DrumBeat: February 24, 2008

High oil prices take a toll on the middle class in the Middle East

AMMAN: Even as it enriches Arab rulers, the recent oil-price boom is helping to propel an extraordinary rise in the cost of food and other basic goods that is squeezing this region's middle class and setting off strikes, demonstrations and occasional riots from Morocco to the Gulf.

In Jordan, the soaring price of oil led the government to remove almost all its costly fuel subsidies this month, pushing the price of some fuels up 76 percent overnight. In a devastating domino effect, the cost of basic foods like eggs, potatoes and cucumbers doubled or more.

In Saudi Arabia, where the inflation rate had been virtually zero for a decade, it has reached an official level of 6.5 percent, though unofficial estimates put it much higher. Public protests and boycotts have followed, and 19 prominent clerics posted an unusual statement on the Internet in December warning of a crisis that would cause "theft, cheating, armed robbery and resentment between rich and poor."

Beware 'First Colonization' - Steer the Chinese from suburban, driving culture

Polling conducted by Rice University's Shell Center for Sustainability's Coastal Cities project shows that almost as high a percentage of Chinese urbanites from Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin are as worried about traffic congestion, air pollution and quality of schools as Houstonians.

This "First Colonization" of China has huge implications for global energy markets. Already, Chinese oil demand has risen from 116 million tons in 1990 to 327 million tons in 2005.

Energy policy: We won't get there by tinkering

Clinton backs the creation of a $50 billion energy fund to support investments in alternative energy. She also supports adding 100,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to the federal fleet by 2015 and $2 billion in research and development to reduce the cost and improve the longevity and durability of batteries. I like that.

Plug-in hybrids are a building block to a transition to a more fuel-diversified transportation sector — one that could be weaned off carbon-based fuels (read Middle East supply) over time as we improve our electricity network. Imagine: Hugo Chavez cuts off the oil we need to fuel our cars and instead of standing in long gasoline lines and cursing our government and Big Oil, we simply opt to charge up by plugging in our cars at home.

Energy policy: Environment merits attention

If an energy surprise awaits, perhaps it will take shape in a new administration that breaks with tradition and forcefully commits to building energy policy around substantive environmental issues. In 2008, it is no longer possible to deny that finding, producing and exploiting fossil fuels is inextricably linked with the environmental health of our planet and ourselves.

Mexican leftist back on streets in oil protest

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Eighteen months after he crippled the capital with protests over a 2006 election defeat, Mexican leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was back on the street on Sunday to protect the state monopoly on oil.

A new era for railroads as companies expand

For decades, railroads spent little on expansion, even tore up surplus track and shrank routes. But since 2000 they’ve spent $10 billion to expand tracks, build freight yards and buy locomotives, and they have $12 billion more in upgrades planned.

Putin’s Iron Grip on Russia Suffocates His Opponents

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia — Shortly before parliamentary elections in December, foremen fanned out across the sprawling GAZ vehicle factory here, pulling aside assembly-line workers and giving them an order: vote for President Vladimir V. Putin’s party or else. They were instructed to phone in after they left their polling places. Names would be tallied, defiance punished.

In City Waters, Beds (and a Job) for Oysters

Scientists in the last several decades have developed a better understanding of the ability of oysters to filter water. As an adult oyster feeds, it can filter 5 to 50 gallons of water a day, depending on its size and the temperature of the water.

During this process, it absorbs nitrogen, algae and bacteria, depositing them in the sediment at the water’s bottom. The oyster beds also serve as the foundation for an ecosystem that can support other marine species, like eelgrass, which in turn absorb other waste materials and provide habitats for fish.

10 things the nation must do to avert an energy crunch (and protect the planet)

THE price of crude oil has topped $100 a barrel and could go higher. Rising demand for oil in India and China, combined with global bottlenecks in production and refining, could cause an energy crunch with the potential to disrupt economies and place public safety at risk.

At the same time, the burning of carbon-rich fossil fuels is creating greenhouse gases and causing temperatures and sea levels to rise. The United States is the world’s largest energy consumer and producer of greenhouse gases and must lead the way in the search for alternative sources of energy.

The following is a list of 10 steps the United States must take in order to avert an energy shortage and protect the environment.

OPEC President Khelil Expects Oil Demand to Decline

(Bloomberg) -- Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries President Chakib Khelil said he expects oil demand to decrease in the second quarter and that the group may agree to cut production at its next meeting.

"We don't expect to put more oil in the market," Khelil told reporters in Algiers today. Inventories are "very high and international demand is expected to decrease in the second quarter. OPEC is going either to keep production or reduce it."

Venezuela considered swap in Exxon dispute

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela offered to resolve its nationalization dispute with U.S. energy giant Exxon Mobil by withdrawing from its stake in the Chalmette refinery, a top energy official told local media in comments reported on Sunday.

Boom and bust may be a relic of Houston's past

What if today's peak oil prognosticators are right, and there will be no significant tapering of demand or growth in supply? And if that's true, what does it mean for a city whose fortunes have always been linked to a price graph and the whims of traders who traffic in black gold?

Imagine a world that's energy-rich: Storing electricity locally was late Nobelist's dream

The late Dr. Richard E. Smalley was a Nobel Laureate and professor of chemistry at Rice University. His Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded in 1996 for the discovery of a new form of carbon, buckminsterfullerene ("buckyballs") with Robert Curl, also a professor of chemistry at Rice, and Harold Kroto, a professor at the University of Sussex in England. At the time of his death in October 2005, Smalley was focused on finding solutions to the global energy problem. The article below is a summation of Smalley's thoughts on an energy solution excerpted by his colleague, Amy Myers Jaffe of Rice's Baker Institute.

Federal funds for roads fading fast

WASHINGTON – The federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of money next year, and transportation officials across Washington state, already feeling the squeeze from deteriorating roads, highways and bridges, are scrambling to deal with the possible fallout.

...The bulk of funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund comes from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax. But revenues from the tax have flattened out, likely because people are driving less due to the price of gas and because cars have become more fuel efficient in the 14 years since the federal gas tax was last increased.

Australia: Lack of parking puts train users on road

A CRITICAL shortage of commuter car parking is forcing thousands of would-be train users on to the roads adding to Sydney's already chronic congestion, an NRMA report says.

More than 40 per cent of motorists who otherwise drive all the way to work would rather park at a station and commute if there were an adequate number of parking spots at the station.

Australia: Government's 50c slug on petrol

THE country's biggest fuel refiner, Caltex, says the Federal Government is getting about 50c on every litre of petrol sold to motorists.

Caltex yesterday revealed for the first time who gets what from petrol that goes through the pumps at service stations.

Managing director Des King told BusinessDaily: "We haven't announced this before, but we make an average of 1.5 on every litre of petrol after all costs, whereas the government makes 50.

OPEC vis-à-vis $100 per barrel

Crude oil prices were up again last week, reaching the $100 level, which it had attained at the beginning of the year despite the gradual decline to the $86 mark. Why are oil prices up again?

Ryan’s oil security review will cost government €224,000

Energy minister Eamon Ryan is spending almost a quarter of a million euro on a review of the security of Ireland’s oil supplies, which will include assessing the possibility of constructing an oil pipeline to Britain or continental Europe.

Lula Says Investment to Resolve Bolivia Gas Impasse

(Bloomberg) -- A revival of investments in Bolivia, home to South America's second-largest natural gas reserves, will ease a regional shortage of the fuel in the "medium term," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said.

Nepali gov't given 15-day ultimatum to end load-shedding crisis

KATHMANDU (Xinhua) -- The recently formed Consumers' Struggle Committee has given a 15-day ultimatum to the Nepali government to end the persisting problems of load-shedding, crisis of petroleum and cooking gas, The Himalayan Times reported on Sunday.

Nepal: Supply committee decides to enforce odd-even rule to address fuel shortage

The meeting of the Supply Management Committee of the government, Saturday, decided to enforce odd-even rule beginning Monday to deal with the acute shortage of petroleum products.

The committee decided that odd-numbered vehicles (registration number) can obtain fuel only on odd days while even-numbered vehicles can obtain fuel on even days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).

Chiles: Energy research gets low priority

During a humorous presentation that earned him a standing ovation, Springfield City Councilman Dan Chiles noted the Bush administration has spent astronomically on the Iraq war while spending only a pittance on research and development of new energy.

History Lesson

Also, consider that during the early part of the last century, as the state poured more and more state and federal money into constructing and maintaining better highways, the love affair with the automobile began to blossom. The once popular trolley — in 1902, there were 987 traction companies throughout the nation with a capacity of 4.8 billion passengers — fell out of favor. Reduced ridership along with the fact that government regulations prevented privately run trolleys from raising their fares above a nickel spelled the demise of the once popular mode of mass transit.

Ethanol plants could trigger new water-use laws

Missouri's rush to expand ethanol production may end up rewriting the state's water-use laws.

At least that's what a group of Webster County residents believes will happen as their lawsuit against an ethanol project near Fordland moves through the courts.

Folding green: the investment boom

Money is pouring into the clean energy sector, which includes renewable forms of electricity generation such as wind, biomass and solar as well as companies involved in energy efficiency and waste treatment. According to research firm New Energy Finance, investment in the sector increased globally by 41 per cent last year to $117bn (£59bn), just over half of which went on new projects.

Colorado residents fight uranium mine

Jean Hediger can stand at the edge of her organic wheat farm and look west to the Rockies, east toward this speck-in-the-road town and straight ahead into what she sees as her worst nightmare.

A Canadian company's plans to establish a uranium mine just across the two-lane county road from Hediger's farm has triggered a bitter tug-of-war with residents of this fast-growing region about 70 miles north of Denver who fear the risk of contaminated water and other health problems.

"How do you farm organically next to a uranium mine?" Hediger asks. "It's pretty darned scary, isn't it?"

Biologist tells how climate change affects agriculture

Essentially, in places where there is rain, global warming will bring more rain, and regions that commonly suffer droughts will continue to see a decrease in precipitation, he said.

But changes will not be immediate.

"What we're seeing now is a result of carbon fuels released 30 years ago," he said. "You're looking at a big water shortage in the future for this part of the world."

Wheat shortage gets bakers right in the bread basket

Like flour-dependent businesses all over the country, Formica Brothers has been hit hard by the drastically rising price of flour, which has increased by about 250 percent in just six months.

"In August, a 100-pound bag of flour cost about $15. Today it's over $50," said Formica, of Margate. "For us, that means we went from paying $7,500 a week for a shipment of 500 pounds of flour to now paying over $25,000."

Food shortages loom as wheat crop shrinks and prices rise

THE world is only ten weeks away from running out of wheat supplies after stocks fell to their lowest levels for 50 years.

The crisis has pushed prices to an all-time high and could lead to further hikes in the price of bread, beer, biscuits and other basic foods.

It could also exacerbate serious food shortages in developing countries especially in Africa.

South Africa: Time Ripe for Food Security to Move Up Policy Agenda

THE increase in fossil fuel prices has led the world to reconsider alternative sources of energy, such as biofuels.

As a result, the demand for grains and oil seeds has increased substantially over a short period , with prices reaching record highs. At the same time, the economic growth and increasing wealth in countries such as China and India have put additional demand on grain supplies.

The prophets of climate-change doom have highlighted the effect that this could have on the availability of food. All these factors have brought agriculture to the forefront of international discussions, not only among governments but also among business leaders.

'Eco-awakening' affects personal lifestyle choices

Almost every day, Vanessa Wilbourn looked forward to a cup of tea from Starbucks on her drive to high school.

Then several weeks ago, she started wondering about whether her habit was good for the Earth.

Sustainability and the Pressing Need to Raise Our Collective Consciousness

In 1972, during a speech at an International Rotary Convention in Lausanne, Switzerland, shortly after my epiphany in space, I raised concern about the finite supply of fossil fuels, and its role in sustainability. We are overwhelming our planet’s renewable resources with our numbers and consumption patterns. It is my hope that reaching peak oil will cause citizens of the world to awaken to the larger issues.

