DrumBeat: November 19, 2007

Energy Angst: Long-Term Oil Gloom Spreads In Houston

HOUSTON – Saudi Arabia has more oil, Amsterdam more tankers, New York more money, but Houston has the heart of the global oil industry. These days, it is not beating well. Study after study, executive after executive, and analyst after analyst is warning that there are rough times ahead for oil supply.

Here, oil news is analyzed, sorted and shelved. But in 37 years of writing about energy, in boom and bust, I have never found the kind of fatalism that now grips the oil patch.

The cause of the furrowed brows is simple: The global production and supply of oil, at between 85 and 86 million barrels a day, is straining the system. At those rates, supply and demand are in rough equilibrium which, according to many experts, should put the price at about $80 a barrel. The difference between that price and what we are paying (as much as $98 a barrel on some contracts) is a market premium extracted because of future fear – fear of war with Iran, fear that big oil producers will demand payment in euros, and simple fear that demand in Asia is outstripping the world's ability to produce much more oil.

Critics assail weak U.S. dollar at OPEC event

It is too early to say whether the views expressed by Chávez and Ahmadinejad signaled a rift in the exceptional consensus that has sustained OPEC's success in recent years, or whether they were merely an example of conference theatrics by countries at odds with the American government. In the end, it fell to Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, and the main architect of OPEC's focus on business fundamentals in recent years, to underline the conference's main message.

"Everyone knows that OPEC has renounced the principle of controlling oil prices since the 1980s," Naimi said at a news conference on Sunday. "Since then, the price has been determined by the market. The fluctuations you are witnessing today have nothing to do with OPEC actions."

India: Dear Oil

Pundits are saying that the day when oil touches 120 dollars a barrel is not far off. Our bumbling politicians may protest against petrol price hike but they can neither prevent an eventual rise in oil prices nor do they guarantee more votes for the protestors.

Why invest in Renewable Energy?

The world has reached a point of oil consumption where we need to develop an alternative energy source for crude oil. Fossil fuels are becoming more difficult to find and extract from the ground. Combine a constant or lower oil supply with growing demand from China and India, and you have a recipe for much higher priced oil. It appears as though we have reached, or will shortly reach, "Peak Oil".

China banks on hydropower to cut emissions, but at huge human cost

Last year, Chinese officials celebrated the completion of the Three Gorges Dam by releasing a list of 10 world records. As in: The Three Gorges is the world's biggest dam, biggest power plant and biggest consumer of dirt, stone, concrete and steel. Ever. Even the project's official tally of 1.13 million displaced people made the list as record No. 10.

Today, the Communist Party is hoping the dam does not become China's biggest folly. In recent weeks, Chinese officials have admitted that the dam was spawning environmental problems like water pollution and landslides that could become severe. Equally startling, officials want to begin a new relocation program that would be bigger than the first.

A green city confronts its energy needs and nuclear worries

FORT COLLINS, Colorado: This city takes pride in being green, from its official motto, "Where renewal is a way of life," to its Climate Wise energy program, which helps local businesses reduce the carbon emissions that scientists say can contribute to global warming.

But now two proposed energy projects are exposing the hard place that communities like this across the country are likely to confront in years to come as the tangled nuances of thinking globally come back to bite.

OPEC's lost sway over oil prices

"OPEC is still a major force, but it's certainly far less influential that it was in the 70s or 80s," says Mustafa Alani, at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. "What we saw at this conference is that the leaders of OPEC were giving assurances that they'll do all they can to maintain the stability of the oil supply. But can they do it? We don't know."

OPEC's biggest producers – Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors – say they'd like prices to be a little lower but are pumping near capacity now. After all, their currencies are pegged to the dollar, so a weak US economy hurts them, too. Analysts say that while Saudi Arabia and others might be able to squeeze out an extra 1 million barrels a day, that's only 3 percent more than estimated current OPEC production of 31 million barrels a day.

Kunstler: Formerly Normal

This luxurious life is a fragile thing, though. The fragility is actually expressed in the houses themselves, which are uniformly constructed from materials that would not seem to have a glorious destiny: wood-chips, glue, and vinyl. Anyone who visits the Palatine Hill in Rome must be impressed by the way stone blocks and masonry walls melt away over time. Imagine what would happen to box made of chip-board over fir studs after a few decades of poor maintenance. You can even state categorically that the vinyl cladding was not designed to be maintained, only replaced. And in as much as vinyl siding is made from petroleum byproducts, one can easily foresee future replacement problems.

Vegetable oil fuels bicycle tour vans

A Las Vegas tour company is using leftover oil from restaurants to fuel a fleet of vans, showing that recycling can work even in a city known for excess.

Practical oil peak could be closer than we think

Amid all the recent speculation about the point at which oil supplies peak and prices begin to soar, it is often forgotten that the exact peak oil date depends on a number of practical commercial factors, not just how much oil is left in the ground.

Recently, a growing number of oil analysts have begun to accept this truism and warned that logistical constraints could soon cause production to slow, bringing about a practical peak in oil supplies well ahead of schedule and regardless of how much crude remains to be extracted.

Energy costs to hurt holiday spending

More than a third of American consumers said they will spend less this holiday season and cited rising energy costs as the main reason, according to a report released Monday.

Food Pantries Struggling With Shortages

Demand is being driven up by rising costs of food, housing, utilities, health care and gasoline, while food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers are finding they have less surplus food to donate and government help has decreased, according to Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks.

"I've been doing this for 20 years, and I can't believe how much worse it gets month after month," she said.

Rising gas prices fueling concerns over travel plans

“The interesting trend this holiday season is gas prices,” said Robert L. Darbelnet, president and chief executive officer of AAA, in a statement. “This is the first time that we have seen gas prices topping more than $3 a gallon in November. A year ago, prices were in the range of $2.20 a gallon, so this year travelers are really feeling the pinch.

“But Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for family gatherings and higher gas prices will not discourage Americans from connecting with their loved ones.”

Officials hear from truckers, loggers on soaring fuel costs

State officials are expressing fears that soaring fuel costs could force independent logging truckers off the road — putting a severe crimp on Maine's forest products industry.

About 400 members of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine and the Coalition to Lower Fuel Prices in Maine met with federal and state officials Saturday to discuss how to get some relief from high diesel prices. Diesel is now averaging about $3.50 a gallon in the state, a price that is taking a toll on truckers who haul logs from the woods to mills across Maine.

Taking Over Someone's Car Lease Is Best Financial Option When Car Shopping

The mortgage situation and higher fuel prices have prompted a slowdown in the American economy. Many economists believe these are two strong reasons why fewer Americans are buying cars. As such, taking over someone's existing car lease is now the best option when shopping around for a car.

Soaring prices hit Nunavut fuel stabilization fund

Despite raising prices at the pumps earlier this month, the Nunavut government estimates that the rising cost of fuel will require it to bolster the fund it uses to stabilize fuel prices in the territory.

Officials with the government's petroleum products division say they will ask the legislative assembly for cash to cover losses to its Petroleum Products Stabilization Fund, which helps protect Nunavut consumers from constantly changing fuel prices.

Chavez in Tehran: "Empire of dollar is crashing"

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Monday the "empire of the dollar is crashing", a day after his country and anti-U.S. ally Iran advocated action over the weakening U.S. currency during an OPEC summit in Riyadh.

Stop-gap plans have no new ideas

Congress, capitalizing on concerns over the future of oil supplies and acting under the guise of reducing dependence on foreign oil, is pushing several bills that purport to set us on the path to "energy security."

Unfortunately, they are all wasteful, quick-fix solutions that rely on the same old sure-to-fail strategies: more taxes and more subsidies.

Climate change's wild card: sea levels

UN climate scientists said in a key report for policymakers on Saturday that they could no longer put an upper limit on the potential rise in sea levels over the next century.

..."It became apparent that, concerning the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, we really don't know enough," IPCC Chairperson Rajendra Pachauri told AFP on Saturday in Valencia, Spain, where the body on Saturday published its keenly awaited report.

"There is a possibility, and a fair amount of literature, which suggests that it could be faster than what one has anticipated. Given the uncertainty, it was prudent, and scientifically correct, to remove the upper boundary," he said.

Brazil Discovers an Oil Field Can Be a Political Tool

With the price of oil hovering near $100 a barrel, the discovery of the biggest deep-water oil field off the southeastern coast has the potential to transform Brazil into a global energy powerhouse and to reshape the politics of this energy-starved continent.

Is PEMEX of Mexico Worse Off Than PDVSA in Venezuela?

According to most sources, only North Korea guards its oil more jealously than Mexico does through Pemex.

Thus, meaningful foreign involvement will probably have to wait until the company is on the verge of collapse. Given that, one wonders if some future issue of The New York Times Magazine will feature an article about a sinking Pemex taking Mexico down with it.

Lopez Obrador Vows to Block Opening of Mexico's Energy Industry

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a losing candidate in Mexico's presidential elections last year, called on thousands of supporters packing the capital's central square today to organize street protests against a potential opening of the country's energy industry to private investment.

Essar Oil to more than triple plant capacity

NEW DELHI: Essar Oil, the newest refiner in India, will spend about $6 billion to more than triple plant capacity to benefit from a global shortage that helped crude oil prices surge to a record.

Newcastle Coal Price Reaches Record for Fourth Week

Coal prices at Australia's Newcastle port, a benchmark for supplies in Asia, rose to a record for a fourth consecutive week on concerns that supply will be constrained by port congestion as Asian demand gains.

Coal: The Next Energy Resource Boom

The US is often called the Saudi Arabia of coal. And there's a good reason for that: The nation has more than 27 percent of the world's known coal reserves and some of the highest-quality deposits in the world. That's 90 billion metric tons more than Russia, the nation with the second-largest reserves.

With a resource so vast, it may come as a surprise that the US isn't a major player in the global coal trade. After all, the nation ranks only seventh in terms of coal exports, exporting less than 20 percent as much as Australia, the world's largest coal exporter. In fact, US coal exports have been declining steadily since the late 1980s.

World Bank plans to help Pakistan import electricity

The World Bank has offered financial and technical support to help import of 4,000MW of cheap electricity from central Asia states besides working domestic sources in order to overcome electricity shortage owing to a 43 per cent expected increase in demand to 20,000 MW by 2010.

Richard Heinberg outlines ways to reduce emissions and prepare for a world without oil

Heinberg said we should regulate fossil fuels, the source of the emissions, not the emissions themselves by capping both production and consumption. In addition to reducing emissions, this would reduce the probability of international conflicts over the earth's remaining resources and distribute them equitably among the world's nations, he said.

The U.S. could reduce 50 percent of its CO2 emissions through strict conservation using electrified public transport, new housing codes, and subsidized energy retrofit programs, Heinberg said. Another 25 percent could be reduced through renewable energy programs.

Mugabe’s jatropha plant a waste of forex

President Robert Mugabe is committing scarce foreign currency to build a bio-diesel plant which he knows very well cannot fuel the nation from the much vaunted jatropha crop, analysts said on Thursday.

Dark Future Ahead for First Solar

First Solar Inc. (FSLR) is a solar panel manufacturer. Its sole business is production of CdTe based solar panels. Its stock price rallied about 10 folds since the IPO about a year ago. I believe the FSLR stock is overpriced. Moreover, this company has a very dark future prospect if you understand the fundamental of its business. That's because it relies on cadmium telluride as its raw material. Cadmium is extremely toxic, but the mildly toxic tellurium is lethal to FSLR. FSLR is extremely vulnerable due to a possible shortage and price run on tellurium. It could be forced to go out of business in a few years due to competing demands on tellurium.

Royals against the wind

“Don’t you realize — that’s where I sail!” may, by now, be one of the most famous statements ever made regarding Cape Wind, the 130-turbine offshore wind project proposed for Nantucket Sound.

It was made to a constituent who asked Sen. Edward Kennedy at a Hyannis summer event why he opposed the clean-energy project, which would provide on average almost 80 percent of the electricity for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, make electricity more reliable in all of New England and help lower New Englanders’ electric bills.

Vinod Khosla: Moving Green from Crisis to Opportunity

Khosla and I spoke last month about some of the many ways he is involved with the move toward a green economy, and what he thinks will push businesses in particular into embracing green as an opportunity instead of an obligation.

Facing a Threat to Farming and Food Supply

Climate change may be global in its sweep, but not all of the globe's citizens will share equally in its woes. And nowhere is that truth more evident, or more worrisome, than in its projected effects on agriculture.

Several recent analyses have concluded that the higher temperatures expected in coming years -- along with salt seepage into groundwater as sea levels rise and anticipated increases in flooding and droughts -- will disproportionately affect agriculture in the planet's lower latitudes, where most of the world's poor live.

Mexicans Ask Where Flood Aid Went

Long before the devastating flooding this month in the state of Tabasco, Mexico's behemoth state-run oil company, Petróleos Mexicanos, was pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into local government coffers for flood abatement projects.

From 1997 to 2001, at least $3 million was donated to build dikes, raise levees and move poor residents from low-lying areas, according to analysts and independent investigators. But a crescendo of questions about whether the oil money was ever used for the intended projects is raising the possibility that corruption and incompetence might have played as much of a role in the tragedy as historically torrential rains.

Opec unites behind higher prices

Opec leaders meeting at the weekend summit in Saudi Arabia have differed sharply over the group strategy and purpose, but have united in defence of high oil prices.

OPEC leaves dollar, output questions dangling

OPEC leaders ended their summit clearly divided on key issues, leaving open questions about the use of the waning dollar for oil trading and the cartel's willingness to increase production.

OPEC members pin their future on price stability

Despite oil at nearly $100 (U.S.) a barrel, there was no celebration in the planet's crude capital on the weekend as producers of 40 per cent of the world's supplies gathered.

Instead, there was an air of tension underlying the pomp and circumstance of the event hosted by King Abdullah, absolute ruler of Saudi Arabia.

OPEC comment drives oil close to $95

Oil prices rose Monday with more talk among OPEC members about converting their cash reserves to the euro and away from the U.S. dollar.

There is also doubt a possible OPEC output hike next month would get more supplies to market in time for the northern winter.

Fresh purchases of the new Nymex expiry — the December contract expired Friday — were also behind some of the gains.

Survey: Gas up 13 cents in 2 weeks

The national average price for gasoline rose about 13 cents over the last two weeks, according to a survey released Sunday.

The average price of regular gasoline on Friday was $3.09 a gallon, mid-grade was $3.21, and premium was $3.32, oil industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said.

An Earth-sized challenge lobbed our way

"BE THE change you want to see in the world." The words of Mahatma Gandhi were carefully chosen by the head of the United Nations peak scientific body on climate change when he delivered his team's stark report to the world at the weekend.

Dr Rajendra Pachauri and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have presented a daunting challenge not only to the world's leaders but to its people. Cut your use of polluting fossil fuel energy over the next four decades essentially by 85 per cent or face losing almost a third of the world's species.

Might Higher Oil Prices Be a Good Thing?

Over the weekend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned us that the price of oil could go as high as $200 per barrel if the U.S. attacks Iran.

Of course I don't want the U.S. to attack Iran, but for other reasons. I'm thinking that these rising oil prices are not necessarily a bad thing.

Brazil, the New Oil Superpower

State-run Petrobras' "monstrous" new oil find has wide-ranging implications for the South American country, the oil majors, oil services providers, and beyond.

Long-term Energy Bull Prepared to Ride out Short-term Weakness

I'm deeply skeptical of peak oil-type theories that promote the idea that a given commodity will one day run out. Rather, the history of capitalism is that we adapt.

Australia's Rudd will sign Kyoto pact if wins vote

Australia's Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd said on Monday he would lead his country's delegation to December's Bali climate summit and sign the Kyoto pact if he wins power at this weekend's parliamentary elections.

Rudd, strongly leading conservative prime minister and Kyoto critic John Howard in polls, said the fight against catastrophic climate shift would be his top priority if he won on November 24.

New Zealand glaciers retreat due to global warming say scientists

New Zealand's largest glaciers are retreating fast in the face of global warming and could disappear altogether, scientists said Monday.

A report by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said the volume of ice in New Zealand's Southern Alps had shrunk almost 11 percent in the past 30 years.

More than 90 percent of this loss was because the 12 largest glaciers in the mountain range were melting due to rising temperatures, NIWA said.

Climate change threatens Asian development: report

Decades of development in Asia will be reversed by climate change, threatening the lives of millions of people, environmentalists and aid agencies warned Monday.

Montgomery County MD supports TOD in new Zoning Rules

"The key development issue is getting more housing near Metro," he said. "If you build residential development in close, walking distance to Metro, people are going to use it."


Best Hopes for TOD,



I commuted in that I-270 nightmare for years (1984-1991), and this plan is over 25 years too late. This plan addresses new development, not how to deal with the existing mess.

Northern Virginia and the I-270 corridor is a Kunstler poster child.

I commuted in that nightmare too (1996-1999), but don't worry, the ICC is coming!!!


A road planned 40 years ago...I'm sure it's not obsolete or anything...

Regarding today's WSJ article on oil supplies (at the bottom of yesterday's Drumbeat), following is a copy of my e-mail to the authors:

Kenneth Deffeyes predicted that world oil production (note that he used crude + condensate, not total liquids) would peak between 2004 and 2008, most likely in 2005. He observed that world crude oil production probably peaked in 2000, but he never backed off what his mathematical model showed.

The cumulative shortfall between what the world would have produced at the May, 2005 rate and what it has actually produced is over 700 mb (EIA, crude + condensate). So, the crude oil data suggest that we probably did peak in 2005.

However, the real problem is net export capacity. We are working on our final written report on the top five net oil exporters (about half of current world net oil exporters), but note that their total liquids net exports fell by -3.3%/year from 2005 to 2006, and the decline in net exports is almost certainly going to accelerate from 2006 to 2007. This is the fundamental reason for high oil prices--we are bidding against other importers for declining net oil exports.

You can final several articles that I did on the Net Exports issue by doing a Google Search for Net Oil Exports.

BTW, what puzzles me is that no one in the media ever confronts Yergin & Lynch about their erroneous predictions for lower oil prices. For years, they have both been predicting that higher crude oil production would drive oil prices down. For more info, do a Google Search for Daniel Yergin, and click on "Daniel Yergin Day."


Jeffrey J. Brown

Link to article from yesterday's Drumbeat:


Bart has some interesting comments on the WSJ story at EB.

We will probably be doing a dedicated thread/response as well.

Hmm...Interesting to see that the WSJ site is linking directly to TOD from the bottom of the article. Not bad for a Page 1 story, which should send over plenty of readers.

At least that's what I thought at first glance...but the link is to November 13 DrumBeat. Remember that one?

That's weird. I guess we must be psychic, since we were discussing the article a week before it existed! ;-)

BTW, what puzzles me is that no one in the media ever confronts Yergin & Lynch about their erroneous predictions for lower oil prices.

The most important thing to remember about Ponzi-type swindles is that they are enabled by the very government and its captive media that are supposed to be investigating these schemes and protecting the public. One of the best: Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=977415454&searchurl=kn%...

This behavior didn't start with peak oil, but the consequences are likely to be a lot more serious than they were with Ponzi's postage stamp swindle.

This Is Not Your Paranoid Uncle's Peak Oil Theory

For the last couple decades, evangelists of the peak oil theory were often greeted at cocktail parties with the same patient smiles and barely suppressed eye rolls that confront the 9/11-was-an-inside-jobbers today.

