DrumBeat: January 19, 2008

'International Oil Companies Are the Real Dinosaurs'

In an exlusive SPIEGEL interview, OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla Salem el-Badri discusses the dangers of a further dramatic rise in the oil price, the failures of multinational oil companies and considerations within the cartel of oil-exporting nations to trade in euros rather than dollars.

...SPIEGEL: Some experts doubt that OPEC can even expand production volume to a significant degree anymore. These specialists say that Saudi Arabia, for example -- the world's only oil superpower -- is already putting too much pressure on its oil fields today, and that the reserves are generally smaller than was previously assumed.

El-Badri : Don't worry, we still have capacity. We are currently able to increase production by 3.5 million barrels. And we have also invested up to 2012 in new projects at a total cost of $150 billion, which will give us additional capacity of 6 million barrels in four years. However, we have to know how high the demand for oil will be in the future, so that we can plan our investments accordingly.

SPIEGEL: You cannot deny that the reserves are finite. Have we already seen "peak oil" -- the maximum level of petroleum production that can be reached before reserves will inevitably begin to shrink?

India: 'Cooking without fire' contest today

Participants will have to prepare dishes under different categories without using any source of heat or prepared ingredients, according to a press release. The competition will begin at 10.30 a.m.

A painting competition on conserving petroleum products for school students, in three different age groups, will be held at the same venue from 9.30 a.m.

Venezuela says refinery complex back to normal

Venezuela's largest refinery complex, the Cardon-Amuay plant, has resumed normal operations after two operational failures took units offline in recent weeks, the state oil company said in a statement on Saturday.

The global grain bubble

Record prices for grain from corn to rice have ignited food riots from Jakarta to Rome. In Pakistan, troops now guard wheat stocks. China and Russia have imposed price controls. Connect the dots and there's a need for a fix to a crisis that, strangely, isn't caused by smaller harvests.

No, the main reasons for a long-term bubble in grain prices lie largely in a number of dubious human actions, related to heightened competition for grain as either fuel or feed.

One reason is an ill-conceived dash by both the United States and Europe to use grain and valuable farmland for biofuels, motivated more by powerful farm lobbies than concerns about global warming. (Telling factoid: To fill up the tank of one SUV with ethanol would require enough grain to feed one person for a year.)

Guangdong factories face power shortage

Rising fuel and other costs threaten earnings at thousands of factories that produce everything from toys to cars. Record oil prices and robust demand for other fossil fuels had left too many users chasing limited supplies of diesel, petroleum products and coal, Mr Yang said.

Pipeline Cements Russia’s Hold on Europe’s Gas Supply

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Russia strengthened its grip on Europe’s energy supplies on Friday as it signed a major gas deal with Bulgaria that analysts said would further undermine the European Union’s attempts to diversify its energy sources.

Under the agreement, the $15 billion South Stream pipeline will be built under the Black Sea, allowing Russia to send natural gas directly to Europe through Bulgaria and bypassing Turkey, which has been a crucial transit route for Russia’s gas exports to European markets.

New North Dakota refinery would benefit state

During the last harvest season, a fuel shortage plagued many of our farmers. At that time, North Dakotans were paying the highest fuel prices in the continental United States. Another oil refinery here could have helped the situation.

EU pollution plan threatens million jobs

FRANKFURT: German industrialists estimate that one million jobs are threatened in Germany by European Union plans to fight global warming, a sector leader said on Friday in an interview.

"If the German government enacts its 2020 goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 40 per cent, I estimate that one million jobs are threatened," Federation of German Industries (BDI) president Juergen Thumann told the daily Rheinische Post.

Norway Says Aims to Go Carbon Neutral by 2030

OSLO - Norway, which last year set what it called the world's most ambitious target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, said on Thursday it aimed to go "carbon neutral" in 2030, which is 20 years earlier than its previous target.

EPA turns over limited documents

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Invoking executive privilege, the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday refused to provide lawmakers with a full explanation of why it rejected California's greenhouse gas regulations.

Relief from utility bills gets a boost

Hoping to provide a shot in the arm for customers struggling to pay heating bills, the Bush administration this week released $450 million in emergency relief funds.

Transport Revolutions Seminar

As oil production goes into decline, we must transform the way we move people and goods.

Newsflash: Of Horses and Carts, and the Ordering Thereof in Our Post-Peak Oil Epoch

Given the genuinely radical and dangerous implications of Peak Oil for said industrial complex and the overall corporate capitalist system, you can bet your bottom dollar that extremely great care and generous funding are going to be devoted to this emerging spin game.

Arguments Against Urban Sprawl

One study of an Ontario town found that for every dollar in development charges collected, a $1.40 in services were put in. Guess where the other 40 cents are coming from? From existing ratepayers, who are, in effect, subsidizing development. More growth means paying more in property taxes. In addition, our infrastructure system of highways and sprawling communities were built during that half-century period when oil was cheap. Oil has just broken through the $100 a barrel barrier. What happens to sprawling suburbia and the commuter lifestyle when oil reaches $200 a barrel and gas reaches $3 a litre? Clearly, urban sprawl is not economically sustainable.

Lawn to farm: Suburbia's silver lining

A century ago, almost 40 percent of the United States population worked on farms. But with industrialization, millions of farm folk, their labor cheapened, headed to the city for better wages. That tide continued until fewer than 2 million farmers -- less than 1 percent of the country's population -- remain today.

Now, though, the seemingly limitless reserves of petroleum that fueled the past century's exodus from the farm are about half gone. From here on, fossil fuels -- and all the everyday essentials that depend on them, like transportation and food -- will grow increasingly costly.

Without some miraculous new energy source, muscle power could soon again be a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels for growing food. Blunt economic pragmatism seems set to out-shout nostalgia in the call to put more farmers on the land.

Pakistan: Textile fears $1b shortfall in exports

KARACHI - Pakistan’s textile industry has estimated a shortfall of around one billion dollars in its exports in the current financial year because of three major factors - cotton crisis, energy crisis and political chaos in the country.

Clooney invited to Nigeria by militants

Militants in Nigeria’s restive oil region today invited actor George Clooney to visit the area and asked for United Nations intervention in the conflict.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday designated Clooney as a UN “messenger of peace” to promote the UN’s activities, especially in its far-flung peacekeeping missions.

Turkey debates "reliability" of Iran gas

"It is true that Iran has the world's second largest natural gas reserves, but presently it lacks the capabilities for production, and Iran is itself dependent on gas from Turkmenistan," Turkish energy expert Faruk Demir said. "So for the time being, it is not a real alternative to Russian gas."

China Envoy Aims to Settle Gas Row Soon with Japan

China's ambassador to Japan said Friday he hoped the two countries would reach a deal to share long-disputed gas fields before President Hu Jintao visits Japan in a few months.

Japan and China, two of the world's largest energy importers, have failed in 11 rounds of talks since 2004 to reach any breakthrough on sharing lucrative gas resources in the East China Sea.

Tribes worry oil pipeline might cross sites important to Indians

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A Rosebud Sioux Tribe representative says the Keystone crude oil pipeline could be located on cultural sites important to American Indians even though it would not cross reservations in South Dakota.

Russell Eagle Bear says Indian leaders want to make sure all cultural properties are protected along the route. He says the project is moving "quite fast."

US energy sec urges OPEC to raise output at meeting

RIYADH - US Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said on Saturday that Saudi Arabia should raise output to ease tightness in world oil supplies and that OPEC should up output at its February 1 meeting.

"I think it is possible for there to be an increase in supply over a period of time because there is a reserve," he told reporters, referring to Saudi Arabia. "I believe they have to alleviate this problem."

OPEC official says oil price not to blame for 'homemade' US crisis

Berlin - High world oil prices are not to blame for the economic crisis facing the United States, OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem al-Badri said in an interview published in Germany Saturday. "If there is a recession, the oil price is not to blame," Badri told Der Spiegel newsmagazine.

He blamed instead the subprime mortgage crisis, along with other financial market problems, insisting the US economic difficulties were "home-made."

UK: Inquiry demand after third energy price rise

British Gas said yesterday it was raising gas and electricity prices by 15% with immediate effect, meaning most of its 16 million customers will pay around £130 more over the coming year. The inflation-busting rise is expected to take customers' total spending on heating and lighting to more than £1,050 for the year - and add £1bn to British Gas coffers this year.

The government was coming under renewed pressure last night to launch an investigation into the home energy market after Britain's biggest supplier became the third power firm to raise prices substantially. The move, which was blamed on higher wholesale costs, prompted consumer groups to demand a Competition Commission investigation into whether the big six power firms that dominate the market were acting in "tacit collusion".

Power cuts plague Iraq, hurt oil production

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Electricity cuts that blacked out Iraq's northern oilfields and main refinery this week were a timely reminder that its hopes of boosting oil production rest on something it does not have -- a dependable power supply.

Iraq has managed to sustain production of around 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd), but levels were close to 3 million bpd before the U.S.-led war on Iraq in March 2003.

Myanmar to liberalize fuel import

Myanmar is deliberating on liberalizing the import of fuel by allowing the private sector to undertake the business in a bid to increase production, the local weekly Myanmar Times reported in this week's issue.

OPEC says higher oil output not needed

BERLIN, Jan 19 (Reuters) - OPEC currently sees no need for an increase in oil output but is analysing the market every day, the organisation's Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri told German weekly magazine Der Spiegel in an interview.

"We're carefully analysing the market day in, day out. If we reach the conclusion the fundamental data warrant an increase in production, then our oil ministers will not hesitate to decree this," he told the magazine in comments published on Saturday.

"But at present we see no need for this."

Peak Oil Passnotes: CERA's Silly Season

In the United Kingdom there is a time each year known as the ‘silly season’. It is when parliament has recessed so the poor downtrodden members of parliament can have their holidays. Back in the day before wall to wall 24-hour news channels sprayed our living rooms with infotainment people said the news was ‘sillier’ with items about skateboarding cats and so on.

These days we should have an oil ‘silly season’ because surely this is what the ‘analysts’ at Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) have come up with this week, silliness.

US Energy Secretary Bodman To Meet Saudi Oil Min Naimi Sat

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman on Saturday will meet with Saudi Arabia oil minister Ali Naimi, the U.S. Department of Energy said Friday.

Bodman, who began a several-country tour across the Middle East earlier this week, will continue to urge the world's top crude supplier to invest in long- term petroleum production and will express concern about short-term supply shortages, Energy Department officials have said.

Oil Demand, the Climate and the Energy Ladder

Energy demand is expected to grow in coming decades. Jeroen van der Veer, 60, Royal Dutch Shell’s chief executive, recently offered his views on the energy challenge facing the world and the challenge posed by global warming. He spoke of the need for governments to set limits on carbon emissions. He also lifted the veil on Shell’s latest long-term energy scenarios, titled Scramble and Blueprints, which he will make public next week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Following are excerpts from the interview:

Q. What are the main findings of Shell’s two scenarios?

A. Scramble is where key actors, like governments, make it their primary focus to do a good job for their own country. So they look after their self-interest and try to optimize within their own boundaries what they try to do. Blueprints is basically all the international initiatives, like Kyoto, like Bali, or like a future Copenhagen. They start very slowly but before not too long they become relatively successful. This is a model of international cooperation.

Argentina to impose sanctions against Shell

BUENOS AIRES, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Argentina is to impose sanctions against the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell for refusing to reduce the price of gasoline at the pump, Argentina's Interior Trade Department said Friday.

Argentina claims that Shell has failed to comply with its Supplies Law, and said the state will slap a mortgage-type sanction on a Shell processing plant in the locality of Dock Sur, Avellanada, 10 km south of the capital Buenos Aires.

Gulf oil boom spills over to poorer lands

The Gulf oil boom is sending ripples across the Arab world as capital from the oil-rich states increasingly flows into less developed parts of the region.

From Cairo to Casablanca, Gulf investment, in sectors ranging from real estate to financial services and telecommunications, has been attracted by a liberalisation of the economies and is helping drive faster growth rates.

Gulf companies that have matured at home have been scouting for acquisitions outside their markets.

Britain, China boost links on tackling climate change

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Britain and China are entering a new era of environmental cooperation and will lead the world in creating a sustainable future, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Saturday as he ended a two-day visit.

Brown switched focus from Friday's emphasis on boosting trade ties with the world's fastest-growing economy by inspecting cutting-edge projects in Beijing and Shanghai that aim to radically slash China's greenhouse gas emissions.

India to stand up to Brown on climate change

"A strong bilateral relationship is of priority for both countries, for economic and commercial, historical and foreign policy reasons and the presence of a large community of Indian origin in Britain," Sarna said.

But he warned that New Delhi had its own views on global warming -- a subject Brown has repeatedly promised to raise with his Indian host Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"India's emissions are far lower than many other countries," Sarna said referring to New Delhi's figure of four percent of the global carbon output.

Norwegian PM believes US will join climate pact

CAPE TOWN (AFP) - Growing concern in the United States on the dangers of greenhouse gases will lead Washington to ink a new global warming pact, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg predicted on Friday.

Hey, I need some help. I am trying to create a graph to explain EROI to my neighborhood board and similar and I need some feedback on my latest idea. What I am trying to do is use a Farm analogy to explain EROI. One bushel of seeds yielding greater and greater surplus back.

My reason for the Farm analogy is that it gives an intuitive model for what I feel are the two major points related to EROI:
1. That surpluses determine how many non farmers the economy can support (the size of the non-energy economy).
2. Show how EROI relates to prices. How high EROI sources have lower prices. How higher surpluses mean faster reinvestment.

I would appreciate any feedback on this idea. Or if you have a better suggestion, please offer it up. We need to find ways to get the word out and the subject is difficult to explain.


Here are the talking points to go with the slide that I hope this image conveys graphically:

Energy Return on Energy Invested is easier to understand when we look at the worlds oldest solar power plant: the farm.

* First Farmer sows 1 bushel and gets back one bushel surplus. Sustenance farming. Everyone is a farmer because there is no surplus to feed non-farmers.
* Second Farmer sows 1 bushel and gets back 30 bushel surplus. Surplus allows feeding non-farmers and towns and villages develop. Demographic transition from farms to industry begins.
* Third Farmer sows 1 bushel and gets back 100 bushel surplus. The huge surplus allows the feeding of giant cities. Only a small percentage of the population is needed to farm.

High Rates of Return on Investment allow a large population of non-farmers. What happens when the surplus goes away? Cities starve and return to towns.

Some economists claim that the oil industry is not important because it makes up such a small portion of the worlds economy. But this is exactly the opposite of the truth. It is the high rates of return that *allow* the industry to be a small portion of the overall economy.

Last points before moving on to real energy sources:
* Which farmer is going to earn more profits?
* Which farmer can undercut the others in price?
* Which farmer can expand their farm operation faster?

Great visual aid! Two things I noticed about it are:

1. You want to explain ERoEI, but in your description you loose the word "return" and switch to the word "surplus". That is somewhat confusing. Stick with "return" so your audience can focus on the lesson.

2. Then if you do use "return" in your description you should change you picture so that farmer #1 gets a return of TWO bags of grain for his investment of one. This means one to eat and one for next year's seed. When I first saw the picture the thing that popped to mind immediately was that farmer #1 was going to be one hungry guy if he only harvested one bag of grain for the bag he planted!
(You could add a little curved arrow showing that one bag of every farmer's harvest is recycled to seed for next year - but that may add more complexity than it is worth.)

Greg in MO

The ‘seeds’ don't really correspond very well to the idea of ‘energy invested’, which is in fact more the farmer’s work, of whatever kind. People think seeds are cheap and you just buy them in store (or whatever).

Anyway, if you want to go with that, it would be better to distinguish the ‘seed’ icon from the ‘wheat’ icon in some way (eg. seed icon is a bag, wheat icon is a picture of wheat, and as Greg said, etc.) as with just a quick distracted look, it looks like one bag of wheat can equal one or many more new bags, but how? And Greg is right, the word surplus has to go. It is not surplus (unless you define it very carefully), just return.

Thanks for the feedback!

Ok, I am going to change this slide to Seeds Returned on Seeds Invested. The goal here is NOT to accurately model farming energy inputs and outputs. The goal is to give people who might have done some home gardening a crutch to understand why low EROI energy sources are not going to replace high EROI sources.

Seeds Returned on Seeds Invested is about the only system I can think of that behaves even close to energy production. I gave a presentation just talking about the equation of Energy Out/Energy In, but they just didn't get it. The same questions about surpluses were asked multiple times, so I know the idea was not crossing. (I fully admit not being a gifted public speaker).

I will also change the "return" part of the image so that the surplus is separated from the seeds that will be recycled for the next years production. And I will add an extra bag of grain for the sustenance farmer, because your right, he would starve!

The same questions about surpluses were asked multiple times, so I know the idea was not crossing. (I fully admit not being a gifted public speaker.

But you seem, from this, to be observant and a quick learner.

Good Luck !!

that makes sense...

I have made simpler schemes..or rather laid them out for others to do. For young teens, for ex. The way to do that, I thought, was to make the energy invested simply ‘work’, ‘effort’, ‘time spent’, which is an intuitive notion - some things are tough, take a lot of physical energy, take time, etc. in contrast to other things that are ‘easy’ appealing to everyday experience, such as (in my case) skimming down a hill on skis, vs. walking up the snowy hill. The stuff harvested (it could be diamonds, or tomatoes, or wheat) are just somehow ‘there’ or appear, ‘grow’ automatically, it is left in the shade. That is a materialist, physicalist approach that skips the ‘economy.’ The metaphor is then something like apples in a orchard (in a closed system), which require ever increasing physical /technological effort to keep the apples coming out to market, and those who harvest them alive.

Eve eating a Big Mac Instead? Heh ;)

Yes, that extra bag for the farmer can be related to WestTexas's Export Land Model.

The farmer and his family, and his livestock must be fed FIRST, before he takes any grain to market. Assume each human needs 9000 seeds a year to feed themselves. Each seed invested will yield ten at harvest ( EROEI=10 ).

The first farmer has poor soil, he eats 9000 seeds a year, and eventually has to sell his farm to pay back his debt.

He harvested nothing. He loses

The second farmer works all by himself.

Problem is he is so inefficient by himself he can only plant one thousand seeds, getting back ten thousand seeds. He eats nine thousand seeds just to survive and power his body. He saves the last thousand seeds for next year.

He slowly loses his farm to the tax man. Overhead kills him.

The third farmer has his family. All together, they can plant six thousand seeds because his wife offloaded all the cooking and washing chores, and left him and his three kids to concentrate on planting and harvest.

They reap sixty thousand seeds. They end up eating 45 thousand seeds. and they save six thousand seeds for next year. This leaves 9000 seeds. Enough to feed the tax man.

The fourth farmer has a family and horse. He nearly doubles his productivity because of the horse. He plants ten thousand seeds, and harvests one hundred thousand seeds.

His family eats 45,000 seeds, the horse eats 20,000 seeds, 10,000 seeds are saved for next year, leaving 25,000 seeds for market. He's feeding his family, his horse, his preacher, and the tax man.

The fifth farmer has a tractor. He plants 100,000 seeds, reaps a million.

His family eats 45,000 seeds. Another 45,000 seeds are sold to buy diesel for the tractor. 100,000 seeds are saved for next year. 10,000 seeds go for tax. 800,000 seeds are available to feed the townspeople. The farm feed itself and almost 90 townfolk.

Now, a problem comes. Fuel for the tractor is getting expensive. Instead of exchanging 45,000 seeds for fuel, its 100,000 seeds. Six less people get fed.

Then its 200,000 seeds for fuel, and sometimes can't get fuel at all. Half the crop is lost because its harvest time and the tractor won't run without fuel. His EROEI has dropped to 5.

His family still eats 45,000 seeds. 100,000 are still saved to plant next year, the farmer is still out 200,000 seeds sold for the diesel fuel he did get. Taxes still got 10,000 seeds. Out of his meager harvest of 500,000 seeds, 145,000 seeds are left. Enough for sixteen people - but 90 townfolk were counting on him. Seventy four people will not get fed.

Having seventy four heads around without something to put in their tummies is not a pretty sight. There is apt to be much physical argument concerning which tummy gets the remaining food. If they destroy the farmer's infrastructure in the melee, even more tummies will not get fed.

Anyway, thats my take on this whole thing.

Part of what you are saying here makes sense; the tech innovations in modern agribuiness has allowed many folks to do something besides farm. You can't have proffessions such as ad salesman, manicurists, etc. You would not have vast numbers of folks attending university to take up psych, soc, apperal merchandising, etc if tey had to grow enough food to feed themself.

There is simply NO WAY in the world that agriculture is going back in time. NONE.

I read JHK's book, "The Long Emergency" and while I agree with a lot of it, he got agriculture TOTALLY wrong, and here's some reasons his view of ag in the future is WAY off;

1) Using horses to farm takes WAY WAY TOO much land. In the horse ag days, it took one-third of all ag produce to feed the horses that did the production. TALK ABOUT EXPENSIVE fuel! In the horse days, the amount of acres it took to grow that fuel made ethanol look like a garden plot.

2) Modern farms today have 300 hp tractors pulling 60 ft wide airseeders operated with AUTOSTEER. (That's right, our tractors use gps to steer) At 6 mph, by 60 ft wide, wasting not a penny on overlap, it takes VERY LITTLE fuel to farm with.

3) My farm uses 4.23 gallons/acre, while IA State says it takes closer to 9 gallons per acre. COMPARE THAT TO HORSE farming on a EROEI basis.

4) According to IA State, the ave corn yield on IA farmland on a 10 year ave is 173.4 bu/acre. Using all BTUs from fuel, fert, and pesticides, that's a EROEI of about 13:1. That's better than the North Sea in it's hayday. Including equipment expense, labor, deprec, insurance, etc, the EROEI is still around 10:1.

5) There is 395,000 BTU's in a bushel of corn. If you don't like my figures, check them.

6) There will ALWAYS be SOME oil produced. Even 50 years from now the production will be at least 20 mbpd, I'm guessing worst case scenario. Where do you think those barrels will go?

I'm 100% convinced those few barrels will go to the guy who adds the MOST VALUE to them. Whomever can get the most EROEI out of them. It ain't the soccor mom. It ain't Joe Suburb. It ain't the engineer designing the next widget.

The FIRST barrel produced will go to herbicide/pesticide, because it adds SO MUCH value vs the BTU content of the herbicide. (One pint of roundup = 20,000 BTUs. This pint will EASILY add 50 bu/acre. 50 bu corn = almost 20 million BTUs. EROEI of Roundup/herbicide/pesticide = 1,000 to 1.)

Once all the globes pesticide needs are met, the next barrels will go powering tractors.

Nobody out there will be able to OUTBID a farmer for petro, because nobody adds as much value to a unit of petro.

I've spent lots of time looking at Peak Oil, and I'm convinced we are here, but there's a BIG MISSING SUBJECT on the conversation about the outcome of PO. That is;

Where will those precious few barrels of daily production go in 20 years? Who will get them? Who adds the most value to them?

I say its the highest bidder. That person is me.

There is simply NO WAY in the world that agriculture is going back in time. NONE.

I think it's possible. What happens if peak oil means we can no longer maintain the technology that currently supports modern agriculture? If, say, we can no longer afford to launch GPS satellites?

I posted an article a few weeks back about a farmer who bought a new half-million dollar combine every year. He had to, because it was worn out after a year's use. Is this really sustainable?

Where will those precious few barrels of daily production go in 20 years? Who will get them? Who adds the most value to them?

I hope it's agriculture, but I have a feeling the lucky winner will be the military.

I have a feeling the lucky winner will be the military.

I agree, though the farmer I think will be a close second.

It seems to me in history some nation-state used soldiers to farm fields at a certain point ?

I would agree with that. But I wonder if we all are still assume too many givens when seeing the future.

Most of what we talked about is the distribution of remaining supply to farmers, Mil. etc.

That assumes a supply chain functioning to a great degree.

If there is no coherent 'Safe" distribution system in the country, many assumptions need to be changed.

Visualize Mexico in 10-15 years. What do you see? A functioning supply chain/distribution system for distributing goods?

Maybe not so stable. Who will get the "Distribution" of the remaining gas there? The Farmers? The Millitary? Banditos?

Oh, factor in the idea that we are already seeing people steal copper phone,powerlines. In 10-15 years (after-during the Greater Depression) Copper lines between towns, cities on those 20 - 100 miles of empty road may be somewhat at risk. Certain things stop working after that happens.

Who will get the "Distribution" of the remaining gas there? The Farmers? The Millitary? Banditos?

In 20 years it may be hard to distinguish between those last 2 categories ;)

..and not to forget the fact that 'An army runs on its stomach..'

Will the Armed Forces start planting victory gardens around their bases?

Will the exorbitant expenditures to 'Rent-a-G.I., Rent-an-MP and Rent-a-potato peeler' (KBR, Bechtel, Halliburton, Blackwater, et al..) start facing demand-destruction as their poor return-on-investment becomes unsustainable?


(edited for word-choice..)

The army seems to favor cattle farming, rather than veggies. They tend to lease out grazing rights.
At the bluegrass army depot in Kentucky, the cattle also serve as a warning of nerve gas leakage.

During the Tokugawa period in Japan, Samurai protected the fields and farmers from other armed individuals in exchange for the necessities of life. The farmer and the Samurai existed in a symbiotic relationship. Far different from the exploitative fudalism of Western Europe. The Shogunate through the loyalties of the individual Samurai provided an organization capable of repeling larger threats. When the threat was dealt with, the Samurai returned to the farms they were the protectors for. The Samurai at all times recognized the interdependence between himself and the farmer.

Absolutely, Switzerland is a historical example, though the details of who exactly plowed what field and gathered what % of potatoes or beets is not something I would like to venture into. I guess even the ‘top’ historical studies can’t sort that one out.

Today’s reassuring mantra here - Switzerland has a conscription army - is that division of labor will work: men do the hard stuff, women all the rest. The men are ready to go, in 24 hours. The hard stuff could be anything. Digging ditches, planting, etc. All that dates from ww2, and even before, and is very folksy. By such myths do we live.

