DrumBeat: February 25, 2008

Russia quietly prepares to switch some oil trading from dollars to rubles

MOSCOW: Russia, the world's second-largest oil-exporting nation after Saudi Arabia, has been quietly preparing to switch trading in Russian Ural Blend oil, the country's primary export, from the dollar to the ruble. But the change, if it comes, is still some time off, industry analysts and officials said.

The Russian effort began modestly this month, with trading in refined products for the domestic market.

Still, the effort to squeeze the dollar out of Russian oil sales marks another project with swagger and ambition by the Kremlin, which has already wielded its energy wealth to assert influence in Eastern Europe and in former Soviet states.

"They are serious," said Yaroslav Lissovolik, the chief economist at Deutsche Bank in Moscow. "This is something they are giving priority to."

Texas oilman takes on Gazprom over giant contract claim

BERLIN: In a court case closely watched by investors, a Texas company is accusing Gazprom of refusing to honor an investment and property agreement in one of Russia's biggest gas fields.

Richard Moncrief, chairman of Moncrief Oil International, said he had decided to use the German courts to establish what he says is a 40 percent stake worth $12 billion, in the vast Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field of western Siberia. The field is intended to supply the underwater Nord Stream pipeline, through which Russia will be able to supply natural gas directly to Germany and Western Europe, bypassing Ukraine, Belarus and Poland.

Companies call for oilsands development freeze: report

For the first time, major oil producers are calling on the Alberta government to introduce a partial moratorium on oilsands development in the province's north, according to a newspaper report.

Progress seen in Nigeria's efforts to collect all oil royalties due

ABUJA, Nigeria: Nigeria has made some headway in getting its fair share of oil revenues from foreign energy companies, but the country, the largest crude producer in Africa, still loses hundreds of millions of dollars each year to theft, according to independent overseers.

Nigeria passed legislation last year establishing an independent body, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, or Neiti, to make sure that major oil companies pay the necessary royalties and taxes.

But anti-corruption activists, while welcoming Neiti, say the law is not strong enough to fully clean up a secretive industry that has spurred systemic corruption in the most populous nation in Africa.

Alaska governor defies oil giants and own party

ANCHORAGE (Reuters) - Alaska's Sarah Palin has made a habit of taking on big opponents and winning, but the Republican governor is facing her toughest fight yet after locking horns with the state's powerful oil industry.

Palin, 44 has taken direct aim at the traditional comfortable partnership between the the big three oil companies in the state - BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil -- and the state Republican party.

Chinese interest in Arctic riches heating up: Calgary political scientist

CALGARY - There's a new global player that wants in on the vast oil and gas reserves that the Arctic region is believed to hold - China.

Saudi Arabia May Urge OPEC to Hold Quotas, CGES Says

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer, may lobby OPEC to maintain output quotas at its March 5 meeting while trimming its own production to curb global supply, the Centre for Global Energy Studies said.

"OPEC is likely to desist from making any output cuts until the second half of the year," the London-based center, known as CGES, said in a report e-mailed today. "Saudi Arabia may insist on keeping quotas the same while varying its own output in pursuit of high prices."

Arctic oil bonanza worries Alaska natives

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Modern technology and surging oil prices have suddenly made the prospect of drilling in the remote, icy Chukchi Sea irresistible to the world's oil giants -- and that is worrying the Inupiat people who have lived at the sea's edge for centuries.

US to set 'binding' climate goals

The US is ready to accept "binding international obligations" on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, officials say, if other nations do the same.

The comments came in a news conference in Paris given by James Connaughton and Daniel Price, environmental and economics advisers to President Bush.

The US hopes the world's major economies will conclude a "leaders' declaration" before the July G8 summit.

Iceland's Heated Debate

The people of Iceland awaken to a stark choice: exploit a wealth of clean energy or keep their landscape pristine.

...As the project progressed, it gradually became clear that Kárahnjúkar was bigger than anyone had imagined. Even Jóhann Kröyer, project manager for the dams and tunnels, remarked over dinner at a work-site canteen: “I think maybe people didn’t realize how huge this project is.”

But as the months passed, a growing and significant minority did realize it, and a kind of national family feud erupted — ostensibly framed around the irreversible impact on the land of the gigantic dam, the blocking of two glacial rivers, and the resultant flooding of the highland wilderness for the reservoir. Iceland had obtained an exemption from the Kyoto Protocol pollution limits, which would expire in 2012, adding an element of urgency, and future smelters and expansions were on the drawing board. Was the government going to take one of the world’s cleanest countries and offer it up as a dumping ground for heavy industry?

China faces shortage of 6 billion tons of oil

TOKYO, Feb 25 (KUNA) -- China, the world's second-biggest energy consumer, faces a shortage of 6 billion tons of oil and 600 million cubic meters of natural gas over the next few years, as the country has entered a phase of rapid mineral consumption amid its rapid industrialization, the official media reported Monday.

"An insufficient supply of resources has become a major bottleneck for the country's development," Wang Min, vice-minister of land and resources, told a national geological survey conference in Beijing, according to the China Daily. Given the goal of doubling the nation's gross domestic output, China is expected to consume 510 million tons of oil, 20 million cubic meters of natural gas, 3.7 billion tons of coal, 400 million tons of steel, 6.6 million tons of copper and 13 million tons of alumina by 2010, Wang noted.

Russian oil supply stop unsettles Germany

BERLIN (UPI) - A surprising oil delivery stop and an unwanted Russian intermediate firm have managed to increase Germany's concern over energy security.

It remains somewhat of a mystery what has caused Russian supplier Lukoil to stop exports to Germany for a second time in less than a year. At least one thing is clear, though: As in most energy rows Russia has had, the latest one is also about money.

Gulf currency union far off, says UAE

Gulf Arab oil producers are still at the start of forming a single currency and may not follow the European Union model, the United Arab Emirates central bank governor said on Monday.

Doomsday vault tunneled into Arctic mountain

LONGYEARBYEN, Norway - A "doomsday" vault built to withstand an earthquake or nuclear strike was ready to open deep in the permafrost of an Arctic mountain, where it will protect millions of seeds from man-made and natural disasters.

Big Foot - In measuring carbon emissions, it’s easy to confuse morality and science

Possessing an excessive carbon footprint is rapidly becoming the modern equivalent of wearing a scarlet letter. Because neither the goals nor acceptable emissions limits are clear, however, morality is often mistaken for science. A recent article in New Scientist suggested that the biggest problem arising from the epidemic of obesity is the additional carbon burden that fat people — who tend to eat a lot of meat and travel mostly in cars — place on the environment. Australia briefly debated imposing a carbon tax on families with more than two children; the environmental benefits of abortion have been discussed widely (and simplistically). Bishops of the Church of England have just launched a “carbon fast,” suggesting that during Lent parishioners, rather than giving up chocolate, forgo carbon. (Britons generate an average of a little less than ten tons of carbon per person each year; in the United States, the number is about twice that.)

Bali Confirmed the Shift: Nation Is On Board Now

WASHINGTON - It's missing the point to think about the United Nations climate change conference in Bali last December based upon on whether specific targets were agreed upon or not. This point ignores dramatic historical changes in the world concerning climate change-related attitudes and approaches. Bali is not Kyoto. The new consensus among the U.S. Congress, President George Bush, and leaders of formerly recalcitrant countries such as India, China, and Australia is this: The international community recognizes climate change, recognizes our shared contribution to it and its impact on all of us, and recognizes our shared responsibility in tackling it.

The cult of continuity

It is a puzzle why so much emphasis is now put on the supposed inevitable continuity of modern industrial life. The argument goes that humans are so very clever that they have brilliantly overcome every resource and ecological constraint on their way to becoming the dominant species. And, now with our powerful new technologies we are poised to dominate the globe forever while adding to it the conquest of outer space. Perhaps every empire including the empire of modern man thinks along similar lines.

But a cursory study of history should lead us to conclude no such thing. Humans have squandered opportunities, let their ambition lead them to destruction, run out of natural resources, and despoiled the landscape beyond repair again and again. Human societies do not always triumph. They tend to rise and fall as if they had a natural life cycle.

OPEC set to fine-tune oil output to match demand

LONDON — A seasonal drop in demand will lead OPEC to curb oil shipments unofficially in the short term, even if it leaves its formal target alone, officials from producer nations and executives said.

Iran shrugs off sanctions threat over atomic plans

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran voiced defiance on Monday as Western powers pushed for new sanctions over its nuclear programme, saying high oil prices will cushion the blow.

Fossil fuel costs to grow

THE WORLD still has plenty of oil. What humanity is running out of is cheap oil.

That fact’s unlikely to change, ever. Which means that historically high costs for crude oil – and, by extension, more expensive prices at the gas pumps – are here to stay.

China's tight coal supply could further limit power

BEIJING: China's shortage of thermal coal could lead to a serious power shortage this year unless additional measures are taken, state media reported on Monday, citing an official from the China Electricity Council.

Santos planning US$12 billion ethanol project

MEXICO: Mexican sugar producer Grupo Santos is planning a US$12 billion ethanol initiative despite the fact that Mexico's legal framework would block project development, Grupo Santos president Alberto Santos de Hoyos told BNamericas, confirming a report from newspaper Reforma.

The project would entail building 60 ethanol plants that would produce a total of 381.4 MMcf per year of ethanol using sugar cane as feedstock, the paper reported.

GM crops can meet India's food, biofuel needs

MUMBAI: India, which recorded the fastest growth in genetically modified (GM) crop adoption globally, could attain food self sufficiency once it allows commercialisation of GM crops, the head of a global research body said on Monday.

"India can become self sufficient in food production by use of biotechnology in food crops," Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, told reporters in an interview.

Energy justice concerns minorities

Black energy industry professionals concerned about the vulnerability of low-income minorities to supply and price volatility want to have a greater say in the distribution of fuel, electricity and other energy sources.

Government seeks UK's first 'cycling city'

The government today launched a £47m quest to establish a British "cycling city" that would get more people on to two wheels, and cut congestion and pollution.

The winning metropolis will join London, which has already announced a £400m cycling and walking programme, in launching a series of initiatives including new cycle routes and training schemes.

Britain's year zero: UK to leap from 'laggard to leader' on carbon dioxide emissions

All new buildings will have to be pollution free, according to a government target to be unveiled this week. As only a handful fit the bill today, there's a long way to go.

Canada: Federal carbon tax proposed

OTTAWA - A carbon tax of $30 a tonne, three times higher than the tax announced last week by the B.C. government, would be part of Tuesday's federal budget if the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives had its way.

Argentina seeks to avoid energy crisis, as Brazil refuses to share Bolivian natural gas

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil has declined to cede any of its imports of Bolivian natural gas to Argentina, which is struggling to find more energy sources to avoid supply shortages that could derail its fast-growing economy.

Argentina and Brazil are facing the possibility of short-term energy crises from a lack of natural gas, which is needed to fuel industries and generate electricity for residents. Bolivia is sitting in the middle, with the region's largest gas reserves.

Companies must provide power to change

Britain's energy companies must transform the way in which they produce, distribute and price power if the public's efforts to become more energy efficient are to have an impact, the chief executive of the UK's consumer energy body argues.

According to Allan Asher, the chief executive of energywatch: “Nothing's going to change unless we reinvent the way that firms produce, distribute and derive profits from energy - and the first thing to do is to break the link with ever-increasing sales and consumption. It's a surprising fact that still, today, every single energy firm charges us less per unit of energy the more we use."

The world gets heavier

In the short term, the growth in ultra-heavy production is expected come from two main sources—the oilsands of Alberta and the Orinco Belt in Venezuela. But other basins will add to supplies longer term.

Good old days of spending at Pentagon will soon come to an end

It's obvious, when you think about it. If the U.S. had no present or prospective "peer competitor", how could the Pentagon justify spending huge amounts of money on next-generation weapons? For beating up on "rogue states", last-generation-but-one weapons are more than adequate. So there has to be a peer competitor, whether it understands its role in the scheme of things or not. And only China can fill that role.

So what is the alleged competition about? Energy, of course, and mostly oil. Michael Klare again: "The Pentagon and U.S. strategists talk openly about U.S.-China competition for energy in Africa, in the Caspian Sea basin, and in the Persian Gulf, and they talk about the danger of a China-Russia strategic alliance that the U.S. has to be able to counter. This is very much part of U.S. concerns. They talk about the Shanghai Co-operation Organization as a proto-military alliance that threatens America's vital interests."

New Zealand: Emergency power costs consumers big

Mr Brownlee says he has been told that the Whirinaki plant is burning between 700,000 and one million litres of diesel a day. It is one of the more expensive ways to generate power and is obviously at odds with Labour’s climate change claims.

“Consumers are facing big power price increases over winter, as energy chiefs warn of a 1,000 M/W shortfall in the North Island. That may mean cold showers and will result in industrial shut downs.

“Burning diesel is expensive and it’ll hit us all in the hip pocket. Labour has utterly failed to future-proof our energy infrastructure.

Energy firms harness tidal stream

Potential opportunities for firms to exploit the energy reserves in the north of Scotland are being promoted.

Possible developments in the Pentland Firth are being investigated by industry executives.

Regenerating From Wasted Energy

Earlier this month, researchers at a Canadian venture firm Bionic Power showed a man-power generator called Biomechanical Energy Harvester.

The device, which resembles an orthopedic knee brace, can generate up to five watts of power without any discomfort to the wearer. For example, for every minute of walking, the device can generate enough power for 10 minutes of talk time on a typical mobile phone, the firm says.

The innovative part of the device is that it can actually make walking more comfortable and less tiring for the wearer of the device. People walk by moving each leg forwards and backwards. The device operates during the end of the moving phase of each leg, which is similar to the braking phase of an automobile or an elevator. Thus, it helps to decelerate and simultaneously produces electrical power.

The Fading Twilight of Oil

Houston investment banker Matthew Simmons is somewhat surprised and obviously pleased that his 2005 'Twilight in the Desert' has now surpassed 100,00 copies in print -- making it a best seller of sorts -- and that it is now available in German, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

But what really pleases him is that despite early and inaccurate accusations that his book criticizes Saudi Aramco for mismanaging Saudi Arabia's giant oil fields, his research efforts have won the praise of the very people who assumed they were the target of his pen.

That praise, however, hasn't tempered his conviction that the world as we know it is about to change irrevocably as the demand for petroleum outpaces supply.

Oil prices approach $100 a barrel

Oil prices pushed toward $100 a barrel Monday as the Turkish incursion into northern Iraq and warnings by Iran against further sanctions heightened concerns over potential crude supply disruptions.

Turkish troops fired more than 40 salvos of artillery shells Monday across the Iraqi border against Kurdish rebels, a day after the military confirmed a Turkish helicopter crashed in Iraq and eight soldiers were killed.

UAE company to build new refinery in Abu Dhabi

The Abu Dhabi Oil Refining Company (TAKREER) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced on Monday that it will build a new refinery in Abu Dhabi Emirate to boost its refinery capacity, Emirates News Agency reported. When completed by 2013, the new refinery will have a capacity of 417,000 barrels per day (bpd), representing 86 percent of TAKREER's current installed refining capacity, according to the report.

Dimensions of oil addiction

In a column in the Trib on President Bush’s recent visit to the Middle East in search of more and cheaper oil, Jonathan Gurwitz asks us to imagine the United States as dependent on hostile, unstable nations for our food supply as we currently are for oil.

No need to imagine.

The alarming truth is that today’s food production does depend on petroleum.

High food prices may force aid rationing

The United Nation’s agency responsible for relieving hunger is drawing up plans to ration food aid in response to the spiralling cost of agricultural commodities.

Can Turkish economy survive high energy prices?

One of the test beds of peak oil, or supply constraints, is Turkey. The country is not gifted with many hydrocarbon reserves and faces a decline in its oil production. The rising thirst of energy for this developing country relies on exports from close countries. Natural gas, which is not peaking soon, is also a twin brother of oil in terms of pricing of the contracts, yet Turkey has no chance on this front either.


Historically, says Kunstler, NASCAR is a regional derivative: “The NASCAR subculture arose in the South, the old Dixie states, where the automobile had had tremendous social transformative power … where it liberated the red-necked peasantry from the oppression of geographic isolation.”

