DrumBeat: December 26, 2007

Denial Of Energy Crisis Is A Conditioned Response

The charade of limitless consumption goes on today, further sanctified through the manufacture of close associations between nationalistic symbols such as the flag and icons of waste such as NASCAR and Hummers. The use by politicians of coded phrases like “the American way of life” allows easy dismissal of the bearers of unpleasant realities as unpatriotic.

Indeed, “unpleasant” scarcely begins to describe the scope of a future we as a species now face. With the unavoidable decline of the supply of oil and natural gas, manufacturing, transportation, building construction, central heating, air conditioning, and communications (including our beloved computers) will all break down. Since food production (planting, fertilizing, pest control, harvesting, processing and long range delivery) and even water supply and sanitation have become inextricably dependent on oil, wide scale thirst, hunger, and disease also loom as part of a probable future.

Chinese bid to build line makes waves

Shortly after Sinopec, the China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., was identified as one of five bidders on the project Nov. 28, human rights groups decried its dealings with oppressive regimes. Alaska's congressional delegation warned that a Sinopec-owned project could undermine U.S. energy security if Alaskan gas went to China instead of U.S. consumers.

But others say Sinopec may be the strongest in a field of applicants that fell short of expectations and that a Chinese-sponsored pipeline may not be the threat some envision.

Petrobras Production Reaches Record 2 Million Barrels a Day

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil's state-run oil company, said its production of oil reached a record yesterday.

Oil output rose to 2 million barrels a day, Petrobras Chief Executive Officer Jose Sergio Gabrielli said today in a press conference in Rio de Janeiro.

Diamond Offshore rig evacuated

Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc., the world's second-largest oil driller by market value, said its Ocean Whittington rig listed to one side and forced the crew to evacuate.

Iran, Malaysia Sign $16 Billion Oil Deal

Iran and Malaysia signed a $16 billion agreement to develop two Iranian gas fields, state-run television reported Wednesday, describing the deal as the largest energy contract in Iran.

Russia is in need of firm handling

Russia starts 2008 with its confidence higher than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At home, President Vladimir Putin and his top officials have managed a succession which seems certain to ensure their grip on power for years to come. Abroad, Russia is increasingly willing to assert its influence, especially in the former Soviet Union. The high price of oil has given the Kremlin huge resources with which to remake Russia and try to fulfil its ambitions.

NYPD to road test electric scooters

Four plug-in Vectrix scooters will be road tested starting early next month as the New York Police Department tries to become more environmentally friendly and reduce gasoline use in its massive motor fleet.

Putting the brakes on bike thieves

Over 500,000 bicycles are stolen annually in the UK and only five per cent of these are returned to their owners. The increase in the number of people travelling by bicycle as an more eco-friendly method of transport has provided greater opportunities for bicycle thieves across the UK and while many local councils have located CCTV cameras above public bicycle racks, their effectiveness in deterring thieves is limited.

Currently at prototype stage, Damen’s system takes colour information from CCTV images when a bike is parked and stores it until the bike is retrieved. It then marries the stored information with the new image and where there are significant differences, it can raise an alert to CCTV operators. In initial tests using a camera located above a bike rack at the University of Leeds, eleven out of thirteen simulated thefts were detected.

Gazprom opposes foreign ownership of energy reserves: agencies

A top Gazprom executive voiced opposition on Wednesday to foreign ownership of Russian energy reserves, saying it could deprive Russian consumers of much-needed natural gas, news agencies reported.

"We do not like foreign companies developing reserves," Alexander Ananenkov, deputy chairman of state-owned Gazprom, was quoted by Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies as saying during a visit to Novosibirsk.

Official: Saudi-Japanese energy relationship is enormously important

Al-Tubayyeb addressed issues relevant to Japan, which is the second largest economy in the world and receives 30 percent of its energy supplies through Saudi Aramco - about 1.2 million barrels per day of crude oil, in addition to LPG, naphtha and condensates.

He visited the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Public Policy, where he answered to questions raised by its students. He explained to them the mechanisms of the oil market and price drivers.

He said the abundant supply of conventional oil resources will provide sustainable energy for a long time. "The amount of conventional oil-in-place worldwide is estimated at between 6 and 8 trillion barrels," he said. "The world does not have to worry about (peak oil) for many decades to come."

Drink this and you may feel pleasantly green

When sipping that beer or vodka tonic at the next holiday party, take heart: Your revelry may actually be good for the environment.

Or at least that’s the pitch coming from makers of organic tequila, gin, vodka, brandy, beer and wine that are finding their way onto store shelves and fine restaurant menus — all in the name of healthier socializing and being green.

Uranium exploration in Africa spurred by global hunger for cleaner, cheaper energy

Resurgent global interest in nuclear power has made Zambia, a southern African nation better known for its vast copper reserves, into a hotbed of uranium exploration.

The search for uranium in Zambia is part of a larger wave of uranium exploration and mining across mineral-rich southern Africa that is raising hopes of new jobs and tax revenue, but also sparking debates over safety and security. Many countries are looking for cleaner and cheaper alternatives to oil and coal power, and uranium prices are high after a decades-long slump.

Fuel maker refines plan to hike output, cut emissions

Can an oil refiner double fuel production and cut greenhouse gas emissions at the same time?

The task is so daunting that no U.S. refiner has even attempted it. But Jeff Morris is proposing to do exactly that with the two Southern California refineries his company bought last year.

Rising demand tests Gazprom. Will it deliver?

Energy forecasters predict Gazprom will face difficulties satisfying demand for natural gas in the future. The warning comes as production at existing fields peaks while tapping new reserves involves huge technical difficulties.

Russia plans controlling Serbia oil, gas

Russia has offered Serbia $1.5 billion for control of its oil industry and additional deals related to a gas pipeline and a gas underground storage.

The Russian government offered $750 million in cash and $750 million in investments for a majority interest in Serbia's NIS oil company, the Serbian daily Blic reported Wednesday.

Korea to Tighten Fuel Efficiency Standards by 2012

Korea will strengthen its auto fuel efficiency standards by 2012 to reduce green gas emissions. This is expected to accelerate the development of eco-friendly cars including hybrids.

For Stable Oil Supply, Seoul Should Actively Engage in Energy Diplomacy

Energy officials and oil importers are concerned over a warning from Iraq that it will suspend oil exports to South Korea unless companies here stop oil exploration in the northern Kurdish region of the Middle Eastern country. The warning is feared to deal a blow to the country as its oil supply totally depends on imports from abroad, mainly the Middle East. About 5.2 percent of oil imports currently comes from Iraq.

Shell refinery in Malaysia hit by fire

A fire broke out at Royal Dutch Shell's oil refinery in the southwestern Malaysian town of Port Dickson on Wednesday, temporarily disrupting operations, the Star newspaper said in its online edition.

New Zealand: More energy please, but keep it clean

As the 21st century moves toward the tail end of its first decade, the quest for energy has firmly cemented itself among the most urgent challenges facing the world.

Rich countries are trying to work out how to meet growing demand while producing less carbon dioxide, which many fear is contributing to a dangerous warming of the planet.

Making the goods that use energy more efficiently has so far failed to provide a solution, as greater efficiency often leads to greater demand for the goods, or a desire for larger or more complex models.

High energy costs take a big toll on state's poor

If these charges produce a safe, clean and reliable flow of energy, most Marylanders will probably consider the payment well worth the investment. Most Marylanders will absorb the extra costs into their budgets and will make some efforts to conserve on interior lighting, home heating temperatures and trips in the car.

There are, however, at least 300,000 families in Maryland who live in or near poverty and who will not easily absorb these extra costs; rather, they will trade food for electricity, prescription drugs for warmth.

Kansai Elec cuts profit outlook on nuclear delay

TOKYO, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Kansai Electric Power Co, Japan's second-biggest utility, cut on Wednesday its 2007/08 group operating outlook by 20 percent, hit by the prolonged shutdown of a nuclear power unit and higher fuel prices.

Palm Oil Gains to Record on Demand for Food, Fuel

Palm oil prices in Malaysia, the global benchmark, rose to a record today as global demand for vegetable oils for food and alternative fuel outstripped supply.

Chinese cars win increasing buyers in ME, N Africa markets

For years, consumers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have become used to buying small and low-tech made-in-China commodities. But now, they are showing increasing interest in trying something bigger -- China's home-grown sedans.

UBS rejects reports it manipulated PetroChina shares

Global investment bank UBS AG rejected Chinese media reports that claimed it had improperly manipulated Hong Kong-listed shares and warrants in the country's top oil company, PetroChina.

China may run Japan-style bullet train

The Chinese government is considering using Japanese-style bullet train technology on a high-speed rail line slated to be launched next summer, a Japanese news report said Wednesday.

Use of slurry and manure can counter rising inputs

Rising fuel prices have added at least 20% to the cost of inorganic fertilisers, meaning livestock producers should be making far better use of free nutrient resources to protect against rising input costs.

"There are considerable savings to be had by making more use of slurry and manure," says John Morgan of Devon-based Creedy Associates. "Unfortunately, many farmers still tend to view it as waste to get rid of instead of an opportunity. However, awareness of its potential is improving and increasingly producers do want to know how to make best use of it."

Green bus investment offers a very slow return

A hybrid bus costs about $230,000, far more than the $90,000 for a traditional bus. So in Manatee, where the hybrids are saving $4,000 a year in fuel costs, it will take about 35 years for them to pay off the investment of going hybrid.

Saudi oil investments top $100bn

The sales involved a total 79 billion barrels pumped out of the country’s giant oilfields since it began full crude exports in 1967, according to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (Sama), which cited Saudi Aramco figures.

Theoretically, such a massive output could have depleted the Kingdom’s oil resources as it exceeded its proven oil reserves of 68bn barrels in 1967.

But the reserves have more than tripled to a record 264bn barrels at the beginning of 2007, and experts attributed this surge to new major discoveries as well as the introduction of advanced drilling and production technology.

Ending Oil Subsidies Serves China's Oil Security

To subsidize or not subsidize. Hamlet might have appreciated the dilemma, though it’s hard to say what he might have known about oil. But that is the question facing China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Finance (MoF), and a decision will be made in the next week or two whether to cover the oil refining losses incurred over the year of 2007 by the two oil giants China National Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec) and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). The importance of this decision extends beyond the two national oil companies (NOCs).

China publishes energy white paper

The State Council Information Office published on Wednesday a white paper entitled China's Energy Conditions and Policies. The document, composed of eight chapters, points out that China, as an irreplaceable component of the world energy market, plays an increasingly important role in maintaining global energy security. The full text of the white paper follows...

Sinopec plans 500,000 ton Jan. diesel imports

China's Sinopec Corp. plans record diesel imports of 500,000 tons in January to help cover domestic shortages, after Beijing scrapped a key import tariff, a company-owned paper reported on Tuesday.

The tentative plan comes on top of 423,000 tons of diesel imports in December and another 287,000 tons in November as Beijing struggles to stem persistent diesel rationing and supply shortfalls, the China Petrochemical News said.

Pakistan: People told to brace for power outages

EXPERTS have urged people to brace for power outages as normal life resumes after Eid holidays without any electricity conservation plan in place and a yawning gap between supply and demand that is expected to increase to over 2,000 megawatts.

Nuclear Deal: USA’s Game Plan and GOI’s Abject Surrender

The USA has kept on “encouraging” (read “urging”) India to complete the nuclear deal despite its manifest disapproval by the majority of Indian parliamentarians. This way it exposes its own hypocritical love for democracy. The USA is eager for completion of the deal because this will put India under the same obligations as all other non-nuclear state signatories of the NPT are. This way India, which has long been protesting the discriminatory NPT, will be ending its isolation in the US hegemon’s eye. On the other hand, this deal, by causing India’s tilt towards the USA’s strategic alliance, will completely isolate this country from the non-aligned world. No NAM member will trust India thereafter. The USA’s Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, says “this deal will make us more equal”. When nearly 85 per cent of India’s nuclear facilities will come under both the USA’s and IAEA’s inspections, none of the USA’s facilities and arsenals will be subject to any external body’s inspection or verification. Equality indeed!!

Sinopec forecasts a rise in production

Sinopec Corp said it expects to process 42.5 million tons of crude oil in the final quarter this year, up 7.5 percent from the third quarter, as China's largest refined oil supplier acts to counter a fuel shortage.

The amount represents an increment of 500,000 tons over its original fourth-quarter plan, according to China Petrochemical News, a newspaper of Sinopec's state-owned parent, China Petrochemical Corp.

Australia: $3.5m holiday petrol rip-off

MAJOR petrol suppliers have lined their pockets over Christmas, gouging an extra $3.5 million from motorists in just two days this week.

Market analysts say Caltex, Shell and their supermarket partners Woolworths and Coles, as well as Mobil and BP, made an extra 3c a litre on Monday and Tuesday by abandoning the usual weekly "discount" cycle.

Watchdog's fuel plan may backfire: BP

ONE of the nation's oil majors has warned that the competition watchdog's plan to smash control over fuel storage facilities will do little to reduce petrol prices and could backfire, with higher costs for motorists.

Wintry weather adding to fuel fiasco: Homeowners scramble to cut heating costs

Bob Biagini has replaced his home’s doors. Laureen Pizzi has installed new windows, insulation and heating equipment. And Malcolm Gurney has been burning wood.

The three South Shore residents are trying to keep their homes warm while coping with high fuel costs and a colder-than-normal December.

‘‘You want to do stuff to lower the heating bills, but that costs money and then the (oil) prices go up,’’ said Biagini, who has lived in his Quincy home for 45 years.

Oil trade regulation delayed in House

Before Congress quit for the holidays, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, succeeded in getting Senate passage of her proposal to regulate the oil trading market, but the U.S. House of Representatives refused to consider the measure.

Study: RR Terminal Would Be Economic Coup For Indy

Rail use is growing, after years of stagnation, because of surging global trade and a shift from using trucks for long hauls because of congested interstates and soaring fuel prices. Railroads are hot now, said Carol D'Amico, chief executive of Conexus Indiana, the logistics and advanced manufacturing promotional arm of Central Indiana Corporate Partnership.

Publicly supported rail service is good

As Congress and the administration have debated over the last decade about how best to kill Amtrak, the traveling public has sent a much different message that lawmakers finally have begun to hear.

It is not surprising that Amtrak set a record during the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, with 25.8 million passengers, 1.5 million more than for the previous fiscal year and the fifth consecutive year of increased ridership. Clearly, airport and highway congestion, coupled with volatile gasoline prices, have made rail travel much more attractive.

Designers push to make cities more female-friendly

"Women are feeling frustrated in dense urban environments that are not designed for them to be able to get out," says Afaf Meleis, dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania here. "We tell women, 'You need to walk and exercise.' … If there's violence going on, it prevents them. Curbs are not designed for women and women's shoes. We really have not taken gender into consideration."

Ethanol boom a mixed bag

What is different about these days is the spectacular rise in corn prices because of the ethanol boom. Grain farmers' net income in the state stayed above $110,000 for the second straight year in 2007 after settling below $30,000 in 2002, according to University of Illinois researchers.

But there is no free lunch. And one result of the farmers' good fortune is that consumers are paying more for food. Dairy, beef and bread prices are all connected in one way or another to the farm economy. Corn is animal feed as well as a source of biofuel, and with corn futures contracts above $4 a bushel -- twice the 2005 price -- a striking cause-and-effect phenomenon has come home to roost.

Carbon quota an eerie echo of Technocracy

All of this is an eerie echo of Technocracy, the weird mass movement that attracted a great deal of support in the Great Depression by promising to end North America's money economy and replace it with an energy economy.

Led by a onetime cement mixer named Howard Scott, the Technocrats proposed the merger of Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Central America into a single "Technate." The government would consist of engineers and scientists who would rule - wisely, of course - through scientific management of energy resources.

The Technocratic visionaries of this earlier era were fashionably scientific, fashionably socialistic, fashionably fascist.

Oil Rises After Report Turkey Attacked Kurdish Rebels in Iraq

Crude oil rose for a third day in New York on concern shipments from Iraq may be disrupted after the Turkish military attacked bases of Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

Turkish jets bombed eight sites in northern Iraq today where the military suspected Kurdish rebels were setting up camp, the military said in a statement on its Web site. The strikes this morning targeted mountain caves and other shelters in the Zap region of neighboring northern Iraq. Iraq exports crude oil through its northern pipeline to Turkey.

Nippon Oil plans Jan crude refining +10 pct yr/yr

Nippon Oil Corp. plans to refine 4.85 million kilolitres (984,000 barrels per day) of crude oil in January to meet domestic demand, up 10 percent from a year earlier, a company executive said on Wednesday.

Russia's eastern deposits to supply 207 bln cu m of gas by 2030

Russia's deposits in east Siberia and the Far East are expected to produce and supply 207 billion cubic meters of gas by 2030, a Gazprom official said on Wednesday.

Alexander Ananenkov, deputy chairman of the Gazprom management committee, said Russia planned to achieve this figure via a program of creating a single system of gas production, transportation and supply in east Siberia and the Far East, taking into account possible gas exports to China and other Asia and Pacific countries.

China to Increase Crude Oil Imports in Term Contracts

China, the world's second-biggest energy consumer, plans to increase crude oil imports through long-term contracts and cut spot purchases to cushion against price and supply fluctuations.

China cuts oil products import tax for 2008

China will halve its import tax on gasoline, diesel and kerosene to 1 percent next year, the Ministry of Finance said on Wednesday in the latest effort to encourage more overseas buying to meet strong demand.

Dozens die in pipeline fire in Nigeria

A ruptured gasoline pipeline exploded in flames, killing at least 34 people near Nigeria's main city of Lagos as they tried to scoop fuel from the gushing leak, police said Wednesday.

South Korea group to continue Kurdistan project despite Iraqi threat

State-run Korea National Oil Corp said Wednesday it would not abandon an exploration project in Iraqi Kurdistan despite threats by the central Iraqi government to cut off oil supplies to South Korea.

"There is no change in our position to go ahead with the project," Jang Soo-Bum, an official in charge of exploration projects, told AFP.

