they got the idea very well indeed. The game was a complete success. AND they understood that they were seeing a real world problem that was going to bite them hard and fast.

BUT, here's the rub. nary a one of them had even a faint feeble thought of what to do about it! Not even a cliche-nothing. I asked how many were thinking of becoming engineers or scientists- not a one! And not one knew what heated the water they used in their house. And their parents averaged about 100 lbs overweight, and every car was a SUV. Nobody carpooled.

That's it, folks.

Great story.

And I assume that your role was to be the government, telling everyone that everything was going to be OK, nothing to worry about, etc., while looking the other way and paying no attention at all. . .

Nah, I had the god job. There were plenty of acts of god to mess things up. There were no acts of government , just like in real life.

Look in the mirror folks. I know this blog is populated by oil industry folks, and I imagine most are honest hard working people. But the inability of a great many people on this blog to point a critical finger at the industry while simultaneously berating public ignorance is mind-boggling.

Tell me what major oil executive, board member, big-time oil industry bureaucrat has said anything about peak in the last decade, except to deny it into some far-off future? Look at this blog, you get some ridiculous price increase, based supposedly on refinery problems, and you have people on here spewing the industry's pr on how fantasy markets work, without ever acknowledging the industry's monopoly architecture -- open the maintenance records, so we can decide for ourselves. On top of it, you hear from others how it's all a failure of politics, never industry culpability however.

People are pissed? Of course they are, and holding the oil industry accountable is more rational than a lot of the things people say here.

Tell me what major oil executive, board member, big-time oil industry bureaucrat has said anything about peak in the last decade, except to deny it into some far-off future?

Matthew Simmons?

T. Boone Pickens?

Or Jim Buckee, CEO of Talisman?

CEO of Shell Oil(easy oil is over) but NOT EXXON'S( easy oil is not over) Hmmm lookky at those prices! Dang! Sure is easy to find, got a hole right here....full of...oil

The CEO of Total has said the same. He has said that we will never be able to supply the amounts that are forecast over the next few years. While that is not an admission of peak, it is an admission at the least that growth projections won't be met.

holding the oil industry accountable is more rational than a lot of the things people say here.

I can certainly hook you up on today's API blogger call. E-mail me if you are interested. You can attempt to hold them accountable yourself.

People are pissed? Of course they are, and holding the oil industry accountable is more rational than a lot of the things people say here.

So do you believe the oil industry fabricated the whole 'Hubbert's Peak' theory--beginning 50 years ago--in order to falsely convince consumers that world-wide oil extraction would flatten around 2007?

Hey, if they're that smart they probably ought to be running the world anyway!

Okay, believing the oil companies made up the whole Peak-Oil thing does seem ridiculous. So perhaps you believe instead that oil is somehow exempt from the well-known laws of supply and demand that seem to apply to every other commodity on the planet?


I'm a 3rd-generation oil family--been in and around that biz for, oh, 50 years now--and I have watched the industry warn people (they actually ran ads) as far back as 1973 that the crunch was coming. But of course no one paid any attention.

So *now* people like you come along and push to blame...the oil companies. 'Cuz, like, y'know, everyone's "pissed" at the high price of gasoline, so... y'know, so they gotta have someone to blame. And the oil industry is such a perfect target: Big bidness, smelly, often hazardous. Yep, dat's da ticket.


The article about cheap solar heat power reveals a quirk in that tech's design expectations..

"Solar thermal plants work best in arid deserts that get little rainfall. Since some of the fastest-growing cities in the world are located in sun belts, that's less of a problem than it used to be."

I wonder what that growth curve will look like if energy and water supplies make those cities unsustainable? (Even WITH that one energy source..)

I wonder what that growth curve will look like if energy and water supplies make those cities unsustainable?

I agree. I live in a province the size of Texas with a million people. The summers are perfect, the winters are brutal. We have plenty of fresh water, all the uranium in Canada, 1/3 of the oil and gas, 2.6 billion tonnes of coal and enough farmland to grow 12 million tonnes of wheat and almost as much Canola, along with dairy, beef, pork and poultry.

Even though the housing market has seen a recent increase, you can buy or build a 2000 sq.ft home on a large lot that is less than 15 minutes from downtown for under $300k CAN. You can buy as much farmland as you want for $300-$2000/acre.

A big focus of the SHPEGS project is renewable power outside of arid locations and seasonal thermal storage for structure heating.

It's subjective, but there is a lot of sparse populated area in moderate climates with resources to support a lot more population and I personally wouldn't want to live in a densely populated area or out in the desert.

rohar1, sssshhhhh!

We want to remain nicely anonymous and reasonably populated up here...don't give the southern hordes any ideas.

Might as well ask them to come here now, it might go better than waiting until they figure it out on their own in a few years.

They are running radio ads on the afternoon drive slot in Calgary:
"If you lived in Saskatchewan, you would be home by now"


Ahhh Sask... where one can watch their dog run away for 3 days.

Too late...I'm leaving Texas right this minute to drive up there.

Did anyone read this from today's Drumbeat? http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=CHI20070...

There is a supra-government, elite insider conspiracy involving both major parties to enslave us all?

Does anyone want to comment on the likelihood of such a broad "conspiracy"? If true, it seems most likely to break the USA into a new civil war of conflicting elites, rather than a monolithic military dictatorship.

In any case, such speculation is best left to Michael Rupert (quoted in the article) and not on OilDrum. It seems enough to discuss oil supply and production -- this sort of thing detracts from the credibility of the site

Disagree. DrumBeats are a survey of what people are saying about energy and climate change issues, including some extreme views. We have discussed Ruppert's theories at length here, as well as Jerome Corsi's abiotic oil articles.

Just because it's in a DrumBeat doesn't mean it is endorsed by TOD staff or readership.

Hey, we have to keep an eye on what the nuts are up to, because they vote, too.

Hey, we have to keep an eye on what the nuts are up to, because they vote, too.

Leanan, just how many of the nut-cases do you intend on giving an audience. If you posted a link to every such nut as Larry Chin, there would be no room for any peak oil or energy news.

Yes Abiotic oil should be debunked because it is connected with the oil issue. Even Ruppert needs to be explained because he is, like Tesla was, half genus and half nut-case. And Ruppert does write about energy. But this Larry Chin article has absolutely nothing to do with energy, it is only another very stupid conspiracy theory. (US Military Intelligence was involved in planning the Fort Dix caper.)

Posting such links only feeds the conspiracy theory nitwits Leanan. We should be above that.

Ron Patterson

Ron, I must respectfully disagree. I have neither the patience or time to read the wing-nut blogs, and I appreciate the time and effort that Leanan puts in to condensing/linking them for us so that we can come to our own conclusions.

I do have one time-saving suggestion-the source and city of each of the links posted with the link in the Drumbeat. I don't have the interest or time to follow each link, and frankly could care less about the attitudes of a writer in Podunk, Texas.

For anyone who doesn't follow the Texas Legislature, Podunk was recently elevated by a bill to be the Official Mythical Town in the Lone Star State, beating out the other main contender, DoWahDitty. And who says we don't have the best Legislature that money can buy?

Oilmanbob, for the life of me I cannot connect anything in your post to anything Leanan or I wrote except the link was about a wing-nut blog. But that bit about the Texas Legislature came right out of the blue. What does that have to do with anything??? If you are going to disagree with me, then for God's sake tell me what I said that you disagree with?

My point, if we are going to give nut-cases an audience then we should at least limit them to energy connected nutcases like abiotic oil or Ruppert. Nut-cases and conspiracy theory nitwits with no energy or peak oil connection are nothing more than that, just more nuts in a nut filled world and coverage of them simply degrades the site.

Yes, I deeply appreciate the efforts Leanan puts in in researching articles for Drumbeats. But I don't think she, or anyone else should sneak in a conspiracy theory nut-case article with absolutely no connection to peak oil or enery issues.

Ron Patterson

Leanan, just how many of the nut-cases do you intend on giving an audience.

All of them. Just not all at once, and not everything they produce.

Besides, I don't want to be put in the position of deciding who is a nutcase, and who isn't.