NASCAR is a balm, a salvation, says Kunstler, for “a nation of outsourced blue-collar jobs, shrinking incomes, vanishing medical insurance, rising fuel and heating costs and net-zero personal savings”

Legislative environment grows heated

Washington State University economist Melissa Ahern is an expert on peak oil, the theory that the planet already has reached its maximum oil production level and faces steeply rising oil prices and a deepening global recession — not in centuries but in a decade or two. She delivered her own urgent message to a Senate committee Thursday evening.

Asked how the nation can reduce its dependence on liquid petroleum, she came down on the side of both conservation and technological innovation.

David Pimentel - Corn can't save us: Debunking the biofuel myth

Dwindling foreign oil, rising prices at the gas pump, and hype from politically well-connected U.S. agribusiness have combined to create a frenzied rush to convert food grains into ethanol fuel. The move is badly conceived and ill advised. Corporate spin and pork barrel legislation aside, here, by the numbers, are the scientific reasons why corn won't provide our energy needs...

Accountability in energy

Was the sale of these assets in the best financial and strategic interests of the people of this country in these days of Peak Oil, where the world demand for petroleum is outstripping the supply, and our resources are being depleted?

Why I didn't buy a new family car

Gas mileage issues have moved to the top of my list of reasons for not purchasing a new family car. According to the Jan. 3 NCT article, "Record gas prices signify a crude reality," other consumers apparently agree. Sadly, too many of the 2008 family vehicles are gas-guzzlers at a time when peak oil prices are skyrocketing and more increases are on the horizon.

Many consumers, myself included, can no longer afford to drive from one end of Escondido and back again in a car that gets 12 miles to the gallon. Commuting to and from San Diego in the same car is akin to flushing dollar bills down the toilet just to watch them swirl away into the abyss.

60 insurers attending Marsh NOC confab

Not less than 60 Nigerian insurers are among over 400 people attending this weeks National Oil Companies’ conference in Dubai. The energy conference is the second of the annual seminar convoked by Marsh, world’s leading insurance broker.

Coffee, confection and the trillion dollar climate connection!

A just completed UN study calls for a $20 trillion global investment in climate change abatement over the next 20 years. This higher-than-usual price tag is no doubt a gross cost figure. Doubtless, too, the $20 trillion figure responds to the demands of a more alarmed scientific community. In any event, $20 trillion is equivalent to1.5 per cent of global GDP for the coming two decades. That’s about three times the rate estimated by Nicholas Stern for the first 20 years of climate change mitigation.

David Pimentel - Corn can't save us: Debunking the biofuel myth, link above.

All green plants in the U.S. -- including all crops, forests, and grasslands, combined -- collect about 32 quads (32 x 1015 BTU) of sunlight energy per year. Meanwhile, the American population currently burns more than 3 times that amount of energy annually as fossil fuels! There isn't even close to enough biomass in America to supply our biofuel needs….

But consider that 20 percent of the U.S. corn crop was converted into 5 billion gallons of ethanol in 2006, but that amount replaced only 1 percent of U.S. oil consumption. If the entire national corn crop were used to make ethanol, it would replace a mere 7% of U.S. oil consumption -- far from making the U.S. independent of foreign oil.

David, David, all this has been said before, many times over. Why do you, and we, keep repeating the same old crap over and over and over? Simply because it is true? No, that is not a good enough reason. There has to be another reason we keep beating our heads against the wall about the terrible tragedy of our very stupid ethanol program. There must be another reason but for the life of me I cannot figure out what it is.

Ron Patterson

The answer is simple -- people in general are "magical" thinkers. In our enlightened age people continue to believe in the equivalent of the tooth fairy as an explanation for most phenomena. Most people couldn't tell how we know the earth goes around the sun, or why there are lunar eclipses. Almost no one has any concept of "entropy" -- and vanishingly small numbers have any idea about various forms of energy. Virtually everyone is completely baffled by any explanation involving calculation, and almost no one will sit still long enough to even try. And I include all those good-hearted people who only want to help make the world a better place, and who have been to college.

Yesterday I was at a friend's house dividing up packages of a frozen pig that we had bought to share. For a while we left the freezer door open to get at the packages. I asked my usual trick question -- "how long will it take to cool down the kitchen if we just leave this freezer door open?" And of course, the answers were the usual total misunderstanding of how a freezer works.

People spend their money on the lottery, believing it to be an "investment", and they continue to spend money on courses that teach them "think and grow rich" or "pray and grow rich."

Walt Disney has bridged the gap between the medieval world and the petroleum world-- and in the process, has capture the modern mind.

Magic and power is what it's all about. Rational thought is a deviant form.

For a while we left the freezer door open to get at the packages. I asked my usual trick question -- "how long will it take to cool down the kitchen if we just leave this freezer door open?" And of course, the answers were the usual total misunderstanding of how a freezer works.

You're lucky they weren't a bunch of engineers or before you could stop them the freezer would be up on bricks with the back side sticking out the window and polystyrene foam and tape all strapped up around it. :-)

For better or worse, most of my friends don't have engineering degrees. The person in question has a PhD in English.

But you are right -- there are little nests of geeks among us, and they are the ones who have created technical progress, despite all odds.

Somehow, the process of rational thought has to be moved from the geek world to the "real" world. I don't have a clue about that, since the forces enforcing magical thinking are in charge of education and the media, and are so much more powerful than anything I have been able to do. Not much has changed since the days of the medieval Church that enforced illiteracy -- except that these days they are so much more clever, and have convinced us to choose illiteracy and innumeracy.

Somehow, the process of rational thought has to be moved from the geek world to the "real" world.

I dunno. There are some who would say "geeks" are the ones who got us into this mess.

No man is an island entire unto itself, and nothing exists in a vacuum.

The geeks played their part, as did the scholars, researchers, philosophers, politicians, lobbyists, advertisers, corporations, media, religion, and the vast, unwashed, blissfully ignorant masses.

We haven't been able to wrap our heads around all the various issues, structures, and processes for thousands of years.

Our system is unmanageably complex.

And there is also the problem of rational thought. Humans may have the capacity to be rational, but they do not always behave that way. Humans, inevitably, will do emotional ("irrational") things as well as rational things.

The geeks played their part, as did the scholars, researchers, philosophers, politicians, lobbyists, advertisers, corporations, media, religion, and the vast, unwashed, blissfully ignorant masses. ... We haven't been able to wrap our heads around all ... Our system is unmanageably complex.

Well said.

The human mind is good at not seeing the gaps and boundaries.
How often do you notice the blind spot in your retina?
How often do you notice the edges of your visual field?
Answer: almost never.

We are in constant denial of our every limitation. Why isn't each of us an expert in everything?

We don't question. Instead we have invented a beehive system where each of us is a "specialist" in some narrowly focused aspect of our hive works. One of us is a "politician, lobbyist, advertiser, corporate animal, media maniac, religionist", etc. and yes, even a techno geek.

The geek is no better or smarter than the rest of the worker bees. None of us can see when stuff slips past our blind spots. For example, most techno geeks are blind to social interactions. Dilbert can't see when the management is beating him down yet again. Dogbert wins every time.

(click to enlarge --warning, won't work for body parts)

It is not really all that complex. Many are astounded by the results of the process and see complexity while the process itself is actually pretty simple. The ecosystem seems complex but the process that gave us the ecosystem and the diversity of life is not.

Those that are emeshed in the matrix of the technosystem with their specialized functions are truly amazed at the seeming complexity of it all. This perceived complexity supports magical thinking.

geeks attempt to solve whatever problem is put in front of them

they tend to be under-represented in the class of people who prioritize the problems

I don't view it as unreasonable to have a "default" belief in progress, since empirically it has been what's happened in recent memory: My grandmother told stories about life from just before WWII, through the blitz and in to postwar deprivation. My mother had a better quality of life. My sister and I have had even better lives (so far). I'm an educated computer scientist/engineer, and I personally wouldn't bet against pulling a technological rabbit out of the hat. But until I see a multiply verified, production scale rabbit I'm planning for the possibility of a severe energy and resource crunch.

The two things I find most worrying is that (i) people in general won't entertain even the possibility that things may be heading for a crunch, and (ii) almost everyone these days regard it as more important to win an argument than figure out "the truth". Although it'd be disappointing for an engineer not to figure out theoretically that the fridge won't cool the containing room, the unforgivable thing would be to not go grab a thermometer to validate whether a claimed cooling of the room was occurring but just maintain one's argument about what must be happening.

The mistakes are in thinking that progress is inevitable and automatic, in thinking that progress is always a totally good thing (instead of it sometimes being a mixed bag), and in thinking that progress is a one way street, that regress is impossible. Most people operate assuming all three of these are true, but they are not.

This is the most astute observation I have seen on this site. Ever.

Read some thoughts on "progress" from Wendell Berry in this excellent essay about his work:

And here I thought it was just common sense... and common knowledge.

Crap. We *are* in trouble.


Kurt Cobb's just written an article about that mindset - http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/. Quite a good read.

Where in the room would you hold that thermometer, and for how long would you take readings?

The reality of the situation would be very complex, but it was (presumably) supposed to be a simple demonstration to show how little people apply the basic notion of conservation of energy to the world around them - for example, a large steel and concrete structure being turned mostly to dust by it's own gravitational potential energy...

That's a little over the top, but I think you get the picture.

People generally think that cold and heat are substances that stoves and freezers make. They don't think of a unified theory of heat, not even on an intuitive level

I think I'll hold my thermometer up against the condenser tubes of the refrigerator. :-)

My comment was simply that although it's disappointing when people get arguments based on physics and maths wrong, it happens. I manage to confuse myself in the area in which I'm a highly educated expert every so often. The most fundamental thing is to actively investigate to see if you're right or wrong, and if you turn out to be wrong rethink things. That's what's good about all most of the stuff at the oil drum (ELM, etc): it's based on careful reasoning but people are looking for confirmation/disproof in real world numbers.

Me, if I had thought the refrigerator would cool the room, I'd go to the middle of the room with the thermometer and wait half an hour. If there was no noticeable effect on the temperature I'd be forced to rethink things. (Incidentally, I'm not a physicist but I think it's 2nd law of thermodynamics not conservation of energy that applies here.)

I agree, but my questions were rhetorical. As step back pointed out, you could hold the thermometer anywhere. My point was that the example should be thought of in less complex terms - it was just a simple illustrative example.

"(Incidentally, I'm not a physicist but I think it's 2nd law of thermodynamics not conservation of energy that applies here.)"

The 1st law of thermodynamics still applies to the 2nd law...

It's also the law of inefficient heat engines (Carnot engines) that applies.

The refrigerator is less than 100% efficient. On first look you might assume that the coolness it produces is balanced by the heat emitted from the condenser coils. But not so. The compressor produces additional heat. So do accessories in the refrigerator like lights, defroster mechanism, fans, etc. So the refrigerator is a net heat source, with or without its door being open. :-)

The geeks (and I number myself among them), who are atypical in their pursuit of technical excellence, have contributed tremendously to the problem. They have given these "magical" devices to vast numbers of people who don't understand their principles or the full consequences of their use. In fact, they themselves, in their narrow focus on making and creating things, do not understand the systems into which they inject these devices and cannot apprehend the full consequences to the world when the widget they have worked on multiplies into the millions and billions. The humble refrigerator and air conditioner both have produced vast quantities of CO2 and affected the development patterns of suburbia on a large scale. And even knowing these things, it seems unlikely that the geeks would stop what they are doing, not when there are so many rewards to be made from it.

The technology used in everyday life has advanced so far from anything most people can understand, that they have become used to "magic". There is not much difference between the things so many do all the time to make things happen, and the kinds of things that are used in "Harry Potter".

I do this, and that happens - I do not know why. I move this mouse thing and click on the pretty icons and stuff happens. I say a couple of words and I can talk to someone on the other side of the world through a little thing in my ear. Is that so much different than waving a wand and speaking magic words?

In my opinion it doesn't matter - it all has to do with access to excess energy. That in turn allows enough excess food production capacity that large parts of the society can engage in non-food production pursuits, like science and engineering. Eventually that trend will reverse, the stuff will fail and not be replaced, and the magic of technology will become a memory of past glories.

It's just the conversion of oil into magic.

great laughs, thanks.

Today I just explained the simple concept of turning off the fridge in winter and keeping your beer on the balcony and some kind of box for butter and iceberg lettuce and meat... What about global warming I was asked?

Hmm. It was 24 degrees yesterday in the Grisons (Switz. - and not! in the South.) and in my own flat, with the radiators turned off, I was sweating in a tank top and shorts and cursing the sun. (All the curtains are removed in the winter. The place was built to get max. sun heat, it is a kind of greenhouse, and the *building* is heated, I’m on the top floor, there are pipes with hot water in them in the floors etc. that can’t be turned off. It was built in 1996.)

Last January was even more spectacular. Hotties in swim suits are now a mid-winter staple. Sure, the press gets into it.

The official nos. are 1.5 C rise since 1900. (Near as dammit.) For the whole country. From top to bottom, from valley to peak, town to forest, south (palm trees) to north (fir and rock, lichens..) Micro climate pockets have undergone spectacular changes.

So I hmmmed. No way you can keep 100 dollar a pound bison meat on your balcony or in your garden in the "winter."

Why in the world would you be putting a pig in the freezer? A pig wouldn't feed ONE family, much less two. And, Veggies? what about veggies? You can't live on meat, alone, even if you could put a whole year's worth of meat in a freezer. And, what about next year?

Shouldn't you be using that time to plant a garden? And, a fruit tree? That's much more efficient than feeding pigs.

Ol' "Doomer" (100 million is the max that America can support) Pimental's argument doesn't make any more sense than mine just did.

We're not going to replace ALL of the energy needs of the country with biomass. We, also, have Wave, Wind, Waste, Nuclear, and Solar. What we ARE going to do is replace some of our oil usage with biofuels. It will help out a lot in the next few years. Kind of like that pig is going to help out next month. :)

Great question -- and cuts to the heart of the modern dilemma. Why would anyone freeze meat to preserve it, unless they lived at the North Pole? Because we can, of course. It's easier than canning or smoking or salting -- and each of those technologies has adverse consequences. Here in the northwest, sun-drying the meat is out of the question.

And why would anyone eat meat anyway? I have become more or less convinced that Permaculture and its varients are the proper way to live in most of the temperate world -- a balance of animal and vegetable husbandry allows a reasonable population density without depleting anything. The real problem is factory farming, factory pigs, factory chickens -- the purpose of that mode of "agriculture" is to extract a profit and externalize the costs. Factory farming is mostly just a way of turning petroleum, fossil water and topsoil into food and money, and as we have seen over the last 40 years or so, it is becoming a disaster, because there is no closed loop to recycle nutrients, and especially because it uses more water than exists on the planet.

And why would anyone eat meat anyway?

Simply because it may be a very healthy diet.

You can't live on meat, alone, even if you could put a whole year's worth of meat in a freezer.

Though it is peripheral to your main point, I would just like to point out that this is false, and that there are documented instances of people living on meat alone for extended periods, and in fact thriving on it. In fact at least one entire society ate pretty much nothing but 'meat' (fish and seal) - the Inuit.

Maybe it's all those advertisements on TV with some guy talking to a bunch of children talking about how this new hulking SUV is "green" because it can run on E85 and is a hybrid? (The E85 negating the 2mpg gain from it being a hybrid?) Considering they pay a large portion of my salary, I'll refrain from naming names.

Or maybe it's because of those guys in Iowa, wanting to boost grain prices by pushing bills that force consumption of ethanol? (And our shrub who pushes the same thing?)

Or maybe, for some strange reason, it's because that the current American "consumer" (not citizen) actually believes all of this ethanol hype?

[sarcanol]On the other hand, if you were evil, you could view ethanol as a good thing. It drives up grain prices, which causes demand destruction in poor countries. Of course, those people would be starving anyhow, so it's all OK, right? [/sarcanol]

The sad thing about it all, is once you've sold people that corn-based ethanol is a crock of horse excrement, they start blathering about how cellulose-based ethanol will save us. Switchgrass... Wouldn't they do better with industrial hemp or something? Oh wait, Reefer Madness. Nevermind.

Silver BB's.... Along with a few plastic ones painted to look silver..

~Durandal (http://www.wtdwtshtf.com)

Horse excrement makes excellent manure, and is a good fuel source when dried.