This letter, PDF, short, to the NY Times in 1915, gives a bit of the very outdated flavor which sorta continues today:


Leanan, in 20 years, or even today, the military are not 'adding the most value' to the FFs they are allocated. Besides, 'a military moves on its stomachs', as we all know, so feeding a military is a priority for it to continue to function. From the perspective of the US citizen/taxpayers the costs of the wars in Afganistan and Iraq have been socialized while any 'profits' have been funneled into corporations that are favored by the current administration...This is not a sustainable business model for an empire or any other form of governmemt that I am familiar with. There have been no real 'profits' if one considers that the ongoing wars are being funded by creating ever larger budget deficits. It is my opinion that these wars, and even more wars, cannot be continued because at some point the US military, industrial, congressional complex will bankrupt the US and cause a collapse of the US economy and government. This isnt the day of Alexander, where empires were created by vast well trained armies...now there is the nuclear weapons factor to consider. After the US economy collapses from mismanagement, incompetence, theft and unprofitable foreign wars I believe that there is a good chance that a significant portion of any FFs that the US still has access to will be used for agriculture and for bootstrapping manufacturing for products needed for US internal consumption; ie, medicines, alternate energy, ag distribution, etc. TPTB will stick with the current model untill it collapses, 'dancing with the one that brung 'em', and then we will see a much different US...sans empire and SUVs and with a reduced population. Unfortunately the 'ship' we are on is too big and has too much momentum to turn before hitting that iceburg ahead.

This isnt the day of Alexander, where empires were created by vast well trained armies...

I suspect that in the days of Alexander and in the Roman Empire, the return on investment of military conquests had to be very real and in a fairly quick time. There was the immediate plunder that the troops could bring home, but more importantly there was the ongoing tax base to support the empire.

Now we have a different story where the waning supply of cheap fossil fuel is supporting war efforts that don't necessarily promise any return at all. In fact the wars the US is involved in promise to be a continuing drain barring the miracle that Iraq is stabilized and vast amounts of oil revenue are siphoned off.

Sigh.... oh for the good olde days :-(

Alexander was at the right place at the right time. Farm production had increased to a level where there was sufficient excess supply in all the regions that Alexander attacked. He swept through the regions, took the excess supply, cut off the leadership and replaced it with his own. The system kept functioning. Basically Alexander scooped up the over production to feed his Army with out too much destruction of the cultivation. Brilliant!

Yes, interesting that the same areas of the world have been in contention by the major players for so much of recorded history.

More recently Hitler achieved one objective (the oil fields around Ploesti) only to have the British bomb them from air fields on Malta and in Egypt. The British had major buildups in those areas primarily to protect the interests of, uhm, BP. Ghawar was first tapped in 1938 by Chevron...

Ironically, it may be argued that BP saved the world from fascism. Hitler decided that the Ploesti oil fields had to be secured by invading Greece before launching Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia. This delayed the launch of Barbarossa by some 6 weeks. It had been planned that the Slavs could be subdued before the Russian winter set in but the delay cost them.

The invasion of Greece also caused Rommel in North Africa to go short on supplies and replacements delaying his hoped for grasping of the Egyptian oil fields. When the German advance in Russia stalled in the Fall of 1941, at least partially due to long supply lines, attention was refocused on Rommel briefly. Some 22 U-Boats were diverted out of the Atlantic into the Med, essentially ending the supremacy of the British Navy in that area for nearly a year and enabling a re-supply effort to Rommel.

Rommel once again was able to pretty much push the British back at will, until El Alamein. At that point his supply lines were once again stretched to the limit and he was forced to deploy his vaunted Panzers in ways that conserved fuel, turning his tactical genius with mobile Panzers into stationary, defensive gun emplacements which the British could exploit.

Throughout the war the German machine depended on fuel for mobility and it of course faltered when supplies got tight. The resumption of the advance in Russia Spring 1942
saw a tougher fight put up by the Russians, although they were pushed back to Stalingrad. The stalling of the Russian front also allowed the U.S. time to pump a LOT of supplies into Russia via the Murmansk Run.

Sadly for Hitler, he ignored a primary teaching of Clausewitz, probably the most brilliant military German general of all time. He had already postulated the doctrine of the "diminishing strength of attack". According to this, every attack that does not lead immediately to peace is bound to grow weaker as it proceeds and at a certain point end up by turning into defense. Clausewitz called this moment the "culminating point".

Thank you BP, lol. If it hadn't been for the British forces present in North Africa defending their interests there, they would have been unable to threaten the Ploesti oil fields and Barbarossa would have begun on schedule, possibly knocking Russia out of the war. As it was, at one point Stalin was reported to be so desperate in meetings with Churchill and Roosevelt that it was evident that Russia was on the verge of collapse, Russian winter or no Russian winter.

More recently the ties between Britain and the the U.S. have been strengthened by the U.S. allowing BP to purchase several major U.S. oil companies, first Sohio, then Amoco and finally ARCO. No wonder that Blair has followed the U.S. lead so consistenly.

Sorry to get sidetracked, but just more oil trivia from the past, admittedly simplified. A take-away from all this maybe- Oil was always a primary strategic concern during WWII. To think that things might be different now in the midst of a new kind of war, with all the history from Alexander on, would be simplistic.

Here we are again, battling over the same reaches of real estate. The bridgeheads have been secured, the battle lines being drawn. Sigh...

i think amoco aquired/merged with sohio in '87, that was a remarriage of the former standard oil units. bp merged with amoco in 96 and bought arco in 2000.

It was BP that purchased Sohio. I was with Amoco at the time and thought nothing of it really. The Sohio name began to disappear on gas stations, terminals, refineries, etc.

In '89 Amoco told the employees that they had been working with consultants to try and get a glimpse of what the future held for the oil industry. The conclusion of several years study was that by the end of the century there would be only 4 or 5 big super majors after a wave of consolidation. The main reason- they would all have to bulk up in order to get big enough to afford to go deep-water and fight for the remaining oil. Amoco began looking...

In June 1999 the uhm, merger with BP was announced, they had been in talks for about a year. We were told there would be no changes in North American operations. I was in the Lubricants Business Unit at the time. It had just been sold to Chevron. BP turned out to not be happy about that, they wanted it.

We discovered later that top Amoco executives had been given, er, employment guarantees. Within a year it was announced that headquarters would be moved to London and that the 96 story Amoco building, affectionately known as 'Big Johns' erection' after CEO of the 70s John Swearingen, would be sold. AIG purchased it, wouldn't be surprised if they have been looking for a buyer lately, hehe.

I was lucky for a bit. A position was found for me back in headquarters once again in the wake of the sale of Lubes. But in Spring 2001 our entire group was severed. Hard to find seats for 5000 people in an office park in the burbs, lol.

It was also announced that most U.S. refineries were on the block. Mandan, ND was purchased by Tesoro, never heard what happened to Salt Lake and Yorktown,VA. Whiting and Texas City remained, the two largest. Amoco, er, BP Chemicals up for sale also. The Amoco name began to disappear on gas stations, terminals, refineries, etc.

Yea, it was called a merger. BP Amoco was supposed to be the name, for a time. Then a contest was announced to rename the company. Beyond Petroleum was the eventual winning candidate and consultants were hired to come up with a new logo, the ecological sunburst getting the nod eventually. The BP initials of course remain.

Funny how that worked out, hehe.

There was some resistance among the motoring public. Gasoline sales dipped. Amoco premium gasoline had garnered a reputation as being a very high quality gasoline. To this day BP stations now sell premium with the Amoco or BP Amoco name still on the pump, but normally only on premium.

ARCO was purchased late in 2000. By this time many high ex-Amoco execs had taken 20 and 30 million dollar buyouts.

If it looks like a buyout and smells like a buyout, well you decide. But yes, nice to see former Standard splinters re-united, will they get the rest also? One might even go the other way.

thank you for the insights. i remember in the '70's arco was at the top of their game, sometime in the 80's i think they lost their mojo. around the time they acquired the anaconda co and i think things went downhill from there.

in the '80's majors and notsomajors were buying businesses they probably had no business in. they called it diversification. mobil bought wards, i dont think that was a real wise move.

About Rommel. Romel was brilliant when he was reading the US army attache's daily reports on exactly where the British were, where they were going, and what they were going to do when they got there.
When we found out, Romel stopped being brilliant because he stopped getting reports.

WRT gps a farmer or group of farmers could set up low power synchronized transmitters to provide a more than adequate low cost substitute for sattelite based navigation. Aviation used such a system for over 50 before gps and these transmitters are still being used in the US and Europe. If as you suspect the military gets first dibs on whatever oil is left then they will certainly use a tiny fraction of their share to put up replacements as needed.
No other industry has the ability to be as self powered as agriculture. Using soybeans as part of a regular crop rotation plan means plenty of biodiesel will be available. Electric tractors using wind and solar are also possibilities.

RDF - radio direction finder

I had one on my kettenburg for sailing up and down the coast many moons ago.

Simple but effective.

not as pinpoint as gps even with several fixes.

Now a days I have heard of sending boats down the westcoast unmaned. just plot into gps, sinc with auto-pilot and drive down to intersept.

Oh yes, we can be that accurate.

What we do is modulate the carrier digitally with a pseudo-random number sequencer ( also known as a linear feedback shift register ). What this does is code the carrier with a mathematical "song", and like a song, you hear a few notes of it, and you know where you are in the song. Thats the beauty of the LFSR - if its a "N" bit, then by the time you get N bits, you know exactly where in the sequence you are, and can predict the next bit.

Now, being the carrier is digitally modulated, you can lock onto the "song" ( phaselock ), and look at the carrier.

The wave length of, say, a 900MHz carrier is around 13 inches. That is for every 13 inches you approach or retreat from the transmitter, you go through a complete cycle of carrier.

Ever sat in front of a TV with rabbit ears and noted you could shift in the couch the tiniest bit and cause the TV to misbehave? Its acting as a phase detector comparing the signal coming directly to its antenna, and the signal bouncing off of you. VHF Channel 3 is aroung 60 MHz.

Say you have four transmitters locked to each other and THEY are stationary. Each are sending a different "song", but all are locked on the same "beat".

On the tractor's receiver, it receives all the signals simultaneously. Each carrier is identified by the LFSR "music" encoded on it. At that point, one does phase analysis of the carriers, mixing them against each other adding known phase delay techniques to null them out.

By doing this, one can resolve one degree of phase shift, which is 0.036 inches.

This would use the same technology as cellphone towers use now. 900MHz is the cellphone band.

Although this does not tell you your ABSOLUTE position, you will have a fine RELATIVE position to the transmitters. If you know where the transmitters are, then you know where YOU are.

We have microprocessor capabilities to do this analysis on the fly using milliwatts of power.

I challenge the assertion that farmers will even use oil in their tractors in 20 years, or any significant amount of oil.

So what will farmers be using instead of oil? This should be interesting.

hybrid tractors
electric tractors


Wind driven ammonia for both fertilizer and fuel? The fuel use is already proven.


Burning ammonia is idiotic. NOx is a greenhouse gas and leads to the formation of ozone in the troposphere which is a serious pollutant and a greenhouse gas to boot. At least with CH4 you get more energy per molecule than with NH3. Fuel cells based on ammonia are another matter if they manage to cycle the nitrogen back into N2.

Your statement is completely and utterly ignorant. Ammonia burns cleaner than gasoline in terms of NOx output and what there is can be cleaned up with an off the shelf catalytic converter, just as is done for a gasoline engine. Or at least that is what I've been told. I am, however, far more inclined to take the word of a man standing next to an ammonia based engine mounted in a dynamometer undergoing durability testing, which doesn't start until emissions testing is complete, than the assertions of some random guy from the internet.

Do I sound snippy? Sorry, but after the tenth time I fielded this question in a Drum Beat thread I would have thought everyone would have internalized this particular bit of information.

Ammonia Engine Durability Test


Slaves, meet your new masters.

How can any solutions to the problems that beset us increasingly, how can we solve them if we think we are great? If we think we are wonderful, how can we fix our disgusting habits, our nauseating pus-dripping, diseased body that smells like a corpse? How do we find a cure when we keep saying we are hale and healthy?

Impossible! Words matter! And if we keep yelling,'I'm OK! I'm a marathon man!' as we stagger to the ground and throw up in the gutter. We sound like a stupid drunk! Always, the first step towards sobriety and health is to first admit that something is very wrong and then to correctly see what it is. If one is a drunk, one can't claim the wife or boss drove one to drink, for example. So it is with a nation: until we understand that we cannot consume much more of world resources than we produce, we will continue to fall into debt."


The general equities market must be calmed. Should the Dow crater, another major domino falls. Let's see how the PPT (Price Protection Team) brings the Dow in Tuesday morning in pre U.S. trading and then how Tuesday closes. The DOW better be higher each day than the indices are before U.S. trading or as the last two days demonstrated, the PPT has lost its tight control of the equities markets. Watch the pre-open indices and closing Dow very closely.

If the equity markets cannot be calmed then:

Here he has a nice long list.

I recommend reading it.


A sample:

# The markets for general equities would all have to institute total trading halts every 100 points on the downside for 30 minutes each.
# All commercial call loans would be called.
# All debtors one day late on any payment, lacking grace period, would be liquidated. All debtors over one day of the grace period would be liquidated.
# It is clearly visible to anyone with eyes or a mind to think that the PPT has lost all semblance of control in the equity markets and will soon in all remaining markets.
# The commercial paper credit market which is almost dead will die totally

until we understand that we cannot consume much more of world resources than we produce, we will continue to fall into debt.

But it's not debt, it's theft. We have never intended to pay.

Mother Nature is going to foreclose on homo sapiens.

Go to the head of the class.

Once this meme gets out, it's EndGame time.

I read this article on Aegon, Scottish Widows and noted some
bizarre statements.

The comments section caught them as well

Panic selling shuts £2bn fund


... because you figure they will do ... what instead?

"If, say, we can no longer afford to launch GPS satellites?" Well, since the Europeans and Russians are both continuing to have trouble affording Galileo and Glonass, their versions of GPS, even now, maybe this is worth asking. However, do keep in mind that the trouble is purely political, the fraction of GDP involved is almost too small to measure. And even some of the most dirt-poor countries on Earth keep hugely expensive projects going for reasons of sheer vanity, so if GPS is truly valuable...

Nonetheless, if there is value in steering tractors automatically, one can always pound a few tall stakes into the ground, bolt pseudo-satellites onto them, and steer that way. The kind of electronics needed was already available by around 1990. It's still made in large quantities all over the world, mainly in rather less-developed places, as hardly anyone in the OECD can be bothered to touch it any more. You'll find it everywhere in all sorts of less-sophisticated electronic gadgets. Electric toothbrushes. Thermostats. Battery chargers. Plug-in air fresheners.

GPS is a very complicated, large-system way of steering tractors, which we use because (1) we can, (2) it's fashionable even though it's 25 year old technology, (3) it's standardized, so (4) it's less trouble to set up than alternatives. But it's not the only possible way.

Now, in the domain "anything's possible", civilization could fall so low that 1990-level electronics can be made absolutely nowhere on Earth. That, too, would be political, as there is plenty of sand in the world, and people have been fabricating small high-value objects since ages before oil. It need not happen. But if it does, these discussions simply will not matter, our crystal balls will have gone utterly dark - because most of us doing the discussing will not be alive or remembered anyway.

If we can still remember how to make diode lasers, or scavenge them out of old consumer electronics, they could provide a super accurate local positioning system. Think of current day surveying tools.

Does not change your point, but Russian system is expected to be world-wide functioning again by the end of this year. Many launches within last year made it functional again across Russia. Initial batch of the first consumer GPS+Glonass navigation gizmo was sold out:


You said,
"I posted an article a few weeks back about a farmer who bought a new half-million dollar combine every year. He had to, because it was worn out after a year's use. Is this really sustainable?"

Could you please provide a source for that? I know that here in KY we have combines that are 30 years old and are still working the fields every summer. Perhaps folks buying that half million dollar one should consider changing brands! (or are they Chinese combines :-), sorry couldn't resist....


Could you please provide a source for that?

I did. I just can't remember what day I posted it. :)

However, it definitely was not in Kentucky. I can't remember where it was, but probably some place like South Dakota. The article said that it was the sheer amount of land farmed/wheat produced that wore out the combine and forced the farmer to buy a new one every year.

Only as a contract harvestor. Starting in south Texas in early June and ending at the Canadian border in Sept. A combine lasts longer than twenty days, the length of any local harvest season.

I could see the contractor harversters trading in on a new model each year, because that's their livelihood. No way is the old one ready for the scrap heap, though. Some frugal farmer somewhere will pick up a bargain and keep it running for years.

My wifes' stepfather farmed and his business was the holder of the equipment for a number of farms in his area in Indiana. He still has 2500 acres. He bought a new major piece of equipment each year. The combine would come up for replacement every several years. Not so much because it needed it, but because he liked relatively new equipment. It keeps downtime down he says.

Every winter it was not replaced it received a tune-up to the tune of $20,000 or so.

Maybe Ethanol boom a mixed bag?

ASSUMPTION, Ill. - Len Corzine zipped up the hooded sweat shirt a John Deere dealer gave him hours earlier, before heading out to survey a plot of land he farms.

"This is one of the most expensive coats you'll ever see because it came with a new combine," Corzine said. "It's a $325,000 jacket."

Corzine, an otherwise frugal man who wears tired leather boots and drives a Ford pickup with more than 120,000 miles packed on the odometer, harvests, threshes and cleans enough grain to need a new combine each year.

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.

Yeah, sounds like "new paint disease"

Where are you going to get the fertilizer? I assume you are in a monoculture situation with the rest of Industrial Farmers. Nitrogen might not be as much a problem as potassium and potash.

I like your thought process. You obviously know more about farming than most here (hence your login name?).

However, you are assuming that the world acts rationally when we get to those 20 mbd. I don't see that happening. right now we are squeezing out the third world, and no one is exactly consciously doing that. Not on purpose.

How are the farmers going to be able to afford the more expensive oil and oil products in the future, even if that is the most logical use?

The government won't be able to unless we transform to a benevolent dictatorship. I can hope, but no one is smart enough or savvy enough to take that role.

Eastern North Carolina

Good postings and lots of food for thought. Pun intended:-)

Benevolent dictators and philosopher kings are rarer than hen's teeth and in a crunch will be scarcer than oil. In order for the power(s)-that-be to be effective they will need the trust or at least the tacit consent of the people. That will be scarcer still. And then if Howard Kunstler is right, governments may be lucky to answer the telephone and do little else.

Mega-systems and complex societies require a great deal of energy to run.

Reliance on the fall-back positions of family and town would more likely be the order of the day.

Might be time to start being nice to the in-laws. That may be harder for some of us than plowing a field.

Here's the way I see modern ag going;

Whoops, let me first back up and discuss the third world and ag, and how subsidies work. Last week I traveled through a piece of rural Mexico. Ever notice that "Rural" and "Poverty" go hand in hand? To understand where ag is going, we must remember how we got here.

Whenever I travel, all I here is growth, growth growth. BS!! Not in farm country.

Walk down the halls of a highschool in rural farm country and look at the photos of graduating classes. Each recent one is smaller than the one before. We export 90% of our youth to suburbia. Most of the mainstreets lost most biz, and stores are empty, vacated, and falling apart. My hometown had 540 pop in 1915, its less than 20 people today. I live in central/western SD. IA is much the same when you look at the small towns 50 miles or more from its bigger towns.

Cheap energy is the ENEMY of rural America. It is a transfer of people and wealth from rural areas to the cities.

Here is how ag subsidies basically work;

1) Countercyclical payments. These kick in when grain prices are low.

2) Flat per acre payment. This one depends on where you live, but its roughly 20% of rental rate. This one ultimately goes to the landlord, because rent bids factor in recieving the payment. Hence if it were eliminated, it would reduce the rental rate by the same amount.

3) The BIG one is LDP. Its VERY VERY important to understand this one before ANY conversation about third world ag takes place. LDP = Loan Deficiency Payment. The gov't sets a price target for each grain, they are;

Corn = $1.80

Soybeans = roughly $5.80

Wheat = roughly $3.50

It goes like this, - The local elevator bid on corn in the fall of 2005 was $1.50 (depending on the day). That's 30 cents BELOW the gov't price target. Therefore, the farmer gets the missing 30 cents from the gov't. If the elevator bid was only $1, then the gov't paid 80 cents per bushel.

Every day the LDP changed, because every day the local bids changed. The old game was to hedge grain during summer rally, then pick up LDP during the harvest low. This game turned upside down as cheap grain said adios.

Subsidies 1 and 3 above GO AWAY when grains rise much. They've never risen much above target prices before for long, so we are in uncharted territory. Basically, except for subsidy 2 above, (Which gets embedded into rent and ultimately goes to landlord) ag is in a free market system for the first time since WWI.

How does this impact third world ag? Well, in the subsidized era, (Most of the 20th century) European and American farmers kept producing more and more BELOW THE COST OF PRODUCTION. This WRECKED HAVOC on third world ag.

Basically ag in the third world is in its infancy, because they HAD NO ECON INCENTIVE TO modernize ag production UNTIL NOW.

Fertilizer only went to subsidized areas, because we were the only ones who could afford the stuff. Now everyone can. Hence the price of fert has risen 800% in the past 2 years.

The END of cheap grain is a HUGE shot in the arm to struggling rural poor in the developing world. If US/European grain subsidies were their enemy, (which they were) then expensive grain will fuel a boom for farmers in Africa/elsewhere.

People do NOT starve due to lack of productive capability. People starve due to politics. Take Zimbabwe as an example. The country once exported half its ag production, today it starves. Why? Because left wing dictator decided to take from rich and give to poor. A recipe for disaster every time its tried.

So ag will need to become more efficient in its use of fertilizer, because there will be less to go around. This is a good thing for the environment. There are hundreds of ways to squeeze more production out of a unit of fertilizer without sacrificing yield, but until now, why bother? In the future, it will pay big to utilize best tech for utilizing fert including;

1) Site specific application using GPS and grid soil sampling.

2) Adding stabilizers to N fert that reduce leaching. (Been on market for years, but until now were cost prohibitive - cheaper to just apply more N)

3) Here's the BIG one! Biotech. Biotech crops that use very little fert are nearly EPA approval. This is GREAT news. They take a gene from one plant that efficiently utilizes fert, and inject it into a grain crop.

PO may be the death of suburbia, but its JUST WHAT global ag needed.

Hope this info shed light.

P.S. In "The Long Emergency" JHK claimed the highplains would do poorly, because we need subsidies. WRONG! The plains of SD, ND, KS, OK are THE LOW COST PRODUCERS of wheat. At these price levels, we neither need nor get subsidies.

Every PO "expert" has the future of agriculture 100% WRONG.

I wouldn't call myself an expert, but my prediction for some time has been deflationary trends in the housing/auto/finance sectors and inflationary trends in food & energy.

The big picture view is that net producers of essential goods & services (especially related to food & energy production) are going to do much better than net consumers. The three "P's." Produce, Pilfer or Perish.


This is a thought provoking post and I agree with a lot of what you are saying. I'd take issue with one point and raise a couple other questions.

I doubt, "Cheap energy is the ENEMY of rural America. ..." Cheap FOOD is the enemy of rural America. While increases in energy prices would eventually translate to higher food prices, the tremendous efficiency of modern farming, that you gave us such a detailed glimpse of, leads me to suspect that higher energy prices are not the primary driver of the current rise in food prices. I could be wrong here, I'm no expert and know very little about farming, then again, especially recently, "expert" often seems to be a synonym for "moron", so I'll continue.

I agree with you that farmers will do well going forward, but as you point out, rural farmers comprise a very small percentage of the present day population. If price is an indicator of availability then food is becoming more scarce. The United Nations Food and Agricultural organization, from Dec 17th bolsters this idea:

In an "unforeseen and unprecedented" shift, the world food supply is dwindling rapidly and food prices are soaring to historic levels, the top food and agriculture official of the United Nations warned Monday.


You mentioned policies which affect food prices, if I remember SS's work on fermenting the food supply, last year near 40% of domestic corn production went to ethanol. When you back up a minute and think about this and how quickly it has happened it is stunning. And if oil is 125/barrel at the end of this year and the goal is some absurd amount of ethanol is there any reason to expect that the majority of corn production won't soon go towards ethanol? The limit here would seem to be when the hue and cry about food prices leads to policy limitations on ethanol production. Yes farmers will be doing well, but will "farmers" be growing food. Along those lines is there a great deal of difference between corn grown for food and corn grown for ethanol production? I mean I honestly don't know, but would seem to have an impact on how fungible the corn supply is.

I really hate to be bleak, but I see the world burning (literally) through much of its food reserves as PO ramps up. When food prices necessitate policy changes regarding ethanol production we better hope the EROEI was poor for ethanol or that lost ethanol production will add to PO difficulties.

I do think there are solutions going forward but wow the past couple months have had some interesting headlines. We are fortunate ( ah hell the timings all off to say this, maybe I'll go into politics he he) to have such tremendous farmers here in the US, probably a good time to kiss up to .. er make friends with your local farmer. May I be the first to propose a National Farmers Day in October ... at least for those farmers who grow food.

BTW: I see one of the main benefits (and I am currently not part of the solution maybe this will change) of small local agriculture, as with distributed energy production, to be that it decreases the power of the state. i.e if you grow your own food, provide your own heat, electricity and shelter you are in a sense more free. In seriousness, better late then never, thanks HPF for helping feed the world.

40% is incorrect. Current production is 454 thousand barrels per day or about 7 billion gallons per year. Requires 2.6 billion bushels or about 20% of the current crop of 13.1 billion bushels of corn. a 15% increase this year would bring it up to about 23%

Well, cough, this was from TOD (rounded up) perhaps I shouldn't trust you guys.

Starting out from 7% in 1998, the percentage of the corn crop covered by ethanol plant capacity in progress has now reached 37-38% of the corn crop.

It is well-referenced "Sources: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service for corn production, National Corn Growers Association for conversion efficiencies, and Renewable Fuels Association for ethanol plant capacities."


As I look at it, you are correct though that it refers to ethanol capacity and not production. Sorry, my bad. Still a disturbing trend to my thinking.

I understand your well thought out logic. I think that I will get some type of preference so I can get to my oil and gas leases as well, since without the fuel - I can use gasoline, diesel or CNG, just in case - I have to shut them down. But there is a limit to giving those preferences. If you get some, and I get some, and the Doctors get some, and the judges get some, we are close to being right back where we started, except hoarding will precede all of this, and there will not be enough to be allocated !!!

Shortages will force all of us to adapt, and it will change the whole world. The people who do not have jobs will grow their own food, of some type, and that will by itself change the nature of agriculture, since the consumption side will change.

There went your "No chance...", but I didn't start this to be in an argument.

Irrigation will also change, and wells will have to be restaged on massive scales, up or down, to efficiently produce the irrigation water, with another energy cost. That assumes that the water has not gotten too high in mineral salts, or dissolved solids to be useful for the crops which happens as the water level in the aquifer is lowered.

Shortages will force all of us to adapt, and it will change the whole world. The people who do not have jobs will grow their own food, of some type, and that will by itself change the nature of agriculture, since the consumption side will change.

The problem is that most people don't have a clue on how to grow there own food, and urban regions have no land to grow food anyway. Those living in the burbs, have treated there land with herbicides that make nice mono-culture lawns, and are containmented with household chemicals (Septic systems). Although its likely that a lots of people unaware of the dangers will plant anyway and endup getting sick.