Well said, let us remember that most thinking members of the oil drum would be considered "nutcases" by a preponderance of humans (simply because of ignorance). Ad Hominem attacks and the label of "conspiracy theory" is a lazy semantic weapon, and in my experience it is quite often that a particular "conspiracy theory" is more accurate than the status quo (precisely because the status quo is usually a timid, comforting happy face, instead of reality). If an argument is presented logically, and it makes you uncomfortable, just wave the conspiracy flag and be done with it - so you don't have to actually CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES (Peak Oil, U.S. History, Nutrition, etc.).

IN this vein I just bought the politically incorrect guide to american history. I haven't started it yet, but has anyone read it? Any comments?

I don't want to be put in the position of deciding who is a nutcase, and who isn't.

Well, those who do the work get to make the rules, Leanan! Whatever you do is fine.

However, here are some arguments for sifting news articles:

If there is no sifting, the "good stuff" gets drowned out. Much time is be wasted on things that aren't important.

Like it or not, we depend on your judgment, which is more informed than most people's.

It's better for the news gatekeeper to take a straightforward stand and let us know what it is. One doesn't have to be ideological - one's criteria can be quality and freshness.

Energy Bulletin


Now you want to decide what is important and what has quality, but without having the guts to implicitly tell Leanan that she doesn't do that well enough?

I applaud Leanan for not making those judgment calls, at least not all the time. Issues need discussion. You can't keep using the term conspiracy theory ad infinitum, if only because that's what peak oil is as well, to many.

Here's Naomi Wolf talking about America on the road to fascism.

The link to peak oil is abundantly clear, so is she lacking quality or importance?

Where do you draw that line? Kurt Vonnegut acceptable? And why draw that line for others? You seem to think it's your job to define good stuff. What's that? More articles on ethanol? Electric cars? Tramlines? Isn't that all just a narrow view of the repercussions of the energy issues you wish to discuss?

There seem to be people who don't feel that those things will be the answer to the peak, that entirely different things await, of the not so pretty kind.

I didn't say I didn't sift the articles. I just don't sift them by the criteria Darwinian would like.

It's better for the news gatekeeper to take a straightforward stand and let us know what it is.

I'm afraid it's pretty arbitrary. Some days are slower news days than others, and some days I have more time to search for news. I do see the DrumBeat as survey of what people are talking about in energy-related matters, but that doesn't mean all views and sources are equally represented.

I guess I'd say the two axes are interest and importance. As determined by me, of course. I do think it's important to keep an eye on the fringes, and no, I don't worry that people will think we're nuts. They already think we are nuts. As long as we have Dieoff.org, FTW, LATOC, etc. on the sidebar, there's no sense in trying to pretend to be mainstream.

If my criteria were quality and freshness, well, I'd have to leave out most of the political articles. ;-)

I appreciate the work Leanan does selecting these articles. It's a volunteer service for our benefit. I only read a few of them, but skim the summary of most of them. It's to be expected that the sifting process reflects her own daily opinion on what's interesting and relevant.

FWIW I really appreciate and respect the work that Leanan does . Keep up the great work. I think it is a tremendous and selfless contribution to the Oil Drum community.


Leanan, actually I get a good sense of what your standards are by what you put on Drumbeat. My point is that you are a gatekeeper, and your stock in trade is your news judgment.

To have a healthy news site, someone like you should have the opportunity to exercise your judgment. It doesn't matter whether I agree with it -- we need different sites with different viewpoints. I think it's helpful to discuss news values though. Over time, one's ideas and standards change.

HeIsSoFly, the gatekeeper function is something that's discussed a lot in journalism and information theory. This is a standard concept, not particularly controversial. The idea is that making judgments is inevitable; pure neutrality is a chimera.

Perhaps, but then again, the USA seems to want to involve security agencies in energy issues, which will guarantee that the sort of incompetence and ineptitude manifested in Canadian quarter led to spy fears will spill over into energy. So we need to keep a jaundiced eye, not only on the nuts, but on the morons.

How about letting MSNBC's Keith Olbermann do the speculation, and explain to you what's left of the Bill of Right(s)?

Does he have credibility?

Does oil supply and production take place in a separate reality vacuum, and the world just keeps going no matter what declines there are?

Or how about New York Times' William Rivers Pitt? Any credibility?

One would think this administration would be worried about the violence and chaos in Iraq. They aren't, because the violence has become the justification for "staying the course." Bush will mouth platitudes about bringing democracy to the region, but that is merely the billboard. What he and his friends from the Project for the New American Century wanted in the first place, and what they have now, is a permanent military presence over there. There was never any consideration of a timetable for withdrawal, because there was never any intention to withdraw. The violence today is a self-perpetuating justification, a perfect circle lubricated by blood, oil and currency.

Keeping our attention on Iraq has allowed this administration to do what it came to do under cover of darkness. They have managed to eviscerate dozens of federal regulations designed to make sure our children aren't born with gills or seventeen eyes thanks to the pollution in the air, water and food. The Clean Air Act is pretty much gone now, as are requirements for food safety labeling. GOP "pension reform" means growing old in America amounts to growing poor, just like in the good old days of the Depression. Millions of elderly people have been fed to the wolves by way of the new Medicare Plan D calamity. There are now tens of millions more poor people in America, the middle class is evaporating, but top incomes are up 497% according to the Federal Reserve.

Can anyone still think this was all by accident?

The poll numbers say that nearly 70% of the country believes we are heading in the wrong direction in Iraq and here at home. This is edifying, to say the least. It means that people like me can stop trying to point out all the things that have gone wrong, because at long last a huge majority of the country has come to see things for how they actually are. But it also means that we as a nation are required now to move past what is actually happening, and ask why it is happening.

Batting down the "incompetence" argument is easy; all one has to do is see what this administration and its friends have gained in the last five years. The rest of the answer is more difficult, because it has to do with us, with we the people, and the staggering degree to which we take our rights and freedoms for granted.

There was never any timetable for Iraq withdrawal because Bush & Co. never had any intention of leaving. And the Democrats will find it just as difficult to pull the plug, should they draw the short straw in the next Presidential election. Can you imagine Hilary being able to stand up in front of Rush Limbaugh, AIPAC, the War Profiteers and Joe-Six and say "We've lost Iraq. We're getting the hell out" ??? Not a chance.

Until and unless America can say "we've screwed up, we're only making things worse, we're outta here," America will be in Iraq.

There is a supra-government, elite insider conspiracy involving both major parties to enslave us all?

"It can never happen here", eh? You make it sound more inflammatory than the article is. Still, how would a typical Iraqi put it? What does Sep 11 mean to a Chilean?

I don't believe it's idle speculation. I've been pondering the cluster of authoritarianism, political class, energy and growth for some time. That particular article pushed me to stub in a short post on my own blog. It's not a finished thought yet, sorry.

cfm in Gray, ME

I'm a strong believer in Occam's Razor: "entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity", or to paraphrase "All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one".


This usually kills conspiracy theories, especially ones involving large numbers of people (like more than one). A (the?) simpler explanation is that people pursue actions that they perceive to be in their best interests; when some people's interests coincide, they act in similar ways to advance their their common interests.

The more interesting questions to explore are: Why are certain power elites evidently worried about a perceived risk of civil disorder, and why are they making plans to deal with it, and how might those plans not be in OUR best interests?

Why degrade a word like "conspiracy" - as if pretending they don't exist in abundance. Simply look at the meaning of the word.

You are rejecting the word "conspiracy" and replacing it with "people pursue actions that they perceive to be in their best interests..."

What is a conspiracy?

It is a group of people pursuing actions they perceive to be in their best interests. It usually has two other qualifiers: 1) done in secret or deceptively, and 2) illegal. Now I, personally, would also put "immoral" as a substitute for (2). Whether you accept that substitution or not is irrelevant - conspiracies happen all the time, every day, in business, political circles, etc... how many major corporations do you think are fined every year for illegal actions? They are the tip of the iceberg. I doubt it was one person making those decisions to do something illegal. Therefore, conspiracy. 911 = conspiracy, whether you believe it was 19 hijackers or something else.

Occam's razor is a good rule of thumb. And often the rule is: people pursue actions that they perceive to be in their best interests. In the corporate and political world, this will include a lot of conspiracies...