China promises to promote clean energy

China promised Wednesday to develop renewable energy for its fast-growing economy but warned that coal consumption will grow dramatically and avoided embracing binding limits on its greenhouse gas emissions.

It was all about oil, global warming

THE year two thousand and seven was the year in which global warming finally began to be taken seriously. The climate change deniers were in full retreat, and the realisation that we face a long and grave crisis was finally dawning on the general public. However, it remains to be seen whether it was the year in which the world agreed on effective measures to deal with the crisis.

I see we are creeping back up toward $100 this morning. I wonder if a bad inventory report (tomorrow?) could cause Robert to lose his bet at the last minute?

The report is coming out tomorrow according to the EIA's TWIP web site (http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/twip/twip.asp).

Louisiana sweet is over 100... does that count?

It's above $96.

Gold has also experienced a sharp price jump. As I write this, it's at $824.60/ounce.

Lately I've been listening to right-wing nutcase radio. One of the positive spins they've been touting over the Christmas holiday is that retail sales are poised to get a major boost in January because many people gave gift cards rather than presents this year. I see it differently. Big chain stores like Wal-Mart and Target sell prepaid gift cards. However, there is no guarantee that recipients of these cards will use them to purchase luxury items like color TVs, stereos and jewelry. Rather, they may simply redeem them for food, something they would have to buy anyway. If that happens, the stores may actually have a dismal January, since the gift cards will eat into their cash sales of food, toilet paper and other necessities.

Ozonehole, nice observation. I got a gift card from my employer last year for Buffalo Wild Wings. I still haven't used it because after walking into the place I would wind up spending more that the gift card. A Wal Mart card would have been nice.

Doesn't it follow that the sale is rung up when the gift card is sold?

January will just transfer the goods without ringing up a new sale.

Apparently not the way it works. A liability is recorded on the retailer's books when the card is sold and the cash taken in is the corresponding asset.

The sale takes place when the card is used and the liability created when the card was sold is reduced by the amount os the sale. Expired cards are taken into income. Whether expirations become a sale is not clear to me [I don't think so -- this is probably an "other income and expense" item ].

Gift cards are used as a tender at the time of sale, just like cash, check, or credit card. So sales of product using gift cards will show up mostly in January.

Here's a news article touting the big spending increase expected due to gift cards:

Post-Christmas bounty: $60 billion

Santa wasn't so nice to retailers this year. But stores could now haul in $60 billion over the next 7 days.

By Parija B. Kavilanz, CNNMoney.com senior writer
December 26 2007: 2:43 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Retailers shouldn't write off the 2007 holiday shopping season just yet. Consumers are set to bag $60 billion worth of merchandise over the next seven days, experts say.

Much of that spending - nearly half, according to one estimate - is expected to come when consumers cash in gift cards...

Ya...saw that article. Another thing about gift cards that's becoming more commonplace is expiration dates and limitations on their use.

Yes, I have personally been the recipient of some of those "gift" cards. There were so many conditions of redemption ( expiration dates, and what store it could be used at, and I didn't get any change back ) that the card went unused.

By the time the store had something I wanted, I found my "gift" card was no longer valid and they were going to charge me an "activation fee" right at what the card itself was valued at.

My "benefactor" credited the merchant on my behalf. Geez, I am supposed to be thankful? Well, its the thought that counts, but I sure would have rather had either the cash or spent the money on a shared enjoyment.

I view "gift" cards as yet another construction of the retail industry to relieve people of the frustration of selecting a gift, so they provide something that looks valuable to the gift giver. Its another one of those "think outside of the box" boardroom brainstorms that enrich the merchant by getting those dollars from the gift giver's wallet and into the cash register before some one else does, while burdening the giftee with the responsibility of meeting the conditions of doing business.

No one sells dog food to the dog. He eats what he gets.


Yeah, I really don't understand why gift cards are so popular. I guess it's the general American feeling that giving cash is tacky. A gift card can at least signal that you know the person and gave it some thought. (I considered giving my sister a Home Depot gift card as a housewarming gift when she bought her house...until sanity returned.)

But now there are bank gift cards (which are the worst of all). If you're going to give someone a bank gift card, why not just give cash?

I really don't get it. Why not do like they do in Asia, and give cash, wrapped in red paper or in a pretty red envelope?

I guess this is something that separates engineering types from marketers. Businessmen maximize profit, engineers maximize utility.

That little episode in my life, where I lost my cool in public trying to explain how I thought it was so absurd that the business was penalizing me with such fees - for my failure to redeem my gift card in a timely manner as per their requirements - brought to a head my hatred for how profit-centered and greedy the Christmas season has become for business.

Some little twerp thought this whole scheme up and some executive businessman, looking beyond millions of screwed giftees like myself, actually paid a salary for that kind of thinking. Its amazing the things executives will pay for when they are making far far far more than what they are worth.

Believe me, that little episode cost me far more than the $25 the damned card was worth - in pure hatred for the business institutions that foster such foolishness.

Forgive me for ranting like a madman on TOD, but just recalling the whole sordid affair gives me another irrestible urge to vent venom.


Another "benefit" of gift cards has occurred to me: you can pay for them with credit cards. While you can get a cash advance with a credit card, there are fees, and also some cards have very strict cash advance limits. So gift cards may be preferable, to those who are spending beyond their means.

Very very good point Leanan!

Really, I've been wondering for quite a while why we americans don't just give cash in a little red envelope like the Chinese do. Hallmark etc could even come up with a new line of little envelopes to put cash gifts in....

But of course your mental laser beam cuts right down to the truth.... many Americans are not using cash. They flat-out don't have the cash to put into the little envelopes. Their paycheck is deposited electronically, CC bills paid that way, some of it gets transferred over to their last HELOC, and the HELOC grows, and no cash is involved.

For many, the only way to get their hands on cash is through a cash advance at 30% or higher interest.

Hey, hey... all that "foolishness" as you put it, is counted as part of the GDP. It must be good! It helps prove the economy is robust.


Dear Steve,

Aww, this brings back memories of my dear, departed father. The engineer/farmer loses his cool and can't understand why no one else seems to understand.

re: "Forgive me for ranting like a madman on TOD..."

We seem to be pretty forgiving here - or, try to be, anyway.

Happy New Year.


No forgiveness...just a big thank you for saying (in print) excactly how I feel. Rants like that are appreciated, by me at least. I know how you feel. I refuse to participate in the whole sordid affair. Corporatism is killing us. We'll have nothing to give our children, because of a few sociopathic egomaniacle little $ junkies who can't control themselves enough to see to it that a little bit of the wealth gets circulated to the prolls...(done).


I saw a business report the other night that said the retail industry as a whole gets about a $1 billion dollar gain per year in unused redemptions.

I can't source that number because I saw it on a broadcast TV report....it seems like an astonishing number to me.

But then, I am astonished by most numbers I see nowadays! :-)

Either way, that alone would make the whole gift card thing worth doing for the retailers....


That's the way it is suppose dto work. Knowing the den of thieves that run these predatory chain stores, they'll probably double count it -- once when the gift card is sold, then again when the merchandise is sold.

how are they treated by the irs ? are they income at the time of "sale" ? i would assume so. i doubt the irs allows a retailer to treat them as a deposit. i dunno, i am asking.

Upon "sale" of the gift card, the store debits [increases] cash , and credits [also an increase but on the right side of the double entry accounting equation] a liability account probably titled something like "gift cards outstanding" or some such terminology.

When the happy recipient of the gift card buys something, the debit goes to the liability ["gift cards outstanding] reducing that liability by the amount of the sale up to the value of the gift card and the credit [the right side of the equation] goes to sales.

Until the second transaction [the happy customs using the gift card to obtain merchandise] no true sale has occured unless there is a transaction fee on purchase of the card and then only the transaction fee should be recognized as revenue.

Note that the boost in spending over last year
is in today's devalued dollars, so the
"increase" may not be an increase after all.


Amen Todd. I just found an article online saying that retails sales this Christmas season were 3.6% higher than last year. Many of us suspect that the real inflation rate was around 10% (not the government's "core inflation rate" of 3%). So I would say that most of this "increase" in spending was indeed due to inflation. In fact, one could argue we saw an actual decrease in spending when inflation is taken into account.

Adding to the problem is the fact that stores offered some very heavy discounts this year to encourage customers to spend. While that may encourage more spending, big discounts take away much of the profit. I'd be interested in seeing a figure showing how much actual increase in profits (if any) the stores experienced this year as compared to last year.

Yep...those are the stats that don't get advertised. Sales don't mean squat to a retail company...Gross Margin, Gross Margin % and GMROI (Gross Margin Return on Investment) are the more important business measures.

Exactly. It took me a LONG time to realize this..... the little light bulb lit up when I realized that for all the insane hours I worked, the guy playing banjo at the farmer's markets and train stations, etc., was doing much better and having one hell of a lot more fun.

WSU Researcher Finds Population, Consumption Drive Global Climate Change and Environmental Degradation

A new study by a Washington State University researcher and his colleagues pinpoints the causes of a recent finding by a working group of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change that global climate warming is due to human activities.

The principal factors affecting climate change are the growth of human population and consumption, according to research by WSU sociologist Eugene A. Rosa and his colleagues Richard York, of the University of Oregon, and Thomas Dietz, of Michigan State University.

In fact, their findings suggest the impact of these two environmental stressors is so profound that they may outpace any potential environmental benefits from industrial modernization and improving technologies. Urbanization, economic structure, age of population, and other analyzed factors have little effect, according to their research, which was published in an article entitled, "Driving the human ecological footprint," in the February issue of “Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.”

The principal factors affecting climate change are the growth of human population and consumption


The study is more interesting for what aren't important factors:

This comparative analysis shows that population size and affluence are the principal drivers of anthropogenic environmental stressors, while other widely postulated drivers (eg urbanization, economic structure, age distribution) have little effect. Similarly, increased education and life expectancy do not increase environmental stressors, suggesting that some aspects of human well-being can be improved with minimal environmental impact.

So, according to this study, I get to feel good about biking to work, and I don't have to feel bad that statistically I'll live longer than motorists. A prior study concluded that us bikers would live longer and thereby contribute to climate change more, but this one says increased life expectancy is small potatoes.

while other widely postulated drivers (e.g. urbanization, economic structure, age distribution) have little effect.

I recently read that urban dwellers in China consume 3 times as much energy as rural dwellers. How does the above make sense in that context?

Likely cause is affluence of urban vs rural dwellers.

Our projections indicate that, by 2015, human demands will increase to 1.6 planets

The full article is available here. It's a must-read.

leaving out the GW controversy, environmental degradation is obviously a human problem. Smart growth would be good (minimal footprint per person) but it seems the richrer people get the more toys they have to have and the more travel, etc, gobbling up land, using water for lawns and long bathes and almonds in the desert. We need to reverse the trend to ZPG and ZEG(Zero E conomic growth). I just never heard of asociety that voluntarily gives up evrything for the futrue. It seems we will hit the wall. Maybe Memmel is not right wiht his high tech maxed out 90% depletion theory but it seems a similar way can be used ot look at society. We totally extract all use from earth till the last drop of water, soil, etc. then the system crashes very fast and dieoff is rapid. Maybe the Japanese will avoid this or some fairly commonsense countries with isolated coastlines but otherwise it seems difficult to keep yourslef on top and avoid invasion form starving hordes.

Eugene Rosa says, "There is no magic bullet. The ramifications for our society are potentially profound," he said. "Achieving sustainability may require a fundamental change of values and changes in the way we have been doing things for a very long time."

may require?!

When are people who are in the know going to stop pussy footing around the truth? There is no MAY about it. Isn't it high time to call a spade a spade?

Re: Saudi Post Uptop

. . . experts attributed this surge to new major discoveries as well as the introduction of advanced drilling and production technology.

With some luck, perhaps Saudi Arabia can duplicate the same kind of "success" that Texas experienced from 1972 to 1982, when a vast expansion of drilling--in response to about a 1,000% increase in oil prices--resulted in a production decline of one mbpd, from 3.5 mbpd in 1972 to 2.5 mpbd in 1982.

And some professional geoscientists say it is only a matter of time until "the introduction of advanced drilling and production technology" causes Texas oil production to vastly increase--perhaps even matching our peak production level in 1972, resulting in an "undulating production plateau."

“Saudi Arabia controls more than a quarter of the world’s oil deposits and officials believe there are lot more oil in deep layers and other unexplored areas in the Kingdom,” said Ihsan bu Hulaiga, a Saudi economist.

This is the article -- is this all just hot air, designed to obfuscate and confuse? Would senior officials in the government actually lie to us? Or perhaps the folks at TOD are mis-informed?

Oh God, he's Saudi and an economist. That's like having two degrees in lying about oil.

Continuing with the Titanic Analogy, a comparison I have made before, but which is more apt than ever, IMO:


Do you recall the scene from James Cameron's movie, "Titanic," where the character that played Thomas Andrews--who helped design and oversaw construction of the Titanic--was walking about the ship in wonderment that the ship would soon be at the bottom of the Atlantic and in wonderment at how oblivious most of the passengers were to the mortal danger that they were in?

I think that a lot of Peak Oilers feel a lot like Andrews.

Shortly after the ship hit the iceberg, there were two types of passengers: those who realized that the ship would sink and those who would realize that the ship would sink.

In much the same way, I think that there are two types of Americans today: those who now realize that we can't have an infinite rate of increase in our consumption of a finite energy resource base and those who will realize it.

I remember reading "somewhere" that if the lookout crew of the Titanic had seen the iceberg a minute or 2 earlier that the ship could have been guided past the iceberg without incident. I suspect we have sailed past our short window of opportunity as it relates to Peak Oil and reality will soon be upon us as many have never expected but will soon realize. It should be an interesting 2008. John

As I remember reading the lookouts were sent out without Binoculars because the OD couldn't find the key to the locker, as they were not needed for day watches.

Binoculars may have provided the 2 extra minutes.

I think my local newspaper has an interesting article on this subject. It would seem that the key to the binocular locker of the crow's nest was in the pocket of an officer who was withdrawn from the first, and fateful, voyage.


I don't think that "seeing" peak oil a decade or two earlier would have made the least difference though.

I remember reading (also somewhere) that if the lookout had spotted the iceberg a minute or two later, it would have been too late to turn the ship enough, and it would have hit head-on -- holing only the front compartment or two, thus saving the ship.

Really bad timing.

The fact that the Titanic was going too fast for the conditions appears to be overlooked by almost everyone when the Titanic analogy is discussed. To me this is the most valuable lesson from the entire event. It was foggy. The asshole with the mo ( in the movie version) lets the captain know that the vessel must set a new trans Atlantic crossing time. So the iceberg is sighted too late to avoid, given the speed the ship is travelling. Forget the binos, it was human Pride and Envy that f**ked them up, a major problem we have always had in our societies and always will. The end.

Pride (How big is your SUV?)
Envy (His SUV is bigger than mine!)
Greed (You only worth ONE billion dollars? Loser!)
Gluttony (Think not just food but oil and all resources)
Sloth (Walk? Ride? WTF is this Somalia?)
Wrath (They killed some of us! Kill them! That will solve the problem!!)
Lust (Cos society gives me a f**ked up attitude towards sex)
We Are The First World!
(but not for much longer)

I think that while the 7 deadly sins are bad in a personal way, ie they dont lead to contentment or happiness, on a societal level they are DEADLY cos they lead to collapse.And a society that tolerates them and indeed encourages them deserves to. So I have adopted the point of view that Peak Oil is completely fair and we deserve it. 2008 should be a nasty year for the "sinners" Yeee Haaa!!!

Seen all seven on vanity plates.

Which may in fact make the analogy more apt. The late, slow redirection that we are likely to see in the next decade or two may just prolong things and make the eventual consequences of FF depletion worse... perhaps running into the problem head-on would be preferable - if not in the short term, perhaps in the long term for the mental/practical shift it could invoke... hypothetically

In our case the lookouts did their job and spotted it in plenty of time. . . it was the people in charge that have ignored the warning.

"Unsinkable ships" aren't

Perhaps the greatest post-President to ever live, James Earl Carter, should be re-evaluated as president in light of the energy policy he put in place and Reagan dismantled. Reagan, too, in equal and opposite proportion. Analogous to Clinton and Bush w/re: to al Queda...

We got us some fine damn leadership, I tell ya!


Oh, and Merry Christmas to all! Got me a fine new son just prior to Christmas! Yay! Come the new year, I'm starting him on boot camp training for TEOTWAWKI.


I think I recall that scene. Something to the effect that the ship could float with four chambers punctured but that with five holed "she'll sink within the hour".

Enough chatter for today - time to go secure the lifeboat for this region. I strongly suggest the rest of you start doing the same.

Lifeboats are only intended for temporary survival. The image of the sinking Titanic is a bit too extreme in my view. The U.S. consumes about 25% of the world's FF's with less than 5% of the population. That implies we consume about 5 times as much as the rest of the world. We could survive for a long time on half as much per person, once we are put in that situation. If we used 1/4 the current per capita amount, we would still be ahead of the rest of the world.

To reduce consumption to such lower levels would imply that the indirect consumption of energy would also decline, that is, the consumption of goods and services produced by using FF's. When you consume less, you spend less, therefore each individual won't need to work as much to earn the money to pay for the reduced consumption (I'm thinking real dollars here). The trouble is, how is the amount of energy to be spread amongst the population such that everybody gets what they need to survive? Well, we already have a Social Security program to provide for retired folks that don't work or can't work because of disability. We already have a welfare system for folks that otherwise can't work in the 9 to 5 world. Why is the 5 day work week so important? What if people only worked 3 days a week at the same real pay scale per hour, which would allow other people to work the other 3 days a week? That sounds like the WalMart employment model is the future for most of us.

E. Swanson

In The Jetsons, George Jetson only worked three days a week, three hours a day. A lot of people really thought that's how the future would be, because of automation.