Horse manure also makes good doomer anti ethanol posts on TOD. As long as doomers refuse to recognize the real world situation with ethanol, they will forever be in a funk as ethanol continues to expand. Ethanol is an effect of Peak Oil not the cause. Food prices are up due to inflationary monetary policy, Peak Oil and bad weather in the case of wheat which, by the way is up the 60 cent limit today on the CBOT. The ignorance of knowledgeable people who understand Peak Oil when it comes to ethanol is unbelievable. If ethanol is as bad as those who hate claim, it will fail. By the way that awful SUV burning E85 saves more fossil fuel than a Prius because it gets such poor mileage. In the Midwest burning E85 gives those whose income is based on corn at lot of psychological satisfaction even if it costs more. When you produce your own fuel and then read doomer porn it's very satisfying. The Iowa economy is booming and it is flooded with ethanol. I think that is the real bitch of those who hate ethanol. All Iowa is doing is using the ELP model so frequently held up as the ideal. We are economizing on transportation by consuming corn locally to produce ethanol. Isn't that what ELP is all about? And it works.

I'm happy for Iowa. My daughter lives there.

Ethanol for fuel still sucks. And if we stop the government subsidies, it will fail.

'BioFuel Reports Construction Delay'

Building anything in America, besides military hardware, is getting much more difficult. It isnt only the poor condition of the US economy, but the shortage of materials and skilled labor. So, why are we squandering our scarce resources on BioFuel plants?


...snip...'Commenting, Scott H. Pearce, the Company's President and CEO said, "We are obviously disappointed by this delay. Unfortunately, despite an admirable degree of high level management attention at TIC, construction at both Wood River and Fairmont have experienced and continue to face challenges. These have largely been due to the still very strong industrial construction market and the resulting competition for personnel and material. Until recently, it was believed that most or all of the time slippage in particular aspects of the job could be made up. However, delays in the delivery of large vessels, pipe and steel, virtually all of which are now finally on site, and continued difficulty in obtaining and keeping skilled construction labor, has forced TIC to revise their schedule. We remain confident in the expertise and dedication that TIC and Delta-T continue to apply to the project and are impressed with the depth of their commitment to delivering top-of-the-line facilities."...snip...

Ethanol has only 2/3 the energy per unit volume as gasoline. For Ethanol to "succeed", the price of ethanol (meaning E85) at the pump must be no more than 2/3 the price of gasoline. When gasoline sells for $3.00 per gallon (or there abouts), that means E85 must cost less than $2.00 per gallon (mol). Besides, burning E85 doesn't result in very much reduction in FF use (if any), it only means that the FFs burned include coal and natural gas, not just oil. Since coal and natural gas have been less expensive than oil lately, the economics results in relatively low costs for ethanol production. As the prices for coal, natural gas and fertilizer are increasing, it would appear that the cost to produce ethanol will approach the reality as seen in calculations of EROEI. Take away the ethanol subsidy and let's see how long those farmers will keep putting E85 in their tanks (or anyone else's tank for that matter).

E. Swanson

We've already seen in the link I posted on a prior thread that tests conducted by N. Dakota Univ, and Mn State (using EPA cycle) show that ethanol can deliver BETTER fuel economy in IC engines than straight gasoline.

It's all in the OCTANE. Admittedly, these results were with mid-level ethanol blends; but, wait until you see the new engines with DI, VVT, and VRT. The forerunner (though without VRT) will be in the chevy HHR this fall. My bet is you'll be down to less than 10% difference between unleaded, and E85.

Don't live in the PAST, folks. The World is a'changing.

Makes no difference there is still 60 to 80% FF fuel embedded in each gallon.

And 80% of the energy 'lost' as heat

FF good for heat, bad for motion

Yes, engines designed for higher octane fuel can deliver better conversion efficiencies. However, in engines designed primarily for regular gasoline, there is no advantage to running higher octane fuel. But, your comment was regarding what you called "mid-level ethanol blends", perhaps E10. Since I don't have your link available, I think you are probably blowing smoke regarding the gasoline mileage of E85, since the higher octane of E85 has little impact on conversion efficiency when used in an engine optimized for regular. Comparing higher octane E85 with unleaded 89 octane regular is an improper comparison if you are going to specify an engine design optimized for high octane.

Ultimately, there's less energy in a gallon of E85 than there is in a gallon of regular gasoline and it's the energy which makes the car move. The miles per unit energy are likely to be quite similar, but that's not the same thing as miles per gallon.

E. Swanson

I don't need to blow smoke; I've got the facts on my side.


Study showing 3 of 4 cars got better mileage with ethanol blend.

Speaking of ignorance and manure...

Ethanol is an effect of Peak Oil not the cause. Food prices are up due to inflationary monetary policy, Peak Oil and bad weather in the case of wheat which, by the way is up the 60 cent limit today on the CBOT.

First, when has anyone on this forum -- or anywhere on the planet -- said that ethanol causes peak oil?

Second, your assertion that grain prices are being driven by inflation fails simple economics. In this scenario, farmers being squeezed by higher input costs (and hence lower margins) would be planting fewer acres thus resulting in a decrease in supply and higher prices. Of course, this is not reality. Farmers are planting more acres, but prices are still increasing because of higher demand due to ethanol subsidies. True, wheat is higher because of crop losses in AU. However, it is quite likely that even more wheat acres would be planted elsewhere to compensate if it were not for demand for land for corn.

I'm not a doomer. But the day we poured food into our tanks I thought the doomers had a point.

Well one can’t eat coal or drink oil.

Using it to power harvesters, transport, irrigation - plus fertilizers, conditioning - and so on - but not directly for driving a SUV or a tractor to go the county fair, or whatever, has no moral weight, can only be condemned thru very complex analysis. (I personally don’t like to see ‘food’ powering rich US drivers when between 10 and 20 million children die of hunger each year, many now under US domination in Iraq, etc. but that is my own emotional sensitivity.)

It is the Export Land Model. The US has corn and now prefers to keep it, some of it, and use it as it sees fit. Does it make sense from an analytical pov? Does it make trade smoother, better for all? I think not. Did the Saudis exploit their oil riches to further development in their country, and/or the good of all? Not. Did the IMF/WTO help African countries with their lending? Etc.

Don't forget all that water.

A CSP plant cant be that heavy, anyone think it would be possible to make it float and power and old steam engine? Not got far to go for heat rejection. It would be like using OTEC and CSP together

I'm sure there's plenty of demand for shipping high volumes of liquids around the sunny parts of the world. Add a few of those kites for when you have lost the sun and cruise the evening winds.

"By the way that awful SUV burning E85 saves more fossil fuel than a Prius because it gets such poor mileage."

Every 10 gallons of ethanol has 6 to 8 gallons of FF imbeded in it. so a prius can go much further on 6 gallons of Gas than a 15 MPH SUV can on 10 gallons of ethanol with out the 6 gallons of FF considered removed.

For gosh sakes let's be Practical.

If ethanol is as bad as those who hate claim, it will fail.

If the human race is as bad as the doomers say, it will fail.

I bet the Midwest was really booming during the agriculture bubble caused by World War I, when the government got farmers growing on every unsustainable acre. How did that look twelve years later? Dust in the wind.

That bubble collapsed almost immediately, in 1920-21, upon resumption of European harvests.

The reason is, Ron, that you know it, I know it, many others know it too, but the corn-ethanol scam is still continuing. Your tax money at work.

The plan to switch the nation from gasoline and diesel to ethanol came after other failures such as ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction that they did not have. Then there was talk about trying to reform Iraq to get oil to the Iraqi people there because Sadaam was corrupt. We had enough corruption in America as evidenced by Haliburton open ended no-bid contracts to develop Iraqi oil for Iraqis. There were a number of major oil service contractors including Schlumberger who could have done that type of work. How did a company that Dick (Tricky Dick) Cheney owned a large block of shares in get an exclusive contract without bidding for it? They were calling Sadaam corrupt as if they were not corrupt themselves. It was hypocrisy. The U.S. taxpayer being asked to subsidize Iraqi oil production while militant Islamicist militias took over the place eliminating minority Christians as the U.S. oil industry continued in decline. Would have been better to subsidize energy projects in the states instead of needing half a trillion dollars to try to do it in Iraq. If instead Exxon and others were were given a chance to bid on half a trillion dollars worth of energy projects for the United States we would not be seeing the dollar getting trampled by monetary inflation.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke, "Profiles of The Future", 1961 (Clarke's third law)

And we all know the good tooth fairy is magic.

By the same token, any one person with sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a god. (Anybody watch StarGate?)

"...Consider a simple example: the Atwood’s machine.

These efficiency limits are at a much lower levels than those theoretically possible at reversible (i.e., infinitely slow) rates.

For example, real power plants operate much closer to the maximum power efficiency than to the maximum possible efficiency.

So to recap: "It is at some intermediate efficiency (where one is “wasting” a large percentage of the energy) that power is maximized."


The Maximum Power Principle H.T. Odum writes, "Systems prevail that maximize the flow of useful energy" [10, p.6]. He re-expresses this idea as, “Those systems that survive in competition are those that develop more energy inflow and use it to meet the needs of survival”


And from experience we all directly suffer the effects of Clark's Fourth Law.

"In his 1999 revision of Profiles of the Future, published in London by Indigo, Clarke added his Fourth Law: "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert."


and a possible curmudgeonly corollary for today's america can be edited a bit:

"Technology is indistinguishable from magic." Really, if people can't be troubled to know how things work, all tech is 'sufficiently advanced'. A neanderthal could, if transported here from the past, be driving an SUV, using a microwave oven and cell phone, and fitting into the economy perfectly well within a couple weeks aside from a few social gaffes, and would have as much idea how it all worked.

Most people see the world exclusively in magical terms, even though they would protest the use of that word. And there's the problem, for that is not sane.

Well, IMHO, we won't have to say it again next year because we only had one grain stockpile to destroy and we have now done it.


BTW-"approaching zero" is another term for "fat tails",
the lair of Black Swans.

And no one has ever seen wheat rise over $3 at the opening



Is this right? Every near future month limit up at the new .90 and the option for next months expiration placing spring wheat at $23 a bushel?


Yep. With KC and CBOT locked .60 limit up.

At some point, someone in officialdom is going to have to comment on this.

And we could start hearing/seeing "hoarding" and "speculators"


Thanks for keeping us up on this. It's coming home..... I doubt we are too far away from seeing folks buying up availiable bread and flour.

There was a great post on yesterday's DB, on why there will be a dramatic reversal in wheat prices if these price levels are sustained:


What? The one about Britain, that grain-exporting behomoth, holding 10% of its production back?

The top 10 wheat producers (of which Britain is not one) produce around 68% of the world's wheat. Even if Britain brought its 10% online, and if the farmers could get enough fertilizer, and if they can get enough water, it would have precisely zero effect on wheat prices.

Yes, Australia had a drought. It is still having a drought. Most of the top wheat producers did not have droughts or too much rain. Weather-related problems are going to continue, as are fertilizer shortages, high fossil fuel costs, fresh water shortages, and topsoil erosion, not to mention the US ethanol mandate. As the chairman of POT said, if the world does not have a record harvest, there will be food shortages.

First they came for the Zimbabwes and Nepals, and I said nothing.

Then they came for the Indias and Chinas and Englands, and I said nothing.

When they came for me, there was no one left to tell.

Hello Theantidoomer,

It all depends on the prices and availability of inputs, and the increasingly risky JIT supply chain ability of these inputs to timely synchronize at the critical planting and fertilization periods.

Fertilizer crisis looms over State and Kerala

Factories reportedly going slow on production

Steep increase in fertilizer prices in international market

Fixing fertilizer prices and the quantum of fertilizer subsidy go hand-in-hand and a committee of Secretaries of the Union Government is stated to be pondering over this matter at length following the steep increase in fertilizer prices in the international market .The escalating prices of key inputs in the manufacture of phosphatic fertilizers (like sulphur for which the international price has reportedly increased from $ 100 a tonne in 2006 to $ 500 a tonne in December 2007) is stated as one of the factors for the delay.

The State has to also ensure the availability of railway wagons to transport fertilizer from the factories to all parts of the State...Sources told The Hindu that “the situation is alarming because the fertilizer industry as a whole has not taken any concrete step to produce and stock. We are anxiously waiting with our fingers crossed.”
As posted before: when companies, hedge funds, and SWFs start NPK hoarding, plus millions of first world homeowners start gardening & hoarding I-NPK in response to rising food prices--lots of subsistence 3rd World farmers will be totally priced out of the market.

Recall the inflation adjusted $10,500/ton price in 1914 posting, and if the idiots continue their rioting, burning trains, stealing railroad copper, and exploding tracks--then the supply chain will break down even faster when combined with energy shortages to the fertilizer factories--IMO, the world needs to be rapidly ramping the recycling of the O-NPK with composting and moving manures from cities back to the growing areas. The 20:1 I-NPK/O-NPK concentration factor per lb will be a tremendous challenge if we seek to reduce the scale, frequency, and duration of machete' moshpits for optimal Overshoot decline.

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

A little more food for thought: Dimitry Orlov has written that the Russian home gardens is what was partially responsible for easing the relatively graceful collapse of the USSR. It would be interesting to know the %'s of I-NPK/O-NPK use, and if the Russian I-NPK used was provided at the wholesale farm cost or retail consumer cost. Or maybe the gardeners just stole the I-NPK from the collective farms for a high garden ERoEI & ERoI while the police basically ignored these acts. Beats machete' moshpits!

Makes one wonder: what is the best US I-NPK wholesale farm and homeowner retail pricing strategy to promote relocalized permaculture and O-NPK urban recycling, yet optimize industrial agro-yields and O-NPK farm recycling, and is transport FF-prices and the 20:1 factor critical to this pricing determination?

mcgowanmc... if you had to make an educated guess on this wheat business where do you see it going?

Historically at this point, the Gov't crushes the farmer.

Whatever it takes.

"The Food Security Act of 1985 states that U.S. policy is: (1) to foster and encourage agricultural exports, (2) not to restrict or limit such exports except under the most compelling circumstances, (3) that any prohibition or limitation on such exports should be imposed only when the President declares a national emergency under the Export Administration Act, and (4) that contracts to export agricultural commodities and products agreed upon before any prohibition or limitation should not be abrogated. Whenever commercial export sales of an agricultural commodity are suspended for reasons of short supply, but to a country with which the United States continues commercial trade, the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977 requires USDA to set the commodity price support loan rate at 90% of the parity price. The Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 contains contract sanctity provisions that place constraints on the embargo of agricultural commodities from the United States. The 1990 Act also: (1) provides for agricultural embargo protection that, if certain conditions are met, compensates producers with payments if the President suspends or restricts exports of a commodity for national security or foreign policy reasons, and (2) requires USDA to develop plans to alleviate the adverse effects of embargoes if imposed. The FAIR Act of 1996 requires USDA to compensate producers of a commodity, or commodities, if the U.S. government imposes an export embargo on any country for national security or foreign policy reasons, and if no other country joins the U.S. embargo within 90 days. Compensation may take the form of payments to producers or funds made available to promote agricultural exports or food aid."


(3) that any prohibition or limitation on such exports should be imposed only when the President declares a national emergency under the Export Administration Act, and (4) that contracts to export agricultural commodities and products agreed upon before any prohibition or limitation should not be abrogated.

Well, I guess we export every last seed and pay $10.00 for a loaf of white bread.

“Historical references are useless. We are breaking all the rules,”
It seems those who can afford to will limit their exports.
If you rely heavily on oil imports and have high inflation......

Hello Xburb,

From the link provided: Gavin Maguire, of Iowa Grain in Chicago, said consumers such as mills and bakers, who needed wheat, were “panicking”.

Damn: panic is king!

When it would have been so much easier to plan & mitigate years ago using the Hirsch Shifter & Carter Carburetor.

For any newbies, the Pres. Sweater Speech and Hirsch Report:



Hirsch Shifter & Carter Carburetor

:-) once again Bob. Good one!

Yep, showing my age, 52! Back in the day, I lusted for a 69 Chevelle 396 convertible, but couldn't afford my first vehicle, a battered pickup, till I got out of high school. I still remember stopping my 10-speed to admire the car in the high school parking lot--royal blue w/two big white stripes down the hood & trunk. The lucky owner was pretty good at the wretched excess display of the full throttle, tire-smoking burnout to impress the girls. Nowadays, little gas & electric scooters get my attention.