"You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created."
Albert Einstein

If we had followed Occam's Razor during the events of Watergate, would we have ever uncovered what Nixon had done? The simplest explanation is NOT always the correct one. Perhaps 9/10 times, it is, but it is that 1/10 that can be most interesting to pursue in length. I enjoy investigating outliers.

Is this in response to me? I don't think we disagree...

"You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created."
Albert Einstein

The simplest explanation can be called conventional wisdom and that is 9/10 wrong at most all times. 1/10 conventional wisdom makes sense. If you like outliers you would like a new book about what's called Black Swans in finance. As you may know finance has an abberation to extreme std dev events, big fat tails. They are more common in finance than anywhere else if memory serves me.

Ah, but in that case the simplest explanation was that employees were doing what they were told to do, and then everyone up the chain of command was covering up that fact. There was no need to hypothesize a broader conspiracy, and in fact such theories only served to distract from the real story.

Last night Stephen Colbert pointed out that Bush sold the war in Iraq to conservatives while Blair in the UK sold it to liberals.

Here's a very long URL to the video:

Do the Democrats really want to pull out of Iraq (I feel the answer is no)? And it's obvious they don't mind the erosion of our civil liberties (they almost all vote against our civil liberties).

Aside from a handful of honest politicians (maybe 5) the rest are part of the same machine with the same purposes. They only differ on minor moral issues that don't matter one way or another (abortion is the best example).

It's not a conspiracy if everyone is on the same side...

How does abortion not matter? It single handedly eliminated crime in the early 90's. Try some freakonomics and see through the clutter.

(The Colbert MotherLoad is a great link? .. Like with George Carlin's dog 'licking himself'.. If I could just do that, I'd never leave home.)

Yeah, the early nineties were great, once abortion was set loose as the great crimefighter- that was good livin! - what?

If I can try to interpret, turpin seems to be saying that "Abortion" (capital A) is simply an 'ISSUE' for its own sake. It's a bridge too far, and may well never be crossed.. but it sure makes for some good speechifyin' !


The Colbert punctuation was a typo.. was supposed to be !!!, not ?

Must have been trying to lick myself again!

The supply of indignant young men was reduced since the ones who choose to have an abortion are mostly single uneducated women who do not have the capacity to raise a child. When abortion was legalized, all those destitute children with no guidance were removed from the population of offenders. Thus the supply of criminals was reduced, period. Law of supply and demand in action.

Your logic has stretch marks, tate. Comma,

There are wee bits of truth; (semicolon) but the idea that kids who 'would' have been aborted are then going to become predominantly 'criminals', and have any measurable effect on crime rates is kind of bizarre.

I'm pro-choice, but come on.. (period period)

It's not Tate's logic. This is something that was argued in the best-selling book, Freakonomics.

The Freakonomics guys don't believe in peak oil, though. Hey, they're economists. ;-)

Thanks Leanan. I could have swore I included the book title in my original post and lookee, I did.

Try some freakonomics and see through the clutter.

Oh jokuhl, please provide your insight to refute their claim as I am at a loss for a more logical reason. Follow the data. He's got raw data sets to examine in the book.

I'd recommend taking Freakonomics with a big grain of salt. It is an entertaining read, and they do make a few good points, but they often tend to oversimplify and neglect to consider some important factors.

For example, continuing on our abortion and crime rate discussion: yes, it is true that the crime rate is correlated with the population of disadvantaged young men, and yes that population did decline due to decreasing birth rates following Roe v. Wade But it should also be noted that birth rates were on a downward trend even before 1973; the well-documented demographic transition and the introduction of effective and convenient birth control combined with other socioeconomic changes all had a lot to do with this. I believe it is oversimplifying to say that the reduction in the crime rate was all due to legalized abortion; many of those unborn juvenile delinquents would have been unborn anyway.

For another example: The authors conclude that real estate agents don't serve their clients well because when selling their own properties they hold out longer for a buyer than their clients do when selling a house. The authors fail to consider the fact that real estate agents are less likely to make long distance moves than the general population, because to do so would mean starting over from scratch and building up their business anew. Thus, when real estate agents sell their own homes, it is more likely to be a discretionary rather than a job related move, and thus they are less likely to be under time constraints than are their selling customers.

The book is filled with oversimplifications and sloppy analyses like this.

If KSA has 2+MMBPD of Total liquids remaining excess capacity - then wouldn't it follow that there would be significant and proportional percentage of that in LPG?

But in the drumbeat above they claim:

The increase in the prices of the two liquefied gas products is attributed to the prevailing high crude oil prices, which hover at 60 dollars a barrel and to difficulties in meeting demand on the part of petrochemical producers, as well as to supply side tightness.

It's just one of the little pieces of the puzzle on Saudi supply(or lack there of)

Bonny light oil in Nigeria has been reduced.


The light oil contained potentially more gasoline than medium or heavy. There was a brief takeover of the Chevron headquarters also.

As for the death of capitalism, not going to happen. As for sharing, that will never come to an end.

As for the death of capitalism, not going to happen.

Not going to happen voluntarily, I agree. But, barring a technical miracle, like an energy source that makes space travel easy, it is going to happen.

The law of supply and demand and the free markets that it drives will never die. However, in a world of virtually zero growth at best, investing will certainly change hugely, and the entire financial superstructure built upon an investment dynamic assuming positive annual growth rates >1% must also change.

Sure, but the end of growth is centuries away at least.

Depends on what the global carrying capacity really is, and whether or not we've already overshot it.

Bald assertion. No facts. Ignores data contradicting the assertion. I assume we will simply have to agree to disagree, especially since there are large bodies of data that contradict both this statement and your other assertion that the earth seems to be doing "quite well" with a population of 6.5 billion.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

What more do you need than a rising global standard of living to measure it by? When the global standard of living begins to drop or even plateau, we might have something to discuss.

Dezakin: At the median, global standard of living is declining (as measured by life expectancy). Global GDP is increasing and at the 100 million net worth and above level it has never been this great.

Median income has been steadily climbing globally for decades. Its not isolated to the super rich.

My income has been climbing, but my buying power has been shrinking faster.

A solution to the problem of externalities would make capitalism green.

As it is, pollution, climate change and social misery are negative externalities. Free market theorists predict that goods and services producing negative externalities will be oversupplied.

There are a lot of lesser positive externalities such as universal education and social harmony. Goods or services that produce these as a side effect will be undersupplied in a free market.

To the extent that the market is capable of factoring in the costs and benefits of these externalities, however, they will work better than just about anything. Capitalism works great as long as the person who incurs a cost has to pay for it, and the person who creates value is paid for it. The only time capitalism does not work is when we manage to get someone else to take the bills. Unfortunately, that's not rare at all.

Kuwait Explained ?

He expected that the traditional methods would produce 45 billion barrels, but could not be used for the rest (i.e. 50 billion barrels)

OK, this actually makes sense. Remainng convential reserves of 45 billion barrels seems close to other Peak Oil type estimates.

50 billion barrels left in place seems conservative, so this may be a VERY optimistic view of what oil can be developed with existing and projected tertiary recovery. CO2 flood seems to be on the table for Burgan.

AFAIK, given likely quantities of gas available, CO2 injection into Burgan may produce enough oil for Kuwait's internal needs for over a century.

And who knows what other techniques will be developed with sky high oil prices.

Production RATE is quite likely to suffer dramatic declines.

But Kuwaiti gas stations may never have lines :-)

Best Hopes for Happy Motoring in Kuwait,


Which raises the question of how you get the CO2 from CCS schemes back to Kuwait? Liquify it and send it on the return trip on LNG freighters?

There is a program on MSNBC tonight at 7 PM Eastern about Bloggers being paid to attack companies in their Blogs. Considering our recent experiences with some folks, it might be worth watching

I call them "information mercenaries" and I definitely think we've had a few.

Why else would we keep seeing the same debunked ideas over and over? Global warming? There ain't no global warming and what global warming there is ain't caused by people. Keep on pumping that abiotic oil. Cosmic rays anyone? Organic farming will starve us all. Outsourcing is good for America. Bring back the gold standard and everyone will be rich again. Let's privatise the police department.
Time for my psych meds again.