But the Wall Street Journal reports that perhaps those skeptical of the idea that the world will soon (if it hasn't already) use up more than half of its oil ought to wipe those smirks off their faces. Yes, it's true, the peak oil folks have been proven wrong again and again - every time the world sails past another date they've identified for petroleum production Armageddon. But these days, oil executives are embracing a view of the world's oil future that sounds awfully similar to the peak oil theory.

Holy frickin...wow!! WSJ, CBS...how much more mainstream can this get? Even if the WSJ threw a punch at the peak oil theorists...they used the term "peak oil" in hard copy. That was a taboo up until this year and mostly in the 3rd and 4th QTR. It's sneaking into the psyche of the culture now....no turning back...unless, unless...crude production rises dramatically and price shoots down to $60 again somehow.

With a falling U$D and numerous reports on supply/production issues worldwide, I don't see how anyone could do more than keep the price in a narrow band between $80-100 and even that is working hard.

Well it does seem that the interview with TB Pickens during the Night football game was not an accident, or something the announcer just wanted to talk about.

That was one week ago wasn't it.

so is this "good" news or "bad" news.

good in that PO is being brought to the masses, and not a wacko theory as it was portrayed even recently by most.

but with a media and most others doing all they could to
portray it as non issue and NOW its is something that is right.

Thats probably a BAD thing perhaps for the economy etc.

It seems like something has changed. Is it just the MSM doing it's job and informing the people of a major "new" issue? Did it take so long because they are just slow and there was too much inertia?

I dunno, the MSM act as an official government mouthpiece on every other issue - it seems to me like there has been an official change in message. The question is why?

I'm happy to see the word getting out, but my level of trust is zero, and I can't help but think that someone has a plan to use this to their advantage (and by definition, not mine).

The MSM is doing its job, but they don't work for me or you. However, as with global warming, the evidence is so in-your-face that the average 'Merkin would begin to doubt the MSM if they continued with the lies. Besides, there are alternative sources of info, like this venue-and it is easy to see which source of news is trustworthy. The 'iron triangle' doesn;t want too many more folks go off and learn things...that would make it hard to sell SUVs and McMansions.

Well I certainly have my opinion of who the MSM works for, so this is not news! If I read what you wrote correctly, the idea seems to be that the MSM would lose face if they persisted in denying PO, so that they have to let people in on it. But this does not feel right - the thing is that I do not see this as any more of a bald-faced deceit than a dozen other issues where what is reported is obviously untrue. This is a group with no shame, and this feels different - fear of being discredited does not seem like a strong enough reason for the about face.

I read the WSJ article while waiting for a sandwich today for lunch.

It's amazing how the WSJ both reports the peak oil story yet attacks the people who have been talking about it as "out of the mainstream." The article presents all sorts of reasonable arguments about undulating plateaus and near future peak dates as if they were counter to some imaginary extremists... when those are the very arguments that people are already making. It's more about character assassination and propaganda than rational argument. But the WSJ long ago took leave of political rationality.

It's also fascinating how they portray the problem primarily as one related to the effect of security and instability on extraction. Most people look at peak oil and think... hmmm maybe we should change how we live, and consider reducing our energy consumption... wouldn't be bad for the global climate either. But the WSJ portrays the problem as something that can be fixed by more "security"... which means more tanks, more airplanes, more military industries. It is so predictable. When you are a propaganda mouthpiece for an empire the whole world looks like a colony.

They really do see the problem as "how did our oil get under their sand?"

They really do understand the problem as an opportunity... to sell killing machines. Up to a point they may have a point... but in the end we're not facing a security crisis but an oil production shortfall. The WSJ crowd figures that until it really hits this is all just another money making opportunity in the armaments business.

It's also fascinating how they portray the problem primarily as one related to the effect of security and instability on extraction.

Larry Kudlow was cheerleading regime change and multinational management as the solution to the problem last night on CNBC. The American way of Life is not negotiable, but the terms of surrender....! I wonder how long it will take the Saudi's to notice the pattern?

Theory: The MSM is embracing PO now for the same reason Global Warming has become such a large issue. Consider Gandhi's quote that is sometimes on this site... First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

1. First they ignore you. (Now very difficult)
2. Then they laugh at you. (Becoming harder)
3. Then they fight you. (Bring it out in the open so doubt can be instilled)
4. Then you win. (Draw out stage 3 as long as possible to avoid this)

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

I think this situation is a little different. If the things we read here are right there is no #4 - everyone loses.

Well, yes.

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

I've got 4 nephews and one niece and my son all rolling their eyes at the mention of peak oil . No wonder, with CBS, MSNBC and Dow Jones all talking about the oil supply I'm hopelessly unhip. Bob Ebersole

Not that its NBC ABC, etc, but PO had another voice last night. Matt was on Coast to Coast AM, as a replay from his appearance last week wasn't it. I don't think I have ever seen that happen before (such a quick replay of a show). I don't know if someone dropped off the show or if it was scheduled that way. That show has a large audience. Though I have noticed lately imo the scheduling of the guests has been erratic and gaps in the upcoming guests are becoming common. That they picked a recent show and one on PO perhaps is another signal.

Here is George Ure's comment on the deflating US Dollar:

Money, as a means of storing value, has evolved through three major stages. Beginning with the ‘tangible assets” phase, consisting of land, crops, livestock, fruits of labor (housing), and natural resources (level 1), and progressing through the precious/monetary metals stage (level 2), the world is presently in what may be the final phase of several paper currencies (level 3). Chief among these is the U.S. (level 3) dollar, which has seen purchasing power fall from an absolute dollar since the 1913 implementation of the Federal Reserve to what is now less than 5-cents of purchasing power (e.g. PPP) through expansion of the monetary base out of relation to value produced. In light of this, an alternative fourth generation of value storage is proposed: Digital Currency. Highlighted are the anti-crime, tax avoidance, two-tiered currency aspects, banker/corporate control of governance (PAC’s, et al), and privacy issues related to a true National Digital Currency (NDC) as an alternative to the conventional fiat (level 3) currencies. A method of implementation is inferred along with one big social impact.

Response to digital currency - eALD and eGold

Chief among these is the U.S. (level 3) dollar, which has seen purchasing power fall from an absolute dollar since the 1913 implementation of the Federal Reserve to what is now less than 5-cents of purchasing power (e.g. PPP) through expansion of the monetary base out of relation to value produced.

This comparison between the pre-Fed dollar and the current dollar sounds meaningless to me. Americans have gotten vastly wealthier in real terms since the country went over to fiat money, indicating that the means of accounting doesn't seem to matter that much. The wealthiest guy in the world a hundred years ago or before, with his fortune denominated in "real money" based on gold, couldn't buy for any amount of gold the overwhelming majority of goods and services available to even low-income Americans today. For example, the financier Nathan Mayer Rothschild died in 1836 from an infection that modern medicine can cure for something like a dollar's worth of antibiotics.

"There was a time before reason and science when my ancestors believed in all manner of nonsense." Narim on Stargate SG-1.

The purpose of the central banks and fiat currency is control of many by the few.


"[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country, and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion, by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements, arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.
The apex of the system was the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world's central banks, which were themselves, private corporations. The growth of financial capitalism made possible a centralization of world economic control, and use of this power for the direct benefit of financiers and the indirect injury of all other economic groups."
~Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (New York: Macmillan, 1966) p.324

I think that this is the central point "to get" in order to make sense of our world. Oil and commodity price manipulation follows as a natural consequence of this economic control.


The purpose of the central banks and fiat currency is control of many by the few.

"Control" in what sense? People in developed countries with fiat money enjoy vastly more freedom today than people in these same countries a century ago when they had "real money." Women back then couldn't borrow money based on their own creditworthiness, for example; they had to get a male relative or husband to sign the loan for them. (Henrik Ibsen's play "A Doll's House" has a woman who gets into trouble by forging her father's signature on a loan application so she had the money to take her sick husband to a sunny climate to restore his health; she couldn't have gotten the loan otherwise.) Women also had restrictions, not imposed on men, on their ability to own and use property. And suppose a black person with plausibly good credit in 1907 wanted to borrow money from a bank? That just didn't happen. The rise of fiat money has coincided with an increase in economic freedom that the gold standard apparently couldn't support.

"There was a time before reason and science when my ancestors believed in all manner of nonsense." Narim on Stargate SG-1.

You fail to even begin to make the case that fiat money and women's rights are linked.

First you said Americans are wealthier which seems to make the assumption that debt is wealth. Now you say that access to credit is freedom. Reminds me of something else someone once wrote:


True wealth doesn't vanish when you lose your job; true health doesn't vanish when you lose your insurance; true freedom doesn't vanish when you're denied credit. Most Americans are simply slaves and have no value when they're no longer economically active.

"There was a time before reason and science when my ancestors believed in all manner of nonsense." Yeah right! Just a different manner of nonsense.

Most Americans are simply slaves and have no value when they're no longer economically active.

*clap* *clap*

Quiet !!!!!!!
They can't handle the truth.

Burgundy, would you really want to go back to living the way most Americans lived in the robber baron days? They were more nakedly slaves, even at gunpoint by rich-controlled Pinkertons, National Guardsmen and the KKK. The advantage I see in that: they were more nakedly plotting slave rebellions.

Here is a thought.The population is armed now,and not near so likely to react in a passive manor when it gets angry,and they see their children hungry.The attitude is "me first".As well as being bone mean.

Careful, you'll be declared a "Homegrown Terrorist," http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/11/19/5320/

super390, it's just a matter of sophistication. If people would voluntarily give up the product of their entire life's work to say the TPTB, then the TPTB wouldn't have to make them live in any particular way. That's the Holy Grail.

People are not quite that dumb yet however and the system of extraction not quite perfected. But on the whole, it has worked fairly well so far. In the bad old days of the robber barons one man could work 8hrs a day and provide for his family (say a wife and four children), probably walking to work.

And now? Both man and wife spend hours not only working, but also commuting to work. Down time is frowned upon so they work when they're not officially working thanks to technology. Meanwhile, they must support their one or two children through extensive pre-employment training at considerable cost for the sake of the future employer. When they're not actually working, they spend hours sitting in front of a tv where they are conditioned on how to live, spend their money and what to believe. They must also save for their entire life to look after themselves once they are no longer useful for work. Some particularilly useful women have even been persuaded to give up having children so they can continue working.

The robber barons simply lacked the technology and the technique for conditioning people. They had to adopt cruder tactics as a result. But now, people work their entire lives and in the main have little to show for it by the end. The entire product of their lives has been syphoned away and accumulated into the hands of a few.

Under the robber barons (meaning before the Feds crushed Standard Oil), one non-rural man typically worked 60 hours or more a week. His wife often worked in a sweatshop (like the workers in the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist fire), and his children might work side jobs as well. If they were farmers instead, things might be better or worse, unpredictably.

This is a fact. It did not fully change until the Depression wiped out work for so many people that the government mandated the 40 hour week to, in effect, redistribute work among the unemployed. In 1967 the average work week was only 37 hours.

The awful reversal in free time began during the days of the Arab oil crisis, and was enthusiastically exacerbated by Pope Ronnie the Unimpeachable, and his puppet Bush Senior, who never found a Victorian throwback they disliked.

Now I would agree that Reagan's sponsors also sponsored those TV commercials and the rest of the capitalist propaganda machine that seduced and divided the working class in the '60s and set it up for what Reagan, Thatcher and Nicholas Sarkozy call "reform".

I must ask, because it is important in understanding why I am having so much difficulty communicating with other Americans, whether you, Burgundy, really genuinely believe that conditions were great under the worst excesses of Rockefeller and J. P. Morgan (who said "I can always hire half the working class to shoot the other half) as opposed to the post-New Deal era. Wages pretty much exploded in the middle of the 20th Century and stagnated on both ends.
I keep being surprised by what Americans believe about the past - how many Republicans know that Eisenhower and the Republicans in Congress kept the top income tax rate at 91% througout the '50s and ran 8 budget surpluses?

I think that people's view of whether conditions were good or bad historically, have been totally corrupted by their own belief/conditioning that what we have now is unquestionably better. We make poor judges when it comes to assessing whether peoples lives were better or worse.

I've no doubt that governments, missionaries, etc. were genuine in their desire to improve the lives of indigenous peoples around the World. With disastrous results. Indians, Aboriginals, etc were given the benefits of modernity and their lives were ruined, their physical and mental health deteriorated, their culture was left in dispair. They simply weren't conditioned, domesticated or bred into our strange form of captivity and reacted as free humans do to loss of freedom with depression.

Now to the New Deal, etc. When humans are pushed too far, especially by inequality, they revolt and become less efficient at maintaining the overarching system. The response is to accommodate them in some way to bring them back on-line and revive the failing system. For example the rather brutal enslavement into the industrial system meant that the resulting dreadful human condition had to be ameliorated to prevent loss of productivity. Entertainment, alcohol, trade unions, sport, etc. were required to ease humans into the new regime. The New Deal was yet another device to ameliorate the human condition and re-engage the populace in the economy. It was jettisoned once it was no longer needed, unlike entertainment, etc. which is required more than ever (anti-depression drugs too as things are again deteriorating rather badly).

Who actually runs this system, who's the master? The answer is no one, it is a purely self organising, self replicating system. The Powers That Be obviously play an important role in the running of the system, but they do not control it. They're simply part of it. We are all driven by a system we cannot control and which is accountable to no one but its own internal dynamics.

Capitalism, Communism, Socialism, Politics, Left, Right, Centre are all just systemic devices to organise humans and their productivity to the same ends. Much the same way Evolution organises organic life to fit its own internal dynamics (ie. fitness).

I've no doubt that governments, missionaries, etc. were genuine in their desire to improve the lives of indigenous peoples around the World.

The American Government therefore gave blankets from smallpox hospitals to native americans out of kindness?

LoL! I think that was a case of the original intention being hijacked by other elements, who had very different intentions. Similar to the hijacking of NGOs and aid organisations by elements of the State for covert offensive purposes.

Amherst did distribute small pox scab carrying blankets to the Indians, but he was British, not American.

False dichotomy.

Burgundy, at what point in the past was the vast majority of people free to pursue a life of leisure? Mostly people worked, often extremely hard, for the necessities of life. Only a very few had lives of leisure. So it seems that fiat money is assciated with less burden on the populace to rpoduce economic goods.
But hey, it's always better to llok at the world thru an over-arching ideology instead of the simple view of reality!

James Gervais

Burgundy, at what point in the past was the vast majority of people free to pursue a life of leisure?

Hunter-gatherer days, I would guess. Perhaps some horticultural societies in forgiving climates.

The only problem is a very low population density is required for that lifestyle.

I dunno. Sitting outdoors in the stifling heat or freezing cold, nearly naked or perhaps covered with a lice-ridden animal skin, sick to one's stomach from bad, parasite-infested food, feeling the pain from bruises and infected cuts acquired on the last hunt, itching all over from mosquito and bug bites, harrassed by incessantly orbiting biting flies, under perpetual imminent threat from vicious predators, poisonous reptiles, stinging insects, and other vermin. No - there's nothing whatever about any part of that that I'd see as "pursuing a life of leisure".

OTOH if all one ever knew was such a pointless existence, only with the addition of the incessant, exhausting, hazardous toil of hiking over long distances to hunt down animals, then falling upon a magically abundant spot might lead to a feeling like leisure. No, correct that, a feeling of partial relief from toil. After all, the modern concept of higher pursuits, such as arts, would not have been invented yet. There would be virtually no options for leisure as such, only for collapsing into a stupor of one sort or another.

That last will no doubt lead to quibbles, but they would be of little practical concern. Soon enough, others would find the same magically abundant spot, or the population of one's own tribe would explode, or both. It would be right back to the old grind, nothing whatsoever beyond mere pointless animal survival.

Hmmm...put that way, it at least rhymes with something familiar...

I dunno. Sitting outdoors in the stifling heat or freezing cold, nearly naked or perhaps covered with a lice-ridden animal skin, sick to one's stomach from bad, parasite-infested food, feeling the pain from bruises and infected cuts acquired on the last hunt, itching all over from mosquito and bug bites, harrassed by incessantly orbiting biting flies, under perpetual imminent threat from vicious predators, poisonous reptiles, stinging insects, and other vermin. No - there's nothing whatever about any part of that that I'd see as "pursuing a life of leisure".

I don't think you have a realistic view of what life was like (is like) for foraging societies. They had ways of dealing with that kind of thing. For one thing, they just didn't stay in a place if it was uncomfortable. If it was too hot, or there were too many bugs, they just got up and moved. They knew where to camp to avoid the local hazards.

OTOH if all one ever knew was such a pointless existence, only with the addition of the incessant, exhausting, hazardous toil of hiking over long distances to hunt down animals, then falling upon a magically abundant spot might lead to a feeling like leisure.

It's not pointless, nor is it particularly exhausting.

The average modern hunter-gatherer works 3-1/2 hours a day to provide all the food, shelter and clothing they need. Hunter-gatherers now live on the the most marginal land, so it's likely our ancestors worked even less.

No, correct that, a feeling of partial relief from toil. After all, the modern concept of higher pursuits, such as arts, would not have been invented yet. There would be virtually no options for leisure as such, only for collapsing into a stupor of one sort or another.

Completely incorrect. If you only work three hours a day, what do you do with the rest of your time? Why, art. They sing songs, tell each other stories, play musical instruments, make pottery, baskets, clothing, jewelry, carvings, etc. There's plenty of art.

Why is such an existence "pointless"? Because they play with their kids instead of watch plasma TVs?

Soon enough, others would find the same magically abundant spot, or the population of one's own tribe would explode, or both. It would be right back to the old grind, nothing whatsoever beyond mere pointless animal survival.

I don't think it's as inevitable as you think. After all, the vast majority of our existence as a species has been spent as hunter-gatherers. Despite many "magically abundant spots," the transition to agriculture was a long time coming.

However, it is true that once the technological war starts, it's hard to resist. Even though people might be much happier without it, they can't forgo it as long as their neighbors don't. Hence Tainter's warning that the next collapse will be a global one.

I doubt that they were getting too many insect bites if they were sitting in the freezing cold.

Sitting outdoors in the stifling heat or freezing cold

they could make shelters and fires unless your talking about our ancestor's pre-fire.

nearly naked or perhaps covered with a lice-ridden animal skin

they also knew about lice and would most likely know how to rid themselves of it. they were not stupid so please don't push the idea that we are somehow 'smarter' then they were.

sick to one's stomach from bad, parasite-infested food

1. they knew how to cook food with a wonderful invention, fire.

2. a healthy adult immune system i.e. one that has not grown up intensively doused by anti-biotics can take on allot more then you think. also humans can eat some raw meat too, the acid in a healthy adult would kill many parasites.

feeling the pain from bruises and infected cuts acquired on the last hunt

considering that they lived their lives hunting they would be used to bruses which are hardly fatal. as for cuts archaeological records show they were very adapt at using various plants for their healing property's including antibiotic like ones when they need it.

itching all over from mosquito and bug bites, harrassed by incessantly orbiting biting flies, under perpetual imminent threat from vicious predators, poisonous reptiles, stinging insects, and other vermin.

mud and/or mixtures of certain crushed plant leaves have been historically used as repellents during the day for bitting insects. fire works really well at keeping the 'nasties' you named away at night while during the day their experence would allow them to know how to avoid them.

you obviously know very little about that time in our history, so little a casual look at the subject basically proves you completely wrong. or more simply, if they were so dumb, and suffered so much, how do you explain whey we are here?