Yeah when I consider how many hours I've spent freshening up old jalopies. We counted it up one time and there were a hundred or more through the years.
My 2 project cars sit neglected but my bike rack is real active these days.
Saw that Wally World (wal-mart) has an electric bike in their inventory now. They are absolutely going nuts with them in China. One young woman we met said she and her husband could afford a car but preferred to use their electric. He lugs the batts up the stairs at home or charges them at work.

Spring wheat did hit $25 dollars a bushel today. Folks will be driving 6000 lb. E85 SUV's to the store to buy $5 loaves of bread real soon. Wonder how many will figure it out? Yikes!

Bought a loaf of Orowheat Wheatberry bread today for $4.05 in Waldport, OR. I've bought artisan bread for over $4 before, but have never seen "corporate" bread this expensive, not even when I lived in Hawaii. Maybe it's time to revisit the economics of home bread makers?

Yep, bought a loaf of 12 Grain in Lincoln City @$4 last week too. Dusting off the old breadmaker as we speak.

Pending US wheat shortage due to exports

Wheat prices soared near their highest levels ever Tuesday on concerns that growing demand in Asia coupled with dwindling stockpiles could lead to a grain shortage in the United States.

U.S. wheat stockpiles have thinned as bad weather has battered crop after crop around the world, most recently in Argentina and India. The scarcity has fed seemingly relentless demand for wheat supplies, often at any cost. U.S. wheat exporters have sold more than 15 million bushels a week for seven of the last 11 weeks, well above the U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly target of about 1 million bushels a week.

"We continue to export wheat at too fast a pace," said Jason Ward, analyst with Northstar Commodity in Minneapolis. "You've got enough forward contracts overseas so the fear is that what you've got sold thus far is possibly more than you've got planted."


During the famine years there was plenty of food in Ireland enough to feed double its population. Yes the potato failed but all other crops thrived. Under the system at the time Irish food was exported mainly to English markets but from they're found its way to many parts of the world. It puzzled many to hear there was famine in a land that had so much food to export. In normal countries it was usual to export food only after its population was fed. This was not the case in Ireland; during the period her food was taken away against the wishes of her people, usually at gunpoint and escorted to the ports under military guard. It was then carried away on ships leaving misery and starvation behind.


"You've got enough forward contracts overseas so the fear is that what you've got sold thus far is possibly more than you've got..."

This was Said by ???:
The Middle Eastern Oil Country


The N.A.Breadbasket Country

While the Escondido AutoPark may be suffering low sales now, the future of the automobile appears bright:

Japan's auto sales in Asia to top domestic market

[...] In sharp contrast, sales of Japanese cars in Asia, including China and Pacific nations, jumped 14% to 4.8 million units in Asia last year, the business daily said. For 2008, their total Asian sales, excluding Japan, are likely to expand by more than 700,000 units to about 5.5 million, overtaking the Japanese auto market in terms of unit sales and trailing only the North American market, where 6.8 million units were sold in 2007, it said.

Toyota's Lentz: Industry's good times 'are temporarily on hiatus'

A top Toyota Motor Corp. executive told dealers that the good times experienced by the industry in the past decade "are temporarily on hiatus."
But Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said Monday that after what is expected to be a down year in the U.S., the industry's future is bright.

Greenspan Says US Growth is at Zero

And he also says that the oil prices will continue to boom forever!

Greenspan also said a boom in oil prices, which hit a record of $101.32 on Wednesday, will "go on forever".

Ron Patterson

For years, I have been investing on the premise that oil prices can go only in one direction. Now, Greenspan says the same thing. This is the first time, since 2003, that I have doubted my premise.

I wouldn't really worry until you hear CERA/Yergin say the same thing.

Even a blind squirrel finds a stopped watch twice a day.


I would think his "watch" ability is stopped 24/7.

BTW, Did you see Yergin on CSPAN Governors meet re Energy Future?

Of course, priced in terms of other currencies or gold, oil might look a little different.

New York Merchants Embrace Euro
As Dollar Dips, Shops Begin to Accept Currency of Foreign Tourists

By Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 25, 2008; Page A03

NEW YORK -- "Euros Only" reads a handmade sign in Billy's Antiques & Props on East Houston Street in Manhattan. But that's really just an attention grabber. Actually, owner Billy Leroy explains, the store will accept Canadian dollars and British pounds, and U.S. dollars, too. . . .With the dollar near its lowest rate ever against the euro and the numbers of international tourists in New York at all-time highs, some store owners figure accepting the euro offers a convenience to customers and sometimes generates a stockpile of a strong currency for themselves. . .

Having a tradesman advertise that he will accept foreign currency is a better marker for a temporary bottom on the dollar than Gisele's contract. Note that since Gisele's contract in August, the dollar has fallen about 4 cents against the Euro; but since the story about Billy's Antiques was first reported back at the beginning of February, the dollar has held fairly steady:

"Recovery might take longer to emerge than it usually does,"

Or it "might" just not happen at all.

There is this article in today's NY Times about natural gas problems in Argentina.

I'm a bit confused about this throwaway line in the story:

Investment in Bolivian energy has been paralyzed since President Evo Morales nationalized its natural gas industry in 2006.

Does this mean that Bolivia can't find foreign investors to help expand its gas production? Or does it mean that they don't have the expertise to expand because they kicked out the foreign firms and they took their skills with them? Or does it mean that there is an international boycott by aid agencies (like the World Bank) who won't provide loans for development?

Part of the technique of the World Bank and IMF seems to be to strangle foreign investment in those countries which don't allow the big profits to go to foreign "partners". This was true in Indonesia, the Philippines and many places in Africa in the past 30 years, but the international agencies are supposed to have developed new criteria recently which focuses more on demonstrable progress than on how much money gets disbursed.

I'm puzzled...

I've decided to go ahead and buy a farm, and I am soliciting capital contributions of $100,000 per person, in order to help me buy the farm. You won't own any portion of the farm, but I will really appreciate your capital contribution.

I'll send you $2million in CDO tranches. That will make me at least half owner of your farm.

Isn't the Federal Reserve Bank accepting CDO's as collateral for the loans they are making to the banks that are having trouble maintaining their reserves?
The profits of the past years accrue to the bankers but the risks/losses are carried by the taxpayer. Free market indeed..

I guess I'm a bit thick, but I'm missing your irony. Are you suggesting that because Bolivia has nationalized the industry that outside investors would be unwilling to provide funds?

That's certainly not true. There are many varieties of investments besides part ownership. The simplest is a straightforward loan. The state corporation which manages the resources borrows money from abroad and repays it with interest over time. The capital is secured by the underlying assets. The US has many quasi-public agencies that do this all the time.

Then there could be licensing deals where a firm provides development and production services on a fee basis, rather than sharing in the profits. Does Halliburton ring a bell? That's how they operate all over the world.

The World Bank is supposed to provide development funds that make up for the lack of private capital and help enterprises bootstrap themselves. If they are refusing in this case then it is because of ideology and not because of any worry that the enterprise will fail?

As the Times article indicates the demand for the gas already exceeds the available production capacity, so there is no question about not having a market and being unable to pay back the loan.

Glib answers seldom lead to deep truths...

So, they can't be trusted to honor their production agreements, but they can be trusted to repay their loans and to pay the service companies for their efforts?

For further reading, I would suggest "The Little Red Hen."

Actually projects underwritten by the IMF and WB have had a much poorer record of being able to repay the investments. The difference is that when such a country gets into trouble and Citibank gets worried, the US intervenes to make sure that the private banks don't lose out.

I suggest reading up on international development and see how often the WB and IMF have written off their investments over the past 30 years. Both Joseph Stiglitz and William Easterly have books out on the subject.

The situation in Bolivia is different, there is already a market for any new production and the development costs could be guaranteed by the neighboring states which desire to buy the expanded output.

It's not "trust" that's the issue, it's that the oil majors are being shut out of a high profit deal and are using their political influence to try and extort Bolivia into cutting them in on the action.

You are still offering glib comments instead of sound arguments. Do you have any?

Heck, I don't trust America to repay its loans. At least not until the dollar loses 90% of its exchange value. Other countries don't seem to get to do this.

As corrupt institutions go the World Bank has always taken the cake. Below is their modus operandi:

1. World Bank operative cozies up to politician, bureaucrat, dictator.. in third world (as the Europeans like to call it.)
2. Loan is made, monies are spent. Sometimes kick-back to World Bank official, sometimes just a nice performance appraisal and raise, bonus, promotion.
3. Money is squandered by the politician, bureaucrat, dictator axis in the third world country

A. Does the World Bank loan money to the project?
No - they are too smart to do that.
Interest and Principal is owed by the unfortunate citizens of the Country that was the unlucky recipient of that World Bank Largess

B. The Europeans have perfected this to an art. Most times these poor countries and their starving citizens pay more in interest and principal every year than they get in New Loans.

C. Not popular on this site - but Paul Wolfowitz was going to upset this Apple Cart and the Europeans got him.
If any group is serious about AID, then the following should apply:
(1) Given as a grant or
(2) The debt is owed by the project financed and does not become sovereign debt.

A simple fix but it will never happen.

Below is their modus operandi:...

Acording to Stiglitz(and he should know) the steps of the IMF are: (See interview at link).

I've snipped it down just to the numbers.

The Globalizer Who Came In From the Cold


The World Bank’s former Chief Economist’s accusations are eye-popping - including how the IMF and US Treasury fixed the Russian elections


Step One is Privatization - which Stiglitz said could more accurately be called, ‘Briberization.’

Step Two of the IMF/World Bank one-size-fits-all rescue-your-economy plan is ‘Capital Market Liberalization.’

“The result was predictable,” said Stiglitz of the Hot Money tidal waves in Asia and Latin America. Higher interest rates demolished property values, savaged industrial production and drained national treasuries.

Step Three: Market-Based Pricing, a fancy term for raising prices on food, water and cooking gas. This leads, predictably, to Step-Three-and-a-Half: what Stiglitz calls, “The IMF riot.”

The IMF riot is painfully predictable. When a nation is, “down and out, [the IMF] takes advantage and squeezes the last pound of blood out of them. They turn up the heat until, finally, the whole cauldron blows up,”

Step Four of what the IMF and World Bank call their “poverty reduction strategy”: Free Trade. This is free trade by the rules of the World Trade Organization and World Bank, Stiglitz the insider likens free trade WTO-style to the Opium Wars. “That too was about opening markets,”

Stiglitz is particularly emotional over the WTO’s intellectual property rights treaty (it goes by the acronym TRIPS, more on that in the next chapters). It is here, says the economist, that the new global order has “condemned people to death” by imposing impossible tariffs and tributes to pay to pharmaceutical companies for branded medicines. “They don’t care,” said the professor of the corporations and bank loans he worked with, “if people live or die.”

Every time their free market solutions failed, the IMF simply demanded more free market policies.

“It’s a little like the Middle Ages,” the insider told me, “When the patient died they would say, “well, he stopped the bloodletting too soon, he still had a little blood in him.”

I took away from my talks with the professor that the solution to world poverty and crisis is simple: remove the bloodsuckers.


IMO - all the issues you raise are complex and difficult.

Also IMO Control of economic or other power leads to corruption and therefore I prefer free societies and markets.

- Yes - there is potential for corruption in Privatization, especially in extractive industries (mining, O&G, Coal). I think that India has been smart in privatization undertaken so far in that usually a small %centage (10%) is sold off in an initial public offering. Stock prices have done well after the IPO and the government has unloaded larger stakes, months/years post-IPO at more favorable prices.

(I believe that China has done the same thing, except that they not done stage II yet, which is post IPO sales of larger stakes, and therefore their companies are still primarily State Run.)

- Higher prices of cooking gas etc: IMO it is preferable to price an item at cost or higher, than to have shortages
- Riots: IMO again, these riots are engineered by the folks who were blackmarketting the subsidized commodity

- I do believe that investment capital flows to those states where an investor sees the potential for (1) rule of law and protection against seizure, (2) a competitive return (3) ease of doing business. Remember, most of the time these folks reinvest their profits so it only serves to grow the economy.

- Pharmaceuticals: Most life-saving drugs (anti-infectives, anti-fungals, anti-pyretics, cardiovasculars (ACE inhibitors, Beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, diuretics.., anti-depressives, benzodiazepines (valium & ilk), narcotics (morphine..)), (except recent cancer drugs) are off-patent. For the other ones IMO one is better off without them.

IMO a fair trade regime is far preferable to Toxic Aid. (Toxic is used in the financial industry to describe financing given to a company which is very very expensive)

President Bush has done a lot to open up US markets to African goods acording to the wing-nut ( :-) )publication IBD


"Free trade" as financed by fractional banking is robbery, plain and simple. Free trade as barter is not, plain and simple. (Not accounting for greed here...) Cut out the banks, and things would work much better all around.

Usury makes necessary the expansion of whatever is borrowed into more than it was. The borrower is forced to profit from whatever they do with the money, no matter what, so then cannot simply trade value for value. Viola! Inflation. This is why usury was considered immoral in times past: it too often led to the destruction of the borrower at the enrichment of the lender. Why should anyone get paid for doing nothing?

If we cut out the middleman - the usurers - and simply exchange goods and services for goods and services, we slow down growth to a level that might be manageable, if only for it's slowness. This essentially requires the return of small communities where knowin each other builds trust and responsibility. Peer pressure works wonders, also. The anonymity of our current way allows people to act towards each other as if we were nothing more than mannequins or cartoon characters. Small communities maximize sustainable development, no?

Imagine if technological advances had been implemented far more slowly than they had been doiscovered/invented, so that we actually knew the full scale of positive and negative effects of them. Would we be in overshoot now? Perhaps not. In the end, usury pushes everything forward at rates faster than we appear to be able to manage them.

This is why some people concerned about PO and GW are looking not just at protecting and preserving, but looking at how to transition to a different paradigm altogether; one without central banks. Or any bank that uses fractional lending. One with communities where I can give you the milk that you need for the butter I need, and not worry overmuch about profiting from the from the exchange. Or givin the artist the food and bed he needs for using his skill to beautify the livin space we share. Etc.


Well there have been some attempts in the past to create an economy like the one you describe. For e.g. in Cambodia the Khmer Rouge tried to create an agrarian utopia as noted in the link below


Who knows, someone may succeed one day.

What Utopia? I didn't say there should be no profit, I said with fractional banking it is impossible to NOT have profit. (Or did you not notice the mentioning of greed?) And that is unsustainable. Perhaps someone could do a study and see if sustainability is possible with much lower fractional systems than we now have. I am also on record as stating preserving technology should be a priority should things go to hell. That's hardly arguing for an agrarian utopia.

This system isn't working. Pretending that any other suggestion is a step into fantasy land isn't very useful or accurate.


Hi Bob,

I think that the suggestion is that a country that nationalized the gas industry might decide to stiff investors.


Latin America has a long history of predation by US corporations. The US has intervened militarily for over 100 years to support the corporations (q.v. Smedley Butler). It has also intervened politically, including supporting and even launching coups. When contracts are signed with repressive, non-representative governments put into power with US support at the urging of US corporations, how much weight should those contracts carry? IMO, nationalizing industries to clear the slate makes a lot of sense for Latin American countries and doesn't necessarily imply any unreliability in the future.

Latin countries have a long history of stiffing investors. Argentina had it's first debt default in 1890. In the 1980's Latin America cost investors dear. They are right to be very cautious.

Well, I guess when your experience with capitalism comes at American gunpoint, you might feel that contracts and entrepreneurship are the tools of the oppressor.

I've got it, Weatherman! China used to have these exact same problems. Amazing what a Communist revolution, mass landlord extermination, the creation of functional literacy, and leveraging an alliance with America against the USSR can do to make Yankee capitalists forgive, forget and exploit on terms far fairer to the Chinese than previously. There's the solution!

Unless it was the intent of our capitalists to keep Latin America forever poor.

With Argentina the investors stiffed were mainly British. Institutions lend money to South America approx. every 50 years, when all the people involved in the previous loans have died or retired.
The 80's were too recent, so investors are cautious.

...Latin America has a long history of predation by US corporations.