Furthermore, at best we are taking about supplimental food, its virtually impossible to feed a household for a full year on a small plot of land. What happens when the weather is bad and the crops fail, What do these people do then? Further more, I doubt the elderly will be strong enough to feed themselves. Food theif would be another major concern.

Irrigation will also change, and wells will have to be restaged on massive scales, up or down, to efficiently produce the irrigation water, with another energy cost.

This is already begining to happen in much of the US breadbasket states. Irrigation wells keep on getting deeper as the aquifiers deplete. Sooner or later large areas will have to be abandoned due to lack of adquete water supplies. Of course the biofuel boondangle is exerbating the problem by draining the aquifers even faster (not to mention the water use to make ethanol too). The best analogy is that we spotting the cliff ahead, but instead of stepping on the break pedal, we've doubled down on the accelerator.

Benevolent dictators and philosopher kings are rarer than hen's teeth and in a crunch will be scarcer than oil.

Its virtually impossible for a person with good-will to become a dictator. This is because in order to get absolute power, one must be absolutely ruthless. No moral person is going to want to become a dictator simply because such an act would be against thier morals. This is why we trying democracy, in an attempt to put good people in leadership. It should be obvious to all that democracy (at least in the US and many other places) is failing, we have evolved a gov't of self-serving people, interested in obtaining gov't leadership for less than admirable goals.

Today the biggest debates of our gov't are vane, such as stem-cell research, gay-marriage, abortion, poltical correctness, and other even less worthy issues. less than a hand full of politicans in Washington, actively discuss our true issues, including declining energy and water resources, changing demographics, over population, and deteriating gov't finances. We dance on the small stuff, and ignore the real problems looming.

Mega-systems and complex societies require a great deal of energy to run.
Reliance on the fall-back positions of family and town would more likely be the order of the day.

Even the smallest of towns are dependant on the Mega-systems. Except for perhaps for the tiny few religious communities that still use horses to plow their fields, we are all dependant on Modern-complex systems. In addition, we have also gone a futher step, by adopting the "Just-in-Time" system that reduces overhead costs (when the system is working), but drastically increase risks if the system should fail. For instance up until the early 1980s, the gov't use to stock pile grain and other strategic reserves that were spread out over different regions. In order to save money, these storage facilities were abandoned. Every year that goes by, we become ever more dependant on a complex system. Anything more than a very short term disaster and the system, will begin to unravel.

How are the farmers going to be able to afford the more expensive oil and oil products in the future, even if that is the most logical use?

farmers will have money because everyone needs to eat. higher oil prices mean more income for farmers. if oil prices are too high farmers will go out of business and soon farm prices will go up because of lack of supply.

How are the farmers going to be able to afford the more expensive oil and oil products in the future?

Ever heard of rationing?

Exactly, Alfred.

Some of the predictions on TOD are totally disconnected from reality. Doesn't anyone read history anymore?

Look, it is simple. All politicians know that you have to keep the mob happy. And the most important part of keeping the mob happy is keeping them fed. As soon as people start feeling actual hunger in their bellies, perhaps for the first time in their lives, they will take to the streets with placards and pitchforks and start demanding that somebody do something about it.
I'm talking a million angry people on the streets.

Five minutes later some politician stands up and says that the government will fix the problem.

The obvious way to do that it by providing subsidised fuel to agricultural producers, and if necessary requisitioning some supplies from fuel distributors to make sure the farmers have fuel available. And if you need to police and army to guard the fuel depots, supermarkets and tankers, then you call them out.

I work for a supermarket chain (head office) and I laugh everytime people talk about the supermarket shelves being empty because of lack of diesel.

Do you know how long a politician would last in office if we couldn't get diesel for our trucks?

Kim Jong-il is still in power, despite widespread famine in North Korea. Thanks to his "military first" policy.

And food was a problem for Rome in its waning days, but it wasn't good to be a farmer. Quite the opposite. Farmers abandoned land because of punitive taxation, even while the food dole in the city increased.

Subsidised fuel to agricultural producers, Hell No!

Cargill, ADM, Monsanto etc. have no need for subsidies whatsoever.

Targeted subsidies to farms under 100 acres - that would be ok.

Big agriculture hides behind the image of Aunty Em and single family farms to reap large subsidies from the government.

Don't be silly, Cid. The average farm here is 397 acres and the median size is probably much less with this coming due to land concentration. There are some farmers who've developed the ability to handle 1,200 to 2,500 acres and we're not talking corporate farming - my neighbor down the road ran 1,200 acres, raised hogs before he retired and he is just a regular guy. When we were kids he'd drive to town for coffee every morning and then a few minutes later his goofy white dog would come trotting by - the dog would find his truck and be sitting in the back when he came out, waiting for a ride home. If he were still in business he'd need 6,000 to 12,000 gallons of diesel annually for his operation, which would be just for the field work and would not include an allowance for joyriding house pets.

Like it or not, Cargill, ADM, and Monsanto, along with a thousand other smaller players you can't name, are a requirement for farming as it is rendered today. That all could change, but change would be incremental or disaster; there isn't going to be a magic reset to some new ideal that encompasses peak oil concerns.

I'm 100% convinced those few barrels will go to the guy who adds the MOST VALUE to them. Whomever can get the most EROEI out of them. It ain't the soccor mom. It ain't Joe Suburb. It ain't the engineer designing the next widget.

Nobody out there will be able to OUTBID a farmer for petro, because nobody adds as much value to a unit of petro.

You would think, as an organic farmer, I would disagree with you.

I don't.

I think commercial farmers are first in line for the fossil goodies once decline sets in big time.

Those who think that there's going to be this huge revolution and a "return" to organic farming are in for a big surprise.

For one, the "organics" movement is a joke. It's a marketing campaign to drive up the price of foodstuffs that are chemically and physically the same as commercially-produced, store-bought stuff.

That being said, I also think there's going to be a huge move by people to do what we're basically doing here in Maine: growing a lot of our own stuff, using the so-called organic method (I'm not "certified," though I work part-time at a certified farm and personally use no commercial chemicals--because I'm cheap).

Westexas has frequently mentioned the "victory garden" movement of the 40s as a model. I think that's very possible.

People like highplainsfarmer will continue the commercial ag business--but it's going to come at a cost to the consumer. Besides, if times get really tough, the population centers will get the first shipments from highplainsfarmer's harvests.

The rest of us will be making do.

"For one, the "organics" movement is a joke. It's a marketing campaign to drive up the price of foodstuffs that are chemically and physically the same as commercially-produced, store-bought stuff."

Chemically & physically the same? I think you are mistaken there.

Organically grown food has been proven to have higher amounts of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and far less toxic residues of chemical agriculture like herbicides and pesticides.

In addition it is inherently more sustainable... not as much as permaculture, but way better then modern chem-ag.


This is what I thought too, Todd, but the studies don't hold up. The following is devastating:


I farm "organically" (I hate even using the word anymore) because it's cheap, it's self-reliant, and it reduces fossil fuel inputs, that's all.

In the citation you gave I didn't see references to the health of the soil. What about this issue? As well as the issue of the megatons of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides dumped into the biosphere? I can't believe that these issues don't have a bearing here.

b3 - I don't even want to get into your link but the reality is that NO FARMING METHOD IS SUSTAINABLE WITHOUT OUTSIDE NUTRIENT INPUTS. Not Permaculture, not biodynamics, not mulch, nor cover cropping, etc. be maintained to a greater extent but you can't take a crop off and not lose nutrients. And, I would note that this includes not only NPK but also minor/micro nutrients as well which include S, Ca, Mg, Fe, Zn, B, Mn, Cu, Mo, Cl. Hell, look at a bag of Grow More soulbe fertilizer - it's not just 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer/

What many "methods" do is "rob" nutrients from some place else, haul them to the growing area and then argue that this is sustainable.



As a PS, Louis Bromfield in, I think, Plesant Valley noted that he was called to KY in the bluegrass area because a lot of race horses were breaking legs. The soils which had had high Ca had been reduced by the horses grazing over the years and taking it off in their bones...even though the poop remained. Liming the soils stopped the problem.

In any case, Bromfield wrote a number of great Ag books including Malabar Farm, PV as noted above and Out of the Earth which I think was his last one. His farm, Malabar Farm went BK after he died. AFAIK, it has been a state park in OH for a number of years.

I have forever kicked myself that I never visited or knew of it at the time since his farm was only a couple of hours from my college and he was still alive while I was in school...but I was a chemistry major and didn't recognize that I should be in Ag. Damn, I would have loved to talk to him and it might have changed my life.

#1 Todd

Todd, ET, I agree with you.

The issue I was addressing was the supposed superior quality of organic produce:

Organically grown food has been proven to have higher amounts of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and far less toxic residues of chemical agriculture like herbicides and pesticides.

The toxicity of residues is directly related to DOSAGE, for example. The quality of the food is the same.

In fact, at the farm where I work, there's this problem that organic produce doesn't look as pretty as store-bought, so they have this "educational" campaign to try to teach people that the crappy-looking kale is actually BETTER for you than the picture-perfect stuff at the store and that's why they should pay through the nose for it!

This is the aspect of "organics" that I can't stand. I'm with you on the soil issue, though, which is why I've spent twenty years here at home building my own soil. I don't want to get addicted to chemicals.

Scaling up such methods to feed the population of the world just looks impossible from my lowly point-of-view. If conventional ag does get the fuel and fert it needs to continue, we're screwed.

It's a marketing campaign to drive up the price of foodstuffs that are chemically and physically the same as commercially-produced, store-bought stuff.

Just because one repeats a lie, does not make the lie true.

And you, sir, are a liar on the above quoted topic.

For the rest of you - Get a Brix meter and do your own research. If the above statement was correct, the Brix measurements would be the same. Plants from petro-ag have lower Brix readings.

There is simply NO WAY in the world that agriculture is going back in time. NONE.

I agree. Though agriculture will make adjustments to a lower energy world. But those adjustments will seem much more like tweaks to the current system and hardly at all like going back in time.

In some places with poor soil farming is not economic right now with not to expensive oil. And I'm sure we will se those land go back to horses or they will become forest again.

gallon of diesel in Poland $6.2
gallon of gas in Poland $6.45
gallon of diesel in England $8.07
gallon of gas in England $7.07

In England diesel fuel for farmers attracts much less tax, I don't have precise figures. The farmers diesel is coloured pink to stop other people using it. There was some scandal involving it around the time of the fuel protests.

Yep, although in a real pinch you could grow a few acres of sunflowers, harvest & press the seeds to make your own biodiesel. Not ideal, but you WOULD do this before you would go back to horse power or just give up.

This is why I don't lose any sleep worrying about how farmers are going to keep their equipment running.

If you get that hard up, those sunflower seeds will be bicycle fuel.

Human + bike = the most efficient way to travel EVER.

Remember to toss that about when Bill J talks about his 'parasitic loads'

Actually human + bicycle + aeroshield is the most efficient.

Aerodynamics of human + bike are not that good, especially in a comfortable position. At any decent speed , aero reductions make the added weight of aan aero shield worthwhile.

Best may be an aero recumbent (tricycle ?) with an aeroshield. Stable, efficient use of human power, low rolling AND aero resistance.

Best Hopes for cycling (bi & tri),


Hi Alan,


re: "Best may be an aero recumbent (tricycle ?) with an aeroshield."

Do you know if anyone's actually looked at this? (done studies)?

If you come across them, could you post?

Also, wondering if you have a favorite source for the aeroshield?

I actually am not that fond of recumbents, though confess I've only tried them in the gym. Does the shield work for regular bikes?

Someone else had a link to aeroshields for "regular" bikes and recumbents. I failed to bookmark it :-(

Extra weight "up high" is not good for stability and maneuverability.


Hello All,
Long time lurker, this is my first post.

The issue is not that industrial agriculture is more effective or not. The issue is, what do you do with millions of unemployed: former lawyers, real estate agents, office workers, etc...
They will have to do something for a living.

And in the long there is another serious issue: how will you support the infrastructure of industrial agriculture. The roads, the tractor factories, the food distribution system, large scale transportation and storage??

There is a reason why Cuba went to small scale farming. It gives work and food to people at a minimal cost. And you do not need horses unless you want to grow grains. Grains are less effective then root plants.

You don't even need horse & plow for corn. Native Americans grew it without, and some Euro-Americans as well.

The unemployed people will find jobs in areas with suddenly higher demand. So they'll:

- Build wind towers.
- Build nuclear power plants.
- Construct new rail lines.
- Mine iron ore.
- Work in insulation production plants.
- Work installing installation.
- Build bicycles.
- Convert cars to run off batteries.
- other work which helps us to adjust.

Some of those are possible activities, but we are at the end of an age. I think we're going to see a lot more survival mentality. I don't mean nutters in the woods with guns, I mean that economic activity will be more community based - do we have enough to get by, rather than am I enriching myself. It could very well be that we're going to take significant steps to expel corporate influences from our lives as part of relocalization efforts, as peak oil stretches the distance between locations.

Are you ready for six hours a day three days a week being all that is available? And the only security coming from the village or neighborhood's overall stability?

Look at what US industry did in World War II. I don't see why we can't do a massive mobilization to build new energy sources just as we did a massive mobilization to build tanks, trucks, ships, airplanes, and other military equipment.

Imagine huge mass production lines for wind turbine components.

Imagine huge mass production lines for photovoltaic panels.

Imagine huge mass production lines for nuclear power plant components.

Why can't all this be done? China builds 1 coal plant per week. We could build 10 times the rate they are building. We have lots of labor that can be freed up from totally optional activities.

I don't get why we are going to panic and just give up. I know I'm not. I know lots of engineers and managers who would be up for huge undertakings.

Imagine huge mass production lines for nuclear power plant components.

I cannot imagine this without a degradation of safety. Given the defunct industry and limited skilled personnel, the Dept. of Energy estimated in a study that we had enough skilled people to build eight new nukes in ten years IF all went well. Enough new trainees could come on-line in that decade to speed things up after that.

Else, you end up like Zimmer and Bellefonte, 99% and 80% complete nukes that are informed that their quality is too low to qualify for an operating license.

OTOH, you missed an even more important example (NOT wartime BTW), and the means to convert electricity to transportation, electrifying our freight railroads and building out Urban Rail at breakneck speed.

From 1897 to 1916, the United States (with ~1/3rd the population and 3% to 4% of the GDP, and no advanced technology) built subways in all of the major cities and streetcar lines in 500 cities, towns and villages.

Best Hopes,


People skilled at nuke building: Automation. Robots are more consistent than humans. We urgently need research into nuclear power plant construction automation.

To electrify more stuff (e.g. railroads) we have to generate more electricity. That's a problem.

My fear is that natural gas production will decline in North America along with global oil decline and that we won't be able to import LNG to make up for the difference. So our electricity from natural gas will go down even as the demand for electricity as a substitute for oil increases.

Then there's coal. Can we expand coal mining fast enough to substitute for natural gas plus provide enough electricity to serve as an oil substitute for imported oil that is declining at 5+% per year?

To electrify more stuff (e.g. railroads) we have to generate more electricity. That's a problem.

Hardly. A good estimate is that transferring 85% of the intercity truck freight to electrified RRs (plus their existing rail freight) will take a bit less than 3% of US electricity.

Today, 0.19% of US electricity is used for transportation. NYC subways, Amtrak's NEC, Long Island RR, subways in Chicago, DC, Philly, Boston, Baltimore, LA, Miami, Atlanta, and Light Rail in dozens of cities.

Increase that ten fold (just ten NYC subways would do a lot !) and 2% of US electrical demand would go to Urban Rail.

We trade 17 to 20 BTUs of diesel/gasoline for 1 BTU of electricity when we either shift from heavy trucks or cars/SUVs to electrified rail.

We can save 5% of electrical demand with better insulation, CFLs, etc., OR just "reduced economic activity" OR wind turbines (plus 8 new nukes in ten years).

Your plans include a massive build-out of non-GHG electrical generation. Nice, but my plan transforms that electricity to transportation.

Best Hopes,


What is your source for BTUs saved for shifting from trucks to rail? I've seen much smaller numbers for the ratio. I've also seen that the numbers depend on the density of what is being shipped.

My previous answer from my link. Focus on containers (like to like with trucks).


As indicted in the article, the 20 to 1 ratio is the multiple of two factors. About 8 to 1 efficiency gain by transferring from diesel trucks to modern diesel-electric locomotives pulling trains.

And a 2.5 to 3 Btus of diesel to one Btu of electricity trade by going from diesel-electric locomotives to all electric locomotives.

Gil Carmichael, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration under the first President Bush stated in Forbes “A double-stack freight train can replace as many as 300 trucks and achieve nine times the fuel efficiency of highway movement of the same tonnage volume.”


Note that this is double stack containers. Single stack containers are not quite as efficient and “piggy back” trailers are significantly less efficient (perhaps 4 to 1). Piggy back traffic is stable to shrinking slightly as intermodal container traffic is expanding rapidly.

The overall 2002 statistics quoted in the article (below) give an 8.15 to 1 diesel fuel advantage to rail vs. truck per ton-mile. Of course, the freight mix (40% of rail ton-miles are coal) is quite different.

Railroads carried 27.8% of the ton-miles with 220,000 barrels/day while trucks carried 32.1% of the ton-miles with 2,070,000 b/day (2002 data)

In addition, there are issues of circuitry (does rail travel more miles to get from A to B than truck ?) and the relative percentages of empty backhaul. There is concern that 2007 pollution controls will hurt heavy truck mileage. If so, this will increase the ratio.

I believe that nine to one is “best case’, eight to one is a defensible ratio for efficiency gains for truck to rail freight transfers, but seven to one is equally defensible. Six to one is approaching the “worst case” IMO.

US locomotives, except for a few switchyard locos, are diesel-electrics. A diesel engine drives an electrical generator, which transmits power a few feet to an electrical motor.

An electric locomotive draws 25 kV or 50 kV AC power from the grid (specially built for the railroad), transforms it to a lower voltage and drives an electrical motor.

The grid should lose 3% or 4% or so getting to the locomotive and another 1% transforming on the locomotive.

By contrast, a standard diesel engine has a theoretical maximum efficiency of 56% (link below) and is doing quite well to get 40% real world efficiency (Btus diesel in, Btus shaft power out). Add to this the efficiency of generators in the 2 MW class (94% might be typical) and grid power can deliver electricity with s 4% or 5% loss, versus a 62.4% or so loss in diesel Btus to electricity to the motor Btus.

The ratio of 0.95 to 0.376 is 2.52 to 1. This equates well with the “rule of thumb” of 2.5 Btus of diesel to 1 Btu electricity on rural plains quoted in the article.


In mountainous areas and built-up areas, the ratio is higher (3 to 1) due to regenerative braking. As the locomotive slows, the motors turn into generators and feed power back into the grid. Obviously, the more a locomotive brakes, the more power that is “recycled” on an electric loco but wasted as heat in a diesel-electric loco. More recycled power creates a higher ratio. The increase from 2.5 to 1 to 3 to 1 seems reasonable, if 20% of the energy is recycled when braking.

So 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 to 1 multiplied by 2.5 or 3 to 1 gives “about 20”. Detailed studies may show that actual efficiency ratios might be 17.8 to 1 or 21 to 1. In either case, well worth doing !

Best Hopes,

Alan Drake

Hi Alan,

I'm curious...would it do any good, and if so how much, to mandate (assuming this could happen) a percentage shift from current trucking to current rail (electrified or not)?

How much additional freight traffic can the current rail system absorb?

Otherwise, I need to catch up on your previous posts and articles. Thanks for all your work.

Step One would be to finish Create (there is a CREATE II in the wings)


Last Thursday I got the President of the API to promise to send a staff member to the AAR and find out about CREATE.

A similar program is underway for New Orleans (both New Orleans & Chicago have 6 of the 7 Class I RRs, no one else has more than 4 AFAIK).

Step Two is some form of gov't incentive (tax credit, accelerated depreciation, etc.) for more and faster RR investment.

Link this to electrification.

Step Three is tolls on Interstate highways and US highways.

MUCH more possible, but this may be enough.

Best Hoeps,


We urgently need research into nuclear power plant construction automation.

Timeline to implementation (after bugs are worked out) ?

IMO, a very few specialized tasks could be automated for on-site construction (not factory) and it will be faster to train more humans in the next decade. Eight new Nukes 2008-2017, Thirtyeight new nukes 2018-2027. Average size about 1.5 GW.

Best Hopes for Realistic Planning,


I don't think we should build subways and trolleys. I believe we should build synfuel plants and keep running cars.
But it would be possible to quickly build a massive mass transit system. Politically it would not be possible, but physically we could.
Call it "the El", a system of elevated train tracks for lightweight trains. No mixing grades, no stoplights or stopsigns, ramps for people to walk up, put a hub every six blocks, you could do it even for the suburbs.
I just don't think we will. I think it is even less possible that we will build two dozen subways at a billion dollars a mile, or a thousand tramlines at five miles per hour.
But we could build the elevated if we wanted to and built enough steel mills to make the girders. Fast, convenient, but not cheaper or more convenient or faster than cars.

I cannot imagine this without a degradation of safety. Given the defunct industry and limited skilled personnel, the Dept. of Energy estimated in a study that we had enough skilled people to build eight new nukes in ten years IF all went well. Enough new trainees could come on-line in that decade to speed things up after that.

The problem isn't so much lack of skillset; Many engineering disciplines have large crossovers and the nuclear engineering that is so specific to the industry can be relatively quickly learned.

Its a problem of supply chains. LWRs need more steel foundries for massive pressure vessels to say the least, as well as the custom components for large heat exchangers, steam generators and whatnot.

You underestimate the on-site personnel issues. MANY trades require nuke certification and experience due to the delta between the way nuke plants are built & coal plants are built.

The DoE assumed no re-work (do detailed design and THEN build) and stealing a high % of the traveling workforce that goes from one refueling to the next (newly certified workers would fill those positions). And national agreements with the unions that allow maximum workforce flexibility.

But one does not walk into a nuke site as a master electrician, with years of industrial and medium/high voltage or instrument experience (residential & commercial experience has little value), and get nuke certification immediately. From memory, 18 months of apprenticeship is required on-site at a nuke.

And the number of master electricians with industrial experience willing to move to nukes and serve a second apprenticeship is "limited".

Nuke certified Steamfitters are an even rarer bird. Refueling outages always use nuke grade electricians but less commonly are steamfitters needed.

Best Hopes for Building 8 new nukes & finish Watts Bar 2 and Black Fox by 2018,


People will become far more likely to work 6 days a week 12 hours a day than 3 days a week 6 hours a day.

We will need to work long hours to create new non-fossil fuels infrastructure.


I agree entirely with your thesis. It makes eminent sense and that is why I am looking for getting some farmland over here, in the UK.

One point though, I had to Google "IA State" - I would not be surprised if some Americans also had problems recognizing Iowa!

Farming and gardening will be tough to do as severe weather becomes more frequent and intense.

My guess is that we will indeed end up trying to "grow" food in vats of various genetically modified cells.

This is already being done in labs.
Good old James Lovelock scoffs at the notion that we'll be able to continue farming as usual into the next 50 years.


Of course energy and materials are needed to grow these very different kinds of foods in vats as well.

Imagine a farmless future:

At first the vats of genetically modified cell cultures were only meant for the poor and the armies. Some farms survived to grow food for the few powerful Corporatists who fought the last Great War --

"The Resource War to End All Resource Wars" as it was branded by those on every side who claimed to be the rightful heirs of the earth's bounty, and who backed up their claims by hurling weapons of mass destruction in every direction.

By now only a few scattered colonies of people survive in the far north and south. They are isolated and do not know of each other. People must live and work underground or in villages built into mountainsides, tending vats of foods growing and fermenting away from the volatile weather and damaging sunlight.

The ozone layer is mostly gone, and humans seldom venture outside in the daytime even in good weather. Few have the necessary protective gear to keep the harsh sunlight from burning into their skin and eyes...

The surface of the planet is mostly barren. A few plants and animals have mutated in strange ways that have allowed some to survive the sudden radical changes in climate and light, let alone the meltdown of the old human civilization.

There are few recognizable traces of that civilization, or of Armageddon -- the Great Oil War -- that ironically consumed our species' attention and resources in the last days of the old world.

The old world is now remembered in stories as "The Garden" where people could walk through huge fields of plants bearing sweet foods that one could simply reach out and pick and eat. There were places called "farms" where people could grow these plants right out on the surface of the planet, and many even fed various species of animals to slaughter and eat.

There are stories even more difficult to believe, of forests full of plants and animals that people could go and take without asking if they were hungry.

But all of that is gone, now, in the Eramazoic age, The Age of Loneliness. Our planet has become hostile to our species, and we pray daily for mercy....

Highplainsfarmer is apparently ignorant of the fact that what he does is made possible by a vast high-tech society around him that creates his fuels, pesticides, and fertilizers, that moves his crops from point of sale to factories to be processed, that builds his farming equipment for him and in building that equipment is dependent on other equipment for those factories to work. Highplainsfarmer suffers from a common case of tunnel vision.

Tell me, highplainsfarmer, what industry would you shut down first? Computers manufacturers? There goes the inventory systems and routing systems. Manual versions will be orders of magnitude slower and less efficient, meaning they can't process all the food you'll produce. How about tractor manufacturers? No? How about the parts suppliers for those manufacturers? No? But those suppliers cannot survive selling JUST to tractor manufacturers. They need the cash from sales to automotive and truck manufacturers to stay in business. You cannot even scale down these businesses to just support agriculture because they will collapse without further sales. What are you proposing in that case, communism?

There is a huge interconnected spider web of industries that drive our civilization today and to assert, as you have done, that agriculture will not be affected, is simply a statement of blind religious faith.

The equipment and practices of doing it without heavy chemical input are still here, sitting idle in outbuildings and the minds of the older farmers.

Some see BAU, others see disaster. I prefer the middle path - back to the small tractors and implements of yesteryear, no more computer controls and carbs & distributors are much simpler, and it all runs on locally grown biofuels or ammonia.

Is it possible to post your objections without inviting a flamewar?

'Tunnel Vision'
'What are you proposing, Communism?'

Come on.. what kind of useful discussion has this kind of badgering gotten you?

He didn't say Ag would 'not be affected'.. just that it wouldn't go backwards, and that it would get the priority for dwindling oil supplies. They're debatable points, sure, but the sneering insults just invite wasted bandwidth.

Raise the bar, ok?


I suggest patience in such things - GZ has a point and his writing style sets people off. I often find that those whom I perceive to be somehow abrasive online turn out to be pleasant, knowledgeable, and fun in person. I get that a bit myself - "Hey, you're an asshole online, but you're nice in person - what gives?"