Alas, that's not how it turned out. Even people who are willing to take a pay cut to work part time get resistance from their employers. Why? Benefits. Hiring two people to each work half-time costs a lot more than hiring one person to work regular hours if you have to pay health insurance for them. Heck, it's going even further: many companies are paying overtime in order to avoid hiring more workers.

The largest single expense (aside from payroll) in my office is health insurance.

The "answer" is not going to be found with either the simple-minded solution of Michael Moore, or the unbelievably convoluted proposals of Ms. Clinton. One of the ongoing problems is that "health care" has become an industry, like "defense" and it has a huge political footprint.

The only "answer" is the same as the answer to the peak oil problem -- voluntary restriction of consumption, or collapse of the system. Incremental reforms seem doomed to fail.

the unbelievably convoluted proposals of Ms. Clinton

Are you not embarrassed to repeat that kind of Limbaughesque drivel?

I'm voting Democratic but I find her proposals to be convoluted nonsense - Ms. Clinton proposes not offending the insurance companies while whacking their profit margins. Something has to give somewhere and I truly hope that she isn't the Democratic nominee because she is totally and completely 0wn3d by TPTB.

Edwards first, then Obama, then I hold my nose for Clinton and hope a more progressive Congress can blunt some of the foolishness.

this is not a statement, it is a sincere question.

have people here been watching this onray aulpay thing going on? why shouldn't I vote for him? I think it is oil man bob who has nothing good to say about him. were is omb? search you tube, their is some real momentum here. I need TODers opinions, why shouldn't I vote for this guy?

Leanan, if this is to far out there, please delete. I used Pig Latin because his supporters are all over the internet and I fear they would bombard the place. A bad thing?

"were is omb?"

It's funny, I was thinking the exact same thing today (for the first time too, it's not like the guy's in my thoughts all the time :-).

OMB has been deathly off to the hospital sick. I spoke with him a few days and he will pull through, but there is some luck involved in that. I hope to see him back on here soon.

If you speak to him before he can post please send some kind words on our behalf. I too, have been wondering where he has been. I wish him a speedy recovery.

Hello SCT,

Please, please send many regards and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Same from me, I've been wondering where he is. (I myself recently spent a month in Edinburgh and have been way too busy to post, but I've tried to read through most of the stuff.)

i had missed OMB too.

speedy recovery bob!!!

Tell that old fart to watch his blood sugar and get well asap!

I'd love to see RP become the perfect Peak Oil candidate. IMO, he's right on with almost everything except for energy.

Here's a few thoughts -

1. Create a TOD PO election position campaign.

2. Submit a short clip to YouTube asking each candidate to address on video the national security, economic, and social ramifications of Peak Oil.

3. Ask RP's campaign if they will accept a brief interview from Simmons, Prof. Goose, and/or Leanan on PO. Upload it for the world to see. His campaign loves YouTube.

4. Get DrudgeReport to make a TOD/DrumBeat headline column.

5. Get Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann to start regularly adding PO as one the Top 5 stories of the day and have TOD staffers as the interviewed experts. (who else would like to see Prof. Goose and Leanan on tv?)

...why shouldn't I vote for this guy?

main reason, he's a Libertarian. IMO libertarianism is basically equivalent to idiocy.

Here are a few links to some of the better thought out critiques of 'the guy'



here's why I'm pissed
I became eligible to vote in 1985
George HW was vice pres, then pres, then clinton 8 years, now bush 8 years. (Is it even statistically possible to (legally) get a clinton back in the white house?) There's something rotten in DC.
Peering up from under my tin foil hat I see a political system owned by corporate elites. RP seems to be outside that system and if he can restore habeas corpus and over turn the patriot act then I say great.
There are a great many things I don't like about the guy, but entering into an energy constrained world I'd like to have some basic rights intact.
Sorry for being so off topic here

At the risk of being one of those "one issue" persons I usually decry, I'm considering RP because of a single issue: his respect for the Constitution.

The Founding Fathers believed that the three branches of the Federal Gov would be sufficiently competitive and territorial that they would keep each other in check. But for reasons I don't know, the legislative branch has allowed the executive branch to accumulate excessive power. "Signing statements" and the war powers act and the newspeak patriot act basically give the executive a blank check. Emboldened, the executive tortures folks who are denied habeus corpus, records citizen communications without warrants, witholds records from congress, and more.

I realize that RP's economic notions are radical, but I would hope Congress could hold them to a minimum. I'll take that chance in exchange for a president who doesn't regard the Constitution as asswipe.

Errol in Miami

Peering up from under my tin foil hat I see a political system owned by corporate elites.

Nothing tin foil about that - you are actually spot on. If anything, the ugly reality is probably even worse than that.

It is cheaper for firms to buy laws than to compete in the marketplace.

How about voting for whom you want to be president as the 1st choice?

Personally, I see Dr. Paul making it to the Republican VS Democrat round as one of the only ways to have a discussion about the Money System, Executive orders, and other topics that Americans should really discuss.

Another point of view (from an economist so discount as you will)

Don't worry - no matter who is chosen, most of the people who vote for Dr. Paul will end up dissapointed.

Ron Paul is a fascist.

Don't vote for him.

His fantasy about a U.S. without taxes is a wet dream for corporate American and a total lubeless drilling for the rest of America.

Ron Paul is AIPAC's nightmare and would most likely end up like JFK if elected.

I believe that Ron Paul's response to peak oil [which IIRC is something like "let the market take care of it"] does not fit very well with an issue like peak oil becasue when it becomes abundantly clear that the price signals are real, it will be much to late to begin mitigating the downside.

Having expressed that opinion:

A lot of what has been proposed and what will be proposed as government solutions to peak oil will make the motor fuel problem worse by subsidizing consumption and misallocating supplies. [I could potentially endorse a rationing program if it (i) offered fuel at a relatively high base price in exchange for coupons for a limited ration; (ii) coupons could be freely traded enabling a free market above the base / pump price based on the market value of the ration coupons being traded plus the pump price. Not exactly a free market, but as close are we are likely to get to in a moderately severe crunch without letting lines at gas stations be the dominant rationing technique or rewarding another criminal enterprise via a black market.]

Ron Paul is not by any definition I have read a "fascist". For the most part Mr. Paul's views are those of a constitutionally grounded small "l" libertarian. At the extreme end of the poliitical spectrum on the libertarian side are anarchists. Fascists, Marxist-Leninists, absolute monarchists, theocracies and maybe some other statists types that do not come to mind are at the other end of the spectrum.

The income tax is constitutional in the U.S. It has its very own amendment. Until that amendment is repealed, Congress can levy income taxes and the Executive Branch is bound to collect them and spend the collected monies as appropriated. If as he professes, Mr. Paul believes in the U.S. Constitution, that is that.

Ron Paul is a fascist.

Ok - for the people running for job of 'Da-King who isn't for State and Corporations working hand in hand?

And, please show how the other people "in the running" have a history of "providing lube"?

Why? Because you should be voting for Kucinich. Kucinich has the same respect for the Constitution as Ron Paul minus the extremism. He thinks we should have universal health care, as do I. The US is the only major nation that allows people's lives to be destroyed by medical necessity. This is beyond absurd. Even more absurd, we pay more for the priviledge!

He is against the Bush Doctrine of blood for oil and is aware of Peak Oil while RP is a denier. That alone led me away from an early favorable view of RP.

However, I would enthusiastically support a Kucinich/Paul Unity Ticket.


I'm picking up what your putting down
But RP may stand a chance. Dennis doesn't. OMB (good thoughts) has nothing good to say about him, nor does Ron Patterson, ET's links are sound as far as my leanings, I personally can't get behind the Libertarians but hell, this guy has some momentum. JFK ending certain, but I'm a warrior at heart and an idealist.
Hope that doesn't get me on a no fly list
he seems to have a grasp on the US$ as well.(something I had no idea about until I found TOD (blasted, retched, freaks):-))
I need some sleep, good night

Blasted, wretched freaks ...

Perfect name for a secret society here, I do believe :-)

In many other countries, someone like Kucinich would actually be considered only very slightly left of center. That he is considered an extreme left candidate in the US vividly illustrates what an extreme right wing country we have become.

I could live with a Paul - Kucinich ticket.

I'm voting Dem unless she whose name cannot be mentioned is the nominee. At that point, I'll write in Gore or do some third party. She is a war enabler...and was a Goldwater Girl.

bomb,bomb,bomb, bomb bomb Iran


I'm still holding out a faint hope that Bloomberg will have a go as an independent candidate. If the choice is Clinton v. Huckabee, he might actually have a window of opportunity.

Speaking from the ground in Iowa ... Hillary gets the media play, but 60% of the people here are against her for one reason or another. The Edwards folks will rally round Obama if the need arises.

This coming election will be about change, such as it is here in corpoRATe Amerika, and the media is no longer the message, thanks to those blasted, wretched freaks over at DailyKos.

First time I realized I could be corpoRATe, too.

Cool. Another word to play with, too.


I was actually thinking of the first round of proposals, when her husband was president.

I haven't really looked into the current proposals -- perhaps they are much better thought out.

My answer:

Restructure the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Systems in each state into what are essentially cooperatives, owned by the people of that state. The boards of directors are elected directly by the people. Merge all other health insurance providers into these systems, leaving just a single payer in each state.

Ditch employer health plans. Employers will substitute vouchers equal in value to what they were paying employees, at least initially. Longer term, leave it to employers and employees to negotiate as to what percentage of their compensation is in wages, and what percentage is in the form of these vouchers.

The state health insurance plan will be required to offer a basic health insurance plan essentially equivalent to Medicare A + B + D. The distinction between medicare and non-medicare coverage and patients will thus be eliminated. Various premium add-on coverages will be offered, pretty much taking over the array of present Medigap packages as is, with perhaps a few modifications or additions. Each plan will be structured on a two-tier in-network/out-of-network basis, with minimal or no deductibles or co-pays for in-network treatment.

Eliminate all pre-existing condition exclusions, etc. Coverage shall be available to everyone, at the same price per person.

Develop a government-sponsored reinsurance program for the fifty state plans in order to provide stop-loss coverage.

For those that still can't afford it, a means-tested voucher program can be implemented by the government to assure universal coverage. Medicare and Medicaid both get folded into this program.

Allow the fifty state plans to pool their buying power to contract for the best possible price for medications and other medical supplies & services, for the "in-network" system. Whether or not a state plan gets into actually running clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, etc. will be up to each plan, but they will not be prevented from doing so.

Reform malpractice torts: First set up a review and mediation board that any malpractice complaint must go through prior to going to court; then set up special courts with judges and standing juries that have received some special training so that they are better equipped to make judgements about malpractice cases; limit juries to only deciding whether a defendant is guilty or innocent; finally, the question of compensation from defendants judged guilty will be refer to a separate body of empaneled experts, guided by a standardized guidelines.

Do all of the above and I am certain that we'll have a much better system of health care in the US, and that it will be much more affordable.

"Eliminate all pre-existing condition exclusions, etc. Coverage shall be available to everyone, at the same price per person."

That's a fatal flaw in your plan, since young and healthy people will opt out of the system, thus no spreading of the risk, leaving the premiums too high for the rest. If you want universal health care, force everbody to contribute (and be covered).

The question of how much each person should contribute is a complicated and value-laden one... It depends on what you perceive are a persons "rights" and "obligations". E.g., it could be a fixed amount per person (like a "poll tax", very hard on the poor), or it could be a progressive income tax (putting most of the burden on the rich), or anything in between. The recent experiment in Massachusetts requires all to pay a basic premium, with a sliding scale for the poor.

Fine, do it the Massachussets way and make participation mandatory. I believe that if all the other things I am suggesting were put into place, the cost would be pretty reasonable. Again, some type of government voucher system could be crafted to help those who are hard up.

As a physician, I might be able to add some enlightenment to this discussion. There are 9 physicians and 4 physicians assistants in our practice. Last month, we calculated what our incomes would be if we were paid Medicare rates for all of our patients. We would not be able to stay in business. The average income of our physicians, after malpractice and other overhead would be negative. I can assure you, that after Hillary enacts her version of universal healthcare, most physicians over 55 will quit.

I was discussing the potential for Hillary's election with another physician a few days ago. He had a patient recently who was loudly exclaiming how much better it would be in America if we had the British system of healthcare. This patient had renal failure and was on dialysis. When it was explained to him, that chronic dialysis is only available in the United States after the age of 65, his response was, "I didn't know that."

Clearly there will be a great deal of healthcare savings when rationing is instituted.

It's things like this, and coming from people like you, doctors, that have me leaning against socialized medicine.

Whereas, in a free-market system, maybe doctors will find cheaper ways to do things and make medicine where you can just plain afford it. Most of medicine is, or should be, simple nuts-and-bolt largely preventative stuff, stitching up cuts and that sort of thing. A huge amount of money and profit for the oligarchs in the US are funneled into keeping rather old people alive for that last 6 months so their family can be milked for all they're worth.

A model that's still free-market is the veterinary model. Some people have huge amounts of money to lavish on an animal, most have a sensible amount to allocate to their cat getting neutered or their dog getting his leg pinned after that unfortunate incident with the trash truck. There are wormings and vaccinations, an so on. Most of it bread and butter stuff. Older animals are getting changes in diet prescribed, and you'd not believe this but animals get a fair amount of tumors just like people do. But since it's free-market, the expenses are not outrageous.

And to quote my older sis, crazy cat lady in training, "my cats get better medical care than I do - at least they see the same doctor each time".

You've got something there. I like it. Maybe a supreme court case can establish that humans are animals - we are, after all - and some sort of binding waiver legalized which would remove one's right to litigate over bad outcomes. Then just broaden the veterinarians' purview. Hell, my HMO is already employing people doing all sorts of woo-woo crystal-placebo tap therapy and prayer sessions, some good honest veterinary medicine would be a huge step up.

Having it be legal to have your kids neutered would allow a nuclear family with fewer nuclear accidents and a lower familial carbon footprint. When it's time to be 'put to sleep', you could swing by the vet's and get the "pink shot" to go, and administer it to yourself in your favorite armchair.

And say, be nice to be able to buy your drugs without markup, like you can for your goldfish. Seriously, you can buy all sorts of good stuff for your goldfish. Glad I have one.

A couple of reasons why our free market veterinary care is more efficient, are frequent use of sterilization and euthanasia, without benefit of informed consent of the patient.

Most of us would not advocate a widespread application of such measures for the human population at this time, even if laudable goals might be served, such as control of population, and reduction of exorbitant expenditures for heroic treatments which cannot provide substantially improved quality of life.

Why don't people do even rudimentary research? Why do they believe the propaganda produced by the private insurers? Are they just that dumb?

Here is a tip - Go to: http://www.pnhp.org/

Physicians for a National Health Program is a nonprofit organization of 14,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance.

Here is their faq page: http://www.pnhp.org/facts/singlepayer_faq.php

Here are a few choice tidbits:

Won’t this result in rationing like in Canada?

The U.S. Supreme Court recently established that rationing is fundamental to the way managed care conducts business. Rationing in U.S. health care is based on income: if you can afford care you get it, if you can’t, you don’t. A recent study by the prestigious Institute of Medicine found that 18,000 Americans die every year because they don’t have health insurance. That’s rationing. No other industrialized nation rations health care to the degree that the U.S. does.

What will happen to physician incomes?

On the basis of the Canadian experience, average physician incomes should change little. However, the income disparity between specialties is likely to shrink.

France’s health system is great, but isn’t the cost of universal coverage hurting their economy?

One of the main contentions of those opposing some form of non-profit universal health coverage is that many of these countries are in trouble economically. For instance, France's tax burden as percent of GDP is much higher than ours, it has a larger bureaucracy & higher unemployment (partially because far fewer in prison & they don’t count part-time as employed). According to the CIA "World Fact Book 2006" (available on the web), the French national debt as percent of GDP was exactly the same as ours, 64.7%. Since France's population is 1/5 that of U.S., for comparison, I multiplied French stats by 5. They actually have more gold & currency reserves than we do. The U.S. trade deficit is 4.5 times the French. The French have much higher rates of household savings & lower household debt. Their companies invest a greater percentage of gross revenues on infrastructure. And according to the World Investment Report 2006 of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (available on the web), foreign investment in France is 1.9 times more per capita than in the U.S. However, the French budget deficit was 20% higher than ours in 2006. In 2007, the U.S. significantly reduced its budget deficit, something the French are also working on, but the other stats in France's favor remain. Those who trust the wisdom of private corporations might wonder why the world’s business community prefers to invest in France. So altogether which economy is in stronger shape? The U.S. economy is living on borrowed time & borrowed money. The causes are multi-factorial. However, our health care system is a major contributor.

Anyone who takes even a smidgen of time to research single payer will see that it is the best system no matter how you look at it.

Only someone who is a complete dupe of the insurance industry could believe that our system is better. When will the American people quit helping the corporatists attach shackles to their ankles? When will they quit helping the corporatists ruin the environment? When will they quit helping the corporatists socialize the costs and privatize the profits?

WAKE UP AMERICA!! Quit hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. You will be amazed when you are no longer suffering from the pain of selfishness, of greed, and corporate hate.


I have a very difficult question to ask you. It is difficult because it suggests tremendous change. However, I ask it because I think it is where we are going.

What would the physician income be in your practice if there were 4 physicians and 9 physicians assistants? Not if you were paid Medicare rates for all patients, but if you had the same patient mix? Would the remaining physicians in the group feel comfortable with their income?

I ask because I think as currently practiced, medical care for the baby boomers will break the bank. Even with cuts to physician payments, it will break the bank. Medicare can't change the way we practice, only we can. We will have to find a way to satisfy society's concerns about cost or society will continue to use blunt and ineffective instruments that physicians will continue to find painful.

I struggle to find the solution to our system, however, America spends twice per capita what most industrialized nations spend and yet we have middle range outcomes.

Somehow we have to change the paradigm.



Where is your citation that chronic dialysis is only available in the United States after 65? Here is an article about dialysis rates in Canada http://cecentral.com/nephrology/story/24807

"There is a dramatic increase in the number of individuals aged 65 years or more who are now starting dialysis within Canada and that's kind of a worldwide story," Dr. Sarbjit Vanita Jassal told Reuters Health.