You mean like this? George Shultz's company Bechtel

Making it illegal to collect rainwater

...But what's relevant to our discussion of rain barrels is her mention of what happened in Bolivia. They privatized their water resources, with U.S. company Bechtel winning the contract, and subsequently outlawed collection of rainwater because it threatened Bechtel's profits. Here's more on the story. And here's a little video about it.


Jeff...save your money. I've got enuf land,and my kids have almost 10 times as much as I do. For your efforts on behalf of humanity, both you and Simmons can start places on our land.


Thank you very much.

No; thank you.
Bring Khabab.

From my reading I suppose that both foreign investment as well as a skilled workforce are probably (too?) hard to come by, in the context of expanding production.

The large international institutions like the World Bank and the IMF tend to demand fargoing "market liberalisation", aka privatisation, if a country is to get financial "support". IMO this still represents economics ala Friedman, from the previous century. Thus, such economic idears are far out-dated. This a no-go for Bolivarian Revolutionairies like Evo Morales. Go read Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine". Will solve some puzzles for you.

The real revolutionaries aren't Morales and Chavez, but the impoverished Indians in revolt all the way from Bolivia to Mexico. They're not interested in big socialist government, but in self-government based on the reality that they know how to grow enough food to sustain themselves. The problem is that movements like this need leaders, organization and armies to defend themselves from the barons, and that's the road to an aggressive stance against the property of others that America uses as an excuse to engineer sanctions and invasions. If we really cared about sustainability in the 3rd world, we'd be arguing about how the Indians can achieve their anarchist goals without the need for paranoia. Because down the road Americans may be facing the same situation.

Fisrt, is the "throwaway line" correct? Considering the source and context, unlikely.
Second, please read this backgrounder, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=10221
THird, Foreign investment IS happening in Bolivia, so the NYTimes is lying; what a surprise, http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/01/03/business/LA-FIN-Bolivia-Gas.php

The lesson is when reading any article having to do with the Empire's most important physical supports, fossil fuels and money, published by the NYTimes or WaPost, they MUST be read with skepticism and verified for veracity from other sources.

That's because it's a Western Media lie. Surprise, Surprise.

Bolivia Eyes Record 2008 Gas Investment

President Evo Morales said Thursday that commitments from Iran, Brazil and Venezuela should boost foreign investment in Bolivian natural gas to an "all-time record" of nearly $1.5 billion this year.

Bolivia, which already has some $875 million in confirmed foreign investment, expects an additional $200 million from Brazilian state energy giant Petrobras and an unspecified amount from Iran and Venezuela in the coming months, Morales said.

The nationalization initially spooked some foreign investors, but gas shortages in Argentina and Brazil have encouraged international companies to continue working Bolivia's gas fields, the second largest in South America after Venezuela.


This true story might help some to understand the mentality of the masses a bit better;

Helping my 11 year old daughter with home work the other day and she insisted we had to subscribe to Grolier online to research the answers.

I tried to explain to her how important it was to use multiple resources to verify results and that I had many great resources.

She got very upset, almost in tears and finally said that “they don’t care if the answer is right, they just want to know the Grolier answer and we have to list the page, paragraph, and version where we found it.”

So I spoke to the teacher and she said it would be impossible to test and grade the children equally if they all got the answers from different sources.


So then I checked all he other classes and found that all the workpages and tests are produced by the same company as the textbooks and the only correct answers are the ones quoted from the textbooks.

One truth. One mind.

This is some real Orwellian zombie manufacturing BS if you ask me.

But were the answers from Grolier correct? If so, do the 11 year olds know/understand why that particular answer is correct?

It is clear that if you want your children capable of independent and critical thinking you can't count on the zombiefactories.

"It is clear that if you want your children capable of independent and critical thinking you can't count on the zombiefactories."

So they can Lord over the sheeple zombies in Zombieland?

The future looks so bright I got to wear shades.

So we need a class called "Critical thinking" in schools, it seems. However, unless it is proven to improve standardized parroting test scores, such an idea might not survive. ;)

The best way to learn critical thinking (and just about anything else, really) is to do what I did: don't take school (K-8, at least) very seriously, spend a lot of time in the public library, cultivate one's innate curiosity, and learn how to learn on one's own. To exercise critical thinking, you must develop scepticism toward authority, and that means first and foremost learning that the authority figure at the front of the classroom might not the be full and final word on anything and everything.

That must be how I developed it, then... For a second I thought you knew all about my personal life and was describing my schooling. To hopefully correctly quote Mark Twain:
"I never let my schooling interfere with my education."

You're right, but that is not the natural inclination of most kids, at least not in my lifetime. The natural inclination of kids is best represented by the little wild boy with the killer boomerang in "The Road Warrior", and it's a few thousand years too late (or a few years too soon) for that in America. They only want to learn how to dominate others, and that's a secret reserved for the prep schools. I have had to fear being beaten up by kids with those natural inclinations while I was hiding in the school library, though.

"I have had to fear being beaten up by kids with those natural inclinations while I was hiding in the school library, though."

Same here.

Dewey decimal saved my soul.

Then came da enter netz.

I wonder how many here have this experience in common.

Oh my yes.
I used the public library 'cause the school library was not safe.
Interesting how the kids passing out the beatings are usually quite successful, always protected. This continues to the present as best as I have informants amongst the nephews and neighbors.

The worst bully from K-9 (my family moved to another city for my 10-12) was the oldest son of the Director of State Prisons. He was supposedly fragged in 'Nam. My High School's worst died in a shootout with cops after killing a store employee during armed robbery. I often cut claases and went to the library. Have probably spent several years there.

Universal and ‘adequate’ education has gone to pot in parts of the Western World, starting at different dates in different places, from the 70’s on. The causes such as underfunding, zoning, poor teacher training, bad legislation, lack of parental oversight, etc. are multiple, and have all been thoroughly addressed. What attracts less attention is what is actually taught and how, despite the miles of library shelves devoted to that very topic.

But the main societal change is that investment in universal education, as a worthy goal for a Nation, is no longer, in many places, a genuine aim. Basically, for ages 6 - 13 or so education, there are only a few models:

a) educate all and then let some rise some sink in educational terms (Switzerland, Finland, Germany), b) have an elite and competitive system from the start, with sharp social segregation (best private, paying, schools for the rich, streaming, etc.), ensuring social reproduction for the top dogs (US, Israel, France), while still educating a minimum below, c) care not and import the educated (Saudi). All countries use a ‘mix’, so the countries quoted are just for flavor - France does a fair job of educating all; the US offers many opportunities to students from minorities or simply those who are ambitious, Swizerland imports nurses, doctors, and computer specialists; Saudi has fair schools, etc.

From 1850 to 1950 (to take just recent history and rough dates) education conferred great advantages, both to the individuals that got it, and the State that promoted it. That is no longer the case. Investing in the common good has turned into a take over by money makers - in different cases, these are corps (selling crappy text books), individuals (become famous, get money), and the State, as a corporation itself, struggling to charge but not spending the money appropriately.

Your daughter's teacher is Teaching to the Test, a method discredited by many studies. Your actual beef is with the School Board that approves of such methods and with Bush's insidious No Child Left Behind sop to the industrial educational complex, of which Grollier is a part. And all this happening in Corvallis, a town more liberal and supposedly informed on educational issues because of OSU's proximity. From your discription of the teacher's response, she has become no more than an automoton in the process of teaching. The only real answer is home-schooling, or perhaps a Charter or private school.

Which is why my children no longer attend public school, in spite of my former leanings and expectations. I'm the son of a public school teacher and a professor. Yet another aspect of the general failure of our public institutions, although I realize they have failed for many other specific groups in the past.

Every aspect of public life and community has been corrupted to enrich the private few. There is no common good, only every man for himself, might makes right, and to the victors go the spoils.

There are still good schools, but you must pay for them, while your tax money is siphoned off to the education industry. Do a little research and find out who that is - you will see some familiar names.

Just curious - was this a public school or private school? If the latter, what kind?

Public school, (brand new state of the art called Linus Pauling but I am certain Linus would be appalled).

Karlof1 - We have always included a great deal of home education along with public for both our kids. My concern is also for the societal environment my children inherit.

Sorry to hear this, Soup.

Sounds like a clause in No Child Left Behind called 'Intelligent Decline'
(or 'Artificializing Intelligence')

Hope you're making a serious stink, or otherwise making sure this school and town knows how dangerous 'One-track Information' is to the learning process..


Yeah, I once thought home schooling automatically meant lack of a "societal environment" (which was the implied message put forth by the College of Education at Northern Arizona in the 1990s and where I formed my presumption) until I moved to Yachats and observed what is done here to promote just that--Yachats Youth and Family Activities Program.

There's a chasm between educational theory and pactice that's blamed for a large percentage of teacherss who quit. Rigid teaching to the test is often singled-out. Parents and teachers must become allies to overthrow business-dominated school boards as most such boards mandate methods and curricula that go against best theory and practice. Individual teachers and parents cannot defeat such boards without allies.

We've seen where the lack of an educated citizenry has led us. Since Reagan, the goal is to dumbdown education and cultivate consumers, not citizens.

IMnotsoHO voting is just like these tests. We are trained to stick to the answers given in the text books(MSM).

Astute observation. But I would say true citizenship operates beyond mere elections: Citizenship=Activism.

There are a number of educators such as Jonathan Kozol who have criticized the educational system and practices for years. I think they were basically right that the system has been wrong-headed all along, but I agree that it has only gotten worse since Reagan. Reagan in the 60's said he wanted to dismantle and abolish public education and made a good start of it. Show me a country with only private education and I'll show you a third world feudal society. This seems to be where we are headed.

sounds like a prescription for facism.

Gold Fields May Cut 6,900 Jobs on Power Restrictions

Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Gold Fields Ltd., Africa's second- biggest gold producer, will eliminate as many as 6,900 jobs, or 13 percent of its South African workforce, as the state-run utility fails to provide enough power for the company's mines.

The cuts are the first by a South African mining company since utility Eskom Holdings Ltd. said power shortages will last for four years. Gold Fields will close part of its operations at Driefontein, Africa's largest gold mine, and redesign its South Deep mine, the company said today.

Peak South Africa?

'Why NASCAR' From above link.

I believe Kunstler is partially correct in his observations but he leaves out much of NASCARs formative years. It is difficult to understand why NASCAR is what it is today without knowing something about its history.

NASCAR began as a race on the beach with a road portion in Daytona Beach, what is now South Daytona, and Ponce Inlet. Some early NASCAR competitors were famous in their home states for their successful attempts to distribute moonshine whiskey in fast autos that would outrun the ATF agents attempting to stop them. Moonshiners were seen as hero figures because they brought needed income into impoverished communities that had few options for 'value added' revenue. From this beginning it was not a big step for these moonshiners and the mechanics that built their fast cars to start meeting at dirt tracks on Sunday afternoons to see who had the fastest car. Of course, there is always someone around to notice an opportunity to make money on any new trend and it was not long untill Bill France moved his race on the Beach at Daytona to the newly completed Daytona International Speedway. Stock car racing had suddenly become a big business with factory sponsers, large purses and the autos remained much closer to stock cars than what is raced today. The auto companies had a saying 'win on Sunday, sell on Monday', and it usually worked that way. NASCAR started down the slippery slope of 'making the competition close' when one auto factory or another would win too many races...So began the practice of NASCAR Rules to level the playing field between the various auto manufacturers. With the advent of the aerodynamic Ford Thunderbird in the early 80s Fords driven by racer Bill Elliot and others began to outpace the field by large margins. Ergo, NASCAR introduced the 'restrictor plate' under carburetion to limit the air/fuel mixture and once again 'even out the competition'. The official release from NASCAR was that 'we want to limit the speed of the cars so that they do not crash and kill the fans'...and, some fans had been killed and injured by auto crashes. Of course the racing became much more mundane as the cars followed each other around the circuit single file with no car having enough power to pass others without use of the drafting technique. Since most of the fans today know nothing of the early NASCAR racing they believe that they are seeing the 'real thing'. The racing is hyped on tv like any other sport. The spirit of the sport, the 'run whatcha brung', is gone. Now it is a very big business and imho the allure is no longer there. Had Kunstler seen some of the early racing he might have been entertained even if he realized that it was still a waste of valuable gasoline. I certainly cannot disagree with Jims contention that the auto gave the red neck (poorly chosen wording,imo) peasantry freedom of movement. I was a sometime southerner in youth and can attest that most of the old Dixie States did not see an end to depression untill well into the Johnson Administration. The allure of an auto of ones on was a powerfull intoxicant. After more than thirty years of depression, share cropping, sometimes going hungry, and listening to hard shell Baptist Preachers, having an auto, even a junker, was quite an achievement for a po boy. I hope this rant puts into perspective the 'whys' of NASCAR and its original fans...but, I dont understand the motovation of the 'modern' fans.

I have never understood the thrill of "motor"-sports. While it's quite fun to actually participate in them (I've ridden "thrillcraft") what's the point in watching other people do it?

Since it appears Peak Oil is here, do you think NASCAR will be the first casualty or the last? Will people vilify the waste shown by NASCAR or hang onto the dream of happy motoring until the bitter end?

It's the thrill of the crash along with the chill of the beer. John

Electric car racing would be a really good way to fund development and attract attention. Imagine if each team was only given 50kWh of energy and they had to race with that. Give points for fastest lap, first to a certain number of laps, and total number of laps.

Or for Bob there are teams of rail bike riders who perform relay races transporting NPK over specified distances.

Is Jamie Oliver trying to start peak oil outreach?


Very nice summary. Thank you.

Disclaimer: I am a Northern boy, so any opinions about the South are just Yankee claptrap.

Last month there was a special on the History channel called The Real Hillbillies, or something to that effect. They talked about the earliest immigrants from Scotland and North Ireland and their, er, ‘independent’ nature and resistance to authority. How they helped win the revolution against a foreign body that wanted to tax them, and then waged the whiskey rebellion against Washington, a foreign body that wanted to tax them. Snake handling, coal mining, whiskey running (more resistance to authority) and NASCAR were also covered. They were, and are, very independent and resourceful people.

Hillbillies and their culture are generally dismissed (to say the least) by us civilized folk, but they might be the only ones already prepared for energy decline.


I didn't see the special, but as a descendant of Texans who arrived from Tennessee in the 1840s, I think there's a dark side to the Scot-Irish character that has been exploited by the elites for many evil projects.

Put it this way: the English crushed the Scots, then sent them as colonists to crush the Irish, then as indentured servants to America to crush the Indians. Then the servants started to give their masters trouble, and real slaves had to be brought in for the freed Scotsmen to use as punching bags and substitute labor. Now it's cool that in the 1770s they still hated the plantation owners so much that they had an armed dirty war on each other, but in fact that put them on the side of the Redcoats! Since then every leftward twitch by their descendants has been more effectively crushed and reversed: the Unionists during the Civil War, the Grange after that war, the Texas anti-Klan faction and Sam Maverick, FDR and LBJ, all written out of the Southern memory. I call it obedience training.

I'm not proud of my ancestry. Check out Joe Bageant's website (www.joebageant.com) for some profoundly depressing observations on those of my relatives who stayed in the cotton belt. They are making their lives as unsustainable as possible on the assumption that you grab what you can as long as you can.

You want to read Noel Ignatiev's How the Irish Became White and I suspect you would enjoy the whole back file of Race Traitor Quarterly. Enjoy

JohL -

I am a northerner also, but I've spent quite a bit of time in the South on business, some of it in quite remote areas, so I think I know a little bit about southerners.

On a cultural level, one thing I have definitely noticed is that while most northerners are hardly conscious of being from the north, many southerners very strongly identify themselves as southerners and often go out of their way (sometimes in a rather obnoxious manner) to distinguish themselves from northerners.

While I can't say that I'm terrible fond of southerners in general, I will come to the defense of the 'redneck'. The redneck (i.e., a poor rural white southerner usually of English/Irish/Scots origin who is deliberately and defiantly unenlightened) is currently the only group in the US for which it is safe to publically ridicule and malign without having to worry about being charged with a hate crime or becoming the defendant in a civil rights lawsuit. In other words, rednecks are fair and open game, particularly among academic types and northern urban liberals, none of whom would dream of using the 'N-word' for an African-American or the 'K-word' for a Jewish person.