We had a lot of this going on over on the SCOX vs. IBM lawsuit discussion happening on the SCOX stock board ... a few conference calls later, courtesy of FreeConference.com, everyone was still sniping away, but it was much more good natured. I'd personally like to see something like this done with the Drum Beat regulars - maybe a once a week call where the contributors could expand upon their views? Verbal communication conveys nuance that writing simply can not ...

TOD contains nearly 3 years of articles discussing the problems of peak oil. Highplainsfarmer comes here 4 weeks ago and now asserts, without one shred of data, that every other assessment of agriculture done here at TOD and anywhere else in regards to peak oil is wrong. He could have at least attempted to assemble some data supporting his position but he didn't even do that. He simply strolls in here to TOD and declares that every one else is wrong and only he is right.

Ok, let him prove it. Let's see his proof, in spades. And his "because I say so" attitude isn't going to cut it with me. Oh, and did you notice that he's a cheerleader for GMO crops too? One catastrophe piled on another catastrophe. Without one single ounce of data. And you want me to take this guy seriously?

"And you want me to take this guy seriously?"

Not necessarily. I want to be able to take you seriously. You're generally a very good poster, but this is an achille's heel, IMO. The putdowns in the post I responded to came off as Petulant and Juvenile. It hurts your own standing in the argument, even if your points are solid.

Darwinian and Levink were doing the same junk yesterday. "Oh-my-god!!.." ... I thought I was at the mall between a couple Valley-Girls..

The namecalling and the 'Indignant Outrage' hardly bring the topic forward.


'Strong Words are a good sign of a weak cause' -fortune cookie

this is a dead thread by now, Bob, but I wanted to chime in. Sometimes the most petty gratuitous insults are thrown by posters I admire in an argument that seems really important. For example, yesterdays exchanges between Ron & LevinK about whether or not a nuke plant left unattended will safely shut itself down. An issue like that is critical for nuclear-ambivalent people like me, and there were two gifted posters hashing it out--TOD at it's best, except "...you are so ignorant! ...if you believe that you're unbelievably ignorant!!"...etc...seems like there should be more of a spirit of collegiality, it's not like a typical academic dispute, 'so vicious because the stakes are so small', these are arguably the most important issues facing the planet being addressed before an audience of well-educated lay people...the pettiness grates.

LevinK .... two gifted posters

You missed the parts 1-2 months ago where LevinK has been shown to be a liar about the safety of fission reactors however. Simple statistics proved his safety claims wrong.

Grey Zone,

I generally find your writing very pointed, which I appreciate.

Check out HighPlainsFarmer's site ;)

Yes -- we are all embedded in the same artificial web which is very vulnerable in terms of dependence on a stable energy environment and a stable climate environment.

We face a very unstable and increasingly chaotic in terms of both energy and climate.

Add to this the instability of political and military struggles already underway, and farming looks to me to be as fragile as many other complex threads of the web.

I'll bet that the politicos will use every effort to prop up the status quo until some combination of events and personalities gels into a declaration of martial law.

Who knows -- many of us are already seen as "useless eaters." Others are already on "no-fly" lists. Cooperation and civil rights are thrown out the door. The so-called "Free Market" has never been so, and will become an openly command economy soon.

Here's the funny part: the USA presidential election this year seems to be all about "Change!" What could be more ironic than a bunch of folks who abolutely stand for "No Change!" in the march toward tyranny tooting their horns about change?

The change that is coming -- open fascism by another "Americanized" brand name -- will seem sudden and extreme to some, but has been steadily building for many years.

FDR's middle Vice President Henry A. Wallace wrote an article at the request of the NYT (1944) about fascism in the USA. He noted that fascists were already moving to control the media back then. You can read excerpts of his article here:


The greater irony is this: the real changes coming are simply not governable in any way. These changes have to do with climate, resource depletion, and habitat destruction. Add to this mix the anger of billions of people who are condemned to short and brutal lives by a few, and add to this the scramble for control of militaries and weapons, and the next 20 years look very chaotic to me.

We will grow food, but I do think that farming will be radically altered -- in many cases it will be unrecognizable. Who will be the "Future Farmers of America?"

do computers use oil? how much? computers will be kept running because it's easier to communicate than having to drive or send a messenger or letter. who is to say we need oil to build computers?

why would industries shut down? most oil goes to trucking and cars. we can make cuts there and have more than enough left over. minimal amounts of our oil usage goes to manufacturing.

"But those suppliers cannot survive selling JUST to tractor manufacturers."

they'll downsize and some will go out of business until we have just as many as the market needs.

do computers use oil?...who is to say we need oil to build computers?

I suspect you will get lots of retorts on such a nonsensical statement. If you don't have a clue, as you seem not to, about how dependent the world's industrial systems are on oil, why even bother reading and posting on The Oil Drum?

John15 his a history of posting, well, crap. Things about "the free market" and how such functions.

I haven't figured out if John15 is some form of troll, or if he's attempting to figure out why there is something nagging at the back of his head, but keeps repeating the standard line as some form of hypnotic mantra.

Hirsch disagrees with you. So do professionals in the microprocessor fabrication business.

who is to say we need oil to build computers?

Some of the "simple" things you find in your local electronics store (computers, cell phones, flat screen TV's) are actually incredibly complex gizmos that took thousands if not millions of oil-dependent steps to manufacture --and of course truck to the store.

Did you know that the basic silicon which makes up most of your wonder chips must be melted in a hot furnace and drawn out as a specially crystallized solid?

(OK I mislead you a bit here. It's an electric arc furnace. But then the silicon has to be trucked to the next factory in the process. How will you do that without oil?)

There seems to be a trend for larger plants to be integrated. It is worth noting that the energy per unit mass delivered with solar is about 200 times that delivered with coal so that coal is more likely to take a transportation hit than solar.


One other point:

It will be A LOT easier to produce a plug in electric tractor/combine than it will be to produce a plug in automobile with a range greater than 400 miles.

For my part, I think oil will, more and more, be used for raw materials and less for energy as time passes.

Hi farmer,

Interesting to have your firsthand perspective.

re: "NO WAY".

So, do you think the agricultural system might collapse, then?

re: "There will ALWAYS be SOME oil produced."

Produced does not = available for use.

re: "...the guy who adds the MOST VALUE to them."

As determined by whom?

re: "Where will those precious few barrels of daily production go in 20 years?"

It occurs to me we also have to look at the water supply.

Also, wonder if you've seen this article below, and if so, what you think of it:


I wish I had read your reply before I wrote my own, basically the same argument. I want preferential treatment as well !

We "need" it all, as society stands today, but we are not going to have it all, and things are going to change.

'4) According to IA State, the ave corn yield on IA farmland on a 10 year ave is 173.4 bu/acre. Using all BTUs from fuel, fert, and pesticides, that's a EROEI of about 13:1.'

You missed a tiny detail - that corn used to be food/feed, now it is fuel that is burned. Unfortunately, the amount of farmland didn't double. That is the major difference between an oil field and a corn field.

the first barrel will most certainly go to military and government use. You think the EROEI for your farm
is really great? think about the ROI of having the weapons to come in and take everything on your farm by force.
While there is something to fight over and control, and while there is still fuel for industrial age armament,
the power structures and their armed muscle will be the ones coming in and taking what they need or want with
first priority. they don't need to bid for it. Now, your farm might be able to bid high for what's left after
that, for a while. that's not the same thing. You're assuming that everything else in the economy is still running
smoothly, and it's just that oil is a bit more expensive.

But think a little further. Nothing in this universe happens in isolation. What changes elsewhere in the scenery as that oil gets more expensive. Sure, for a little while, as there is still a lot of oil being produced, the economy goes
through the contortions of pulling in the belt and living lean. That only goes on for so long. Not only does
it mean an economy that has barely enough to meet its present operating costs, but it also means an economy which
has less and less, and soon none at all, of resources to invest in anything. Things fall apart faster and faster,
and just as this whole thing was self-reinforcing on the way up (because there was more to gain with every new investment)
so on the way down those investments can't even pay for themselves anymore, much less cover the cost of any new investments. And i'm not talking just money here, because money is a fleeting and artificial thing in times like that.

The power structures in the world, some big, some small, some bigger yet, all have an instinct of self-preservation just as individuals do, and to the best of their ability, wits, and luck, they are not going to just close up shop and
say 'sorry chaps, it was nice while it lasted'. no, they are going to hang on tooth and nail all the way down, and
anyone weaker or less lucky will be slaughtered to feed them as long as they can manage.

With, say, ten million bpd less being produced, how much of the economy withers? 20? 40? how many tens of millions fewer people
can aford to buy the food you grow? at the higher prices that you must ask to pay the cost of doing business?
With what will they pay you and what good will it be to you? Don't assume some kind of benevolent and wise and well-
intentioned government or other power structure to come in and organize everthing for the smoothst possible
decline. Quite to the contrary, look to zimbabwe for a picture of the future. Those power structures will be grabbing
onto anything ov value to themselves, especially primary inputs like food and fuel. They will first come wearing the suits of lawyers and tax assessors, and then they will come wearing the uniforms of the police, and then they will
come wearing the uniforms of the army, and after that, they will come as often as not wearing rags. As long
as they have the means, and as long as there is something to take, they will come to take it. Maybe they win, maybe
they lose, nothing is so certain in the details, but by and large, as in zimbabwe, the primary resources will be
monopolized as soon as possible by those in the strongest postion to do so- those who enjoy the greatest 'legitimacy',
backed up by armed might. Sometimes they will be genuinely inspired by some kind of desire to feed the urban masses -
in some places where there is a high degree of organization present and very strong power structures, they might
try for a season or to to work it out this way, but what will those teeming restive masses in the cities do? not
much demand for mortgage agents or web designers or whatever the hell else all these moderns do for a living,
not many factory jobs.. look again to places like zimbabwe. enormously high unemployment, huge inflation (those who
can print themselves money fast enough to stay ahead of the shrinking pie will try their best to do so, until the money itself is a joke few find funny), and rampant
crime/violence/troubles that come along with overcrowding and hunger. the cost of labor will go down to a bare
survival food wage.

It does not take any high-brow economic analysis, nor an altruistic benevolence, for those in positions of power to
want to do something about such great unemployment. A good instinct for self-preservation is sufficient. hungry idle masses have never been a good ingredient for keeping a ruler in power. if there is no other means to coax food
into the cities, and there is still food to be taken, then those masses will come out of the cities to take it
by force, whether or not existing power structures have incorporated the new swell of idle hands into their own
forces or whether they come in the form of gangs, some looking to work for food, some looking just for food, some
willing to take whatever they can get, and some just taking. Again, those in a position of power and cloaked in
the uniforms and shiny badges of legitimacy, who presently enforce their monopoly on the use of violence, will
be in the best position to get in on the ground floor here.

Those farmers who are defenceless will find themselves at best administering their farm for the benefit of someone
else's belly, with a mild but present threat of violence if they diverge from this course, and many more will find
themselves divested of the majority of their property, under one guise or another, as those masses come to 'farm'
them themselves. This will not work very well, no. Again look to zimbabwe. (and by the way, while many of the current
troubles were caused by events like mugabe's land redistribution, those events themselves were precipitated by
other preexsing problems, like huge masses of unemployed unhappy urban mobs..)

This of course does not last very long. In zimbabwe it has gone for several years, because of inputs from the outside
world which allay the immediate mass starvation and also provide small bits of effective modern power-concentrating
technology, like fuel for vehicles, ammunition for the goons in power, and luxury items to buy off other smaller
competing bosses.. it takes very little in the way of 'fuel' input to preserve that kind of power structure for some
years beyond its otherwise certain meltdown.

Now, in the greater global scheme, the high degree of interdependence in the industrial economy cannot handle
even such slight disruptions. There is no outside world to supply the basic fuels and materiel to a despotic
power structure desperately tring to keep order and hang on. And the more those power structures try to keep order,
the greater the disruption to the smooth running of the large integrated international machine that extracts,
processes, uses, and distributes those modern things- this is a self-reinforcing meltdown once it gets started, in
that once it starts to fall apart, it really quickly loses its ability to resist further falling apart.

Those power structures will fall apart more or less in order from the widest-flung to the most local, as there
ceases to be a positive return for a certain degree of organisation and those with force at their disposal think
closer and closer to home for their objectives.

In such an environment, a region like yours which currently exports its enormous agricultural surplus to the whole
world will find not only that there is no point to - or means of- shipping the stuff five or ten thousand miles
away, but also that there is no point in producing so much if there's nobody to sell it to. and before _that_ realization ever comes to the fore, those who want what you have will have been knocking on the door for a while already. There will be nobody to prioritize the sale of petroleum products to you, nor anyone who cares about
manufacturing fertilizer with inputs from thousands of miles off, for sale to customers thousands of miles off,
when they have their own similar problems on their own doorsteps.

Not only does oil production drop off quite significantly- much faster than geologically mandated production decline -
but so also does the degree of organization and complexity of the global economy.

The mere presence of fuel (even literally) is NOT sufficient to ensure the full use of it.
A good example is offered by some of that fuel itself- you can drop a lit match into a tub of kerosene and it
will very likely just put the match out. Put the same kerosene into a running jet engine and you can fly to another
continent on it. Once the juggernaut's health begins to fail even a little, once it loses enough momentum and the environment is no longer dripping with easy-to-pick fruit, when the cost of just staying in the game overtakes the surplus gained by doing so, very rapidly the thing starts to fall apart.

Good luck farmer with your bid for the remaining fuel.
In a stable world with no starving people and sanity prevailing you may have a chance.

When fuel supply is as low as you describe, (by the way the fuel supply will not arrive at that low amount smoothly) I doubt there will be any large commercial farmers, the protection money would be too costly, so in effect the mob will own your farm.

You wouldn't be outbidding mom's and dad's and MacDonald's, it's the black market you have to worry about. They will have the highest bidders. The manufacturers of your combine, tractor, ploughshares and other farming machinery won't even get a consideration.

I think that there is potential for confusion here because it looks like it is about the amount of seed available. Instead of sowing, I'd switch to reaping with the farmer carrying bundles of sheaves on his back in the first case, using a ox cart in the second and a reaper in the third case. I'd draw an "X" through the first loaf produced in each case indicating the food consumed, and perhaps through both the first and second loafs in the second case to account for feeding the ox. The gain from the first to the second case is really in mechanization because the ox is better at traction. In the third case you get a further improvement in traction but you don't need to feed the ox. This is actually a pretty complex example because it is more about how many people need to be involved in farming so in some ways you should be looking a fixed land area with a fixed population with the difference being how highly concentrated a portion of the population can be. You have the same number of loaves in each case but they are consumed by people with changing occupations.

On your last three questions, I think profits only make conceptual sense in cases two and three because there is no need for trade or monetization in the first case. The difference between the second two cases in the shift in mechanization primarily together with an energy input from outside in the third case. But, if instead of relying on photosynthesis to gather solar energy, you use wind, then there is no significant reduction in the amount of land available for farming and the level of mechanization can be maintained. Similarly, using photovoltaics, an insignificant amount of land needs to be devoted to energy gathering to support mechanization because PV is so much more efficient at this than plants: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/02/photosynthesis.html

So, the energy input issue is really a non-issue as regards the farm. It does play a role in deciding if factories will make reapers that use ICEs or electric motors.

Hope this helps,


Based on a point made by highplainsfarmer, I would say that the fixed population in case two is people plus oxes rather than just people.

I would also respond to his point about who gets the oil by saying that the engineer's (next) innovation might out do the herbicide in its contribution so that if the widget is energy related the engineer might be competitive. This seems clear because all of the yield increases have to do with innovation much more than they have to do with fuel. Some of the progress in organic agriculture, for example, may make fields self-sustaining with improved yields so that the fossil fuel based fertilizer input is shrunk to zero. This is something that is worth watching.


The headline to your second link is:

Organic farming can feed the world, U-M study shows

By "can" they mean "could," because there currently isn't an "organics" infrastructure in place. There are just experiments and studies. This passage is utterly hilarious:

For their analysis, researchers defined the term organic as: practices referred to as sustainable or ecological; that utilize non-synthetic nutrient cycling processes; that exclude or rarely use synthetic pesticides; and sustain or regenerate the soil quality.

What is hilarious is what is left out: the amount of HUMAN LABOR it takes to sustain these "practices." I know them. I've been there. It's work. For America, I've heard the term "fifty million farmers" as the number needed.

HA HA HA HA! It's not gonna happen.

There ALREADY IS a huge commercial ag infrastructure in place, and it is going to be maintained and supplied with fuels AT ALL COSTS.

Therefore, I would revised the headline thus:

"Organic farming probably could feed the world, but it ain't while there's still oil around and we got the guns."

Though "organics" does work spendidly in your own backyard!

There ALREADY IS a huge commercial ag infrastructure in place, and it is going to be maintained and supplied with fuels AT ALL COSTS.

I'm not so sure. The thing is, there are likely to be a lot of people who need work, and who need to be fed. It might occur to the government that requiring them to work on farms in exchange for room and board is more economic than maintaining ag infrastructure and giving city folk and suburbanites welfare and food stamps.

Especially if that means more oil for the army.

So that is what the Halliburton camps are for - slave farm labor.

You are not the only one thinking this:



‘Slaves’, forced labor conscripts, indigenous ppl under the boot, the whip-lashed, can’t be exploited profitably today; input from elsewhere is always needed.

In the ‘West’, usually called the ‘North’ in the French speaking world - go figure - the tax payer stumps up, in the interests of ‘security’ and ‘punishment.’

Coercion, control, containment, the security measures, the whole apparatus, are terribly expensive, in infrastructure, in personnel - all of it costs a bomb. For no return.

The 2 million plus US prisoners represent a great source of income for practically a million heads (Families, off the cuff, who knows..not making rigorous accounting...)

They won’t let it go.

Having a man wield a shovel, assemble some electronics, pluck chickens, peel potatoes, iron clothes, or even write some lame software, under the control of guns is a dumb proposition.

Except for those who do the controlling.

Slave farm labor is the same...not profitable.

‘Slaves’, forced labor conscripts, indigenous ppl under the boot, the whip-lashed, can’t be exploited profitably today


BRAZIL: Colonialism Provokes Murders of Indigenous People

In November 2007, a company producing sugar and alcohol in Mato Grosso do Sul was closed by the Special Mobile Inspection Group after it was found to be exploiting over 800 indigenous workers in conditions akin to slavery.

The Special Group was set up specifically to combat the practice of slave labour, and is made up of inspectors from the Labour Ministry, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal Police.

Another source of violence is the oligarchy of local 'landowners', who behave like "coroneles" (rural overlords). They react violently to the new Guaraní tactic of moving on to the land stolen from them and setting up camps there.(Let's call it like it really is.)

Elders in the Guaraní community have been brutally stabbed and beaten to death, Terena said. With land values rising due to the expansion of soybean and sugarcane cultivation, "even 100 hectares are reason enough to fight over," Terena said.


Enjoy your Ethanol.

Hi Noizette,

re: "Slave farm labor is the same...not profitable."

Perhaps you assume a premise of human rights or something?

"Not profitable" - if people's lives count. Otherwise done for what appears (anyway) to be a profit motive.


Sure. Certainly a plausible scenario, albeit a bitter one. Picking food, packing it, etc. But probably not laboring in organics.

Per WT's view that one "assume the opposite" of what CERA, et al. say:

There's the view of how I would like the world to be (compact, sustainable, rural, gorgeous) and the view of how it will be.

I assume the opposite of my dream.

This is really the nature of innovation. The initial outlay for electric lighting was probably a bit higher than the on-going cost of whaling right at the outset, but scale soon evened things up. I agree that one can put quite a lot of effort into organic gardening, but I don't think that all labor saving methods have been fully explored. For example, robotic harvesting is something that is being reseached for vegetables and fruit. All that looks pretty clumsy right now, but it may well turn out to work. The use of GPS that highplainsfarmer dicusses seems like it is developing nicely.


There ALREADY IS a huge commercial ag infrastructure in place, and it is going to be maintained and supplied with fuels AT ALL COSTS.

This is true. The existing food production system will be maintained at all costs. And people will try to maintain their current lifestyles at all costs. That's why if you really think about it you realize we are all doomed. When peak oil really bites everything in a complex society falls apart. But before that happens we'll have nuclear war as desperate leaders see no other option.

When the dust settles and 6 billion are dead then maybe we get back to horses and mules and human labor for agriculture for those left standing.

Not a bad idea, if kept at a very simple and abstract level. The minute you start getting into details then it starts to break down.

Which is the problem with your question about profitability. A lot of different factors go into that. The cost of the land is most likely the biggest expense of the farmer. Farmers NEED to produce a larger surplus on more expensive land just to pay for the land; they do not necessarilly end up with any more of a profit than less productive farmers on less expensive land.

I would appreciate any feedback on this idea. Or if you have a better suggestion

eROeI is really about the concepts of "no free lunch" and "break even".

The same is true when talking about money ($RO$I).

You have to put something in before you can get anything out. But sometimes what you get out is less than what you put in. Your ROI is then less than unity (ROI<1).

It sounds to me though like you are going to be asking your neighborhood board to compare two alternative energy sources. A graph like the one below might be helpful. The amount of return is on the X axis and the amount of investment is on the Y axis in the below example. (Click to enlarge.)

When it comes to debates about ethanol or other biofuels, the real fight is over what you count as being part of your investment in. What is the true cost for this apparently free lunch?

Thanks Step Back. Your basically right. What I am trying to do with the farm slide is set them up for looking at this graph by Charles Hall. Essentially showing them the decline in Domestic oil as well as the lower EROI of alternate sources and why there is a line on here for minimum EROI to support civilization. Why ethanol cannot save the day without some other higher EROI energy source to drive it. Why switching to tar sands (even if we could get the flow rate) would still lead to a smaller discretionary economy.


In this figure, the EROEI of coal seems high. Do you have a reference? In table 3 of this site there is a summary of a paywall article by Gagnon et al. (2002) which has it lower (about 11).



It was taken from Hall's ASPO Italy 2005 presentation. He does not cite a source. All the presentations are here. A lot of good stuff.


I guess I would have to read the paper you are citing. It seems odd to me that coal would have a lower return than wind (by a factor of 3) when wind generation costs more to produce than coal generated electricity. It could be that they are citing specific coal mines (ie Canadian mines)? I don't know?


Looks like it was modified here but is still high. Looks also like Gagnon is an author on the presentation in your link. In the more recent link, there is reference to work by Cutler Cleaveland whose guest post on TOD gives a value of 80. I suspect that this comes from this paper. If so, it pertains to coal at the mouth of the mine. It is definitely an industry wide analysis and perhaps the lower numbers I've been seeing pertain to particular mines at later times rather than 1954 to 1987.


I don't understand.

How is the graph of eROeI versus total energy output (per year?) going to educate your neighborhood board as to anything?

eR/eI is merely a ratio --and as someone succinctly pointed out below, often of oranges in versus apples out because not all energies are equal.

Unless your neighborhood board consists of highly educated engineers & scientists, the likelihood is that all this fancy math is going to go way over their heads.

In either case, even if eROI was 1.01, if the input is cheap, infinitely abundant and of low utility while the output form is high priced and of high utility, a capitalist system will go for it. Price and eROI don't mix. Our social system responds only to $RO$I. It is tone deaf when it comes to eROI.

Re: The real fight is over what you count as being part of your investment in.

That's part of it but not the most important part of EROEI IMO. The big fallacy of EROEI is the fallacy of comparing apples and oranges. Energy is not like money as you sighted with your $RO$I comparison. Money is fungible. A dollar in is a dollar out. This is a valid concept. The problem with EROEI is that apples are put in and oranges come out as in the case of ethanol. If oranges have a higher utility and presumably a higher market price, it does not matter that more apples are consumed than oranges come out. There is no net gain in fruit in this analogy, but if the price of oranges is high enough it makes sense. This is what happens in the production of electricity. Even though electricity has a very low EROEI, its utility and price are high enough to justify it.

My favorite analogy to EROEI is Metal Return on Metal Invested. If MROMI were used to determine which metal to produce, a gross misallocation of resources would result. Suppose 10 pounds of iron are consumed in mining gold for shaft supports and such for each pound of gold that is produced. No gold would be mined using MROMI logic. Leaving out the critical factor of price invalidates the argument. Peak Oil believers who espouse EROEI arguments should be careful not to look irrational to Peak Oil doubters.

My next door neighbor is a melon/pumpkin/squash grower. He has about the same annual income as a 5,000 acre normal farmer employing 2 people. He employs 20 people at times to operate 100 acres.

Its labor intense. Maybe ag will go this way to an extent? He can CERTAINLY outbid me for an acre. No doubt about that.

Farm land will go to the crop that can bid the most for it. My melon farming neighbor can bid far more per acre than I can, but presently there is not a lot of call for melon acres. I raise, corn sunflowers, and wheat.

Ultimately, people will need to move closer to the food origination. What will get raised on those acres? Will corn go away as vegetable crops outbid corn for acres? Wheat will bid hard for acres. Soybeans might bid fairly hard to get acres as well.

I guess at the moment I don't see corn's ability to bid against the vegetable crops to get acres, so it will hemmorage acres IMO. The world will need some corn, so it can bid for a few acres.

IMO The first barrels produced will go to the oil industry which needs it to produce more barrels, and the next barrels will make pesticides, the next barrels will operate tractors on the wheat/soy acres.

A lot of acres may go to veg crops that require limited tractors.

Vegetables are ADM's nightmare---
Polyfarming is ADM's demise---
Of course, polyfarming takes brains and labor, often in shot supply in farm country, where many of the brightest have been duped to live in Dilbert's Cube.

That tends to line up well with what I envision.

The staple grain and oilseed crops will continue to be grown using today's "big scale" methods by those who already have the land, knowledge, and equipment to do so. Grains transport and store well, so it will make sense to grow them on the plains and transport to the cities and non-grain-growing regions.

Vegetable and fruit that do not travel or store well will switch to small-scale production scattered clear across the land with concentration in and around the cities. Small entrepenuers will be able to get into the small-scale growing business with little more than seeds, a mattock or grub hoe and some rented land or their suburban backyard.

Basically a lot like the urban areas of Cuba did after the USSR fell.

Greg in MO

Farm land will go to the crop that can bid the most for it. My melon farming neighbor can bid far more per acre than I can, but presently there is not a lot of call for melon acres. I raise, corn sunflowers, and wheat.

Melons are a luxury food (purely discretionary). When the economy goes south to do lack of cheap energy, demand for melons and other luxury foods will plummet. Melons also requred a great deal of water. I suspect that the crops that will be retained are crops that have low water inputs, cheap to harvest and ship, and have the most calories.