Outsourcing...you mean globalization? You do not think we have benefitted? There are always winners and losers and I would argue the average american, until the last decade or so, was better off. Now I see the problem more with govt's. Just curious.

The Mafia has problems with government also.

Dang, and all the time we've been just doing this for free!

Can Venezeula/Chavez really sieze foreign owned oil rigs?
(drumbeat article)

To a degree, I understand the nationalization of its fields/projects.

But a rig on lease for drilling? Now it is just stealing outright, isn't it.

Seems he is really trying to get attention (the wrong kind).

They can afford to lease/rent/buy their own, I think.

Can Venezeula/Chavez really sieze foreign owned oil rigs?

They can do whatever they want, if no one is willing to counter them with military force.

Yes, Venezuela can seize property located in Venezuela. And in the same way the US government seizes propoerty in the US. The US government often seizes property suspected of being used in crimes, and also seizes property to pay outstanding debts.

Sure I understand the fundamentals...but are these companies accused of something?

If these rigs are leased or contracted otherwise, someone else may have waiting for them...it takes a long time to build a new rig.

So Chavez is just stealing the rigs so he doesn't have to try to contract his own or build them.

Nationalizing the resource is one thing, but taking MOBILE assets temporarily in country is disturbing - don't fly a plane there, they could nationalize it, sail a ship into port...ditto...watch out for those supertankers...

These companies demand millions for the use of these machines. Faced with this situation, we have decided to nationalize this equipment.

This is all they are accused of, AFAIK, charging to use thier equipment.

Companies losing assets include - Halliburton, Baker Hughes, and Schlumberger.

But if no one complains...

So Chavez is just stealing the rigs so he doesn't have to try to contract his own or build them.

Nationalizing the resource is one thing, but taking MOBILE assets temporarily in country is disturbing - don't fly a plane there, they could nationalize it, sail a ship into port...ditto...watch out for those supertankers...

Sure, but then Chavez pays a heavy price for such theft. International interest rates jump up for him and FDI in venezuela plumets because no one is willing to risk future capital in venezuela. The companies know risks are present whenever they invest in a foreign country and sometimes you lose your bet.

Thats why foreign investment in a developing country leverages such apparently brutal deals: Its the appropriate rate for the risk.

Are they talking about Mobile rigs or platforms?

A mobile rig is not seizable under international law, so long as it is not committing a criminal act, or as long as it is not salvage or owing money to the host nation. Or unsafe.

Stealing such a vessel is an act of piracy.

However, a platform or permanently anchored structure in host country waters can be viewed, ultimately as part of host country territory, and annexed or nationalised.

Of course any land based mobile rigs could be seized easily, but it would still be property theft. Just difficult to get back...

But a rig on lease for drilling? Now it is just stealing outright, isn't it.

No, not even Chavez would pull a trick like that. A price is negoated, not necessarly in the oil companies favor, and Venequela pays for everything nationalized.

Of course payment may come later rather than sooner.

On Tuesday Venezuela's government took over control of four heavy-crude upgraders located in the Orinoco river belt but PdVSA has yet to determine how it will compensate companies for those assets. So far Ramirez has said the state will only recognize the book value of the investments these companies made in the area.

Ron Patterson

"The problem I find with apocalyptic visions of life after oil is that they forget one small thing--human ingenuity..."

This remains a valid criticism of the doom n gloom branch of the peak oil movement. I often sense here a mandate to scoff at the role of technology in mitigating the effects of peak oil. While I agree that there is no magical energy source likely to come and save us anytime soon, the role of technology in conservation and increasing energy efficiency ought to be recognized as cause for hope. Wringing the energy waste out of western civilization and particularly the U.S. will be a decades-long process that will attract an unprecedented level of human ingenuity simply because the incentives to invest toward that end will be unavoidable. There are very few American households that could not halve their energy consumption with a bit of focused effort and planning. This is without heavy investment in energy-efficient technology.

What will continue to mitigate our efforts at mitigation, however, is population growth. To what extent in the U.S. will the relentless march from 300 million to 400 million capsize efforts to cut our total energy consumption let alone "reduce our dependence on foreign oil"?

Kenny: IMHO, the apocalyptic scenarios confuse suburban sprawl and global economic growth. They are not the same thing. An economy based around personal transport (recent estimates quoted on TOD are 41-43 miles per day driven by the average American) is not superior or the only efficient economic model. Contrary to popular opinion, wealth is not created simply by driving in circles aimlessly.

Contrary to popular opinion, wealth is not created simply by driving in circles aimlessly.

Not a fan of Keynes then?

The problem isn't a technological or economic problem, it is a social and political one. I have no doubt that if we gathered the regular readers and posters of TOD into a conference center for a week, we could come up with a very workable plan from a technological and economic perspective. The problem is that we have no idea how to really get the society at large or our political leadership to buy into it.

Sure we do: another doubling/tripling of gas prices, or outright shortages. At $4/gallon, everyone will be talking about the problem. At $5/gallon, there will be focused, national strategic planning around conservation/energy efficiency.

The real issue is that there can be no advance planning around peak oil, particularly if it's already here. All efforts at mitigation will happen after the fact because people cannot be made to pay attention to the problem until they feel the crisis at $6 or $7/gallon or whatever. People have too many problems on their plates directly in front of them to respond to a theoretical crisis, or even to make themselves aware of its existence.

We're really saying the same thing. The failure of the public to recognize the problem and demand advanced planning, and the failure of the government to forsee the problem and implement mitigation efforts in advance -- that's what I mean about this being a social and political problem. As the Hirsh report (which was ignored by just about everybody) stated, mitigation had to commence 10 years prior to peak to avoid major pain. It didn't happen, and it is too late now. I have no doubt that crash responses will happen once the peak is obvious and undeniable. But it will be too little, too late, and that is the problem.

What will continue to mitigate our efforts at mitigation, however, is population growth. To what extent in the U.S. will the relentless march from 300 million to 400 million capsize efforts to cut our total energy consumption let alone "reduce our dependence on foreign oil"?

Demographic trends all around indicate rising population coupled with ever lower growth rates. The notion that population growth is the death knell of civilization is a valid worry, but only if you believe the planet is incapable of supporting 9-12 billion souls, roughly the demographic peak of population before it starts to decline from reduced fertility.

I see no reason why we such an arbitrary number as 10 billion is the magic breaking point when we seem to be doing rather well with 6.

"I see no reason why we such an arbitrary number as 10 billion is the magic breaking point when we seem to be doing rather well with 6."

We do? In what way are we doing rather well? (Globally, I mean).

The six billion currently alive have a higher average standard of living than all the generations before them. Thats doing quite well.

I could imagine a carrying capacity of 9-12B, but only a world in which per capita energy and resource use in general is and always has been only 1/8 or less of the US average, everywhere. I can imagine such a counterfactual world, but it is not our real world, unfortunately.

Cohen dives into the issues in his "How many people can the earth support" without huge blinders. The world could support 100 billion if you make your choices right... though 100 billion might not exactly be what you would call desirable.

As for energy and resource use, we certainly aren't bumping up against any limits for resources without substitutes for a long time. We have nukes, wind, and the sun with ever advancing technological development.

There are very few American households that could not halve their energy consumption with a bit of focused effort and planning.

Agreed. But it's the next halving where things will get really dicey. Others have said -- and I agree: Advanced technology needs energy -- and at this point in history, it looks as though that's "energy" as in "fossil energy." So, imagine whatever you like but understand that it will still depend on digging things out of the ground.

Time is also an issue. Can I halve my energy use over the next five years or so, and then halve it again in another ten years? Sure, there are lifestyle changes and conservation investments I can make to achieve that. Can I have my energy use over the next five months, and then halve it again in another ten months? That is a pretty tough challenge.

...and related to time, of course, is the cost factor. A lot of "energy-saving" technologies will never make much of an impact because they are too expensive to produce and will likely remain so -- at least for the foreseeable future.

I know it's a hard pill to swallow but it just might be that this "wasteful" lifestyle of ours actually represents the greatest ERoEI that we are likely to see under any technological regime. In other words, it could be that it's all downhill from here.

I don't know - I think that there must have been many cultures that have been extremely energy efficient, making the most of what little energy they had. The pre-industrial Japanese, for example, produced an amazing high culture on the basis of truly tiny energy inputs.