Matt Simmons - Energy policy: U.S. needs to show world the way

If I were preparing a briefing for the president-elect on urgent energy actions needed in the administration's first 30 days, it would read as follows:

● Be prepared for peak oil and gas. While the data is still imperfect, there is a high risk that global use of oil and gas is now at or beyond a sustainable level. While demand for both key fossil fuels still rages ahead, new supplies are struggling to grow fast enough to offset rising production declines from old (and very old) oil and gas basins.

...It is impossible to predict any precise timing of when peak supply will be reached, nor the duration this peak output will stay at an "undulating plateau" before then going into what could be a steep decline. Hence, the world's leaders need to assume we have no more than three to five years to make a transition to a post-peak oil and gas world.

Renowned 'peak oil' expert addresses Dubai's business leaders

“Peak oil is probably now past tense and the world is desperately in need of a sustainable series of new energy sources and urgent adoption of conservation measures to wean 'us' all from a chronic addiction not just to oil, but all three forms of fossil fuels,” said Matthew Simmons.

According to Simmons one of the most critical questions facing the global energy market is whether key oil producing nations can increase oil production to meet the current and future growth in world demand. He warns that with the rapid population growth, improved economies and subsequent increase in vehicles the world’s demand for oil can only continue to multiply.

OPEC Production Cut In March To Send "Bad Signals"- Official

DUBAI -(Dow Jones)- An output cut by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries during its March meeting would send "bad signals" to the market and add further pressure on already soaring oil prices, a group official said Sunday.

"Fundamentals do warrant a cut, but we are afraid that if such a step is taken then it would send bad signals to the markets and lead to even higher prices," the Persian Gulf OPEC official told Dow Jones Newswires.

Iraq's oil flows to Turkey despite incursion

BAGHDAD (Xinhua) - Iraqi exports of crude oil continue flowing through Turkey despite the Turkish military operation against the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) guerrillas in northern Iraq, the Iraqi Oil Ministry said on Sunday. "I confirm that the oil exports are flowing normally to Ceyhanport and that the operations did not effect it," an official from the ministry's media office told Xinhua.

"There is up to 350,000 barrels of crude oil per day exported through the Ceyhan port," the official said.

Iraq forms committee for shared oilfields issues

(MENAFN) The Iraqi Cabinet announced that it will form a government committee to negotiate with neighboring countries over shared oil fields, a move that comes after Iraq accused Iran of stealing its oil from areas along their border, AP reported.

The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office issued a statement saying that the Cabinet had agreed to form a committee to be headed by a foreign affairs deputy, with representation from the Oil and Interior ministries.

Yemen says foils attempt to bomb oil pipeline

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni forces have foiled an attempt to blow up a crude oil pipeline in the Marib province and arrested a number of "saboteurs," the official Yemeni news agency Saba said on Sunday.

"Interrogations are under way, but the initial results indicate that this group is linked to the terrorist bombing of the pipeline last year," Saba said, citing the head of security in the province.

Shell Irish Gas Refinery Fire Deliberately Set, Scotsman Says

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc said a fire at a natural gas refinery being built in western Ireland appears to have been deliberately set, the Scotsman newspaper reported, citing the Press Association.

Basin has yielded 30 billion barrels of oil, isn't through yet

More than 300 million years of history combined to form the Permian Basin of West Texas and Southeast New Mexico, filling it with abundant reserves of crude oil and natural gas.

To date, more than 30 billion barrels of crude oil have powered economies around the globe, and experts say the Basin isn't yet done.

Energy policy: Drop ideas of independence

The search for solutions to our energy challenges leads to one inescapable conclusion: There are no easy answers.

Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office next January, the reality is that world oil prices will never return to the "good old days" of the 1990s.

Energy Sector Peak Oil Trends Paint “A Very Alarming Picture”

While energy demand may be tempered by a slowdown in global economic growth, longer term growing energy demands and supply constraints will continue to present incredible challenges. Much more capital will need to be allocated to the sector to address supply issues, which should create opportunities for investors. We noted the following developments in the energy sector last month...

Concerns delay Richton oil site

WASHINGTON - Environmentalists persuaded Mississippi lawmakers to press the Department of Energy to re-examine plans to store millions of gallons of oil in salt caverns near Richton, foreshadowing other hurdles the ambitious project could face.

British Columbians are voting with their feet and heading to the burbs

British Columbians are voting with their feet. And they're opting for suburbia.

Folks like Kunstler can rage against the suburbs all they want -- but wishing them away won't make it so.

Australia: Garnaut inquiry into climate change a step forward

THE interim report on climate change by Professor Ross Garnaut is excellent . Garnaut argues convincingly that Australia has more to lose from global warming than other developed countries, is well placed to profit from effective global mitigation policies and therefore concludes it is in Australia's interests to seek international agreement based on the most feasible global mitigation target.

Brother, can you spare a carbon credit?

Thinkers weigh a radical new way to reduce greenhouse gas: Give everyone an individual carbon allowance, and let the dealing begin.

Oil industry and wind farms battle for tax breaks

WASHINGTON — It's renewable energy vs. the oil industry in the halls of Congress where lawmakers are weighing whether to shift billions of dollars in tax incentives from oil and gas to wind, solar and biomass.

A biofuels boondoggle

With our polar ice caps shrinking, our coral reefs dying and our ecological clocks ticking, Earthlings are losing patience with the shameless gas-guzzling status quo in the United States. Even the barons of the old energy industries have abandoned their speaking points that denied climate change, and have begun demanding government action.

Governors: Include coal in energy debate

WASHINGTON - Governors pushing alternative energy development are not shying from coal, a major culprit in global warming but also a homegrown energy source and an economic lifeline for many states.

Leaders of coal-rich states say clean-coal technology is a must. Governors from states without coal want more evidence the technology works.

First biofuel flight touches down

The first flight by a commercial airline to be powered partly by biofuel has landed in Amsterdam.

Billed by Virgin Atlantic as a green fuel breakthrough, the firm's flight from Heathrow did not carry passengers.


But Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson said the flight was an early step towards greener aviation.

"This pioneering flight will enable those of us who are serious about reducing our carbon emissions to go on developing the fuels of the future, fuels which will power our aircraft in the years ahead through sustainable next-generation oils, such as algae."

I assume (and hope) that George Monbiot will calculate how many people will probably starve due to that one "test" (PR?) flight alone. One point of reference: the grain needed to make enough ethanol to fill an SUV tank once, can feed a person for a YEAR. Now imagine the tanks of a jumbo jet...

Yeah I know they said "algae" somewhere in their press release, but:
* the current bio-jet-fuel is from land crops, not algae
* there is no hope for a large-scale algae-based biofuel system any time soon
* even an algae-based method would have impacts on food, climate, etc. E.g. in need for water, or effect on fish.

One point of reference: the grain needed to make enough ethanol to fill an SUV tank once, can feed a person for a YEAR.

Vtpeaknik, I have no doubt that this statement is true. I would like to use it myself in some correspondence with others, that is true believers who think that biofuels will save the day. However I try, though I sometimes fail, never to make a statement that I cannot back up with references or data. My question is, where can I find a reference or calculation concerning the above statement? Anyone? Anyone?

Thanks in advance,

Ron Patterson


"A simple calculation points out biofuel's less-than-stellar potential. To fill the roughly 100-liter (26-gallon) tank of an SUV, an ethanol producer has to process about a quarter of a ton of wheat. This is enough wheat for a baker to bake about 460 kilograms of bread, which has a total nutritional value of about a million kilocalories -- enough to feed one person for a year."


A gallon of gasoline (about 4 liters) contains about 31,000 calories. If a person could drink gasoline, then a person could ride about 912 miles on a gallon of gas (about 360 km per liter). Considering that a normal car gets about 30 miles per gallon, that's pretty impressive


Let's just pause a moment and figure out how much food we are talking about when we discuss bushels of corn, or gallons of ethanol. A bushel of corn is 56 lb (or 25.4kg) of corn. At about 8000 btu/lb we get 113120 kCal/bushel. Given the average human diet globally contains 2800 kCal/day (see figure below), 1 bushel represents 40 days worth of calories for a person (if that person eat only corn!). Thus at current conversion efficiencies of about 2.8 gal/bushel, the corn in a gallon of ethanol represents a shade over two weeks worth of food (again, all corn). A 15 gallon fuel tank of ethanol is thus 7 months worth of corn calories for one person. Of course, the American corn crop is mainly fed to animals, and after conversion to meat, eggs, or dairy at efficiencies in the range of 1/10 - 1/3, the 15 gallon tank of ethanol is more like 1-2 months worth of food calories for a person.

Xeroid, thanks a million. That was exactly what I was looking for.

Ron Patterson

Based on the numbers that Stuart presented on his biofuels post, in round numbers I estimated that it would take 100% of current world food production to replace current US net petroleum imports with biofuels.

This is one sided corn-bashing getting really STOOPID.

A 26 gallon tank of filled with ethanol would take 560 pounds of corn.

So replacing gasoline with say E85 in the SUV tank would take
560 pounds of corn(10 bushels of corn) PLUS 167 pounds of DDGS animal feed which is equal to 65 pounds of meat or 6 gallons of whole milk( milk is 90% water).

The average american eats 200 pounds of meat a year and 300 pounds of dairy products(mostly milk) a year.
That figures to require about 1200# of DDGS a year or 69 bushels of corn that would also produce 180 gallons of ethanol. E85 is gets 70% the mileage of straight gasoline. At 14 mpg, that will get his SUV about miserable 2520 miles.

So after 7 trips to fill his gas tank with E85 would produce enough dairy and meat to feed the average american for a whole year.

Producing corn ethanol would result in a bumper crop of food! If we could replace all 150 billion gallons of gasoline with E85 we would increase our meat and milk bounty by over 300%. But I don't want to eat three times the meat and dairy I eat now! (And it doesn't seem possible in terms of cropland acres.)

Attempts to turn this into a 'guns or butter' argument are futile. We would get a few 'guns'(energy) and a lot of 'butter'(animal products) with corn ethanol.

It's no wonder these food versus ethanol fanatics don't get it.

We don't have a FOOD crisis we have a FUEL crisis!

(But a FOOD crisis works so much better with their Malthusian doomer nighmares, does it not?)

Three errors.

Cattle, in particular, can take only a small percentage of their diet as distillers grains, Too much and they get "scours", diarrhea.

And the ethanol industry is fast approaching that limit.

One gets more meat & milk from unprocessed grains (you are taking away many of the calories when distilling).

And the BEST response to food shortages is less meat and milk and more tortillas, etc. Save some for your fellow man even if you can afford to keep your belly full (or obese).


And the BEST response to food shortages is less meat and milk and more tortillas, etc. Save some for your fellow man even if you can afford to keep your belly full (or obese).

RE: "Good Calories, Bad Calories"
It may be the case that 'we can feed more people' on veggie matter (carbohydrates) but that they would be much healthier eating a more ecologically expensive diet high in meats and fats and low in carbs. IMO Gary Taubes' hypothesis has been extremely well researched and presents us with quite a dilemma. Healthy but possibly ecologically unsustainable diet, or less healthy but ecologically sustainable diet.

Taubes, Pollan, and Weston Price would probably all agree on the health aspects, especially their distaste for the highly manufactured Western diet. I've never seen a life cycle analysis of factory farming techniques versus the old fashioned ways - for example how much does grass-fed/grass-finished beef cost relative to the feedlot grain-fed variety? If you got rid of the manufactured fertilizers, processed animal feed, antibiotics and supplements would the cost of meat increase or decrease? How about dairy? I have no clue. What if you add in the cost of fouled water supplies,
increased need for expensive health care, natural gas depletion, soil depletion, .... Oh rats, I'm getting ahead of myself...

I guess what I'm trying to say is there's a system level view of this; we can't regard it as an isolated subsystem.


Do get a copy of All Flesh is Grass and read it as it answers many of your questions.

Your numbers may be skewed by the American way of life. I suspect the average human worldwide can't afford anything near 200 pounds of meat a year. Try your calculations with 50 pounds of meat and the majority in grains and veggies. I think it will come out remarkably close to one tankful of ethanol.