Even though electricity has a very low EROEI

I think you are confusing EROEI with conversion efficiency. Electricity has a low conversion efficiency (~35% with coal; ~45% with CC natural gas), but its EROEI would depend on the EROEI of the primary energy source from which the electricity is generated. Hall in the graph above estimates US coal is still at 80:1. That would still put the EROEI of coal electricity at 30-35. If the EROEI of electricity were really less than 1 (that is, it was an energy sink), then it would never become such an important energy carrier.

My favorite analogy to EROEI is Metal Return on Metal Invested. If MROMI were used to determine which metal to produce, a gross misallocation of resources would result. Suppose 10 pounds of iron are consumed in mining gold for shaft supports and such for each pound of gold that is produced. No gold would be mined using MROMI logic. Leaving out the critical factor of price invalidates the argument. Peak Oil believers who espouse EROEI arguments should be careful not to look irrational to Peak Oil doubters.

This is a false analogy. Iron is NOT "consumed" in the production of gold. The iron is still there, it gets used and reused, and it can eventually be recycled.

Iron is not converted into gold, the way the chemical energy in coal gets converted into heat, then motion, then electricity; and iron is not "lost" in the process of mining gold the way energy is lost in each step of the conversion process.

You keep spouting this canard on these boards. Why?

Steel used for roof bolts in underground mining is NOT recycled ( go ahead and try : )

Sure there are 'consumables' and 'expendables' like worn cutting tools and invested fasteners, etc.. but the analogy is still flawed.

I still find money to be a useful way to 'explain' EROEI, even if they are dissimilar on a few levels.

There's one I use with the charges at an ATM, where the FEE charged is like an EROEI evaluation, since it obviously is costing you money to access your money 'in reserve'.. for a $2 fee, you wouldn't withdraw just two dollars, since it costs you another two to do it. Taking out $40 or $60 is preferable to $20, by the same token.

I also compare it to 'the commute', where people are familiar with the cost-benefit of driving x-hours/week, or x-gallons/week etc, against what the job pays them, and which also has the diverse costs and inputs (time, fuel, tolls, vehicle wear, etc) against the reward.

Then there's the 'multiple incomes to pay for Daycare', as opposed to saving the costs, dropping the earnings, and spending time with your kid(s).. priceless..


Some economists claim that the oil industry is not important because it makes up such a small portion of the worlds economy. But this is exactly the opposite of the truth. It is the high rates of return that *allow* the industry to be a small portion of the overall economy.

Nice insight.

Furthermore: the image that comes to mind is a block versus an inverted pyramid. In the past, when oil made up "a larger portion of the economy," it resembled a block resting on a square foundation.

Now that oil "is a small portion of the economy," it's like a pyramid balanced on its tip.

The oil-is-such-as-small-part-of-the-economy canard needs strenuous refutation, because it implies that oil just doesn't matter that much.

But it's like saying, "Oh, blood isn't that important. It just makes up X% of total body mass."

This may sound heretical at first, but hear me out because I've given a lot of peak oil presentations recently.

Why discuss EROEI at all? I know that on a very technically oriented blog like The Oil Drum it is necessary to use it as people thrash out alternatives but as part of an introduction I've not found EROEI necessary at all.

You do need to point out that alternatives won't come to the rescue. You can do that easily just by introducing the scale of the problem. Alternatives can't rescue us for two reasons:
a) if they are a liquid fuel substitute, none of them will ramp up in time
b) if they aren't a liquid fuel substitute, we don't have time to move off of internal combustion engines

The benefit of taking this path in the presentation is that you forestall all the inevitable objections by the engineering-types in the room who will protest that you haven't considered x or y technology. Just reply, "That may be a great technology, but we can't roll it out in time." After a few of those, people stop trying to find a techno fix and the reality of our situation starts to really sink in.

If you start talking EROEI, you'll lose part of the audience and you'll give the other part something to push against when what you want is for them to see the inescapable nature of the problem.

I would keep EROEI out of the conversation completely and save it for a followup "in depth" talk. Stick with the high level points and don't let the conversation descend into technical minutiae. EROEI is, in my view, just not necessary for people to "get" the main point -- that we're in for a dramatic energy descent. Everything else you want to say follows once you establish that.


Best Of The Oil Drum Index

Hi Aangel,

Those are all good ideas. I will consider splitting the talk. I find there is a strong push back that we can solve peak oil via ethanol or tar sands (I in the upper midwest farming country). The issue is that without some understanding of EROI people rush off to support dead end "solutions" and feel the issue will solve itself. Once you understand EROI you realize that economic contraction cannot be avoided.

When dealing with wind and solar I follow your advice and explain about the slow ramp up times and the large amount of infrastructure that will need to be converted. That does tend to quell the technical quibbles (fusion will solve it) because you don't disagree that someday it might help, but not in the next 20-30 years.

Is your presentation on your site anywhere? I am looking around for ideas.

Hi, gTrout.

Very true...I think you're right in that understanding EROEI helps people choose alternatives. You'll of course have to make the final call. I just try to avoid having the conversation going down rat holes, which often occurs when people starting digging into technical details. If you think you can stop that from happening by bringing the conversation down the EROEI pathway, that's great.

Version 1 of my talk had more technical detail. For version two, below, I took out a lot of that so that I could address two concerns:
a) when people get peak oil, they naturally go to "am I going to be able to feed my family?" I've found that if I don't address that people shut down. They can't hear the rest of the presentation because they are too preoccupied with worry.
b) in the face of petrocollapse, what kind of a future can I paint that they can see themselves in? People only give up when they can't see themselves in the future they are contemplating, so it's important to give everyone a role.

For a), I say that the city of Paris was a net food exporter at the turn of the last century, so cities can produce enormous amounts of food within their boundaries when they are organized for it. I also mention that Victory Gardens grew up to 40% of the nations vegetables. The combined effect is to reassure the audience that they and their family won't starve. (Naturally, this is to a first-world audience. All bets are off elsewhere in the world.)

For b), I outline what I call A New Game For Humanity, which is to have our communities community-sufficient by 2011. Is that the correct year? Maybe. We may not even have that long, but I'm personally operating based on a major oil shock no later than 2012 so I'm happy with it.

In this game that I've created, people can be either:

  • Victims — these people complain that the world isn't fair and that there isn't enough time before peak oil to prepare
  • Bystanders — these people just watch as events unfold
  • Participants — these people are playing to win the game I've created
  • Leaders — these people are inspired to make a future that is different from the predictable one in their community

Everyone gets to choose a role and not choosing a role means that they end up as Victims or Bystanders, so it's still choosing a role. By outlining the roles, it becomes easy for someone to see their choices. They may not choose at that exact moment, but my intention is to leave them thinking: "Am I participant or leader? If I'm neither, then I must be a victim or bystander. Yuck. Looks like I'd better get involved."

My goal, of course, is to inspire people to be leaders in their communities. Participants are good, too.

Here is the full presentation, which I gave to a very corporate audience at Sun Microsystems. Initial feedback is that it was "very motivating....a very powerful presentation." Pics are here:

Feel free to steal at will...above all, we need leaders in our communities to step up. If you leave people in despair, you will have lost a big opportunity.


Peak Oil and Climate Change

Hi Andre',

Great presentation! It works quite well, and as you have said, does not mention EROI. I like how you directly address "fill in the blank" technologies. I also really like your idea of presenting this as a game, because it really does shift the thinking from "oh a rock is falling on my head and I am going to perish" to, "ok, how can I win under the new rules". That *is* really important. No matter how bad things were on the Titanic, there were good and bad choices at every stage of the sinking that saved or killed people.

A question: Do you have a book(s) you can recommend on the Argentina crisis (you state they started using local currencies) I would like to read more about what happened there.

Hi, gTrout.

Thanks. As I said, I'd like everyone to play the game I've created so by all means please inspire others to play it.

I don't have a book on Argentina for you but you don't need it. Google "argentina collapse" and you'll get many results on what happened there.

Good luck getting your community ready. But as you know, luck has very little to do with it.


If you start talking EROEI, you'll lose part of the audience and you'll give the other part something to push against when what you want is for them to see the inescapable nature of the problem.

Although I don't give public talks, I agree.

For people who are not pre-trained to understand the deep tech, this will sound like blah blah blah.

How do you know that we can't roll out assorted technologies in time?

What do you define as failure to roll out assorted technologies in time?

I'm expecting a sustained economic contraction. But I'm also expecting that we will see technology roll-outs and capital expenditures in energy that far exceed current levels of spending. Lots of wind farms, nuclear power plants, and other energy technologies will get built out at rapid rates.

Hi, FuturePundit.

I'm operating based on the amount of energy from oil that must must be replaced past peak — something like the equivalent of Saudi Arabia's production within about ten years past the peak.

In that economically contracting environment, I don't expect there to be a lot of extra cash to continue the transition. So, in my view, we largely have until the peak to transition as much as possible.

I'm also assuming a peak in 2012 -- not nearly enough time to make a dent even with the current high growth rates in alternative technologies.


In post-peak conditions the economic contraction will make labor cheaper. The economic contraction will also reduce the demand for steel and other commodities for other forms of capital investment. People won't be using lots of resources to build new suburban houses either.

In post-peak conditions people will become more willing to work longer hours and to work at manual labor jobs. They will do this out of necessity.

River complains about the current Bush Administration. Well, the next Administration (and regardless of which political party wins) will become far more willing to take drastic measures once drastic measures become clearly necessary to the vast majority of the US population. The same will happen in other countries.

Sacred Cow Tipper says "Perhaps only on a war footing". We are like Americans a year before Dec. 7, 1941, most of whom would find it hard to imagine what their feelings would be and what they become willing to do a year later, what they'd demand a year later. It doesn't take a military attack to rouse people to great undertakings. It just takes a sense that great undertakings are desperately needed.

gTrout thinks government will need to ban certain forms of goods consumption. I doubt it. Once the reality of permanent oil decline sets in SUV sales, motor home sales, boat sales, and private jet sales will all plummet. People will suddenly scale back their ambitions on new home size and decide that triple paned argon makes for a stylish window. Besides, declining incomes will make people focus on essentials out of necessity.

Andre thinks 2012 technologies won't be enough to get the job done. I think in terms of energy generation we already have the technologies needed. We could build 500 nuclear reactors with today's technologies and those reactors would work fine. We could build one hundred thousand wind towers with today's technologies. Though there'd be challenges in designing electric distribution systems to handle the surges and drops in power availability I still think it could be done.

Our biggest problem that I see is in battery technology. We need to shift most transportation to electric power. But in the early years of the decline we can switch to small diesel hybrids.

One of America's great advantages in the coming oil decline is that we use so much oil now in optional ways. We can switch to smaller diesel hybrid cars and probably triple our fuel mileage without moving or changing jobs. Though people will do those things too.

Again, I think this is going to be painful with stagflation and massive lay-offs. But it isn't going to be painful in the "collapse of large society" kind of way. It will only go that way if everyone tells the public that they ought to panic and head for the hills. That is so totally unnecessary. We need to keep functioning and work hard long hours to build the new capital infrastructure for the post-peak era.

We need to shift most transportation to electric power.

Yes, electrified rail. VERY mature technology, long lasting (a couple of generations before the rolling stock needs replacement, much of the infrastructure will last a half century or longer).

This is the "T" in redeveloping our urban form and society around TOD.

Our biggest problem that I see is in battery technology.

No batteries required, just a trolley wire :-)

But in the early years of the decline we can switch to small diesel hybrids.

Number of diesel hybrids for sale in the USA in 2008 - Zero

Overall increase in sales of compact & sub-compact cars in the USA in 2007 - +0.3%

We have not even started improving our fleet economy.

There are component problems in rapidly ramping up production of hybrids (per Toyota)

But still, we can build lots of Yaris's and Fits within a year if we have to.

But it will be enough for only a mild post-Peak Oil decline. Non-oil transportation, not just more fuel efficient oil transportation is needed. After 7 or 8 years (about half the fleet is replaced), that strategy begins to run out of steam. Reduced VMT (see reduced economic activity and revised urban form) and non-oil transportation have to kick in about then.

Best Hopes on not depending upon the Just-in-Time Technology Fairy (who might be late),


Hi, FuturePundit.

Andre thinks 2012 technologies won't be enough to get the job done.

Sorry, let me be more precise. I didn't mean to say that the technologies of 2012 will not get the job done, it's that the growth in the implementation of existing technologies will not do more than a dent by 2012.

We have plenty of good technology right now, although I would quibble with your choices of which ones to actually roll out (to me, wind good, nuclear bad).


Perhaps only on a war footing and certainly not with the current welfare for Halliburton approach we've seen from the federal government. Corporations are all going to shrink and many are going to wither - they'll be voting themselves irreplaceable resources for the wasting until A.) the resources are gone or B.) we stomp them flat. I don't like to see people suffering but I truly hope the discontent with our economy couples with the realization at some level of what all this means and the voters wake up and put their collective foot down. Bush has laid the foundation for an end to sleazy mismanagement with eight years of spectacular nonsense ... I hope these rumbles I'm hearing about John Edwards as attorney general if he doesn't get the nomination come to pass.

'How do you know that we can't roll out assorted technologies in time?'

FuturePundit, How can you ask such a question based on the 'non-accomplishments' of the current administration for the past seven years? Without outstanding, focused and reasoned leadership no 'assorted technologies' will be 'rolled out'.

The truly 'unsustainable' feature of the US is its total lack of leadership. Leadership has been channeled in an ideologically driven direction, diametrically opposed to leadership based on reason. The current administration has displayed deeply imbedded political cronyisim, outright theft by 'disappearance' of trillions of dollars, totally ludicrous pork projects, rediculous and unwinable wars, unsustainable deficit spending, incompetence and ignorance in many branches and in many levels of government, deeply flawed economic policy, no foreign policy, ad infinum.

Untill our lack of political leadership at the top is rectified and begins to focus on realistic goals and forms a vision of a workable model for the US, there will be no 'roll out' of 'assorted technologies' in a scale large enough to matter, no matter the time frame...And, as I said upthread, our 'leaders' will stick with their current model untill it totally fails. The names might change in the next administration, but the ship we are all in will not be making a major change of course. A large enough change of course to make a difference prior to radically declining FF imports, economic decline, and impoverishment of a large portion of the population, would be political suicide... The US is a reactionary nation of largely ignorant voters. Many of the voters go to the polls thinking about a candidates position on abortion, or preventing people of the same sex from marrying, or some other non-issue...All the while remaining ignorant of the issues that will soon change their lives radically. Politicians act after the fact and when they attempt to do otherwise they meet with the fate of Jimmy Carter...Which points to a systemic weakness of our model of government.

The only chance for the US is intelligent and visionary leadership that will put in place lots of incentives to promote transport by water, rail, and incentives for businesses and individuals to install solar, wind, ocean hydro, geo-thermal, and every other form of energy that might help reduce our dependence on imported FF. If a lack of great leadership at the top is not forthcoming, we are Freakin' Doomed (FD).

You can grow alternate sources very fast when they are a tiny fraction of the overall economy. As they grow larger, they begin to draw resources away from other consumers and resource prices will rise, slowing the growth rate.

EROI sets the maximum growth rate, because EROI is setting the surplus the power source has to sell for profits. The lower the profits, the less a price rise you can tolerate, the more growth will throttle back as the technology scales up to a significant fraction of the economy.

We are already seeing feed stocks for ethanol up 4x in price and that is a tiny fraction of overall gasoline supply.

A WWII level effort could be attempted. But consider what that means:
1. Consumption of non-essential goods is halted by government decree to create a surplus of materials.
2. Rationing of essential goods is also implemented to create more surplus.
3. Industries are nationalized to build the new power sources using the surplus.
4. Large sections of the population are drafted to work at below market rates.

What this really does is exactly what the environmentalists have been calling for all along, lower economic growth rates now, in favor of greater economic growth in the future, achieved by non-market mechanisms. I think it will happen. I don't think we can scale a new energy industry as fast as we would like. WWII lasted 4 years. This rationing system will need to be in place for 30-60 years to build anything like our current energy base.

gTrout, thanks for saying this. I hadn't thought through what it would really take to conduct a massive renewable energy buildout.


The visual would be clearer as a math equation. 1 farmer + a small bag of seed = a small bag of seed, a bushel surplus, and 1 farmer. 10 extra bushels = a town. 100 extra = a city.

Excellent explanation. By reversing the original process involved in the development of huge cities, we can easily see the demise of the big city by way of Peak Oil.

In the book The Long Emergency, Kunstler explains how the currently defunct small towns will resurge back into relavence (due to their ability to provide people opportunity to develop small farms and share as a community) as big cities and their outlying suburbs become obsolete. What he doesn't answer is, where do all those people go? - afterall there isn't enough room in those small towns to support that many people.

The hard facts are that a post peak oil era will not support the high level of technology we have all become accustomed to or adequetly feed the existing level of population.

The question is; How do you explain that to people along with the above explanation regarding the demise of big cities? What you would in effect be doing is explaining to them that many of them will also become obsolete. I can't imagine trying to convince people of that. Consequently it's probably a better idea to put some of the information out there, and then simply allow people to draw their own conclusions regarding the inferences resulting from big city demise.

A new global oil quandary: Costly fuel means costly calories

Notice how many current headlines were predicted in: "End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and Collapse of the American Dream?"

WT, do you read "mish". very good if you don't.

Pursuant to your recommendation, I have started reading him. I circulated his latest missive to friends & family. BTW, have you seen a movement toward more food production in Oregon?

I have been in contact with local growers at the farmers markets and look to move my operation that direction. As far as the nursery industry as a whole they seem to not get it. The larger nurseries are having a difficult time with the rise in shipping costs. Their response has been to lobby for aid.
Many nurseries were once farm operations that moved into nursery production because it was more profitable, now the reversal is getting their attention.
If you are a large multi million dollar shade tree nursery you now have a huge problem. Alot of your money is in nursery stock that has an annual maintenance expense. If you cannot sell it you must pay someone to dig and burn it to get your ground back to farming. I fully expect the cost of plants to stay flat or more likely to drop as time goes on.
My hydropower pelton wheel is in. Currently trying to crack the generator problem. using what I already have may not work as well as I had hoped.

May I suggest the Yahoo Group MicroHydro to help ?

BTW, why a Pelton ? How much head do you have ?



A pond with 1.5 Ac. feet storage.
840' 4" sch 40 delivery pipe
4 - 1/2" nozzles
Harris pelton fastened to a 1" SS shaft.
I have an old WW2 era KATO light generator
Heavy, well built, etc.
AC is a big headache.
so far have gotten 150v,120 30 hrtz,100,(looking for 240)
and 56v looking for 120
have debated to death AC and think it is time to look at DC
WT tels me that you would be a good resource. Interested in a hobby gone wild?

What flow rate ?

I assume that you would like to make some money selling to the grid, True ? What ar ethe laws in your state for self generated power ?

What RPM for your Pelton ?

Any reason not to go with Francis (or Turgo, etc.)(LOTS of trash in water or ?) ?

My first instinct would be to have a synchronous (not an asynch) generator custom-made for your site.

What is voltage at distribution wiring (feeding transformer) ?

Best Hopes for renewable energy,


Lets see...
each nozzle is roughly 40 gpm.
each nozzle is valved
RPM - 1650 NO LOAD.
Where pressure and volume intersect is max power.
pressure, volume,speed, and load all interact (woohoo) <:(
3 nozzles still gives 31 psi.
4 drops it to 28 psi
I have 240v ac nearby so was hoping to use these heavy wires to send back to my workshop AC power.
I have no desire to sell back to the grid- i can use everything i generate and more.
Winter flow is night/day different than summer.
We get roughly 80" of rain a year. Winter flow is 60+ gpm (+pondage)
Summer (low) is @ 5-10 GPM
No reason for not using a turgo.
I even bought some lignin vitae(SP?) at an auction once just in case for thrust bearings.


Step one, convert it all to metric ....

I will look at it in few days.

I assume that all the AC generators you have tried have been asynchronous ?

Best Hopes,


I am jealous.I have 80/ft head w/6GPM....barely 200 watts.{theoretical} I have a Harris Hydro,1 nozzle w/2" line on the list for summer project to complete.One advantage is by Or law if the water start and stops on your place...no regulation.Thats for all the "wealthy"folks in the backwoods who love microhydro
Check out the yahoo microhydro group..its worth it

My hydropower pelton wheel is in. Currently trying to crack the generator problem. using what I already have may not work as well as I had hoped.

What are you up to? Going to tap the power of the Pudding, the Sandy, the Yamhill? I'm in Newberg. My cousins in Morrow county are more than happy about record wheat prices, of course.

Some of those nurseries need to transition into fruit trees, berry bushes and branbles. Transformation of residential lawns into permaculture sort of thing.

A link to "mish" ?




His explanations are very good.

He may have good explanations but his budgeting priorities need work:

"Chop this thing in half and save a whopping $18,038,485
The only way to do that is reduce service.
Yes, this means rationing health care.
Too much money is wasted giving things away care for "free".
So called "free" services drive up the cost for everyone else."

That's true only if you look at a very narrow set of accounts, as he seems to be doing everywhere with his budget priorities. Sometimes money spent in one area gives a great return elsewhere. In the case of healthcare, having a healthy society pays dividends in so many ways (we're happier, have higher quality of life, less absenteeism, and on and on).

For instance, the other direction he could have gone with health care is toward universal healthcare, which is cheaper (less overall cost) and manages to cover everybody in most (all?) developed countries.

With the massive unemployment we're about to face, we'll have many more than 45 million uninsured. I say we move to a universal system, paid for out of general taxes, which will be cheaper, will cover everyone and most likely will place us above #37 in the world rankings for health care quality, which is where we are now (http://www.who.int/inf-pr-2000/en/pr2000-44.html).

The British made the decision that health care was a priority in the aftermath of WWII. The U.S. should make that decision now.

Best Of The Oil Drum Index

The British made the decision that health care was a priority in the aftermath of WWII. The U.S. should make that decision now.


Or not exactly. I rather liked Mish's article. I think he's right that something universal would bankrupt any US entity that tried it. After all, it would be governed by religious nuts and Marxist nuts who agree with each other on little except that "care" should be absolutely limitless, and perhaps imposed by force as deemed "necessary", as is already practically the case with the statins discussed in this very thread. No doubt the Oregon lawsuit-truce would be abrogated. By contrast, the nationalized systems elsewhere all set limits.

Not that limits are necessarily bad, though with the extensive corruption and politically-correct inanity in the US they might well prove to be. Our current "system" prolongs death while contributing next to nothing to a "healthy society". Indeed, in the name of supposedly "scientific" cookbook medicine, actual patients are totally ignored, as doctors are trained to treat each one only as a statistical model of an average patient and nothing more. This often destroys health, as with the aforementioned statins; I now wonder how many of our old folks can't get out of a chair unassisted on account of those damned things.

So what we have begs for radical change. However, it is not obvious to me that turning it all over to a government monopoly - which, like all government monopolies, would operate utterly and arrogantly free of any real discipline - would bring about any improvement.

Oh, and, as I recall, one of the columns in Molly Ivins' books pointed out that (in the 1990s) 60% of spending was on the last 30 days of life - i.e. for almost entirely futile "care". This sort of thing is precisely where the ideological nut jobs come to the fore. Cast them aside, cut back our health "system" with a financial meat ax, stop using highly dangerous drugs to give people social permission to eat like pigs, and we'd be healthier for it. But that's precisely the opposite of what a government monopoly would do; the nut jobs would run it. In that sense at least, Mish is absolutely right, more right than he took credit for.

Hi, PaulS.

It's possible that a universal system would bankrupt the country, but I would argue that it's the current system that is so poor that it is on the way to bankrupting the country.

Let's look at a few facts:

  • The U.S. spends more than any other industrialized country on healthcare — and it's not even possible to say that everyone is covered
  • It ranked 37th on quality (WHO)
  • It has the second-worst stats on infant mortality in the industrialized world
  • It's obesity rate is astronomical and increasing, which in part is because we have an acute care system (i.e. fix the problems when they arise) rather than a more balanced system that includes prevention
  • Medical bankruptcies were just recently the leading cause of bankruptcy (over half); can these people get insurance after they've declared bankruptcy? (I actually don't know the answer, but my guess is that it would be harder.)
  • Health insurance companies are posting enormous profits (over $60B per year)
  • The U.S., like the USSR at the time of its collapse, is now spending well over half of its budget on the military
  • The U.S spends at least $294B a year just on healthcare administration and profits, or about 30 cents of every healthcare dollar. The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that if we implemented the Canadian system, savings would be immediate because Canada spends less than half that — and everyone is covered.
  • The U.S. government has some entities that are poorly run but others that are exceptional. Personally, I think both my county and city governments generally spend their money well. I get great fire protection, police protection and though I've never had to use it I'm told that search and rescue is excellent. It's fashionable to pick on the U.S. Postal System but it's actually efficient considering its mandate to cover an entire country. And so on.

Quite simply, if one is in the top tier of income-earners, the U.S. system may be fine for you. For the rest of us, it is extremely poor.

Given the above, I would say that the U.S. is very rich country (or has been up to this point; that's about to change as we all know) with very, very poor spending priorities.

I think once the collapse occurs, there will be insufficient money for a profit-based healthcare system and the number of uninsured people will explode as layoffs occur. I say we should start getting the new system primed for the major discontinuity that is about to occur.


The consequences of peak oil on medicine will be progressive, from a base of business as usual there will be a gradual rise in the frequency and severity of problems stemming from increases in price and decreases in availability of fuel and petrochemical products. We need to identify the areas of critical fuel and petrochemical dependence of our medical system to form the basis for the orderly planning of a rational response to the ensuing gradual depletion. We will need to plan to mitigate, as soon as we reasonably can, the impact of oil depletion and in the process establish a list of priority activities that will need continued access to fuel and petrochemicals regardless of price and availability. Every Healthcare system needs a comprehensive oil vulnerability analysis as soon as possible to provide the information on which to develop migration strategies.

We have to address the prospects for healthcare in a totally new and uncertain period. So when we try to start by addressing the issue of how much plastic we use and discard, for example, it is not a contrived or frivolous point, the time when we will not have access to affordable disposable plastic is not far in the future. Given the total absence of any plan to find an alternative, which will take years to develop, it might as well be tomorrow.

We need to be prepared to ask hard questions and think the unthinkable; the seamless progress of more and evermore complex procedures and treatments will not be sustainable. Things are not going to get easier; they are going to get harder and harder every year. We will have to struggle not to go backwards. If we are to continue to provide quality healthcare it will require those in the system to be inventive, flexible, frugal and creative as we power down. Our future will not be a linear extrapolation from our past because we are approaching a period of unprecedented change. Rather than looking forward breathlessly to the future and dreaming about how stem cells will be curing all sorts of ailments in 2030, we should really be asking deeply disturbing questions like: How will we be able maintain vaccine production for childhood immunization in 2030 and beyond?