"After all, the modern concept of higher pursuits, such as arts, would not have been invented yet. "

1. You erroneously assume we could not have a high level of wealth and technological comfort without a fiat currency.

2. Much of our wealth is gained the same way wealth was gained in other empires, such as Ancient Rome: slavery (cheap labour from less developed countries) and stealing resources (again from third world countries, and now more openly from places like the Middle East, etc.), often under the guise of "trickle down" economics.

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

The evil of classical economics was that it presided over a fantastically unequal socioeconomic system. Gold bugs and FDR-bashers infuriate me because of their obvious bias for Victorian capitalism and infinite polarization of wealth. THAT was happening under the gold standard, and as a result support for Marxism was growing until the capitalists created the debt boom of the 1920s and bought off the workers briefly.

The problem then, is what is the source of the greater prosperity that followed the end of the Great Depression-WW2 crisis? There was always technological progress, that was taken for granted, and so was the ever greater input of cheap energy that the new technology required. What was different was that via fiat currency an inflationary bias was now built into the system to buy off the workers, since in those days workers (and farmers) were the net debtors and the rich the net creditors. Inflation favors debtors over creditors unless interest rates are adjustable. That bias, along with other programs, offset the normal, and obviously unjust, polarization of wealth inherent to private property systems. That in turn meant that the benefits of technology were easily made widespread, as long as the energy stayed cheap.

Setting aside the issue of how that New Deal system fell apart in the '70s, the question is, do we have a way to offset the polarization of wealth without a fiat currency that will inevitably get overprinted? Don't run from this, paleocons and gold bugs, because your deflationary solutions to Peak Oil will be so unjust as to force the majority of humans to raise the Red flag again.

After all, it's not like you can promise them a better future through technology.

I am trying to understand this better.

It seems to me you are saying that it is just a choice between a fiat money system borrowing from the future in ever greater quantities, and in the end, collapsing and failing to deliver in the same way that the gold-standard based economy could not do in real time?.

So which devil is better?


The alternatives were between:

a. voluntary redistribution under a hard currency (low growth, both rich and poor disgruntled with results but still breathing)

b. inflationary redistribution under a fiat currency (high growth, both rich and poor sated until it collapses)

c. no redistribution under a hard currency (boom-bust cycles, plutocracy/fascism, finally a worker's revolution)

The gamble of the New Deal was that if they chose b, they staved off Bolshevism and Fascism in the short run and maybe found a way to keep the pyramid scheme going in the future. That gamble failed after 70 years but it got us the only brief interval in American history where there was enough equality to create real social mobility, and enough prosperity to create the magnanimous spirit needed to protect the movements of non-whites and women for, what in fact, were their natural rights.

Without that, why not revolution?

America with the 1913-1980 period deleted is just a nasty story of white guys with guns murdering, enslaving and exploiting a narrow, limited world. That was the era when America had the world's greatest authors, painters, architects, movie directors, musicians, and inventors. A lot of people got opportunities from that fiat money scam to overcome prior assumptions of inferiority, and add beauty and knowledge to the world, from Martin Luther King to the beneficiaries of the GI Bill. If it had never happened, Francois, then wouldn't we all still believe the endless bigoted lies of the Victorian age?

Which I think suits quite a few people at The Oil Drum just fine. For them, collapse is an excuse for putting the white men back in the manor houses, and everyone else picking cotton - or blessedly triaged out of existence. I know collapse is probably coming, but I will be damned or dead before I let that lazy and hateful vision of a low-energy society return. Either we find a just way to do this or we take up guns and reduce this country to ashes fighting each other.

For them, collapse is an excuse for putting the white men back in the manor houses, and everyone else picking cotton

Errr, that already exists. They are called 'the rich'. The cotton pickers are the ones with debt.

First, a sustainable economy is pretty much a zero-growth economy.

In a zero-growth economy, you don't want either inflation or deflation, because either will lead to economic distortions, and thus to misallocations, and thus to waste - which sustainable economies can't afford.

What a zero-growth sustainable economy wants, then is a stable money supply. It doesn't particularly matter whether that money supply is based upon gold or pieces of paper or big carved stone disks, the important thing is that the quantity remains stable.

To keep the money supply stable, the one absolutely essential requirement is a prohibition against fractional reserve banking. Banks need to make their money by charging for depository services and by brokering financing deals between savers/investors and borrowers/entrepreneurs. Interest can and should be charged on loans, because all assets must have a rental value to prevent wasteful misuse. Because it is a zero growth economy, though, the opportunities to realize enough of a surplus on investment capital to pay back the principal with interest will be quite limited.; it must also be possible for some people to produce enough of a surplus to invest in the first place, and in a zero-growth economy that is also quite difficult. Thus, while there may still be lending and borrowing going on in a zero-growth sustainable economy, there won't be a lot of it.

Given a fixed money supply, limited opportunities for financial intermediation, and limited opportunities to generate a surplus on investment capital, a zero-growth sustainable economy would not offer those on top much opportunity to expand their wealth at the expense of the remaining population - unless they resorted to outright theft (or property or of persons - slavery).

There is, unfortunately, no magic formula to guarantee that zero-growth sustainable economies must inherently be egalitarian, much as we might wish they would be. I know of no way to establish or preserve even a minimal level of egalitarianism except through the collective action of those who are "underneath". This collective action need not be violent; there are good examples of non-violent "people power" achieving much. Individual initiative won't do it, though. If people are not willing to work together in some way to throw off their chains (or to keep them off), they will indeed end up in chains.

Correlation is not causation.

Think about material wealth, progress of building, science, free-time and manufacturing.

What do they require?

Energy (ability to do work, transform matter, distribute, heat, etc)

Paper money has very low energy content :)

Fiat currency does not _create_ the benefits of material progress. Increased energy usage/density along with technology do that.

Fiat currency does enable faster growth by uncapping the economic growth that was previously capped by the lackluster growth of the precious metal production.

But do not confuse the catalyst with the source of reaction.

Fiat currency plays the supporting role, energy has the lead role.

If you want to understand more look into Sokolow's residual, energy vs gdp, energy vs production volumes and pre-Bretton-Woods gdp growth vs gold base volume growth.

That vast improvement in individual wealth -- a sort of Reaganesque "rising tide raises all boats" is certainly true on the level of technological wealth.

The richest sheik in 1001 Nights had to resort to a magic carpet which didn't even exist-- and now people on minimum wage jobs fly to Hawaii for vacations. And of course, instead of starving, we are dying of diabetes, and because of cheap antibiotics we are faced with an epidemic of multiple antibiotic resistant staph.

The problem, as always, is balance -- and that can not apparently be imposed on anyone, no matter what their station in life. Resistance to change is extraordinarily powerful.

And of course, it's all powered by oil -- exquisite technology will be to no avail in the absence of petroleum-like substances.

Back to the Stone Age -- we will never run out of rocks!

...and now people on minimum wage jobs fly to Hawaii for vacations.

You are kidding, right? You don't honestly believe this, do you?

There are lots of scams in this world. Maybe they have "portfolios". But I see it with my lying eyes almost daily.

Granted, these are not usually the single-mother-of-four working at a MacHamburger. But airline tickets are awfully cheap. Thoreau claimed that it cost more than a days' wages to afford a train ticket to go as far as you could walk in a day-- so it was cheaper to walk. That calculus is certainly untrue in the age of oil.

Here in CT the minimum wage folks can't even make it out of Hartford.

Seriously. the guy believes that stuff. Critical thought is the ability to consider that you may be wrong.
Think about it. 40 hours a week, figure seven fifty an hour, that's 300 dollars. Figure the cost of rent, food, heat, telephone, electricity, household supplies, and transport (bus, cab if you work overtime, is the cheapest). The people at Mcdonald's don't get access to showers like whitecollar workers, so they can't use a bicycle and arrive at work physically tired and sweaty, shower, and collapse in front of the computer.
We aren't even talking about health, disability, life, or even car insurance. Dental and vision insurance is possible to afford, if you can get it.

The wealthiest guy in the world a hundred years ago or before, with his fortune denominated in "real money" based on gold, couldn't buy for any amount of gold the overwhelming majority of goods and services available to even low-income Americans today.

Wittingly or not, you have pointed out the single greatest fallacy of the modern global capitalist version of reality - The measure of value is what can or can't be bought.

Not a fallacy. Merely an alternate reality. And of course, a belief that will spell the ultimate doom of that reality.

When everything is turned into a commodity and owned and managed, there will be no "commons" to steal from, and no way forward for capitalism. We will all just be trading Beanie Babies on E-Bay until the food runs out.

As long as I can trade in my Beanie's for a trip to Hawaii. ;-)

"The wealthiest guy in the world a hundred years ago or before, with his fortune denominated in "real money" based on gold, couldn't buy for any amount of gold the overwhelming majority of goods and services available to even low-income Americans today."

Of course he could buy whatever we buy today. Food, from all over the world. He could travel anywhere in the world he chose - by ship/train/etc... he could buy entertainment (live music and entertainment instead of virtual), he could communicate with anyone anywhere - it just took a little longer for the post/courier to get there. Drugs and pornography/sex (a large part of modern economies) were highly accessable. His car was pulled by horses and came with a chauffeur... or was a horse.

What goods and services are you referring to? You'll find it is just a matter of refined technology. And cheap energy made such things accessable to more people.

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

The one exception to your point might be medicine. Rich people could -- and sometimes did -- suffer from and even die from stuff that can be treated by modern medicine, treatments that were not available then at any price.


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

Front page of the Wall Street Journal today.


This is "the view of those who like to speak clearly, honestly, and [are] not just trying to please people," he bluntly declared. The French executive said many existing oil fields are being depleted at rates that will damage their geologic structures, which will limit future output more than most people allow.

This is a remarkably long, remarkably obtuse piece that doesn't quite get around to stating the obvious fact that we are either held hostage by geology or by some unbelievably powerful cartel that can control supply (maybe David Ickes is right, and it's the Arcturians after all-- reptilian shape shifters run the world.)

Oil Officials See Limit Looming on Production - The Wall Street Journal

This is "the view of those who like to speak clearly, honestly, and [are] not just trying to please people," he bluntly declared. The French executive said many existing oil fields are being depleted at rates that will damage their geologic structures, which will limit future output more than most people allow. What's more, some nations endowed with large untapped pools of oil are generating so much revenue from their current production that they feel they don't need to further develop their fields, thus putting another cap on output.

Earlier this month, James Mulva, the chief executive of ConocoPhillips, echoed those conclusions in a speech at a Wall Street conference: "I don't think we are going to see the supply going over 100 million barrels a day.... Where is all that going to come from?" He questioned whether the industry has enough support services and people to execute projects to add that much oil production.

I'm curious to see how the markets react after the Wall Street Journal readers start to understand the oil situation.


Michigan - New Culture - Value System - Local Future - Americanus
Local Future Network
Value System: Gas Prices, Money, Peak Oil and The Future

Previously posted, higher in the thread, and in yesterday's DrumBeat.

Re Petrobras find, considering that the world burns 30 billion a year, 8 billion may be an answer, albeit temporary, for Brazil's depletion but in the global scheme we use that in three months. All it really means is that the replacement oil is 24,000 feet down, hardly cause for dancing in the streets. The question is whether this sort of find will delay the Brazilians' move to renewables. Having the wellhead at 7000 feet down sounds like a recipe for 'issues'. Always money for advanced recovery techniques but not for solar thermal.

Good point. If drilling five-mile-deep holes in earth's crust is such a reasonable thing to do, then geothermal energy should be a piece of cake.

Not necessarily.

The economics and logistics of oil production and geothermal energy bear little if any resemblance to each other. The only thing they have in common is that they both involve drilling holes in the ground (but not even the same kind of holes).

Also keep in mind that for a given subsurface temperature and a given flow rate of liquid through the collector pipe, there is a maximum rate at which heat can be extracted per unit area of exposed pipe surface. Some time after the initial start-up period a thermal steady-state is reached in which heat will be transferred into the collector pipe at a given rate and no higher. So if you want more heat, you have to put in more pipe (at suitably distant spacings). It can get pretty expensive if you're doing this at considerable depth. This equally applies to those schemes wherein water is pumped into a hot formation with one set of wells and then extracted by a separate set of wells.

The economics and practicality of geothermal is also very location-specific.

The thing I find amazing is that I see comments from the uneducated masses to the effect that finds like this somehow "disprove" Peak Oil.

I suppose part of the problem here is innumeracy. People hear 8 billion barrels and it sounds like such an inconceivably huge number that it doesn't occur to them that it is still a relatively small find.

I saw different comments on a bicycling forum, where someone was going on about how oil shale and tar sands were going to be our saviors. Someone was even suggesting that we could use solar to help process oil shale. Environment be damned - people are desperate to keep their cars.

I suspect that there is a greater awareness of Peak Oil that we think, but the awareness is quite superficial.

Hitch up 10,000 bicyclists to stationary bikes connected to generators which will provide electric power to heat the oil shale. I think they might be on to something-- they just haven't seen it yet.

...on a bicycling forum ... Environment be damned - people are desperate to keep their cars




Jayzus this obscure industry terminology:Google results for "Sarcanol"

Who's behind this particular neologism?

me & some other regular TODers ?

Under the archaic spelling of "sarconol".

Best Hopes for A Dry Sense of Humor,



It's all Souperman's fault.

I should have known...

"Sarc-On: Apply directly to the Cerebral Cortex!"

LOL! That's brilliant!!!

That is really, really good!

Not bad for a Big*Ugly*Tod*Troll. No acronyms please!

Re: Petrobras find:

This is an equivalent water depth and depth to the producing formations as the Devon/Chevron Jack 2 find that was touted so much by the Powers that Be right before the 2006 Congressional election. I have no idea what a well like that costs in Brazil, but off the coast of Lousiana/Texas the figure is $100 million. Ouch.

The good part is that by finding this in a whole new basin oil prospects at this depth can be assumed to exhist worldwide, and the equipment design costs will be spread over several basins. Much better chance of both projects proving economic and being developed. The bad part is that its fantasticly expensive and hard to develop. Bob Ebersole

Indeed. $5 trillion for drilling holes.

But my my - it is too expensive to make a couple of solar panels from a kilo of purified Sand (Source of Silicon). But Oil interests have all the money and propaganda resources.

Plus I too love that exhilarating feeling when the gas is floored :-)

I saw someone the other day who suggested that all of this experience in drilling really deep wells could be useful for the development of geothermal. While I suppose that's true, the economics of it all is still a big question mark...

Last night and for a couple of days, I have the privilege of experiencing the howl and acceleration of a 2005 Boxster S, while I usually have to settle for lesser thrills. It may be stupid fun, but it really is fun.

it is too expensive to make a couple of solar panels from a kilo of purified Sand

Like it or not it is too expensive. If it was not corporations would be making billions from solar panels not from oil.

Let's make a quick calculation:
At $100/barrel and $5/watt you could buy a 20 Watt solar cell for the price of a barrel. A barrel of oil it 6100MJ and at 20% solar panel utilisation (which is optimistic), you would have to wait for:

6100x10^6 / (20 * 0.2) = 1525x10^6 sec = 48 years to get the same energy as a barrel of oil from the solar cell

So you could give the $100 and get the energy now or wait 48 years to get it - your choice. Oh wait, the solar cells won't last even half of this... doh!

Oh wait, the solar cells won't last even half of this... doh!

You have proof that somewhere at less than half of 48 years solar panels go 'poof' and just dissapear?

Please show what panels go 'poof'! So I can avoid them and keep buying panels that degrade over time, such that a 50 year old panel will still be producing some power, just not as much as it did when it was new.

There is no such thing as 50 year old solar panel - solar panels started to be produced in the 70s which gives about 30 years for the oldest ones.

It is a common knowledge that PV output deteriorates with time. Usually they give them a useful lifetime of 20-25 year. I haven't seen estimates higher than 30 years and this was the basis of my statement.

(and please keep your ungrounded sarcasm for yourself - that is if you want a civilized discussion, which unfortunately I'm not sure you do)

30 years and this was the basis of my statement.

30*2 = 60. You said 48. 48 != 60.

Oh, is this like your 99.9999% claim - where I showed you were just making up claims?

Please show links to 30 year old panels == dead. Because, again, I wish to avoid buying products that have a track record of failure VS the panels that keep going.

(Unless of course you are, once again, making up claims. In that case don't bother responding)

Producers give a range - 20-25-30 years... what difference does it make to my base point? 48 years is way far off, even 5-10 years payback is far for a corporation to justify the investment.

I don't have the data how 20-25 or 30 years old panels perform. It is you trying to make this point and if you want to argue don't make me search that information for you. You do have access to Google, don't you?

My panels (Schott) have a 25 year guarantee that they will be producing 80% of their original output at that time. This is reality. So far, I haven't really noticed any deterioration after three years and so far about 16 megawatt hours of production from my 2500 kw system.

Far from being their useful life, they are still doing damn well if that holds up!

Oh OK, I was quoting the 20-25 years figure from memory and it seems this is only the warranty which manufacturers give. I have no idea how long they could last before their output deteriorates completely - and it is interesting would the require extra maintenance when they age?

Again this does not change the initial point - 48 years is too long time for the payoff to make sense. It could be meaningful in CA with its exobriant electricity rates, but for Brazil - give me a break.

Again this does not change the initial point - 48 years is too long time

So there is a time value here?


Well, what is the value of a photon to energy conversion process?

"...and it is interesting would the require extra maintenance when they age?"

This is a good question. There are different kinds of sustainability. One of the kinds of sustainability is whether-or-not the people using a particular device can repair that device during a breakdown. This is a very critical consideration in areas with, say, limited financial resources where it would be difficult for a person or community to purchase a new device (such as a solar array) to replace the worn-out one.


graywulffe in CVO, OR

Periodic removal of bird droppings, dust, leaves, etc. from solar PV is recommended.

Low quality solder joints may fail, but good quality one not.

The inverters (for grid ties) are getting better, but early ones did not have a half century lifetime.

Corrosion issues with the mounting hardware (avoided if stainless was used).

Any more ?


"Any more ?"

Large hail damage. Flying debris from high-wind events. Stray bullets. Kids playing around and tossing rocks... You have to admit, children are major conduits of entropy. Well, perhaps when they're bored. ;o)

I like solar... But attrition will be part of the reality.


graywulffe in CVO, OR

From a history of solar:

Albert Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics for his research on the photoelectric effect—a phenomenon central to the generation of electricity through solar cells.

Some 50 years prior, William Grylls Adams had discovered that when light was shined upon selenium, the material shed electrons, thereby creating electricity.

In 1953, Bell Laboratories (now AT&T labs) scientists Gerald Pearson, Daryl Chapin and Calvin Fuller developed the first silicon solar cell capable of generating a measurable electric current.

So we should have a few 50 year old ones lying around somewhere.

The Bell Labs device is in the Smithstonian, IIRC, and still putting out electricity, feebly, 54 years later. Of course, it was the first Si PV device, not exactly optimized.

Yes, but to be relevant those solar arrays would have to be in constant use during that 50-year timeframe. If they're sitting around in storage, that's hardly a good test.