And it is not only recent

The respective survival rates among those aged 75 or older at the start of treatment increased from 67.2%, 32.3%, and 14.2% for 1990-1994 to 69.0%, 36.7%, and 20.3% for 1995-1999.

I wonder if your analysis would still hold true if the the malpractice gorilla on your back were reduced to a very smallish monkey, and if you only had a single payer to file paperwork with instead of a multitude of insurers?

As for rationing and denial of benefits, this is why I think it is important for the single payer to be set up as a cooperative, owned and controlled directly by the people instead of being a government agency. It should be all of us as a society, not just a few cost-cutting bureaucrats, making these kinds of profound life or death decisions.

One of the major problems in the state where I live is that Medicare patients can't find doctors who will accept them. Perhaps you want to add to your list that state-licensed physicians and hospitals must accept patients covered by the state insurance plan.

I do not know enough of the intracacies of your health care system to know how effective these measures would be, but I suspect you are just tweeking a broken system.

The problem with health care is that it is really a sick treatment business. Despite individual ideals, there is little incentive for the industry to reduce the need for its services. Prevention takes a back seat to treatment in many cases.

Yes, let's not take up the "simple-minded" solution proposed by Micheal Moore.

As we all know single payer has not worked in Canada, UK, France, Germany, etc. etc. etc.

That is why they are clamoring for the privilege that we have, that is the right to allow for-profit insurance companies to increase overhead by five times while reducing health care benefits as much as possible. They want more than anything the right to have "experimental" treatments denied in order to fatten up the pockets of the private insurer. They want to have to wait in American style emergency rooms for hours because so many hospitals no longer find them profitable and because the poor have no recourse but the emergency room. They want to socialize the pain and privatize the profit.

Yeah. Such a "simple-minded" solution. Thank god I have a bunch of corporate propaganda to do my thinking for me.

Thanks NeverLNG for your help in reminding us that we should just shut and bleed. It is our duty to make sure that private insurance companies make their bonus targets.

I bet you really cheered when that young woman died because of Cigna's decision to withhold care.

Ho ho ho, scrooge.

Christ weeps.

They hire more people because keeping each individual worker under a certain number of hours makes them part time and they don't qualify for benefits.

That's the Wal-Mart solution. But professionals expect health insurance as part of the package.

Yes, I was going to add that, but it is also one of the reasons that they try and outsource every professional service they possibly can.

As mentioned by someone else, the underlying problem is that health care is not only approached as a money making business (this would not be a major problem if the medical professionals were running it directly), but as a multi layered extortionist monopoly that includes the legal people.

All the health insurance proposals by the candidates (with the exception of Kucinich's that doesn't have the chance of a snowball in hell), are much worse then the existing system as it transfers even more wealth to the insurance and legal cartels.

I don't see how we can fix it. At best we can limit damages by causing all the illegal migrants to self deport.

Having been raised in a medical family, I think the recent U.S. model of medical care is a failure. The U.S. has the best medical care money can buy, but, if you don't have the money, you're out of luck. As mentioned by others, the high cost of medical insurance is killing the U.S. industrial producers when they must compete with companies in other nations where health care is paid for by the national government. We all need health care and providing these needs should be a function of government, just like national defense. It's a sick world we find ourselves living in...

E. Swanson

You are incorrect. The US has the most health care money can buy, not nearly the best. If you look at NCQA data, even those with commercial health insurance don't get all the care they should. http://web.ncqa.org/Portals/0/Publications/Resource%20Library/SOHC/SOHC_... (pdf alert)

Further, this article helps explain why. http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/355/9/861 We physicians are trained as master crafstmen, focused on what we do and not team-oriented, systems-driven activities. As the article discusses, it would take the average primary care physician 18 hours per day to deliver all the preventive and chronic care their patients need. That doesn't include acute care. So docs work extremely hard for 10-12 hours per day, can't fit it all in, and fail frustrated. Fortunately, there are pockets of physician leaders who understand this and are driving systems driven care which delivers routine care much more efficiently and consistently, and, frees doctors up to work on the complex diagnostic and treatment decisions.



Thanks for point to the article in the New England Journal of Medicine. As I read the article, I saw a completely different interpretation than that which you offered. It looks to me like there simply aren't enough primary physicians to meet the basic needs of the population. This is just a reflection of a trend which has been underway for decades, that is, doctors tend to migrate toward the high paying specialist positions, leaving the primary care field behind. This has been an obvious problem, especially outside the larger metropolitan areas where life is less interesting and there are many more poor people. The same situation exists in the field of dentistry, as reported in THIS ARTICLE.

It's long been claimed that the AMA has limited the number of students allowed into medical training to keep the number of doctors limited, thus resulting in higher fees for the doctors. Whether this is true or not, we now find many doctors who have been trained outside the U.S. that immigrate here for work. For whatever reason, the fact that there are fewer doctors than might be needed does result in higher payments for those who do make it into the profession. The specialist are highly compensated as well, with lots of doctors who can perform angioplasty, liposuction, stomach stapling or "breast enhancement" surgery. But, as far as the general health of the population is concerned, the primary physicians are the folks that actually deliver health care and the fact that our system does not provide enough is a damning condemnation of the basic system.

Worse yet, the system relies on insurance provided by employers, which leaves others literally out in the cold. The poorest folks lacking insurance must go to the hospital emergency rooms for care, often waiting until a condition has become critical and thus more difficult to treat. Then, the hospital often charges other patients extra to cover the cost of the free treatment given to the poor in the emergency room. Over and over again, stories appear about poor people that do not have the money to pay for their medicines or doctor bills. My original point was that if one is rich enough, one can go to the best doctors and make use of the best medical facilities.

Read the article again. I think it proves my point.

In 1998, half of internal medicine residents chose primary care; currently, about 80 percent become subspecialists or hospitalists...

If the system is broken, tinkering around the edges won't fix it. Letting the guys that built the system do the tinkering might be even worse...

E. Swanson

Moving to a universal single-payer plan (NOT a government-run plan) and establishing some REASONABLE limits on malpractice awards are the two single most effective things we could do to make progress against this mess.

The Republicans will block anything that moves us toward a universal single-payer plan, because that might upset the insurers (campaign $$$).

The Democrats will block tort reform, because that might upset the trial lawyers (campaign $$$).

Thus, gridlock. No significant improvements will happen. The best bet would be for the federal government to get totally out of the health care business, and devolve the whole stinking mess down to the states. Then, at least some of the states might be able to free themselves from the special interest gridlock and get something done.

Uh, what's to keep the doctors from moving from the single payer states to those which retained the present way of doing things? What's to keep the sickest people from moving to the states with the single payer states, to get treatment?

The problem as I see it is that we've allowed our health care system to become a profit making enterprise, when health care might be better offered as a regulated monopoly, such as we used to have for the electric power industry. Would a single payer system be any different than a government system? Look what's happened to the states where electricity was deregulated and think of our present patchwork insurance and HMO health system as being similar. I know, I know, all y'all are going to scream "Socialism", but the electric monopolies we had before the neocons deregulated sure seemed to work, compared with what we've seen these few years. Remember the grand promises of lower cost electricity? We got ENRON instead, which led to PG&E going thru bankruptcy.

E. Swanson

I agree with you E. Swanson. The default belief nowadays seems to be that the 'government is the problem' and can't be fixed so everything has to be done in some convoluted, quasi-free market manner. IMO if we totally give up on having an effective government, we are screwed no matter what.

Crazy totoniela type idea: We need a national, one payer health care program as good as or possibly better than Canada's. Set up a 'national health corps' of hospitals, doctors, clinics, etc. (just a massively ramped up version of the pitiful system that passes for 'public health' system today). Finance it with direct government money that used to go for war, war-on-drugs and other stupid nonsense. This would fix two problems simultaneously, the health care needs and the need to get massive amounts of cash into people's hands to goose the economy.

What would the insurance companies do? Screw 'em. Their laid off workers could work for the new health care system. Besides, people could still opt for private insurance and health care if they wanted to.

Advantage for Doctors? Little worry about malpractice liability. Ability to actually practice medicine in a manner that benefits the patients (or 'clients' as some like to call the customers). Subsidized medical school expenses in return for a few years of service in the National Health Corps.

Well, I've got lots of details to work out before I get the nod to be 'king of the world' and implement all my wacky ideas.

Canada's is NOT a national system, it is a provincial system.

I'm opposed to a national system because the federal government has done such a bad job with almost everything it touches. The US political system has become almost totally dysfunctional. The last thing we need is to literelly entrust it with our lives; that is a recipe for disaster.

I'd rather take my chances with 50 state systems. Some of them will undoubtedly be very good, others not good at all. People livin in states with poor systems will soon start asking why their state's system cannot be as good as those of some other states; that, at least, provides somethign of a corrective mechanism. If worst comes to worst, people can always vote with their feet.

The adverse selection problem (people moving to better states) can be solved by a nationwide reinsurance program to provide stop-loss coverage for each state's plan. That is the one and only way in which the federal government should have any involvement at all in health care.

As to doctors moving, it could just as easily be the other way. Reduce the malpractice gorilla on their backs down to a smallish monkey, and that's going to start to look pretty attractive. Cut the multiplicity of insurer's paperwork down to a single payer that is responsive to what the PEOPLE want rather than maximizing profits, and that is going to be looking VERY attractive. I rather doubt that there are all that many health care professionals that are all that thrilled about the status quo.

We in the US have been thoroughly brainwashed into thinking that there are only two possible economic arrangements: unregulated predatory capitalism or state socialism. This is not true, there are forms of cooperative ownership (publicly owned but not government owned) that can avoid the worst abuses and failures of each extreme. Health care is one area where a cooperative solution would work very well. Even COMPETENTLY regulated capitalism would be an improvement over what we have now.

Black Dog,
The problem isn't that we have too few doctors. The problem is we have limited various tasks to doctors, tasks that could easily be done by non-physicians. The AMA has not only limited the number of physicians but also held back the scope of practice for physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Why should we pay physician salaries for treating colds, sore throats and simple hypertension or uncomplicated diabetes? Why should we pay physicians to make sure Mrs Jones gets a mammogram? It isn't a diagnostic dilemma, if she is over 40 and hasn't had one in two years or over 50 and hasn't had one in one year, and she has breasts, then she gets a mammogram.

Regarding your comments about the rich being able to go where they want to. There are no hospitals in the US which do not take commercial insurance or Medicare. Thus, there are no hospitals that the rich can go to that most Americans cannot. (The uninsured and medicaid insured are a different story.) There are no physicians in the US who refuse commercial insurance and have proven higher levels of care. The rich may be able to go around insurance and pay more, but I challenge you to show that they get better care. The sad truth in health care is that the quality problems are systemic and across the board. As the Institute On Medicine reported, Americans have a 50-50 chance of getting the right care when they come in contact with the US health care system.

Currently we are struggling with MRSA infections. These are staphlococcus that are resistant to most antibiotics. They are in all hospitals except those which recently instituted system-based infection control. Don't matter how rich you are, when you go into the hospital, you have the same risk of acquiring an infection with a drug resistant organism. You still have the risk of medical error. And, as one of my medical school professors told me when I was the intern taking care of him. "You never want to be a VIP in the hospital. People do things for you that are outside their routine systems and that's when things fall through the cracks."

Finally, the rich have no way of knowing who the best doctors and best hospitals are. There is very limited published data showing clinical quality differences between doctors or hospitals. Some states are publishing data, for instance PA has the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council which collects discharge diagnosis, outcomes and charge data for every hospital admission in the state. ABout 13 states collect similar data.

In fact, the doctors don't know who is best and who isn't. Most physicians don't track their clinical performance, nor their patients' outcomes. If you want to do it, you can pull a sample of paper charts (pulling all the hypertension patients' charts is time prohibitive), you can create an electronic disease registry using free software like CDEMS, or you can install and use electronic health records (approx 33% of primary care practices). HOwever, most physicians don't do any of the above and organized medicine has so far fought attempts to systematically gather the data. So if I as a physician cannot tell which of my peers are the best at delivering great cardiac care, how is the general public??? Doesn't matter how much money they have, they can't buy data that isn't collected.

Finally, I agree that the economic incentives drive physicians into specialty care. If I can make 3x the money pushing a flexible tube up a rectum, why not? The sad part is that colonoscopy (the tube) is a purely manual task that doesn't require knowledge of gastrointestinal pathophysiology. This would be a perfect task to train non-physicians to do. But because it makes more money than thinking through a difficult case, the AMA makes sure that only physicians do the work.

In the US, we have quality and cost problems. Being rich won't get you great care. Finally, if you go back to the article on the survival of primary care, you will find a paragraph that talks about micro-system design. There are practices who are measurably improving the care they deliver. In fact, when we started using process improvement at a local community health center (the places that treat the poor that nobody else wants to treat), we were able to move our performance on certain diabetes care measures to the 95% percentile of ALL physicians in the country (based on NCQA data). The really ironic thing about health care quality right now is that the folks who are moving to the front are academic centers, the VA outpatient system, large integrated hospital/physician systems and lo and behold, community health centers.

Private practice physicians are stuck in a cultural ravine, where they are trying to do the work themselves, because that's how we are taught. Since they run their own shops they and their "organizations" don't have to change. If you look at the research on quality of care, physicians are better at complex clinical care, chronic care is more routine as is preventive care. It turns out that nurses are better at these areas than physicians are when the operate under standing orders developed by physicians.

(PS, I have practiced in private practice, community health centers, academic internal medicine practices. I have also worked for a health system, a small health care data consultancy and served as medical director of a Federally Qualified Community Health Center.)

Thanks for the long and thoughtful reply. Since I'm not directly involved with the present medical world, there's much in your comments which I did not know.

One more thought though. How many bad doctors continue to practice, even though they have been clearly shown to be incompetent? The threat of a malpractice suite and the high insurance rates for repeated claims may function to eliminate bad physicians from the system, but, as you note, without the data, how can there be any "quality control"? Since the lack of data would appear to be the source of much of the problem, were there to be a single payer for all medical providers, wouldn't it then be possible to detect and discipline or remove the poor performers? How can the medical world police bad performance when the judges are peers?

Doctors are human and make mistakes. The outcome of any treatment is always uncertain, especially when surgery is involved. I think many people have the notion that a medical doctor can perform miracles, when it's said that there are no miracles in medical science. The malpractice mess may be a reflection of the success which the medical community has had in selling their services.

Your mention of nurses as providers of care is spot on. In my father's day, nurses provided most of the real hour by hour care in the hospital. There was always a shortage of nurses, due to the high turnover rate, so, when my father and his associates built a hospital, they also built a nursing school next door. From what you wrote, I suspect things haven't changed much, only that the technology has improved.

E. Swanson

Quality of care is inconsistent from provider to provider. Physicians whose quality isn't up to their peers often are not detected, because we don't have great data. Insurers tried "economic credentialing" at one point and the reaction was stark and angry. They are hard pressed to develop clinical measures other than repeated settled or lost malpractice cases, that they can use to remove those who provide less than high quality care. The legal costs are too high.

Further, what we now realize is that poor care is more of a systems problem than an individual mistake. For instance, redundancy catches mistakes, lack of redundancy allows mistakes to cause harm. Yes we all make mistakes, so do the folks putting the breaks on your car. However, the auto manufacturers have much better quality control processes than we do.

One of the underlying problems is that we physicians are taught well what patients need and not at all on how to consistently deliver it. As Peter Drucker often wrote, the value of the knowledge expert lies not in how much he knows, but in how well he makes that knowledge usable to others.

Forgive me for pointing out that some participants in the above discourse are missing the point - personal responsibility for one's own health

Health is influenced by factors in five domains — genetics, social circumstances, environmental exposures, behavioral patterns, and health care (Figure 1).10,11 When it comes to reducing early deaths, medical care has a relatively minor role. Even if the entire U.S. population had access to excellent medical care — which it does not — only a small fraction of these deaths could be prevented. The single greatest opportunity to improve health and reduce premature deaths lies in personal behavior. In fact, behavioral causes account for nearly 40% of all deaths in the United States.

The above is from an article in the New England Journal of Medicine We Can Do Better — Improving the Health of the American People

My wife is a GP in the UK and she gets to see each patient for 10 only minutes on average. Anyone can make an appointment and be seen the same day if it is an urgent matter. If any of the non-Europeans reading this were to come, they could register for free - quite insane but it seems to work.

Recently, an American study showed that the health of the lower-income British was on average comparable to that of middle-class Americans and that of the middle-class British it was better than that of the upper-income Americans. I will provide a link if I get to find the article.

Also, don't forget that expenditure on healthcare, per capita, in the UK is a lot lower than the USA. Read Dean Baker's commentary on economic reporting

Black Dog, I will testify that the medical profession does seem to be actively trying to limit entry to its profession.

I can recall an op-ed piece in a major metropolitan newspaper oposing the licensing of a medical school at a local university. It contained nonsense about how it would cause a 'physician glut' that would somehow lower the availability of health care, basically repealing the law of supply and demand. I don't know how the editor was persuaded to run that large stinking load, but the article was clearly a piece of propaganda by a powerful 'vested interest'.

Errol in Miami

"If the system is broken, tinkering around the edges won't fix it. Letting the guys that built the system do the tinkering might be even worse..."

Yep. Plus we have too common a perception that fixing health problems is the way to health - rather than real prevention.

yeah, what was george's wife's name ? i remember the son was elroy and the dog astro.


I realise the US is the great individualistic hyperpower with a strong Not Invented Here syndrome, but you could always just copy a working health care system from elsewhere. i.e. France or The Great White North, from which comes your frigid weather.