We need to ask the right questions, two urgent questions for starters are:
• What level of complexity will we be able to sustain 2, 5, 10, 20 or more years into the period of energy descent that will follow on from peak oil?
• What will be the appropriate level of complexity that balances cost effectiveness with the best possible outcomes?

Modern medicine sits at the apex of a huge industrial pyramid and is critically linked into the whole just-in-time logistical chain, the efficiency vs resilience clash and is vulnerable to the nail-horseshoe-horse-battle-kingdom collapse scenario. But try to get hospital managers to consider warehousing spare critical components and they just look at you with blank incomprehesion.

The three R's of post PO medicine will be:
- Responsibility. If you choose to smoke and booze, go for it but don't expect treatment for the consequences.
- Rationing. Hardnosed decisions will have to be made about "Who gets what, where, when, how and at whose expense?".
- Reuse, recycle, repair etc. the current obsession with disposable everything is unsustainable. The vanishingly small risk of contracting CJD for example, which has been overblown by companies keen to sell single use equipment, will have to be balanced by the real risk of non treatment when the single use gear ceases to be affordable or available and the reusable equivalent doesn't exist.

The future will be based on the question 'How little must we lose?' not 'How much can we gain?'

More of this, from Dr Paul Roth and myself can be found at at: http://www.aspo-australia.org.au/References/Senate-ASPO/ASPO_HSWG_supple...

Dr Jim Barson
Health Sector Working Group
ASPO Australia.

Dr. Barson,

I've begun reading your paper it's very good. It's clear that you have put a lot of work into it. In my corner of the world I'll be sure to get it to the medical people when the conversation has progressed that far.


Hello Jim and Andre,

An interesting an important discussion. It's heartening to see professionals engage in it.

Some further points to consider.

1. In the US, "emergency medical care" is currently guaranteed, at least to some degree, though I'm not versed on the details.

An argument for an attempt to alter the current system ahead of PO - (well, too late for that, but ASAP) - is the scenario that an increased use of emergency services could easily bankrupt the system. (i.e., and do so quickly.)

What do you think of this point?

2. The dependency of everything, including medical care, on a functioning water supply. While not wanting to prioritize, this is perhaps one linchpin.

So, it seems medicine has a huge obligation/opportunity to lobby for (insist) on a look at how to convert the FF components of the water supply delivery system to alternative renewables.

3. The point made about "what constitutes a live birth" is illustrated by the descriptions in the book "Uncle Tungsten" - of how medicine was conducted earlier in the 20th century.

4. I've wondered (and haven't tried to find out) if medical care professionals are looking into the idea of re-localization of manufacture, say, of the most common antibiotics, and etc.
This speaks to your point about warehousing critical components.

What do you think it would take to have these "managers" be able to begin to look at the important issue you raise?

Even if they did, do they have the ability to bring about necessary changes?

Who else needs to be convinced?

The U.S., like the USSR at the time of its collapse, is now spending well over half of its budget on the military

The Wikipedia entry you linked mentioned half the discretionary budget - not half the total budget

Correct. My apologies.

The amount is still greater than then next 168 countries' budgets combined.

It is unnecessarily high, in my view, but it is considered sacrosanct and shrill voices will accuse one of being unpatriotic even to suggest that perhaps some of that money should go toward schools or universal healthcare. The military budget appears to have run amok.


Much of the Soviet Union's budget was off budget, so to speak. I don't really know how subsidized rent counted as compared to the US social security payments, or how restricted housing availability was used to motivate people to take care of their aging parents so they could live in their apartments and let their children have their old apartments so they could get married and have kids.
Orlov knows far more about that than I do. Anybody here Russian and go back twenty years so they know how it used to work in Russia?

Obesity rates have little to do with the health care system. They reflect larger differences in life styles due to different levels of affluence, different costs of gasoline and food, geography, and mix of jobs in different job markets.

Life expectancy rate differences between industrial nations are a function of many factors, most not involving the health care system.

Infant mortality varies between countries in part because of different standards for what constitutes a life birth and what is even worth saving.

Drug and alcohol use patterns play a big role in infant mortality rate differences. Locking up pregnant women who are using and abusing would do more than national health care to reduce infant mortality.

You overestimate the power of medical care. International comparisons have to control for lots of factors before those comparisons yield meaningful insights.

I beg to differ on your points...I can imagine a health care system that addresses everything that you say isn't in your world view of health care as it's currently practiced in this country.

I think your point that we should "lock up" pregnant women who are using and abusing gives away a certain bias: it seems consistent with viewing people with drug issues not as people who could use support to get their lives back on track but as nuisances who should be punished. Perhaps that world view is what has prisons filled with mentally ill people who don't get proper care? (Here is a good quick overview:
http://www.geocities.com/stargazers_here/mental_illness.html) The system handles them solely as criminals and gives them little or no treatment. (Human Rights Watch:

My wife is a public defender and most of her clients have mental stability issues. In fact, she started a mental health court in our county in which a team of people, including doctors, a public nurse, local police, the prosecutor's office, the public defender and of course a judge support people to stay out of jail and stay on their meds. This court exists because once someone gets into the criminal system, they must stay there, even though a differently designed health care system might have supported the people sufficiently to keep their lives together in the first place or diverted the person out of the criminal system for some minor offenses.

In my view, the expectation of what people think is possible for a good health care system is very low -- people seem to be happy if they can stay out of bankruptcy after getting seriously ill. What's possible is never really imagined.


Andre, My view of the health care system comes from reading lots of scientific and medical research. Look at evidenced based medicine for what actually works.

Look at obesity. Hardly any diets bring any lasting change at all. Doctors do not have effective anti-obesity drugs to prescribe. Getting dietary advice from your doctor isn't going to help many people lose weight. Short of stomach stapling there is little that doctors can do.

Your best bet with obesity is to try several diets and find out if one works for you. Also, change your lifestyle to get more exercise. A doctor's main function is to scold you to get you to do something. But it is in your hands.

Automation, cars, and cheap food have made Americans fat. Doctors contributed to this problem too by advocating high grain diets. If Americans had listened less to their doctors over the last 40 years they'd be skinnier today.

I can concur. As bad as health care is in the USA, mental health care does not even deserve being called a "system". One of the few benefits of post-Katrina New Orleans is the general recognition that mental health care is a priority.

Suicides tripled, massive depression and anxiety disorders, PTSD in a third of the police force and much of the fire department.


We have one of the world's largest obesity problems, combined with one of the world's largest transfat consumptions. Maybe we should have subsidized butter and olive oil production like the Europeans did? If we had their policies, would we get their results?
Sweden very greatly restricted transfats. We will see.

A lot of countries with government price controls on drugs basically live off of the research and development paid for by buyers in countries that do not regulate drug prices. In particular, the drug market in the United States pays far more for pharma company research than all the Euro countries combined.

If the US adopted Canadian or other Western country price controls on drugs the pharma companies spending on drug development would plummet. As it is the Euro pharma companies have shifted most of their drug development labs to the US because this is where they are going to make profits that justify drug development in the first place.

This is a commonly believed myth.

New drugs can be made without the astronomical profit margins of the U.S. pharmaceutical companies.

From "The Truth About Drug Companies":

"But while the rhetoric is stirring, it has very little to do with reality. First, research and development (R&D) is a relatively small part of the budgets of the big drug companies—dwarfed by their vast expenditures on marketing and administration, and smaller even than profits. In fact, year after year, for over two decades, this industry has been far and away the most profitable in the United States. (In 2003, for the first time, the industry lost its first-place position, coming in third, behind "mining, crude oil production," and "commercial banks.") The prices drug companies charge have little relationship to the costs of making the drugs and could be cut dramatically without coming anywhere close to threatening R&D."



No, this is not a myth. They spend more on marketing, manufacturing, and other activities. But their yearly research and development expenditures are a few tens of billions per year.

If the drug companies have costs they could cut without losing business I would expect them to cut those costs since then they could increase their profits.

His budget cuts for California read like a libertarian's nasty little wish list...


In California we already have high sales tax and high state income tax. Also, even with Prop 13 we have high property taxes because home values are so high. The state government doesn't lack for money. It just spends too much.

Looking at the graph the budjet only became unbalanced in 2005/6 when the economy was doing well. How is such mismanagment possible?

I think his analysis is generally pretty good. I'm wary of gold bugs, however, and more wary of Ron Paul supporters.

Farmers are getting record prices for their (food) crops. I find it amusing how many fields are still in grass seed. Grass seed was highly profitable while suburbia was under construction. I bet they will be plowing these under shortly. To bad it takes a fairly good investment getting a field set up and weed free.

I bet they will be plowing these under shortly.

No. You're forgeting that the plow has been sold.

The infrastructure is no longer there.

To bad it takes a fairly good investment getting a field set up and weed free.

Exactly what I've been working on for 35 years.

First, the grass field is already "set up". You're going backwards when you
start setting it up.

A weed is a plant out of place.

"Behind the humor there was a growing realization, however, that if farmers wanted to find a permanent solution to their problems it was necessary for them to learn to live more harmoniously with the land. Farmers in Buffalo County resented speculations in the East that the Great Plains had already become "an empire of dust," but as swirling dust filled the air and blackened the sky, farmers were forced to concede that misplaced settlement, especially in the World War I period, unsound farming techniques, the general exploitation of the land for generations, and not just the droughts, had caused the fundamental maladjustments between man and nature in the Plains region. "

In 1940 the Great Plains Committee, which had been created in 1936 to study the problems of the area, issued its final report, titled, The Northern Great Plains. It concluded, "The problem of land-use adjustment on an enduring basis in the Great Plains, in the Northern Plains and Southern Plains alike, still remains the most difficult agricultural problem of its kind in the United States."


It's no accident that the Great Plains pop peaked with the Bison kill and bone collection.



Today in western North Dakota a 3,000-acre (1,200 hectares) spread of wheat is necessary for survival, and so the ground is littered with dead towns and empty kitchens where people once painted the walls a cheery robin’s-egg blue.


I guess that's what collapse looks like...

South Dakota is returning about 300,000 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to production this year, the gold rush is on again. There are many types of grass seed production plots with Kentucky Bluegrass being one used for suburban lawns. I would not plow up any native (prairie) grass production fields just yet as this whole farm bonanza may be temporary like the housing boom. Input costs for farming will get very expensive following the high commodity prices and farming will truly be a crapshoot in the years ahead. I see a lot of the marginal farmland in the Great Plains going back to a prairie landscape with cattle or bison grazing amongst the wind turbines.

Exactly. assume we have maybe one more year of this.

Farmers have made out about 5 times in the last century.

For every year of "good" prices, at least 8 of "break even"
or worse.

As regards plants and usefulness I saw a tv programme about wine in California. There was an item about a guy who produces millions of gallons of $2 wine a week. If things get desperate this is a lot of land that could be turned over to biofuel without effecting the price of food. A lot of it is grown without fertilizer too.

We have a big push to increase plantings of legumes, wheat, and other grains throughout the Willamette valley.

The good news is that this last season the Willamette valley planted less grass seed and about 125,000 acres more wheat than the previous season.

The reason stated for this was an extreme increase in agriculture inputs. Primarily fertilizer, pesticides, and diesel fuel. Wheat is apparently more cost effective to grow.

Ammoina nitrate is over $600 per ton and supplies are thin according to a valley news letter I get.

A grower friend and his partners have had great success with growing Quinoa, a superfood.


Much of what we read today about increased yields and lower chemical and fertilizer use is propaganda from Monsanto and their ilk. The real measure of farm health is the percentage of soil organic matter, something the chemical farmer knows little about.

"The real measure of farm health is the percentage of soil organic matter."

Now that's exactly right.

How many earthworms per square foot.

It looks like it's going to be a series of articles. Good stuff.

Also interesting was this story, on the sidebar:

New Questions on Treating Cholesterol

Lowering cholesterol doesn't decrease risk of heart disease. Since I'm currently reading Good Calories, Bad Calories, this is not exactly a shock.

And yet, it is. So much of what I thought was proven science on nutrition turns out to be built on shaky ground indeed. Fiber doesn't prevent colon cancer. Fat isn't bad for you - not even saturated fat. High cholesterol, even "bad" cholesterol, isn't the cause of heart disease. The "Mediterranean Diet" may be healthful because it is low in refined carbohydrates, not because it's high in vegetables and olive oil.

Big Pharma is going to lose their shirts if word gets out that their pricey cholesterol-lowering drugs are at best a waste of money and at worst, actually increase the risk of death.

I worked with hospice, and one of the factors of long living people is that almost al have high cholesterol (it is thought this helps in production of hormones)--
We have been fed misinformation, and the statins will eventually be revealed as snake oil.
Lose the simple carbs. High blood sugar is the number one factor to reduce your life span.

It does look like we were fed misinformation. But with the best of intentions. Some doctors were just so sure low-fat was the way to save lives that they got ahead of themselves.

Curiously, there was also a moral element. Back in the '60s, everyone was worried about the population bomb, so eating lower on the food chain was seen as a moral imperative by many.

IMO, Gary Taubes has written a masterpiece. And the silence from the media is deafening.

Would be interesting to see Taubes write about peak oil. He's probably best known for his book on cold fusion, so it wouldn't be too far afield for him.

I just read Michael Pollan's new book, "In Defense of Food" and I highly recommend it. He mentions Taubes' work. Pollan exposes a bunch of false assumptions made by the medical community for years - transfats being ok, the badness of dietary fat, consuming cholesterol and having high blood cholesterol, and so on. Very interesting reading!

I’m definitely going to have to get it. I really liked his book “The Botany of Desire”.

I really liked The Botany of Desire. I didn't realize it was Pollan who wrote it. (I read it a long time ago, when my sister left it behind after a visit.)

It was quite easy reading, much like Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle minus recipies and sidebars. I also enjoyed Omnivore's Dilemma but for some reason it took me ages to get through it. Lots of research references in the back, but you need Medline or PubMed access to see more than the abstracts in a lot of cases. I get some of this through a Medscape account. Some of the most useful studies are very recent, such as the 2006 Womem's Health Initiative study that failed to find significant protection from a low fat diet on heart disease, colorectal cancer, or breast cancer. See http://www.whi.org/findings/dm/dm.php for that one, or http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/fats.html for a review.

I'd guess the big pharmas and agribusiness folks would hold a dim view of any of this...

I'm looking forward to reading it, he is an excellent writer. 'A Place Of My Own' is a great read for people with the desire to build their own house but no experience. I'm a sucker for the amateur home-building genre anyway, but that volume stands out as the most inspirational.

I picked up Taubes' book on your recommendation, and I love it. Unfortunately, my wife has snatched it, and now I have to wait for her to get done before I can finish it. :)

And don't forget sunlight. It is my understanding that every cancer except skin cancer increases as one moves away from the equator. Your Vitamin D-3 intake needs to increase for every 1,000 miles you move north of the equator.

For more Vitamin D-3 information you may be interested in taking a look at the Vitamin D Council:

Great website. I bookmarked it and forwarded it.

I read an article by a fitness coach yesterday that said "Vitamin D is the next fish oil".

By which he meant that like Omega-3 fatty acids it would turn out to provide a huge benefit for very little cost.

Then again...

Benefits of fish oil may be overblown

If Taubes and others are right...the "benefits" of omega-3 may turn out to be illusory. It was supposed to be a solution to the paradox of Eskimo who live off meat and blubber but don't get heart disease. But if it's actually sugar, and not fat and red meat, that causes heart disease, there's no paradox, and fish oil is a red herring.

Not to mention:

Fish Oil Pills Depleting Sea of Fish

This makes makes me very, very sad. I've cut my sugar quite a bit, blood sugar is a very nice 90 +/- 3, and while the plain ol' omega 3 supplements can be had from flax oil, there are some fish specific oils which are both effective in treating certain inflammatory conditions and found only in fish. I suppose I can cut even more sugar, but I can tell joint wise if I'm taking the fish oil or not and I think I would miss it.


Thanks for contributions. Say, did you by any chance receive an email from me, and are you replying to emails these days?

re: FWIW: This is in the "do as I say" dept., because reading TOD (along w. stress!) sent me into a choc/sugar-crave a couple of years ago that I'd never experienced before...still to be completely resolved. So, my suggestion come from before this time, (however...now that you bring it up, why don't I set a good example?)

You might try cutting out the sugar altogether, for, say, three weeks - (the classic time "they" say it takes to change a habit). Everything - fruit, fruit purees, - tastes sweeter when you don't consume sugar.

It might be a lot easier to have no sugar than some, in other words.
That's been my experience.

Also, on the logic side, if you go to zero on the sugar, you'll know if it's really the fish oil or not.

My grandmother's cholesterol approached three hundred. It is too bad she did not get it down as she only lived to ninety two.

Was she ethnic French? There was a French couple in Normandy who had children that could stand crazy high numbers about four centuries ago, and this mutation has spread dramatically.

She was Polish. There are many pockets of that mutation. There is another known pocket in Italy.

i dunno 'bout no cholesterol lowerin' drugs, but my dr., who i have no reason to doubt, says that taking statins results in less risk of dying from "the big one"*. statins are the least expensive of my own prescriptions.

*(to quote fred sanford).

I'm sure your doctor read all the literature the drug companies gave her, read the flawed studies funded by the drug companies, and probably took every perk offered. My sister is a oncologist/radiologist and it is amazing the stockpile of drugs she had gratis from the companies. Ever see the drug reps visiting the doctors offices? Some of the most beautiful people you will ever see.

"He gives the kids free samples, because he knows full well,
That today's young innocent faces, will be tomorrow's clientele'

He's the old Dope Peddler, Doing well by doing good."

- Tom Lehrer

Dr Phil Hammond, a UK medical school teacher who's also a stand-up comedian, has a great line: "I really don't know what's more scary: that the drug companies think that giving a doctor a free pen with the name of their product on it will make them more likely to prescribe it, or that this is quite often true".

To be fair, reading research critically is very hard and time consuming so I'd put the blame more on the journals and the lack of counterbalancing funding to independently check drug companies' self-funded trials.

They have a tendency to hire cheerleaders. NY Times did a story on this past summer and I have met plenty of well built drug reps! :)

are you recommending that i stop taking the statin ?

I don't know that I would recommend that. If what you say is true, and your family members have benefited from statins, then maybe you will, too.

However...I would suggest reading Good Calories, Bad Calories. Taubes is not a flake. He's a correspondent for Science. He argues that "bad" LDL (not all LDL is created equal) is the result of eating too many carbs, especially simple carbohydrates, like sugar and white flour. You might consider cutting back on those.

What I would do is read the latest medical literature and continually push your doctor to do the same. Ask questions. You would be surprised how many doctors are intellectually lazy and just mail it in. You think all of thee people want to be doctors to help humanity? Why do you think second opinions are so important? The medical profession, despite the protests of the AMA, is like any other one, there are good ones, average ones, and bad ones. The good ones generally take a conservative approach and make sure to question the patient carefully to make sure they are modifying there behavior before prescribing drugs Do what the doc tells you until you have reason to believe otherwise. I have a friend who goes to the bar, orders a big bag of chips, and then lights up a cigarette right after visiting his cardiologist. I‘m sure he‘s listening to his doctor‘s advice. Don‘t lie to yourself, it‘s amazing how many people do. Yeah, I‘ve got to take the drugs because I‘ve done everything else, popping a couple of Nexium while eating a large greasy meal ten minutes before going to bed. Statins might be effective for some people, and maybe the only treatment for people with hereditary problems (who said life is fair?), but they might also turn out to be like Fen-phen or Vioxx (I was prescribed Vioxx for tendonitis, took it for a day, went on the internet and discovered potential problems and flushed the rest of it away). By the way ever see people on statin commercials that did not look in the prime of health while enjoying an active lifestyle? Why don’t they make commercials starring fat obese people sitting around doing nothing? Because it plants the seed in your mind that if healthy people need this drug, I am so screwed!

The NY Times article has a correction on the bottom:
"...It is whether using drugs to lower cholesterol at all costs is always medically effective, or even safe; there is no question that cholesterol itself can pose dangers."

"Cholesterol itself can pose dangers" is a factually incorrect statement. Much like pronouncing anyone in the vicinity of a crime as guilty of the crime. Some sort of sustained damage occurs inside arterial walls, most likely from free radicals, and cholesterol is dispatched to fix it (scar cells are the other healing mechanism for larger scale damage). Unfortunately, the cholesterol is attacked by free radicals itself and ends up being much more compact and adhesive.

So eating processed meat and other food with nitrites or nitrates as well as inhaling automobile exhaust (i.e. NOx) in traffic is a factor in heart disease. Trying to solve this problem by "lowering cholesterol" is conceptually flawed and doomed to failure since cholesterol is essential for life and so it will always be available for plaque formation (along with Calcium and polyunsaturated fats, the latter accounting for 75% of plaques).

Isn't it also true that our bodies CREATE more Cholesterol in a day than we would ever actually have ingested, so consuming less really would have no useful effect on the amount available in your body?


Exactly. Over 80% of cholesterol is produced by the liver. The rest is dietary. The call to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats is based on the observation that they slightly lower cholesterol levels. But the reason why is never advertised: the cholesterol is being diverted to buttress cell membranes (so one is actually being "healthy" by creating the conditions equivalent to cell damage).

The real problem is high levels of triglycerides which result from excessive glucose levels. If there is insulin resistance then instead of producing heat, the glucose is converted by the liver to triglycerides. High triglyceride levels result in high levels of LDL compared to HDL. The liver actually converts HDL to LDL in this glucose to fat regime. High levels of insulin guarantee that it is stored as fat in adipose tissues. There is no universally correct diet and the attempts by well known Associations (i.e. Heart and Diabetes) to push the 60% carb diet is criminally negligent.

Their lawyer probably told them to add that. ;-)

High cholesterol can be a danger sign, but there is a question of whether it's actually the cause. There's a genetic defect that causes high cholesterol and heart attacks at a young age. However, it doesn't follow that cholesterol is what leads to heart attacks. Turns out these people have a lot of metabolic irregularities. People who have extremely high cholesterol for other reasons are not at higher risk of heart disease. They may have extreme artheroschlerosis, but they don't die of heart attacks.

Taubes argues that there's no real evidence that normal people with high cholesterol are at higher risk of heart disease.

And unlike denialist prattle in the case of GW, he has the massive Framingham heart study to back him up. The plot of heart disease risk vs. cholesterol is essentially flat. It turns out that people with abnormally low cholesterol have a higher risk.

"High cholesterol" is a meaningless term. There is good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL).
Your cholesterol could be "high" because you have an unusually high level of HDL, which has a protective effect. What matters in the ratio of HDL/LDL. High HDL levels cancel out the negative effect of LDL.

The funny thing is, saturated fat raises your HDL levels as well as your LDL levels. And saturated fat is never found by itself in nature - it is always found alongside Monosaturated fat, which LOWERS your LDL levels. So in practice, even if you eat a diet consisting only of steak and cream, the combined effects of the monosaturated and saturated fats you are eating will be to raise your HDL by a degree which OUTWEIGHS the negative effect of the simultaneous rise in LDL.

In other words, in the real world, the more saturated fat people eat, the better their HDL/LDL profile gets. This is exactly what the Frammingham study found.

The real culprit is Trans fats, found mainly in fried vegetable oils, which are the ONLY fat that lowers HDL and raises LDL at the same time.

But for what it is worth, diet can only explain 20% of a persons LDL levels. To get the levels of LDL found in CHD patients, you would need to get 300% of your daily calories from fat.

Obviously other factors are at work apart from diet.

By the way, I know this diet stuff is "off-topic". But I see it as another example of how the "conventional wisdom" can be backwards. There is a lot of politics in the search for "truth". And no shortage of people willing to give you bad advice that screws your life up.

According to Taubes...there are many kinds of LDL, and only one type is associated with heart disease. The usual cholesterol test doesn't tell you if you have the kind of LDL that is the problem.

It's complicated, and I don't want to go too much into it here, but research suggests that the problem is the way sugar interacts with small LDL particles. And that it's not a problem with chronically undernourished populations - which might explain why heart disease was rare among some populations that ate a lot of carbohydrates, such as Southeast Asians who subsisted on rice.

Having had that 'rare but potentially serious side effect of muscle pain or weakness' from a statin drug, I wonder how many other people have been similarily affected. I went from being able to hike 17 miles in rough terrain to having difficulty doing 2 easy miles in less than 6 months on the drug. It was only after talking to a cousin who had had a similar problem that I figured out the relationship. It took well over six months for it to work its way out of my system so that I was able to hike any distance again. I know four other people who have had it so I question the 'rare' part of the description. I wonder if many people who are not used to walking a lot maybe just don't recognize a problem.
My cholesterol had been moderately high for years before but since I also had quite high 'good' cholestrol I had not been deemed to need treatment. Then new guidelines were published and it was deemed that all people who had high cholesterol needed to be on statins. After I had the problem, my doctor wanted to switch me to another brand of statin which I refused. I had to sign a waiver saying that I had refused treatment for my 'cholesterol problem'.

Just out of curiosity, if you had both refused the prescription, and had refused to sign the waiver as well, what was the "or else"?

The she would have to find another doctor.

I can't blame the physician. People these days (or their relatives) are out to get anything for free and will sue for any reason.

"My poor granny did not know and this fiend, this doctor, did not give her medically recommended treatment"

I believe strongly in individual liberty. However, signing a piece of paper saying that I am refusing treatment, WHEN I AM REFUSING TREATMENT, is very fair, IMHO.

I expect I might have had some insurance problems. My doctor is not a free agent; he works for a HMO and this was a requirment of his employer. While he cannot say so, I believe that he is not exactly enthralled with the push to get every senior on a regimen of manitenance drugs for the rest of their life.

i have to stay hydrated or the statin drug will cause lightheadedness. as far as i know staying hydrated has its own benifits.

My dad had 13 brothers and sister, three died of cancer, the rest had arterial sclerosis, as do I.
Once they passed 40 they started having heart attacks. If they took the statins, cut back on fats and exercised they did ok, those who didn't, had the joy of multiple bypass surgeries.

One uncle in particular refused to alter his life style. I think it was after his third bypass surgery he finally gave in.

Not that the statin drugs are wonderful. I tried taking them a couple of years ago. They screwed me up big time, damaging my thyroid and kidneys.

I'm currently struggling with what to do next. Not really happy with my options.

You might give this a read. I know nutritionists who agree with it emphatically, and others who doubt it just as strongly. For what it's worth, it aligns with my family's diet philosophy. 'Good Fats, like butter from raw milk, Olive Oil, non-processed meats and veggies. Staying clear of white-flour, heat-processed veg and seed oils, and un-soaked grains, etc.. Plenty of Lacto-fermented foods like Sauerkraut, Yoghurt, Rawmilk Cheeses, real Pickles, etc..