Oh, I'm sure that's true. But I think the bottom line is that using less energy means using less of everything else -- not what people generally want to hear. Particularly those who are accustomed to driving to the corner store for a carton of ice cream or a six-pack of beer.

That's true. To continue with my Japanese example, they took simplicity and making do with as little as possible into a high art form.

Regarding solar thermal elctric power plants, I have a query regarding the methodology of the comparative costing. Presumably, the plants would never run out of feedstock or face rising costs of transporting and obtaining it. Thus the costs, apart from any arbitrary taxation or royalty schemes, would consist of initial plant construction, interest on finance, maintenance and replacement of structures, and construction and maintenance of the grid.

Any centralized power generation or fixed site hydro will have a power grid anyway. Adapting it to a different mode and siting is a one time. Thus we are probably using current figures for fuel input costs for conventional that may be irrelevant over time. At some point the convergence of best case conventional with known unconventional happens, which I think is in the process of happening.

That costs are money thrown away is a failing of the public mind to consider the reality of money as a loop system. Money goes somewhere, and when you spend it, it may appear 'spent' and gone forever from your personal point of view, but it's now in some other pocket or account and doing something. The 'spending' of money does not decrease the supply but increases its velocity. Human energy can be spent, but money just transfers.

I could go on and on about the dynamics of money being similar in physical properties to any other body in motion - see Newton - but the concept of cost is not really understood properly in our society. It is really only a matter of output over input over time. Solar thermal looks to be a big part of the energy future if sanity is to prevail, which is not yet assured.

Saying that my 1962 Sunbeam toaster was too expensive, which it seemed at the time, now appears silly after forty five years of service. My mother in law's '54 is still in service too. How long will that cost of solar thermal be amortized over? Unless these factors are reasonably accounted for, comparative costs are just whatever you like. I'm not saying that the figures are wrong but that without accompanying methodology, they are just more noise.

Newton must be laughing.

The relevant question is: in what can the money BEST be invested? Is the solar scheme a better investment than some other renewable energy scheme, or some energy efficiency scheme? Yes, your toaster may have given you many good years of service. We would have to know what else you might have considered buying instead before we can judge whether or not it truly was a good purchase.

...money BEST be invested?

I've chosen to invest in companies that are in a position to solve the problem. For instance, Petrosaurus mentioned the grid, I own some American Superconductor stock. AMSC is scaling up production capability of their new grid wires from 10,000 meters per year to 720,000 meters per year.

In my opinion the best thing the public can do is to add and enhance tax credits for the nascent alternative energy industry. Venture capital seems willing to foot the bill for growing alt-energy companies. The public must be willing to temporarily pay some higher energy costs via tax credits or subsidies in exchange for the VCs re-investing all the profits back into the alt-energy companies. Congressmen are using "national security" now to justify these expenditures.

Another question is when FFs have run out will solar thermal produce enough surplus energy to build more plants? I think we need to set aside some FF energy now to build of lot of clean energy plants for later.

As it see it the problem with the ELP concept is that it takes a lot of capital (embodied energy) in the form of clean gen, water storage and layout for intensive food growing.

Think of a moon base; it costs $10 billion (or whatever) and supports 3 people.

I wasted some time posting an extensive comment at the peak-oil-is-a-myth column over at opednews.com.

I don't know why I bother.


Because you -- like me -- get a little something out of giving others a case of heartburn.

Good summary of the situation. Too bad that something like this doesn't get out to the general public.

Perhaps a few people there will read that and figure that PO is worth looking into further. Good summary.

"You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created."
Albert Einstein

Very interesting opinion piece;

“Chinese Communist Regime Nears its End”


“When the end of one dynasty approaches, the number of government officials increases dramatically, government structure becomes complicated, the social gaps are disproportionate, and there are severe communication blockages between all levels of society.
One of the most conspicuous traits appearing during the end of a dynasty is that while the emperor still holds power, that power has been significantly weakened. It is then more accurate to call the bureaucratic system a dictatorship, rather than an imperial dictatorship. The emperor's control has been weakened layer after layer when passing down the complicated bureaucracy until finally his authority is not acknowledged”.

Sounds similar to the “Imperial Shrub Dynasty” (define shrub – a small bush)

A little scary to think that China also might not have both hands on the wheel when road is getting bumpy.

The Chinese leadership is going to have a hard time dealing with the inevitable clash between rising expectations of a better life and the twin spectres of declining resources and environmental degradation. Personally, I see China as a time-bomb.

I tell everyone, the people of China are the wildcard. At some point they will want more of the pie and the middle class can start the same BS game we got here. Convince the lower classes they can gain in this system by working hard yada yada. They don't by in large. However I can't imagine the cultural collision from their standards for success and dealing with failure to move up.

“When the end of one dynasty approaches, the number of government officials increases dramatically, government structure becomes complicated, the social gaps are disproportionate, and there are severe communication blockages between all levels of society.

How does this not apply to the US also?

OK, replace dynasty with system if you want, but the idea is the same.

The difference is that the US government is elected. That gives it a significant degree of legitimacy (consent of the governed) even in the face of bad times. The Chinese Communists have abandoned any ideological claim to legitimacy (they're not really Communists anymore, I'd call them authoritarian technocrats). Their legitimacy (consent of the governed) now rests on an implicit deal they've struck with the Chinese people: keep us in power and we'll deliver sustained economic growth. If and when they're unable to maintain their end of the bargain, we'll see what happens. Hopefully a relatively peaceful transition to Democracy, but not necessarily....


Question is whether the elections really matter when you have two parties demonstrably financed by the same foreign lobby and corporate interests.

It is virtually impossible for a third party candidate to become viable under current campaign finance law, so you end up with the great silent majority voting for the lesser evil.

Consent of the governed ?? More then one way of looking at it.

Legitimacy? Sorry, you are regurgitating the pap you have been taught. Though one might make the case it's "legitimate" if one believes it so. 2+2=5 if I really do believe.

keep us in power and we'll deliver sustained economic growth. If and when they're unable to maintain their end of the bargain, we'll see what happens. Hopefully a relatively peaceful transition to Democracy, but not necessarily....

Sustained economic growth, eg "rising tide", that's called "liberalism". Except that liberalism does seem to imply some sort of fair distribution; otherwise it's only authoritarian technocracy.

What is abstract now will be concrete when the like of General Petraeus are in charge of your sector and your ration tickets. For your safety, of course.

cfm in Gray, ME

Epoch Times is the mouthpiece of the Falun Gong.

By aware of this - it has a long history of predicting the end of communism. I don't blame them and they may even be right, however that are far from unbiased observers.

That's the website that posted a long speech made that highlighted the need for destruction of America. I wondered who would take the time to translate.

I discovered that my high school put together a book on the Depression using student interviews of people who lived through it. Below are some excerpts. There are three examples from the book, called Great Depression: Memories Of Those Who Were Young. It is well worth checking out.

Bob Coleman:
We had a hobo jungle across the street and in the middle of the next block. One hobo was a black man who had been an English professor at Georgetown University. He would sit there at night and we, neighborhood kids, would congregate there and listen to the hobos talk. Other people were various kinds of musicians and they were just delightful people. My mother fed them on a regular basis. When the hobos came she would sit them at the head of the table in the formal dining room and feed them there. They rarely came at meal time, only when they were hungry... The important thing to remember is that this terrible period could happen again but is unlikely. My brothers and sisters knew the condition that we were in but I didn’t until I was in high school. I was poor but so was everybody else. I didn’t realize how tough things were for us until I started paying my own way.

Beatrice Gebert:
Was the Depression destined to happen?
There is going to be change every fifty years, first they go way up to the peak and then they start going down and down and people can’t buy anything and nothing works if you don’t have any money and if you have a little land and a place you can make a living. There is a way.

Was the Depression beneficial?
The neighbors got to know and help one another so things like that were good. It united people and brought people closer together. The men worked hard because they had some kind of work. I wish they would plant more trees now.

Will we have another Depression?
You have to watch how many people get laid off and see that they don’t put all their money in whatever you call them [stocks]. I think people learned a lesson and know that they have to put things away for a “rainy day”.