On Nov 17 this year, I fell off a ladder about 12 feet and landed on some rocks. My sweetie drove my semi-conscious bod to a modest hospital in a nearby town (pop ~50,000). Apparently within minutes if not seconds I was on the X-Ray table. Somewhere they asked her for my health card and she gave them my wallet where they found it. Nine days in acute care, the first two with my very own personal nurse 24 hours a day, the rest with a nurse for five patents. Two broken ribs, smashed right shoulder, busted pancreas, bruised kidneys, hole in lung, major concussion. I was seen by countless docs that would come and poke or peer or listen and order this or that; a CAT here or a whatever there. Everyone was astonishingly kind and gracious and respecteful of human dignity. They finally sent me home with enough drugs until I could see my doc. They had made sure I had an appointment with her the next day and when I got home, there was a home care therapist waiting for me. She came every couple of days until I was able to drive(sort of). No highways. They then arranged physio-therapy at the hospital which will extend into the indefinite future.

The total cost for this:
Exactly precisely zero.

I think our per-capita health care costs are about half of our neighbours? to the south.

You could do worse.


ps. I celebrated Xmas by getting off the morphine.

ps2. It is an extremely odd experience to look at a book my sweetie brought in about a week into the adventure and recognize the individual words, and have absolutely no idea what the sentence was. It's slowly coming back.

In the US you'd be in hock for the rest of your life, sued, judgements applied against you, and in fact, some hospitals keep patients hostage until payment is come up with, somehow. A friend of mine escaped one such hospital.

I'd expect a certain amount of body part harvesting too, so if you're banged up but fairly healthy otherwise, you might not come out of there alive- a few of your pieces will live on though.

Be glad, be very glad, you had people with you who'd have avenged your death!

This is one of the very scary aspects of not having powerful family in the US.


Not the case in OH. Less than full time don't get bennies. Hence, the move to hire part timers (in some industries), especially in retail. We're a "will to work" state, translation; screw you drone!


Could the US function with a quick reduction in available fossil fuels? Thinking mainly in the area's of transportation and access to vital infrastructure.

Here in the UK, notwithstanding the massive disruption I can see on the horizon, at least a major part of infrastructure is reachable by walking or cycling.

I live in a city of around 180,000 and the majority of people ae within 30 minutes walk of a shopping centre. Few minutes to a bus stop and at a push 60 minutes to a main line railway station. The scale is manageable without cars and had to be for most people until around 40 years ago. Its also probably the reason why the per capita consumption of oil is that much lower here than in the US.

I have my doubts if much of the US could cut consumption to the UK level or lower without serious social disruption.

It needs to be understood, too, that when talking in terms of global averages, the "average" person lives in a tropical or subtropical region. People like those of us in the US living in temperate or colder regions are the exceptions. We would still need to use a little more energy than the global average because we'll always be colder than those in the tropics.

A person living in a bamboo hut in the tropics, within a short walk of their rice paddy, really needs very little energy beyond their own food consumption. Just a little bit for cooking, and that is about it. Try to live on that little energy up here, and you WILL freeze.

The U.S. consumes about 25% of the world's FF's with less than 5% of the population.

With the decline in the USD, the growing demand in other nations, the growing awareness in other nations of the unfairness of this distribution, the US will soon no longer be in a position to acquire 25%. No one seems to talk about that. A production decline is not necessary for the US to experience a massive decline in access to fossil fuels.

Your comments imply a rather remarkably stable and linear change pattern. Show me where large reductions in a key resource has happened before without major change, except on a small scale and in a state-controlled (in all the myriad forms) economy, and I'll listen harder. The only one I can think of is Cuba, but it's run by a strongman and is a collectivist society. One of the weaknesses of democracies/republics is the lack of central authority in times like those we face.

A paradigm shift is due. Communism ain't it, but neither is capitalism and eternal, exponential growth.

I have always wondered if they could have bought some time if they had tried to concentrate all of the pumps on just one of the sections (ideally the one that had the smallest holes). For all I know they may have tried something like this..

For some reason, I think of those folks whenever I put on my 7mm wetsuit.

China wants to boost middle class

China hopes to grow its middle-class to more than half of its population by the end of the next decade, a Communist party planner said Wednesday.

The goal is part of quadrupling China's per capita gross domestic product by 2020, said Zheng Xinli, vice-minister of the Communist party's Central Policy Research Office.

A bigger middle class will also challenge the government to provide greater social security and services and better education systems, Zheng said at a news conference.

"A growing middle-income population will ensure that more people will benefit from reform so that our reform will be endorsed and supported by more people," Zheng said.

Absolute Howler of a contradiction: A Middle Class in a Communist country!!

What is even more of a hoot is that someone thinks China runs as a true Communist system!!!!

China is just nominally a communist country.

It does not even qualify as socialist country as the level of social protection is far lower than the ex-socialist countries or the countries in Western Europe.

I'd rather describe China as state capitalism. But they seem to evolve.

China is a country practicing feudal capitalism.
Most of China was still a feudal state in the 1930's, and combined with Confushism and hard wired family and social practices, a marxist revolution with internal democracy was impossible. Just look at the cultural revolution---
Anyway, this is another discussion---
State capitalism might be a kinder term.

I will give China credit for getting one thing right - the one-child per family policy. It's probably the most humane way for a society to reduce population. Sure, there is a downside - we've all heard about forced abortions, but this is certainly better than the traditional means of population control (famine and war).

Of course, it's also necessary to point out that one reason China has such a large population today is because Chairman Mao told everyone to have at least 5 children in order to "increase socialist production." The one-child per family policy was only instituted after Mao's death. It also worth mentioning that rich families, or those with political influence, can buy their way past the one-child policy. And poor rural folks will sometimes resort to "stealth births" to get past the one-child formula, though they risk hefty fines and other penalties. So no, it's not a flawless policy. But when I look at India, Bangladesh, the Middle East, most of Africa, Latin America, etc, I can only conclude that China's system is an improvement. Still, with 1.3 billion people today, even China will be hard-pressed to feed all those mouths as world oil production declines.

Yes, the one child rule has helped, and without religion as a factor with the state, these policies are possible, as is not the case in Middle East, Latin America, etc where peoples lives are ruled from Bronze And Iron Age fictional texts.
China is a environmental disaster, and one of the least sustainable places on earth, and is only thriving because of superstition based economic models (capitalism).
This will soon change.
My niece from China spent a year with us in Norther California, so I was able to pick up on further insights, and my brother just returned from mainland China, and was more horrified than his usual dismay when in China.


The USA is a environmental disaster, and one of the least sustainable places on earth, and is only thriving because of superstition based economic models (capitalism). This will soon change!

Well, according to a Wickepedia entry..."steepest drop in fertility occured in the 1970's BEFORE 1 child was implemented in 1979. This is due to the fact that population policies and campaigns have been ongoing in China since the 1950's."

aka "1 is good, 2 is ok, 3 is too many" ....I could not find any reference to Mao advocating 5 children per family in effort to "increase socialist production".

As I recall US had a demographic bulge after WWII known as the baby boom. Perhaps that was Truman's fault?

But ok we will blame the evil Mao Tse Tung for China's population boom, after all before 1949 life expectancy in China was 35 years while at the time of his death it was over 70 years. Wicked mass-murderer Mao.

fully agree with the points sldulin raised.

anyone knows about China would consider Mao's call for every family to have 5 children a population control measure because the trandition before 1949 had forever been "the more the better."

I'd like to point out that when China implemented the one child per family rule, they did so when the population of that country was 1 billion. Now the population is 1.3 billion. While they probably would have a greater population without the policy, I don't think it was very effectively implemented. Theoretically, they should have had a massive decrease in population.

Theoretically, they should have had a massive decrease in population.

Not necessarily. It depends on the demographics. If, say, 90% of the population were children when "One Child" was implemented, you expect the population to keep increasing anyway. Since only a small percentage of the population were actually breeding at the time, and there were a lot more reaching breeding age behind them.

For similar reasons, even though world fertility is dropping, the world population is expected to keep rising for decades to come.

The one child per family policy was implemented back in 1979. That's almost 30 years. Certainly whatever demographics existed at the start of the program would have been evened out by now. The truth is Chinese births have fallen to 1.7 per woman in China. But that's still much more than one child per family. Given that not all women are capable/choose to have children, the actual average is closer to 2 children per family. That coupled with a larger initial younger demographic has resulted in the increase. A strictly implemented program would not have seen the increase in Chinese population that exists today, although it would be far greater without it. But given the massive numbers of starving Chinese we'll see in the coming decades, I think the program will be ultimately viewed as having not been implemented strictly enough.

Japan's births have been falling recently and are currently about 1.3 per woman. Japan's population is expected to fall from a current 120m to 90m by 2050. That doesn't tell the whole story either. The average age of marriage and child birth has moved far back as well in that country, from early to late twenties. That's also serving to reduce population.

The truth is Chinese births have fallen to 1.7 per woman in China. But that's still much more than one child per family.

Yes, but it's also below replacement value. I think it's worked out as they intended, more or less.

Japan's births have been falling recently and are currently about 1.3 per woman.

And, as in Europe, this is seen as a serious social problem. One Japanese politician has even suggested cutting off social security for any Japanese woman who has not had at least one child.

At least China acknowledges that population is the problem, not the solution.

And, as in Europe, this is seen as a serious social problem. One Japanese politician has even suggested cutting off social security for any Japanese woman who has not had at least one child.

No kidding.

The government here is desperate to get people to have more kids. The government even goes so far as to pay people to have babies. ie they hand out money to offset any costs incurred when having children.

Some upper class Chinese have been getting around the 1 child policy by having invitro fertilization and having twins.

Just look at the cultural revolution---

what do you see?

I see the Cultural Revolution only possible with the conditions of Feudalism and Confushism (codependent origination, as the buddhist point out, or causal to the greek centered westerners)--
As much as Mao fought against thses values, they became the dominate theme of the reaction.

Karlof: The childish myth of a Middle Class created by "Capitalism" is hard to kill. News flash: The United States of America, your great capitalist wet dream, was an increasingly Socialist country for approx 40 years, from the 30s to the 70s. The maximum income tax rate hit 90%. This is where your beloved Middle Class came from, Socialism. It has been in a long dismantling phase for 30 years.

This is where your beloved Middle Class came from, Socialism.

HaHa trolling BrianT ?

I went to a liberal arts, religious affiliated US college in the plains in '71 with a developing interest in a degree that didn't exist, to my knowledge, then - political psychology. The observation in the above quote, whether right or wrong, can sure raise hackles in this country ...still !

Political ideology/behavior is soooo irrational.

It's been mentioned recently that the large Union membership and the large middle class in the US in the 1950s were not a coincidence.

Those large union memberships were possible because they were protected by tarrifs. With globalization, the race is on to lower all of us to the level of Chinese or Bangladeshi peasants. The percentage of union membership has been declining as the percentage of imports has been increasing, that that also is no coincidence.

The republicans hate FDR for the steps that he took to 'save capitalisim from itself' and could not wait to unleash the dogs of 'free market, self regulating, trickle down, capitalisim'...Isnt that working out well?

FDR just keeps looking better and better, and the Republicans just keep looking worse and worse.

Unfortunately, New Deal Democrats are now an extinct species, as are liberal Republicans.

As Dmitri Orlov said, in the US we have The Capitalist Party, and The OTHER Capitalist Party.

China is now just a gigantic corporation with 1.2 billion employees. It's structure is the same, people in positions of power that get there both by their abilities and by the grace of those already in power. Those at the top are the elite, concentrating the power and decission making with those at the top. The lowly "worker" is just a slave to the system.

At least here we can vote out those who we don't want.

have they calculated exactly how much coal, oil and gas that will take per person per annum and who on eath will have to do wtih out so they can live the good life?

'and who on earth will have to do without so they can live the good life?'...

Surely you jest? The SCO is going to continue on their current path and they could care less who will do without. China did without for a very long time and now they feel that they have the pieces in place to be seated at the table with the 'haves'...and if some currently at the table of the 'haves' become FWOs in the process, well, thats life. Perhaps if you and I take a look in the mirror we might see a couple of people that will do without?

BrianT posted a few days back (paraphrasing)'that China is using its brand of capitalisim/communisim to attempt to better the living standards of largest possible number of Chinese. While the current US capitalist model is being used to better a tiny fraction of the US population.' I believe that BT made a very accurate comparison of the two countries policies at this time.

Iran, Malaysia sign $16B gas deal

Iran and Malaysia signed a $16 billion agreement to develop two Iranian gas fields, state-run television reported Wednesday, describing the deal as the largest energy contract in Iran.

And the economic good news continues...

Home prices post record drop

"No matter how you look at these data, it is obvious that the current state of the single-family housing market remains grim," said Robert J. Shiller, chief economist at MacroMarkets in a release.

CIBC predicts more losses for Merrill Lynch

Whitney expects Merrill Lynch to take a writedown of up to $7 billion because of bad bets on the mortgage industry. The writedowns come on bonds and other debt backed by mortgages, many of which are backed by subprime mortgages - loans given to customers with poor credit history. As mortgages have increasingly defaulted, investor demand for the bonds has dwindled.

Merrill Lynch already took a writedown of nearly $8 billion in the third quarter related to the declining value of mortgage-backed debt.

As we have frequently discussed, food & energy, food & energy.


States chop '08 spending plans
By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

The housing market meltdown and fears of an economic downturn are prompting state and local governments to cut spending plans for next year.

Severe budget problems have arisen in states where home values have deflated most, including California, Florida and Nevada. In other states, strong revenue growth has turned sluggish.

"We're hoping for an upsurge in the coming months, but we're bracing for the worst," says Massachusetts state Rep. Mark Falzone, vice chairman of the budget committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures. . .

. . . The budget problems are not nationwide. Texas, Kansas and Washington are among about a dozen states enjoying strong economic conditions. Oregon mailed $1.1 billion in tax refunds to residents because income tax collections surpassed expectations.

Energy and farm states are doing especially well. So are states that didn't have big real estate busts. . . .

Exactly, I don't understand how some think that oil prices can reach new highs without affecting prices of oil substitutes like corn for ethanol. Corn is my favorite rant topic because it is so obvious with corn. Those who say corn causes rising food prices as in the ethanol article up top earn my special ire. They blame corn for rising bread prices when bread is made from wheat. Australia has suffered a devastating drought that some think was linked to global warming. It has resulted in a dramatic drop in wheat production and a replacement of the former global warming denying government. Is corn responsible for this? I don't think so. There is a surplus of corn as evidenced by the carryout at the end of the crop year.

Here are the main culprits in rising food prices:

1. The Federal Reserve System and it's wildly inflationary monetary policy which resulted in the dot come bust, the housing bust, and now the commodities boom (and eventual bust).

2. Irresponsible fiscal policy by the Bush Administration and the lap dog Congress which went along with all the deficit spending.

3. The Iraq war and the waste of resources being dumped down that black hole.

4. Peak Oil, since more oil is used in food production and processing than corn or ethanol, according to analysis using EROEI (which I reject as being flawed by the way).

5. Weather which has been unusual the last few years and has resulted in dramatic declines in wheat production.

That corn and ethanol have to take the blame for the above in grossly unfair and just plain stupid.

They blame corn for rising bread prices when bread is made from wheat.

Has anyone explained to you how farmers take wheat out of production and put the land into corn because of the higher (subsidized) price for corn?

It's almost as simple as 2+2=4.

All bread is not made from wheat. I bake cornbread from cornmeal using two very old and large black iron skillets. Wrap the bread well in Saran or a similar wrap to keep it from drying out. Once a week usually provides enough corn bread for an entire week and while the oven is fired up we might do a cake or a couple of pies or oatmeal cookies with pecans and rasins. Since I was brought up eating a lot of cornbread I never aquired a taste for what we called 'light bread'. When we buy bread from our local bakery it is multi-grain for sandwiches and French baguettes for use with breakfast. Baguettes (French cut of course) make great French toast.

I have an outdoor ss grill with several extra propane tanks and have baked cornbread and pies in that thing several times during hurricane caused power outages. It also has a side burner that gets hot enough to do stir fry in a wok. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes its easy to be prepared for power outages that last a week or more. We have been through so many hurricanes that we know what to expect and when the power goes out... its a ho-hum affair. Get a generator large enough to run the frig/freezer (so your food does not spoil), several fans, the overhead fans, and a few lights, two computers, etc. Keep enough fuel on hand to run the generator for at least a week...and leave off with the comments about how dangerous storing fuel is, I have heard it all before and have been storing fuel for over fifty years. Life is dangerous no matter what but one must use common sense and care in fuel storage. AC is not an essential unless there are elderly and infirm people in the house. My wife and I grew up in the south without AC and can get along fine without it. BTW, we have enough corn meal stored to bake bread for many years to come. Be prepared! :)

And let us not forget the noble tortilla, one of the greatest foods, ever! Corn bread, hominy, tortillas, masa, all that good stuff, all corn.

Frankly I don't know why anyone eats wheat, just a tradition I guess.

I want to see Denny's come up with a "tortilla slam" and serve corn tortillas instead of those awful pancakes, bleh. I think it would be a hit.

Fleam, right on. When I eat pancakes they sit in my stomach like a big rock and take hours to digest. I stopped eating them long ago.

Most of my wheat intake is pasta, not bread...I have no idea what the shelf life of pasta is but it might rival twinkies. I keep lots of boxes of every sort of pasta in storage.

I subscribed to Mother Earth News in the 70s-80s...I remember reading a study that was published in MON that claimed 'beans eaten in combination with corn creates a protein'. I dont know if this has been confirmed or found to be false but a lot of our brothers to the south live on a diet of primarily corn and beans and seem to be thriving...when they have enough calorie intake to remain healthy.

'beans eaten in combination with corn creates a protein'.

The general vegetarian mantra includes beans and rice. Together they contain all 8 essential amino acids for protein production. I'm not sure about beans and corn.


Beans and corn produce a "complete" protein, that is the eight necessary proteins for human life.

A little research goes a long way.

Et. I'm sure that's brown rice, if true.

Has anyone explained to you how farmers take wheat out of production and put the land into corn because of the higher (subsidized) price for corn?

Well, there are a few places where farmers can switch back and forth, but corn land doesn't always work well for wheat, and I can guarantee you that there is a LOT of wheat land that will definitely NOT work well for corn -- unless they apply lots of irrigation water that they just don't have.