Although the terms, redneck, hillbilly, and white trash, tend to be used interchangably, there are important distinctions. The term, hillbilly, usually refers to a all-out redneck who lives in extreme poverty in highly isolated pockets of Appalachia or the Ozarks. All hillbillies are rednecks, but not all rednecks are hillbillies.

Then we have the term, 'white trash'. While often used in reference to southern rednecks, it is by no means limited to southerners. (You can find some god-awful white trash in picturesque rural New England.) 'White trash' is more of an attitude or state of mind than an ethnic thing and can be used refer to almost any ignorant, boarish, and irresponsible white person of humble means.

(One has to always be careful in selecting the right slur for the right occassion.)

Tongue in cheek question............

If you took religion and Benny Hinn types away from the southerners, what would happen?

(One has to always be careful in selecting the right slur for the right occassion.)

Well said. :>

I agree that it’s easy to intellectually beat up people who can’t defend themselves. And fun, too. I used to work for a defense contractor that made big round boats that sink. (And the government actually paid money for them, too.) I worked with a lot of WWII veterans. One, who was in my carpool, had been at Pearl Harbor when the bombs fell. These guys routinely called each other dumb Pollack, Frenchie, and a host of other derogatory names. Of course, they had also gone through a similar, trial by fire experience with the depression and war that created a kinship and respect among them.

Years later I told this story to an anthropology class I was taking. We were talking about the kinds of bonds that draw people together, or something like that. It’s one thing to talk about ‘primitive tribes.’ I always like to look at my own culture and what motivates us, so I gave a personal example of plain working people that I had known. The teacher looked at me like I had two heads. Now, I don’t want to make the mistake of Liberal Elite bashing, either, but they, too, have very substantial blinders that they won’t take off.



There is still hope for northerners: http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/index.htm

Or, at the very least, you could play Sweet Home Alabama by Lynard Skynard. I grant it's not really "hillbilly" but it has the right feel.


That reminds me of books like ‘The Frugal American Housewife’ and other old ‘how to’ books that just assumed you’d be making a lot of stuff yourself, storing stuff in the summer for the winter, etc. When people talk about mining magic helium-3 beans from the moon or running generators from the energizer bunny on the Atlantic conveyor, they are always assuming we can keep things going the way they are now, with the same standard of living. I tell my 27 year old daughter to prepare for and expect less. ‘You know all that stuff you have now? Well, in the future you’ll have less of it.’

Sweet Home Connecticut just doesn’t have that southern flair. :>


Much the same dynamics played out at the Indy 500. For decades, the 500 was touted as the proving grounds where new automotive technical advances were developed. Then a paradigm-shifting technical advance came along - the turbines. After two years of the turbines nearly winning the race, the handwriting was on the wall: let them continue, and in a few years the turbines would not only win, but drive out the ICE cars altogether. As it should be, according to the stated rationale for holding an event that routinely kills and injures people. But nope, the crowd didn't like the fact that the turbines were quiet and not noisy, and most of all they just didn't like the fact that they were new and different. So they were banned, forever. Since then, Indy has been pretty much stuck in an increasingly rigid technological paradigm. You just don't hear automobile or parts manufacturers going on and on about how this or that new thing helped somebody win the Indy 500 any more (you DID hear that up through the mid 1960s, I do remember it).

Both Indy and stock car racing have thus increasingly become divorced from their former role in technological development. Nowadays, I see them increasingly being an antiquities-based form of entertainment, a lot like civil war re-enactors, or the SCA people who pretend to be in medieval times. As the price of motor fuels skyrockets and recreational driving (especially with sports or "muscle" cars) becomes a distant, now unaffordable memory, I expect auto racing to become even more explicitly antiquities-re-enactment oriented.

"As it should be, according to the stated rationale for holding an event that routinely kills and injures people."

I like your observation about the connection between Darwinian sports and the culling of participants and spectators. Perhaps the result of this evolutionary process will be spectators who have the good sense to just watch it on TV or play it on Xbox.

The idea of it as antiquities-based is also worthwhile. The last time I paid much attention to stock cars 20 years ago they actually still looked like real Monte Carlos and Cutlasses, rear-drive V8 coupes. Now they're undifferentiated lumps, based vaguely on front-drive V6 sedans like Impalas and Camrys. What's the appeal of that? Antique sports car racing is in fact becoming very popular among well-heeled enthusiasts, as any reader of Road & Track can attest. Those cars have to be driven very carefully. Another alternative is to evacuate a ghetto and turn racers loose with armored Subaru WRXs and Mitsubishi Evos, which you can actually buy.

I had long hoped the upcoming Speed Racer movie would be set in the 1960s because of the current boom in racing old Maseratis and Chaparrals, but alas...

River -

Your little capsule summary of the origins of NASCAR and the role of the automobile in the rural south is right on.

The early grass-roots days of motorsport in the US (say prior to about 1960) were heady times indeed and quite a contrast to the grotesque commercialized monstrosity that NASCAR has become. Like everything else, if you have a good thing, why not ruin it?

In fact, NASCAR had become something far more than just motorsport and has metasticized into a cultural thing mainly for working-class whites who want to believe in a fictional America that is whole and pure but which in reality has abandoned them to cheap Chinese labor. It is a fantasy land, which for many fans has little to do with what is actually going on on the track. It has become a sort of tribal ritual of self-reinforcing values. Almost a modern American version of the Nuremburg rallies.

I would be willing to bet a thousand dollars that if you polled any randomly selected 100 people at any NASCAR race anywhere at any time, you would find a majority of people who strongly support the Bush Regime, hate 'ragheads' with a rabid passion, think we're in the Middle East to bring freedom to these benighted people, get their received wisdom from Rush Limbaugh, and think that what's wrong with the good ol' US of A could be easily fixed by rounding up all these unpatriotic liberal pinkos and sending them off to nice a vacation at Gitmo.

NASCAR is a microcosm of all that's wrong with modern American culture (such as it is).

That's an excellent summary of why NASCAR is such a resource for the pols.

Joule and all responders...thanks...and I would not wager against your proposition regarding the politics of NASCAR fans.

I think NASCAR will slowly lose popularity just as 'professional wrestling' did. It seems that at some point even the most dull witted people realize that what they are paying their hard earned cash for is just a lot of hype. The promoters continue to increase the hype and generate more revenue and conduct more contests untill one day the bubble seems to deflate and people drift away to a 'newer' attraction.

My favorite sport to watch is World Cup Soccer and since the opportunity to watch it only comes every four years my interest is hightened. It remains special because of its rarity.

The only other sport I take interest in is SEC Football...and yes, I know its decadant. The kids that play are superb atheletes, very fast, very talented, in great condition, well coached and really leave all their energy on the field every game. I think this is about as close to watching gladiators as we can come today unless one willingly enters a real war zone. It is brutal and exhilirating. Pro football is slow and tedious by comparison. Interestingly, tailgaiting is a big part of SEC Football, just as at NASCAR races.

World Cup Soccer is not a sport, it is an event. Soccer is ubiquitous almost anywhere outside of the US and Canada. You can barely turn on a sports channel without hearing about the most trivial of games.

I hate soccer, if only because the day after the World Cup ends there are qualifying matches for the next one. Or, at least it seems.

Besides, you ever seen less sportsmanship than those wimps falling down at every mere touch?


Come play some football, boys, where the fallin' down is a result of physics, not Hollywood training.



Come play Rugby. There they get hit and fall down, and have no pading either.

They also are not running nearly as fast, as recklessly, nor in such vulnerable positions. If NFL players didn't wear pads the league would last a week or two, max, because there would be no skill players left.

I've watched rugby. It's much more like a wrestling match and a bit of rumbling down the field by fellows who aren't movin all that fast and who generally get rid of the ball before they get whacked. Pretty much the opposite of Am. football. That said, there is, I am sure, a great deal of pain involved in no-pad contact. We played full tackle football out in the road when I was a boy, not flag football, so I know what it's like. But I wasn't running a 4.4 forty carrying a ball and being hit head on by another guy running a 4.5 forty with no intention of slowing up before plowing into me. I'd wager the average career length is an order of magnitude or two longer than the average NFL player.

The NFL does have some continuity issues... would be nice if they could get the game length down a bit.


WWF--Worldwide Wrestling Frauds.

For me this is the scariest story in todays' DB: "GM crops can meet India's food, biofuel needs".

Unfortunately I lack the knowledge to prove this is a dangerous proposition. OK I know hybrid seeds don't reproduce, I know these are very FF dependent farming methods, and I know it will make 3rd world farmers depend on large multinational corporations, but that's all...

There was a story a few months ago (sorry, no link) about a rash of suicides among poor Indian farmers. The farmers, who are poor even by Indian standards, had to take out loans to buy the GM seeds. If everything worked out, they made money. However, if the harvest was bad because of weather, or the harvest was too good, then the farmers just wound up deeper in debt.

I can't find the link, and I never found a corroboration of the story. When you're talking about a country of more than 1/2 a billion people, a "rash" could be hundreds and still be insignificant. The story gave no indication of the actual magnitude of the problem, which is somewhat suspicious in itself.

Still, it is evocative. And I do believe that turning farmers into debt slaves to agribusiness is at least a side benefit to the seed sales.

Shargash, there was a documentary on Link TV some time ago about the plight of the Indian Farmers. The farmers were going broke because several of the large agri biz companies claimed, with slick tv ads, that their seeds (in this case cotton) would produce cotton that needed almost no insecticide to protect against bowl weevil. By the time the farmers found the truth about the seeds/insecticide they were heavily indeated and had a choice of committing suicide or selling their land and becoming paupers. Many chose suicide so their families could collect their life insurance and continue owning the farm.

From the NYT - September 19, 2006


"On India’s Farms, a Plague of Suicide"
- Body count in 2003: 17,107

Staggering, regardless of the total population.


A minor quibble.

The population of India is more than 1,130 million people. When India gained independence in 1947, it's population was around 350 million. The growth since is the problem.


About 1/3 the population is under 16 years of age. Those kids haven't begun to consume (or reproduce) like adults yet.

E. Swanson

And then one year an interesting Black Swan appeared.

A "New" virus appeared and only attacked that one Mono-Clone GM seed variant. 3rd world without a harvest that year. India, Africa, ...

Global Population Reduction via a "New" plant virus.

PaulusP, I find a lot of things wrong in that article, primarily this:

"Biotech can solve bio-fuel needs of the world...India,

That is pure baloney. Biotech can increase the quantity and quality of many crops, including corn and wheat, and there is nothing dangerous in the grain produced. It is just more corn, wheat or whatever. The idea that it might be poisonous is pure myth. But it is just plain dumb to make a statement like the above from the article. Biotech can no more solve our fuel needs than corn ethanol can.

And you are wrong about hybrid seeds not being able to reproduce. Hybrids of different species are most often sterile but hybrids from the same species are seldom, if ever, sterile. However the seed from these hybrid plants seldom reproduce true to the parent plant. That is, the crop you get by planting seeds produced from your GM crop are likely to produce less in both quantity and quality than you got from the original seeds.

I know we often here that trying to reproduce from hybrid seeds is like trying to reproduce from the offspring of a horse and a donkey. The result is a mule, which is sterile. But hybrid seeds are seldom from different species and are therefore seldom sterile. But as I said, they do not reproduce true to the parent plant.

Ron Patterson

Harmonious reply. ;}

"However the seed from these hybrid plants seldom reproduce true to the parent plant."

After one year, the hybrid will revert to open source.

"Biotech can increase the quantity and quality of many crops, including corn and wheat, and there is nothing dangerous in the grain produced."

GM seeds grown the same way as open source will not
produce as much.

"The three-year scientific study tracked the experiences of small farmers from planting to harvest in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh. ''It found that three GM cotton varieties did not live up to the claims made by the agro-company Maycho-Monsanto and performed less well than traditional non-GM seeds,'' the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) which supported the anti-GM campaign said in a statement Tuesday.

Though costing nearly 400 per cent more to buy, the average yield from the GM cotton was about 150kg per acre, 30 percent less than from other non-GM varieties. The GM seeds also cost 12 percent more to cultivate in their need for manure and irrigation, and the reduction in pesticide use was negligible.

''Non-GM farmers earned 60 percent more than their GM counterparts over the three-year period,'' IIED said. "


"NEW DELHI - Environmentalists and food security activists in India have renewed calls for a moratorium on genetically modified (GM) foods and crops after rats reportedly secretly tested with GM corn diets by the U.S. agribusiness and biotech giant Monsanto developed blood and organ abnormalities."


And the monoculture which GM seed encourages is detrimental
to other life forms, like bees.

yours in harmonious open source partnership,


James, I know you are a farmer and I am not. However I grew up on a farm and know a little bit about it. When we switched to hybrid corn our production increased. That was in the 50's. Our production increased from about 35 bushels per acre to over 50. Now hybrid corn production is pushing 300 bushels per acre.

But GM crops are not all about increased production. Round Up Ready Soybeans do not produce any more per acre than ordinary soybeans. It just makes it a lot easier to keep the weeds out.

You write as if GM crops have been a total failure. You should know that is not so. There have been failures sure, and swindles as well. But by and large GM crops, along with new fertilizers and farming techniques, have been responsible for the Green Revolution. World grain production has increased almost four fold since 1950. (From 631 million tons in 1950 to 2,316 million tons in 2007.) GM grains was responsible for no small part of that increase.

Farmers are not stupid. If GM corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton or whatever did not give them an advantage then they would not use them. The fact that most everyone in the corn belt plants hybrid corn should tell you something. If that doesn't tell you anything then I sure as hell am wasting my breath trying to explain it to you.

Ron Patterson

"But by and large GM crops, along with new fertilizers and farming techniques, have been responsible for the Green Revolution. "

You are basically correct Ron, but GM crops are a relatively recent introduction. More traditional techniques produced the new varieties for the Green Revolution. I'm glad to see the complete grouping listed though, new varieties that responded to increased fertilization and new farming techniques, including irrigation. Too often we have focused on just one component, when all three were the source.

Wheat crops are thus far not GM modified, at least on the farm. GM wheat was produced, but shelved years ago. Largely, this has been because producers have feared a consumer backlash, and didn't want to jeopardize export sales. It has been the same in the major wheat exporting countries, not just the US. No one wanted to be the first on the block here, and labeled the pariah unable to sell.

This winters shortage is changing that. The National Association of Wheat Growers has announced full steam ahead, and the old sale fears are seen as groundless with the new market. The major seed producers, Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF are still waiting, either in development or not with commercial sales available.


Hybrid seed and GM seed are two different things.

GM seed from open pollinated (non hybrid) seed is polluting crops like rape(canola) crops. And unbelievable as it sounds Monsanto is suing farmers with those polluted seeds into bankruptcy.


That's quite an old article. Percy Schmeiser actually lost the patent infringement case to Monsanto in a decision by the Supreme Court, but didn't have to pay damages. So for Monsanto it was a bit of a Phyrric victory, given the intense amount of publicity given to their opponents.

Monsanto Canada Inc. v Schmeiser

Sorry for not posting a more recent link. How about this one:
Monsanto versus Farmers

Pyrrhic victory for Monsanto? Yeah,right. From your link:

After about six years of court battling, Schmeiser guesses his legal bills have totalled close to 400 thousand Canadian dollars. Schmeiser says he has lost the right to use his strain of canola, which took him 50 years to develop, because he can not prove they do not include the Roundup Ready gene Monsanto patented. (Furthermore, he says that on the advice of his lawyers, he destroyed all his seed and purchased new seed, so his strain of canola no longer exists, which presents an additional obstacle to his continuing to farm it. However, he was ordered to turn over all his remaining seed from his 1997 and 1998 crops to Monsanto, so even if he hadn't eradicated his own strain on his own initiative, it would likely not have survived.) This interpretation is not consistent with the court rulings, which place no onus on a farmer in general nor Schmeiser in particular (for example, see paragraph 76 of the Federal Court of Appeal ruling) to prove the absence of the patented gene prior to growing seed.

The blind, boundless greed of corporations like Monsanto and Exxon will destroy them. Unfortunately, they'll also destroy civilization as we know it.

I never meant to imply it was easy on Schmeiser. In fact I think the actions of Monsanto were (and to this day are) completely asinine.