That said, apparently the Pioneer 6 probe still has functioning solar cells after 35 years. Maybe the solar arrays used by NASA are higher-quality than those sold for general use Earthside, so this may not be the best solar-cell longevity-test. But it's an interesting data-point, especially in considering that the space environment can be quite harsh.


graywulffe in CVO, OR

It's not that PV is too expensive, since people are buying the stuff with far fewer subsidies than the oil infrastructure or the Fission backscratching, and they're buying enough for the industry to be growing at some 30% a year for the last 6 years.. it's just that Oil is still TOO cheap.. which pretty much everyone on this site knows, but you choose to paint in a reversed argument, so that one of the technologies that actually works, lasts and can be applied pretty much everywhere is decried as 'Too Hard', while magical technofixes are still promising supposedly Cheap, Clean and Safe Power, where their advocates have to go out of their way to convince us of any of these positive arguments.

You don't have to wait 48 years for all of it, just for the last of it. You are getting your power steadily throughout that time.. but of course, people still think they can bet on the Hare and not the Tortoise..
As far as actual lifespan, I've heard PV owners whose 30 yr old panels are delivering 75/80% of the original output, so no, they're not necessarily Dead at 25.

Solar Electric IS expensive.. that doesn't mean it isn't worth what you're paying for.


Please calculate subsidies per energy produced for PV and for the rest of the energy sources and come back with the numbers.

You will be surprised what a subsidy sinkhole PV, and to lesser extent wind, are.

Please feel free to offer this comparison. I can't complete your argument for you.. but don't forget to include the extraordinary expenses we have endured to keep the oil flowing from the Middle East to the US, and to keep their governments from getting any silly notions about getting greedy or too democratic with their own resources. Also the related costs we shouldered in allowing oil Monopolies to dismantle our Trolleys and Train Infrastructure.. turning our nation's eye away from these valuable assets was a terrific subsidy that helped OilCo's eliminate their competition and assure a captive market.

Any subsidy is an expense.. it's a sinkhole when it doesn't show itself to be a worthy investment. Unfortunately, we don't have any sinkholes big enough to pack away all that Nuclear Waste yet.. guess we need a bigger sinkhole.


Let me remind you that you were the first to present the subsidy argument so it is in your ball park.

But let's make a quick comparison as far as US goes:
1) Coal power costs about 2-3 cents/kwth
2) Nuclear costs about the same, but these are old plants, financially depreciated... so lets make the new ones to be double that to 4-6c/kwth
3) Natural gas costs ~6-7 c/kwth
4) Wind costs around ~7-8 c/kwth
5) Solar costs 20-25c/kwth, depending on location.

It is obvious that without subsidies solar can not compete currently. Wind is on the margin but it still needs subsidies.

IMO coal receives one of the biggest but not that visible subsidies - not paying for its pollution.

Nuclear - you claim nuclear gets the subsidy for not paying for its waste, but this is not true - utilities pay twice for it - once they pay certain amount that goes for building the Yucca Mountain site - which has turned into a typical government blunder. So far our beloved gov has spent $6bln. just to "study" the site. Then again utilities are paying because Yucca is not being built, and they are forced to build storages on site. Other than that nuclear was voted a subsidy to help it kickstart the industry - which is for just 6 reactors as opposed for wind where it is for all.

Wind is receiving a subsidy of 1.8c/kwth, which is the same subsidy as for new nuclear.

Solar is massively subsidized in California and most other states, but still is producing some 0.1% of the electricity in the country.

And of course the biggest subsidy is for oil - which beside environmental is a military one. This subsidy is not only because oil is such a cheap energy source but because we have become structurally dependant on it - and it is much easier for the establishment to make wars, than rebuilding all the infrastructure.

When we draw the line it turns out that all of them are quite heavily subsidized. I say remove all subsidies, put a price on the pollution of fossil fuels and let them compete afterwards.

This is not apples to apples comparsion of wholesale costs. For central station comparsion, CSP and not PV costs, are to be used,
11-14 ¢/kWh 2007 ref1 pg 5
7-10¢/kWh 2015 target ref2
5-7¢/kWh 2020 target ref2

As CSP develops the scale of gas, nuclear, or wind, costs will drop.

When considering cents/kWh from solar PV for customer-sited (residential or commercial) systems, the price to compare is that of the mean utility price of electricity the customer is displacing. In my area that's 15.6 cents/kWh.

I am a much bigger optimist for CSP than PV, mostly because it has the potential to eliminate some of the solar variation through heat storage (for some of the designs).

On the sceptical side I don't entirely trust the cost dropping estimates - such structures implicitely require a lot of material expenses per effective watt and I don't think the costs for those will drop. I'll take these estimates with grain of salt - for example PV has been "just about" to reaching grid parity for as long as I've known about it.

Your second point is not valid. Residential installations do not eliminate the need for the grid as a backup - hence in principle their output should be priced at wholesale prices, like all power stations feeding the grid (no matter how large they are). The fact that utilities in CA are buying retail from PV installations is in fact a mandated subsidy for the PV owner. I'm not quite against it though. On the other hand if PV systems would be built on large scale or residential installation start to provide a more sizable portion of the electricity (it is just 0.2% in CA IIRC), retail prices should not be the ones to look at.

I am in California. Any excess I donate to PGE they don't pay for. I pay retail for every kwh net I draw from the grid. This year we generated an extra 300 kwh, they don't give us a dime. We also pay a grid connection fee monthly.

This really needs to be changed. Has there been any concerted attempt to do it that you know of? I know they have "the bargaining chips" (i.e. a pretty massive propaganda machine, money, legislative influence etc.), but it really does seem like something that with a little pressure might actually get changed.

I think we have talked about this before.

From the point of view of the utility you are not paying almost anything for using their grid - they are buying wholesale electricity for 3-6 c/kwth and selling it to you to 12-15 c/kwth (don't ask me why the margin is so high, blame deregualtion in CA). This margin is the source of their income; the fixed fee is unable to cover the fixed cost of maintaining the grid. And if you make the calculation - that fixed fee is covering the margin for only 40-50 kwth - this compared to 300-400kwth of normal usage.

This situation is in fact very favorable for you, if you were a small power plant they would buy all the electricity you are at surplus at any given time at current wholesale prices - 3-6c. Then they would sell it back to you when you need it again at any given time at retail prices - 12-15c.

Let's say you produce 5000kwth a year from your PV. Let 3000 of them be fed back to the grid and 2000 used internally. If you had a "surplus" of 300kwth this means that you have drawn another 2700 kwth from the grid (thus your total production is 5000kwth and consumption 4700kwth).

Under market pricing the utility would have to pay you:
3000 x $0.06 = $180 (I'm using the peaking wholesale which is the most favorable to you)
But you would have to pay the utility for drawing when needed:
2700 x $0.15 = $405
So you are effectively subsidised by $225.

I have a suggestion - if you think you are tricked with this schema then cut off your wires and sell the surplus electricity to your neighbors.

2) Nuclear costs about the same [2-3 cents/kwth], but these are old plants, financially depreciated... so lets make the new ones to be double that to 4-6c/kwth

That is poor accounting for nuclear costs. It overlooks the $25 billion TVA write-off for nuclear plants, the $11 billion WHOOPS waste of money (these are 1970s & 1980s $ BTW. double for today's $), the early retirements of Trojan, Rancho Seco, TMI. The several dozen partially completed and abandoned nukes scattered about (I have never done a complete count, but it is large, I have seen several in my travels).

The many billions in nuke R&D (historically well over half of all federal energy R&D has gone to the favorite child of nuclear and not the step children of renewables) are not accounted for.

As an intellectual exercise, just how much wind could be built with the money wasted by JUST TVA & WHOOPS on new nuclear plants ? $25 + $11 billion x interest adjustment = roughly $75 billion (more likely $85-$100 billion). Current capital costs for new wind is, rule of thumb, $1 million per MW.

In a volume buy, lets cut costs by 25% (efficiency of scale, long term buy, etc.) to $750,000/MWh. 100 GW ! Just from the nuke waste in two companies. (Double or triple for all the rest in the USA).

Wind has a capacity factor of 33% in the USA, new nukes about 80% to 85% (increasing to low 90% after a decade of service). So we can build, at minimal economic risk, the wind equilavent of 36 to 40 GW worth of new nukes. Now double or triple that for all the other money that was wasted on nukes.

I want to prevent another debacle in new nuke construction by building new nukes at the maximum economical rate. Say eight new nukes + complete Watts Bar 2 in the next ten years and prudently ramping up from there. 14 or 15 GW or new nukes.

Your proposed "Rush to Nuke" seems risky, a possible repeat of the previous debacle and MASSIVE economic waste. I remember the TVA shutdown & WHOOPS scandal and learned lessons from those and *SO* many other nuke economic failures.

Do you ? To make an economic case for new nuclear power, a repeat of the earlier rush to nuke, may see costs spiral. And as for learning the lessons of the past, see the delays and cost over-runs for the new EU nuke currently under construction, Finland's sixth nuke. (Spelling is beyond my memory).

New nukes can EASILY (and likely IMHO) to be more expensive than new wind. New Nukes will certainly take longer to come on-line. None-the-less, despite the economic risks, we should build new nukes (and uprate older ones !) as a large supplement to new renewables.

Best Hopes for a Rush to Wind and a reasonable build-up of new nukes,


Alan has this dead right - we need things that come in small packages. A large package can support a lot of freeloaders for a long time, then get so screwed up it won't be finished, but its "too big to fail", thus sucking up even more time and money we don't have.

My customers are always pointing at Cisco 7600 series switches with their pricey dual power supplies, pricey dual processors, their pricey line cards, and breathily assuring me they are "carrier class". You can get a small one for the price of a new Corvette. I have to hold them until the tears stop after they see the price, then we talk about my approach of using three small switches, with two in production and one as a spare/test machine. I'm not sure what they do with the 95% savings on these sorts of projects, but I wish I could figure a way to get more of it into my pocket ...

Oh well.

The Cape Cod wind farm for example would cost $700mln. and would cover an area of 25 square miles with 130 skyscreeper height wind turbines. How exactly is this a "small package"?

I am always stunned at the double standards people apply to those things.

You can't take several financial blunders (out of 104 reactors built in the US) and extrapolate that blindly into the future. It is always case per case basis.

There is one undeniable fact: under normal circumstances nuclear can be and is built for about $2000/kW and the output is about 3-4 c/kWth (give or take). This is the worldwide experience - check out Russia, China, Japan, South Korea... Your implicit assumptions is that US utilities are much more incompetent than those in China for example - and I don't agree with it. You can argue all you want but past experience is not automatic proof that the future will look the same - only idiots repeat the same mistake.

On individual project basis one would find bad implementations of wind projects too - IIRC Denmark had to shut down a whole offshore wind farm because of accumulation of salt in the drive shaft.

It is always case per case basis

It was systemic in the USA as our previous "Rush to Nuke" miscarried and died. If I had time I could catalog all of the partially completed and abandoned nukes in the USA. It is in the dozens. One aborted nuke for every 3 or 4 completed would be a reasonable guess.

It was *NOT* a few isolated cases. It was generic and systemic to the industry.

The oddities were the well built, on-time on-budget nukes. Palo Verde comes to mind. And I cannot think of another 1980s reactor that was well built, on time and on budget.

The Chinese have explicitly stated that they want to ramp up new nuke construction at a "prudent" rate. Which is precisely what they have done for decades now. They now have an experience base to increase the rate of construction. They are where the USA might be in 2018.

My advocated policy has some roots in my observations of Chinese nuke policy. The USA can, I agree, build nukes that are only 18 months late, and only 33% over budget (which would be acceptable) but only if we do not speed up the build rate too fast.


An example some pointed to earlier this year:
The Watson solar house in Boston,

5.28 kilowatts installed,
cost of panels: $29,592
cost of installation: $5,864
Total cost: $35,456
cost after various subsidies

Subsidies covered 73% of the cost
Even with the subsidies covering nearly 3/4 of the cost the solar panels are still expected to take 11.3 years to reach break even.

Boston is one of the least suitable locations for solar PV. Far north & often cloudy.


This whole line of comments is rather confused on ROI and EROEI.

Look at the price list above...it offers one of the more glaring examples of this problem. By looking at price of $ it doesn't really show price of energy. "cost of installation" is damn near 17% of the $ cost of the system. Sure, it takes some energy to install the system - but not that much. Probably ditto for the system itself. It most likely suffers from low-volume production, high (human) labor costs. Because of that you're going to have trouble relating it to a more accurate Energy Return on Energy Invested because the labor costs are obfuscating it as compared to Coal, Hydro, et. al which are entrenched and discounted in comparison.

So does it take 11.3 years for the energy to break even? That's the real question you should be asking.

Try doing the calculation in term of kWh generated. That is, a barrel of oil used to generate how much electricty, accounting for real conversion efficiency. Or oil used to fire and ICE auto, vs electricity firing a PHEV or BEV.

Sorry I'm tied up but didn't want this comparsion to go w/o some note that you've chosen LCD, heat, as a basis.

It is true that it was a bit of apples to oranges, but until we find a viable way to put electricity in your car (PV) we are bound to commiting this fallacy.

FWIW well to wheel for oil is ~12-15%.
For PV-to wheel I'd WAG it to about 50% - an enormous improvement, though in the absence of BEVs, still a hypothetical one.

So best case we've got 4 times improvement in efficiency which would bring the payoff time to 12 years - which is comparable to the lifetime of a PV cell of 20-25 years. Is 12 years good enough, even assuming batteries will work? I don't think so - you should bring it down to couple of years or even months - the time needed for investments in FFs to pay off energetically and financially.

(1) No doubt you would prefer centralized Nuclear with
(a) a supporting distribution infrastructure
(b) New plants to be financed via Federal loan guarantees (& its attendant lower rates)

(2) As a smart person like you knows - 1 MJ in thermal energy is not the same as 1 MJ in elec. energy - rather I would say that thermal is worth perhaps 40% of Electrical

(3) $5/watt?? Give me what you are smoking. Wholesale is already a lot lower than that - and falling fast. That genie is out of the bottle - though opposing interests are powerful and well funded.

(4) $100 oil does not directly convert to electricity: it has to be burnt in a plant (costs capital) and uses Oxygen (no charge) and produces CO2 (no tax)

1) I would prefer whatever would really work to reduce our dependence on FF. This is my only criteria, centrilised or decentrilised is an implementation detail. FWIW large solar thermal plants are quite centrilised by necessity.

Expensive distractions for the politicians to take their pictures in front do not count as working solutions.

2) Until I can put electricity in my car I am bound the 1MJ stored in the oil instead of the 1MJ in PV. I addressed this issue upthread

3) If you can find something lower than $5/watt please tell me why is this site lying about solar prices? Latest info:
Nov 2007
USA: $4.83
Europe: euro 4.76 ($6.50)

Ooops it's not 5 bucks it's 4.83! I apologise.
BTW it has always struck me that the fallacy in these prices is never addressed - all we see are PV panel prices, are installation and the equipment to connect to the grid for free? These are about half of the costs for home systems.

4) This is the same point as 2)

(1) $4.83 is the US retail price. And there is additional cost for installation, back-up (if not grid connected). So that link reinforces your comment ref. $5/watt. I did some internet searching but could not find an ex-factory price for solar panels.

I do recollect some links on a firm that is offerring to install solar panels on roofs, no capital cost to the homeowner, you only agree to buy any electricity produced at current utility rates (not adjusted for a depreciating dollar :-)) - the rates are fixed for 25 years. Then you own the equipment - and the electricity produced is free to you.

Can't find that link either!

Since I cannot offer proof otherwise, I will accept that current economics at retail do not favor PV solar.

As someone pointed out - upthread - business as usual is not something that is sustainable - and steals from future generations. Some current sacrifice is needed.

LevinK -

I understand the point you are trying to make: that a little bit of oil goes a long way and that even a modest solar panel costs a lot of money and takes a long time to produce the same amount of energy.

However, in your little back-of-the-envelope calculation you fail to take a number of things into consideration that I think makes the comparison a bit skewed.

First, a MJ of electricity produced by the solar panel is in a readily usable form and usually at high efficiency. If one wants to use that electricity to power the electric motor in a car, the overall efficiency in converting electrical energy to mechanical energy would be something on the order of 80%.

On the other hand to get energy out of that barrel of oil, you would first have to refine it into gasoline or diesel fuel (which entails losses) and then burn it in an internal combusiton engine, with all the inherent thermodynamic losses that entials. As such, you would be very lucky to get an overall conversion of much more than 15%.

Therefore, each MJ of chemical energy contained in the barrel of crude oil would be able to do only about one fifth of the amount of useful work as a MJ coming out of the solar panel. So, the 48-year 'payback' period in your example would in reality be more like 10 years. Still significant, but a big, big difference.

Second, after you've paid $100 for the barrel of oil, your costs have only started to be incurred if you want to actually extract some useful work out of that oil. To that $100 cost must be allocated the proportionate amount of capital investment in the refinery and other portions of the oil infrastructure system. Then if we want to get fancy, we could also allocate a certain portion of the almost half-trillion-dollar US defense bugdet that is directly related to the need for the US to control and protect oil supplies.

So once you paint the apples orange in order to enable a comparison of oranges with oranges, the solar route doesn't look as bad as you make it out.

This statement is made purely in the context of a pre peak economy, where energy in many forms is widely available and currency buys both energy directly as well as the ability to generate more of it. Energy and generation capabilities will be less and less available as we slide down the post peak slope.

The solar cell today, which makes no economic sense based on the above statement, may be greatly desire and not available at any price if we experience a "fast collapse". I personally find the catabolic deflation model to be a lot more fun to plan for so that is how I proceed. Taking this stance it makes good sense to install generating equipment and bank a replacement system or two worth of additional panels, turbines, etc for the day when the companies that now build them simply fold up.

What is keeping Brazil out of renewables is bad government (lots of bad governors on a sequence, not just one). Availability of oil isn't that important.

Remember that we are poor. We'd better sell that oil away and use renewables than just use it, and to some extent, we are doing that.

What is keeping everyone out of renewables, not just Brazil is that they are too expensive, and some of them are hard to use within our infrastructure.

As you can see even rich countries like those in West Europe are having a hard time using them on large scale, and what they have achieved is at the cost of enormous subsidies (e.g. the cost of wind feed-in tarrifs in Germany is ~ euro 3bln./year).

Suggesting to poorer countries like Brazil to go to renewables before we've shown them how we can do it cheaply and efficiently is the same old "Let them eat cake" argument. Why don't we eat that cake first?

What is keeping everyone out of renewables is that they are too expensive

Prove it.

Come on. Prove that oil is properly priced all this time and is not UNDERPRICED, thus proving your statement to be true. In your proof address:
Energy slaves - the idea that a barrel of oil is worth X hours of man-labor
The base unit of oil and PV is the photon. Given:

The efficiency of
photosynthesis in plants on land is ~1-3%, so at a nominal solar energy flux
of 1000W/sq. m, that is maybe ~20W of chemical energy stored in all of the
plant material on that square meter. PV cells @10-15% efficiency would
produce ~120W/sq m of electricity.

Show how a process that buries 98 tons of plant material to get one gallon of gas is BETTER than a PV method.

Arguments about the 'time value of photons' thus saying PV is bad because of nighttime will have to apply that same time value to the photons from millions of years ago. How does 3% sound as a 'fair' rate for the time value of money conversion?

And because I'm sure the true believers are wondering:

1 150 watt panel having 6 hours of sun for 20 years would have 5400 kWH of electrical to heat power if you could take all that energy and release it all at once after saving it.

1 barrel of oil has 1713 kWh of heat energy.

Actually i think you proved his point rather then yours.
according to the link.
to get the energy equivilant of a year's oil use which is about ~30,940,000,000 barrels give or take a billion.(roughly 1 cubic mile, thats is freaking HUGE btw) you would need one of the following running for a year stright with no downtime.

