DrumBeat: April 23, 2008

Arctic ice melting at alarming rate

Barber isn't alone in wondering whether this winter signals the climatic tipping point that many scientists have been anticipating. That's the moment in time when sea ice in the Arctic becomes so thin and vulnerable that the ice produced each winter can no longer keep up with the spring and summer melts.

Many scientists now believe that when this happens, the world will enter a new era of global change -- one that no one really understands, but that will likely have an enormous impact on the climate of the rest of the world.

..."Theoretically, we could see an Arctic that is ice-free in summer months a lot sooner than most people previously thought. Some people think that it could happen in five or six years."

Putting that into perspective, Barber notes that the Arctic hasn't been seasonally ice-free for at least the past 1.1 million years.

"Let that sink in for a moment," he suggests. "The medieval warm period occurred about 1,000 years ago; the Egyptian civilization peaked about 4,000 years ago; the last ice age was 18,000 years ago; heck, there have been several ice ages within this 1.1-million-year period, and we have always had sea ice in the northern hemisphere in summer."

'Flammable ice' could be mined for fuel

They call it flammable ice, and it could be the world's last great source of carbon-based fuel - assuming we can mine methane hydrates, crystal lattices of ice that trap methane beneath ocean beds and permafrost.

One problem with extracting this methane is that you have to melt the ice to bring the gas to the surface. In 2002, a team of geologists from Canada and Japan tried injecting hot water into the ice beneath the delta of the McKenzie river in northern Canada. While this released some hydrates, it used a lot of energy.

Now the same group has extracted methane much more efficiently, and without hot water, by pumping air out of drill holes in the frozen structures. This reduced the pressure, and so raised the melting temperature of the ice so the methane could be removed.

There is No Gas Shortage, Part 2

Columnist Ed Wallace argues that nothing in the real world justifies oil's current pricing—except the push for higher profits.

Not Guzzling Quite So Much Gas

As the pump price climbs ever higher and the population ages, U.S. road traffic is falling—and so is fuel consumption.

Canada: High fuels costs squeezing region's trucking industry

MONCTON - Soaring diesel fuel costs and tightening credit are putting the squeeze on the province's trucking industry.

The head of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association says the doubling of diesel fuel costs in the past two years has become the industry's No. 1 worry, surpassing the shortage of long-haul drivers and border-crossing problems.

Local food pantries busy

ROCHESTER — Battling hunger is no longer a war waged by humanitarian groups overseas.

It's a local struggle being fought in area communities as gas prices stretch for $3.50 a gallon, staple grocery prices have jumped 40 percent and an across-the-board increase in the cost of scraping by.

Transport energy now 'No. 1 issue' facing U.S.

DETROIT - Energy, specifically transportation energy, is now "the No. 1 issue" facing the United States and its economy, the World Congress of the 103-year-old SAE International heard last week.

John Mizrock, principal deputy assistant secretary to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energytold a panel discussion in Detroit, the U.S. will shortly be spending "more than the rest of the world combined in developing alternative fuels."

Fuel, food costs impact relief work

The same rising food and fuel costs delivering an economic punch to U.S. households, are threatening the lives of the world's neediest families.

Spiking energy prices, widespread droughts and an increasing global food shortage are impacting impoverished communities in desperate need of aid, and the global relief agencies charged with providing help.

Americans hoard food as industry seeks regs

Farmers and food executives appealed fruitlessly to federal officials yesterday for regulatory steps to limit speculative buying that is helping to drive food prices higher. Meanwhile, some Americans are stocking up on staples such as rice, flour and oil in anticipation of high prices and shortages spreading from overseas.

Scrap The Guzzlers

One way to bring down the soaring price of gasoline is to decrease demand. We can do that fairly painlessly by taking older, less fuel-efficient cars off the road.

In the 1990s, California launched a voluntary vehicle retirement program. In some air quality management districts, owners of older, gross-polluting cars are paid cash to scrap them.

Yemen's Khat Addiction Risks Water Crisis, Exodus From Capital

The Middle Eastern nation's addiction to khat is sucking up scarce water resources. Cultivation of the mild stimulant has increased 13-fold in three decades and now uses 30 percent of the nation's water, according to the World Bank.

...To irrigate khat, farmers have dug tube wells powered by state-subsidized fuel.

The government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in a bind. While cheap fuel encourages the over-use of water, reducing the subsidies would make it too expensive for farmers to irrigate their fields, said Mohammed Ibrahim al-Hamdi, deputy minister of water and environment.

Russia's gas giant eyes US market

Russia's state-controlled natural gas giant aims to become a significant supplier in the United States, expanding beyond the European market that it already dominates, the head of the company's export arm said Wednesday.