Then you have the issue that, except in the far North, most of the wheat grown is winter wheat, grown in a succession/rotation schedule. You can't decide to switch from corn to wheat just like that, it is more complicated.

Finally, there is the fact that harvesting corn and wheat requires different equipment. Wheat farmers actually have it kind of good in that they can rely upon custom cutters working their way north through the prairies each season, thus avoiding the need to buy their own equipment. Because the corn belt is spread out horizontally rather than vertically, harvests tend to take place in a more compressed time frame, and thus a market has never opened up for a corn belt equivalent of the wheat custom cutters. Thus, most corn farmers must make a substantial investment in their own equipment. They are not going to do this unless they know for sure that they are going to stay in the corn business over the long term. That is not the same thing as switching back and forth between corn and wheat from one year to the next.

Here's an interesting article about switching to corn. The article claims that wheat, soybeans, and cotton fields are being switched over to corn. Money quote:

Still, there's no doubt that many farmers are trying to cash in on the corn bonanza, typically by planting fields where they'd normally plant soybeans or wheat or, in the South, cotton. The USDA estimates the farmers will plant 20 percent fewer cotton acres this year, and soybean acreage will drop by 11 percent.

Here's the article:

Kentucky, Illinois and Southern Missouri,

all three switch easily from corn to wheat to soybeans.

In fact many do a two-year,three-crop rotation. Right now lots of winter wheat in the ground due to the increase in wheat.

Sometimes we are more heavy on corn or beans.

Same ground, just a different header on the combine, and setting the planter with different parameters.

Up north they may be more constrained but from what I read the answer is that they are not.

Truth though is that we never get great yields on wheat here. About 35 to 45 bu/ac but it pays the bills and rotation is beneficial. We do better with beans and corn but yet wheat is a big part of the picture.

The straw now has a lot of value.

I always pull several bushels off the truck for my own personal use. I have a lot stored now at the correct moisture to prevent infestation. Grind it if I need it.

I do the same with corn. Soybeans I don't mess with.


Hi airdale:

Soybeans: My wife's family would buy 50 lb bags of soybeans, run a batch through the pressure cooker, drain and mix in some mayonaise and pickle relish, then refrigerate. It is actually a pretty good bean salad. Only way I've ever eaten the things.

Many states are indeed facing a serious budget crunch next year...

Schwarzenegger mulls mass prisoner release in California: report

December 21, 2007
[JURIST] California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] is considering a mass release of more than 20,000 nonviolent prisoners in hopes of staving off a projected $10 billion to $14 billion budget deficit over the next two fiscal years, the Sacramento Bee reported Friday.

And here in Texas...

Texas Slaps 'Pole Tax' On Strip Joints

Revenues Would Go To Rape Victims

DALLAS -- Texas, where strip clubs have given rise to Anna Nicole Smith and many other less-generously endowed performers, is about to make it more expensive to watch a little bump and grind.In what some have dubbed the "pole tax," the Lone Star State will require its 150 or so strip clubs to collect a $5-per-customer levy, with most of the proceeds going to help rape victims. The tax goes into effect on New Year's Day.Club owners and some of their customers say the money is going to a noble cause, but they argue that the tax infringes on their First Amendment right to freedom of expression, that it will drive some bars out of business and that it unfairly links their industry to sex crimes.

"We'll be fine. I've already stopped advertising, and we're raising our cover charges. But this is going to kill some of the smaller clubs," said Dawn Rizos, who runs The Lodge, a Hemingway-inspired place that has exotic animal heads on the walls and is packed after Dallas Cowboys games at nearby Texas Stadium.

The strip clubs are suing to block the tax, which state officials estimate will raise more than $40 million a year, based on liquor sales figures.

Talking yesterday with some one has some in site with the situation regarding housing. The banks don't know what the correct valuation of the loans that have and because of that they are reluctant to trade with anyone else.

The fed can force them to trade but that leads to a very slippery slope to ...... someplace not good.

Leanan...Like that comment...'As mortgages have increasingly defaulted, investor demand for the bonds has dwindled.'...Sort of like Wily Coyote dwindles from view as he goes off the cliff and becomes a tiny speck falling toward the canyon bottom. Economists and politicians...masters of spin.

ABCP committee plans road show to sell deal

The deal covers 20 of the 22 trusts and includes 43 series of notes held in the different trusts. One trust, Skeena, is already going through a restructuring process, while another, Devonshire, which holds about $700-million, continues to be the focus of discussions.

About $3-billion of the total holdings in ABCP contain traditional assets, such as credit card receivables and auto loans, and those trusts will be worked out separately and on a series by series basis and holders will be given "TA tracking notes."

A second tranch of $26-billion in assets, which are largely trusts holding synthetic products, will be split into two separate pooled trusts, MAP1, which will hold $15-billion in assets and MAP 2, which will hold $11-billion in assets. Most corporate investors will likely be placed into MAP 2.

A third category ABCP holding about $3-billion in assets has too much exposure to sub-prime loans and will be worked out separately on a series by series basis.

The Financial Times has this story. For anyone who still figured this was because of subprime mortgages, now they know it isn't, that part is less than 10% of the total. It's also given up for dead in this new deal.

Note that this, like all the other big wig plans, relies completely on the markets reviving. If they don't, it will have been a waste of time and lots of money. Faith based economics, in other words. How still really believes in financial markets doing a Lazarus?

Canadian group in ABCP revamp deal

ABCP supported by US subprime assets, with a face value of about C$3bn, will not be eligible for pooling. This paper will also be converted into floating-rate notes, but will have a credit rating commensurate with the creditworthiness of the underlying assets.

Aaron Krowne comments:
“the restructuring gives investors a reasonable expectation of receiving the full par value over time”.''

-- That'll be the day.

This is a fairly "hail mary" style bailout. Lots of renegotiation; a $14 B credit facility in the case of further margin calls, pooling and conversion to variable rate, and out pops a `AAA' rating (were you surprised?). The banks are certainly putting everything they've got into bailing this paper out. Our question is what happens if more and not less pressure is gradually put on the participants of this deal, i.e. if asset values refuse to come back up, and general cash flows diminish? Are we going to continue to play this game of allowing the rating agencies to hold their noses and pretend this sh** doesn't smell---until we're all knee-deep in it.

Go ahead, egg my Hummer

A Hummer owner in Russia's second city St. Petersburg has given antiglobalists the green light to pelt his oversized vehicle with rotten eggs, Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday.

How childish!

Real pranking pros know you use brake fluid, just eats paint.

forget the vandalism... just hump the hummer!



Humping a Hummer seems a little...well...impotent

I made up some bumper stickers that read


I install them on deserving recipients, free of charge. Merry Christmas!

Errol in Miami

I am on a very slow link for the rest of the week. Google says that nobody has mentioned this on TOD yet, but I could have missed something, and it would take an hour to search by hand, so if this has been beaten to death already, my apologies...


Bus Travel Makes a Comeback in the U.S.

Buses are back. A new study shows a significant increase in intercity and interstate bus travel for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Nicer coaches, on-board movies and internet service are helping reshape the poor image that many travelers had of Greyhound and its competitors.

High gasoline prices and airport delays are also helping to revive the once moribund intercity bus industry.

Most of the story is something that was on All Things Considered a few days ago..

In terms of oil consumption, this isn't as good as electrified rail of course, but I guess bus travel is a logical adaptation to higher oil prices in that scheduling and routes are very flexible.

A few months ago, we were going to NYC for a few days, and from DC to NYC there is the Chinatown bus which fits this same model. Far less expensive that most of the alternatives. If we hadn't planned to visit with relatives along the way in NJ, we probably would have taken the thing.

Wow, really? Internet service? If that's true, I'd be seriously tempted to go Greyhound instead of flying or driving.

There was a kid with a dyed-green mohawk sitting next to me on a greyhound trip a good many years ago who was reading a beat poetry book. I asked him what he was reading and it left an impact on me. It's hard to find interesting folks on an airplane :)

" ... What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open
their skulls and ate up their brains and imagi-nation?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and
unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the
stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men
weeping in the parks!"
-- Ginsberg's Howl

The things that interest or amuse people never ceases to amaze me.

There *has* been a lot more bus buzz lately, even though all who've done it agree Greyhound is horrible these days.

I looked at taking the train out to where I am, I guess that's part of our way of life that's been negotiated away.... it came out MUCH cheaper to drive, and the repo people here got my car instead of the folks in california is all.

I don't know why a good passenger train network isn't considered essential for defense.

Jblunt, I think you can identify with the message of the poem which is that the best minds have been driven mad from watching all of society living illusions. For example, I was talking with a couple of family members over the holiday and the subject of oil came up (randomly) and I let them know I was worried about future supply -- well, they looked at me like I was mad (a Ginsbergian moment).

A Tale of Two Commutes

Last Thursday, my daughter, who takes the commuter rail line to Dallas, reported that the regulars on the train had a rolling Christmas party. All of the regulars brought Christmas treats to share, and they sang Christmas carols on their way to Dallas.

On the same day, in something that seemed to be out of a horror movie, a northbound pickup driver on the Dallas North Tollway, for so far unexplained reasons, lost control of his truck, rolled a few times and them slammed into the concrete median, dislodging a piece of concrete that flew at high speed directly into the path of a southbound car, killing the passenger--who was a cancer survivor, returning from chemo treatments. All of which caused a monumental traffic jam as police tried to sort out precisely what happened.

I was curious last night as I couldn't sleep because of the sugar in my cookies, so I looked to see how many traffic deaths were expected over the Christmnas/New Year holiday period. The stats were hard to find, but for just alcohol related fatalities over 460 are predicted; and just from my anecdotal reading, blamed on weather, over 50 have died. This site, http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx provides some interesting stats: 42,642 people died in all motorvehicle-related accidents in 2006, or not quite 117 folks every day, or an average of about 1170 for the last ten days of the year.

It would be esoteric but still interesting to discover how many deaths per capita happened on roads during the 19th century and compare with the same 20th cetury data. Another question is: How many deaths does it take until motorized transport vehicles are deemed weapons of mass detruction? The link above's figures total 507,346 fatalities for 1994-2006. I'm sure most every politico would say while regretible, the policy casuing the deaths is sound.

I think you would enjoy the book "Autogeddon" by Heathcote Williams. It's an insane poetry/photo odyssey about automobiles, the automobile cult and the masses suffering from it. This is the opening..

In 1885 Karl Benz constructed the first automobile.
It had three wheels, like an invalid car,
And ran on alcohol, like many drivers.

Since then about seventeen million people have been killed by them
In an undeclared war;
And the whole of the rest of the world is in danger of being run over
Due to squabbles about their oil.

Excerpts published online here
(unfortunately none of the images are found online)

I wish there was a bus service into town from here, I'd gladly walk the couple of miles out to the main highway, more exercise for me and one less vehicle on the road.

I liked that story about Pakistan blackouts:


The country had been facing power shortage in summer for the last three years and the intensity of power shortage increased every year. This is perhaps the first winter when the impact of power shortage on domestic consumers had been severe. Suspension of gas supplies to all thermal units is also a new phenomenon.

Electrical engineers have expressed surprise that both the government and the power authority had taken a dramatic shortfall in power generation lightly. They said that even studies by WAPDA experts had shown that power shutdowns could be eliminated during winter and curtailed by 50 per cent during summer with the help of a prudent conservation plan. This includes switching from normal bulbs and tube lights to energy savers. According to a study by WAPDA, switching to energy savers would result in conservation of 1,200 MW of electricity.

However, energy savers are expensive and the government had been urged to waive the duty on energy savers. The federal government had reduced the duty only by half. Experts point out that only 5 per cent households had shifted to energy savers. Conservation through energy savers also reduces the electricity bill but no comprehensive campaign had ever been launched to create awareness about its benefits. Closure of markets by 7:30pm could also save 500 MW of energy at peak consumption time. The labour law also mandates the closure of markets by 7:30 in order to stop exploitation of shop employees but this has also never been implemented. Closure of alternate streetlights through out the country could save another 200 MW at peak demand time.

It looks like incompetence when they don't switch light bulbs and then people have to do without generally and seems to confirm Olduvai as it gets worse there each year. Further ,as Pakistan/India is a nuclear/political global hotspot for conflict a genral lack of electricity meaning no work, cooking, etc. could topple govt. bring in radicals and cause a regional war. All because of a light bulb. Sounds like some old jokes I know about how many morons does it take to change a light bulb.

I also liked the article above about the Technocrat solution in 1932 being modern model for individual energy credits/rationing concept in UK. I am glad to know idea is not new and has surfaced before. Considering Pakistan's problems and the fact that Argentina will limit enrgy use(yesterday's Drumbeat I believe) it seems this idea is coming into its own. Some ideas are just too radical for most people. The article tries to debunk the whole concept by exposing it as an old idea of fantasts who were communist/fascist. I suppose when the lights go out they will have a better idea. The same will happen with cars when the oil shortages get bad as poitics will deny the rich their exclsuive right to driving at 10 bucks/gallon.

Watch and learn from places like Pakistan, they are living post-peak FF already.

Because most governments are not proactive, but reactive, it is unlikely that they will be able to cope with business that isn't as usual - so make your own plans to cope with intermittent power.

As an example of the power companies strategy that I expect will happen intermittently for a number of years in the UK and slowly getting worse over time:

like most people my gas central heating won't run without electricity. So, if there is eventually a shortage of North Sea Gas, cuttting off my electricity for a while will solve the dual problem of supplying me with heat and providing the gas powered electricity.

I expect these failures to take place at times of maximum stress, when it is the least convienient and most disruptive to me.

My low cost, simple, solution to the problem? ... is a deep discharge lead acid battery and an inverter than can run some low wattage pumps and lights for a few hours until the power comes back on.

We are already seeing intermittent petrol deliveries worldwide, next it will be gas, then coal or uranium.

Don't know if this has been posted already:

Oil shortage hits NWFP (Pakistan) hard
December 25, 2007
By Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD, Dec 24: The countrywide shortage of petroleum products has worsened, particularly in the NWFP where it is reported to be affecting the daily life and anti-terror efforts.

Informed sources told Dawn that the provincial government has been complaining to the federal government about the shortage of POL products for the past two weeks but there was little the centre could do in view of the limited commercial stocks and depletion of the strategic stocks to the rock bottom level.

“As already intimated, serious shortage of diesel/petrol has been reported from all over the province, which has further deteriorated the situation about POL supplies (sic). This has resulted in an increasing law and order situation in some of the districts of the province,” said a telegraphic communication dispatched by the provincial government to the president, caretaker prime minister, ministry of interior and the general headquarters.

The provincial government has warned that the situation may “further aggravate which has a sure potential of resulting into a serious law and order situation” if immediate remedial measures are not taken. “Additionally, the impending oil crisis may also cause serious disruption in the coming elections,” says the ‘most immediate’ fax message.

Apparently, POL = Petroleum, Oil, Lubricant

IMO the intermittent power problem is the best reason to have an off grid electric setup, or at least an on grid setup with enough battery backup for a days worth of outage. I think intermittent power is the (sine) wave of the future. :->

I'm looking ... know of any good buys ?

Same way here Xeroid, no electricty, no nothing. No heat, no water, nothing.

And no one ever thinks the electricity will EVER go out.

I swore I was not going to get into any more discussion of Olduvai, but I am weak. We seem to be seeing increasing problems with energy and especially electricity in poorer areas. Pakistan, Argentina, Nepal are manifesting retreats in availability based upopn existing infrastructure not to mention even poorer places that are not able to create much infrastructure in the first place. As I mentioned a few days ago, events on the ground are a test of some aspects of the hypothesis while any "proof" will be in the distant rear view mirror. The same way peak oil will be verified. The core of the idea is that energy production e per capita is the defining metric and the decline of this ratio is the harbinger of collapse. Simply said, the increase in production of energy of all types ceases to keep pace with the rate of increase of the population. The more problematic part of the hypothesis is predicting a decline in e even when the population goes into decline after a brief overshoot. Even if true we are likely to see lots of deviation from the ideal that Olduvai presents. We were treated to a mathematical slight of hand based upon a mis-representation of the theory. Firstly, Duncan seems to predict increasing blackouts and brownouts throughout the world indicating the Olduvai cliff, not simply massive failures in the USA or other first world countries. Secondly we can indeed have declining per capita energy production overall with increasing population of poor people each using more, but only if we assume the proper large increases in energy production over all and redistribution of most of the increase to the poor. The reality of the world is already much different with stalling energy production increases and more uneven distribution of what is available. I couldn't care less if the theory is correct or not as I take it only as an interesting way to try and integrate various events world wide. It does not affect my embracing of ELP but will perhaps will give me something to ponder as I hoe the beans and watch the sun set.

You don't have to say it's Olduvai. Say you are following up on Simmon's thinking that electricity is the critical link. Feel better now?

cfm in Gray, ME

It's hard to take infrastructure planning seriously when everyone knows there's about to be a civil war.

Meanwhile, I bet the Pakistani Army isn't rationing.

Hi Leanan, Russia always seems to be good for entertainment on slow days. The Hummer piece is quite amusing. But more seriously, if anyone still attributes Russia's tenacity on delaying Kosovo independence to ethnic loyalty, the item on buying control of Serbia's NIS oil company should put that to rest.

Nice posts as usual. I'm linking to TOD today on my site. Happy holidays and best,

Steve LeVine, author
The Oil and the Glory

Ethnic loyalty and who you do business with are not unrelated subjects. Russia has a long backstory with Serbia, powerful enough to lead to its disastrous decision in 1914 to poke a wounded Austria. Were there Russian-Serbian economic ties back then that greased the process? We've been living in an era where Serbia and Russia have been unnaturally divided by the Stalin-Tito standoff, but a lot of pre-1914 issues seem to be rising from the grave.

Now if Russia can get Serbia back as a satellite and simultaneously get Turkey as an ally due to America's boundless screwups, that would be a great accomplishment, one beyond all the czars and commissars, but not beyond oil.

Iran, Greece, Italy, Austria, Turkey, Serbia, Belorussia, Central Asia... where will the Gazprom empire triumph next?