4,562,500,000 solar panels.
1,642,500 wind mills.

one can see why renewables are not worth it. I do not count dams among them due to supply constraints.
nice job though using the 20 year factor there to give the illusion that solar generates more power then a barrel of oil.

One barrel of oil costs $100.
A 150W solar panel currently costs $5 x 150 = $750, plus installation wiring, inverter etc.

So for the same money we could have at least 7.5 barrels of oil or 12847 kWh of heat energy - 2.2 times more than the solar panel would provide for 20 years.

You actually came with a similar number as I did.

I know you wouldn't trust me but I'm not feeling happy that the numbers look like that - I'm just showing how things are and why everyone in the developed countries and even more in poor countries is burning oil, coal and NG instead of manufacturing solar panels.

I was only addressing the initial poster's point that PV would be cheaper - no it is not, it is many times more expensive than FFs. We may be able to afford it but most likely China or Brazil won't.

So for the same money we could have at least 7.5 barrels of oil or 12847 kWh of heat energy - 2.2 times more than the solar panel would provide for 20 years.

Errp. Thanks for playing.

The most useful expression of PV is as electricity, not as heat.

Oil into electricity by the common heat engine has been quoted here on TOD as 30% efficient.

Lets just say 1/3 efficient. (I'm ignoring the cost of wiring, the engine, the motor - just like you skipped the cost of wiring, inverter et la Being fair.)

So one must have MORE barrels of oil, if one wishes a more honest postion on the matter - what is the electrical output of the process.

Unless one would like to use solar thermal, but that was not what was being argued.

I was only addressing the initial poster's point that PV would be cheaper - no it is not

No, no you were not, just like you were not being honest when you claimed 99.9999% of all fission plant accidents are 'trivial'. You have no numbers showing that after 1/2 of 48 years solar panels stop working per your claim

Oh wait, the solar cells won't last even half of this... doh!

We may be able to afford it but most likely China or Brazil won't.

Much of these locations can not afford FF already. Solar making a difference in China/Brazil/3rd world would be in the form of 1-4 panels, batteries for powering lights and radios, and devices like this (noted in my bio page)
Use of the sun to provide energy to cook - thus preventing deforestation/burning of FF's.

Like it or not, none of that matters to our modern economy.

By the way he said they are too expensive- you are trying to talk about better/worse, and unfortunately free markets lack the foresight to make decisions based on better/worse.

He doesn't need to prove it because the market is already doing it for him.

unfortunately free markets ....He doesn't need to prove it because the market is already doing it for him.

I'm sorry, am I mis-understanding you or are you claiming that "we" exist in a "free market"?


You seem a little worked up today. The world is not the way I like it either, but freaking out at everyone around you doesn't change anything except what people think of you.

Brazil could go to solar thermal which is what I mentioned; I've never been one to get remotely excited about PV, geothermal, wind or bio sources. Yes, I'm biased. I'm into concentrated solar thermal. If you can cook a chicken in a reflector in a market in India...Brazil is a big arms producer so there isn't a lack of production capacity for things more complex than solar concentrators. Embraer makes corporate jets. Poorer country?

Why don't we eat that cake first? Culturally Entrenched Stupidity probably. Sure, the payback will be to future generations. So much for sacrificing for the kids. We're all spending our kids' inheritance because to do otherwise is 'uneconomic'.

Yes, I'm biased. I'm into concentrated solar thermal.

And a stirling engine might just be a way to go on this, alas, no low cost mass-produced stirlings exist.

No Levin;
As I said above.. It won't be cheap, no matter what we do. The problem IS one of self-blinded (or corporate-blinded) leadership that can't/won't see past the cheap profits of an Oil Economy to the upcoming time when every energy option on the table will be costly. Clearly, the smartest course would be to use more of the remaining cheap power to establish the next systems while we still can at something like a not-excruciating cost. We've all been eating Thick Frosting for so long, the prospect of surviving on Apples and Water seems unbearable.

Your reactors will cost more to make, my PV will cost more as well, and every drilling project and agro-solution..j and we will probably be more exposed to ALL the costs of any of these projects, since they will be more difficult to externalize to our similarly stretched national 'Neighbors', hide in bulky subsidies or to sweep under any other oil-soaked rug of denial. (ie, to bury overages inside the fat profit margins of this cheap energy supply that has helped us forget how to tighten our belts in recent decades.)

You've got 'the cake' wrong. We're all already eating the cake. Going to renewables is the Diet, not the Fatty choice, only it is an expensive diet of Natural and Sustainably harvested foods, and one of the few things we can be investing in that will improve our local economies, our community/national immune systems and trim off some of the Blubber that's kept us slow and logy.. Much more Local Ownership of Energy generation, Paralleled, Distributed Supply, more direct and realistic Pricing of energy supplies, Less Monopolization of Energy.


If the Brazilians are smart that oil will be for
domestic consumption only ..

Triff ..

Having gloated over the exposure of the IEA as liars about China's September and October oil production (they claimed two large gains against the reality of no change) I must regretfully admit that their claim of an October gain from Russia has more substance. Russian figures just released show an increase of around 170 tbpd from a year ago, to about 9620 tbpd (crude&condensate).
It still seems certain that the more honest EIA figures, when they finally appear, will fall short of the apparent IEA claim of a new record for worldwide production in October.

For anyone not clear on the pricing vs payment currency of oil issue this sums it up very well.

"Oil Pricing Unit Red Herring"


Ten Simple Facts

1) Oil is priced in dollars.
2) Oil trades in Dollars and Euros right now in spite of the pricing unit being dollars. OPEC has recently admitted this fact.
3) Clearly oil does not have to be priced in Euros to trade in Euros, or for that matter priced in Yen to trade in Yen. The same applies to any major currency.
4) Neither Venezuela or Iran hold any dollar reserves. To the extent that either is taking trades in dollars, there is clearly nothing forcing them to hold dollars. By extension there is nothing forcing any OPEC country to hold dollars if it doesn't want to.
5) It takes less than a second for Forex trades to take place. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, one can sell any currency they want and buy any other currency.
6) The above logic applies to any currency and any commodity.
7) Nothing is stopping anyone at any time anywhere from selling dollars for whatever currency they want to hold. Nor is anything stopping anyone anywhere at any time from selling any major currency for U.S. Dollars.
8) Because currency conversion is instantaneous no one has to hold U.S. dollars to buy oil, copper, gold, iron, lead, wheat, soybeans, or anything else.
9) Dollars are held (or not held) for reasons totally unrelated to pricing unit. Some of those reasons are political, some are based on sentiment, some on trade patterns and trade relationships, and some to suppress the value of local currencies to improve exports.
10) Currencies float and so do the price of oil and commodities. Pricing oil (or any other commodity) in Euros will not cause a price change in dollars. Look at gold which is simultaneously priced in everything as proof.

The above 10 points are simple facts.

Conclusion: Not only is oil priced in dollars a red herring discussion, the entire commodity pricing in dollars discussion is a red herring discussion.

I think any discussion of this has to include the point that converting currencies from one to the other, in LARGE volume, moves the currency. (Simple market economics).

If oil is sold in dollars, and the proceeds kept in dollars, then no downward pressure on the dollar exists. A US oil buyer is unaffected, and may see a rising dollar as other oil buyers convert to the dollar to get oil. (Strong dollar).

If oil is sold in dollars, and converted to Euros, then of course the dollar is sold and under downward pressure. A US oil buyer sees a deteriorating dollar. Other oil buyers still buy dollars to get oil, and cancel out some of the subsequent sell of dollars to buy euros. (Not so strong dollar).

If oil is sold in Euros, and kept in Euros, then the dollar is unaffected, except a US oil buyer has to sell dollars for Euros to get oil, putting downward pressure on the dollar. (Weak dollar).

It boils down to what percentage of daily currency market transactions are oil and commodity related - if it is (say) less than 10% of the market, then you are probably right. My hunch is that it is more than half the market, in which case you can not ignore the feedback on the value of the dollar.


There ya go - posting a logical argument. There are plenty of other authors who go into many chapters in books with arguments supporting the petrodollar argument. A 10 point rebuttal isn't really up to the job.

If there was a 'these books say this and this is why they are wrong' rebuttal, I might find that convincing.

It boils down to what percentage of daily currency market transactions are oil and commodity related - if it is (say) less than 10% of the market, then you are probably right. My hunch is that it is more than half the market, in which case you can not ignore the feedback on the value of the dollar.

Not even remotely close. Forex Daily Volume is 1.5 trillion dollars. Last week, the average world price
for oil was $86.02

I don’t have the figures for total exported oil but I would expect it to be less than 50 million barrels per day as a lot of oil is not exported but consumed domestically. Assuming it is 50 million barrels per day the value of exported oil would be 4,301,000,000. That would be less than three tenths of one percent of the total daily volume on the FOREX. However if you add in NGLs and other petroleum related products, you might get it up to four tenths of one percent.

Ron Patterson

Can we really just take volume as the measure, or should be look at nett flows? Volume presumably counts every transaction, i.e. if I buy in the morning and sell in the afternoon, the nett is zero, but volume is not.

Also volume would include trades in currencies not under consideration, e.g. between rubles and yen that have nothing to do with (say) a euro to dollar assesment looking into how oil priced in dollars vs euros makes a difference.

I think we should probably look at the nett buying or selling, and calculate oil and commodities as a percentage of that.


If you removed the speclators from the market you would be closer to the truth. From the above link on Forex Volume:

Trading, or speculation, makes up 95% of the daily volume. The other 5% of daily volume consists of governments and commercial companies converting one currency into another from buying and selling goods and services.

That would put all oil trades at about 5% of the daily Forex volume.

Ron Patterson

You can parse the 'speculator' speculation all you want. At the end of the day, the best predictor of price in any context has been the public market. Markets are the best predictor of price, the best predictor of the direction of the dollar, the best predictor of commodities.

The collective judgment of 'speculators' reflects the thing in value that is most difficult to ascertain. Desire. I think all can agree that oil is a desirable commodity right now. If I look at a market price of oil closing in on $100 and an 'expert' bought and paid for by -fill in oil company here- I will pick the market.

If we can further refine (sic) this number to reflect only dollar / euro trades, it will be even more interesting. Do you have information handy on that?

Naw, all I have is google. That's where I get the vast majority of my information these days.

But oil trades in all currencies even if it is officially priced in dollars. To buy oil the Japanese convert yen to dollars and the Chinese convert yuan. Every nation would convert its local currency to dollars to buy oil. So if you were only looking at the conversion to dollars for oil, it would involve every major currency, not just euros.

Ron Patterson

A huge percentage of forex trading is simple speculation, and has nothing to do with reality. I can buy $10,000 of any currency with $50 of equity. I cannot buy $10,000 of oil using $50 of equity.

Big, big difference between the forex market and the currency requirements for the commodity market.

You forgot one very important fact. The buyers of oil have to make sure that they have reserves in the currency that is used to price oil. If oil is priced in euros you can buy future contract to guarantee oil delivery at certain price, yet you better have these euros ready for payment. If county buys oil priced in euros but hold most of it's reserves in dollars that this country is exposed to the currency exchange risk. A normal country will react by switching it's reserves to other currencies.

Switching oil from dollar to something else will force other commodities to switch as well. Energy is so fundamental.

Switch from dollar would be very, very important. It might indeed spell the end of US prosperity.

You forgot one very important fact. The buyers of oil have to make sure that they have reserves in the currency that is used to price oil. If oil is priced in euros you can buy future contract to guarantee oil delivery at certain price, yet you better have these euros ready for payment.

Naw, this is simply not so. One does not need to hold reserves in dollars to buy oil in dollars, or reserves in euros to buy oil in euros. It takes a fraction of a second to convert euros to dollars or vise versa.

Ture, it may take up to two days for actual delivery, but it wouly normally take at least that long for payment or delivery of the actual oil.

There is nothing so liquid as the currency market. Whatever you hold reserves in, you can convert them into any other currency in the world in but a fraction of a second. No need to hold reserves in the currency oil is being traded in, regardless of what that currency is.

Ron Patterson

I think the foreign central bank holders of $3 trillion or so of dollars would be quite estatic if they could suddenly exchange all their accumulated dollars for other currencies with a few quick transactions.

The above comments have not convinced me that the sudden disposition of dollar reserves by OPEC, Russia, China, and other Far East countries would do anything other than result in the complete collapse of the dollar's exchange value.

You did not address his main point - that if you hold euros instead of dollar you are exposing yourself to the currency exchange risk when the time comes to buy the oil. This is the core of the petrodollar argument - countries hold dollar reserves because it is much easier and less risky for them to do so.

You can buy forward contracts on currency too, timed to settle with your oil contract. You don't have to build up reserves of a foreign currency unless you want to.

Buying futures or spot, the result is the same. Dollar value drops significantly.

"5) It takes less than a second for Forex trades to take place. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, one can sell any currency they want and buy any other currency."

7 days a week? Incorrect. So how correct are your other points?

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

Are you actually saying Mish is incorrect on this point? Please elaborate. Since Mish himself trades Forex, as well as being a trading and investment adviser, I get the feeling you might be the one who needs to put up or shut up.

Forex operates 5.5 days a week. Not 24/7.

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

Regarding the threat to food supplies in the developing world, there is a slightly more ominous report from the FAO and the IPCC (notably un-hysterical organizations) which concludes that Africa could lose half its food supply by 2020. They point out that 95 percent of Africa’s agriculture depends on rainfall. They worry that that crop revenues in Africa could fall by as much as 90 percent by 2100 and that wheat production is "likely" to disappear from Africa by the 2080s.

As far as I know, these scientists are just looking at climate change, and have not factored in the rising fertilizer prices that are already impacting African farmers. In Malawi, for example, a famine situation was recently turned around when the government stepped in with a 75% subsidy of nitrogen fertilizers.

As natural gas prices rise around the world, they will take fertilizer prices with them, since 85% of the cost of fertilizer is the cost of the natural gas feedstock. A tripling of the world average fertilizer price over the next decade or two doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility, given that it has already doubled in the last 5 years.

These two factors converge with the continuing impoverishment of the African population I described in my Energy and GDP article. That impoverishment will leverage the effect of fertilizer and fuel prices for African farmers, driving those essentials ever further out of reach. It appears likely that Africa is indeed headed for an overall 50% shortfall in agricultural output before the middle of the century.

The bad news for Africa doesn't stop there, though. Their population is expected to double by 2050, leaving the absurd image of a content of 1.5 billion people trying to survive on a mere quarter of the per capita food they are consuming today. Obviously such a scenario in unrealistic, and something will have to give. If the projections for food production are accurate, the weak link will have to be the population.

Will we actually see a halving of Africa's population within the next 40 years? If the demographers, climate scientists and agronomists are correct, we probably will. It seems to me that this projection identifies the triggering locus of the beginning of global population decline.

Do you have a ticket for a front row seat already?

Averting our gaze doesn't make the problem go away. I hope that a sharpened awareness of the risks we face will strengthen our resolve to make the unpalatable changes necessary to avoid the worst-case outcome.

Hello GliderGuider,

Your info in your postings today are important for all to consider as we head postPeak in nearly everything. Thus, my pounding on other message boards for the rapid ramping of biosolar mission-critical investing at every scale.

Natgas depletion will inevitably lead to much greater crop rotation with nitrogen-fixing plants such as legumes, but this will reduce the aggregate harvest tons removed from farm to city.

The hope is that relocalized permaculture, plus full urban composting and humanure recycling, can offset the current agro-industrial topsoil mining process, but First World 'Throne-mindsets' seem highly resistant to this mitigation theme. I still maintain that moving 60-75% of our labor force to biosolar lifestyles is the best way to free the direction of depleting fossil fuels towards the further leveraging of this paradigm shift before Gaia forces overwhelming eco-blowbacks and the DNA-assertion of our machete' moshpit tendencies.

The high, energetic cost of P & K depletion-mining and beneficiation is fixed by thermodynamic laws--rocks are hard, heavy, and highly resistant to powder-reduction or chemical-dissolution processes to finally free the vital Elements into finished products optimized for leveraging photosynthesis above Liebig Minimums. One merely needs to briefly consider the vast, 3300ft underground, 5,000 km [and growing], highly-mechanized tunnel network in Saskatchewan with it correspondingly larger above-ground process and distributive spiderweb to see the daunting energy requirements going forward.

As briefly explained in prior speculative postings: I contend the early building of Alan Drake's RR & TOD proposals, endpoint-augmented with a huge narrow-gauge rail-network based on lightweight SpiderWebRiding pipelined concepts, is the most-efficient way to maintain non-urban to & fro process flows.

Since there is no Element substitution for P & K: we need to be restructuring our system so that human-power, boosted by biosolar machines and/or draft-animals where net-energy applicable, can continue the P & K distribution to maintain our food supplies.

Steel wheels on steel rails is by far the best method to move these multi-million ton requirements from the oceanic, river, canal, and standard-gauge RR & TOD network endpoints. A railbike, optimally SpiderWebRiding configured to haul 500 lbs of NPK [or other goods], to where it is most rurally-needed, should be the premier choice as FFs skyrocket to human-power equivalency-pricing postPeak. Never forget that a barrel of crude = 25,000 manhours of physical labor.

Early sequential building and enlargement of biosolar habitats, based on Thermo/Gene logical, political watershed geo-demarcation and Secession control for ecosystem protection is another Asimov's Foundation concept for wise execution of predictive collapse and directed decline for transition optimization. My previous postings on early Earthmarine protection of tall trees for the later postPeak building of windships alluded to jumpstarting this theme.

The super-massive P & K tons, moved by these future windships, will be seen as the best way to postPeak energy-efficiently move these Elements; it will be the best way to reduce the oceanic transport cost. NPK is not like fresh flowers--a slow boat to China, Africa, Australia, England, or wherever, will work just fine as long as the NPK arrives. We will have long given up on minimal JIT strategies for NPK at this point--reasonable stockpiles under heavy guard will be the norm. Recall my earlier postings on how England justifiably long-distance imported the human bones of 3.5 million/annually, and guanos with trans-oceanic windships.

My delusional hope is that Peak Outreach can spread with sufficient speed to promote these needed changes for an Optimal Bottleneck Squeeze for all species, otherwise I remain a fast-crash realist. Time will tell.

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

I think a quarter of your halving comes just from HIV alone. There are some countries where its 40% of the adult population ... its like Europe from 1347 - 1350, only its taking three decades instead of three years to move through the population.

Unlikely. HIV tests are not done on many people in Africa. Most diagnosis comes when symptoms present that are identical to TB, malnutrition, maleria, etc. The numbers you cite are based on blatantly false assumptions.

Malnutrition, lack of sanitation and basic medical care are and will be the big killers in Africa - although death certificates won't say that.

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

Please feel free to substantiate your claims. Links to HIV testing, as well as statistics indicating HIV is identified through efforts in diagnosing the presenting symptoms that seem to be "identical to TB, malnutrition, maleria, etc."

Any link to a reputable source regarding Africa HIV testing, as well as testing for various diseases prevalent in Africa, would be helpful in determining the degree of anecdotal malarkey present in your reply. However, I understand the emotive nature of these issues and can completely understand the need to resort to hand waving when facts are in short supply. In fact, I'm waving a finger myself now. :)

Maybe you two should get a room? Just be "safe" if you do :-)

All kidding aside, one of those little places near South Africa has a 40% infection rate among adults. I am not sure how credible the Population Resource Center is, but that is a grim, bright red spot on the map for South Africa and its neighbors.