OAO Gazprom is, at the same time, undertaking billions of dollars in investments to bring new fields into operation while its old fields approach the end of their usefulness.

Gazprom: We Want Rosneft's West Kamchatka Offshore Licence

OAO Gazprom has asked the Russian government not to renew OJSC Rosneft and K.K. Korea Kamchatka Co's licence to explore the West Kamchatka hydrocarbon block in the Sea of Okhotsk, and for the government to give it to the state-owned natural gas giant, an unnamed Russian official told Interfax.

The current licence, held by the two companies' Kamchatneftegaz joint venture, is due to expire on August 1, the Russian news agency said.

We regret to inform you…

When climate change and peak oil thinkers run out of other things to worry about, there’s always the endless, inevitable debates about whether we are facing a “fast crash” or a “slow grind.” And I admit, I’m worried about my fellow environmentalists - because I think they are about to lose their favorite distraction. When no one was looking, we got an answer. Fast crash wins. And we’re in it now.

The high price of going 'organic'

The push for 'green' products may have peaked - due in part to the fact that they're so much more expensive than mass-market alternatives.

We've been here before

There is a nagging suspicion in the marketplace that history could repeat itself. While 2008 looks a fair bit like 1980, will 2014 offer a replay of 1986? Will the forces driving the current boom in renewable energy and demand-reduction prove as fleeting as they were a generation ago?

Future in Earth-friendly jobs?

WOODLAND HILLS - With each day that passes inside Richard Killman's air-conditioning and refrigerator-mechanics class, the students' collars are transforming from blue to green.

Those who pack Killman's class each day might not know it, but by learning to work on Freon-free technologies, to understand all the variables of how best to cool an environmentally sound home, to tune up old systems that use less energy, makes them leaders in the booming green-jobs sector.

Mexico imports more gasoline as oil production drops

LOS ANGELES -- Mexico's gasoline imports rose to 360,700 b/d in March, the highest level since November 2007. This coincided with a 7.8% decline in the country's oil production in this year's first quarter to 2.91 million b/d, largely due to declining output from traditional oil fields.

State-owned Petroleos Mexicanos said March gasoline imports were up 6.5% compared with February, largely due to increasing numbers of cars in the country that consume some 41% of total supply.

Gasoline imports are projected to increase by 58% to 489,000 b/d by 2015 unless new refining capacity comes online, according to a recent report by the energy ministry. It said Pemex has not built a refinery since 1979.

Calderon says Mexican Congress seizure ridiculous

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - President Felipe Calderon accused leftist Mexican lawmakers on Tuesday of making a laughing stock of themselves by blocking Congress to protest against an energy reform plan.

Oil Tops $119! What's Next ...

Sure, Exxon is the most profitable company in the history of the world, earning a record $40.6 billion last year on sales of $404 billion. And yet, its production is not rising. Don't you think it would want to sell more product if it could?

In fact, looking at its longer-term plans, Exxon isn't planning on producing more oil this year ... or next year. In fact, the company's oil production won't even keep pace with its own projections of worldwide oil demand growth of 1.3% a year.

Petrol firms accused of profiteering from motorists' fears of an oil strike

Petrol firms have been accused of profiteering by exploiting fears that an oil refinery strike will see pumps run dry later this week.

Motoring organisations said they have seen the first signs drivers are panic buying leading to filling stations "cashing in" by raising prices.

Diesel Shortage Slams China’s Deep South Yet Again

The Pearl River Delta seems to be a comfy birthplace for oil crunches. Since last weekend, the “No Diesel Now” signs have once again been hung out in front of gas stations in the Baiyun, Haizhu and Panyu districts of Guangzhou City. Other stations which still have supplies are crowded with all types of vehicles. Some stations say that they can now only sell to companies that have a long-term supply contract with them. The rest of China is wondering whether it’s all going to spread.

Yemen: Aden lives in severe diesel crisis

Informed sources in the Aden Refinery said that Aden is suffering a severe shortage of diesel fuel as the quantity specialized for market supply has run out.

The source said the Refinery cannot provide stations with diesel fuel as it is currently lacking for crude materials being imported from some countries. It told NY the crisis started a week ago after the Refinery had to keep a part of diesel quantity for the General Electricity Corporation “to avoid any electricity lack in such hot season.”

Africa's food shortage knows no bounds

"Tanzania" and "food crisis" are rarely mentioned in the same sentence; the country is thought to have sufficient production and distribution capability to keep its population fed. Mr. Yussuf's suggests this analysis may be wrong. Tanzania is already suffering, he says.

This is a letter he recently sent to me, presented here with only minor editing changes. Note his second paragraph, which mentions farmers too financially stretched to plant extra crops in spite of the higher prices their products can fetch, and, farther down, the looming biofuels disaster...