On the other hand, if we outlawed high fructose corn syrup as a foodstuff and used a little less sugar, we'd have plenty of corn left for ethanol, and probably a healthier population.

It feels like we need to find a new balance point. As long as Big Ag runs things we'll have the most profitable food, not the most healthy or sustainable.

Corn is mostly animal feed. If human life is so valuable and threatened by an inadequate supply of corn, quit feeding the stuff to animals. There are 65 million hogs in the United States. Each hog consumes 15 bushels of corn to reach market weight. Kill the hogs! Save the people.

Straw man arguments that say that ethanol can not replace gasoline are silly. Of course it can't. No serious ethanol supporter would pose such and argument. We don't need to replace gasoline in the near future. We need to supplement it. Even the most rabid Peak Oiler does not say we will run out of oil.

Corn currently exported goes mostly to wealthier countries like Japan and China. They use it for animal feed just as we do. When it is sold to foreigners for animal feed or human food, a portion of the energy of corn is lost to the American economy since corn is inappropiately priced for its energy content. When I burn a bushel corn in my corn stove it is worth the equivalent of $9.00 of LP gas. When it is sold for export, it goes for about $5.00. $4.00 is lost to the American economy.

Those who are so worried about the starving should ask themselves if they are willing to have their taxes raised to pay for the corn they believe will save lives. Or do they just want farmers to sell corn for less than its energy value and make non economic decisions based on faulty analysis.

Those who are so worried about the starving should ask themselves if they are willing to have their taxes raised to pay for the corn they believe will save lives.

There is no need to raise taxes. The elimination of corn ethanol subsidies should suffice to kill the economic viability of the stuff.

Another important issue is the marginal net energy gain of corn ethanol. The energy balance is near break even, so the only thing this is accomplishing is the consumption of valuable arable land while we pay more for energy and food with no net energy gain. What a bargain!

What about cellulistic ethanol? This would not be so bad, as it uses a waste product, but it is not technologically ready yet. Why even bother with converting the waste to ethanol? We can convert it directly into diesel with existing technology and one BTU of diesel goes further than one BTU of ethanol, as diesel engines are much more efficient than spark ignition engines.

The elimination of corn ethanol subsidies should suffice to kill the economic viability of the stuff.

You have to kill the mandates too, or the cost will just come out at the pump.

Which wouldn't be a bad thing; the "Live Green Go Yellow" ad campaign would be dead within days.

Majorian it is your post that is really STOOPID! No one is talking about what the average American eats and no one is talking about wheat after it has been cycled through a cow. We are talking about the number of calories a citizen of the world normally consumes in a day and the number of calories, in wheat, it takes to fill the tank of an SUV. Here are the numbers:

A simple calculation points out biofuel's less-than-stellar potential. To fill the roughly 100-liter (26-gallon) tank of an SUV, an ethanol producer has to process about a quarter of a ton of wheat. This is enough wheat for a baker to bake about 460 kilograms of bread, which has a total nutritional value of about a million kilocalories -- enough to feed one person for a year.

Now dispute those numbers without talking about how much meat the average American consumes after it has been cycled through a cow. How many kilocalories does the average Haitian consume? How about the average Bangladeshi or Indian or Sub-Sahara African? A quarter of a ton of wheat would be 250 kilos per year or .685 kilos per day, or 1.5 pounds of wheat per day.

Does the average citizen of the third world consume, per day, the calories contained in 1.5 pounds of wheat? I don't know but that seems pretty close to me. So basically you could feed one person for one year on the amount of calories contained in one SUV tank of ethanol.

Ron Patterson

I must say Majorian

your lack of compassion is breathtaking. Whether, the notion that the impoverished can afford a diet of meat, the lack of concern about what ethanol does to the price of grains - the principal diet of the world. Or the utter disregard for those poor animals force fed grain, let alone distillers grain.

We really have no hope.

The first flight by a commercial airline to be powered partly by biofuel has landed in Amsterdam.

Billed by Virgin Atlantic as a green fuel breakthrough, the firm's flight from Heathrow did not carry passengers.

I'm sure Sir Richard means well, but it's frustrating to see what passes for 'green progress' in the news.

This sort of story and project is exploding: having the shallow trappings of some kind of solution, but being mostly or entirely useless. The passenger-free flight of an airliner on 'biodiesel' proves nothing in concept, and leads to nothing useful - it was a PR stunt, nothing more. But it's not just the likes of Branson, it's everywhere you look. Particularly in the USA, where to a first approximation no one understands thermodynamics, you can get away with anything, get venture capital for anything, raise tax-deductible money for anything.

I call them EcoWankers. A word for our times. (Not to be confused with the formerly-honorable title "environmentalist", which has been unfairly maligned, partly due to ecowankers messing up the signal-to-noise ratio and partly due to many non-environmentalists being shallow, stupid, and/or delusional from the getgo.)

Land sakes, a jet that flies on fuel. What won't they think of next?

Branson: nuts to peak oil

Sir Richard Branson today claimed aviation could be made “truly sustainable” at the launch of test flight fuelled in part by coconut oil. But the Virgin boss conceded that meaningful supplies of alternative fuel might not be available before the advent of peak oil, which he said could happen within six years.


When lastoilshock.com raised this issue at a press conference held in Virgin’s hangar at Heathrow, Sir Richard did not attempt to explain where so much land might be found, but did reveal that peak oil was part of the motivation for developing biojetfuel: “Apart from global warming, in about four or five years’ time there’s going to be more demand for fuel than there is fuel on this planet. So fuel prices will go through the roof, and so planes, ships, we’ve all got to come up with alternatives”.

Matt Simmons - Energy policy: U.S. needs to show world the way

A foundation of a post-Peak Oil policy is at


And more is developing with the Millennium Institute.

I wish I could get to him !

Best Hopes for Help,


My comment to the Matt Simmons article in the Houston Chronicle

Mr. Simmons plan is incomplete and inadequate to the task, unfortunately.

It is possible to create a Non-Oil Transportation System in parallel to our existing Oil Based Transportation, and shift to the Non-Oil Transportation system (at every level from getting milk & bread to shipping containers cross-country, all without oil).

Some details at

Electrify freight railroads, add back tracks torn up decades ago and switch freight from trucks to rail. The electrified rail corridors would also double as new electrical transmission corridors, strengthening out grid and ability to shift renewable power around. The Russians electrified the Trans-Siberian RR in 2002, so technically it can be done !

The CSX railroad proposal for Washington DC to Miami could be applied elsewhere. (2 tracks with regular freight @ 70 mph, one track for passengers and express freight @ 110 mph, all grade separated).

Build out Urban Rail at a rate not seen since 1897-1916 in the USA.

France has announced plans to build 1,500 km of new tram (Light Rail) in a decade, (and they take August off for vacation and work 37 hours/week). Mulhouse France (pop 112,000) will have twice as much (34 miles) Light Rail than Houston by 2011, despite Houston's two year (2004 vs. 2006) head start. One will be able to walk out the door in Mulhouse and be in Paris in 4 to 5 hours and use just a drop of lubricating oil. Non-oil Transportation can meet the needs of the average resident of Mulhouse.

Would that Americans could work with the speed and efficiency of French bureaucrats !

Walkable neighborhoods can be encouraged along the Urban Rail routes, reducing the need for more than shoe leather. I use 5 gallons/month in my neighborhood, with 5 food stores within 7 blocks (closest 2.5 blocks away), barber, banks, retail all close by, a pleasant (and healthy) walk away. I take the streetcar more often than I drive.

Many Americans want this lifestyle (not all) and this unmeet market demand should be satisfied !

And the lowly bicycle is another key link in a Non-Oil Transportation system. Today, Americans build their cities and parking to make it as difficult as possible to bike to work or to shop. This could be changed, in part by policy changes, in part by taking space away from the oil burners and in part, by a change in attitude. REAL patriots bicycle to work (or take the train) !

Instead of desperately searching for some new invention to save our Oil Based Transportation, let use build a Non-Oil Transportation system with mature existing technology. There is no magic to electrified railroads traveling at 110 mph, or Urban Rail or bicycles or walking. Just a choice to make !

Best Hopes.
Alan Drake

He seems more inclined toward keeping cars, only with alternate fuels. He's got that new ocean institute. He's apparently hoping to grow algae and make biofuel. And/or power cars with ammonia.

Let us all wish REAL HARD for the Just-in-Time Technology Fairy !

Realistically, even if tomorrow morning a major breakthrough was made, the ability to ramp up production quickly enough is "highly doubtful".

Sure, continue R&D, but lets start on building something we KNOW works ASAP.

Best Hopes for Reality Based Planning,


PS: I would still like some access to Simmons

there is no breakthrough needed to make ammonia from RE sources, only the commitment.


What is all the electrified, extended, constructed, re-constructed rail transport system going to achieve?
Who or what is it going to assist in the long run?
Do you envision millions of people commuting to work in trains over long distances as they do now by motor vehicle?
Will the transport of consumer goods, livestock, grains, frozen goods, ores and cement continue to be carried out by train over long distances?

I guess you assume a world of business as usual.
Will we just have to build rail lines to maintain our lifestyle, will there be plenty of jobs for everyone and plenty of revenue gained by the transport of people and goods, to pay for and maintain the rail network.

You know what I think.
When we are at the stage of oil depletion that electrified rail is the transport of choice, there will be nothing much to transport, the amount of electrified rail around the place now, will be more than enough. Or, we can adapt when required. Anticipating now would be a dangerous gamble for private enterprise.

On top of that, coastal cities will become inundated and non-viable, so don't bother constructing too close to the coast.

Maintenance of modern rail systems is quite costly as well. The rail and tires are high quality hardened steel. Brake blocks are made in large amounts. Overhead electrified gantries require regular costly maintenance. Carriages are made now so they must be air-conditioned.
Derailments and accidents require specialized cranes and equipment.

I'm not saying that they are not insurmountable obstacles but they are large considerations for a normal network, let alone an expanded one and especially in a likely depressed economy, with very poor prospects of recovery.

In my lay person opinion, ensuring the present network and transport system is well maintained and capable of adapting and functioning in an anaemic economy is an excellent strategy.
Goods and commuter transport are likely to be far more dynamic and unpredictable than we tend to assume.

The world is going to wind down, not scale up.
Roads without trucks and cars will make great cart paths and bicycle lanes.

The short answer is that

1) the future is unknowable and

2) railroads will be useful under almost any scenario.

Cambodia and Liberia used handmade "railcars" on their RRs (when two cars meet, the lighter one was lifted off the tracks, the other passed, and then put back on the tracks).

I could foresee a situation where keeping the RRs operating would keep a higher level of social organization amidst general breakdown.

Best Hopes for Railroads, and the Rest of US,


I've heard several extended interviews of Mr. Simmons on "Financial Sense" that I have downloaded from its website at http://www.financialsense.com/. Interestingly, many people/reporters are starting to pickup on his warnings about energy availability, but haven't really embraced one of his key points--his views on conservation.

When given time for a full interview, Mr. Simmons repeatedly points out that the only real solution is both conservation and increased energy buildout--using all viable sources of energy. He has stated that with all the investment and time needed to fix the current energy mess, we will have to either voluntarily conserve (or prices/scarcity will force us to conserve.)

On the conservation side, he is really pushing use of work at home/webbased commerce initiatives. Particularly in the US, he sees this as a significant part of the answer.

Best regards...

French workers have at least six weeks holidays per year and the maximum working week is 35 hours. The tramways are very popular. Nice recently opened its tramway after years of delays and the corruption investigations have started while pulic transport use has grown by 17%. Smaller towns are developing bus networks. For example the MAximum bus fare in the Alpes Maritimes Department is now 1 €uro and this gives up to Three hours of bus travel. An Antibes, the old town is now served by free bus services linking it with the rail stations, bus stations, and carparks.

French work week, 35 vs. 37 hours.

I am sorry if I overstated how much the French work. I thought that the goal of a 35 hour work week was being rolled back, and it never became universal, but I could well be wrong.