If you want to dig deeper, find out more about the Bangui definition of AIDS. For some explanation of the problem: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/328/7436/366-d

I have, in previous study, looked up a lot of the information contained in that piece, but I'm not about to do it all again - it is around if you care to look for it... feel free to waggle your finger :) It's just a topic I did a lot of research on a few years back, and have come to my own conclusions - I may have some material still at home, but rarely use my laptop for TOD.

I notice that in Leanan's link below the WHO are trying to spin their revision down of the "estimate" (even they admit it is one) as a good thing - rather than it being an acknowledgement of bad science/policy.

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

Number of AIDS cases overestimated

GLOBAL estimates of the AIDS epidemic have been revised to 33.2 million - down from 40 million last year - with the UN and World Health Organisation expected to admit to exaggerating the spread of the virus.

The decline is largely just on paper - the new numbers are the result of improved methodology, which shows the spread of AIDS has been losing momentum for almost a decade.

The WHO and the UN's AIDS agency will release an annual AIDS report today and it has been reported they will confirm that the AIDS epidemic has been overestimated.

"Edwards added that the cyclone, which unleashed 131 mph winds and floodwaters upon Bangladesh, also decimated the country's rice crop a month before its traditional harvest date."


We're going to see these things happen and we'll have no choice but to avert our eyes, because we're losing the ability to respond.

There have been articles here on relief operations in the Caribbean and Central America having to cut back due to rising fuel costs, reduced donations, and the erosion of dollar based assets in which they'd stored their donations.

We have another six months before the ARM scam truly peaks. As this comes to pass the "charity begins at home" principle will kick into high gear. No one here is going to donate for Bangladesh when Birmingham can't feed itself either.

Even if we had the excess to give peak oil is going to change the dynamic. Envision our civilization on the surface of the earth as dots painted on a ballon. Peak oil expands the travel cost and thusly the "distance" between points. The cruel truth of the "L" in ELP is that many places don't have a survivable "L".

We are living in interesting times in every sense of the phrase.

Africa, a Malthusian disaster in the making. Western intervention is either cynical exploitation, via resource extraction or expensive "development" loans, or well meaning bodies which make things worse by making things better - disease eradication programmes reducing child mortality, thus guaranteeing a population explosion. It can't help that African population has doubled since 1970, and 3.5 times since 1950.

African farmers actually use very little inorganic fertilizer anyway. They are already unable to afford it. The big problem in Africa is soil degradation due to intensive farming without inorganic fertilizer.

The Western "solution" is to encourage them to use more inorganic fertilizer - sold to them by industrial countries, which is no solution at all really.

Here's a site with a sobering collection of facts:

Boosting African farm yields

Africa uses about 1/10 the fertilizer per hectare of industrialized countries (21 kg/ha vs. 206 kg/ha). That means that their grain yield per hectare is a third that of the rich nations.

Heavy reliance on imported fertilizers, combined with high transportation costs and the absence of suppliers in the countryside, has meant that African farmers pay between two and six times the average world price for fertilizer — when they can find it at all. The IFDC study estimated that it costs more to move a kilogramme of fertilizer from an African port to a farm 100 kilometres inland than it costs to move it from a factory in the US to the port. With millions of African family farmers surviving on less than a dollar a day, imported fertilizer is simply unaffordable.

And regarding the use of manure as advocated by Bob Shaw,

Citing the potential environmental risks to African soils and water sources from too much chemical fertilizer being applied to farms — as sometimes happened during Asia’s “green revolution” — proponents of sustainable agriculture in Africa argue that farmers should use more animal manure, compost and other organic fertilizers. If farmers better integrate stock-raising with crop cultivation, cattle and other livestock could provide them with not only more manure but also with animal traction for ploughing fields and hauling crops after they are harvested.

While organic fertilizers are important, agrees Mr. Roy, he points to a serious limitation. “The quality of animal manure is dependent on the quality of the food the animals are fed.” With much soil severely depleted, he says, “the fodder contains little of the nutrients needed by crops.” Organic fertilizers alone “are simply not the answer to the crisis of Africa’s soil fertility. We need to increase the use of both organic and chemical fertilizers.”

Although the article points to a lot of work that's being done to improve the situation, the fact remains that they are very far behind the curve. If the resources needed to fix the problem on anything but a small, local scale aren't available now, when will they be?

Time is running an article this week on the fallout in the developing world due to $100 oil

After the Oil Crisis, a Food Crisis?

"The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported last week that, at nearly $100 a barrel, the price of oil has sent the cost of food imports skyrocketing this year. Add in escalating crop prices, the FAO warned, and a direct consequence could soon be an increase in global hunger — and, as a consequence, increased social unrest."

Don't ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls not just yet for thee.

I think you need to consider the solar resource in Africa, which is large. This means that nitrogen fertilizer production can easily grow there. Leapfrogging inefficeint fossil fuel based technology can have big benefits. On the other hand, organic methods are adequate to feed everyone, and, more importantly, to make Africa self-sufficient in food production. This will be important as the biofuels boondoggle grows. The huge US corn harvest won't boost world grain stocks because it is being sent to gas tanks.

It seems to me that the message on climate is "get moving." But, I feel that the economic work that it in the climate report is not on a par with the climate science. Our habits of thinking are simply too tied to exploitation of depletable resources to get a good picture of how mitigation can work. I've blogged on the issue here.


To highlight the general degree of ignorance concerning Peak Everything in Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe's Women Golfers Play Through Despite Economic Hazards
I suppose a 7-iron will come in handy on the march to Olduvai Gorge.

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

Egad. Comments made about umbrellas drawing lightning yesterday come back to mind. The golfers need to look at the clouds hanging over them more carefully. Either it's that or just plain old-fashioned Nero syndrome.

The big problem in Africa is soil degradation due to intensive farming without inorganic fertilizer

Bob, is that what you meant to say? If so, can you please explain.

I've seen the results of this in Indonesia. It's sometimes call slash and burn agriculture. The land is cleared, western style agriculture is implemented, but because the soil was poor or shallow to begin with, all the farmer gets is a half dozen years of productive growth. Then it's on to the next cleared fields.

(I've even see the somewhat bizarre practice of plowing a hillside in straight furrows from top to bottom.)

It got a little condensed. They have adopted more intensive farming practices, which we get away with in the West by adding NPK in inorganic fertilizers.

I should say "a big problem" as they have many.

Maybe the Cubans need to start sending advisers again.

Too much Malthusiasm?

Hey, there's a word for our times.

Excerpt from an interview conducted August 2, 2007, in which Jim Kunstler talks about his upcoming book, World Made By Hand (spoiler alert!).

Completely at Ease: An Interview with James Howard Kunstler

DOANE: They’re looking for The Long Emergency II.

KUNSTLER: Right. And my publisher was looking for the same thing, and so they didn’t really greet this idea with a lot of enthusiasm at first, but I think once I got the manuscript in, they really liked it. And they saw what it was about and I think it may grab the public's imagination. There have been several other instances of novels, fiction works, that have come out in the last couple years trying to depict a dystopian future. And they’ve been pretty bleak. You know, Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road, for example, about this father and son stumbling around this post-nuclear wasteland. My book is not bleak. It’s actually a rather lyrical, pastoral kind of setting; the world has become a much more tranquil place in a lot of ways, although there’s a lot of action. The United States is still recognizable, though an awful lot of things have changed.

DOANE: Is there a lot of real-life research involved in looking at the trends and how [they] would inform the coming future?

KUNSTLER: Well, I wouldn’t say that, other than in the sense that I had already done so much research for these other books that I was able to form, for me, a pretty coherent sense of what this world would be like. And as in any work of fiction, the setting or the fictional world you’re creating is a kind of self-organizing system. Once you start introducing things into it, that establishes what that world is like. For example, very early in the book, I realized that these people were not riding bicycles. Why? Well, for two reasons. There are an awful lot of materials and components that they couldn’t get to keep the bikes going. Especially the rubber. And, the pavements were so badly broken up. We assume that the pavements would be just as smooth as they are now, but in fact, it’s rough.

DOANE: It is now in some places.

KUNSTLER: Right. And it’s just not easy. In fact, going back into history, the road improvement project in America really started in the late 19th century with the bicyclists, who campaigned tirelessly – no pun intended – for better roads. In fact, they were at it long before the car people came along around 1915. So, trying to imagine this world, I was surprised by a lot of things that happened. Another thing that happens in the book is that they don’t have any wheat. They can’t get wheat. And they’re just eating cornbread all the time, and they have other things, they have buckwheat, they have barley, oats and stuff, but they can’t get wheat. Trade has been severely curtailed, and you can’t grow wheat in a lot of parts of the Northeast, because there’s a persistent disease in the ground called rust, which has been here for 300, 400 years, ever since the early colonists came over, and it tends to hide out in a lot of common weeds that have a symbiotic relationship with this wheat disease. So the people in my book are not eating – they don’t have regular bread. And they’re always complaining about the fact that there’s nothing but cornbread.

It is a kind of ripping yarn of a book, it turns out to only secondarily be about the future. It’s mostly what’s happening to the characters and events in the book. And there are things that are happening that are kind of fascinating; one of the things that happens in the book, one of the characters is a rich plantation owner, who’s absorbed the farms of the other people around him who have failed, and sort of taken them on as vassals and serfs. He’s developing a kind of neo-feudal relationship with the people in that part of his community. And he’s been operating trade boats between Albany and that part of the Hudson River in Washington County, and one of his trade boats has disappeared, along with its crew. It hasn’t returned. So my protagonist is sent down to Albany with a bunch of other guys to find it, and rescue the crew. And we begin to see what’s happened to the rest of the world, because he hasn’t been out of his town for quite a few years.

An audio MP3 (14MB) of the entire interview is available for download.

Sounds interesting. i might get it.

Ah, Kunstler and his visions. No bicycles?

Because the original bicycle was invented 1817, and didn't involve much in the way of materials not found in the northeast of the U.S. A not very good English Wikipedia link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Drais gives some background, including some speculation that the reason he invented it was the mass die off of horses in the previous 'summer.' Somehow, whenever you look in detail at humanity, you keep running up against adaptability, not only stupidity or greed.

Because the amount of rubber currently stacked in landfills won't ever be used? Ever? Or people won't find another cushioning material - rags, for example?

Because the pavement is cracking? Strangely, a lot of Germans used to (and still do, of cource) bicycle over what are called Feldwege - though literally 'field paths,' another term could be ruts. Bicycling over a Feldweg isn't tough - and no one maintains them, not really - it is just the path that everyone uses instead of crossing through the middle of the field. As a child, I used to ride my bike over the paths in the forest - it was often more fun than the (very well maintained) street, actually. And the only reason some of those paths existed is because we used them, keeping the ground firm and the pricker bushes (our name - laugh as you wish, but I'm sure anyone from the mid-Atlantic knows exactly what I mean) in check.

Because bicycles disappear? My wife maintains that our oldest bicycle was her grandfather's, and predates WWII. (I'm skeptical, but from the 1950s? Sure, why not?)

The book may be gorgeously written, but it already seems like it could be disappointing. Sometimes, Kunstler falls in love with his ideas, without actually wondering whether every idea he has is a good one.

Because the amount of rubber currently stacked in landfills won't ever be used? Ever?

Its like he (Kuslner) never knew that Alcohol can be the input for rubber making rather than oil.

Edison's last project was in how to obtain rubber domestically. He determined that the plant Goldenrod could be bred to yield quite a bit of natural rubber.

Riding on what are essentially deer paths or cow paths or pig trails is a long established practice, and part of the reason I got a little 250cc motorcycle is that it HAS to be able to deal with nonpaved roads. Riding bicycles on the beach at low tide or along dirt paths was always great fun when I was a kid, and Andy Kirk of the Western Wheelers bicycle club in the Bay area had great fun leading me up a brushy, tree-y, skinny, sandy, and distinctly UPHILL skinny lil' path on my road-racy bike, and I just kept on pedaling and climbed on through. No problem. You grow up doing this, really no problem.

We'll at least have bicycles through the Scavenger period, maybe a few hundred years. We'll have 'em galore through all of our lifetimes. But we may not have them say 500 years from now.

Real rubber is a renewable resource, it comes from trees. Somehow, I get the feeling that people living in rubber growing regions will still want to produce it and trade it with people from non-rubber-growing regions for stuff that they need and find hard to produce. Somehow, I get the feeling that people living in non-rubber-growing regions like ours would find it worthwhile to produce a surplus of a few things to trade for stuff like rubber. Somehow, I get the feeling that a few people would find it worthwhile to build themselves sailing ships to make such trades possible. And somehow, I get the feeling that such trades would therefore be possible for as long as humans continue to exist.

Maybe I should engrave on my headstone: "Got Bicycles?"

I'm unsure how long bicycles will be around in the post-carbon age. They won't vanish right away. There are a lot of spare parts you can cobble together, even if mass production fails. But I think they may eventually become too expensive for ordinary people, simply because working the metal becomes too expensive, energy-wise.

This is the kind of conclusion that really baffles me. This isn't like a Microprocessor Factory with a whole bevy of energy inputs and specialties that maintains the systems around it. The Dark ages might have cost us many of Rome's developments and technologies for a while.. but it didn't send us ALL back to the Neolithic. edit: >> We in Europe picked up again with Iron and Bronze, and started learning to read Homer and Cicero again. <<

China didn't forget their gunpower recipes because Berlin was being ravaged by a plague, and so similarly, how are Ball-Bearing Factories in China, Australia, Kiev, South Africa and Milwaukee all going to dry up and disappear, when people around all of these places can see the enormous benefits they glean by having precision machinery and high-carbon tool-steels? (examples pulled from thin air.. just making a point)

Great Regions might well be swept under, but thanks to both the art of printing and of mass-production, we have spread the 'Genetic-codes' of manufacturing and materials sciences (and chemistry, physics, electronics, medicine, languages etc..) across the globe. Why do you conclude that we haven't got a considerable amount of 'safety in numbers' with the duplication of knowledge that has propagated so far and wide, only to be better protected if we DO have a great transportation breakdown, since the 'viruses' of social and economic discord will be increasingly restricted, leaving any number of areas to rediscover the bountifulness that was otherwise being diffused into the 'Global Marketplace'?

Some of our high-tech certainly does need a massive, educated and over-powered industry to operate (High-end Computers , Space-programs, Nuclear Energy..).. but the ability to produce High-strength steels and machine products doesn't seem like one that will be unable to float in a lower-energy environment, especially knowing the energy payback of high quality metals..


I'm not arguing that we'll forget. At least, not in the "few decades" timescale Kunstler is talking about. I'm arguing that it will simply be too expensive.

Some of our high-tech certainly does need a massive, educated and over-powered industry to operate (High-end Computers , Space-programs, Nuclear Energy..).. but the ability to produce High-strength steels and machine products doesn't seem like one that will be unable to float in a lower-energy environment, especially knowing the energy payback of high quality metals.

This is our point of disagreement. Energy is so cheap for us that we've forgotten that "everyday" materials, like glass and steel, that we throw away as trash, were once rare and pricy. Glass has been manufactured for thousands of years, but only recently has it become a material for ordinary people. It was used for temple windows, or jewelry. Glass was so rare and valuable that glass windows were removed from the castle while the lord was away. The Bible talks about the high value of rubies, gold, and glass, which sounds incongruous to us, but back then, made perfect sense. The reason it was so expensive was the energy to took to make it.

The titanium and aluminium bikes are out of the question other then swaping spare parts between the same/similar model. unless your rich and live near a hydro electric dam or a nuclear power plant that has yet to run out of it's non-used fuel storage.

tires though are going to be hard to get ahold of, it's very unlikely rags would be used to replace tires since they would not be able to withstand the 175~ pounds of weight on the few square inches that touch the ground. remaining patch kit's or sealing via a hot iron may keep allot of the air filled tires working as long as one has a working hand pump. solid vulconized tires could be made but they would be hard and slow to make, again most likely only for the rich post peak. Last ditch one might be able to carve out a tire from a larger car/truck tire.

To put it bluntly a bike in the condition you can get right now at your local bike store will be a toy for the rich. a barely usable bike will be the poor man's horse. but over all it will be a short while before they are basicly gone from use.

Kaiser, my bicycle presently has closed-cell foam inserts instead of inner tubes; I laugh at Bouganvilla thorns and broken glass. I recommend them to any and all; get them while you can.

I also remember a story from WWII of a Brittish unit surrendering to a small group of Japanese on bicycles. It seems the Brits mistook the sound of a hundred tire-less steel rims on pavement for the sound of tank treads. This story shows that using bicycles long after the tires have fallen off still beats walking.

Errol in Miami

How do those closed cell foam inserts ride? I've lost a couple of tubes to sand burrs and I'd really like to put an end to that foolishness.

Links please to these inserts?

This is ridiculous. The ball bearing and pneumatic tire are some of the most efficient and basic of modern inventions - and given the state of things currently, pretty basic technology. We still have a looooong way to fall. Bicycles further are among the most efficient and long lasting application of this and our society should afford them indefinitely. I think there will always be a base load (perhaps small compared to current consumption) of power that can be put to industrial work, and the most useful/efficient of such applications will win out. Look, I know the news is bad. I read the articles about global warming meltdown and the supply curve crashing. But if you people lack the attitude and vision to see bicycles in our future then fuggetaboutit, we ARE screwed. I'm disappointed to see the comment that started this strain come from one of the main authors of the board. Maybe the Oil Drum is descending into unproductive doomerism after all.

I tend to agree with you on this, and in addition to your points about manufacturing, I also think that an energy-descent will start to prompt a renewed sense of the value of our precision-tools and posessions like bicycles, and they will less and less be thrown on the yard as 'disposable, replacable' items, but kept much more carefully.. in large part because they WILL become much more expensive to buy and keep up. EDIT: > And I had meant to add that there will be, or at least best be new pressure to have more products made to endure, and not follow the 'Throw-Away' design paradigm we're all used to.. <

I DO (edit) find Leanan's doomerism to be as informed and productive as the 'Glass Half Empty' can be, and she presents it in reasoned and respectful arguments, which I think is crucially valuable to this discussion.

What kills real discourse are the folks who come to their darkest conclusions claiming they are rational, science-based and anti-superstition, but descend into angry, self-righteous insults and then paint murals of pure dread, with their dark, crystal balls merrily leading the way. Rationality indeed!


I think this is a problem of time frames. We turn the light switch on and *poof*, the world is illuminated. We've lost touch with the sunrise.

We crawl into our unnaturally illuminated homes in the evening, pop a pill that makes us feel a little bit like we've had had some exercise or maybe a pleasing interaction with a member of the opposite sex, then we sink into seven minute long microdramas interleaved with louder, brighter, faster pictures of humans who are thinner, richer, and have more more more than we'll ever have. The longest timespan for which we are awake is the well done disaster movie - about two hours total.

These things heavily affect our decision making and perception of time. Somewhere around here I've got a copy of Misha Glenny's fine book on the Balkans, which covers nearly two hundred years of waning Ottoman influence in the region. Not two hours for this disaster, but two centuries.

Many here are still using inappropriate, TV land timeframes to judge things. The historians will probably use 9/11 to set the preconditions and Katrina to delineate the beginning of the peak, but we'll only know that when(if) the historians get after this time period in another generation or so.

I'm unsure how long bicycles will be around in the post-carbon age.