Fusion of Rail & Road Makes Bulk Transport More Efficient

Railmate as its termed, uses custom fitted trailers that are designed to ride the rails.

Study says ethanol saves money

JEFFERSON CITY - Ethanol proponents yesterday celebrated the results of a study that says Missouri’s mandate requiring gas stations to sell ethanol-blended fuel is saving drivers at the pump.

At the same time, however, some lawmakers are pushing to repeal the 2006 law, which requires most Missouri gas to be blended with 10 percent ethanol whenever it is cheaper than regular gas. The law went into effect Jan. 1.

Eradicate Capitalism to Save the Planet, Says Evo Morales

Bolivian President Evo Morales told the Seventh UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on Monday that the first step in saving the planet is to eradicate the capitalist model and force the wealthy industrialized countries to pay their environmental debt.

Clean energy is unavoidable, expert says

On Earth Day, with gas prices at record highs, an expert on the dwindling supply of world oil told a crowd at Bristol Community College that a shift away from fossil fuels is “necessary for planetary survival.”

Richard Heinberg, considered a leading expert on peak oil — the point at which world oil supplies are expected to begin a continual decline — said during a 45-minute presentation that a transition to clean energy “cannot be avoided.” The only choice, he said, is to be proactive or be forced into changes.

Earth Day fossil fuels message: 'The party is over'

DARTMOUTH — Call it coincidence or irony, but crude oil prices hit a record high of almost $120 a barrel on Earth Day 2008 and an expert on fossil fuels and energy came to SouthCoast to proclaim "the party is over."

Richard Heinberg, senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute in California, told a gathering at the UMass Dartmouth library that with oil, natural gas and coal being consumed faster than new supplies can be found and developed, the era of fossil fuels has begun to wind down.

Where the Oil Rally Goes: Facts and Speculation

A few months ago, as the oil price was butting up against $100 and then finally going through it and then dropping back down below it, most respected oil analysts whom I read believed that the near term would see lower oil prices. Most thought early 2008 would see a retracement into the low $80s. That expectation is one reason the recent strong and consistent rally to just under $120 as of now is so dramatic.

But what comes next? How much of the last $20 is speculation and how much is fundamental? And of these fundamental factors, how temporary or how long lasting are they?

Oil Prices will stop rising, but until then

“The demand is close to supply, so you should stock more” claims IEA. It is really hard to understand this logic.

Oil prices are not going to fall much, ever

I'm not actually talking about oil running out. This isn't directly an argument in favour of the "Peak Oil" theory, the idea that we will in the next few years began an irrevocable fall in oil output.

Peak oil may be true, but is harder to prove. What is happening right now is more to do with the cost of accessing oil and bringing it to market, not whether it's available under the ground.

There is plenty of Oil

Doom-laden forecasts that world oil supplies are poised to fall off the edge of a cliff are wide of the mark, according to leading oil industry experts who gave warning that human factors, not geology, drive the oil market.

A landmark study of more than 800 oilfields by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (Cera) has concluded that rates of decline are only 4.5 per cent a year, almost half the rate previously believed, leading the consultancy to conclude that oil output will continue to rise over the next decade.

Surging energy costs take a big toll on U.S. airline earnings

CHICAGO: The parent company of United Airlines, the UAL Corporation, reported a $537 million loss in the first quarter on Tuesday, bigger than expected, as a 51 percent increase in fuel costs overwhelmed furious efforts to raise fares at the country's second-largest carrier.

UAL shares closed down $7.88, to $13.55.

Unless oil prices unexpectedly retreat, there is no relief in sight for airlines, and nearly the entire industry is expected to lose money this year.

Soaring energy prices fuelling a domestic crisis across the UK

There may be panic at the petrol pumps, but the increasing price of oil means that gas and electricity bills have also seen inflation-busting rises – and there's worse to come.

Oil producing countries fear bio-fuels competition

Saudi Arabia admitted that petroleum producing countries are concerned with the competition of alternative fuels, such as bio-fuels and with the determination of many countries to ensure their “energy independence”.

Deflation In A Fiat Regime?

A weak dollar Is masking deflation! Right now what we have is deflation with a weak dollar. That weak dollar, in conjunction with peak oil, has caught nearly everyone off guard to the point they are screaming about oil prices and bond bubbles, while missing the far more important deflationary forces of foreclosures, bankruptcies, and massive writedowns in credit.

Why More Food Is Not the Answer

The world wants more food - a lot more food - but the planet will not be able to provide it. For this reason alone, more food is not the answer - it cannot be the answer.

Where are the economists?