Yes, I know about the 6 weeks vacation, but "taking the month of August off" is, IMHO, more evocative.

More details please on French work weeks,

Best Hopes for a Rescission of the Louisiana Purchase,


The French don't understand the situation - the world's gotta have growth :-)

Increased efficiency means :

you can work the same number of hours and get more stuff


you get the same amount of stuff while working less hours! :-)

Why would you want to have an easier life when you could have more, more, more! ... and bigger too! :-)

Matt Simmons & post peak..

Memel had a very interesting post yesterday regarding peak plateau and overall worldwide declinrate, and I just wonder what's the thinking of the rest of the gang about it:


Just read the post. Could sombody make sense of this sentance
'However the only model that works if you assume or ability to extract has increased with time far greater then increases in recovery is a plateau followed by steep declines.'

'However the only model that works--if we assume our ability to extract has increased with time far greater than increases in recovery--is a plateau followed by steep declines.'

This is my guess.

The question is to what extent improved technology has increased the production rate versus the recovery rate.

For example, Shell was convinced that they had significantly increased the recoverable reserves in the Yibal Field, and they were expanding the surface production facilities to handle an expected flood of new oil when they were hit by a flood of new water. This was one of the big contributing factors to their large reduction in proven oil reserves.

I've used the very simple example of an opaque bottle full of water. You can pour the water out at a trickle up to the maximum--but the rate at which the water is poured out has no effect on the ultimate amount of water that can be poured out. At maximum pour rate, it simply appears that there is a lot of liquid in the bottle.

This is why Memmel asserts that the HL estimates are, by and large, probably too optimistic.

Put simply, nobody knows for sure whether secondary and Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) methods recover MORE oil than would otherwise be the case - undeniably they extract (the depletion rate) the oil more quickly thus the production decline rate post peak is greater as it is over a shorter period.

Getting the oil out quickly is especially important in an offshore hostile, corrosive, and expensive marine environment - which is probably why we are seeing the rapid decline rates in Canterell where EOR has been used extensively. Drilling an offshore well is more expensive than an equivalent one onshore and hence more risky - the volumes of oil to be extracted from any well, in order to make a profit, are much greater offshore.

"Put simply, nobody knows for sure whether secondary and Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) methods recover MORE oil than would otherwise be the case -"

you cant be serious!

We do need to differentiate between horizontal (MRC) wells versus secondary/tertiary recovery techniques (e.g., water flooding and CO2 floods).

All these techniques when used certainly get the oil to flow out of a well (much) quicker and hence depletes the reserves more quickly - but as for recovering more in total after all recovery is economically complete at current prices? ... I'm not sure and I don't think anybody else is, and that is the problem. How would you prove it?

The oil separated from the underlying water in the past, I suspect any oil remaining after current economic recovery is complete will again (eventually) separate once wells are capped and abandoned for a while - recovery can become economic again - maybe repeating time after time, just a much slower process - and less damaging to the environment.

These techniques have certainly made any peak much higher than it would otherwise have been and left less for our descendents. The inconvienient evidence from places like the North Sea seems to be that decline rates post peak on individual wells, when using these techniques, are much steeper than they otherwise would have been - maybe because at peak substantially more than half the economically recoverable oil has been extracted - a 'shark fin' production curve. In places like onshore USA lots of infill drilling may be reducing the production decline rate by cannibalising production that would eventually have come out of another well (but at the same time increasing the depletion rate) - if so, the pessimistic predictions of future flow rates would apply. Time will tell.

British Columbians are voting with their feet and heading to the burbs
Sadly many in the media think this is a debate, that suburbia and ex-burbia are simply sustainable choices and people like Kunstler are simply espousing a philosophy to be adopted or rejected. As JK and many on this and similar sites point out, economic and energy reality will doom the suburban structure, transforming it into some massivly changed entity at best and abandonment at worst. It would be nice to be able to put all of these shallow media types into a room in a few years and say "We told you so.", however we will be too busy doing real things to bother massaging our own egos.
And Allan we all desire street cars whether they are named Desire or King or Queen or Burrard or René Levesque. Keep up your pounding on this issue. It is where the renewable energy crowd meets the SUV groupies with lots of room for the technophiles to play and come up with nice innovations.

It is really hard to always be ahead of the curve, pounding your head against the wall, trying to convince people of the correctness of your position -- why on earth do we do it?

It is even harder to shut up and not say "I told you so" when the masses catch up with the pioneers.

Inevitably, however, the pioneers are buried and usually suffocated in the onrush of the masses when they (and the sharks among them) figure it out and profit from the new paradigm. Paradigm shifts are never benign, and never predictable. Thomas Kuhn (Structure of Scientific Revolutions), the originator of the term "paradigm shift" is the classic observation on the phenomenon.

Echoing Allan: "Best Hopes" for TOD to keep on task, working quietly in the background, never destroyed by success.

You can always tell the pioneers - they're the ones with arrows in their backs. ;-/

Or up to their a$$ in alligators !


The writer of the Province article hasn't bothered researching the urban plan for his own city before writing this story. Downtown Vancouver is FULL. The population density there is about equal to Hong Kong. I counted 15 construction cranes just at false creek last week, and the southern terminus of the RAV line will soon look like downtown. People are choosing to spend $600,000 plus to live in a high-rise next to transit, and they know why. Living without a car is the preferred choice for those who can afford it.

Suburbia in Vancouver is already the second choice, and the transition to JHK's vision may be more gradual there than elsewhere in Canada

Thanks half full ( nice optimisitc handle too :) ) I havent been to Van since 1970 so I just remember a sweet provincial city but it doesn't surprise me that the writer was even lazier than I thought. Events will play out diferently for sure on local and regional circumstance. Perhaps you have a good idea on the potential for the southern mainland to have a viable economy in the post peak world. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts. It seems top me the lower Fraser is a well proven transportation link and that might prove the key. All the best from the Great Lakes basin.

A century from now the suburbs will still be there. It is just that "suburb" will mean roughly the same thing in English that "favela" does in Portugese.

"THE world is only ten weeks away from running out of wheat supplies after stocks fell to their lowest levels for 50 years."

The above from TimesOnline in Leanan's Drumbeat above.

From US Wheat Associates and WASDE, the 07/08
crop has outperformed the 06/07 crop by 2% or 10 MMT.

604 MMT in 07/08 from 593 MMT in 06/07.

What I'm saying is that this number is not final and
is easily fudged (kinda like EIA/API/CERA). ;}

Therein lies the rub.

The TimesOnline article has the crop at 600 MMT.

That's 4 MMT off of the 2% or 10 MMT.

Here are the sites I'll live with for the time being:


A PDF gateway.

World Wheat Supply and
Demand in MMT:
05/06 06/07 07/08

151 148 125 SUPPLY: Beginning Stocks
621 593 604 Production

772 741 729 Supply Total

The key here, IMHO, even if the 604 number is correct,
is the supply number. Down 12 MMT

Despite an estimated (my caveat already stated) 2 per cent increase in global wheat production in 2007-08, low opening wheat stocks mean that total supplies are an estimated 1 per cent lower than in the previous year. With demand remaining strong and end of season stocks forecast to fall by 8 per cent to a relatively low 109 million tonnes, prices have risen substantially since midyear."



The USDA stocks-to-use chart above has us going approaching
zero this year, and staying there!

We've passed Peak Wheat and are heading into wheat's
own Olduvai Gorge now.

Let us now proceed in harmony.


The Peak Oil Crisis: Connecting the dots
Written by Tom Whipple
Thursday, 21 February 2008

"Although there are endless debates about how fast oil production from current field is declining, everyone agrees that many million barrels per day from new oil production projects should start coming on stream in the next few years. These prospects leave many forecasting that all will be well for the immediate future.

Some are skeptical, however. If you have noticed the all-time high prices of agricultural commodities lately, you will realize that mandating the conversion of a significant portion of our corn crop into motor fuel is one of the worst laws the US Congress has ever passed. However, don’t worry, for (WELL) within a year or so, all those voters who eat will bring them to their senses so that mandates and prices subsidies for corn-based ethanol will be eliminated.

The downside of this collective denial is the loss of time to effect change. So far the only decisive action in the US was to turn our corn into SUV fuel. Much more needs to be done. It is looking more and more as if we are going to go over a cliff, while buying nearly unaffordable food and waiting in lines at the gas pumps before meaningful action is taken."

...We've passed Peak Wheat and are heading into wheat's
own Olduvai Gorge now....

I agree with your general concern about the availability of wheat. However, I wouldn't go as far as the quoted statement. Along with sizable yeild declines in 2 of the major wheat growing areas of the world due to weather issues last year, there was a lot of wheat acres lost in North America last year to corn due to its pricing being run up due to ethanol subsities. Some of that acreage should return. Without heavy use of fertizers, you really cannot plant corn year-after-year-after year. It'll burn up your soil.

In the interim, we all need to hope agricultural yeilds are good world-wide, or there will be even further foodstock inflation that what we've already seen during the past year.

Best wishes...

I wouldn't say "peak wheat" either (though that might be the ultimate effect). I think we're reaching a tipping point in food production that is more characteristic of overshoot ==> environmental degradation ==> reduced carrying capacity than we are of a Hubbert-style resource depletion bell curve.

Modern agribusiness damages the soil (we are losing topsoil at the rate of 1%/year) and only works because of massive application of fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. It is almost like hydroponic gardening, with the soil serving as little more than an anchor for the plants' roots.

Fertilizer is becoming expensive, when farmers can get enough. Because of the poor soil quality, a shortfall in fertilizer will have outsize effects on yield. The same is true for water for irrigation, which is becoming increasingly expensive and scarce.

It takes decades for soil to recover from the kind of abuse inflicted by agribusiness. Also, climate change is altering rainfall patterns, producing too little or too much rain. Fortunately for the US, the SE and SW are not big grain-growing regions. Australia was not so fortunate.

And that's without taking into account the effects of peak oil. I think we're within a few years of significant declines in world food production. Drought- and salt-resistant GM food might cushion the decline slightly. But I think the CEO of POT is correct: without record harvests, there will be famine in the world on a scale that hasn't been seen since the 70s.

We have just destroyed ou grain stockpiles in order
to keep gasoline below/at $3.

That was a one off deal as we are about to see this summer.


Yours in harmony,


I see from the materials you have provided that growers in the US are really being induced in one land use direction by corn subsidies for ethanol and coerced to disproportionately export the remaining wheat supply by a very weak dollar. In addition to the yellow gas cap subsidies the Sub-prime Fed-rate dollar slide is just as much to blame. As we pay $3 and $4 or more a loaf for quality bread we can thank both support of greedy lending and the short sighted energy politics operating on our behalf.

From what I have recently read as the prices of corn soared, some wheat was switched to livestock feed use. Normally about 70% of wheat was for human consumption. The rising corn prices also caused a major switch out of soybean acreage into corn acreage. Calories from soybean oil in the population's diets had to be replaced from somewhere else. Maybe this was where some of the wheat stocks dissapeared to. There is also a potential error in only looking at what is happening in the United States. Other countries were using ethanol as well. Droughts, floods, and insects were normal problems every year. Was 2007 worse than normal?

Population growth is limited by food. As malnutrition becomes a concern some of the weaker might not expect to live as long. The diversion of food to biofuels is a potential catastrophe. It would have been better to ban the manufacture of gas guzzling vehicles except heavy vehicles used for commercial purposes such as construction, transport, mass transit, agriculture, mining, logging, etc.

Was 2007 worse than normal?

The Australian drought was the worst on record AFAIK.


Yep. A good assessment in line with the other info here. The JIT supply had more cushion in it before the ascension of population PO GW and biofuels. Guzzling resources needs to be recognized as a kind of modern social tyranny. The consequences for poor decision making are also becoming more severe.
Best hopes for more accurately placed blowback.

We need to remember that northern hemisphere stocks of hard red winter wheat were planted in the autumn of 2006. A lot can happen in eighteen months.