"... The cause of heart failure was coronary heart disease in half of them and other types of heart disease (such as congenital or infectious valvular heart disease, various cardiomyopathies and endocarditis) in the rest. Almost half of all the patients were anergic, and those who were anergic and had coronary heart disease had a much higher mortality than the rest.10 "

"Now to the salient point: to their surprise the researchers found that mortality was higher, not only in the patients with anergy, but also in the patients with the lowest lipid values, including total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol as well as triglycerides. "

I'm not a Doctor, Nutritionist or Scientist. Take it with a grain of salt.. well maybe not processed salt. Sea Salt.


Diet is another one of those subjects that people get crazy over. You're either a true believer or a demon.

Like organics, it's not enough that one has good food that one is responsible for producing oneself. No, it's got to be the be-all and end-all--and all others are damned.

Weston Price and his followers are appearing more cult-like to me all the time:

Weston Price was also notoriously known for having advocated the large scale removal of all root canals for being a source of infections. His root canal infection theory led to the needless extraction of hundreds of thousands of root canals until well-designed research studies, conducted during the 1930s, demonstrated that his theory was wrong.


I've been reading Sally Fallon's book "Nourishing Traditions." There's a lot of good traditonal recipes and methods in there. But her tone is as rabid as the "diet dicto-crats" she rails against. Her blindness to her own fanaticism is a wonder to behold.

Like others, she falls for the Noble Savage myth that abounds in this culture, I think. I still like some of the stuff in her book, though.

I love raw milk good, animals foods and fats, fermented vegetables, the whole ilk. But not because I think it's more virtuous.

If it can be done at home, and it's tried and true (and it reduces your dependence on the petrochemical system that surrounds us), that's enough, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm not a vegetarian myself, but it's interesting to watch this guy's take on Price's followers' denunciations of vegetarian diets (his name happens to be T. Colin Campbell) (:


We also have Nourishing Traditions. There are many quotes and passages from Price's writing, and I too was a bit doubtful until I started to check references. Pollan quotes Price extensively in In Defense of Food, but he also follows up with pointers to recent research that backs up most of Price's claims. I grew up in the "age of margarine" and have followed a low fat diet for most of my adult life.

I read The Omnivore's Dilemma because of my interest in local food; I liked Pollan's writing and immediately grabbed the new book when I saw it. But I wasn't expecting what it contained! I agree with Leanan above -- it appears we have been misled.


I do agree that Fallon's tone is unfortunate, and is too reminiscent of someone angrily defending their barricade. That said, is it any wonder?

I suspect that there is a lot of useful info in their work, and I have occasionally dropped references in here at TOD, partly to get responses from folks here who can point me to the blindspots.

'Cultish' doesn't throw me. Grew up at a Prep School, hang out with Unitarians and Theatre-jocks/fags, Robot Builders, Cross-country Skiers... I Support Impeachment, follow Peak Oil. I'm soaking in it. Just trying to find good info, and to keep my sense of humor.

I think I saw the Campbell link before. He says they're 'not scientific', but doesn't really say how. Details, I need details.


There was an interesting segment on CBC radio's Quirks and Quarks program yesterday discussing a book by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. It's called "Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why we justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts." It sounds like exactly your point above ie how and why we defend our ideas even in light of the evidence against them.

I've added it to my reading list but because of this site, my reading list has become very long lately.

or have you considered that in real life people can be right about some things and wrong about others, rarely are they right about everything or wrong. also that either neither lends credence or disproves the other.

One of the main benefits of statins, in addition to lowering cholesterol, is the effect they have on existing atheroma plaques in arteries. The cause of a heart attack is usually blockage of an artery caused by a blood clot that forms when the soft squishy, buttery surface of a plaque ruptures. Statins act to make the surface of the plaque harder and more stable so that it is less likely to rupture as a result of stress, exertion or bad luck. This is possibly the main reason for the reduction in mortality that results from statin use.

Leanan, Don't bet on the "fiber doesn't prevent colon cancer" study. I frequently ate apart from my family as a teenager, and had a higher fiber diet since the veggies were left over when I got home. I continued that diet, and three in my family have had colon cancer in various stages, and my own colonoscopies have turned up very, very little, including no polyps of concern, period. And, I am in my 60's. My diet, except for fiber, is not that much different otherwise, and I sat behind a desk, esp in tax season, as much as any of them.

Not really the place for it, but I think the strain on our livers, circ systems, etc are effected by a whole variety of diet issues which result in the bad stuff happening, and while there is no direct connection, there is most likely a link. So, study these things in microcosm's and you find no results to back up the huge body of epidemilogical (sp?) evidence they contradict. Logic may prevail after all.

One person's personal experience doesn't mean anything. Some people smoke a pack a day and live to be 100 years old. That doesn't mean it's good practice for the rest of us.

Also, eating vegetables is not the same thing as eating fiber. Maybe vegetables are good for you...but it could be something else in the vegetables besides the fiber. Or, it could be that you are eating less of other things, such as, say, cookies, because you are eating more vegetables.

You know, it's really not surprising to see this sort of wake-up process occurring. What was in the paleolithic hunter-gatherer diet? Meat, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, nuts. Grain generally was not a large part of that diet. Agriculture, and the turn towards grains came as a direct outgrowth of our hyper-success as hunter-gatherers, which created the first population crisis on earth for homo sapiens. Rather than controlling our numbers, we tried something different (agriculture) and the rest, as they say, is history.

If you want to know what we should be eating, try digging up as much information as possible about the paleolithic hunter-gatherer diets. That's how we evolved over the last few million years and the last 10,000 years are not sufficiently long to have really changed that yet.

Notice how many current headlines were predicted in: "End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and Collapse of the American Dream?"

I've been showing that film to my classes since it came out in 2004. As time has gone on, that film has ripened. It has not gone out-of-date.

Last semester, I began to ITEMIZE the very quotations from the movie that have (apparently) come true:

Prediction: Deffeyes: "we're at Hubbert's peak, and now, instead of being prophets, we're historians."

Bahktiari: "2005-2007, more or less"

Observation: crude+condensate stopped growing in 2005.

Prediction: Deffeyes: "heating oil is going to be the next big squeeze."

Observation: People here in Maine cannot afford to heat their homes this winter and are suffering.

Prediction: Kunstler: "I think they're [the 'burbs] will basically become the slums of the world."

Observation: One in ten homes in the city is now vacant, and whole neighbourhoods have been blighted by foreclosed, vandalized and boarded-up homes.

Prediction: Barry Zwicker: "It's hard to believe that all this [standing before a construction site] is going to lose its value."

Observation: The loss of mobility stems from the fact that homeowners with houses worth less than they owe can find themselves unable to move to accept a job in a different city.

Those are just a few that come immediately to mind.

Very good summary. I would add the one about Peak Oil not just being a problem with oil supplies, "You might not be able to feed your family." I think that it was JHK.

For any new readers:

Simmons/Kunstler Interview (November, 2005)

Front page story in Dallas last week:

Divide between rich, poor grows in Dallas-Fort Worth housing market
Home prices rise in higher-end areas, decline elsewhere
By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

The mortgage market meltdown and rising foreclosure rates have widened the divide between rich and poor in the North Texas housing market.

And higher commuting costs are also coming into play. . . .

. . . The most expensive homes – those costing $1 million and up – sold well in 2007, with a 16 percent increase areawide, according to statistics from the North Texas Real Estate Information Systems.

"Of course, where are the higher-price-range homes located? North Dallas and the Park Cities," said Barry Hoffer, a real estate agent with Ebby Halliday Realtors. "Homes in the outlying suburbs seem to be affected the most.

"The longer commute times and ongoing $3-plus gas prices are having an impact on a buyer's decision to live that far out."

From The Housing Bubble Blog:

“Today the Kroger was almost empty. . . most were staring at the food like kids looking at puppies in a pet shop window, with very liitle in their hand held baskets. It seemed that most of them were also having to make weighty decisions about what they could in fact buy.”

Best of all…whenever someone discovers we’re renting, they say, ‘Wow! you are soooo lucky/smart!’ Totally different responses than what we got a few years ago, by far.”

Jeff, are you still in the Dallas area? Still planning on getting out? I was in Dallas over Christmas, and there were a heck of a lot of homes for sale. But a real estate agent tried to tell me that Dallas hadn't been really affected by the housing implosion.

Best of all…whenever someone discovers we’re renting, they say, ‘Wow! you are soon lucky/smart!’ Totally different responses than what we got a few years ago, by far.”

If I had my druthers, I would have been making the captioned comment. I would have long since sold our house and rented something small in a New Urbanism community, where I could walk to my office. However, my lovely bride has--so far--a different point of view. If we move, we buy. If we buy, we get a bigger, or at least more expensive, house/townhouse. So, the less expensive option, from my point of view, has been to sit tight. We have a small mortgage, and we are living below our means, close to job centers, with good mass transit. Nevertheless, I continue to watch the For Sale signs going up faster than they are coming down.

We are going to move somewhere, but we are still undecided, although we are both leaning heavily toward Fort Worth. And we have to resolve the "how big/expensive" issue. I am counting on the ongoing mortgage meltdown scaring my bride into renting, but we shall see.

Fort Worth (because of the Barnett Shale Play) is going to have a secure source of natural gas for decades to come, and downtown Fort Worth benefits from the "Bass Police Force," a ubiquitous private security force provided by the Bass Family, resulting in one of the safest downtown areas in the country, with lots of housing choices.

We have been renting in Scotland for the past year, but North Dallas may be coming up for me by summer. Specifically, Prosper. The wife and I are having the same debate about the size/price of a house. For me, the beauty of Prosper is that it is only 2 hours from my extended family and hundreds of acres of farmland. In uncertain times, that's reassuring. Plus, I would have Deion Sanders for a neighbor. :-)

Prosper was, until at least recently anyway, ground zero in the northward expansion of the Metroplex, but in general, foreclosure rates are now increasing the farther one goes outward from Dallas.

Regarding the food situation, my reasoning is that as long as there is a market economy, a net energy producer can buy food from a net food producer, and I do expect to see a lot of small farms springing up around the metroplex.

I think that Prosper is working on a New Urbanism project in their downtown area. Depending on where your office is located, this might be a good area to check out.

If your wife insists on a house, IMO the best idea would be to rent and then build your own, with a ground loop heating/AC system and very good insulation, probably with concrete/foam construction--very quiet, very well insulated and pretty much tornado proof. If you want to later sell, a highly energy efficient house would be worth more than typical houses.

This is a link to a demonstration project west of Fort Worth--a 2,000 square foot house with construction costs of about $120 per square foot and estimated energy costs of about $50 per month: http://www.heathershome.info/

Lots of foreclosures in the Prosper area. Housing prices have been falling. And I had already been thinking about tornadoes; a shelter is a must have.

Office would be in Addison, but I wouldn't have to be there very much. If it was a daily commute, Prosper would be out of the question. Looked at Frisco; too big for me. Prosper is about right, with an easy escape route back to OK.

I had seen that demonstration home. This is the sort of thing I have been looking into. I also plan to buy a Prius when I return.

Just a tangent on the Prius. My wife has a 2003 Prius that recently got a flat. She took it Toyota and they gave her the newest Prius as a loaner as we decided to get all new tires. She was practically begging me to trade her old one in for a new one. There is no comparison especially now that the new ones come hatchback and are overall larger. Smart move by Toyota. Mileage is better in the newer ones too.

Well isn't this ironic. I know Addison quite well. If you are looking at private schools, I would highly recommend living in Addison. (It's in the Dallas ISD, not a district I would recommend for a public school district). I have known the Addison City Manager for almost 20 years, and Addison is one of the best run small towns in the country. They have an absolutely superb police force. The number of police per square mile is seven times that of Dallas. Also, they have an incredible athletic facility that is free for residents.

Addison is also building New Urbanism communities. Addison Circle, a large New Urbanism community, is doing quite well with lots of new construction. If I had my choice I would have sold our house and rented something in Addison Circle a couple of years ago. Also, a planned light rail system is going to go from Fort Worth, through the DFW airport, through Addison all the way to Plano.

Another location for you to consider is the Shops at Legacy. It's a New Urbanism community along the Tollway, with some great townhouses, and it is in the Plano ISD.

BTW, if you are a baseball fan, the Frisco Roughriders is a minor league team with a really nice new stadium just north of the Shops at Legacy.

The notion that concrete/foam walls provide great insulation is not necessarily true. The "R" value of the foam is typically around 5 per inch of thickness for styrofoam. Some of the preformed foam blocks have varying foam thickness, so what one needs to consider is the average thickness thru the wall plus the "R" value of the concrete, which isn't very large. For example, if the average foam thickness is about 4 inches, that would likely provide a little over R 20 effective insulation.

As for being tornado proof, I think there are two main problems. The first is the high wind speeds and the debris which is carried along in the wind. Concrete walls would be good for this, but the windows would likely be broken by flying objects. The second problem is the sudden change in pressure if the tornado passes directly over the house. When that happens, there is a tendency for the roof to be lifted or for the roof sheathing to be torn away from the rafters. Concrete walls won't help with those problems. Your concrete walls might well stand the wind forces, but, with the roof gone, you are still going to need to re-build and will lose some of the contents of the house as well.

Of course, if one is really interested in a safe building, consider building an underground house with a heavy covering of dirt over the top.

E. Swanson

Curious to know if anyone here has seen the follow-up installment "Escape from Surburbia."

I was really disappointed with "Escape." I think that the original was much better. I think that there is a large untapped market for a video exploring post-peak coping techniques in greater detail.

I have seen it too, and while I wouldn't say I'm entirely disappointed, it didn't live up to my expectations (based on the first movie).

I think it has a fairly consistent message, that you have to do something yourself, the government or anyone else isn't going to help you, but some of the solutions were of questionable nature.

For example, the now razed community garden in Los Angeles was praised for what it was. But it was also mentioned that the garden supported only 350 families thus realistically there would have to be thousands of community gardens just in Los Angeles alone.

Another example, some of the people were basically "running to the hills". I don't know if this really is a community-solution at all, since if everyone's going to do that, the hills become our new cities and in an instance unsustainable, sort of.

It avoided an important issue, that of overpopulation and the true carrying capacity of our planet.

Maybe that's going to be featured in their third release, "Escape from the Die-Off" featuring Kurt Russell LOL

That razed garden....

As I'm sure most of you know, it's illegal to grow veggies instead of lawn in the US suburbs, as well illegal to keep chickens, pigeons, rabbits, or other food animals.

I just wish the gardeners there in Los Angeles had been well-armed and taken a lot of goons out, but we're not to that point yet.

I really advise all listening to prepare for that point - I think it was on Ran Preiur's site or one of the PO sites I read the very good analogy to the Empire vs. self-sufficient societies, that the Empire's a huge ship where the party's ongoing and the little self-sufficient rafts around the ship are having holes shot in them by gunmen on the Empire-ship, and the occupants forced onto the Empire-ship.... something like that.

Learning to grow veggies for many US subjects may involve being as secretive as if you're growing pot. But I'd really advise learning now.

"it's illegal to grow veggies instead of lawn in the US suburbs"

In SOME of the wealthier subdivision there are covenants forbidding this, but it is hardly universal.

Yup. It's also perfectly legal to keep chickens and such in many areas. In fact, it's quite trendy:

A Chicken on Every Plot, a Coop in Every Backyard

City dwellers who raise chickens are springing up around the country. Groups organized on the Internet in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Austin, Tex., are host to chicken-centric social events, and there are dozens of books — a whole new form of chick lit — on raising chickens, including Barbara Kilarski’s “Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs and Other Small Spaces,” and related titles like “Anyone Can Build a Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker,” by Herrick Kimball.

An amazing number of my friends and co-workers keep chickens in their small suburban backyards. I thought it was a fluke until I saw that article.

Some of them also keep ducks, rabbits, even goats.

Ironically, some of them are now starting to cut back...because of the high price of feed.

Still, I'm looking forward to lots of free fresh eggs come spring. Nothing like a fresh egg.

Hand pluckin's not that bad, it's even been celebrated in song.

I'm not the pheasant plucker
I'm the pheasant plucker's son
But I'll keep plucking pheasants
'Til the pheasant plucker comes.

(Chorus from "The Pheasant Plucker")

Version I heard was the Fig Plucker....

There was a pheasant plucker
And his pheasant-plucking wife.
They've been plucking mother pheasants
All their pheasant-plucking life.

Now say it FAST.

Which of course loops us back to the cholesterol thingie up-thread, lol.

After a heart attack from a clogged artery last year my cardiologist tells me one egg per week is my limit, sigh, I love a good omelette. Any thoughts on this?

I am now on Plavix, Metoprolol and Simvastatin. Seems to be doing the trick for me. A couple of stress tests and another angiogram as follow-up give good indications.

Thanks for all the excellent quality time you give this board Leanan!

Hi Relayer,

re: "I love a good omelette."

Is the limit on eggs or on egg yolks?

While not meant to constitute medical advice, which might say to forget about the omelette (why torture yourself), this is better than traditional, from my POV:

Several eggs - you can always make extra and store and depends on # of persons. Say 5 or 6 eggs.

Separate eggs, and use the whites of 5 for a 6-egg omelette.

Add non-fat yogurt and a little water.

Perhaps one or more of the following: tumeric, oregano, and garlic powder. I like the first two together or the garlic by itself.

Whip w. fork or whatever. Pour into oiled, heated fry pan, or whatever...on med. heat.


You can always scrape the brown off the bottom (oil side).

Don't ask me what to do about the egg yolks. This is probably wasteful. OTOH, someone must have some idea.

If you can eat whites alone (and you figure out a way to deal conscientiously w. the yolks), you can make a good egg salad with no yolks, just boiled eggs (remove the yolks later), boiled tofu (cut into chunks) and mustard, spices. Yumm.

Scrambled tofu also works, if you're really in major withdrawal.

Good luck.

What a way to go, life at the empire is much better... and a must see.


What A Way To Go is very good, and a ditto to the must-see.
official website

Also excellent is Zeitgeist.
video.google - full movie available here
official website

Edit, Already posted

westtexas beat me by 2 minutes

It may be just a space limitation, but if not I wonder why they dropped "New" from the print version of the headline.

Maybe they are beginning to realize that Thomas Malthus was right, except that he didn't know about oil.

E. Swanson

rgemonitor.com is offering free trials through the end of the month. This is a site that collects economic news, analyses, reports, and so forth, and sorts them into easy-to-navigate categories. They have a section for world markets -> oil and other commodities, and one for geostrategic issues -> petrostates/energy supplies. (They also host blogs by Brad Setser and Nouriel Roubini, which are free content, and are among the best macroeconomics I've found on the web).


The canary in the mine:

Analyst tells Canadian airline investors to buckle up

Air Canada, with its higher cost structure, will be particularly hard hit by lofty fuel prices and a slowing economy...

By contrast, U.S. airlines have struggled for months amid the worsening economic outlook and stubbornly high oil prices. Some have reduced their capacity.

"We believe that something has got to give," he said. "If it is not going to be fuel prices or the mounting pressures on economic growth, then we expect that it will ultimately have to be capacity growth."

Hardly anyone knows it yet, but we are pretty much at Peak Regularly Scheduled Airline Service.

It takes huge amounts of jet fuel to fly a plane. The cost to airlines for jet fuel is going to soar, they are going to have to pass that cost on to passengers, and the demand for air travel is going to have to decline. Death Spiral.

Fifteen or twenty years from now, if you are not government/military or fabulously weathy enough to have access to a private plane, you'll log on to something like Priceline or Orbitz, indicate where you want to go and a range of dates and times when you want to travel, and a charter flight will be put together - when and if enough others can be lined up to fill an airplane at the asking ticket price (which will be in the thousands, not hundreds, of dollars). There might still be a few such flights going across the country on any given day. Standby might still be an option, but bargain air travel will be a distant memory.

There are going to be so many implications and consequences of this that it makes my head swim just to think of it.

If you want to see what the US Airline industry could become, you should have seen what Aeroflot Airlines (Russian) was like 10 years ago. Late planes, rickety planes, seat belts that didn't work, smell of oil inside the plane, and people with lunch baskets on their laps. I flew them several times and felt lucky to reach my destination alive.

We have been fairly spoiled here in the West (US specifically) for many, many years. There is much room for it to get worse, yet still function. Who is the russian speaker/author that compares the collapse of the US vs. the collapse of the USSR?

Da...that's him. He writes some awesome insights about what the US will face and how Americans will handle it. If you've ever spent any time in Russian or the former Soviet countries, you gain an appreciation about how communities survive in an oppressive government and with meager wages and living conditions. Community, be it family and/or friends, is a critical component to their life. They have tight bonds that are mostly lacking here in the states.

All the airliens [pun intended] (except Southwest) are talking "capacity reductions". Taking the older, and less fuel efficient a/c out of service. And Southwest is significantly slowing their planned growth rate.


Nuclear got a lot of comments yesterday in Drum Beat.

Here's some more nuke news:


Deep Layoffs Announced at Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain's tunnel is closed and most workers have gone home.

"We're not locking the gate and walking away," Jason Bohne, spokesman for Bechtel SAIC, told the Associated Press. "We're putting it on standby status."

Congress didn't give the Energy Department the $494.5 million it wanted to operate the inoperative Yucca Mountain tunnel in 2008. So the chief contractor, Bechtel SAIC, is cutting operations down to a skeleton staff at the site, according to Ken Ritter's "Deep layoffs announced at Yucca Mountain."

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat who is a staunch opponent of the Yucca project and orchestrated the cut in funding, said he was sorry for the contractors losing their jobs but won't be happy until the Yucca budget is cut to zero."

h/t Liberty Post.org

I drove through the area once and I wonder if it will stay inhabitable post-Peak Oil. Other than tourism, retirement and mining, goat/sheep farming (at VERY low densities) is the only apparent sustainable economic activity.

It may have a good wind resource though.

If no one lives there in 50 years, who will object ?


Las Vegas is in a race with Tucson/Phoenix for first
major city to depopulate over water/energy constraints.

"If no one lives there in 50 years, who will object ?"

Writ large over the planet.

Though Atlanta may come out of the pack for a surprise first place finish, if that drought continues and worsens this summer.

I hope it's not Las Vegas. I'm a CSI fan.

good one, weatherman. Laughed my ass off.

"Deep Layoffs Announced at Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain's tunnel is closed and most workers have gone home."

That sort of says something to the promises of nuke proponents to guard that radwaste for the next 10,000 years. Isn't going to happen. Did they really put up scary sculptures and stuff to mark the site, or was that just some artist's concept?

It's nice to know all that crud produced at Hanford and Oak Ridge is no longer radioactive.

I think Yucca will turn out obsolete. The government has been fiddling around this for years and it looks like this will continue to be so.

What is more likely to happen is that the political deadlock will continue until full-cycle reprocessing facilities are built under the GNEP agreement. The reprocessed and vitrified waste is of miniscule volumes - 50-100 times less than the original volume, and its radioactivity and toxity is much lower. Then, if it is still deemed unacceptable it could be stored in Russia or another less NIMBY country.

Better yet is to only build fast breeder reactors. You get more out of your fuel and you don't throw it away as "waste". Reprocessing makes more sense as part of the reactor design.

Actually I think the long term direction is to indeed burn the actinides in fast breeded reactors. AFAIK the fast breeder reactor which is now in construction at the Beloyarsk is intended for exactly this purpose within GNEP.

Hi, Dissident.

Breeder reactors are a pipe dream, like hydrogen. Much better to put the money into distributed renewable generation that at least will provide people power when the grid goes down.

Here's why.

Assume that after 30 more years of intensive effort, we figure out how to do the following at a commercial scale:
a) get sufficient breeding of plutonium from urananium
b) reprocess the toxic stuff
c) make fuel rods out of it
then we're in a position to start building commercial scale reactors.

We may have more plutonium or less in the future, I don't know. But let's use today's quantities for this example. There are currently about 240 tonnes of plutonium available for civilian use. That gives us about 80 reactors if all of it were used because you need some plutonium at the core of the uranium for the system to work. Let's be very generous and assume we actually have the energy in 2040 to build 80 breeder reactors and that they all are built in the year 2040, not starting to be built in 2040 and staggered over the following decades. (As I'm sure you'll agree, ludicrously generous assumptions.)

Wait 40 years. If everything has worked according to plan, now you have enough plutonium to replace the fuel in the existing reactors, plus 80 more. By 2080, you've got 160 reactors but the process probably stops there (if it even got that far) because we've now run out of uranium, having used up all the high concentration ores by that time. By comparison, the world has over 450 uranium reactors now.

All that work and risk and money for at best 160 reactors. Moreover, we now have to deal with nasty plutonium with a world adequately stocked with people who would like nothing better than to make a bomb out of it.

A study for the nuclear industry in Japan concluded:
“A successful commercial breeder reactor must have three attributes: it must breed, it must be economical, and it must be safe. Although any one or two of these attributes can be achieved in isolation by proper design, the laws of physics apparently make it impossible to achieve all three simultaneously, no matter how clever the design...."
(the following is paraphrased by Storm et al from the same report)
"...the breeder system is not feasible, not only due to the technical hurdles, but also because the system cannot meet the requirements of safety, proliferation and economy."

Let's stop spending time on this pipe dream and get busy with radical efficiency and distributed renewable energy. We need to power down our civilization. Spending money on creating more nuclear plants just forestalls the inevitable collapse and does nothing to prepare us for the post-petroleum age.

More details on nuclear in the Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy here.

Best Of The Oil Drum Index


The starting fuel for fast breeder reactors does not need to be Plutonium like you assert! It can be conventional enriched Uranium or Plutonium or Americium or Thorium-234 or any combination of those.

This means that in theory we can start building breeders from tomorrow and build only breeders instead of conventional once-through reactors. Since a breeder reactor produces at least as much fuel as it burns, this means that all those new reactors will be producing fuel essentially forever.

This is apparent by the fact that all current reactors are also "breeding" Plutonium, though their breeding coefficient is less than 1 (0.7 IIRC).

... in theory we can start building breeders from tomorrow and build only breeders instead of conventional once-through reactors

Even in theory, a VERY bad idea. EVERY fast breeder has dismal capacity factors, limited operating life, and MAJOR safety "concerns".

Operating 550 C sodium close to steam generators is "not a good idea" if a reactor is inside the sodium. If graphite inside a reactor was a bad idea (as even ultra pro-nuke supporters do in their apologies for Chernobyl), sodium is a worse idea.

The strongest pro-nuke argument is experience, and we have VERY little experience with breeders, and most of it is bad.


The French apporach is not the only one. Lead can be used instead of Sodium. But Sodium has the advantage that 100 degrees Celsius it has the viscosity of water.