There is no precise answer but it is clear that already the current generation will have to adapt to an oil-constrained world. Given all this, wouldn’t you expect to see the best and brightest of the economics profession out there where menacing winds blow on the hectic frontline of general human interest, fending for our civilization; analyzing, passionately arguing, advising national governments and international organizations, never letting the sense of urgency recede from public consciousness?

If you entertained such expectations you would be speechless upon looking at the Table of Contents of top journals in economics.

Why oil could hit $180 a barrel

Just when crude is becoming more costly to extract and process, producers in three key countries are short of cash. And without that money, recent finds won't do much good.

Peak Oil? Saudis Squeeze the Stone Even Harder

As oil reserves get harder and more expensive to suck out of the ground, one big question looms: Is Saudi Arabia facing “practical peak oil” or the real thing?

China down to 12 days worth of coal - report

CHINA only has enough coal for 12 days of consumption, three days less than a month ago, state media reported Wednesday, sounding the alarm bells over the nation's most important source of energy.

In certain parts of China, such as densely populated Hebei province in the north, reserves are down to less than a week, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the China Electricity Regulatory Commission.

UK: Energy firms to target aid at poorest customers

LONDON (Reuters) - Retail energy suppliers have agreed a package of measures aimed at increasing help available to customers most affected by rising power and gas costs, energy regulator Ofgem said on Wednesday.

Measures to help combat the rise in fuel poverty -- where consumers spend more than a tenth of their income on energy -- were agreed at a summit led by Ofgem on Wednesday and will be incorporated into an action programme in early May.

Chavez says food prices "massacre" of world's poor

CARACAS (Reuters) - Soaring food prices are a "massacre" of the world's poor and are creating a global nutritional crisis, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday, calling it a sign that capitalism is in decline.

Assessing the global food crisis

"A silent tsunami which knows no borders sweeping the world".

That is how the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) summed up the global food shortages.

UK: Schools struggling to keep healthy meals on menu as ingredient costs soar

Double-digit increases in the cost of foodstuffs such as bread, eggs and cooking oil have left local authorities struggling to maintain high-quality subsidised dinners. Dining hall managers have given warning that, if they pass on the rising costs of presenting healthy meals, parents may tell their children to eat less healthy food outside schools.

They fear that, if the take-up of meals drops, the purchasing power of local councils will fall, raising costs further and causing canteens to disappear from schools completely.

Era of cheap food ends as prices surge

Families have been warned that the prices of basic foods will rise steeply again because of acute shortages in commodity markets.

Experts told The Times yesterday that prices of rice, wheat and vegetable oil would rise further. They also forecast that high prices and shortages — which have caused riots in developing countries such as Bangladesh and Haiti — were here to stay, and that the days of cheap produce would not return. Food-price inflation has already pushed up a typical family’s weekly shopping bill by 15 per cent in a year.

Water - the under-reported resource crisis

Food riots in Haiti, strikes over rice shortages in Bangladesh, tortilla trouble in Mexico and bread wars in Egypt.

Soaring food prices are causing more misery round the world than the credit crunch. But what is the cause?

Biofuels are part of it, clearly. A quarter of US corn is now put into tanks rather than stomachs. And oil price rises are feeding in, via the cost of fertiliser and transport.

But here is something nobody has yet mentioned. Water.

Russian Oil Has `Peaked,' Billionaire Vekselberg Says

(Bloomberg) -- Oil output in Russia, the world's biggest supplier after Saudi Arabia, has "peaked" and may decline in the coming years, said billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, an owner of BP Plc's venture TNK-BP.

Russian companies need tax breaks to spur exploration and development of new fields to revive growth, Vekselberg told an American Chamber of Commerce conference in Moscow today.

Pentagon worried about spiking oil prices

WASHINGTON (AFP) - After spending 15 billion dollars on oil in 2007, the Pentagon said Tuesday it was concerned over rising prices, since for every dollar oil goes up in price, an extra 130 million has to be added to its budget.

...The spiraling cost of oil is especially troublesome for the Pentagon since the "DoD (Department of Defense) is the largest consumer of oil in the United States," David Trachtenberg, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, said in his presentation.

Shell to axe 180 jobs in Scotland

LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc said on Wednesday it is to cut 180 jobs in Aberdeen and review practices regarding contractors, as it sells oilfields in the North Sea.

The world's second-largest private oil company by market value said in a statement the cuts in office-based positions, representing 7 percent of its workforce in the Scottish city, were needed to keep its UK operations competitive in the face of rapidly rising industry costs.

Poll: Food costs a major worry for consumers

WASHINGTON — Rising food prices are a significant worry for Americans, with 73% of consumers in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll citing higher grocery bills as a concern, and nearly half saying food inflation has caused a hardship for their households.