All I meant by the phyrric victory comment is that this case has given the opponents of GM crops a very good example of how these technologies and their legislative support system can be abused by large companies. The fact is that although they technically won the suit, they not only generated a great deal of negative public opinion, but also didn't get to collect any punitive damages and had to pay their own legal fees.

It is publicity from this case that brought the concerns about cross-contamination of GM and non-GM crops to the forefront. This concern is one of the reasons I have heard that GM wheat was so heavily opposed and has been shelved (temporarily, if the companies have their say, I'm sure).

I hope that these companies can be reined in as well, as I agree that their insatiable greed is leading us to destruction.

Best hopes for patent reform. :)

The blind, boundless greed of corporations like Monsanto and Exxon will destroy them. Unfortunately, they'll also destroy civilization as we know it.

This bears repeating. A half-century of developing a seed that will grow in Canada's cold weather, geographical location, and produce a bountiful crop has been destroyed not by accident or fire or flood, but by lawsuits. It's simply amazing that at this early stage of Peak Oil (peak food/grain?) we humans are destroying, literally, our "seeds of life."

We may finally have reached "peak law" as well as peak everything else.

Only a twisted, corrupt legal system allows corporations to function they way they do.

But GM crops are not all about increased production. Round Up Ready Soybeans do not produce any more per acre than ordinary soybeans. It just makes it a lot easier to keep the weeds out.

My personal concerns are with GM crops that contain genes to be bug resistance (built in pesticides) as well as human or other animal genes inserted to protect plants against disease. I see potential risks with Human and animal genes since its possible for new mutatated diseases that affect humans and animals. The new artificially inserted genes could mutate in an unfriendly way.

Its much easier to insert genes than it is to remove them from the environment. We can see that inserted gene are cross breeding with non-gm crops. If some unforeseen issue with a introduced gene happens it might be very difficult to correct the problem.

I am especially wary of blindly inserting genes that did not naturally evolve within the plant kingdom. We have trouble programming computer software to function with out error even though we fully understand the system (since we designed it from scratch). Genetic programming is considerable more difficult and we still lack a full understanding of existing genetic code. Imagine giving a newbie coder the task of developing flight control software or other software that must be near flawless. This is what we are doing with GM crops. Before we begin to reprogram existing plants and animals, we should first have mastered the system and fully understand the genetic code for the species we are attempting to artifically modify. For instance we should have atleast learned to create a full genetic code (from scratch) in a controlled environment, rather than simply insert a gene from one species into another and see what happens. Russia rulette anyone? I think this is because of our built-in instinct to produce near instant results without sacrificing the time and effort to full develop the knowledge.

World food production is dependant on about a dozen major food crops. If we screw up something like vital like corn or wheat, Billions will die.

You do know of the terminator gene added to some GM crops

Terminator Technology is the colloquial name given to proposed methods for restricting the use of genetically modified plants by causing second generation seeds to be sterile. The technology was under development by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Delta and Pine Land company in the 1990s and is not yet commercially available. Because some stakeholders expressed concerns that this technology might lead to dependence for poor smallholder farmers, Monsanto, an agricultural products company and the world's biggest seed supplier, pledged not to commercialize the technology[1].

For the moment Monsanto has backed off but they intended to sell into the third world.

I have read that just as the GM crops have gotten into the wild, it is possible for the Terminator Gene to also get into the wild. If that happens... And right when we are at Peak Oil as well when we won't have the energy for corporate farming.

Is it a coincidence that the arrival of GM crops and the decline of honey bees (and many other insects) are happening about the same time?

Whether saved GM seeds are sterile or not (as you say, they aren't) is irrelevant, since it is illegal to save GM seeds. That is one of the main reasons governments and corporations are so strongly in favour of the technology - it helps create further dependency and works against self-sufficiency.

Regarding your claim that

The idea that it might be poisonous is pure myth

you are just making this claim and failing to back it up with evidence.

The reality is that there has been remarkably little research done on the safety of GM crops (the abstract of this scientific paper published last year concludes by asking 'where is the scientific evidence showing that GM plants/food are toxicologically safe?'). Despite this, there is already ample evidence that GM crops are unsafe. For instance, this study, published last year, found that when a gene from kidney beans was inserted into peas, the GM peas caused allergic reactions in mice even though the beans did not. The mice fed GM peas also became more sensitive to other proteins - for example, they reacted to egg white protein, whereas those fed non-GM peas did not.

Anyone interested in learning about the available evidence of health risks associated with GM crops should read 'Genetic roulette', by Jeffrey Smith. A summary of the evidence can be found here.

You say

It is just more corn, wheat or whatever.

but again, this is completely wrong. GM crops introduce new proteins to the food chain and it is scientifically absurd to simply assume that all new proteins introduced to the food chain will automatically be safe.

Furthermore, even when no new protein is introduced, there can still be problems: in the GM peas study I referred to above, the scientists found that the introduced protein had the same amino acid sequence as the the corresponding protein in the bean, but a different array of sugars attached to it. They believe that this different 'glycosylation pattern' is what caused the allergic reactions.

Reading that item on heavy oil does anybody know what happened to THAI? It was supposed to have a trial. has it been discarded or is there hope?

From the Petrobank site:

"...we have decided to drill at least one additional well on the current plant footprint which will be our first THAI™/CAPRI™ well."

"...we have enhanced our process design to allow for a larger central facility with ultimate capacity for 100,000 barrels per day, as well as other facilities improvements based on data from our current operations. This new project will be known as May River."

If the 100,000 bpd operation works as planned, I expect that THAI will start to be taken a lot more seriously.

Hello all,
Does anyone have a link to the Ban-Ki Moon's report to the U.N., in which he estimates $15-20 trillion to prevent climate change? It was mentioned in the news earlier this month, but there is no reference to it at un.org, or anywhere else..

I think this is it.

Thanks Leanan, I got it. The system uses cookies, so you have to start from the search page using the job number - N0820446

Might be easiest to start here, then.

Hello Half Full,

Does anyone have a link to the Ban-Ki Moon's report to the U.N. [...]

I looked for it and found this site.

I don't think they've put it up yet but it looks like they should do within the next days. The plenty of links to news reports found via google agonisingly do not give the title but they do say it is 52 pages so that can be used as a control point.


Oil Shortage Could Derail Chinese Economy

Manufacturing.Net - February 25, 2008

BEIJING (Kyodo) — A government minister has admitted that China faces a significant shortage of oil and other natural resources which could limit the country's future economic development, state media reported Monday.

Wang Min, vice minister of land and resources, said the country will increase efforts to develop its own mineral resources to make up the shortfall, the China Daily reported.

Wang said China faces a shortfall of 6 billion tons of oil, 600 million cubic meters of natural gas and 3.5 billion tons of steel in the coming years, despite an aggressive policy of Chinese investment in oil and minerals production overseas. ...


In other words, this guy feels that oil is currently extremely undervalued.

I was traveling in China around Nov of last year. In the province of Yunan,
I can see long line of trucks not moving b/c lack of fuel to run. Sinopec had a refuel station every 5 miles or so, but all are empty -- go figure.

Our bus was only able to get through the whole mess by go back and use another road. This whole fuel crisis will only get worse and probably hit the 3rd world countries the most.

Hi Dinh,

For those who don't think something like this could happen here, thirty years ago the U.S. experienced a severe natural gas shortage that forced thousands of industries to shut down for up to several weeks -- 500,000 employees were laid off during this time.

This was the lead story on the CBS Evening News which begins at 3:30:

This PSA, dating back to 1971, foreshadows what was to come:


What to do think is going to happen?

jim rogers.


from us cats.

Wang said China faces a shortfall of 6 billion tons ....

6 billion tons (???????) is equal to the annual global oil extraction "these years", or more than all liquids actually.

These crazy numbers are not put into any context though

Forget global warming: Welcome to the new Ice Age

Snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.

Post a link and a short excerpt, not a huge block o' text. Especially a huge block o' text with all formatting removed.

Rich Karlgaard at Forbes blogged about this article today. Also the quote by Bob Lutz of GM, "Global warming is a “total crock of ****.”

The phrase I use is "climate change" not "global warming". I don't really think we understand how all the feedbacks work. Our models are linear -- the real world is not.

Global Warming theory predicts higher snowfall, so this news confirms the theory. Unfortunately it's easily misconstrued by the deniers.

Spot on. Greater heat equals greater humidity overall. That is also why Antarctica may be building mass at the center, but not overall. It's losin too much to melt at the edges, particularly the WAIS. But, the greater heat also equals higher evaporation, which dries out soils faster, which will lead to greater drought.

Why can't these denialists get it through their heads it's a *systems* issue, not a localized one?


Because the world encourages piecemeal, linear, fragmented thinking.

And because thinking in systems is complex and unfamiliar, it's harder than flipping on the TV and having someone else do your thinking for you.

TV presenters think!?

The meat of the article is a comment about ocean circulation. This past summer produced some apparently unusual wind patterns over the Arctic Ocean, which have been blamed for the record melt of sea-ice. Lately, there's evidence seen in some satellite data I regularly look at which suggests that one branch of the THC may have shutdown. This has happened a few times before in the recent past, which may be an indication of an oscillation in the THC. I think it's way too early to make statements about the ocean models not including wind stress, which is claimed in the article. Without wind stresses, the models could not produce a Gulf Stream current, which would be a blindingly obvious fault in the models, IMHO. Time will tell.

E. Swanson

Here's a link to Robert Toggweiler's papers, including the new one in NATURE which inspired the story above.

E. Swanson

the vanishing act of the sea ice this year was probably caused by... heat-trapping clouds... water vapor... unusually sunny skies... warm winds flowing from Siberia... high-pressure system parked over the ocean. The winds not only would have melted thin ice but also pushed floes offshore where currents and winds could push them out of the Arctic Ocean.

But another factor was probably involved, one with roots going back to about 1989... a periodic flip in winds and pressure patterns over the Arctic Ocean, called the Arctic Oscillation

All well and good, but lookin at one event in a lobal issue as complex as this is a bit like the blind men and the elephant. E.g.:

But at the university in Fairbanks — where signs of northern warming include sinkholes from thawing permafrost around its Arctic research center — Dr. Eicken and other experts are having a hard time conceiving a situation that could reverse the trends.


For a look at how the other end of the spectrum thinks, take a look at this. Somebody posted a link to my population article from last year on FreeRepublic. For those who don't know the site, it's a very (very!) right wing chat board. The sentiment in the thread is very positive to abiotic oil, totally dismissive of the notion of Peak Oil, and the common feeling is that the Invisible Hand will act to create substitutes just in time. While there are a few people there who get it, they are pretty thin on the ground.


Unfortunately I suspect there are more of these folks out there than there are of us.

There must be some way we could figure out how to mix FreeRepublic and DailyKos together. The amount of combustion heat that mix would generate would surely supply all of our energy needs.


You have to be comfortably dumb to even register there, GG. Those people are the outlying 0.1% of the small fraction of the country who still think that GWB is the Best. President. Ever. Their opinions don't count much today and that trend is as certain as a declining oil field's production curve. We won't miss their input to the national dialog on all sorts of issues ...

Oh, I know all about those bozos. I'm registered at DemocraticUnderground, which is the total opposite end of the political spectrum from FR, and even many of the folks at DU are too conservative for my tastes. The Freepers may be insane, but I still worry that their attitudes are uncomfortably representative of a lot of the people who still have their hands on the levers of American power.

If those that post at Free Republic had a clue they would know that the 'Invisible Hand' is manipulating the sock puppet, aka shrub.

That item about the likely necessity of rationing food aid was the top item on the BBC all day today. This is basically the beginning of the destruction of the high population world. Perhaps not peak population (which is still 30 or so years in the future), but the beginning of the phase in which the existence of that peak becomes impossible to ignore. Expect a lot of unrest over this in the coming years, as more and more people wake up to the full unpleasantness of the situation.


Utility companies and profit.

At present the more kilowatt hours or c.f. of gas you sell the bigger the company profit. If the customer was encouraged to use less then profit would suffer. I suggest that some kind of reward scheme be implemented that pays bonuses or give corporate tax cuts for meeting targets. Think of it as a slimming club for overweight energy customers.

But now things have changed and it makes more economic sense to them for you to use less. It would be cheaper to cut your customers demand through funding energy efficiency measures than to build new expensive capacity to meet the increased demand.

The cheapest, greenest unity of energy is the one saved.

When it becomes obvious to everyone that energy prices are going to keep rising for all the various factors we talk about (including environmental legislation) any financial benefit from energy efficiency savings, will be used to fund more energy efficiency (hopefully)

Re: Pimentel and ethanol. I was surprised to see this in the quoted article:

Cornell University's up-to-date analysis of the 14 energy inputs that go into corn production, plus the nine energy inputs invested in ethanol fermentation and distillation, confirms that more than 40 percent of the energy contained in one gallon of corn ethanol is expended to produce it.

- that puts the EROEI at over 2:1. I thought Pimentel always said it's less than 1:1. Did he change his mind, or did he choose to quote a more "conservative" figure from a source other than his own studies?

Yeah, I noticed that comment as well. Anyone found a reference?

E. Swanson

"We do not need fossil fuel for power production; we never did."

One of the first things I found in the Library of Congress on John Kennedy’s effort to build Quoddy was his Dream of Passamaquoddy speech, given at a 1959 Democratic issues conference in Augusta, Maine. In this visionary speech, he foretold the energy crises we would face, and he prescribed its solution ─ water ─ the rushing water of the Bay of Fundy tides. Kennedy stated in his speech that he had begun working on his dream of building the dam in 1952, when he was elected to the Senate; however, in 1952, there was a legal roadblock in place in Maine that had existed since 1908. There could be no financial feasibility for Kennedy’s Quoddy Dam until it was eliminated.

We do not need fossil fuel for power production; we never did. The battle between the emerging technologies of hydroelectric and fossil fuel for power production began in 1902, in the state of Maine and New York. Fossil fuel won. A group of American and Canadian businessmen formed the Maine New Brunswick Power Company to exploit the vast resources of the area’s tides on both sides of the border, and George Westinghouse began plans to use the rushing waters of Niagara Falls to power New York State.

Westinghouse employed two hydroelectric engineers, Dexter Cooper, who would dedicate his life to trying to tap the energy of Maine tides─ and Nicola Tesla, a man who is as well known for his work in electricity as Einstein is for physics. In addition to his better-known inventions — the radio and alternating current — Nicola Tesla invented the bladeless turbine. He managed to put turbines into use in Niagara’s waters in a three-phase system, and for a time lit up Buffalo and all of Manhattan. Tesla claimed that the waters of Niagara could power all of Northeast America. His turbine, ironically, is now used to pump oil.

In the State of Maine, the fossil fuel industry would be instrumental in winning the support of the Governor of Maine, Bert Fernald, who would pass his namesake Fernald Bill in 1908, prohibiting the sale of hydroelectric beyond the borders of Maine. Electricity produced from fossil fuel was exempt from this law. The law is an indication of the terrible threat hydroelectric posed to the early promulgation of the fossil fuel culture. The company formed to begin tapping the water resources of Maine and New Brunswick disbanded after the bill passed.


Niagara Falls generates 4 to 5 GW of hydroelectric power at night and less in the day when 100,000 ft3 of water is allowed over during tourist season.

reddot -

While Nicola Tesla invented the bladeless turbine, as far as I know, he was never able to actually manufacture a full-scale, successful commercial version of the bladeless turbine. And probably for good reason, if you've ever tried it, it is extremely difficult to get large thin closely spaced discs of metal to adhere to tight tolerances, particularly under conditions of high heat and high pressure. The bladeless turbine was an intriguing idea, but nothing much really came of it (and I doubt ever will).

Tesla was an incredible genius, but not all of his many ideas were good ideas (the claims of the New-Age Tesla groupies notwithstanding).

Nicola Tesla was a big proponent of alternating current, and perhaps this is where some of the confusion lies. As you probably know, there was a big war between Edison's direct current and Tesla's (backed by Westinghouse) alternating current. The rest is history.

Edison became rich: Tesla spent his last days as a broken lonely man feeding pidgeons in Bryant Park by the New York Public Libary.

So it goes.

Alan, joule, et al- I'm retired graduate chemist, IBEW electrician, host of other doodads and in my 70's. I have worked around and walked inside generators with 200-ton rotors.