If working metal becomes an issue, we are going to starve long before we need bicycles. It's hard to till soil with a stick.

a) We have enough steel from recycled cars to last for centuries. One car = 2000 pounds of steel. One bike = 18 pounds of steel.

b) TREK, among others, was using induction welding in 1980's. You need energy, but not a blast furnace.

c) A decent bike these days, for example: a Redline 925, made in the U.S., is about $550. Surly bicycles, also made in the U.S. are similar. These bikes will outlast any automobile made. Factor $500 over 20 years, figure $75 a year for chains, tires and so on... my math says $100/year delivers a nice ride. Best of all, 15 mph is surprisingly effective for local transport: home to train station, home to grocery, home to community garden.

As for Kunstler... Poor roads, low tech metal crafting and rubber are not show-stoppers. China and India made cheap bicycles and dirt roads work for decades. But Kunstler knows this. And he also knows wheat was shipped into New York state before the advent of gasoline. The Great Lakes will still be here.

If working metal becomes an issue, we are going to starve long before we need bicycles. It's hard to till soil with a stick.

Like I said, I didn't say we wouldn't be able to do it, just that it might be too expensive for every schmuck to have a bike. Presumably, there would be other priorities for our limited resource budget: the military, farming, solar panels and wind turbines, etc.

That is my vision of the future: energy poverty, meaning we have to choose.

Also, the grade of metal needed for tools is lower than for bikes. They may not be as good as modern tools, but they work.

We have enough steel from recycled cars to last for centuries. One car = 2000 pounds of steel. One bike = 18 pounds of steel.

You still have to work it.

The Chinese under Mao, after the Revolution, were quite poor, with VERY limited industrial resources. Most people had just a few changes of clothing (1 to 3 from my memory of reports), etc.

However, they did have (again from old memory) the "Big 3" that most families managed to get after decades of work. A rice cooker, a radio (primitive and only where they had electricity) and a bicycle.

Their bicycles were single speed, primitive and uncomfortable. BUT much better than walking !

Best Hopes for Non-Oil Transportation,


I don't see that as having any bearing on the future. They were still living in a cheap-energy world. They themselves may have been poor, but energy was cheap.

When your daily income is 82 cents, rice at $2.50/kilo is not particularly cheap.

The world of 1958 (or 1968) may have had cheap energy, but not the PRC. They exported food and some raw materials to Hong Kong (almost half their foreign exchange earnings from memory) and not much else.

Coal was once dug by hand with a pickax, dragged out by a pit pony, sorted by hand (get slate etc. out and size it), loaded by hand on board steam trains (thermodynamically inefficient) for deliver to working families, middle class & richer folk (and steel mills).

For the working class, whose labor was no more valuable than that of the coal miner, energy/coal was NOT cheap. Hence those that walked along rail lines picking up the odd piece that fell off.

Much the same argument can be made for bicycles in Mao's China. Yet the made them in large #s in a society that lacked much energy & industrial capacity.


For the working class, whose labor was no more valuable than that of the coal miner, energy/coal was NOT cheap. Hence those that walked along rail lines picking up the odd piece that fell off.

They did that in the US, too.

It was still a cheap energy world, compared to what's coming.

The back end of Hubbert's Peak won't be like the front in reverse. Just as the remaining oil will be more difficult and expensive to extract on the other side of the peak, so will coal, iron ore, copper, and other resources. The environment is more exhausted and degraded, and the population is higher. Much higher.

Bicycles weren't invented until the industrial age was getting started. Why is that? Why didn't the ancient Egyptians or the Maya or the Japanese use bicycles?

The fact that no non-fossil fueled society has used bicycles or anything like them suggests to me that it's not a sustainable technology on a solar budget. Unless, of course, you believe that we are somehow special, different from all the rest who have come before us.

Unless, of course, you believe that we are somehow special, different from all the rest who have come before us

We have a dramatically larger knowledge and experience base. And our existing infrastructure.

The Romans could have built James Watt's steam engine, but they did not. They could have built mechanical looms but they (AFAIK) did not. They could have developed a fairly sophisticated synthetic chemistry (like synthetic rubber), but they did not.

OTOH, the sex toys unearthed at Pompeii are unlike any sold today and took some time and analysis to determine their use. We could have built these, but we did not.

The desire to preserve an existing, established and very desirable technology will lead to it's preservation even under adverse circumstances.

Best Hopes for a minimum of Technological Regression,


We have a dramatically larger knowledge and experience base. And our existing infrastructure.

So did many other societies that lost their knowledge and experience: the Minoans, the Maya, the Egyptians, the Inca, the Easter Islanders. In some cases, the knowledge that was lost was highly valuable to survival, but it was lost nonetheless.

The desire to preserve an existing, established and very desirable technology will lead to it's preservation even under adverse circumstances.

I disagree. One, it may not be possible to maintain it, for a variety of reasons. Warfare may destroy a lot of it. People may be too busy trying to survive to bother with educating their children...especially if education doesn't offer the opportunity for advancement that people dream of today when they send their kids to school. Two, the technology might not be as desirable as you think. If it turns out technology can't save us, there may be a backlash against it. Like the Easter Islanders who toppled their stone statues, the Maya who killed or drove out the educated elite, or the Anasazi who defaced their religious structures (perhaps to atone to nature for trying to control her), people may turn against the "god" that failed to save them. Our god being "progress," of course.

"People may be too busy trying to survive to bother with educating their children...especially if education doesn't offer the opportunity for advancement"

That last point is key. For most people, education is a bit of a hard slog. If for some reason the time arrives when most people don't need much education in order to get their living, it will disappear among the masses even if times are relatively good. i.e. even if there is plenty of food and spare time. Currently it is offered free and you are forced to avail yourself of it! Forced to accept a free service! That shows that the dynamic behind it is a little more fragile than one might think.

Among the elite, however, education is secure. The payoff is huge and always has been.

Here in the US, anyway, we are still only a couple of generations removed from a time when many people thought education was a waste of time. The kids were needed to work on the farm, and often dropped out or were pulled out of school well before graduation.

Among the elite, however, education is secure. The payoff is huge and always has been.

Even if that's true...it may not be enough. We are facing diminishing returns in technology, requiring more and more scientists and engineers to keep things going. What happens when we reach "peak education"? Some kind of fallback is inevitable.

Same in Canada. In the early 60s, my mother was forced by her father to leave school at the end of grade 10 in order to get employment. Not to work on a farm -- the family had upped sticks for the big city -- but to work in retail and get married off.

"Some kind of fallback is inevitable"

Agreed. In a post carbon world, many kinds of specialized knowledge would be jettisoned. We may succeed in preserving the books for centuries, but without people running around with it fresh in their heads, it might as well be lost in many cases.

The nature of education will change. Instead of the formal, classroom stuff we see now there will be apprenticeship programs for necessary skills. I never took a small farm operations class but I can certainly teach one, having been raised by two hammer and hoe wielding depression babies ...

So did many other societies that lost their knowledge and experience: the Minoans, the Maya, the Egyptians, the Inca, the Easter Islanders. In some cases, the knowledge that was lost was highly valuable to survival, but it was lost nonetheless.

Oh that's absolute crap. All of these pre-industrial agrarian cultures had no where near the literacy, knowledge transfer, or the sheer volume of information and knowledge that the average person today has by many orders of magnitude; To say nothing of their 'infrastructure.' Comparing these dirt farmers with some stonework to modern, global civilization is laughably absurd.

lost their knowledge and experience: the Minoans, the Maya, the Egyptians, the Inca, the Easter Islanders. In some cases, the knowledge that was lost was highly valuable to survival

Any specific examples ?

The Minoans were destroyed AFAIK by a major volcano explosion and there may have been no survivors, or a handful. So the sudden unexpected death of 99.9% of the population is not a good model of what we face (hopefully).

The Egyptians lost embalming techniques but not the Archimedian screw (used for irrigation). One technology is highly valuable for survival, the other not.

The Easter Islanders lost 100% of their trees, a complete and total loss of a resource (I could see a complete and total loss of Technetium supplies at some future point) but not a loss of boat building technology per se.


Any specific examples ?

The Minoans had flush toilets and a primitive printing press...inventions that were lost for thousands of years when their civilization collapsed.

The Minoans were destroyed AFAIK by a major volcano explosion and there may have been no survivors, or a handful.

Not true. Tainter covers this in some detail. That was the common belief some decades ago, but better archaeological techniques proved that false. The Minoans survived 50 years or more after the eruption that supposed doomed them. They also survived previous eruptions with nary a hitch. So why would this one cause the end of their society?

The Easter Islanders did lose the ability to make ocean-going canoes. They had good reason: they no longer had the materials to make canoes. Similarly, we may lose technology because lack of resources makes it not particularly useful.

The Maya gave up their irrigation technology (surely that was helpful to survival), and lost the ability to read the runes their ancestors wrote. The Egyptians, too, lost the ability to read their own hieroglyphs. The Inca can't read their quipu any more.

The Egyptians can't build pyramids any more, and the Easter Islanders can't build stone statues. Perhaps it's not "useful" technology. (But surely being able to move such heavy loads would be useful?)

Bicycles, too, may end up being "not useful enough."

Even very useful technology can be lost. The Tasmanians lost the ability to fish, and to make bone tools like sewing needles. Their ancestors fished, but they did not, and were shocked at the very idea of eating fish. And though their ancestors sewed and presumably wore clothing, they did not, going naked in an area with the latitude of Chicago. (I'm not saying I think we'll regress that far, just that it is certainly possible to lose highly useful technology.)

And there's another element, which I didn't mention before, because we were talking about Kunstler's book, which seems to be about a happy future. It may not be in interest of TPTB to encourage either mobility or literacy. In Italy during WWII, people got around the food rationing by biking out to the country at night and buying food from the farmers. If they wanted to stop that, getting rid of the bikes would do it. Similarly, one reason no one can read quipu now is that the Spanish suppressed the knowledge. They didn't like the idea of people sending messages they couldn't read.

the sex toys unearthed at Pompeii are unlike any sold today and took some time and analysis to determine their use.

uhhhh, I can't help but wonder what sort of 'time and analysis' was involved here. :-0

We need a link on that one - I'm curious to see what the ancients knew that our sex soaked culture has not rediscovered already.

I did not find graphics or detailed descriptions of the archeology finds, just the description quoted. If anyone finds a link, I too would be interested.

I think that the Romans were more "sex soaked" than we are. See technology.


The Romans could have built James Watt's steam engine, but they did not. They could have built mechanical looms but they (AFAIK) did not. They could have developed a fairly sophisticated synthetic chemistry (like synthetic rubber), but they did not.

To digress off topic a bit, while they might have been able to develop mechanical looms and synthetic rubber, a practical steam engine was beyond the capability of the Romans. You need iron, coal, and a good solid century of relative stability and wealth to fund the R&D to develop the thing. To top it off, the Romans weren't really inclined to do any real original thought that wasn't immediately applicable to warfare or orgies. The Greeks might have been able to do it if they happened to live in Germany.

This is popular in the soc.history.what-if group but it never can be brought to a plausible POD where Rome takes off. A truely disruptive technology that the Romans (or some other reasonably sophisticated people) could have developed that would spread like wildfire wasn't actually invented until 1967: the compound bow.


Very good example with the compound bow !

As far as steel goes, wootz steel goes back to India 300 BCE. Adapted to Damascus (part of the Roman Empire) and local ores in 1300s, just as the Eastern Roman Empire was dying.

High cost steel that would be useful for the critical parts. The Romans had the skill for high precision work IMVHO.

The greatest impediment to the implementation of the Watt engine was the technology to make a large piston/cylinder with close enough tolerances so that they would seal a moderate vacuum. The technology improved about the same time that Watt found the financial backing that he needed through a partnership with Matthew Boulton

The Romans had extended periods of stability for R&D, but limited desire. One engineer who discovered a better means of transporting stone to Rome & work sites had his invention suppressed. The Emperor gave him the rewards of invention, but suppressed it so as to continue to provide sporadic employment for the crowds of plebians in Rome.

Best Hopes for Preserving Critical technology,


The fact that no non-fossil fueled society has used bicycles or anything like them suggests to me that it's not a sustainable technology on a solar budget.

A solar budget does not prevent:
1) Hydro
2) Plant oils being stored and used for a burst of energy
3) Loss of knowledge of what/how a bike is/is made
4) flow batteries
5) Big wind turbines

Some of the earlist bikes were 'direct drive' to a big wheel in front/powered like a skateboard.

So unless humanity *IS* reduced to flint-knapping old porclin toilets.....bicycles should outlast not only us, but anyone we might ever know.

So unless humanity *IS* reduced to flint-knapping old porclin toilets.....bicycles should outlast not only us, but anyone we might ever know.

Probably, if only because the parts will still be around to scavenge. But I'm not convinced they'll last forever. I.e., be truly sustainable, as Jared Diamond defined it: last thousands of years.

And I could foresee a future where bicycles become extremely scarce in only a few decades, simply because they are not a priority compared to other needs. We may decide to beat our SUVs into swords, ploughshares, or wind turbines instead of bicycles.

Well, I guess we agree to disagree on the bike matter. It is not like either of us will know the outcome.

I guess I'm more hopeful.

Keep in mind that people were working iron in ancient Rome. The Japanese were forging steel swords that are still the envy of the world well over 500 years ago. We know more now than we did then. It is possible to make a lot more on a smaller scale than you might think. The only reason it isn't being done on a small scale is because of economies of scale -- it is more economical to manufacture things in large factories. That holds true as long as transport costs are not too high; when transport costs go high enough, local small-scale manufacture becomes economical again.

People were doing it, but it was expensive, energy-wise. And making something like a sword is altogether different than making, say, a bicycle chain.

The Bronze Age

In copper smelting we find, perhaps, the first major environmental effect of mining. The Mitterberg copper mine probably required about 19 acres of forest to be felled each year, just for the smelters. Even with efficient natural regeneration of the forest, this is a sustainable harvest from perhaps 2 square miles of forest. In fact, however, the cleared land was probably used not for re-growth but at least partly for agriculture, to support the mining community.

On a time scale longer than 10 years, however, a Bronze Age copper mining operation must have caused local deforestation on a large scale, and ever-increasing costs for hauling the wood to keep the industry going.

Will we be working metal? Hell, yes. Will worked metal be cheap and plentiful enough that bicycles are commonplace? That, I'm not sure about.

Will worked metal be cheap and plentiful enough that bicycles are commonplace? That, I'm not sure about.

Here I said I was not gonna try to convince you, but:

What does the bicycle replace - originally horses. Now cars.

The need for 'fast' transport is strong, thus I'm guessing they will be around for a long time - with a priority over other things. Labor saving, simple machines will rule.

The need for 'fast' transport is strong, thus I'm guessing they will be around for a long time - with a priority over other things.

Maybe. I wouldn't bet on it, though. There are a lot of priorities that would have to be ahead of bikes in order to support widescale use of bikes. Like metal working, and presumably the solar panels, wind turbines, coal mining, or nuclear power plants to provide the necessary energy. (We aren't going to do it with wood.)

And I don't think the need for fast transport is that strong. Not everyone owned a horse in the old days; like swords, they were generally the possessions of the wealthy. Even now, the cavalry vs. footsoldiers echoes in our military as officers vs. enlisted.

The bicycle has several inherent advantages. A primary one is the lowest energy to get from A to B (assuming smooth paths).

Per memory, we use 1/5th the energy of walking the same distance.

Bicycling is also much faster than walking. Speed + energy required make the comfortable radius of movement at least 5 times as large (radius x5 > area x25) and perhaps x10 or more. This has profound implications for economic and social order. Farmers can visit town much more frequently as one example of many.

Bicycling, with proper set-up, also allows hauling heavy loads (beggar hauls 300+ lbs from memory) at reasonable speed and effort. Much more than walking.

Best Hopes for Bicycles,


One of my favorite bikes, an Eastman, less than
$20US in New Delhi. Toolmarks everywhere. Rides
beautifully. Look at a simple bicycle and the
only (small?) problem is tires/tubes.
Standardization also helps. My Eastman made off
1913 blueprints, exchanges parts with hundreds
of millions of bicycles made all over British
Empire past 94 years.

The Eastman sounds sweet!!

I just just commenting, the ideal bike for the dirt roads around here is an old Schwinn, Columbia, etc cruiser. One speed, built "hell for stout", nice big tires to float over the soft spots. etc.

I have one MTB plus a junk one and might just be able to get that 2nd one working too, its tires are skinnier though. The "runner" has nice wide tires with a pretty gnarly tread and is much more sure-footed than my motorcycle which has street-oriented tires and slips and slides around a bit. The general remedy is to go faster BTW, on a m/c apply throttle, on a bicycle, spin those pedals.

That is my vision of the future: energy poverty, meaning we have to choose.

Indeed we will... and we tend to leverage transportation over many other options. So I think bicycles will be more popular than walking or paddling a canoe.

I agree with you that we still need to work the steel to manufacture bicycles. But assembling something that weighs less than 20 pounds is not remotely comparable to assembling an automobile. The energy to make a bicycle is insignificant compared to an automobile. The energy to use a bike is also insignificant. The energy to support cycling infrastructure is insignificant.

We could use coal to power the transportation requirements of a bicycling society and not despoil the planet.

If we rode bikes instead of cars, peak oil would not concern us...it would be centuries away.

Indeed we will... and we tend to leverage transportation over many other options.

What if the other options are farming, medical care, the military, and of course, drilling for more oil?

If metals become really scarce, there are ways of making parts of bicycles out of renewable materials. I just saw a program on TV where there was a guy making bicycle frames out of bamboo, and used hemp+epoxy as a greener type of fiberglass:


Right now the things are quite pricey, but the shop that makes them specializes in high-end frames for people who don't mind spending a lot of cash.

might be too expensive for every schmuck to have a bike.

Considering the previouly unlocked wheel and now wheel-less bikes I see around - it strikes me that the people w/o bikes will just take 'em from others who have bikes.

All the more reason not to have one.

I have been told that there is not one bicycle tire manufacture in the United States. Getting tires could be a problem, and I look when I go into Wally world etc, the tires are not very good, and usually not very many.

Specialty shops have tires and better quality, but amount on stock doesn't seem high

When the cost of import becomes too great, they will get made stateside. If we are going to a 'few car' society, with the 'middle' class riding electric hub bikes, there will be demand.

Mal-wart is a poor choice to get tires anyway.

Folks, let's get real here. People were transporting goods to trade across oceans millennia ago. That isn't going to just go away. Ocean transport doesn't use much energy, and that energy could be biodiesel or even wind. There will always be some maritime trade going on, except in the imaginations of dystopian novelists.

There are literally billions of old car tires in the U.S. - cutting them to fit within a bike rim is not exactly high-tech. Will it be as comfortable as the best the market offers today? No. Was a bike from 1920 as comfortable as the best the market offers today? No.

What Kunstler does, at times, is a form of cheating - he creates fairly plausible scenarios, and then adds in the attention catching extras. It is those extras which would often be better left alone. Like the no wheat ploy - what, the future won't have Wonder Bread? That is something to rejoice, not mourn. And does he really think corn will be the dominant crop? Why? Because he likes needling his readers with how they will have to adopt a Southern practice, which it seems, they don't like?

Mmmmm .... I look forward to a future where there's only corn bread (and barley which I also like) I love corn well ..... you name it, corn bread, corn meal, temales, tortillas, I just like corn.