Agnes Benaszski
My parents bought a farm at very high prices, and they bought cows for $300.00. The next year, when the stock market crashed, they couldn’t get $30.00 for them. They almost went bankrupt. My grandpa helped save the farm, but they worked very hard to pay the debts all their lives... We were in school during potato harvesting, and my dad needed us kids to help pick. He went to the school board and got a vacation; it was called a potato vacation. We didn’t know the difference between vacations then; we had never heard of them. We had to pick potatoes for two weeks. We filled our basement to the top because they sold potatoes plus milking cows.

Did you ever get any presents?
Not really. At Christmas, if we got anything, it was a coloring book, a box of colors, and a pencil maybe, but there was no such thing as money. My parents were very poor. They had a lot of debts trying to save our land. The prices were low, and they didn’t make that much money, so kids didn’t get very many things. My parents got food stamps.

Tom A-B

One thing that's striking is that there was so little fear of violence back then. A woman at home alone would not invite hobos into her house to feed them today, nor would parents let their children go hang out with the homeless.

I read once that in the '30s, on hot summer nights in NYC, everyone would go sleep in Central Park. Even people who very well off. Today, that would be considered suicidal.

Depression stories have often been discussed at PO.com. This link tells the story of a Canadian family who emigrated to the U.S.

And Monte collected Depression memories, in person and off the net:

Well, everybody went on relief, and everyone raised a big garden. We raised everything from peas to potatoes and onions, and the extra vegetables we had we sold to people who didn't raise one. We lived off that garden for some time, and it was a big help. Once a month they'd give commodities out. You'd get dried beans, pound of bacon, pound of butter, dried milk, and sugar, and depending on how big your family was, was how much you got; and since we had the cow, we would trade the dried milk for coffee to people who didn't like coffee. That was supposed to last you a whole month, but that was government surplus, and they'd have a place that they dished that out; and I tell you we were so poor we had a gas stove, but we didn't even have the money to hook it up. We also had an icebox and couldn't even afford ten cents a day to put ice in it. When my son was born I'd mix his formula and put it down in the well on the rope and every time I had to feed him I would pull the rope up and get the bottle, but we had no refrigeration and everything we needed refrigerated went across the street to my mom and dad's place. When the war started in 1941, a lot of jobs were left vacant when the men left for war, so unemployment virtually disappeared after that.

Gas was sparse, so when me and a group of buddies would drive down a hill, we'd turn off the car so we wouldn't waste gas.

Seemed to have just enough food to eat...no leftovers...had to eat everything on our plate. Things we take for granted now, such as water and heat in our homes was something precious in the depression. All farmers had to can food for winter and they ate out of gardens in the summer on a farm, there was no money and the people had to eat from gardens

The city was affected more than rural areas. We always had food and wood from the farm, but city people had very little food or wood. They had to collect coal that dropped from the trains. Lived on a farm and had plenty to eat because we grew everything moved from town to live in Smithfield MO on a farm so that they could grow crops and have food to eat.

African Americans suffered more than whites, since their jobs were often taken away from them and given to whites.

Every tear I saw my mother shed was over the lack of money. All we seemed to do was to, literally, count the pennies in the house among all of us. We fought over money almost all the time, my mother would go into a panic if she could not account for every penny. Not one cent was ever foolishly spent and not one cent ever went for anything that was not vital to life. The memory that I retain to this day (77 years old) is that of my parents crying, singularly and together, about money! I remember one dinner where my mother, myself and my brothers and sister sat down to a meal. The meal consisted of 3 boiled potatoes and one slice of white bread which we divided up amongst us. I noticed my mother was not eating and I asked her why she was not eating. She answered that she was on a diet. When I was about 50 years of age it hit me that she had not been on a diet but was giving up what there was to us!

His summary:

There are five things that seem to be predominating in all that I have read about the Great Depression:

1) There was not one single private or public institution that was up to the task of coping with the depression.

2) The United States suffered more than any country in the world since we were the most industrialized.

3) People had to grow much of their own food in gardens.

4) There was a mass exodus to the country to live with farm relatives.

5) Money was seldom seen.

2) The United States suffered more than any country in the world since we were the most industrialized

Hardly !

The USA was a food exporter, on a large scale and still had half the population on the farm in 1929.

Germany, OTOH, could not grow enough food to feed itself even a basic diet (even if perfectly allocated). Foreign exchange that might have gone to buy imported food went for war reparations instead.

See result.

OTOH, the USA is likely to be the developed nation that suffers most from post-Peak Oil. A major reason that I am trying to pre-position workable alternatives when people get desperate.



Best Hopes,


Losing ca 10% of the working population had something to do with that problem, as did the diversion of things like ammonia and nitrates to war, followed by the understandable refusal to allow the Germans to rebuild such industries on a massive scale.

There is little question at the start of WWI, Europe was relying on imports to feed its populations.

Where the U.S. devoted much productive energy to things like the Model T (which had an incredible impact in rural settings) in that time frame, Europe spent it on dreadnoughts and howitzers - and after exhausting themselves in war, the Europeans were quite slow adopting mechanical agricultural practices.

Europeans seemed to have learned about themselves what the founders of the U.S. understood about Europe from a distance - governments with essentially unlimited power will ravage the societies they rule, pursuing aims which have little to nothing in common with the ruled. Unfortunately, Americans seem to have lost this understanding.

Well, most Americans - those currently in charge don't care much about what the founders thought anyways.

... governments with essentially unlimited power will ravage the societies they rule, pursuing aims which have little to nothing in common with the ruled. Unfortunately, Americans seem to have lost this understanding.

Some of us are re-learning it.

There was little fear of violence because people felt like they were in the same boat together.

These days americans have a far more antagonistic view of their world. In no small part b/c they don't associate with anybody they do not know, except their cashiers. This is part of the suburban sprawl free motoring economy. People are very isolated from one another, and view most of the world as "other".

when there is a major economic collapse, people will be driven out of their homes and into larger society, then they will quickly see that most people are just like them, and that they are all in very similar situations. The result will be a greatly decreased fear of violence.

I dunno. That didn't happen in Argentina.

It all depends on how the society breaks down the "us" crowd and the "them" crowd.

As I recall the water privatization scheme and other assorted issues created a very convenient "them" group for the greater population to react violently against.

In america there aren't that many outside influences to create "them" groups out of. Americans are usually the "them" in other countries. They would probably make scapegoats out of people of middle eastern descent and big corporations.

I suspect a lot of our fear towards minorities, the opposite sex, and the poor would slowly fade away though, as interaction with each of these groups increases.

I suspect a lot of our fear towards minorities, the opposite sex, and the poor would slowly fade away though, as interaction with each of these groups increases.

I hope you are right, but I very much fear the opposite will happen. When resources are tight, societies split along their fault lines. In our society, that would be race.

When resources are tight, societies split along their fault lines. In our society, that would be race.

Look on the bright side! Maybe it will be class.

Or religion. Burn the evolutionists at the stake!

'Today, that would be considered suicidal.'

And that is point, much like in Kunstler's above average article.

We are constantly exposed to information, and the validity of that information is rarely questioned.

And it shapes our society in the same way that flowing water shapes a riverbed - over time.

There was the discussion about wing-nut writing finding at least a certain exposure on TOD - in a way, I am all for it, so that those who are not Americans can at least have a glimpse of what a surprising number of Americans believe is reality.

However, the Depression era was not really gentle - look at the labor 'disputes.' What was much clearer is the difference between those who had, and those who didn't - and how those who didn't knew they could only rely on themselves. These days, Americans worship at the altar of the individual, and feel that other people are a hindrance when not a positive danger. You might notice something about those Depression era stories - they don't seem like people who would use a credit card at a mall, do they? It took a couple of generations to get people back into the proper grooves - including burying the idea of such things as sharing and working together as deeply as possible.

Having been born right in the middle of the Depression, I really don't have that much of grasp of what my parents went through, however I do remember most of what went on the 40s.
In 1939 my father was share cropping some bottom land on the little River in Arkansas, an early spring flood wiped out his corn crop, so he sold everything we owned, and bought a model A Ford sedan.

He loaded mom my sister and me up in that old Ford bought a stalk of bananas, and headed for California. I don't remember the trip, but my sister who is older than me, said she had really had enough of bananas to last a lifetime. We ran out of gas and money at Apache Junction east of Phoenix, in Arizona.