The only reason Chernobyl was a disaster was because it had no containment structure (the explosion was not that powerful). Fast breeders are safer than the Chernobyl design and no less safe than conventional designs.

There are other fast breeder reactor designs (e.g. BREST-300) which do not use a Uranium blanket and consequently do not produce excess Plutonium. In addition, current breeder reactors produce Plutonium contaminated with Pu-238,240,242 which is not weapons grade. So the non-proliferation and terrorism issues are not a fundamental problem associated with breeder reactors. The conclusions of the report you cite sound just a bit too sweeping. The BN-600 has been in continuous operation since 1980 and had a minor sodium leak as its biggest incident. Also the BN-600 uses highly enriched Uranium instead of Plutonium. The BN-800 is now under full construction after being delayed for years by funding crises. The BN-800 is a closed fuel cycle design. Technical hurdles have been overcome years ago and that is why it is being built.

The calculation you present says that it takes 80 reactors 40 years to produce 240 tons of Pu. That is 12.5 kg per year per reactor. This doesn't agree with any of the reactor specs that I have seen. The BN-800 requires 1870 kg of Pu and it can burn 2 tons of Pu per year when operated with a breeding ratio less than one. During normal operation it has a breeding ratio of 1.3 so it is capable of producing 2.4 tons per year. So this leaves over 500 kg per year that can be accumulated and four BN-800 reactors can "seed" another every year.

Just curious, does anyone know how much radioactive stuff they aready put there? or is it still empty?

Another question, how many people could it hold?

" The Nellis Air Force Range (NAFR) was established in 1940 and is the largest land-based military range in the United States. Nellis RangeNAFR occupies about 3 million acres of high Nevada desert northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. This area is comprised of the North Range (including the Tonopah Test Range), South Range, and the Indian Springs Auxiliary Air Field. Military infrastructure built on the NAFR include simulated targets and threats, roads, radar sites, navigation and communication installations, utilities, airfields and associated support buildings. About one-fourth of the site lies within the Desert National Wildlife Refuge; established in 1936 to protect the Desert Bighorn Sheep. NAFR borders the Department of Energy's Nevada Test Site and Yucca Mountain site."

Just curious, does anyone know how much radioactive stuff they aready put there?

Let me count the ways rad material could be in this area.

But I don't think any radioactive HazMat has been introduced inside Yucca if for no other reason than to keep the "camel's nose" outside of the tent.

And the rumor here in New Mexico is that they are now going to put all the nuclear waste in WIPP.

Nuclear waste, coupled with an unstable society, is one reason why I said that nuclear is a short-term solution and a long-term horrific nightmare.

Seems like OPEC Secretary Abdalla Salem al-Badri has a lot to say in the above "OPEC official says oil price not to blame for 'homemade' US crisis":

Badri defended OPEC's supply policy, noting that member countries produced 40 per cent of the world's oil and were thus not in a position to control the market.

He dismissed speculation that the oil price could rise to 200 dollars a barrel as "highly improbable" and predicted that oil would be a major energy source for the next century.

Oil production had not yet reached a peak and would not do so in the near future, Badri told Der Spiegel.

Aside from the apparent contradictions, we're too small to control world markets yet we're big enough to secure energy security for a very long time, is it my imagination or is there a blame/shame tit-for-tat developing between the U.S. & OPEC? Looks like the big boys are getting a little testy.

Then again, Bush seems to saying, "Don't worry, spend and be happy!", and OPEC seems to be saying, "Don't worry, happy motoring and be happy!"

Keep doing what you've always been doing. The cornucopia has never been so full.

Denial is nothing more than dat river in Egypt.

It's a mad, mad world.

My favorite cornucopian in Dallas, Ed--We Won't Peak for at Least 50 Years--Wallace, on his radio show this morning just used the recent CERA report as proof that we are nowhere near Peak Oil (can you say "Iron Triangle").

In any case, I ran the above quote through my "Generally assume the opposite" filter:

Badri defended OPEC's supply policy, noting that member countries produced 40 per cent of the world's oil and were thus not in a position to control the market.

He dismissed speculation that the oil price could not rise to 200 dollars a barrel as "highly improbable" and predicted that oil would not be a major energy source for the next century.

Oil production has probably reached a peak. Badri told Der Spiegel.

Hey WT I saw you are doing the Casey Investor conference in Scottdale. What are you specifically going to talk about?

I'm going to present an expanded version of the talk I gave at ASPO-USA. After they told me that I gave the best talk at ASPO (I actually presented Khebab's work), how could I refuse?

Hopefully we will have the 2007 EIA data on net exports by then.

Casey's has been pretty up on the P.O. situation. A bit behind the Oil Drum curve but well enough ahead of the rest of the pack. They did indicate they were pretty impressed with your ASPO work and with the spotlight you provided on Bush's comments on Nightline. Haven't exactly hit any big winners with their energy recco's (especially U) but I'm still pretty early in their game. Best of Luck I'm sure those attending will appreciate your analysis and Khebab's skills.

Any body know what's going on with hackers cutting power to cities?


Tom Donahue, a CIA official, revealed at the SANS security trade conference in New Orleans that hackers have penetrated power systems in several regions outside the U.S., and "in at least one case, caused a power outage affecting multiple cities."

Reminiscent of Oldivia Gorge theory.

Edit: sorry, not reminiscent per se, just what came to mind first when I saw this.

Eastern North Carolina

Maybe it's related to this:

Sami Saydjari, who has been working on cyber defence systems for the Pentagon since the 1980s, told Congress in testimony on April 25 that a mass cyber attack could leave 70 per cent of the US without electrical power for six months.

He told The Times that all major nations – including China – were scrambling to defend against, and working out ways to cause, “maximum strategic damage” by taking out banking systems, power grids and communications networks. He said that there were at least a thousand attempted attacks every hour on American computers. “China is aggressive in this,” he said.


Gee, information coming from a CIA analyst, what's not to trust? If it's not coming from Robert Redford, use with caution. Maybe run it through westexas' media filter.

It's a pre-emptive feed to ready people for electrical blackouts, which will be blamed not on unmanageable complexity, or fuel shortages, or overpopulation, or physical resource depletion. In other words, it will not be blamed on any of our system's fundamental, intrinsic flaws.

It will instead be blamed on terrorists, "cyber-terrorists", and will attempt to be used to usher in more control of the Internet.

Head meets nail. :) It also limits liability and culpability of companies, but is extremely short sighted.

Maybe the next war will begin without bombs, but with hacker attacks? Grids down, flights cancelled, TVs reprogramming themselves, home computers going wacky...

The Internet MUST be Secured!

You are probably correct in this thinking. It (the next war) will also be waged using financial bombs. There are plenty that China and Russia could detonate at any time. The next war will be anything, but conventional.

Watching out for swooping Black Swans (almost done with that book)!!

Heck, TPTB will crash our own internet to silence the voices of dissent.

Hi Cid,

What I'm curious about is...

re: "Tom Donahue, a CIA official, revealed at the SANS security trade conference in New Orleans..."

Does anyone have reason to believe Mr. Donahue? Or, perhaps I should say, does anyone see a reason to question Mr. Donahue?

Yea I saw that to.

Criminals have been able to hack into computer systems via the Internet and cut power to several cities, a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency analyst said this week.


Thought it was a joke at first. We also learn the goal of attacks was extortion and in "at least one case, the disruption caused a power outage affecting multiple cities." Its also interesting that multiple cites lost power and this wasn't a news item. If I had to take a WAG I wonder whether it wasn't an oil rich region of Iraq.

Bodman is a second Shakespeare

Speaking in Jordan, Bodman told reporters he will visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, as well as Egypt, "to encourage energy ministers in each of these countries to keep the markets well supplied.

rest of story here.

Shakespeare loved to play off on the ambiguities of the English language.

Well, well, Mr. Secretary Bodman, you have discovered that oil comes from wells and it is thus "well supplied". How clever of you.

Thanks for the chuckle.. almost cost me some precious Hazelnut Coffee!

"Methinks the Oil Drum doth protest too much! Get thy Crude comments to a Refinery!"


Thanks for the chuckle...

I wasn't trying to be funny.

The sad part is that most politicians are sly twisters of the English language. They know full well that Joe Sixpack is gullible and foolish (as well as fuelish) and doesn't know it when he is being showered with liquefied horse manure. The politicians have no shame in putting out meaningless dribble like "well supplied". What the heck does "well supplied" mean? It's meaningless.

Sam Bodman is the freakin secretary of energy of the freaking US of A. He knows damn well about peak oil and the energy crisis. And yet he has no shame to be a party to yet another shamming and fleecing of the gullible public.

His show stopper can go into the history books right next to Colin Powell's UN dog and pony show on Iraq's WMD's and yellow cake.

When it's all over, Bodman no doubt will write a mea non culpa book about how they waterboarded him and stuck bamboo shoots under his toe nails in order to make him say that.

I, for one, unforgive you right now, Bodman.
Step back and smell the liquefied horse manure.
That ain't perfume they're showering you with.

Life After People

Or life with only a very few people, as we will have, or not have, in another half century. This two hour documentary could be called, "Life Fifty Years After Peak Oil."

We have discussed Alan Weisman’s book “The World Without Us” on this forum and now the idea seems to be catching on. The History Channel is airing, Monday night what appears to be a spin off of the book. It is a two hour show that tries to speculate what life would be like on earth if we all disappeared. I have no idea whether or not Weisman has anything to do with this production.

This show discusses many of the things we have discussed here on this list, including nuclear plants and Chernobyl in particular. Clicking on the link above brings up a great promo video. Then if you click on the word “Video” on the left column it will bring up several other short videos of over two minutes each showing other parts of the show.

Ron Patterson

Vox_Mundi, finder of obscure PDF reports, found this one from Ernst & Young:

Looking Ahead: Exploring “What If” in the Oil and Gas Industry

The date on it is June 2007.

That is a very interesting document coming from a company specializing in auditing and risk services to other companies.

About Ernst and Young:

The members of the global Ernst & Young organization help companies in businesses across all industries — from emerging growth companies to global powerhouses — deal with a broad range of business issues. Our 130,000 people in 140 countries around the globe pursue the highest levels of integrity, quality and professionalism to provide clients with a broad array of services relating to audit and risk-related services, tax, and transactions.

From the report:

Constrained Supply (Peak Oil) Scenario

Rather than turn to unconventional hydrocarbon sources, it is likely that alternatives such as biofuels would gain ground and become the driving force behind new investments.

Stalled Global Economy Scenario:

...nuclear and coal-fired generation facilities would experience a resurgence.

Ie.. they are suggesting that a recession is in the interests of established business.

Maybe the answer is to ensure that Peabody and GE are given first refusal of new renewables technologies?

Who needs 3-D Seismic anyway?


''...It is widely believed among evangelical Christians (and some Orthodox Jews) that Scripture foretells a massive oil find in the Holy Land; prophecy buffs are especially captivated by a passage in Ezekiel that says Armageddon will be triggered by a band of nations—Russia, Iran, and a confederacy of Arab countries are most often named as the likely suspects—attacking Israel to "take a great spoil." Their faith has spurred a sprawling, decades-long treasure hunt. At least 10 companies or individuals have searched for oil in Israel using biblical clues. So far, few of the more than 400 wells drilled there have turned up commercial quantities of oil and gas. But the willingness of ordinary churchgoers to invest their life savings has kept the ventures going—and made the business rich terrain for a bevy of false prophets, penny-stock hustlers, and con men....''

These Bible interpretations are total nonsense. The north in Biblical times did not extend past modern day Turkey as far as the "known" world was concerned. Russia is not invested in the middle east anywhere near as much as the USA, which is in some sort of messianic thrall with that hole. Did Russia seriously interfere in the USA's oil grab in Iraq? No. If there is going to be any conflagration it is over Central Asia and far removed from the Holy Land.

Mudlogger, while reading this I was listening to Tom Waits singing "Chocolate Jesus".


of course, a few minutes before that I was listening to "God's away on Business"


and the lesser-known "Jesus Gonna'Be Here"


This video made to go with "Earth Died Screaming" is quite beautiful, if haunting:


The Apocalyptic Narrative is deeply bound into our souls. Perhaps we all know that eventually the end will come, and we mourn that -- for ourselves and for our species and for our planet.

Some romantic notions of eternal life and resurrection flit through our awareness of mortality as well.

When people go to war in order to bring on the Apocalypse I find that bothersome, just as I find it troubling when people fatalistically ignore our impact on the planet.

The End will come all too soon. We do not need to force it to happen through belligerence or neglect.

Our brains were wired for spirituality, which is a kind of absolute vulnerability. We are often afraid of this, and so follow the "sure thing" of False Gospels to numb our awareness of our very real absolute vulnerability.

Mixing Oil, Apocalyptic Religion, Intentional Ignorance, and a sense of Infinite Entitlement with Politics -- that's the USA!

Even so, I do have trouble getting up on Sunday mornings.... :)

I can't resist commenting on CERA's Silly Season up top. The article points out the silliness of CERA'S arguments with CERA's own "facts". If growth in demand due to fast rising auto ownership in Russia, China, India and OPEC countries is included the CERA position gets even sillier. Add in the ELM and it reaches a silly climax if such a thing is possible.

This is one quote from CERA's Silly Season, published by Resource Investor.

CERA seems to have missed a small point that in order to consume 85 million barrels per day at a 4.5% decline rate each year means continually adding 3.8 million barrels of new production each year. Because even better is CERA’s brilliant notion that if you include condensates and gas-to-liquids there will be 100 million barrels per day of capacity – not production mind you – by the end of 2009. That is right, in under two years. Brilliant, you could not make this stuff up. Well, you could....

I get the impression that folks are finding CERA's projections more and more absurd.

CERA's projections are completely reasonable as they include likely fossil fuel finds on distant planets, other dimensions, and deep within black holes.

Kunstler Presentation in Calgary

Last Thursday, James Howard Kunstler gave a lecture at the University of Calgary. Every available seat (600-700) in the auditorium was filled and his speech was warmly received. The lecture was open to the general public and I am certain that a good number of the audience were employed in the oil industry.

In the question period at the end, all the issues raised were about the social impacts of peak oil. Nobody had any objections to the idea that we are now entering an energy crisis.

JHK is worth going to see - here is his lecture schedule http://www.kunstler.com/sched.html

Hmmm. He's going to be giving a talk at my alma mater. In good ol' CC-308, where many a freshman has fallen asleep during physics lectures.

I wonder how that will go over. I remember it as a bastion of rightwing techno-cornucopianism.

CC308? You went to RPI?

Gee, I don't remember it being too right-wing, though there were tight relationships with IBM, GE, and a bunch of weapons makers. But there were others. My year, there were five (count-em, 5) humanities majors. Not I, but someone had to balance them out ;-)

When is Kunstler speaking there?

Thursday, February 28, 2008
Troy, NY

7:30 PM
Rensselaer Union Speaker's Forum
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute--Darrin Communication Center (Lecture Hall Room 308)

To attend contact:
Cameron McLean, Coordinator of Student Activities Programs
Tel: (518) 276-8590

Gotta be Troy. The only place on earth that will never be affected by global warming.

re:Transport Revolutions Seminar

"As an aside, he noted that so far, gasoline prices have risen much more slowly than crude oil prices, which have risen fivefold since 2000. This is ironically because of high gas taxes, which make up a large proportion of the pump price and mute the increase in the oil price component of the total."


Gasoline prices must surely be the object of great manipulations. These prices cannot be explained by the "free market" or by taxes. It is obvious that in oil producing countries, gasoline can be greatly subsidized to popularity of the ruling elites.

If anyone can refer me to articles that, by your estimation, explain the price of gasoline in the US, I would be grateful.

The price of gas in Ohio hasn't changed much in the last couple of years. How this is managed when the price of crude doubles is truly deserving some investigation.


UK: Inquiry demand after third energy price rise --link, from up top

Amazing, isn’t it, when people suspect gouging when energy prices rise; if their own rise, in their industry, business, etc. it is obviously because of rising costs, high demand, popularity, etc. and the luverrly free market, the invisible hand that guarantees (hopefully!) that healthy or acceptable profits will continue to flow.

The howls of unfair!! seemy to be addressed specially to the energy sector, and the State (taxes, pork, incompetence, freeloaders, waste, etc.) While the latter is comprehensible, although people in the Anglo world set aside the necessity of redistribution in our present crackpot economic schemes, the former has a flavor of willful denial, and in itself points to the fact that it is energy driving the whole system.

The veggie grower legitimately charges more because of higher energy costs, etc, and so on up the chain to the root and the original sin:

energy producers!

Then the brain shuts down and denial sets in. It must be - human greed or sumptin’ and people turn to social-political organisms, aka the State to fix the problem.

To be fair, it's not completely obvious how "equitable" the mechanics of the UK energy market are. The companies claim to have done a lot of "price volatility smoothing" and that explains why prices go up but didn't go down a couple of years ago, and it's unclear whether prices being higher than typical mainland Europe (who now own most of the energy companies) is justified. IF, and it's a stonkingly huge if, the inquiry is genuinely looking at facts rather than coming in with preconceived ideas, it'll be a good thing (and may educate the public about energy issues). If it was a demand that "something be done regardless" I'd agree with you.

Lost to the thrall of CERA!


I always though once a po-er, always a po-er but I guess I was wrong.

Thanks. This is very interesting:

CERA has an excellent record forecasting oil production, particularly in the last 3 years. I can't see how demand can possibly catch up to this flood of oil we are about to see. Net Oil Exports are going to shoot through the roof. I called this one wrong.

The blogspot address is there for the first person that requests it. But I'm done.

And if it's true that production numbers are on the rise, you'll see even more people jump ship. It will be interpreted as another "boy cries wolf" moment.

And so it goes.

CERA has a lousy record of forecasting oil production and price, AFAIK.

After reading the post on this blog I took it as extreme sarcasm, since the first sentence said:

I'll be deleting this blog in the morning and moving to Montana.

So since CERA was predicting enough oil it was time to head for the hills.

I thought that, too, but he says: "I called this one wrong.

The blogspot address is there for the first person that requests it. But I'm done."

It's a hard one to call.

I read it as dripping with sarcasm, I was almost laughing. ?

The more I look at it, the more I think you're right.

[slaps self upside head.]

psychological effects of blackouts in south africa

business effect

torching of trains


effects on whole of Southern Africa due to curtailing of energy exports making for a blackout in the whole of Southern Africa, just like in Eastern Africa because of Kenyan unrest?

On Thursday, trade union Solidarity said it had obtained information that Eskom was exporting 3 000 MW of electricity to neighbouring countries.

"This almost equals the entire output of one South African power station."

"If it were not for these exports, South Africa would have had ample electricity supplies for its own needs," said Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans.

Hello Galacticsurfer,

Thxs for the sad info on commuters burning their trains--that is why we call it the 'March' to Olduvai Gorge, not the 'Ride' to Olduvai Gorge.

Too bad their leadership has not gone to full Peak Outreach to their huddled masses--the people would then realize that the last thing you want to do is to purposely wreck/burn any infrastructure spiderwebs.

I have yet to read of a spider angrily trashing her/his web because it hasn't caught sufficient bugs.

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

On a lighter note, this instructive video is how you should treat something when it stops working for you.

I've been wondering lately how the rest of the World was handling the recent high price of oil in regards to grain (food) production. Although this article connects the dots by way of ethanol usage as the culprit, the real cause is higher prices for oil, resulting from flat oil production that cannot keep up with demand. The result is ethanol has become an economically viable choice for farmers.

Morally, there needs to be a movement away from ethanol. As a world body, ethanol must be rejected as a replacement for oil because it will lead to the hunger and starvation of millions of people. As oil production continues to slide down the other side of Hubbert's Peak, the demand for ethanol will only increase, exacerbating the situation.

In the throws of Peak Oil, it would be a morally insulting gesture by Humankind, for kids to starve while fat-cats fill up their Hummers!

Switchgrass is easier to grow and prosuces more energy than grain.

Current record high ag commodity prices are largely the result of a speculative bubble. With so many financial assets now finally deflating ag commodities have attracted a significant amount of new money. Yes, there is a good fundamental story in these markets and the supply demand equation is favorable to higher prices but bull markets are usually based, at the beginning, on solid fundamentals.

Hopefully for everyone the bubble will pop soon and prices will fall to a more reasonable level. Current prices if they were to continue could mean more severe malnutrition for hundreds of millions of the worlds poor to the benefit of a few.

The corn to ethanol mania is a boondoggle in many respects. One that was conceived by politicians, farmers and the agribusiness that supplies the farm economy in order to help the long moribund economies of the rural Midwest and Plains states. Lord knows these areas needed a boost and giving them one is what politics is all about. However the law of unintended consequences is rearing its head big time now, per usual.

This is all one small part of the gigantic economic dislocation which is now just getting underway. We have entered the curse territory of living in interesting times.

We need road fuels for police, fire, ambulance, scooters, and other good reasons to have an ICE vehicle. The idea that we'll continue motoring along as we do now is the problem, not ethanol and biodiesel. If our VMT drops by 90% due to economic collapse, rail electrification, and good sense suddenly taking over we can make sensible use of biofuels.

This, of course, pretty much requires a revolution and the associated whacking of existing entrenched interests. We've had solutions to our problems for a good long while, and we just need to implement them. A Congress that is bought and sold like any other commodity isn't going to get the job done.

SCT the only way I can see advance is by collapse,either controlled,or uncontrolled, as those at the top of the heap are very likely to concentrate all efforts to "create the last,largest head"in the best Easter Island tradition.

We,collectively have little say on how those in control decide to play the peak oil card,until such time as the people start to hurt..It takes folks getting hungry,and bone mad,to really see change.

The reason why we have social security,unemployment insurance,ect wasn't from the goodness of the hearts of the elites of the time...it was the only thing that kept a bolshevic type explosion from sweeping away all the old money that still exists today,and seeks to regain what it lost in the 30s.And seems to be winning

When a corporation goes bankrupt a judge ends up in charge and there is generally a creditors' committee. The entity is either reformed or broken up to pay the debts. We have a situation today where the United States is bankrupt, but barricaded with the largest military on the planet and some excellent tank obstacles to the east and west. The stuff we're seeing now with Iran trumpeting their non-dollar oil transactions, Gulf states decoupling, the Chinese rumbling about dumping dollars, and Russia backing Iran are the best the world can muster along the lines of a creditor's committee given our military force and the size of our economy, screwed up as it may be.

We are going on a crash oil diet. 5% of the population using 25% of the energy worked when we had the reserve currency and the biggest military, but now we'll have just the largest military and a wrecked economy. No amount of fighting could bring in the oil we need even if we weren't at peak due to the condition of our economy and now with the peak? A resource war would qualify as the last, largest head.

States' Rights are a nice cure for the last, largest head principle - see the EPA scrapping with California over their CO2 emission controls? Its starting already ... we're going to respect the federal level just like the Mexicans do. I really believe Totoneila isn't far off with his predictions of survivable enclaves in the northern portion of the country gaining power as the federal power structure comes apart. This won't be a smooth transition, but starving people and starving corporations aren't going to engage in BAU for very long before the need to change is recognized. The frantic positioning we see now is just like corporate management the week before a bankruptcy - grand plans hatched to save the company, but no time and no resources exist to execute them. All of this fretting over monitoring of this or that - load shedding and lack of spare parts will eat electronic systems alive in short order. You just can't take an aluminum capacitor mainboard on and off line periodically without having it stay off line in fairly short (24 months?) order.

"largely the result of a speculative bubble."
I would have gone with "partially" instead of "largely".

Some stock are dropping. Here are some data links.




To make insect flour:
Spread your cleaned insects out on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Set your oven 200 degrees and dry insects for approximately 1-3 hours. When the insects are done, they should be fairly brittle and crush easily. Take your dried insects and put them into a blender or coffee grinder, and grind them till they are about consistency of wheat germ. Use in practically any recipe! Try sprinkling insect flour on salads, add it to soups, your favorite bread recipe, on a boat, with a goat, etc.

Chocolate Covered Crickets

25 adult crickets
Several squares of semisweet chocolate

Prepare the crickets as described above. Bake at 250 degrees until crunchy (the time needed varies from oven to oven). Heat the squares of semi sweet chocolate in a double boiler until melted. Dip the dry roasted crickets in the melted chocolate one by one, and then set the chocolate covered crickets out to dry on a piece of wax paper. Enjoy! This is a little time consuming to make, but definitely worth it...the crickets are deliciously crunchy!

Hello galactic,

Since I've been responding on food...

My questions:

What have these insects been eating?

Are they kind of "toxic"? (How would one know, one way or the other?) You know, just like contaminated fish.

And...do they really add that much more nutrition?

If you had the chocolate to start with (all the way from Cote d'Ivoire), why not just have it?

Or, is this a joke for the perpetaully-naive person (myself)?

El-Badri : Perhaps. But I believe that even your grandchildren will still have enough fossil fuel. There will be an end to the oil, for sure. But I'm convinced it will not be in the next 100 years.

Is this chap drunk? Or just a paid liar?

Kudos to the reporters, they are asking tougher-than-usual questions!

I vote for the "paid liar", since muslims don't drink alcohol.

There's no talk of actual production figures, nowhere. Just rhetorical BS about "your grandchildren will still have enough fossil fuel". Enough for what? The, by then, only remaining niche petroleum-powered applications, or 85Mbpd as today?

He dismisses the study done by OPEC's behalf, because it doesn't fit OPEC's "official view". Even if that study roughly points in the same direction as all other studies - production peak is here today or in the near future, not after your grandchildren has died.
Shure gives an interesting glimpse on what OPEC's official view is: The Belief that Petroleum Will Last Virtually Forever.

Does this man not feel any responsibility for what he's saying? Being secretary general of OPEC, if he would say "peak is here, move along", politicians and investors could better prepare for an alternate future, instead of clinging on to petroleum.

And does he really believe, at the end of the day, that his interview will be echoed all over the world and people actually will believe it, when 1) pump prices say otherwise 2) gasoline shortages say otherwise 3) every study about oil says otherwise 4) NYMEX says otherwise? I think so. Completely out of touch with reality.

What a sad character, really.

Oil Price Graph, if you want it on your iGoogle homepage..

Hi Oil Price watchers,

If you are like me you have been watching the current oil price at oil-price.net like a train crash in slow motion. With the approach to $100 it has been both horrifying, and strangely satisfying [as if this somehow validates peak-oil theory], then horrifying again..
Anyhoo.. I got sick of my morning ritual of browsing to oil-price.net, so I did a bit of fancy and created a google gadget which displays the graph on your iGoogle homepage. If you are keen then add it from here:


or :


if you prefer blissfull ignorance, then I understand Smiley

Best Oily Regards.. Marty
From good old New Zealand