What's happened:


Mar 08- 2030---2300-----2030----2300--- Feb 25, 09:30---375

They're going crazy at the MGE.

UK to leap from 'laggard to leader' on carbon dioxide emissions

Every new building put up in Britain will have to be zero carbon, emitting none of the pollution that is the main cause of global warming, the Government will announce this week.

Caroline Flint, the new housing minister, will commit herself on Wednesday to setting an "ambitious target" for eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from "non-domestic" buildings, ranging from schools to supermarkets, health centres to hotels, and from libraries to light manufacturing industry.

Taken with a year-old government commitment to make all new housing zero carbon by 2016 – the most exacting target anywhere in the world – the move will set Britain on the road to a new energy age, with conservation measures and renewable sources replacing the wasteful burning of fossil fuels.


Dont leave it to the third world. Every unconceived first-world child saves the environmental footprint of up to 8 unconceived third world children throughout its life.

Fellas - get the snip and save the planet.

Someone close to me just gave birth to their second child--someone I know is very peak-oil-aware.

I am secretly horrified (and concerned about their well-being), but my humanity says to smile politely and to congratulate them instead of admonish them about it.

I feel I'm alive in the midst of an awful tragedy that none of us can control.

I gave up on trying to educate people about peak oil about two years ago. Several people I have talked to who seemed to really get the message turned right around and conceived a baby a few months later. It's really tragic and appalling that we are this way. We really aren't smarter than yeast.

We really aren't smarter than yeast.

Well maybe not. But increased reproduction ahead of a crisis may be a correct response from a genetic point-of-view. If you know a lot of people are going to die, a few extra with your genes may make the difference between your genetic survival and extinction. Hate to go all Jay Hanson on you but...

I think this is what is known as the "Tragedy of the Commons".

Yeah, its the salmon theory of human evolution. As times get tougher for us we'll start producing thousands of spawn in the hopes that a few of them survive.

Are humans smarter than salmon?

Are humans smarter than salmon?

If we reframe the question in terms of genes, the answers are obvious: the genes of yeast, humans, and salmon obey the same dynamics and thus have the same degree of "smart", which in this case would mean contextual adaptive fitness.

I've done studies on comparitive "intelligence" between species, and one of the first things you come up against is that there's no consensus definition for what intelligence IS. As humans, we apply a kind of "well, we know it when we see it" standard, but this doesn't even work that reliably within the USA across different micro-cultures of the same (human) species. "Smartness" is often ascribed to monkey-cleverness in memorizing sequential actions that result in dopamine highs; hence frequent observations of the form "if elephants are so smart, why don't they build skyscrapers?" We need a separate word, wisdom, for the concept of what would actually be worthwhile to do.

Yes, we also have the ability to abstract and conceptualize, but our neocortex is first and foremost used to rationalize the decisions made at lower levels of our triune brain. It is consigned, in general, to a very rare exercise of actual authority, analagous to the Secretary of Agriculture taking over temporary leadership of the USA because the 8 persons in higher succession are indisposed.

We'll see people breeding like crazy as things get worse.

Ever read "Common Fate," a book about salmon and people of the Northwest?

It's really tragic and appalling that we [humans] are this way. We really aren't smarter than yeast.

Those of our ancestors that did not obey the mandate of evolution to be "fruitfly like and multiply" went extinct many centuries ago. We are the offspring of the fruit flies. :-)

Of course, you can continue to delude yourself into thinking that humans are "rational" rather than being the freak consequences of millions of evolutionary dice tosses.

Which is why voluntary population control is the worst possible method. It breeds baby-farmers.

Remember birth rates in the developed World are below replacement level, any population increase bieng due to immigration. So no need to admonish.

Unfortunately oil discovery is also below (MUCH below) replacement level. We should be aiming much higher than just keeping the population stable/slowly shrinking.

There was a recent article posted saying the birth rate in the USA had risen above replacement recently... not a great example to follow.

Maybe medical euthanasia will become fashionable... It makes me sad that (in most countries) we don't legally extend the same compassion we routinely show to our pet cats and dogs.

Nit to pick. It is the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of the US that is now above the 'rule of thumb' replacement level. From memory, demographers consider the US replacement rate to be TFR = 2.1 and it is up to about 2.3. Not really earthshaking. We are gaining more in population from actual immigration.

And the high fertility rates are typically among the immigrants also (especially the cohorts in which the illegals lie).  Deport them and the problem disappears.  Given that there are as many as 20 million illegals alone, deporting them would give us a considerable reprieve on not just fuel, but electricity and water use too.

Why do people repeat such things? A nation of immigrants should deride immigrants... beautiful logic. Not to mention, along with the bees disappearing, should you choose to deport all the immigrants you can kiss a big chunk of the food you eat goodbye... along with restaurant workers, day laborers... Given the "Immigrants destroying America!" meme has been proven false over and over, it would be nice if people would avoid such scapeoating.

Here's a less than exhaustive look at it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_impact_of_illegal_immigrants_in_th...


A nation of immigrants should deride immigrants... beautiful logic.

False premise; this was until recently a nation of citizens (after being a nation of pioneers).  The last time the USA had a huge influx of immigrants, we raised the standards and slashed the numbers until they were assimilated.  This was the case until 1965, and business found that they could get cheap labor by opening the gates.  They privatized the profits from their cheap labor and socialized the costs.  A large majority today is fed up with it, which is why Bush's amnesty bills were defeated despite both parties being in the pockets of open-borders business interests.

You should know better than to cite Wikipedia as any sort of authority.

I know what you mean when you say that you feel your in the midst of an awful tragedy that none of us can control.

I have this constant mental anguish as a result of being peak-oil aware. All of my friends and family are completely optimistic about the future and naive about what is currently unfolding. I dream of the great job, nice car, and big house, but at the same time I'm aware of the impossibility of these dreams over the long run, and have been trying to replace this dream with the dream of owning a completely self-sufficient farm in a small community.

Everybody around me is still in the endless-oil paradigm, and it can be quite lonely going through the motions of believing in endless prosperity and wealth when one realises that this is most likely not the future that will unfold.

When I mention to people that I'm considering not having children, I'm looked at as being selfish which I really cannot understand considering that everybody agrees (at least in private), that billions need to die (these same people usually believe its North Americans that should be the survivors).

I have this constant mental anguish as a result of being peak-oil aware.

I don't. I have seen the end of the world as I know it, I have seen suicides triple, mortality increase by 50% and the anguish this implies.

I have seen friends and neighbors stranded for days with only the food and water that they could loot & share because they voted the wrong way. I have driven through a dark abandoned American city with the smell of 1,000 dead bodies mingled with chemicals.

I have talked with a school custodian who lost his home and his job, came back and got another job and a FEMA trailer. The trailer made him so sick he lost his job and finally he just moved into a tent.

My focus is on struggle, and living life for the moment and connecting with others.

It is enough.

Best Hopes,


Having an uncertain future with a large risk for hardship is nothing new , a large part of humanity has allways had it so. I find comfort in knowing there are very manny things that can be done to ease and solve the resource and environmental problems and I am priviliged to live in a time and place where manny of these good ideas are being implemented by individuals, busines and local- and state government. Lots more can be done but the trend is good, more things are being done this year then the last year and next year will probably be better.

That is absolutely ridiculous! It takes 2 people to make a kid so a family can have up to 2 kids just to replace themselves. Most importantly, what's the point of not having any kids? Save the planet? But you will be dead! You won't have any offspring to enjoy the work that you did to try to improve the planet. Look at the movie "Children of Men." Since there were no more children on the earth, society went into chaos because there was no hope.

With that said, it is incredibly irresponsible for those who can't afford to raise children to have them. But if you can afford them, by all means procreate! What's the point of having a nice, clean planet if you have no offspring who can enjoy it?

This comment is so utterly messed-up in so many ways it's breathtaking.

This comment is so utterly messed-up in so many ways it's breathtaking.

Yeah, after the first paragraph my mind stopped registering it as English (it turned into a mixture of excited screams and frantic howling

Did y'all notice the absurdness in the 'Eco-awakening' article?

Almost every day, Vanessa Wilbourn looked forward to a cup of tea from Starbucks on her drive to high school.

Then several weeks ago, she started wondering about whether her habit was good for the Earth. ...

Wilbourn switched to making tea for herself in a ceramic mug on most days. That action saves paper cups, cash and carbon dioxide emissions from her PT Cruiser.

She also has altered other routines.

“Changing my car would be too much, but using canvas bags at the grocery store or buying organic foods or using one water bottle, I can do that,” ...

So tea or grocery bags is the problem, not a 17-year-old "needing" to drive to school in a single-occupancy vehicle?

I would say you have to start somewhere. It certainly points up the mind-set of the current occupants of the earth, at least in the industrialized areas.

Of course, the kids didn't think that mindset up themselves -- they were taughtby adults in control of the vast marketing system that is our cocoon.

I personally know a lot of high-schoolers who are concerned, and don't waste, and are looking for real alternatives -- you don't hear about them in the media, because the media is about consumption, and that attitude is the most dangerous of all.

because the media is about consumption,

Hi NeverLNG,

On consumption I posted this yesterday and added a snip from the Wiki link so no need to link unless full article would be of interest. Also have elaborated for clarity (Ihope)

One described his parents' latest trip, a vacation to Tahiti by air. Everyone seemed to think this was a great idea.

Out of the mouths of children! That states what the current civilization is primarily concerned with, instrumentality* in the advancement of consumption. How can there be a solution to the problem (of a limited energy flow) when the 'mechanism' can't, by its very structure, allow a solution.

I think the complexity of our civilization is so set in the ideas of the industrial revolution , (that is Capitalism with its attribute of limitless growth of wealth, production, consumption and population) that it is foolish to expected it to solve the problems of resource depletion, population increase, or global warming.

If there is a peaceful solution, that would be nice. Personally I think that the best outcome would be through the formation of a civilization that was responsive to the new situation of limited energy and resources. Unfortunately I think that would be accomplished only through a very sudden Collapse of this rather slavering beast of a civilization,

*In social and critical theory, instrumental rationality is often seen as a specific form of rationality focusing on the most efficient or cost-effective means to achieve a specific end, but not in itself reflecting on the value of that end. Thus, to the extent that rationality is concerned with critically evaluating actions, instrumental rationality tends to focus on the 'hows' of an action, rather than its 'whys'.


1. Joseph Tainter has an interesting theory about collapse. A very short book http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Complex-Societies-Studies-Archaeology/dp/..., but pretty much says it all. It frequently comes up on this site.

2. Capitalism (and for that matter, most industrialized "socialist" societies) must always increase exponetially by the very nature of their fundamental structure -- until they run out of resources. There is no "steady state" capitalism.

3. Our modern gurus thought they had found a way to engineer little collapses along the way so that over time the capitalist enterprise would be self-sustaining, and be functionally steady-state. Of course, Mr. Bernanke is now discovering that to be largely illusory and self-deluding rather than self-sustaining.

4. The North American native civilizations appear to have found a way to live for 30,000+ years in some kind of balance with the planet -- one wonders whether that refusal to industrialize pre-European conquest was an intentional, conscious decision. Certainly Indians make perfectly good capitalists when turned loose in the modern post-conquest world (provided they are given access to capital and not prevented from "succeeding". There is nothing genetic about it.

Thanks for the mention of Tainter he is mentioned often and highly regarded by Homer Dixon in his book The Up Side of Down, Have looked for a copy but with no luck at the local library, I might have to break down and purchase :(

I also agree and on your point 4. ... you betcha N.American natives are right up there with our capitalists, that is if the tribe my grandfather had a hundred year lease on a lake-front property with are any example. As soon as that lease ran out the property was turned into a tourist business with more RV's than trees. Actually it was very depressing to return to the place and see it looking that way ... no there is nothing genetic about it, it's just cultural ... our culture.

sorry to leave this double post up all day, was on the run taking son back after spring break

Spring break in winter?

Being Sunday, I guess it's appropriate to confess my sins.