My father had a half brother that lived on a citrus ranch south of chandler so he called him and asked if we could come down there and stay a while, but my uncle would have to come up to Apache Junction and loan him enough money to buy enough gas to get to where he lived. Needless to say we never made it to California. With the exception of 3 years in the Army, i've been here ever sence. In closing just let me say this, in those early years life wasn't easy.

Re: Frontier Refining Article - anectdotal evidence for memmel's theory of a tightening asphalt market due to increasing use of heavy oil to satisfy gasoline/diesel demand.

I hadn't read of his theory, but it is a fact that as more cokers get built, asphalt is being taken off the market and run through cokers. (The same is true for roofing tar, a very similar material). This was a frequent topic of discussion at my former refinery: At what price does it make sense to sell asphalt instead of running it through the coker? The problem is that even though asphalt prices were going up, so were gas and diesel prices. So, at this point, it still favors running it through the coker.

Honda readies sleek hydrogen car for sale next year

With the new FCX, Honda will take the next step in taking hydrogen powered cars beyond the laboratory.

And the price is?

Since each of those cars cost about $1 million to build...

I better hurry and order mine. :-)

Get two, they're small. ;-)

We had one of those, for awhile. Honda lends them to corporations and government agencies. You have to promise to park it on the street in front of your office building when you're not using it.

More housing fun...

Home prices drop for third straight quarter - Realtors report that markets are still softening

Foreclosure rates still soaring

Knock-on effects from risky mortgages and softening home prices show few signs of letting up; Nevada leads nation in delinquent homeowners.

Builders' confidence falls in latest survey, view of current market at lowest level since '91

Retail stocks hurt by housing downturn, gas prices

But the Dow-Jones is up over 100 points, to a new intraday high, because traders think all this wonderful news means the Fed will cut interest rates.

What surprises me in the first link, Home price drop, is the size of the increase in some areas, 10+ percent in some, and the overall variablity shown in the ctiy-region data at the end of the article. Many areas are way up in price, and the usual metrics don't quite explain. Hi-tech areas seem up, but not all. Sunbelt prices all over the place. East down, but DC, Boston buck slide. Any thoughts?

I wonder what is happening to rural land prices, or will happen this summer, as grain prices seem to have peaked and moderated.

It was always striking, the difference in housing costs between the expensive cities (NYC, SF, SoCal) and the vast "fly over country". Only it has become more so in the last 5 years or so as we now see SF prices pushing $800k and SoCal pushing $600k, while many medium sized midwestern cities stay under $150k.

It makes one wonder if the reverse migration (from the coasts back to the inlands) speculated about will indeed happen soon, or not. One could argue that the decreased availabilty of petroleum products will result in deep recession thus large unemployment thus the high coastal city house prices would crash.... but that doesn't mean that the inland lower cost housing also won't crash relatively just as proportionally (e.g., SF goes from $800k to $400k, but Des Moines goes from $140k to $70k.)

My surprise was not the home price, but rather it's change. The article states that home prices are dropping,(and I have to assume that as an average, that is the case), yet so many areas have increasing prices unexplained by sunbelt migration or the old metrics.

I also wonder about reverse migration, but as you alluded, if there is a trend, it is that home prices are increasing in the large metropolitan areas. LA +4.6 per cent, New York average +1.0, Chicago +1.4, Miami +2.0, Seattle +12.3. IMO, this is not the expected result of a crashing finance market or a slew of foreclosures.

But the Dow-Jones is up over 100 points, to a new intraday high, because traders think all this wonderful news means the Fed will cut interest rates.

No, what it means is that the Fed can't RAISE rates. It really does need to raise rates to protect the US$ from further declines. That isn't going to happen, so the US$ is going to fall.

Which means that oil prices will rise.
Which means that all energy prices will rise.
Which means that more grain will be diverted to biofuels, which means that food prices will rise.
And which means that prices of just about everything with significant energy or agricultural inputs, or that is made overseas and imported to the US, will rise.
Which means that the US trade deficit will rise.
Which means that the US$ will decline -- go to top and repeat.

How all this is bullish for the US equities market is beyond me.

About 3/4ths of the rise in stocks in the long run is simply inflation (6.5% nominal = 1.7% real + 4.8% inflation). Of course the short term reaction to unexpected inflation has always been a reduction in multiples -- so I sympathize.

For the Dow Jones to be up means that someone is paying higher prices, not only that someone is asking higher prices. I have to think that whoever is paying those higer prices is not doing so with his own money but with someone else's money - a pension plan, an insurance pool, some instrument whereby the cost will be dumped on some sucker while the profits accrue elsewhere, to a different party.

For the Dow Jones to be going up in such a scenario means that someone else is losing big time, even if it does not so appear at the moment.

Krugman has been writing about the huge wealth shift towards the already rich. The system is rigged. A racket.

cfm in Gray, ME

Evangelist Falwell dies after being found unconscious in office

Fundamentalist pastor and televangelist Jerry Falwell was found unconscious in his office today and rushed to a hospital in Lynchburg, Virginia, but later died, according to various media reports.

I take it all back.

There is a God afterall.

LOLYou'll roast in hell for that comment...

heaven for the climate
hell for the company

see ya there mudlogger


Apparently the FAA foresees air travel increasing dramatically since they're recommending additional airports, among other things, for four major U.S. cities:

The report released by the Federal Aviation Administration said in the next 10 to 20 years, Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, and San Diego will need to expand existing airports, build new ones or find other solutions to meet the country's increasing demand for air travel.

I sure wish they'd put that money into intercity trains rather than more massive airports... just given the security hassles I think many people would opt to go by rail. But then I guess the FAA doesn't benefit by advocating an alternative to air travel.

Slightly off topic, but I have a friend who is writing a dissertation on Climate Change (from the point of view of the message which is being presented to Joe Public). Do folk have particular websites/sources of information/blogs (from both sides (yes I know, even from the denyers) that they have come across as useful?
Thanks in advance

It is being covered pretty well in UK media, especially the Guardian (guardian.co.uk) and Independent (independent.co.uk) as well as the BBC (bbc.co.uk). US citizens are being kept in the dark to a far greater degree than are the Brits.

1. Pictures of Americans in the 40s.
2. This spring's extreme weather delayed effects.

Those pictures someone posted we exactly how I remembered folks back in my youth. Most had a Norman Rockwell flavor.
The images of good hardworking Americans told volumes about their live and attitudes.

Some say they lived a very very hard life. I disagree. I lived with those people, my kinfolks , since my father was overseas in WWII and my mother had deserted us. All my kin looked just like these people..BUT this is the part I recall, not them bitching or complaining about a hard life. I never heard them do that. I used to sit on the front porch and listen to my grandfather talk and converse with a visitor or neighbor. They talked endlessly, they could recite very long chains of ancestry , going on and on about who married who and who was kin to who. They never complained. My grandmother cooked on a wood burning stove and for a huge family. Had to draw water out of cistern. Wash clothes with a hot fire under a huge iron kettle. She never once complained. Not of the heat, the constant cooking nor anything else. She and we would go out and sit under the maple tree in the cool of the evening and she would really enjoy that. She never said a mean word about my pappy and he never did about here. They were simple , hardworking honest people.

We could take a big lesson from them but they are all gone now. We complain when a sports game is blacked out on TV. When something at a store is out of supply. About the price of gas. They never had gas. Only kerosene which they had bring home from town in a wagon and team. Ice was rare. Once in a great while an uncle cranked a churn of icecream.

If a neighbor rode a horse to town to get a gunny sack of ice it was almost all melted by the time he rode home.

This springs weather. Yesterday we cut my front fields for hay. I could see right off the windrows were very light. In this front field I used to roll sometimes 50-60 big round bales. Today its going to barely make 20. The guy I talked to who does others fields when I asked if everyone elses hay was this light replied that the crop was extremely light everywhere and the people raising cattle would be in for some nasty suprises.

I think I used to cut,rack and bale for $9 to $12 dollars a bale. Today they charge $25. They will sell those bales for more than $25. I used to sell a lot of $15 and that was considered high.