Hi Super 390. With Eni as a partner, Gazprom was successful with Turkey in the 1990s (Bluestream pipeline). Of course as you know that was well-greased, for which Turkish politicians paid with scandal. It truly would be a feat if Russia managed to pull Turkey to its side, but it seems a mighty stretch, not the least of which is Turkey's NATO membership.

But as you say the U.S. has done some bungling. That will be key news to watch next year -- how the West manages the Gazprom juggernaut in Europe.


Hi Steve. I found your comment 'how the West manages the Gazprom juggernaut in Europe (next year)' amusing. How did you conclude that the West is the manager, not the managed?

Hahaha River. Very well turned around. Yes, that puts next year just about right. Best Steve

It truly would be a feat if Russia managed to pull Turkey to its side, but it seems a mighty stretch, not the least of which is Turkey's NATO membership.

I don't see it as being insurmountable - Russia is one of the 23 partner countries, in addition to the 26 NATO members

Not only that, but NATO membership does not preclude animosity of members - Greece and Turkey being but one example.


Hi AKH. Turkey is the driving force and anchor of the East-West pipeline policy, the termination point of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Shah Deniz natural gas pipeline from Azerbaijan. Moreover, it regards itself as the father of its Turkic brethren in the Caucasus and Central Asia (Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan). And it is a full-fledged member of NATO. It could find synergies with Gazprom on this or that project, but I see no possibility of Turkey abandoning its western-directed pipeline alliance with the Caspian states, entrenched in its ethnicity, its global strategy and its military alliances.


how the West manages...

Best hopes to the insurgents among the Lakota Sioux,

'It truly would be a feat if Russia managed to pull Turkey to its side, but it seems a mighty stretch, not the least of which is Turkey's NATO membership.'


Steve, check out this Pew Global Attitudes poll compiled in 2006. Note that of the countries polled to rate 'favorable opinions of the U.S.' Turks had only a 12% favorable opinion. The absolute lowest of all countries polled. Also, notice that in 2000 Pew Poll found that the Turks had a 52% favorable opinion of the U.S. I think its interesting that the Turks opinion of the U.S. has fallen every year just as shrubs popularity has fallen among polled Americans...And, I think that it is no stretch at all to think that Turkey could be pulled into the sphere of influence of Russia. The Turks have had their national pride hurt by refusal of the EU to accept them as a member...Or, more correctly, for the EU to continue to stall on this issue. Truth of the matter is that Turkey is naturally oriented to the East, not the West, imo the fact that Turkey remains a nominally secular Muslim nation is an oddity that is certainly not set in stone. Had the Turkish military not intervened several times to prevent populist theocratic Muslim politicians, Turkey would no longer be a nominally secular state. If the U.S. economy emplodes there is a very good chance that Turkey could land in the SCO...at least in an observer status initally.

NATO membership? ...What of the U.S. promise that if certain Eastern European countries were allowed to join NATO, no U.S. military installations would be built in those countries? Very similar to promises made to Native Americans and subsequently reneged on...Truth is, the left over cold warriors in DC are still fighting the cold war...someone needs to tap them on the shoulder and tell them we have entered a new paradigm.


...snip...'On the other side, all indications point to the resolve to prolong a unipolar order and to perpetuate the US control of the helm. It is obvious that Western nations have busily combined their efforts towards another policy of military, political and economic containment. They are stirring up trouble in all the countries that neighbour Russia and are building military bases in Eastern European countries that have recently joined NATO, most of which border on Russia. They had promised Moscow that NATO would not exceed certain bounds if Russia agreed to allow the Baltic nations to join the Western alliance, only to renege on this promise. Already, they have made overtures to Ukraine and Georgia to sign up with NATO and the US has procured military facilities or access to bases in these countries, just as it had in other Central Asian countries, perhaps precisely in anticipation of the ascendance of the SCO'...snip...

How about the clear hypocrisy of NATO? Where's the urge to push the independence of the Basques, Corsicans, Sami and others? How can NATO leaders claim that there no comparison between Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Kosovo? This kind of selective newthink "logic" is repulsive. Please, Serbia's miniscule oil industry is hardly a prize worthy of confrontation with NATO.

Hi Dissident. Serbia has lost almost all its former Yugoslav brethren because of its aggression. The effort on Kosovo is to resolve a simmering conflict within Europe. The other places simply aren't comparable.

Take the Abkhazia and South Ossetia conflicts, both of which I covered on the ground in the early 1990s. These Georgian conflicts began with nationalism, but despite the rhetoric out there I can tell you that there were not Balkan-style massacres and prison camps. These are examples of Russia using the leverage of localized ethnic conflict (divide and rule) to press its own advantage.

Russia and others conflate these various separatist movements in order to muddy the waters.

I do agree with you on the size of Serbia's NIS. But one does see how being among the sole loyal defenders of a country can yield benefit. That's part of the pipeline war, which we've discussed previously.


Your thinking is the standard NATO party line which cannot be supported by any intelligent reasoning. Abkhazia is a Muslim enclave which decided to fight for its independence much like the Kosovo Albanians did. The fighting occurred in the early 1990s and involved people like Basayev who would later fight for the independence of Chechnya. At this time Russia was run by people (e.g. Gaidar) who were very loyal to the west so your claim that Russia backed the Abkhazians is pure rubbish. Given the obvious Muslim secessionism problem in Russia itself, support for Muslim Abkhazian secessionists does not make sense. There are simply no strategic assets in Abakhazia worth going after. Similarly, the fighting in Transnistria occurred very early on when Russia and the USSR was falling apart. To paint all of these ethnic conflicts as a vast Russian conspiracy is absurd and insulting to the ethnic groups involved. The people in Abkhazia are not ethnic Georgians and Transnistrians are not Romanians like the rest of Moldova.

As for Kosovo being characterized by massacres and prison camps on a scale vastly different from the conflicts in the former USSR, that is more propaganda. Claims about hundreds of thousands of dead Kosovars were pure lies like the claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The pretext for NATO intervention in Kosovo was 2000 people died there in a guerrila war (BTW, this number included hundreds of dead Serbs and was mostly dead UCK). After the war some anonymous British bureaucrat claimed that another 10,000 Kosovars died during the NATO attack but nobody has produced any evidence for this figure and the lack of physical evidence has been dismissed by the western media as irrelevant. After NATO took over 160,000 ethnic Serbs, Roma, Gorans, Turks and Jews were driven out by the UCK and unlike the temporary refugee flows that were used by NATO to justify its support and intervention on behalf of the UCK a posteriori, this is permanent ethnic cleansing. Over 1000 Serb civilians (mostly elderly) were murdered after NATO took over. So you claim that the guerrila war in Kosovo makes it some sort of special case whereas the guerrila war in Abkhazia doesn't. Clearly this is not based on any sort of uniform standard of fairness and recognition of rights for ethnic self-determination. It is not based on any measure of genocide either since NATO would not be insisting on the territorial integrity of Kosovo: the Serb minority parts have a right to secede too based on their treatment since WWII and especially since 1999 by the Kosovo Albanians.

Your thinking is quite compartmentalized. How is Abkhazia not a simmering conflict? Same goes for South Ossetia? Georgian paramilitaries recently staged mortar attacks on Tskhinvali (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2005/09/mil-050927-r...) If UN backed Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia are evidence of muddying of the waters, then the NATO base (Bondsteel) in Kosovo is outright meddling.

Hi Dissident. My thinking is informed by having lived and worked in the region for 11 years, and having visited and written about all three places during the conflicts we're discussing.

Fact: The Russian base in Abkhazia (Gudauta) backed the Abkhaz in the 1993 breakaway. I covered both sides of this conflict.

Fact: The Russian base in North Ossetia (Vladikavkaz) backed the South Ossetians in their breakaway.

On Kosovo, the NATO action was pre-emptive. It did not result from already-committed atrocities in Kosovo, but knowledge of what Serb and Serb-backed forces committed previously, largely in Bosnia-Herzogovina. The Clinton administration -- rightly so -- was not going to wait for another Srebenica.


Maybe some relief is in sight for the drought in Georgia. Rain yesterday with more on the way:

Hope and pray. Two major cities ruined in 3 years has me seeing visions of retreating centurions.

There is a Bloomberg wire story today (even made Drudge report) on methane hydrates being exploited by Japan:


Billions of tons of methane hydrate, frozen chunks of chemical-laced water buried in sediment some 3,000 feet under the Pacific Ocean floor, may help Japan win energy independence from the Middle East and Indonesia. Japanese engineers have found enough ``flammable ice'' to meet its gas use demands for 14 years. The trick is extracting it without damaging the environment.
A first round of drilling [in an experiment in Canada] was completed in April by Jogmec and the Canadian government and a second set of tests are scheduled for early 2008. The two governments won't disclose results due to a confidentiality agreement, Jogmec's Yokoi says.

It would be interesting to hear more about this joint Canadian and Japanese test drilling - anybody out there have more information on the results?

Indeed, if methane hydrates can be turned into a commercial product, couldn't this significantly ease worries about NG decline in the coming decade? There have been some past discussions on TOD of methane hydrates, but perhaps the time is near for a further discussion.

This idea may have already been considered, but it just now popped into my head.

If you could lower a large caisson onto the ocean floor using well casing and drill string, then circulated warm surface water into the caisson until the methane was released into a separator. After the methane has been released reverse flush the caisson with cold bottom water and move on to a new location. The entire string could be lifted a few meters and moved to an adjacent location and continue.

The methane could be stored as CNG on board, and a gas to liquid conversion ship could transport it to an unloading facility. A number of these rigs could work together with a couple of transporter rigs for continuous NG production.

Tell me a half dozen reasons why this is an impractical idea.
Totoneila isn’t the only one around with goofy ideas

14 years?! Gee, hardly the time to evolve an SK into an AK. That's probably less environmentally damaging. I wonder, would all those hydrates provide enough energy to run Blackwater for a year?

Flammable ice. Must be a new DKNY lipstick?

cfm in Gray, ME

" "We tell women, 'You need to walk and exercise.' … If there's violence going on, it prevents them. Curbs are not designed for women and women's shoes. We really have not taken gender into consideration.""

Um, how about women buying shoes that they can walk in? Instead of foot-torture devices designed by men to make women helpless?

What planet are you from? There are women designers all over the earth. Are you implying that they are too stupid to design a pair of shoes?

I'm implying that common "fashions" in women's shoes, e.g., high heels, are not designed for walking, but rather for inducing a certain posture (bad for the back), and an inability to walk well. Why these curious effects are sought, who knows, but my guess is that they have an appeal to certain designers, probably men (not that women couldn't do it), who like to see women as helpless objects.

Some day "pumps" will be seen as inhumane torture devices in the same way that contemporary western thought regards oriental "foot binding".

I am totally and completely in agreement on this one - give me a woman wearing something by Asolo over a woman in a set of strappy ankle breakers any day of the week. The strappy ankle breakers might give one the appearance of a certain shape and tone, but owning and making proper use of a good set of hiking boots actually produces that effect.

Nothing compares to the view of a woman with a fine figure and good looks wearing spike heels and an arrest-me-red outfit that shows her figure to best advantage. Ferrari, Maseratti, Porsche, Jag, Corvette...all try to sell this image in the design of their curvaceous autos. I have heard some people say that these autos are penis symbols, I dont buy that. I believe guys buy curvy autos because they resemble curvy women. Heterosex sells...and it always will.

If one wants a woman wearing combat boots one should hang out with female marines...Female companionship and protection all in one. :)

No offense intended to female marines. I was in the navy and knew some fine looking female marines...But, they looked better in their civies, not their uniforms.

'easin down the highway in a new cadillac
i had a fine fox in front, i had three more in the back
they sportin short dresses, wearin spike heel shoes
they smokin lucky strikes and wearin nylons too
cause we bad, we nationwide


she like the art museum, she dont like pavlovs dog

she fun at the mind museum, she likes it in a london fog

she dont like other women, she likes whips and chains

she likes cocaine, and flippin out with great danes

shes about all I can handle, its too much for my brain

its got me under pressure

its got me under pressure

This one, she was a lot of fun. But then the adventures of the Worst. President. Ever. got her scooped up and sent off to Iraq just a year after she got back from Afghanistan :-( Heels in the inventory, yes, but they came out for the symphony and the rest of the time it was boots, boots, and more boots.


SCT, why have women been wearing 'heels' for about 100 years? That's about the same period of time they've been insisting on voting and working outside the home. They find they have more sucess in a man's world with more height.

Don't believe me? Name a business man of 'stature'. Think of someone you 'look up to'.

Humans continue to be strongly motivated by instinctual urges for status and competitive equality.

Errol in Miami

I had never thought of it that way. I always cringe a bit when I see someone wearing those things. A little bit of lift is fine, but when the foot is angled 45 degrees? Yikes ...

Commercial Real Estate Dominoes Collapse

This is the commercial real estate domino effect. If one key player backs out of a commercial real estate development, then they all do: "Lowe's backed off, and then Kohl's said they wouldn't come without Lowe's, and the whole house of cards collapsed."

On the surface, this merely kills an individual mall (in other words a localized domino effect). But when the scene is repeated scores of times in various municipalities across the country, the cumulative effect cannot be ignored.

This is the final nail in the coffin for jobs prospects in 2008. Store expansion has been one of the key drivers for job creation. Look for unemployment to soar. Look for rising unemployment to trigger still more delinquencies in credit card debt and housing foreclosures. One by one, collapsing dominoes are picking up speed, and from multiple directions as well.

One by one, collapsing dominoes are picking up speed, and from multiple directions as well.

I used the metaphor of the American consumer standing at a four way intersection with multiple 18 wheelers headed his way.

The human mind is, of course, poorly equipped for dealing with multiple threats. Moreover, there's the overarching propensity for optimism. Ironically, I often get accused of doomerism, something many people think they have an antenna for.

When it comes to finance, it really helps that few people understand what goes on. Not having too much of a clue makes it far easier to say that it can't or won't be that bad. The government and the central bank will save the day, money from helicopters. But there's obviously at least 1000 times more people inclined to see things too optimistic than those who see them too negatively, so that whole doom thing is not even worth talking about.

What it does, in turn, mean, is that people are poorly, if at all, prepared to be hit from multiple sides.

Everybody focuses on one threat, or two at the most. And that way, when viewing things as isolated incidents, why worry? But, even in finance alone, a four way intersection doesn't even suffice to cover what's happening.

Still a very good metaphor, Jeffrey. For you, and yours, I stick with wishing peace upon all, I think we will sorely need it.

What is money from helicopters and how does it make BAU continue?

That refers to a Ben Bernanke speech, made before he became Fed chairman. He was actually quoting someone else, who said that the Fed's last-ditch effort to fight deflation would be dropping money on citizens from a helicopter.

Regarding BAU, the 'money drop' probably could stop a runaway deflation, but the Fed will never do it. The Fed is actually a private company, it CANNOT give away its product (Federal Reserve Notes) and stay in business. All it can do it try to get banks to borrow more money from them, the banks in turn try to get the public to borrow it from the bank. In a deflation, this is called "pushing on a string".

Errol in Miami

Dropping money from helicopters is a reference to a statement made by Ben Bernanke a few years ago. I believe it was prior to his nomination as Fed chairman. In response to a question from a congressional panel he said he would drop money from helicopters if he had to in order to avoid a deflationary spiral.
This phrase has since come to be closely associated with him and his approach to monetary policy.

We just lost about thirty full and part time jobs - the Ace hardware in Spencer, Iowa is closing up. This has much to do with the gigantic Menards that went in a mile west of them. Between the Menards and the Walmart sitting side by side we've already lost the grocery store and the 1970s construction mall across the street.

Now all that is needed to complete the picture is one of Menards or Walmart taking a tumble and backing out of the region :-(

If you are really lucky, both of the damn things will go belly up! Then maybe you can get some locally owned businesses back. :-)

A big amen to that.
But now the local business are starting to become predatory in their pricing structures around here.

Their attitude seems to be now the same as the big box stores. Take it or leave it, we don't care.

They know that the gas prices are forcing us to buy local.

Also the quality is suffering greatly and the check out and stock clerks all seem to be high school dropouts with the look of the 'walking dead' about them and going stone deaf when you say the price they rang up is incorrect.

I would disagree that the local business pricing is predatory. Everything is going up and the person who lives there has to make a living ... but can't do it if his/her customers are going broke.

The Walmart and Menards are a mixed blessing. There is a lot of crap in the Walmart, but there are things there I simply can't get anywhere else without a two hundred mile drive. The same goes for Menards - we're so remote that without that store people would be either rolling up the miles going to Fort Dodge or Storm Lake like they did when I was growing up.

If they go ... will local business arise to replace them? If I were sure the answer were yes I'd be cheering their demise ... but I'm not sure.

The local businesses charge more than the big box stores but shouldn't have to since they are not in the burbs but out in the rural areas where buildings are cheap. Some have been in the same family owned store front for many long years.

And their overhead should be far cheaper as well.

Yet they overcharge , because they can get away with it.

Yet they bitch because people don't 'support your local businesses'.

Now I am doing some computing work for a small business for the owner. Its a tobacco shop and his prices are righteous.

A 5 box pack of Candela cigars he sells for $2.89. All the other tobacco stores in this county and the next county sell the same for over $5.00 including convience store across the road from him.


Because they can and they want to and thats the way it is.

However there is another import issue. Small town stores do not sell in bulk like they did years ago. Now if you want bulk supplies, like 25 lbs of flour or 10 lbs of pinto beans?

You must go to Sam's Club. Simple and thats also the way it is. At least where I live.

Paying $3 for a small bag of flour vs $10 for 25 lbs?
Notice please that they are constantly reducing the size of the containers. Why? So they can charge more.

I have discussed this before. One needs to go to Sam's once a month and lay in large bulk supplies. This saves on energy via less driving.

I tend to buy 25# bags and small cases (12#?) of things from my local organic grocery, but you're right about the Sam's Club effect. If it weren't for that little place on Hill Avenue in Spirit Lake I'd be in the same boat. Much of the big bags of staples I've stored away have come from ... Walmart :-(

If anyone wants to really find out the real story wrt these big national chain stores, read Big Box Swindle by Stacy Mitchell. I just finished it, and it confirmed all my worst suspicions and then some.