When I was in the latter years of high school (a bit over ten years ago now), I lived in an apartment unit about, ohhh, 0.5 km from the school. I drove my Taurus to and from school almost every day. This was a small village with very few of the 'essential' venues for a teenager to visit (fast food outlets, arcades, shopping malls, etc.), so it was also a regular habit for me to jump in my car and drive to a larger town 30 minutes south when I felt I 'needed' something from town.

Unlike Vanessa Wilbourn (the HS student from the story), I never contemplated the effects of my wasteful habits on the Earth. Never did I think about using reusable mugs, planning my trips more rationally, or anything really other than what was most convenient for me in the short term.

Today, however, and only after several incremental steps, I'm 180 degrees from the Old Me.

I would like to echo NeverLNG and say that kids often just need a chance to unlearn some of the things they were taught. I also imagine that, generally, kids today are probably much more aware of certain issues than the kids of 12 years ago were.

Right now, Vanessa may feel that her PT Cruiser and some of her meta-habits are "non-negotiable". But I'm not so sure that I'd characterize her incremental awakening as absurd.

That said, I am rather critical of 'green consumerism'. My partner and I were going to start a business that sells eco-friendly products, but we bailed for a variety of reasons. A major one was the absurdity of urging consumers to shop and consume less within a business model that demanded more and more profit every year in order to make all the stakeholders happy. My partner and I felt that we were going to 'sell out' and incrementally forget why we started the venture in the first place. So now we're starting a non-profit community permaculture project.

I'm afraid that I've said too much, considering it was unsolicited. I guess my point is that things change, sometimes for the better, and not always in the way we expect or that our present behaviors indicate. I'd rather have our high schools filled with kids like Vanessa than kids like I used to be.

Hi SA,

I'd rather have our high schools filled with kids like Vanessa than kids like I used to be.

I agree wholeheartedly. It demonstrates self-reflection and a willingness to change and, over time, even these seemingly small steps can turn into some pretty big strides. And if it makes you feel any better, I lived eight short blocks from my high school I drove a Chrysler station wagon large enough to carry that PT Cruiser with the back seat upright and I never once considered the consequences of my actions. Vanessa is miles ahead of where I would have been at her age.



When I was in high school, '69 - '71ish some of my friends were dropping 427's with three-duces in to '67 cameros and 396 Chevele SS's .

One guy I know flew out to california, bought a 48 anglia with a blueprinted 454 with a 6-71 GMC on it and bought a 57 nomad with trailer and drove all it back.(It had gas lines like garden hoses)

Actually drove the Anglia on the street. Same guy had a 62 vette with the 375 hp 327 and it could pick it's front wheels up. Amazing sight on mainstreet.

Gas that was cheap. We just got drunk in the sheer intoxicating pleasure of it.

It was the supreme example of "It's was the best of times and worst of times." That was the peak I think.

Sad, Soo Sad. Samsara, We'll be happy if we just had... again and again.

Yeh, that is so freaking awesome, dude. Making your own tea. I wish I had thought of that. Whatever happened to car pooling? Nah, they've all gotta have their own goddamned car.

I walked to high school. Even tho, by about 100 feet, I was far enough away to be eligible for the bus.
35 years later, with an abundance of other peculiarities that could be seized upon, being the freak that walked is what old classmates single out.
No one rode a bike. The few who tried discovered their parked bikes vandalized past recognition.
Parking permits were scarce at that old school so you'd see the lucky few who had spaces driving monster Impala and Fury wagons with 8 friends inside. Now you see houses torn down to clear the way for more and more parking. The bus still runs but any who rode it would have no status at all.

Last year the EU held 10% of their wheat land out of production. We paid farmers $50.00/acre to hold 36 Million acres out of production. There was a Terrible Drought in Australia, topped by lesser droughts in India, and other wheat producing countries.

Folks, US, and EU subsidies have held the prices of agricultural commodities so low for so long that Third World Farmers (70 percent of Africa's poor are subsistence farmers) could Not afford to raise corn, or wheat. This is changing. Prices are getting up to where they make sense. It won't happen immediately, but in a few years we will see an enormous amount of cereal grains coming out of the Third World.

By the Way, Sweden's goal is to derive 49% of it's energy from Renewable Sources by 2020. They, also, want to go "Oil-Free" by 2020.


Thank you Kdollso for your post about wheat, hit the nail on the head, it is something I think that's need to be said here for several weeks.

You're Welcome, AD. I think a few of the Malthusians among us should consider what a little locally-produced lime could do in large areas of Africa, and S America.


I know I link to this outfit a lot; but, they've had several very good articles along these lines in the last few weeks.

Ha! You think drought and disruption to the food supply are transient and not are part of a larger shifting of weather patterns. Welcome to the Ohshitocene, enjoy your stay.

That were a good summary article link.

In parallell to these biomass investents we have ongoing grid strenghtening, upratings and life lenght extension of our 10 nuclear reactors adding the equivalent of an additional reactor and the refining and petrochemical industry are investing heavily to process lower grade crude into premium products.

The currently biggest long term investment debates are if and when we should allow private industry to start building completly new nuclear powerplants and how much and how fast we should invest in railways.

Other relevant investments going on are in energy saving renovation of houses and hybrid car technology.

Hi Kdolliso,

I appreciate your thoughtful comments on this and other posts. Biofuels are partly a new source of liquid fuel, and partly arbitrage on the price of oil and the price of the natural gas that is used in making fertilizer and in processing corn to make ethanol. To the extent that biofuels give us flexibility in how we approach our future transportation fuel supply, they are a good thing. Biofuels do couple the price of food and the price of oil in ways that they have not been coupled before, and we are going to have to figure out how to respond to this. It is also true that recent work by Alex Farrell at Berkeley


indicates that biofuels may not be of as much help in lowering greenhouse gas emissions as a lot of us had hoped. However, it does appear that biofuels will help farmers in many places make a good living, and I would rather send my money to farmers anywhere than to petrothugs in Venezuela, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.


And, thank you Dave R, and Jack for your comments. I wouldn't worry too much about those articles in Science Magazine. They were pretty poor on real science, with outdated statistics, and a whole lot of "could be's," "maybes," and "what ifs " (none of which are very likely. It was irritating, but not of much substance.

Let me say, "I, also, think it's going to be an extremely scary scenario in a couple of years (or sooner) when we wake up to the enormity of the challenge facing us. I just think we're in better long term (medium term?) shape than some realize.

Yes. Remember the argument used to be that developed countries subsidies were murder because the cheap prices forced developing countires to abandon farming and become dependent on imports.

Now that prices are high, it is biofuels that are murder. No one wants to think about unused land or that fact that millions of acres go to produce sugar, tobacco, alcohol, corn syrup, meat or cotton.

Any one who owns a second shirt, drives a car, consumes sugar, or smokes should be called murderers too.

Once an industry/society/economic system has been destroyed, it is difficult to recreate it in a few months.

Prolonged high food prices will bring many 3rd World farmers back, after the better part of a decade I suspect. With quite a bit of human suffering till then.

And some viable land will not come back, too much social & economic distress and chaos.


The once popular trolley — in 1902, there were 987 traction companies throughout the nation with a capacity of 4.8 billion passengers

A key statistic from the linked article !

And to put this in context, in the 1900 census the United States had a population of 76,212,168 (more than half rural, but interurbans served many of them), not much more than France today and a GDP inflation adjusted of less than 3% of today.

The technology was pre-oil and quite primitive by today's standards.

Best Hopes for Doing what we did before,


San Angelo, Texas, circa 1908, showing four modes of transportation: walking, bike, horses, electric trolley car.

Good post by Mish on BOA’s attempt to get a government bailout. It’s interesting that Bank of America is one of the most aggressive banks when it comes to jacking up consumers' credit card rates. Now they want you to bail them out. Consumers get a twofer--higher credit card rates and higher taxes. Oh, and these are the guys behind the recent change in bankruptcy law that made it much more difficult for Americans to file Chapter Seven bankruptcy.


. . . A plunge in home prices should not be catastrophic. It should be welcome. Property taxes would drop and housing prices would be more affordable. Where are all the affordable housing clowns hiding out now anyway?

. . . Innocent victims are easy to spot. Those who stayed out of the mess but saw property taxes soar to the moon anyway. The second set of innocent victims were those on fixed incomes who got paid a lousy 1% in their money market accounts while the Fed blew the biggest credit bubble the world has ever seen. . . .

A while ago the rumour was BOA was promised a bailout if they took over Countrywide-should be interesting.

The banks, (including BoA, I presume) are trying to dump foreclosed houses left and right. Here's just one auction site.


Check out the 1000 house auction in Northern California, which ends today. The next big one is in the Virginia/Maryland area in a couple of weeks. Some of the listings seem like great deals, until you notice that there are unlisted minimum acceptable bids. That's OK, they come with EZ Financing (surprise, surprise)!

E. Swanson

"...18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax."

This could have been raised before gasoline hit $3 per gallon.
I remember the Transportation Secretary saying that there would be no more money for new roads around 2005. The Republican congress majority and president would not act on this. I hope the new President and Congress in 2009 will.

There are people that say suburbs are bad. We need good roads to have a healthy economy. The gas tax is fixed and not a percentage of sale price, maybe it should be.

Another prediction:

Gasoline taxes paid at the pump will go DOWN before they go up.

They will not go up in any near-term timeframe. We saw the beginning of this after Katrina and the first big jump in prices. Legislation was written, politicians railed, consumers demanded, all for cheaper gas. When the next big price jump occurs, I predict taxes for environmental mitigation will be abolished. Probably road maintenance too. And for whatever else we collect gas taxes. Just look at the debate here in the US. We'll investigate, subsidize, bail-out and fast-track anything for cheaper gas.

I pity the political fool who tells Amerikans they need to pay more for gas.

I've pasted one of the above articles here to illustrate how math can really change one's perception. In this case, a 100 pounds is 15 dollars, but 500 lbs. costs 7500, when one would think it should only cost 75. And with increasing prices 500 lbs. now costs 25,000 dollars, instead of 250. Hmm, is my calculater broken, or is it because I struggled with new math?

Wheat shortage gets bakers right in the bread basket:

Like flour-dependent businesses all over the country, Formica Brothers has been hit hard by the drastically rising price of flour, which has increased by about 250 percent in just six months.
"In August, a 100-pound bag of flour cost about $15. Today it's over $50," said Formica, of Margate. "For us, that means we went from paying $7,500 a week for a shipment of 500 pounds of flour to now paying over $25,000."

Saw that too. The baker knows his costs or he'd be out of business. Reporters, like politicians, are purely verbal personalities and so hopelessly innumerate.

500 times $15 = $7500
500 times $50 = $25000

It is meant to say 'shipment of five hundred 100-pound bags of flour'

Antarctic glaciers surge to ocean

UK scientists working in Antarctica have found some of the clearest evidence yet of instabilities in the ice of part of West Antarctica. If the trend continues, they say, it could lead to a significant rise in global sea level...

...The "rivers of ice" have surged sharply in speed towards the ocean...

...There is good reason to be concerned.

Satellite measurements have shown that three huge glaciers here have been speeding up for more than a decade. The biggest of the glaciers, the Pine Island Glacier, is causing the most concern. He told the BBC: "This is a very important glacier; it's putting more ice into the sea than any other glacier in Antarctica. "It's a couple of kilometres thick, its 30km wide and it's moving at 3.5km per year, so it's putting a lot of ice into the ocean."...

...Throughout the 1990s, according to satellite measurements, the glacier was accelerating by around 1% a year. Julian Scott's sensational finding this season is that it now seems to have accelerated by 7% in a single season, sending more and more ice into the ocean.

"The measurements from last season seem to show an incredible acceleration, a rate of up to 7%. That is far greater than the accelerations they were getting excited about in the 1990s."

Hello Burgundy,

Thxs for the info. Compare with the following link, then extrapolate more of the WAIS moving into the sea:

PARIS (AFP) - Canadian geologists say they can shed light on how a vast lake, trapped under the ice sheet that once smothered much of North America, drained into the sea, an event that cooled Earth's climate for hundreds of years.