According to the April 18-20 poll of 1,016 adults, food prices rank just below record-high gasoline prices in consumer angst. Eighty percent of those polled also noted energy prices as a concern.

Delta reports $6.4 billion loss in first quarter

ATLANTA (AP) — Delta Air Lines, the nation's third-largest carrier, says its loss widened in the first quarter to a whopping $6.39 billion due to soaring fuel prices and the steep decline in the company's market value.

The results badly missed Wall Street expectations, despite a 12% increase in sales.

UK: Rationing use of cars may be only way to cut emissions

The only way to meet targets on cutting Yorkshire's carbon emissions would be to ration journeys and introduce congestion charging, new research reveals.

Even if a whole raft of measures was introduced – including car sharing, some road charging, workplace travel plans, more public transport and increased home working – on an unlimited budget and as soon as possible, carbon emissions from transport in 2020 will only remain similar to present levels.

Europeans switching back to coal

The fast-expanding developing economies of India and China, where coal remains a major fuel source for more than two billion people, have long been regarded as one of the biggest challenges to reducing carbon emissions.

But the return now to coal even in eco-conscious Europe is sowing real alarm among environmentalists who warn that it is setting the world on a disastrous trajectory that will make controlling global warming impossible. They are aghast at the renaissance of coal, a fuel more commonly associated with a sooty Dickens novel and which was on its way out just a decade ago.

Japan, EU leaders call for 'highly ambitious' climate goals

TOKYO (AFP) - Leaders of Japan and the European Union called Wednesday for "highly ambitious and binding" global targets to fight climate change, seeking a breakthrough at July's Group of Eight summit.

In an annual meeting, the two sides also called for urgent action to cope with rising global food prices, warning that they could worsen poverty in developing countries and drag down the world economy.

Response to climate security threats 'slow and inadequate'

LONDON (AFP) - The international response to security threats posed by climate change has been "slow and inadequate", according to a report published Wednesday.

According to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British security think tank, a failure to adequately prepare for this is on a par with neglecting the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation or terrorism.

Stop waiting for 'leaders' to act on global warming

The success of the environmental movement in calling attention to the dangers of global warming has led to an ironic outcome: It's become easier for the public to adopt a passive approach as we wait on world leaders to sign emissions treaties or huge corporations to "go green." This Earth Day, stop waiting! There are new ways for you to fight climate change in your own backyard.

For those interested NOVA, which usually does a great job with its programs, has a new episode on Future Cars this week, you will have to check your local PBS listing to see exactly when you can see it:


How will the car of the future be powered? Will it run on hydrogen, batteries, ethanol or some as-yet undiscovered technology? Find out as NOVA takes a look at the latest and greatest in the automotive industry. Tom and Ray Magliozzi of NPR's "Car Talk" fame take viewers on a roller-coaster ride into the world of cars - examining new technologies and ideas about America's most common form of transportation.

Saw it, OK program, except not a hint that the future of the automobile just might possibly be NO automobiles. That apparently is the unthinkable alternative.

Merkel's government is waging a rearguard campaign to delay implementation, reduce penalties and ease the burden on Germany's luxury automobile industry.


Perception: Luxury in personal transport is good for private consumption
Reality: Luxury in personal transport is ignorant of the common good


Good call. Spotting delusion is getting too easy these days eh? We're going to see a lot of delusional, desperate attempts at keeping our happy motoring way of life in place. I give it another 4 years b4 rational thought wakes it's sleepy self up and says "Hey, wtf are you people doing here?"

Freakin' Earth people are strange.


"NPR's "Car Talk" fame..."

Click and Clack may know a thing or two about cars but they don't know dick about "the ghost in the machine".

At least one politician understands the problem.
Brown sounds retreat on biofuels

The doubling in price of rice and wheat has sparked riots in Egypt and Haiti, and led to a World Bank warning that 100 million people could be pushed deeper into poverty….

"We must stop putting the profits of agri-business ahead of the welfare of millions of poor people around the world."

"However, if you grow crops for biofuel on land for food, you run out of land," Prof Rhodes said. "There's only so much arable land available."

We are, today, at the absolute limit of arable land unless further destroy the rain forest, dry forest, wetlands, and in the process push thousands of species into extinction. We have already destroyed the Aral Sea, Lake Chad and dozens of smaller lakes around the world. The Yellow River does not reach the sea for seven months of the year. Other major rivers are in near the same condition. Water tables are falling by meters per year.

We are, in a vain attempt to feed 6.5 billion people, destroying the earth. But if we attempt to feed 6.5 billion people also produce oil for transportation from agriculture we will dramatically accelerate that destruction.

Ron Patterson

Agree totally that we have to stop feeding cars and trucks.

But there is plenty of food in the world for today's and tomorrow's population of people.