And these days I have oats every breakfast Oh it's a horse's life!

Crime scene: foreclosure

When homeowners moved away after a wave of foreclosures in Cleveland's working-class neighborhood of Slavic Village, crime took off.

Slavic Village is known as the worst neighborhood in the nation for foreclosures. In a study for CNNMoney, RealtyTrac calculated that properties in its ZIP code recorded more foreclosure filings in three months than anywhere else in the United States.

According to Jim Rokakis, Cuyahoga County Treasurer, more than 800 houses now sit vacant and moldering in the area, which was founded in the 1840s by Polish and Bohemian immigrants who worked in area steel mills and factories.

The first thing that happened after owners moved out of foreclosed homes in Slavic Village was that squatters and looters moved in, according to Mark Wiseman, director of the Cuyahoga County Foreclosure Prevention Program. "In the inner city, it takes about 72 hours for a house to be looted after it is vacant," he said.

Hello Leanan,

Thxs for this info. Speculation Ahead!

Of course, if FEMA was on the correct Foundation-controlled optimal descent path: they would be forcing the insurance companies and financial mortgage holders to pay for the armed Merc-protection of these structures so that a pre-planned multi-million migration from the drought-stricken SE & SW can be facilitated smoothly with relocalized permaculture and TOD themes when the migratory crisis starts gaining steam.

I guess FEMA prefers the future default condition whereby Great Lakes' Earthmarines will preclude the Southern Overshoot 'last-gasp' invasion.

As posted before: I would rather live in a tiny, rundown structure with clear, clean water versus dead pool, discolored and odiferous dregs barely oozing from a posh McMansion faucet in full Olduvai darkness.

I am beginning to doubt that the Halliburton camps can be expanded as fast as the postPeak problems are erupting. Recall that I & Nate Hagens, due to our 6'-5" heights: reserve first dibs on the longest bunks, if we are 'offered' early accomodations. =(

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

I have yet to go to graduate school and have lately been giving thought to further education and potential career paths. Of course, being a TOD reader and occasional poster, peak oil, climate change, etc are at the top of my thoughts regarding the steps I'll be taking. Reading all the "fast-crash realist" talk and meticulous discussions about wheel-barrows, however, just doesn't come off as too inspiring to someone like me who is at the cusp of a career trajectory and looking for a niche. All in all, getting our way out of this mess with innovation and creativity and maintaining social complexity and global integration (and of course with best hopes for spiritual growth, peace, income equality and ending poverty too), and hell, maybe starting a family, is a lot more enticing to think about than moving back with my parents and becoming a peasant.

I have a BA in Geography (Univ. of Minnesota) - not engineering or science based like many on this site - but even so I like to think spatially and analytically. So lately I've been thinking about the possiblity of going into logistics & supply chain management. I found an MSc in that at Hariot Watt University in Edinburgh, for example. Maybe I could do a thesis on Logistics & Peak Oil.

So, what does the collective wisdom say: in a world of peak oil, is the logistics industry doomed, or will it make the need the same with retirees creating gaps that can be replaced by up-and-comers?

I'd also like inquire generally about Peak careers (hopefully not Peak Careers) since I'm really just exploring at this point....maybe I've missed a keypost about it or two...if not it would be great to hear from the wisdom of others.

best regards,

Randall Sanderson

I assume that you have seen my general ELP recommendations:

ELP Plan (April, 2007)

In general, in addition to getting on the non-discretionary side of the economy, I would focus on almost anything related to food and/or energy production and to energy conservation. Related to energy conservation would be working for a mass transit agency.


I cannot help much, because my profession (technical translation) is probably doomed, but I like the way you write and wish you all the best.


I could be wrong, but I would think that if there is one sure-fire prediction about the future 25-35 years, it is that the world will be plagued by logistical nightmares.

Unfortunately, what you are actually taught in your coursework might be of limited use in knowing how to successfully deal with these unprecedented challenges. Developing the ability to think creatively "out of the box", and having a broader knowledge base than the typical narrow-focused specialist, will probably be invaluable.

What he said.

Don't just get a diploma, get edumacated so you can think for yourself in order to solve problems. In the long run, the diploma may not matter much.


Team up with a meteorologist and start working on sailing-ship routes.

Seriously, one day there's going to be ports opening up in Alaska and Nunavut, Canada. The further you can get cargo from China to American cities via the Arctic Ocean, the less oil we can get by on for the rest of the route. I bet the Native Canadians in Nunavut don't have anyone informing them of the need to protect themselves from Yankee carpetbaggers looking to buy up the key land components of this seismic shift in infrastructure.


This is a quick message of support. I'm starting grad school at the University of British Columbia in 2008. I'm don't have a rosy outlook on the near future, but I'm not letting that get in the way of the things that I want to do. Also, I think that what others have suggested is one of the key parts of the university experience--focus on learning to think independently. I think the potential for networking and building social capital is excellent in the university setting, too.


graywulffe in CVO, OR (soon to be YVR, BC)

Maybe I should go into disaster mitigation & response. That should be a growth sector.

If you wanted to be anti-social:

1) You would have to consider your school debt to be shackels by the man.
2) You'd want to have to stick it to the man.
3) You'd want to have your journey to be one way.

To that end:

Gather skills that other nations want, learn the languages for those nations, and plan on taking the skills out of the US and leave family and debt behind.

Came across an interesting bit of information in Tim Flannery's book the Weather Makers, about the US flight moratorium in the three days after 9/11/2001, where the lack of jet contrails seemed to have increased daytime temperatures in the US slightly. Makes you wonder what would happen with massive increases in aviation fuel and/or a severely depressed economy resulting in a vast reduction in air travel.

Shutdown of airlines aided contrail studies

Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Google "Global Dimming". Has been discussed here. Bottom line, contrails and particulate pollution have been depressing GW effects. As the flights become fewer or we clean up the air it's going to get hotter around the globe, all other things remaining constant.

There was a daytime cooling to the tune of 1.5 degrees due to shading from contrails ... and a nighttime warming due to retained heat - also 1.5 degrees. That is from memory and I recall reading it not long after the event itself so perhaps long term detailed analysis would show something different, but it was definitely noticeable.

I think about this often, as I am preparing to put a solar hot water system on the roof. I must be under one of those "highways in the sky", because on clear sunny days, the collection of contrails seem to provide a significant amount of shading. And that must correlate to reduced efficiency of my solar setup.

I remember working as a mate on a fishing boat out of Kent Island, Maryland during the days after 9/11. I have never recalled seeing a more blue and clear sky for this part of the country. It was quiet too! Its amazing what you get used to.

I find myself wishing for the airline industry to crash. (No pun intended)

Something tells me I won't be waiting too much longer.

contrails, from "commercial" flights. Really, since when do commercial flights make "U" turns and arcs, why do they always seem to be following the arc of the sun.

What are the exact conditions to create "persistent contrails" What atmospheric, altitude, and temperature must exist for them to exist. How often and frequent are these conditions.

This story on "contrails" in the sky I did speak with to an ABC producer one day. I pointed out the jet traffic, the patterns, and more while we were on location outside one day. He like most never really paid attention to what was happening above him. He watched that day, and longer, and not long after they did a story on it that was a fluff piece and let statements go unchallenged such as the ones pointed out above.

as for particulate matter I again point to the large number of volcanic eruptions that are ongoing around the world.

Note that early FALL major snowstorms and very cold conditions exists in Europe and in the Southern Hemisphere.

Just sayin its something to pay attention to.

I have the same problem Sandor, where I live I am plastered by high flying jets who leave a misty white cloud cover, and it happens way to often.

By the way there is a way to check and see if those planes are commercial, there is a book that gives out their flight plans, routes, etc. Dollar to a donut that they don't match up where you live.

There is also a Federal lawsuit in court over this. The US Air Force responded to the judges request for information by claiming that it was pilots doing training missions and they were putting out "chaff" as part of this. The judge wrote back and said "not good enough" and wants to know what is in the chaff etc.

There is a patent on this type of "spraying" and the scientist that did the work said that it could help to stop GW, but he also pointed out it could have the exact opposite effect by providing a blanket that instead of reflecting sunlight, held the heat, and would make conditions worse.

Watch the clouds that stay and notice the nice geometric patterns the "contrails" form and that after they spread out they have a look that resembles what happens to metal shavings when a magnet is around.

Whatever it is , nice blue sky, and rain sure seem to be in short supply.


You have really freaked me out.

Over the course of the summer, myself and friends have noticed "commercial" jets making very tight arc 180 degree turns over the Chesapeake Bay and returning from where they came. We noticed this on several occasions and thought it very odd.

Please email me with more specifics so I can research more.


A fly out and a hairpin turn is a symptom of congestion on the ground, which is quite common at larger airports. Contrails made of something other than water vapor would be split wide open in science reporting media within a few days of suspicion being raised. This seems very conspiratorial to me ... do you have any links to support this? Extraordinary assertions require extraordinary proof ...

Chaff will just be strips of aluminum or aluminized Mylar (more likely) and not harmful. You'd be able to go out and pick it up. Your kids would play with it and make crafts with it, like kids always do with interesting stuff. Absolutely harmless and kinda cute.


I think the concern is that what they're dispensing is a fine aerosol, perhaps sulfate based, like the stuff we used to get with really dirty diesel. If they're trying to influence climate its submicron stuff meant to stay in the stratosphere for years ...

I don't think Leanan would like for me to post such links SCT.

Give me an addy I will send you links.

SCT the planes making these arcs and U turns are also changing altitude many times and they are high, very high, this is not because of take off and landings.

As for your suggestion that science media would explain this within a few days of suspicion.

Care to give evidence of why you can state such a claim.

This subject is one of the most hotly debated things on many boards. If you live in place (and there are many) you see it and see it often. There are huge numbers of people that report this. I pointed it out to my neighbor, he like most never paid attention to the sky above him. Now he has his own photo collection, like many.

So SCT tell me, what are the requirements for "persistent contrails". Thats what they have to be, because what you will see are, well you have to watch.

SCT, one day I saw one plane fly due south at very high altitude at a high rate of speed (this is common) leaving a very long trail. It (the trail) then stopped immediately, and the plane flew on. Then about one minute later a plane flying due west leaving a trail passed over my head and I watched it much to my surprise fly and hit DIRECTLY where the other trail stopped. Perfect flying. This also is a common theme. Precision that is remarkable. Lots of photos and websites, but, its tied to another subject, and that leads to another subject, and the rabbit hole goes deep.

All I can tell you is I have and still do witness it all the time. I have my own personal photo collection.

The lawsuit is real, and the judge has requested more info from the authorities. (seems some material falls to ground and what that material is, is not nice, according to the lawsuit and the lab tests)

The patent on the technique is real and online. This is much easier than PO, because you can actually view it. Photo's and reports, more than you could look at online. And each person will tell you that trying to discuss online results in trolling you can't believe. And they will tell you that what you have watched and seen with your own eyes is BS.

Conspiratorial, your words, all I am saying is what thousands, if not millions of Americans and Europeans report they have witnessed. And others world wide. Its not just an American thing.

What are the requirements for a persistent contrail SCT.

Then go see how many are being made every single day.

gwbush at dumbfuck dot org would be a good way to reach me.

We have lots of long term contrails here and they often draw my camera.

contrails #2

Contrail Sunset #4

I sure hope you're not talking about this stuff, because the page fairly radiates "I forgot to take my medication" ...


Yeah, I can understand people not getting evolution. But how can they build a conspiracy theory around con trails?

I am actually impressed that people can have such insane beliefs and still function normally in society.

In the past, a sell rating by a major firm on a major stock used to be unheard of. You would get a "neutral" or "hold" at worst. After Enron, analysts promised to be more realistic with their ratings.

Today we have a "sell" on Citicorp by Goldman.

Is this a "holy crap" moment, or not?



The funny thing is Goldman downgrades Citi to "sell" because Citi attempts to come clean with its potential losses while Goldman remarkably claims that it has no exposure in the sub-prime market. If Goldman ever has to actually list its own losses, will it downgrade itself to "sell"?

Goldman is sitting pretty - they sold off their risky mortgage products. To Citi, probably.

You can only wonder what short positions Goldman has on Citi.

Like taking candy from a baby.

Look for Citi to issue a "sell" on Goldman!


Well, sooner or later a bank is going to go under, but they are going to defend Citi pretty hard because it is so big. Some predictions here.


There is something else going on under the surface which for now is totally unconfirmed but dovetails in with some of the news coming from China. Like the government notice to citizens to not hold U$S.


Everyone seems to think that the response from China to further U$S devaluation is going to be the dumping of $.

I know that some very smart economic people are very bullish on China and the Yuan. The problem is they think like civilians.

China is not the US, if they pass a law overnight they have the power to enforce it, even on wealthy people with expensive lawyers, because instead of a trial they get a bullet in the back of the head.


If I were China and really wanted to retaliate against the US establishment I would make it illegal to remove any funds from China, especially for non Chinese. Think about it, the lions share of the profit on the trade deficit with China doesn't go to China. It goes to US multinationals which then repatriate the profit at very low tax rates. One law and the US multinationals are knee capped.

So...here's the scoop from the retail sector going into "Black Friday"...day after Thanksgiving...biggest shopping day of the year. I work at Hallmark so this is a BIGGGGG deal for us.

Analysts were hoping to set the tone today with a big pickup in the stock market to get everyone in the mood. Also they were hoping for colder weather because this puts folks in the mood for Xmas.

Dow is plunging and will be a washout unless there is the "last half hour save" that occurs occasionally.

Right now it is approaching 76 degrees in the Midwest. Not good for Xmas shopping. Forecast is for a big change in weather come Wednesday.

The reality and spin of Black Friday will pretty much set the tone for the Dow and Retail Sales for the rest of the year.

My concern for this Black Friday is the half day.

The rest of the world is not going to stop trading. Credit, Currency, Oil and Gold will keep on being volatile.

If things are not rosy in the Wed to Friday morning window...it could get unruly in the US markets (not that they aren't that way already)

BTW, Yen popped thru 109 this morning. Would somebody please fix the Yen Carry trade! Darn no more Japanese Housewifes with money to save it.

When Helicopter Ben drops your money this is where it lands http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=ahE8xVisWsbE&refer=us

Ya...I saw that and thought....this is a rather BOLD move, especially this year. Do these men (I assume most are men) have no fear of reprisals?

As the article notes, most of this money is going to big-wigs at Goldman Sachs and Lehman. Those two companies have made out well by hedging the recent mortgage mess.


Coal export boom

The linked article suggests the US will join the lucrative coal exporters club, none of whom obviously give a rat's about GW. In fact the article doesn't even mention it. If coal exporting countries ever go on a carbon diet then so should the customers. I propose;
Option A
the coal export is carbon taxed or included in the domestic carbon cap of the host country (eg declining 5% p.a.) OR
Option B
imports from the coal buying country are levied with a stiff tax, set at say 20% regardless of carbon content

I think something like this might even be considered by the time it is too late.

Houston Ship Channel Closed to Tanker Traffic Because of Fog

The Houston Ship Channel, which serves the largest U.S. petroleum port, was closed to tanker traffic and other vessels because of fog.

The Houston waterway was shut down by pilots at 1:05 a.m. local time, delaying 13 incoming vessels and 11 outgoing ships, David Anderson, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard, said today in a telephone interview. The Galveston and Texas City navigation channels were closed by their pilots at 5 a.m., delaying at least two arrivals, he said.

And check out this link. It's a Google Earth map of the Houston Ship Channel. You can track the ships, real-time. Click on the markers and get the name, status, and type of ship.


Have you heard of this project? Your tales of the asphalt wasteland and the shortsightedness of AZ city planners never cease to amaze me. Never did I think they could be this clueless. And the water is coming from where? Groundwater?



Huge Water Park Planned for Ariz. Desert?


Now another ambitious project is in the works: A massive new water park that would offer surf-sized waves, snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking -- all in a bone-dry region that gets just 8 inches of rain a year.

Artists' drawings of the park show surfers gliding through waves that crash onto a sandy beach and kayakers navigating the whitecaps of a wide, roiling river. Families watch the action from beneath picnic umbrellas. If constructed, the park would use as much as 100 million gallons of groundwater a year.

(more at link...)

Hello IanSF,

Yep--what can I say. Phx = Darfur x ten at some future point--won't that be fun? Do you think the Cascadians will welcome our eventual migration northward?

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Phoenicians Smarter than Dirt?

If they could get the water, which they can't, if they could get the energy to run it, which is going fast, they'd have to find customers and tourism is dead once we really start moving on the downward slide. People will travel for production ... if they have a job ... and little else.

Its interesting to look at the MSM occasionally now that I am peak aware ... I worked in a homeless shelter in college and a lot of these banker types sound just like a certain sort of grandiose wino who wants to take over the world, but who will succeed at best in finding a higher class gutter.

Watching this bunch hit bottom in terms of their cheap oil addiction will be grim/funny ....

At least Dubai has oil wealth (fast declining) to support it's snow covered ski slope.

Yes, a new world's record for stupidity (as water sources fro Phoenix hit new all time lows at Lakes Mead & Powell).

Worst Hopes for Stupidity !


For what it's worth, I think history has shown that the peak of excess very often precedes the start of the rapid delcine, and very often turns out to be the predictor of such. It appears to me that the totally bizzarre excesses of the day, such as that air-conditioned indoor ski slope of Dubai, or the Saudi prince buying the largest passenger plane being manfactured for his own personal flying palace is a clear sign that a 'step change' is about to happen.

Remember that some of the most expensive and outlandish (and most desireable) automobiles o f 20th Century America (Dusenburgs, custom Packards, Rolls Royces, etc., were manufactured during the early years of The Great Depression.

Versaille reached its peak of excess just before the French Revolution. Ditto for Czarist Russia before its Revolution. The only question for thinking Americans is: where is the US going?

Do you think the Cascadians will welcome our eventual migration northward?

I'm hoping to have property up that way before things get too bad. Would be good to start building community links and friends now.

Besides skills, I have collected a huge (3000+ and counting)library of books on tools, building, gardening, old farm tech, medicine, chemistry, pre-WWII technology, animal care, and many other post-peak useful topics.

I intend to be my community's skills library post-peak, somewhat like the Professor on Gilligan's Island. I still haven't mastered making radios out of coconuts though.... Knowledge will be a useful trade item. Most books were obtained in the $1 range at library book sales and estate sales. Stock up now while you can.

I have collected a huge (3000+ and counting)library of books

Any chance you have a list of these?

I wish. Most are still in a nice safe locked storage unit since my last move. Boxed, on pallets, with a waterproof tarp over the pile. I'm renting at the moment so no real room to get them all out an organized. Still collecting though. I found a nice paperback on stone masonry this past weekend for 50 cents at a yard sale.

Hello IanSF,

Last post before I hit the hay. That is not a bad survival strategy-- being a tribe's or community's librarian of essential info--kudos to you. Hopefully, you can find a group that realizes how important this wealth of knowledge will be postPeak.

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

Wow, you people are a bunch of loons.

What a great argument you have to wondering the titles of books another has!

Proposals like this are why no one should be surprised that the Great Lakes Basin is already getting testy about its most precious resource.

Norwegian StatoilHydro boss Helge Lund spells it straight out – saying he believes the business (oil) will NOT be able to increase output more than 1 mbd .. That’s a sober statement from a sober man – kudos.

Increased demand for steel and qualified personnel will limit expansions, as he sees it. Probably below ground factors are part of the picture as well

Norwegian language alert -