And then, around 8,200 years ago, Agassiz-Ojibway massively drained, sending a flow of water into the Hudson Strait and into the Labrador Sea that was 15 times greater than the present discharge of the Amazon River.

By some estimates, sea levels rose 14 metres (45 feet) as a result.
I have posted much speculation before on WAIS scenarios incorporating the subglacial lakes, volcanism, superjokuhlaups, the Bentley Trench [which by itself is the size of Mexico], and other phenomena.

If the Antarctic circumpolar current breaks down due to global warming disruption of thermohaline oceanic currents plus massive freshwater and ice flows from the WAIS-- could we see the ocean sea-level pop up 5-10 feet almost overnight? or more?

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

The posted article "High oil prices take a toll on the middle class in the Middle East" got me thinking. Maybe there is a nastier version of "export land" raising up it head.

Not quite sure what to call it, "foodland"? High oil prices are helping middle east treasuries, but inflation and high food prices are hurting the residents of those countries. The locals know oil prices are high, but they are getting poorer. Seems like a recipe for a new middle east version of the Niger delta's problems.

In the past in the comments here I've speculated that the biofuels initiative could be a strategic bonus to the United States even if the energy economics are rather iffy.

ie. It drives up the price of food. The US is the largest net exporter of food measured in calories. If people think the US is a hamstrung giant on account of it's massive oil import dependence, well, the Americans definitely are not without recourse: food is even more basic than oil.

By burning food as fuel and driving food prices higher world wide, the US can rattle everybody's cage and remind them of what the reality is. The US is the Saudi Arabia of food.

I can remember my dad ranting about how idiotic this song was. ("Cheaper Crude or No More Food," by Bobby Butler.) He said it would never work, because lots of countries sold food, but only a few sold oil. So if we tried a food embargo, someone else would just sell OPEC the food they needed.

I guess "peak food" might change that balance of power.

Its the export land model in reverse. Next year, the US will stop exporting food and use all surplus to run cars. And Saudi Arabia will stop exporting fuel and use it all to grow food. Or economics will just sort it all out like it usually does.

Without high grain prices due to biofuel production we could have added farm foreclosures due to the high prices of fuel and fertilizer to the home foreclosure problem.

Re: Putin’s Iron Grip on Russia Suffocates His Opponents

There are about 300 comments here - http://community.nytimes.com/article/comments/2008/02/24/world/europe/24...

Mr Levy doesn't like that Mr Putin did the following:

..extended control over the government and large swaths of the economy. He has suppressed the independent news media, nationalized important industries..

Isn't it what the US doing or will have to do in the near future?

Note the little detail: western backed opposition. Kasparov and Kasyanov are not viable candidates in Russia's interest. The first is a neocon dirtbag with an open anti-Russian agenda and the second is a Yeltsin era corrupt holdover with less than 1% support. As for independent media, the Gusinsky and Berezovsky media holding were hardly paragons of freedom. Think Fox News and Murdoch but much worse. I guess Sweden had a repressed media since it's main news outlets and TV channels were state owned. These professional Russia bashers always ignore the fact that there are plenty of newspapers (some still owned by Berezovsky) that are widely read (a cultural difference from North America where the print media is declining). I dare anyone to produce US and Canadian equivalents of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, The Moscow Times, Kommersant and other rags that spend most of their time trying to boost the west and put Russia down.

Only thanks to the much maligned and ignored Ralph Nader will there be more than two candidates on the presidential ballot in the US. In Russia there will be four and if Putin's so-called successor is such a big imposition on Russians they are free to protest vote for the other three. Who all have quite different platforms in contrast the the Republicans and Democrats that are essentially identical as far as the rest of the universe is concerned.

Only thanks to the much maligned and ignored Ralph Nader will there be more than two candidates on the presidential ballot in the US.

Errr no.

In many states the Libertarians and the Green Party has ballot status. Then you have the Constitution party and a few others who have status.

Last go-round for Mr. Nader, he was not in some states and had Green Party support. This time, I doubt he'll have the Green Party backing, so he should end up on less state ballots.

Putin stopped giving away the country like Yeltsin was, which is why the NYTimes and WaPost don't like him.

Coal's advocates say they remain optimistic, because America has 200 years' worth of reserves - and growing electricity needs. "If you don't want to use coal," asks Janet Gellici, executive director of the American Coal Council, "which 12 hours of the day don't you want electricity?"


The National Science Foundation doubts that estimate.

It is clear that there is enough coal at current rates of production to meet anticipated needs through 2030, and probably enough for 100 years, the committee said. However, it is not possible to confirm the often-quoted assertion that there is a sufficient supply for the next 250 years



What I've thought to be amongst the most absurd interpretations of the "250 year"-talkers is that somehow increases in annual coal use won't reduce that number. It is as if somehow the concept of "subtraction" was left out in grade-school math classes.

That's not exactly how US coal reserves are calculated.
They are based on economics as well. There is a 267 billion ton reserve of coal that can be economically recovered out of a 493 billion ton demonstrated reserve.


A technology like in-situ underground gasification could radically increase the amount of coal available for use.


I think it VERY LIKELY that US coal will provide power for at least a couple hundred years, assuming that we acknowledge GW and capture and sequester the CO2 from new IGCC coal plants ASAP.
This will require us to pay more electricity but the increase in thermal efficiency will balance the energy requirements of capture and transport.

IGC works fine without the sequestration. Thus the sequestration is an added expense, and a large one. Which is why it will never happen.

As for the time the coal will last, growth in usage will quickly overcome any enhanced recovery. Amazing how Al Bartlett's calculations of the life of a finite resource under exponentially growing extraction rate are still ignored, after he's given his talk over 3000 times. E.g., if the coal would last 300 years under current rate of use, it would only last 77 years if the usage were to grow 3% per year. And if we were to actually seriously try and replace our oil with coal (CTL, electricity etc) the growth rate would be more like 10% per year. If that could be done all the way to a sudden "running out", exhaustion of the "300-year" coal reserves would happen in 34 years.

Or better it buys us about 20 years to move off fossil fuels.
And I suspect if we are talking CTL at the mine and pipelines then its really more like 15 years before coal becomes a issue. Plus of course we run out of NG during the same time period so coal for electricity would also have to be ramped up significantly over our current burn rate. If I had to guess although I've not looked we are probably going to need to grow coal fired plants at a coal usage rate of 5% higher a year just to stay even within the next few years.

So to grow and offset oil declines in oil a 15% per year all out move back to coal would probably be required. So the bottom line is if we do use more coal it should be focused on supporting development of electrified rail and sustainable energy source. So we can get a wedge effect. Otherwise we just hit the wall again fairly quickly.

Also note that within 10 years we probably will be responsible for Mexico like it our not and this includes energy.

Memmel, Your posts always include some little nugget to think about. US having to care of Mexico,WOW

Hi majorian,

The demonstrated reserve base includes all coal that is legal to mine and that satisfies minimum seam thickness and maximum depth requirements. For example, for bituminous coal, the DRB includes coal seams 28 inches or more thick, down to 1,000 feet. These criteria have not changed since the 70's, so it is a stretch to say that they are based on economics.

The graph below shows how US coal reserves have evolved over time.

The trend has been steadily downward, from 2.3Tt (trillions of metric tonnes) in 1918 in the study by Marius Campbell to 239Gt (billions of metric tonnes) today. Expressed in terms of the production at the time, we had about 4,000 years of coal in 1918, and about 200 years of coal today. The last reserves survey was done in the 70's, and the study by the National Academy of Sciences that Alan Drake references above has given us fair warning that when we do the next one, our reserves will go down again.

In hindsight, the problem is that the early studies were simply too optimistic. For example for bituminous coal, Marius Campbell used a minimum seam thickness of 14 inches and a maximum depth of 3,000 feet, with a 71% recovery factor. He did not apply strict rules on the spacing between measurement points, and this led to some spurious coal fields. The current averaged recovery factor for reserves is 54%, and it is now required that there be a measurement within 3/4 of a mile away for the coal to be counted in the DRB.

To follow up on this, see the .ppt and .xls file at



thanks for your ppt, xls.

There's a bit of material to digest but I have some comments.
1.) I can't believe the R/P because high sulfur (Illinois) or high sodium(Montana) coal isn't being mined-- looking at EIA data, Illinois with 100 billion tons is not a coal producing state producing less than 33 million tons per year. With CCS, all these coals would be mineable.

2.) A technology like underground gasification should change the productivity of thin and deep layers. When coal gets to the price of natural gas you will see there what you see in the ingenuity being brought to natural gas out of coal beds and gas sands and shales.

3.) Oil shales--600 billion barrels( maybe another 300 billion tons of 'lignite'?) which you have excluded from your calculation have been burnt as lignite for decades in Estonian power plants, etc. and with in-situ methods this hydrocarbon should even more accessible.

You conclude that we should simply give up on coal--that's quite a leap! I agree we need to give up on all 'cheap energy' but coal will buy us a couple hundred years of time. Renewables are simply not able to do the job. The US has about 400 GW of coal plants: to replace them with wind or solar we would need 1000 GW of wind/solar farms and we have no practical means of energy storage, nor are we likely to have any! Coal gasification to syngas can be stored and coal can go from a base load source of electricity to off peak. Electricity needs to be severely rationed, to reduce a base feed by 'conveniences'( electric trains, TVs, streetlighting,etc. Eventually wind, nuclear and solar will become the new base with remaining fossils doing the peaking.

In summary, your hubbert linearization is premature for the US coal IMO--it might hold for world hydrocarbons though( assuming you include unconventional resources): for example, if you include unconventional oil in with conventional oil you get a different peaking date as CERA does, probably more of a double peak.

Is Hubbert linearization a matter of supply reserves in the ground or demand i.e. energy gets too expensive to produce causing demand destruction? Our current world market indicates little demand destruction so far IMO. We know the price of CCS, and it doesn't appear that it is so high that we can't pay it. As far as GW goes, if we can stop emitting CO2 by burying it we should have electricity for several more generations--and even a bit more if we radically reduce our cheap energy lifestyle.

Hi majorian,

Your response is too broad for me to make comments on most of it. The purpose of my comment was just to try to shake your confidence in the US coal reserve numbers. They have gone down in the past, and are likely to go down in the future.

A Hubbert linearization is production based, so it does not give information about speculative resources like oil shale. Given the history of shale oil salesmen, this is probably a good thing.

We have no clue how long it would take to set up CCS nor how much it would cost because of the transportation issues. It is easy to imagine communities not wanting CO2 pipelines running through their neighborhoods.


Are you coming from the same place as the Energywatch group?


They say US coal production is peaking because for instance, Montana coal is less desirable than pastureland. This is the same sort of argument as 'the Stone age didn't end for a lack of stones'. Illinois coal production is down because it can't be burned cleanly. Technology can change that.

My confidence in US numbers is not shaken.
Look at WEC Tables 1-1,1-2i,ii,iii.

I find that the US has 446 billion tons proven tons and 1112 additional reserves.

You show the difficulties of expanding underground reserves but 2/3 of US coal( and increasing) is surface mined. Longwall mining and mountain top removal is replacing shortwall underground mining techniques--such methods will recover more coal.


CCS will eliminate most of the power plant emissions of coal, which should make it more acceptable once the capital issues are addressed.

"A Hubbert linearization is production based, so it does not give information about speculative resources like oil shale."

Then a hubbert linearization cannot
take into account new technologies or attitudes about coal either. So what good is it?
Maybe it can calculate the die-off in a petrie dish filled with bacteria? Maybe not.

CCS would require a whole new generation of coal fired plants, located near mines and sequestration sites to minimize transport, electricity would be delivered via an enhanced grid. The current electric generation method is too inefficient for an energy constrained world, they should be phased out on that basis alone.
We should be using more fuel cells, gas turbines, etc. The main advantage as I stated before is that we would only need to replace 350 GW of nameplate generation: at $1500 per kw for IGCC, that would be only $525 billion dollars and would reduce our carbon emissions by a third.