As always the problem is distribution, of food and of income.

What to do: eat less grain-fed meat, or none; overturn the liquid biofuels mandates and subsidies; victory gardens; eat insects...


As always the problem is distribution, of food and of income.

I hear this old saw over and over. It is absurd. There is no way to mandate distribution and there is absolutely no way to mandate income. There was a time when there was a surplus of grain and we gave it away. We still give a lot of grain away but there is no longer a surplus. Mostly we sell grain at a heavily subsidized price. But even at this low price, many of the world's starving cannot afford to buy a pound of rice.

The people of Haiti are starving because they cannot afford to buy American heavily subsidized rice. They are cutting down the trees to make charcoal to get enough cash to buy a little rice. As a result Haiti is a near desert. Haiti's hills are denuded of all trees and the land washes into the sea with every rainstorm.

The people of Sub-Sahara Africa are starving because their numbers are far greater than the land can support. They are living on bush meat, monkeys, gorillas and other endangered species.

So how can we fix this "maldistribution of income". Should we mandate that Haitians be given good jobs so they will not have to cut down trees for charcoal? How are we going to fix the problem in Africa, in India, in Bangladesh, and everywhere else in the world.

The problem is too many people trying to eek out a living on too little land. The world is vastly overpopulated and we are destroying the environment trying to support all these people.

Ron Patterson

There were people without food even when food prices were at century lows, a couple years ago. The question of "distribution" has always been around, but it is becoming more significant as grains prices return toward their long-term averages.

If we assume that we want people to be fed, instead of dying of starvation, then what is the best way of going about this?

I decided that the best outcome would be for

a) market prices to be "free," ie high(er), and
b) basic foodstuffs (raw grains) should be available to everyone

The problem if you try to keep market prices "low" is that:
1) Local farmers go out of business as they are not able to compete against subsidized agribusiness. This increases dependency.
2) People who might consider small-scale farming never do it, because there's no advantage in it besides as a hobby.
3) Any market incentive to increase supply is suppressed,
4) If market prices are kept low via price controls, etc., the tendency is for producers to withhold production, especially if things get to the point where selling prices are below the costs of production.
5) A tendency to use grain in low-value uses, such as fuel production, heating fuel, or meat production (to the extent that the grains would be better consumed directly).

Farmers deserve to get paid too. For decades, farming has been like the airline industry, one of the most terrible industries in the economy.

So, if we want farmers to get paid (higher prices), but we want food to be available to everyone, what are the options?

Vouchers, rations, etc. could work, but these are complicated to administer, particularly in developing countries. Something like food stamps perhaps. This is an option.

Another option would be for basic grains to be available at low (subsidized) prices. This basically means the government would buy a certain amount of grains from farmers (at higher market prices) and sell it, via grocery stores etc., at low prices.

Commercial users of grains, like restaurants, food processors, the meat industry, etc. would have to pay the full market price. Anyone who is going to a restaurant or eating snack chips obviously has sufficient income, and thus does not need a grain subsidy.

To prevent people from buying subsidized grain at supermarkets and selling it to commercial users, there would probably have to be some sort of weekly quota system.

A program like this would cost the government some money, but I don't think it would be too onerous. Compared to militaries, etc, food is still pretty cheap, and most users (commercial users) would be paying full price.

Distribution becomes even more of a problem when transportation prices increase...

Will the first and second worlds enforce a die-off in the third worlds -- choosing to feed machines instead of people?

I must admit to possibly being wrong about ethanol. It was difficult to imagine a year ago how little slack there was in world food production. I do think there are some things we can do to mitigate:

1. feed cows grass instead of corn.
2. grow biofuels on marginal land (switchgrass etc)

So far the biofuels gambit looks like a win for the limits crowd.

One caveat -- you have to wonder how much of the problem is caused by biofuels vice climatic difficulty and increased consumption in India/China. Regardless, it seems we certainly have a problem and you wonder if the world food production infrastructure can adjust and increase production accordingly without massive land wasting.

Damn. I sound like a doomer.

Great Britain recently asked the EU for relief from biofuels requirements as the biofuels production is cutting off food supplies:


They should just nuke the biofuels requirements and let the EU squawk. Better to ask forgiveness than permission sometimes.

So, if we want farmers to get paid (higher prices), but we want food to be available to everyone, what are the options?

Regardless of the practicalities the only way that is going to happen is if people produce at least some of their own food.
If I was cynical I'd say that if a local farmer can't compete with subsidised imported food they are much more likely to have to get a crappy factory job producing palstic crap that no one needs.

"There is no way to mandate distribution and income"

I´m under the impression that as reasoning inteligent beings we actually do have some control over our behavior. Its like the saying about being more intelligent than yeast.