Understand that in many cases these big chain stores have been given special financing or taxing deals by the local governments to move into the area. It is NOT a free market with a level playing field, the small locally owned businesses are getting systematically screwed by their own home-town governments.

Understand, too, that there are huge environmental and infrastructure impacts whenever one of these big stores is built. Seldom do they actually have to pay the full cost for these, and thus those "low prices" do not reflect the full cost; the externalities are paid for by the community in other ways.

Understand, also, that SOP for all these big chain stores now is to underprice and sell at a loss when they first move into an area in an attempt to drive the local independents out of business. Once the competition has beem removed, then the prices are jacked up. They'll usually run a few loss leaders each week to dupe the locals into thinking that they are still getting low prices, but overall they really are not. This type of practice used to be illegal in this country; now that we have a government that is bought and paid for by the corporations, I guess anything goes as far as the big guys are concerned.

There is already a glut of retail space in the US. We have far more per person than any other country, and we have huge amounts of space sitting vacant. Thus, the retail market is a zero-sum game, and the big chains can only build a new store by taking business away from existing retailers. It is a totally predatory game, nothing genuinely beneficial is added to the community.

Just because something sold in one of the big chain stores is cheaper doesn't mean that it is the same quality as merchandise available at local independents. We all know about "made in USA" being ditched for China-made junk. What most people don't know is that often the bigger chains will contract with suppliers for versions of products that look similar, but have been made a little cheaper with more corners cut. The price looks less, but it is not the same product, it is a crappy knock-off.

Finally, remember that the people working in these big chains are paid poorly. They are treated poorly, too, because they don't WANT employee loyalty; they wan't turnover, so they can keep most of their workforce at the bottom of the scale.

Pretty eye opening stuff. It has caused me to resolve to try to do everything I can to avoid giving these predatory parasites any of my business if I can possibly help it.

the check out and stock clerks all seem to be high school dropouts with the look of the 'walking dead' about them and going stone deaf when you say the price they rang up is incorrect.

That's not a business thing, that's a schooling and parenting thing. We've raised a generation of idiots; actually, it is starting to be multiple generations of idiots by now. The kids you are seeing probably aren't even drop outs, they may actually have been near the top of their class! The fact that they bothered to try and get some type of job and actually show up for it definitely marks them as being a cut above the average. These days, one gets a H.S. diploma just by staying alive and showing up sometimes.

These are the "knowledge workers" for this great "information economy" we are building to replace the real jobs that got sent to China.

This is what is really going to do in the good old USA. We'd be toast even if the supply of oil were infinite.

On the other hand, there are some of us that would consider the demise of any deal involving yet another big box store or mall or strip center to be a GOOD thing. Kunstler has written about this at length, no need for me to repeat what he has already said better than I can. Suffice it to say that these things are a big part of the problem, building more of them - even just one more of them - just makes the problem that much bigger.

As to jobs creation, the evidence is pretty strong that these things destroy as many jobs as they create. The US already has way too much retail space, so it is very much a zero-sum game at this point; anything new must crowd out something old. Because the jobs lost tend to be distributed across a large number of smaller retailers, these offsetting losses tend to be invisible compared to the big PR splash that the new place makes. What jobs they do create tend to be very low paying ones. Furthermore, they are jobs that the workers must drive to, more than likely at a greater distance than their commuting distance to the jobs they have lost. Some of those lost jobs may have been within walking distance in what should have been preserved as walkable downtowns.

No, I consider this article to be some of the best news of the year, a definite silver lining around some dark clouds.

I just have to comment on the NO Payback for green buses. It just does not compute. We just got about 100 of these buses in our city and the savings are enormous.

The buses they replaced go more than 100,000 miles a year, spend inordinate amounts of time idling at terminals at the ends and beginnings of their run. The regular buses get 3 miles per gallon and the hybrids get 4 miles per gallon. That does not sound like much but it is a 33% improvement.

So doing some extremely basic math. 100,000 miles at 3 miles per gallon is 33,333 gallons of diesel at $3 per gallon for all of 2008 (Optimistic and makes my math very easy), that is $100,000 cost. Saving 33% would be, well, $33,333.

If these hybrids are $390,000 compared with $90,000 for regular buses, then the payback is nine years NOT 35 years.

Plus half the cost in our community was covered by grants making the payback less than five years. And if diesel goes to $5 next summer, the payback is HUGE.

These stupid articles of bad math really irritate me. The insulation does nothing, hybrids are crap, fluorescents cost more, blah blah blah. Why do the papers print these op eds from the oil companies?

I guess that your buses are interest free. But, in reality, why don't you try again with a municipal bond rate of say 6%?

Obviously, the more you drive, the faster the payback.

That is the reason I don't drive a Prius. I don't drive very much, and it just wasn't worth the extra expense.

Your heart is in the right place, but your math is off. 4 miles per gallon might be a 33% improvement, but that doesn't get you a 33% savings. 100,000 miles at 4 mpg uses 25,000 gallons, and thus your fuel savings are only 8,333 gallons or $25k at $3/gal.

The math is flawed on the savings for regular and hybrid buses. If the regular bus gets 3 mpg and goes 100k miles, that is 33,333 gallons of fuel. The hybrid gets 4 mpg and uses 25,000 gallons for the same 100k miles. The savings is 8,333 gallons per year at $3 or $24,999.

Dang it, Joules Burn, you beat me to it. Now what do you think of city buses putting on 100,000 miles per year? That's 10 round trips per day from outlying suburbs, highly doubtful.

It wasn't the easiest figure to search for, but here's one (California)..

Statewide transit bus vehicle miles traveled (VMT) was estimated to be 36,000 miles per year per active bus.

Found another number strikingly similar, from the Swedish Statistical bureau that states Swedish buses go 36,375 miles per year on average.

I'd question the claim that non-hybrid busses only cost $90,000. E.g., from a recent local story around here:

"... new buses he is planning to buy this year (at $360,000 apiece) be cheaper to operate, they are 60 times cleaner in emissions output than the ones they're replacing."

- that's talking about non-hybrid busses. (And the "60 times cleaner" claim is bunk, something to do with biodiesel. Some local reporters managed to twist it into "use 60 times less energy"...)

Perhaps the old busses to be replaced cost $90,000 way back in 1985 or so?

As for idling, they can simply turn them off when parked. The resistance to that concept amazes me - there has been a fight over idling at the local bus terminal for years (due to noise and fumes, besides the waste of fuel) and the busses still idle a lot. Even in perfect weather when there is no need for neither heating nor cooling.

I started reading the article on "Russia is in need of firm handling" and got to this line:

The answer is to engage with Russia on many fronts but avoid compromising on western values, particularly the rule of law.

At which point I burst out in hysterical laughter and was unable to continue.

I am very surprised that so many on this site still believe that growing crops takes more energy than the resulting grain contains.

There are three sources of fossil fuels associated with grain production;

1) Natural gas embedded in the Nitrogen fertilizer

2) Diesel fuel to operate machinery

3) Herbicides

While on my farm in SD it only takes 4.23 gallons of diesel to raise one acre of corn, it takes 6.85 gallons of diesel to raise and harvest one acre of corn in higher yielding Iowa according to Iowa State University. Here's the link,

The highest estimate I could find for diesel requirements on an acre of corn in Iowa was about 9 gallons. Here's that link - http://www.farmandranchguide.com/articles/2005/10/26/ag_news/production_...

For the sake of ease, lets assume it takes 10 gallons to raise, harvest, and transport to market 10 gallons of diesel (WHICH IS A GROSS OVERESTIMATE)

Now lets discuss Nitrogen fertilizer - The average natural gas consumption for anhydrous ammonia production is approximately 33.5 MMBtu (million metric British thermal units) per ton. here's the link - http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/icm/2003/4-14-2003/natgasn.html

Given the standard yield goal in IA of 200 bu/acre, it takes about 200 pounds of anhydrous ammonia for one acre of corn. This means a farmer consumes 3.35 million BTU's just fertilizing each acre of corn.

Finally we have herbicide use. This is a non-factor, but lets include it. Lets go NUTS and spray 2 pints of Harness herbicide and follow it up with a half gallon of Roundup. Heck lets even throw in a quart of additional pesticide for good measure. ----------- That adds up to a whopping gallon of pertoleum.

Let's add up all three fossil fuel inputs;

10 gal diesel = 1,600,000 BTUs

Fertilizer = 3,350,000 BTUS

Herbicide = 160,000 BTUs

Total fossil fuel use = 5,110,000 BTUs to grow one acre of corn.

BTU content of one bushel of corn = 395,000

Bushels required to recoup fossil fuel energy = 13 bushel

Average yield of one acre of IA corn = 200 bushel

For every BTU spent raising an acre of corn, the grain off that same acres yields 15 BTUs.

The additional BTUs come from sunlight energy.

When crude was $25/barrel corn price = $2.50

When crude was $1 in the 1960's corn was $2

Historically, a BTU of corn has bought MORE THAN ONE BTU of crude.

Today its INVERSE. Today a BTU of corn is CHEAPER than a BTU of crude. The farmer delivers a cheaper BTU source.

History will repeat, and despite rising energy prices, I'm convinced corn will advance even faster, retaining its HISTORIC buying power where a BTU of corn again is AT LEAST on parity with a BTU of crude.

Grain price inflation IS LAGGING energy inflation.

The farm will be able to outbid ANYONE for available fuel in the future, because the farm ADDS THE MOST VALUE TO THE FUEL.

Farms will CONTINUE to operate combines and tractors that will continue to cover over 400 acres per day.

If anything, MORE investment will go into better and more modern farming NOT less.

The future IS agriculture.

Its funny that BEFORE ethanol, a BTU of corn actually bought MORE BTUs of crude than it does today.

You can't find a time (except directly after Katrina) when a BTU of corn bought LESS BTUs of crude!

CORN, WHEAT, and Soybeans are WAY TOO CHEAP and will go MUCH MUCH HIGHER.

There are three sources of fossil fuels associated with grain production;

The studies that show a low or negative EROI on corn ethanol take a lot more than those inputs into account: tires on the vehicles, the energy cost of production of the equipment, lubricants, and so forth. And even at that they don't take into account the environmental damage of agribusiness or the human cost in rising food prices.

If corn is so wonderful, lets just remove the subsidies and the mandates and let it compete on the open market.

Generally right, although to nitpick I should point out that some crops are irrigated, and often there is pumping equipment that must be operated, requiring energy. Furthermore, harvested grains must sometimes be dried (which can be a BIG consumer of energy), and there is transport energy involved as well. Your basic contention is still correct, though: energy inputs EXCLUDING solar photosynthesis will be lower than the energy content of the harvested crop. If you were to include the solar though, it would obviously be less per the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

I am not sure what your driving at, but consider this:

1. What is the cost of producing Fertializer, Insecticides, Herbicides, and liquid fuel from grain.

To produce these products would require the Fischer Tropsch method which can produce hydrocarbonliquids and gases at about 40% efficiency. Then there are additional input loss as FT products are coverted into user end products (fuels, fertializer, pesticides, etc) And we need to consider the liquid fuel energy costs with transporting biomass to conversion plants.

2. Need to include irrigation and food production into the equation. We simply can't convert all over farm land to produce petrochemicals, Nor do we have the water resources available. Much of the US Agraculture comes from the Mid West states that are dependant on rapidly depleting aquifiers. As the Aquifers drain, the well pumps need to pump water from ever increasing depths requiring more energy. Sooner or later farms in the Mid West will start running dry and crop yields will fall, or some farms may simply stop production altogether. FWIW: I think the Biofuel Boondangle is consuming valuable water resources that we need to sustain agraculture. If we run out of water in the mid-west, the US population is screwed.

>CORN, WHEAT, and Soybeans are WAY TOO CHEAP and will go MUCH MUCH HIGHER.

I agree. This will almost certianly drive stagflation, as energy prices and food prices rise.

All the tires, lubricants etc are a miniscule amount of energy per acre. The cost in energy to produce fert etc is EMBEDDED in the price a farmer pays.

A corn burning stove pays for itself VERY QUICKLY with ZERO subsidies. Currently the free market FAVORS burning corn vs propane, electricity, or heating oil.

My point is that all this talk of expensive grain IS COMPLETELY NUTS. Grain has a long way to go to catch fossil fuels, and if you think they are high now, just wait a year.

There is basically squat for subsidies on grain production today. The subsidies kick in when grain falls below "Loan Rate" which is $1.80/bu on corn.

You can take away ethanol, but $2 corn is never going to happen again with $90 or higher oil. You can take away ethanol, but grains have no where to go but up in price.

highplainsfarmer, Thanks for sharing this insight. Yet another reason why bad bad times are on the way. So what price do you see Corn going to, to restore the balance?

highplainsfarmer -

You obviously have a very solid grasp of agricultural economics, and as a suburban Easterner I have great admiration for someone who has the guts to do individual farming these days.

Regarding the energy input for corn, well of course the energy content of the corn must be a lot greater than the energy input, otherwise it would not be grown in the first place. I don't think that is the issue.

As I see it, the issue, which has both an economic and a moral dimension, is: how shall this corn be used ..... for food or fuel? Of course it is not that straighforward, so perhaps the more accurate question should be: how much of our corn crop should be allocated to fuel production and how much to food production?

Those of a rigid 'Economics 101' mindset will of course say that price should determine not only how the corn crop is utilized but also how much corn should be planted. They would see nothing wrong with the scenario of a Hummer full of swells on their way to an outrageously expensive sporting event passing a shanty town full of hungry people. We can afford the gas, but those 'other people' can't afford food, so it's tough noogies for them.

Now I am not saying that farmers should be in the charity business (Lord knows the independent farmer has it tough enough these days), but what I am saying is that it MATTERS how that corn is being used, and that a farmer in good conscience cannot wash his/her hands of the downstream implications of the food versus fuel issue. It is as certain as the sun will rise tomorrow that if the price of corn and other grains go up due to upward pressure from the production of biofuels, then a calculable number of human beings are going to die as the resutlt of malnutrition, if not outright starvation. It doesn't matter whether the farmer cares or not, but thems the facts.

Less than 5% of the US population are farmers, we need all the farmers we can get on here, telling us how it really is!

I'm in the SE of Nebraska. I think NE is #3 in growing corn. I spoke to a classmate of mine who's family farms about a 1000 acres. I'd call that substantial, but not large for this area. I subtly tried to steer him into a PO chat a couple weeks ago.

His state of mind: When asked what a farmer would run his equipment on if fuel became scarce, what would they change to. His reply was they wouldn't change cause their equipment runs to well to change. Granted he is young ( < 21 ) and he has had it pretty easy. His reality has been peachy keen so far.

I would guess of the 5% number you quote, 97% are not PO aware – to be polite.

Heck the community college I'm attending in the middle of corn country looks like a Monster-Trucks-at-a-county-fair advertisement.

Pimentel, et. al. in
(pdf alert)

put the ratio at 2.8/1 of output/input (Table #3)
Starting out with a 2.8/1 ratio for total energy, it is easy to see why the additional processing to get the ethanol would have you close to 1:1 when done.

Yes the ratio of output/input is positive, but not in the extreme, and less positive than doing things the 'old timey' way.

This is your website,* highplainsfarmer.com *,
is it not?

I think your 200 bushel/acre number is way high - I bet Iowa averages closer to 125 bushels/acre.

The 1 pound/bushel ammonia use is correct according to my research.

I had been interested in but not seriously digging for the diesel/acre figure. It is very good to have a range like this but I'm frustrated by the conversions - pounds/tons, gallons, BTUs, etc. Someone needs to do a nice crib sheet.

It takes fifty megawatts of wind driven ammonia production to fertilize an Iowa county - there is a ratio not previously published :-) Iowa has about a gigawatt of wind now and I recall seeing an estimate that there were fifteen gigawatts of easily doable wind. We only have 99 counties or five gigawatts worth of ammonia needs.

Iowa uses about 1.6 billion gallons of liquid fuel annually and currently produces about 2.0 billion gallons of ethanol and something like 300 million gallons of biodiesel. We have 27 million acres under cultivation but not all of that is corn. So ... we make enough biodiesel now to do all of our agriculture using the highest of your estimates and we already produce all of the road fuel we could use.

I wish I had time to dig more into this but its 1:30 AM and I have more work to do tomorrow. I'm actually feeling a bit hopeful - we take the right steps in the right order and the bread basket will continue to produce loaves so long as the rain and sun hold out.

Who is responsible for the world food shortage?

Ten to twelve pivotal companies, assisted by another three dozen, run the world's food supply. They are the key components of the Anglo-Dutch-Swiss food cartel, which is grouped around Britain's House of Windsor. Led by the six leading grain companies—Cargill, Continental, Louis Dreyfus, Bunge and Born, André, and Archer Daniels Midland/Töpfer—the Windsor-led food and raw materials cartel has complete domination over world cereals and grains supplies, from wheat to corn and oats, from barley to sorghum and rye. But it also controls meat, dairy, edible oils and fats, fruits and vegetables, sugar, and all forms of spices.


Besides the fact that these along with the rest of the oligarchs need to be hung from the lampposts by their own entrails...

Are you sure LaRouche's site is objective?

Is he still alive? Animatronic? Is there a taxidermist in the house?

Nice corporate link chart - thought I would put it out there. Not many sources, period, for links between TPTB. Also the individual profiles for Big-Agribusiness Corporations are factually informative.

OPEC is not the only Cartel on the planet.

According to this, the only carrier in the gulf now is the Harry S Truman. All others are in WestLant or home port.
Could South America now be the focus?


Pakistani opposition leader Bhutto killed in suicide bombing

Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide bombing that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally, a party aide and a military official said.

"At 6:16 p.m. she expired," said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto's party who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital where she was taken after the attack.


Jesus Christ on a stick. And I'm not Christian.

This is terrible, I mean like the assassination of Archdulke Ferdinand terrible.