Due to the extreme warmth of March then the killer cold of April there is plenty of after effects everywhere I look.

Our average rainfall here is about 55-61 inches. A lot depends on just how that rain falls and when. If you get enormous rains and then very long dry spells, then you may have the same average but the effects are extremely different.

Say you have many fields prepared for planting and it comes a gully washer. Then you may have to make some more passes over those fields. They are crusted over and the soil is 'sealed'. If you get your planting done and you get very dry weather then you get poor germination OR if another downpour of a couple days then the seeds will tend to rot in the ground. My sweet corn experienced this.

So the soil is once more crusted and sealed and the shoots will have a hard time breaking thru.

Many here are still drilling corn at this late late date. Many have had very spotty stands. Some have hit it just right but many didn't.

Extreme weather, meaning its spiky in nature can play havoc with preparation and sucessful planting.

Lots and lots of winter wheat had to be cut down. A lot baled up(costs again) and then plan on soybeans instead of corn.

I don't know the picture across the USA but when weather in general starts being acting up and moving thru extremes then the future does indeed look bleak for agriculture.

Last years harvest was another of those events. Corn fields drowned all over. Very low yields as a result. Some just let it lay(the corn) and couldn't combine it.

We are heading into the unknown. All tipping points are coming together.

Planning my own actions and responses based on what I read here on TOD I have placed about a quarter of a million dollars into possible jeopardy. All of my lifes assests are riding on my getting it right. My land, my residence, my future plans, my financial assests are all riding on what I think the future holds and the actions I am currently taking.

I don't sleep much these nights. The 'joie de vivre' has been missing much of the time. Only when I work in my garden do I find some slight amount of possible joy.

I have elimanted many of my trips to larger cities. I hardly travel anymore. I don't plan to travel in the future to speak of. If their is a respite of this maddness that looks to be the future, just a few more years then ...well a few of my future plans may bear fruit. I gave up on the markets and stocks long long ago. I quit taking consulting gigs. I no longer look for work and could care less. I dont' intend to drive 18wheeler harvest trucks this fall either.

In effect I am becoming more and more like those photos of those '40s Americans. Brown from the sun and my bibs or levis always dirty. A bandanna around my head. Cuts and calluses on my hands. No more shiny cowboy boots. More and more like my passed away uncles and grandparents.

Airdale-Its all coming around again.

Good luck, Airdale, I think I know what you're talking about. It's a hard call we have to make ... is that the death rattle of the 'economy' or just the rustle of memories of better times. I, as well, remember days when we had less stuff and were better off for it. Enjoyed your post, reminded me of riding on the running board of my grandfathers Model A Ford and running ahead to open the gates, then close them and run ahead to catch up.

Don't know where i found this but check it out....


Some may write off such a collection of downbeats as the financial equivalent of a loopy off-the-grid movement, preparing to work the land and create their own power when the oil runs out.

Since 2001, the U.S. Federal Reserve's balance sheet has expanded US$300- billion, or 50%, the money supply has grown by 60% while the balance sheets of the top five banks on Wall Street have expanded 160%.

The U.S. treasury now owns 261 million ounces of gold. At its peak in in December, 1941, it owned 650 million ounces.
As of March 12, 2007, the price of gold required to pay back the national debt was US$33,864 per ounce. The rise in the price of gold needed to keep up with the rise in U.S. national debt would be US$8.15 per ounce per day.
To back the U.S. monetary base with gold, which was about US$800-billion in February, the price of gold would have to be US$3,763 per ounce.

Unlike many at the dinner, Mr. Liu says gold does not have enough elasticity for a modern global economy.
[With that kind of debt, there may not be enough gold in the ground!]

Emphasis added. We're FUBAR for real.

Okay, while we are currently posting nut-case blogs

Now you may understand why the anarchy in Iraq does not concern some nations as much as it should. The longer Iraq is divided and fighting between Iraqi’s goes on at fever pitch, the longer Iraq does not produce oil and glut the market. The reason we went to war in Iraq was not to get their oil, but to stop them from producing oil. Peak oil is a myth. I’ll have to admit it was an idea that I once believed until I found out that the oil companies wrote the report that founded the idea of peak oil. The cold unvarnished truth is that Cheney and his Big Oil friends have manipulated this war from its inception until now, all to increase oil profits.

Well, at least my nut-cases deal with peak oil. ;-)

Ron Patterson

Hah! I already posted that nutcase blog today. :-)

And I don't think it or Chin's is the nuttiest. Nope, the nuttiest link of the day is the last one I posted above, about the Nutter In Chief.

And you thought "floundering" had something to do with fishing.

Capitalism is the antithesis of green----
Sure, Neo-Smithians such as Paul Hawkins can make a buck (still needing to get the profit out of the relation between user and exchange value, always labor, and never owned by the people doing the work) with "sustainable" and soft production, but the people who buy these products need to rape and scrape the planet to obtain the money to buy them, and, only the elite can do this. The rest shop at Wall Mart, a company very good at making capital efficient.
Take a look around----
Are corporations getting smaller or bigger? Are resources being consumed at a faster or slower rate? Is the environment getting more diverse and complex or simpler and more of a monoculture--
If you are breathing and have a forebrain, you know the answer-
Capitalism goes, or our survival as a species is questionable.

After reflecting on capitalism at it's end game, there has to be some economic/social system that meets capitalism and planned economies in the middle. China isn't a good example because of their social policies. I am thinking of something that can have competition, but within the realm of including often externalized costs and other mis allocations of resources.

Yes, there is a "middle way" -- it is based based upon cooperatives and variations on that theme.

not directly related to energy but it could impact drumbeats.

the law it's self
http://politechbot.com/docs/doj.intellectual.property.protection.act.200... (pdf warning)

it has bi-partisan support so it has a good chance of being passed.

CorpWatch’s Pratap Chatterjee on Iraq’s Missing Oil and Halliburton’s Houston Send-Off

A draft report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels a day of Iraq's declared oil production over the past four years is unaccounted for and could have been siphoned off through corruption or smuggling. The news comes as the Iraqi parliament is preparing to vote on a new law that would open up Iraq's oil reserves to multinational oil companies. CorpWatch director Pratap Chatterjee, has closely monitored the Iraqi oil industry. He speaks to us from Houston -- where Halliburton is preparing to hold its last annual shareholders meeting in Texas before moving headquarters to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. [includes rush transcript]


Displaced, Imprisoned Darfurian Refugee Daoud Ibarahaem Hari On His Return to Darfur to Help Expose the World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis

Daoud Ibarahaem Hari is one of only three Darfuris who have reportedly been granted refugee status in the United States in the past four years. Daoud fled Sudan in 2003 after an attack on his village in northern Darfur. Then, he did something that few of his fellow hundreds of thousands of refugees have done: He went back to Darfur. In August 2006, he and American journalist Paul Salopek - a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune - and their driver were imprisoned in Darfur by the Sudanese government for 35 days. Daoud endured harsh treatment including torture and threats to his life. After international pressure, the three were eventually released. [includes rush transcript]


TODers will remember Salopek's in depth article A tank of gas, a world of trouble in the Chicago Tribune last year. http://energybulletin.net/18702.html


"EIA's Shore said around 800,000 barrels of refining capacity was off-line both on planned and unplanned shutdowns, compared with around 100,000 barrels a day historically at the same time."

So a net of 700,000 barrels out of the system. And not much gouging going on so the Joe Q. Public needs to do more energy information reading than looking at the latest news on their fav celeb. It is like this every time something happens the wags get out and claim to know that someone is just screwing with their hard earned dollars.

Buses don't run during the hours that the wife goes to work, her health is not such that she can bike or walk to work every day, or are there safe byways for her to get there.

Welcome to summer and the pains of high prices.

Interesting article about the Naval buildup in Iran, and the apparent about face by the Administration:

Iran buildup vetoed

Global peak: 2007 - 2010
Global decline rate, Post peak: 2%
Economic response: Severe global recession, ~5 years, then slow recovery

petrochina announced that they plan to produce the "jidong" field beginning in 2012 at a rate of 10 million metric tonnes per yr.(210,000 bpd). recovery is estimated to exceed 40% of ooip , or about 3gb (based on the 7.3 gb ooip previously announced).