"mostly we sell grain at a highly subsidized price"

From what I understand a lot of countries are suffering after entering into Free Trade agreements. Their markets get flooded with cheap food that isn´t as nutritious and the farmers loose their jobs. When the local competition is destroyed the price of the cheap crap food goes up (or nobody has a job, so they can´t pay anyways).

Here´s a story from Haiti illustrating the point:


"The world is vastly overpopulated and we are destroying the environment trying to support all these people"

You and I are two of "these people". What are we going to do about us? Maybe we could switch to a vegetarian diet, sterilize ouselves and invite 8 poor people from a third world country to come share our house. Thats what we´re pressuring people to do in Africa, India Bangladesh etc.

I propose that each person starts at home, reducing their consumption, then works slowly outwards, trying to change their political/social/economic structure.

We´re not yeast. We can change, and probably we should change. Personaly I like the idea of Parecon.

"We can change, and probably we should change."

Anyone who has considered "Limits to Growth", "Global Climate Change", "Exponential Population Trends, has to arrive at the same depressing conclusion:

By and Large Humans are not going to change as a species and it will take events out of our control to bring us into line with what is actually sustainable.

I have already done what I can personally do. I had a vasectomy 20 years ago. (after I already had two children) I ride a bike. I don't eat meat. I don't run the heat or A/C (however I live on the coast in So. CA so I can do that easily) I recycle everything. I live in a condo so farming is not practical but I am looking into leasing vacant land.

Even if every American did likewise it is not going to reverse global warming or save us from Peak Oil or massive worldwide starvation and environmental refugees.

I don't know what else to do?

By and Large Humans are not going to change as a species and it will take events out of our control to bring us into line with what is actually sustainable.

Species whose populations exceed the carrying capacity (K) of their environment crash. Sometimes they crash all the way down to the "absorbing boundary" of extinction. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about bacteria in a petri dish or a species of ape that's figured out the clever trick of burning reduced carbon in order to fuel its own population's gross excess of K. 4 bys of natural selection has ensured that all any individual of every species "cares" about is fostering its own Darwinian fitness. This is true (metaphorically) even of organisms lacking a nervous system for processing "caring" about anything. It's also true of the ape capable of "caring" about, or claiming to, the "good of the species" or good of the biosphere. All anyone is truly interested in is food, sex, danger and death: topics directly related to fitness. We may pride ourselves on our "caring" about other things but we have only limited capacity for acting individually on such concerns, and collectively not at all.

Since I was a young adult I've lived more simply than most Americans do. Most years I've tended a garden and heated & cooked with wood. I buy food in bulk and eat low on the food chain. My "carbon footprint" is lower than the mean for the developed nations. Yet who am I trying to fool? I cut wood with a chainsaw, drive a vehicle, use electricity, etc. If I had to be totally self-sufficient for food & energy without benefit of fossil fuels I couldn't do it. I'd die. And so I will. But I'm in my 50s and don't much care. It's my ten year old granddaughter I feel bad for. She's in for a rude awakening.

The facts of life. All life on this planet has one simple goal to make copies of itself, that is the very nature of life. Everything else that the organism does including the very simplest things like eating and staying warm are all done so the organism can stay alive long enough to reproduce copies of itself.

We as the dominant and all joking aside most intelligent species on the planet we like to think we have evolved beyond this simple base need programmed into every living thing. But look around all we have in fact been able to do (which IS actually quite allot) is make it possible for our species to go well beyond the carrying capacity for humans on this planet. On the one hand we should be commended for being able to push the curve well past the point of collapse. In doing this however we have borrowed resources from the future and the past(~300 million years in the past). Now it may finally be time to start paying the price.

I am personally of the opinion that we have to have a die off of some sort. Whether it can be gradual over say a dozen generations of only one birth for hundred deaths, or it will be sudden and catastrophic due to famine, plagues, and war or more likely a combination of them over 10 or 20 years (the more likely I think). Conservation efforts are good and need to be continued but there is a finite limit to how far we can conserve. Every human on the planet to survive needs a certain amount of food, potable water and a body temperature in a very narrow band. The only remotely sustainable future is one of a smaller population. It does sadden me to think that the only government in the world who seems to understand this concept and even try and address it right now is China.

The facts of life. All life on this planet has one simple goal to make copies of itself, that is the very nature of life. Everything else that the organism does including the very simplest things like eating and staying warm are all done so the organism can stay alive long enough to reproduce copies of itself.

That's certainly one perspective on it. But when you start assuming human values, things like "goals," also explain non-human life, than you are flirting with that road to anthropomorphism. You see the "goal" of replication because that is a goal that you can identify. Perhaps those things that you say the organism does just to stay alive are actually the "goal" and the replication process is just a means of making sure those other things keep going. Or maybe you need to question the whole concept of a "goal." Goal suggests purpose and if you are assigning purpose to the universe then you are no longer talking about "facts," but belief.