If you are not familiar with 40-yr old, established, successful and scaleable La Rance tidal generating station in France, please go to above link for an education, like I just did. Patience for first few pages and you will be rewarded.

In its time the disc turbine was really something. Since then, materials and technology have made more efficient turbines. It is still of interest to hobbyists and others that tinker with it. Have a look on YouTube and you will see lots of experimenters.

I'm interested in coming up with objective measures of food security. To this end, as a simple exercise I calculated the amount of grain production per capita for various nations.

Population stats come from the CIA's factbook:

Grain production info from the UN:

Haven't completed looking at all nations yet, but have done the calculation for the ones with higher populations.

Here are some of the results (approximately):

Rank Country kg/capita
1 Canada 1578
2 Australia 1542
3 United States 1292
4 France 1107
5 Ukraine 885

For the world it's about 340kg per capita and the UK is at that level also. Japan produces only 94kg per capita.

Now what amazes me is that American grow-your-own-food types wouldn't do this simple arithmetic before advancing their peak oil remedies. They are, of course, welcome to argue this state of affairs won't last. But why wouldn't they inform us of the present state of things? Is it because many activists, similar to sales people, are fundamentally liars?

Turns out that the US comprises about 4.5% of the world's population but produces 17% of its grains. It really is the Saudi Arabia of food.

Wheat has been mentioned a lot lately.

From the USDA:


The United States is the world's leading wheat exporter. In most years, the United States, Canada, Australia, the EU-25, and Argentina account for about 80 percent of world wheat exports.

While wheat exports are dominated by a handful of nations, many countries import large amounts of wheat. (Sound familiar?)

From the following chart, more than half of all wheat exports for the world are concentrated in 3 nations: United States, Canada, and Australia.

(And where do most of the grow-your-own-food peakniks live?)

But why wouldn't they inform us of the present state of things? Is it because many activists, similar to sales people, are fundamentally liars?

Nah. My guess is it's because it's considered obvious - common knowledge. Everyone knows the US is "the Saudi Arabia of food." Even Bobby Butler, back in 1979.

The amazing thing is that the US is now a net importer of food, and that the UN predicts the US and Canada will no longer have food to export by 2020, due to "exportland" issues.

Reference? (re the UN prediction)

>>Everyone knows the US is "the Saudi Arabia of food."

NO WAY! There is absolutely no way the average grow-it-yourself peaknik has any sort of grip on the American food supply. That's been proven many times.

The amazing thing is that the US is now a net importer of food

This is false, very very false, on a food calorie basis. And, when it comes to food security, that's what matters.

US imports are generally high cost, low necessity foods that would often be considered luxuries.

US exports are low cost, high necessity items (like grain).

"..when it comes to food security, that's what matters." ie, Calories

Well.. that sounds a bit like an 'In a perfect world' kind of statement, George. The kinds of misquided trade policies and national priorities that the US has been showing could easily upset the potential benefits of this food advantage. I just hope the Churchill admonition about our 'always doing the right thing, at least after trying all the other possibilities' comes into play once again..

But my choices of where to live have definitely been weighted on the fruitfulness of the region.

(and who says Salesmen are basically liars?)


And, when it comes to food security, that's what matters

Coffee is a necessity !

Note that the basics imported into the frontier included salt, flour, sugar and coffee.

Best Hopes for Cafe au lait, without which life is not worth living !


Expect to seem more headlines like the following one. BTW, both China and Russia have moved to curtail food exports.

Venezuela limits food exports
From correspondents in Caracas
February 26, 2008 05:30am

VENEZUELA will halt exports of foods such as milk and meat unless domestic demand is met first, the government said today, as leftist president Hugo Chavez struggles with shortages of staple products.

There seems to be a rush these days to curtail the export of food. This (food competition and fight for control) may be one of the more egregiously under-reported issues today.

With Obama now campaigning hard against NAFTA are we seeing the dawning of the first great wave of protectionism and trade-wars of the 21st century?

Glad you're not "in Japan" anymore?


All your stats are correct, its just interpretation. The US is the SA of food exports. But some forsee these exports falling.

Need to keep in context world production, we may be #1, but what does it mean? Unfortunately, not that we feed the world.

Look at the world's 3 leading grains, wheat, corn and rice. From memory, production of each of the 3 crops have averaged around 600 million metric tons/year.

With corn, we exported 2,100 mil bushels in 2006, or 53 mil metric tons, not quite 9% of world production.

With wheat, we exported 909 mil bu in 2006, or 24.7 mil metric tons, a little over 4% of world production.

With rice, we are not in the ballpark.

Most of the world produces it's own grain-China is just now really entering the wheat import market. With demand increasing, countries which used to import little are asking for more. And we will prob have less to give, although USDA projects increasing wheat and corn exports in the immediate future.

Exactly. USA is the swing producer, and there is just not that much slack. When the US had spare capacity in unplanted acreage and large stockpiles a degree of stability and security was on offer. No more.

I would argue that ethanol production is de facto spare capacity. Not my preferred way of doing it, but it does represent ag production that could be rather quickly transitioned into food for humans. Not that people would eat corn grown for ethanol production. No, the land would be used for human food the next year. Though, in a real pinch, I suspect corn for ethanol production could be eaten.


I don't understand why you think that consideration for starving people will influence the wealthy to stop converting food into fuel. Certainly at the present time they are not:


During the Great Depression did the wealthy stop eating steak which requires copious amounts of grain to produce a pound of flesh while many citizens went hungry or even starved?


Yes, the US has a ton of food. Generally going to the highest bidder. The ability to grow some more of your own food seems to me to be an effective hedge against rising food prices, and those who were able to do so in the Great Depression surely ate better when their crop came due in contrast to those eating garbage or weeds.

George there are a lot of nutters out there in general including some peakniks and I think questioning questionable premises is always a worthwhile endeavor. But I don't see any reason to advocate that learning to grow and growing at least some of your own food is insane drum beating by activists. The future is murky and I never think learning a practical skill that you might just enjoy, and possibly could come in quite handy, is folly.

Most meat during the Depression was pasture raised. The problem then was commodity prices were too LOW and farmers were dumping milk and burning grain in protest. The biggest famine between WW1 and WW2 was caused by Stalin in Ukraine.

That bit about steak was funny. In the 1930's there was a depression in agriculture, and farmwers were unable to sell all the grain they produced. For the farmer the more grain that meat producers used the better.Stopping grian for meat production would really have sent them over the edge. There was plenty of grain for both bread and meat. The trouble was that many people had no money to buy it.

I'm glad I made you laugh.

OK well maybe I don't know everything about how famine spread during the Great Depression and I'm not intending to get into a debate about that for I will surely lose. Also, I'm not a don't eat meat person.

But your rebuttals further prove my point. You simply addressed the small details but did nothing to counter the main point. The point nice and clear: just because some people are starving don't expect other people to change their behavior to accomodate them.

I don't see weathy people worldwide changing thier behavior of driving around ethanol powered vehicles just because some people are going hungry or starving. Certainly not stopping anybody in America now and I doubt rich Chinese will care if some Americans are starving in the future.

Oh, I agree completely with your point about behavior; Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class has some very interesting examples of such. The late social historian Christoper Lasch wrote two books about same, Culture of Narcissism and Revolt of the Elite. The poor's perceptions/feelings towards how the rich treat them get exposed occasionally, think French and Russian Revolutions. For some real emlightenment (pun intended), read Utopia by Sir Thomas More, especially his description of how the poor were treated. Police forces were created to protect the rich and their property.

I meant funny peculier. I should have put strange, but had already posted. with food most developed countries are alright, bieng self sufficant in food. Corn based ethonol will finish, if only to stop a revolution. Britain in in the worst position. We are not self sufficiant and we have to feed a flood of immigrants. Bad times ahead.

Corn for ethanol is eaten in its many dirivitive forms, such as high fructose corn syrup. Pollan has a good list in Omnivore's Dilemma.

With corn, we exported 2,100 mil bushels in 2006, or 53 mil metric tons, not quite 9% of world production.

Ok, and Saudi Arabia exported 8.5 million barrels per day in 2006. With total world production then being about 84.5, it's about 10% of world production.

Saying the US is the Saudi Arabia of food isn't very far-fetched. It would be very accurate, of course, to say that it's the Saudi Arabia of corn.

It would be interesting to calculate the portion of world food calories produced by the US (protein and micronutrients, too). Saudi Arabia figures big in the oil biz, but in the energy biz as a whole it's much less of a factor.

As far as my 'interpretation' goes, here's my actually motivation:

I think that if food prices continue to rise, further attempts will be made to panic Americans about their food supply. Observing how the grow-your-own food folks abused oil depletion, leads me to believe that this inevitable.

JD at Peak Oil Debunked has the correct basic idea. You debunk the hype with facts and figures and expose the agendas.

The crap spouted by Kunstler, Heinberg, Savinar, Orlov and others flows so thick and fast that there are times I think people would be better off in general to remain firmly embedded in main stream culture and never give peak oil a second thought (for their own good). That's too extreme, however. There are people like Staniford, Simmons etc who haven't gotten caught up in bizarre ideology and panic mongering. They do the world a service.

Caution comparing SA oil exports directly to only US corn exports. It would be better for this comparison to use the total production of all 3 grains, not just corn. Throwing that in, US exports of the major three total around 78 mil metric tons of the 1800 mil ton total, ~ 5% of world production of the three grains and throwing in our rice for rounding errors. We may be swing producer, but we don't swing that much.
(US rice export around 98 mil hundred weight, I believe)

A little exercise-meaningless, really, but one I tried.

Suppose benevolent dictator decided all US corn etoh production a no no, and switched all corn etoh acreage to wheat for export. Mandated other exports and production to remain same.

Last year we used 3.3 bil bu corn for etoh, latest USDA figs. At 155 bu/ac corn, we all of a sudden have around 21.5 mil ac for wheat. Lets say because the eastern corn ground is so much more productive, we increase our average to 70 bu wheat on this ground, from the current national average of 40. We just balloned our wheat production, an additional 71% of original wheat production, to 40.6 mil metric tons on this ground alone.

For total of the three big grains, our exports would represent not quite 7% of world production. But it'd be hard to find any more "places to drill".

Hello Doug Fir,

If I may expand a little upon your quote:
"Throwing that in, US exports of the major three total around 78 mil metric tons of the 1800 mil ton total, ~ 5% of world production of the three grains and throwing in our rice for rounding errors. We may be swing producer, but we don't swing that much."

IMO, the US as a key exporter/producer in grains carries quite a bit of Swing because this is 5% of YEARly production, or 0.05 x 365 = 18.25 days of potential food availability and pricing control. Given a choice, I would much prefer to sit in the dark for eighteen days vs going without food for eighteen days.

Imagine the problems for any country if a massive crop failure causes the population equivalent average of trying to exist nearly 3 weeks without food, yet they cannot afford grain imports, or are politically forbidden to buy from the US. What is the saying?-->It only takes a few missed meals to start a revolution.

Obviously, an admittedly rough sketch of what causes resource wars, but food for thought?

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

I guess this is what caused me to do the little exercise-that I don't see it so much as control of markets, but can we ramp up production, and what is the effect. Take our best shot, convert our best ag "surplus" land to wheat, for this is the crop that ends up most directly consumed. Figure high production. How does it help? Can we ramp production to feed another 3 billion, holding all other production constraints and climate change at bay?

I should correct myself for the statement on China upthread. China has been a big importer of wheat, not just entering the import market. My apologies. But it is also the largest producer.


For total of the three big grains, our exports would represent not quite 7% of world production. But it'd be hard to find any more "places to drill".

I don't think we are on the same page yet.

Ultimately we have to talk about cereals production. The US produces roughly 17% of the world's cereals. (2004)

So there is plenty of room to "drill" as far as security of the American food supply is concerned.


I guess we can back and forth all day. I look to exports, you to food security. No question we have one of the most bountiful lands on earth.

The elephant in the US pantry is corn. It distorts all. 13.2 Bil bu US production last year, vs 2.1 bil wheat. We export about half our wheat, about a fifth of corn. Our barley and oats pale in comparison. 2006 barley 180 mil bu, ~9% crop exported, 2006 oats 94 mil bu, ~2% of the crop exported.

I'm sure you see that half of wheat exported as "no problem-we export half our wheat for pete's sake!" I see it more as a very small percent of overall world grain production.

Thanks for the FAO link. But when I was researching US irrigated crop percentages last Nov, the USDA researchers/statisticians spoke of FAO data with disdain. Prob a bit of rivalry there, but I think USDA stats on the US are the standard bearer.

Prob a bit of rivalry there, but I think USDA stats on the US are the standard bearer.

Thanks for the tip.

I'm sure you see that half of wheat exported as "no problem-we export half our wheat for pete's sake!" I see it more as a very small percent of overall world grain production.

I do believe food is an issue going forward for not a few nations (as it already is and, in fact, has been in the past to a much greater extent).

Does America's food bounty strategically outweigh it's oil addiction? I'd never go near that far.

I'm just a Canadian that doesn't want Americans needlessly fearing for their literal bread and butter. What good can come of tapping into those primal instincts?

Regarding the above news article about Mexican sugar producer Grupo Santos planning a US$12 billion ethanol initiative...

I just wonder if they'll be able to export their ethanol to the USA without having to pay the punitive tariff that is imposed on Brazil. As a member of NAFTA, would this ethanol be able to cross the border duty-free?

I've always found it a little strange that Mexico is sending its corn north to the USA to produce ethanol (thus causing tortilla prices to skyrocket), when they could be making ethanol more efficiently from sugar.

This is not to say that I believe ethanol - even when produced from sugar - is a panacea. Or that Mexico won't just use the ethanol for domestic consumption. I just want to know if NAFTA rules apply here.

Hello TODers,

High fertilizer prices seen at possible peak: analyst
Too bad this person doesn't incorporate Peak Everything into his scenario. Just as maybe KSA cannot get sufficient rigs to stay ahead of oil depletion, will the I-NPK mfgs. find out they cannot expand capacity and equipment, plus get reliable power? Is hoarding and/or reduced production to protect profit margins more important, and less hassle, than to keep ramping the P & K mines and Haber-Bosch N?

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

I reckon this is big news:

The former Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja, who is running for the leadership of the Social Democratic Party (one of the big ones here) has just suggested that petrol (gasoline in the US) should be rationed!

Now I know for a fact that he is Peak Oil aware, having listened to a speech he gave at a climate change conference some time ago.

Is this the first instance of a major politician really wanting to do something serious about PO and saying something hugely unpopular because of that?

Have the courage to make oil consumers pay

Warren Brown / The Washington Post

I am asking you, madame chairman, to join Michael J. Jackson, the chairman and chief executive of AutoNation, the country's largest dealership chain, in suggesting that lawmakers consider imposing such taxes. Taking that position, as Jackson will tell you, won't help your popularity and neither will suggesting this alternative: If Americans won't pay more for burning all of the oil-based fuels they use willy-nilly, perhaps they will be willing to support a military draft to send more of their children to the Middle East to fight and die for it.

To see a short piece on THAI technology (the White Sands project) on CBC News, go to http://www.cbc.ca/national/latestbroadcast.html. If you move the little video cursor to about 3/4th of the way through the broadcast, you'll find the story (it's actually more about getting government funding for such technology, but you do get to see a bit about the project itself, on site). Time-wise, it's about 45 minutes into the show. Note: this is Monday night's broadcast, likely the 'latest broadcast' until sometime fairly late in the day on Tuesday.

The CBC reporter called the tar sand bitumen "oil", which characterizes this shallow piece. The chemical upgrading of bitumen to synthetic oil will still require water and energy even after the partial processing in the ground. It is not as trivial as partially burning the bitumen in the ground and pumping oil into barrels. The scalability of THAI has not been demonstrated at all at this stage. On larger scales the inhomogeneities in ground water and bitumen distributions will make controlling the fire front much more difficult.

Stop complaining in America:


"US to set 'binding' climate goals..."

It seems like this administration has a policy of doing nothing until things get bad and then they bargain for what they can get. Reagan used to say "bargain from a position of strength" maybe this is "bargain when others are weaker".

I do not think that it helps to delay these things. Perhaps Kyoto was flawed and should have been amended, but to completely ignore it was a mistake. It just looked like Bush was an oil guy and the more profits for the oil companies the better. This set us back years that we may wish we had back to make more progress.