But we already have a huge system of high pressure cross country natural gas transmission lines that can run CO2 in them. At 1500 psi, a given pipe can hold 3 times as many pounds of CO2 as methane. True, we'd have to increase the compressor sizes.

The main advantage as I stated before is that we would only need to replace 350 GW of nameplate generation: at $1500 per kw for IGCC, that would be only $525 billion dollars and would reduce our carbon emissions by a third.

Unfortunately, 1/3 is completely inadequate; we need an 80% reduction at the minimum, and probably need to go carbon-negative.  Coal gasification would need to be followed by either:

  • Water-gas shift to convert CO to hydrogen, followed by separation of CO2 as a separate stream (FutureGen), or
  • Pre-combustion separation of CO and methane from hydrogen, with the CO+CH4 directed to a system like SOFCs which keeps the CO2 from being diluted with air.  Waste heat could still be used to run turbines, and the hydrogen could be used industrially.

But we already have a huge system of high pressure cross country natural gas transmission lines that can run CO2 in them. At 1500 psi, a given pipe can hold 3 times as many pounds of CO2 as methane.

Those pipelines would also have to run where we need the CO2 to go.  Do they?

My understanding is that the IPCC isn't talking about an immediate 80% reduction today but to something like 80% in 2050.

See fig 3a. below

The biggest CO2 emitter as you know is coal fired electricity and I propose addressing that one immediately.
Cellulosic ethanol is the easiest way to reduce carbon emissions on balance for vehicles.
The IGCC actually does make hydrogen but using hydrogen for cars doesn't seem to be worth the fossil fuel with present technology.

As for gas pipelines...

Actually in some cases, yes! Depleted oil/gas fields in the US(which is where the pipelines go) could hold 90 billion tons of tons of CO2--25 years of our current coal plant emissions, and in the future 160 billion tons in unmineable coal seams or a trillion tons in saline formations.


Add these up and you have hundreds of additional years of coal use( probably more than all the remaining US coal reserves).

I'm not sure how much longer US natural gas supplies will hold up. Is it decades? David Hughes estimated 10 years a year ago. When those pipelines are empty, what will we use them for?



The IPCC is a creature of consensus between governments, and its targets are in the neighborhood of 450-500 ppm CO2.  Given the pace of change evident today, I'm more certain than I've ever been that James Hansen is right and we need to start heading down to 300-350 ppm starting ASAP.  Just bringing production in line with natural removal requires something like an 80% reduction; fixing matters will require carbon-negative systems.

You are setting up some kind of phony rivalry between IPCC and James Hansen. The GW deniers add to the confusion as well. Hansen may 'feel' that GW is accelerating more than IPCC indicates and is increasing his margin of error but I havent seen his calculations proving that 350ppm will stop global warming.

Instead I see this(Fig.4)


Coal phaseout with CCS keeping us under 450 ppm.
Leaving oil in the ground and Peak Oil doesn't make a big difference for GW. The big mover is CCS.

Hansen is saying all new coal plants must be CCS and phase out of conventional coal plants.

This is precisely what I've been arguing.

If you can find some reference for what you're talking about I'd really like to see it.

What scares me about what you say is that it feeds into a sense of hopelessness which will aid the GW deniers greatly.

If you can find some reference for what you're talking about I'd really like to see it.

See this Hansen presentation; the relevant stuff is on pages 4 and 5.

What scares me about what you say is that it feeds into a sense of hopelessness which will aid the GW deniers greatly.

I don't think we do anyone a favor by understating the magnitude of the job before us.

Do you see me looking hopeless?  I'm all about solutions.  Let's start with biochar and go from there.  It may take 50 years, and we may have to do some geoengineering to maintain the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps in the mean time; so be it.  No time to lose feeling sorry for ourselves, let's get cracking.

I listened to Hansen's comments. He proposes 300-350ppm IF we hope to avoid disappearance of arctic ice, mountain glacier melting, coral reefs, climate pattern changes, etc.
Well, guess what--that's already happening.

I don't see him regarding it as a 'red-line' as far as action goes: his scenarios are for the 400ppm level.

He's recommending either phasing out all coal plants or only allowing CCS plants, which will cause CO2 emissions to peak at 400ppm. He doesn't recommend controlling emissions from conventional oil or gas. This is where I thought he was and the slide he shows are the same shown in the GISS link I posted. His other
solution is land use restrictions and adding forests--that's probably more difficult than CCS as it largely occurs in the chaotic third world.

I think your being quixotic thinking we'll terraform Greenland or build hydrogen cars.
I am sure Hansen would agree that CCS coal is the number one
strategy for fighting GW, everything else is
in the developed world unimportant in comparison. If that can't be done, then we'd simply have to abandon coal and shutdown the electric grid in most places and that's not a plan.

guess what--that's already happening.

We're also at 385 ppm CO2, not 325.  Do try to follow along.

I think your being quixotic thinking we'll terraform Greenland

You misunderstand.  I think we'd be better off using e.g. stratospheric aerosols to block sunlight to halt the loss of the Greenland icecap and WAIS than allowing these to proceed while we bring CO2 down.  The loss of coastal land would far outweigh anything we could get from taking the ice off Greenland.

or build hydrogen cars.

You obviously haven't been reading what I write; I am a staunch opponent of the various hydrogen boondoggles and have been for years.

I know that!!
(You're being rather snarky here!)
I'm taking Hansen at his proposed 400ppm GW mitigation route.

Has Hansen endorsed 'stratospheric aerosols' as a 'solution'. Are you talking about crystals of sulfur to reflect sunlight? With what repercussions?
(Too much poetry and not enough engineering!)

On hydrogen, I was triggered by what you posted...

"Coal gasification would need to be followed by either:

Water-gas shift to convert CO to hydrogen, followed by separation of CO2 as a separate stream (FutureGen), or
Pre-combustion separation of CO and methane from hydrogen, with the CO+CH4 directed to a system like SOFCs which keeps the CO2 from being diluted with air. Waste heat could still be used to run turbines, and the hydrogen could be used industrially."

Sounds like a massive switch to hydrogen to me!

I used to be pro-hydrogen, but it's not happening. Actually all our technology fixs seem to be failing us here at the end.

And yes, I've only recently stubbled up on TOD!

Has Hansen endorsed 'stratospheric aerosols' as a 'solution'.

I didn't look, and it doesn't matter.  Others have been suggesting this or similar possibilities for 20 years or so.

Are you talking about crystals of sulfur to reflect sunlight?

Droplets of sulfuric acid.  These are effective, easy and cheap to generate, and drop out in a year or two.

With what repercussions?

Rapid sea-surface cooling, a sharp drop in atmospheric CO2 (see the flattening around 1992-4, after the Pinatubo eruption).  We know this works, and that the world comes through it well (at least on a temporary basis).

Sounds like a massive switch to hydrogen to me!

Look again.  Show me where "vehicles" are mentioned.  (You won't find it there.)  I was proposing a coal carbon-sequestration scheme with add-ons, not a hydrogen economy.  Anything that gasifies coal is going to produce hydrogen, and carbon separation can be done in more than one way; pre-combustion separation of CO and CH4 without the energy loss of the water-gas shift is one I haven't seen touted, but is obviously among the possibilities.  We might as well opt for the highest efficiency we can practically use.

Hi majorian,

"I find that the US has 446 billion tons proven tons and 1112 additional reserves."

Please check the WEC tables again. These numbers are for coal in place; not reserves.

Hubbert linearizations are better predictors of the course that British coal production and Pennsylvania anthracite production took than reserve estimates are. In both cases the reserve estimates badly over-estimate production.


Hello DaveR

The WEC site is for reserves but is based in part on self-reporting.


The definition they give for 'proved amount in place' is
"Proved amount in place is the resource remaining in known deposits that has been carefully measured and assessed as exploitable under present and expected local economic conditions with existing available technology."

So the amount in placeseems to be that which is considered by WEC to be exploitable(recoverable).

Here's an interesting graphic. This was taken from the graphic data at www.netoilexports.com.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I am sure there are others who occasionally access TOD on their BlackBerrys. Over the past few weeks, I have found that every time I try to access TOD on my BlackBerry, it either freezes up or takes forever to load. I have very little problems with other sites. Is it just me, or is TOD BlackBerry unfriendly? Is there any way to make TOD more BlackBerry friendly?

We have RSS feeds for the original articles (but not the DrumBeats). Maybe that would help?

If the problem started only recently, it might be the "collapse thread" script SuperG added. I've found Firefox doesn't like it, so I've blocked scripts from TOD. I can't collapse threads any more, but other than that, it doesn't cause any problems. (Dunno if you can do that with a Blackberry.)

Not sure, but the site freezes up on my BlackBerry during the process of "running scripts."

Just wanted to say that I've been reading TOD with Firefox (2.x) both with and without the collapse thread-function, with no problems what so ever. On the other hand I have a pretty heavy adblock-filter, that's maybe where some users problems are, ads that are slow to load?

I read TOD with Firefox (latest) and I see the "a script on this page is taking too long to execute" occasionally but not all the time. I also run adblock. Problem only started after collapse thread was added. I run noscript so I could easily block the script if I wanted.

Does sound like it's the possible cause of the Blackberry problem. I don't have a Blackberry but this should work. Remember to turn it back on again if you need scripts for other sites.

How do I configure my BlackBerry Browser?

To configure your BlackBerry Browser, follow the instructions below:

1. On the handheld's Home screen, click the BlackBerry Browser icon.

2. Click the trackwheel, and then select Options.

3. Select Browser Configuration. The Browser Configuration screen will appear.

4. To enable or disable support for a particular feature, check the appropriate checkbox:

* To enable or disable support for JavaScript, click the Support JavaScript checkbox, and then click Change Option.

Note: If the Support JavaScript checkbox does not appear on the Browser Configuration screen, it might appear on the General Properties screen. In the browser options, click General Properties. If the Support JavaScript checkbox does not appear on either screen, verify that the JavaScript Package checkbox is selected in Application Loader. If it is not available, contact your service provider to verify that JavaScript is supported.

When the checkbox is selected, support for that feature is enabled. When the checkbox is clear, support for that feature is disabled.
5. To save your changes, click the trackwheel, and then click Save Options.

Thanks, UT. I'll give it a shot.

IMHO, one of the major problems for the USA in dealing with oil depletion is that almost all of the "leaders" can be purchased on the cheap. Realistically, how much does it cost to buy this kind of scum? "I was just doing my job" http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/ny-usark245589997feb24,0,2934440...

Hello dear community

I am putting together investment portfolio based on info here and latoc etc.:
50% foodstuff (Goldman Sachs had some fund, for obvious reasons)
20% industrial precious metals (mining costs up, production down, innovation and enviroment fuels demand)
10% water and alternative/renewable energy (Russia flexes energy muscles on Europe, maybe some innovation comes from it)
10% South America (recent crashes - conservative, low debt rate, food producer and energy exporter)
10% DNDN (probable brakethrough) or Intrum Justitia (there are lots of debtors going under in Europe)

For information and suggestions.

PS. Midtime investor (changes too rapid to be long time), daytrading too nerve wrecking.

the permian basin has produced 30 Gb ?????

i dont have access to the data, but i suspect that is vastly understated.

e.g. wasson field has produced around 2 Gb, slaughter-levelland has produced in excess of 1 Gb, these are not listed in the wiki list of giant oilfields (>0.5 Gb)

Total production for Texas has been about 60 Gb.

ok, ty. as you are well aware, i am sure, the permian basin extends into new mexico as well. i have seen different boundries for the permian basin, some parts of which are probably considered subregions.

from wiki sacroc 1.5 Gb
yates 1.5 Gb
from other wasson~ 2 Gb
slaughter/levelland~ 1 Gb

total 6 Gb

for this basin, at least the giants account for 20% of the total, based on 30Gb. that is one reason, i question the 30 Gb figure.

Energy policy: We won't get there by tinkering

I think Clinton has the most detailed policy. It takes some courage to come out with that. Everyone else can take pot shots at you from all angles. The 100,000 plug ins for the Federal fleet will show lots of data on performance and longevity, taking some of the risk out of it for later adopters.