The only remotely sustainable future is one of a smaller population. It does sadden me to think that the only government in the world who seems to understand this concept and even try and address it right now is China.

Excellent post. The problem with China, with the world's largest population, and India, and the other burgeoning industrialized countries is they feel they have arrived at the point where they can be like the US, which they have aspired for decades to emulate.

China is the world's greatest automobile market, with only 1 in 100 Chinese owning a car as opposed to 9 out of 10 Americans. And guess who sells more cars than anyone else in China? GM's own Buick division. Cars that are known more for American luxury and excess in general than for economy or conservation. How do you tell the rest of the world, "No. Sorry the American Dream which is imploding on itself because of a number of variables, but certainly unconstrained excess is among the top reasons, can't be had by anyone any more. Too bad. It's been fun while it lasted."

As Darwinian fears for the future of his 10 year old granddaughter, I too fear that this particular story does not have a happy ending. However, I do agree with James Lovelock's theory of Gaia and the Earth is responding to mankind's excesses, the symptoms are everywhere, culling of Homo sapiens is about to accompany the culling of species at our hands daily for decades.

I hear this old saw over and over. It is absurd. There is no way to mandate distribution and there is absolutely no way to mandate income.

Allocation, distribution and scale are separate items. The "market" can really only address allocation. Because we've exceeded anything like reasonable scale, the big question is "what is fair and who will decide". Distribution. Herman Daley discusses it far better than I, but his basic point is that the three have to go together in a finite world.

No Pasaran!

to stop the clearing, the destruction,

the dying

Presente, Commandante,

Brothers, Sisters

We stand with you.

cfm in Gray, ME

The problem is too many people trying to eek out a living on too little land. The world is vastly overpopulated and we are destroying the environment trying to support all these people.

And yet many think we can grow some 50% more to 9Billion. Not a chance. We are on the verge of a population crash. It's going to hit the poor countries first, those where they are already moving into natural lands.

I was watching a show on PBS about Fossey's gorillas. Hundreds of thousands of refugees in camps around the preserve strip the forest daily for fuel. The devastation to the forest is complete stripping of every burnable bit right up to the volcanoes.

The sooner these people die off the better off the wildlife will be.

Ron Patterson writes:

The problem is too many people trying to eke out a living on too little land. The world is vastly overpopulated and we are destroying the environment trying to support all these people.

To that I would add my 'quote of the day':

The sun will continue to shine on the Earth, perhaps, almost as bright as today even after the extinction of mankind and will feed with low entropy other species, those with no ambition whatsoever. For we must not doubt that, man's nature being what it is, the destiny of the human species is to choose a great but brief, not a long and dull career.

(Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, 1971, p. 304)

Welcome to the age of force majeure.

Just to cheer you up.

Actually Carolus: the sun will just keep on getting brighter. I know it is counterintuitive, but as stars deplete their nuclear fuel stores, they simply increase the rate they burn it. It is calculated that at the current age the sun is brightening about 6% every billion years. Within about a billion years, barring massive intervention, it will cause runaway greenhouse on the earth.

However, between now and then, the EROI of PV will increase...;-)

Unfortunately i agree even though it is not politically correct and difficult to say that a huge number will die-off.

When is enough enough?

No Ron...

Biofuels are not the culprit (never have been) and Mr. Brown is just bending with the breeze.

I warned you and every other TODer here 2 years prior, that the doubling in corn prices due to U.S. corn ethanol utilization was nothing, absolutely NOTHING, as compared to what $100/bbl oil would do to the global food production/distribution system - one that has been utterly hobbled by first-world, neo-lib, protectionist trade policies. (Have you watched Darwin's Nightmare yet?)

The riots in Egypt and Haiti for instance, are (relatively) based on wheat and rice respectively. Thus, according to you and a host of other arm chair pundits who seem to be screeming their bloody heads off, the culprit is food->fuel production.

But there's one small problem with that line of reasoning isn't there...

Where are all the wheat-to-ethanol and rice-to-ethanol biorefineries? The price of rice is up %130 percent!! There must have been an vertible explosion of rice-to-ethanol plants all around the world in the last year right?

The counter of course, as highlighted above and in every other pundit's diatribe, is that biofuel production is supposedly taking over all the land where rice and wheat are grown. 2+2=4 right?

So if that's the case and since 80% or more of the world's biofuels are produced in the U.S. and Brazil, then there must of been some overnight, drastic change in the farming practices and/or land allocations of these two countries right?.

Lot of wheat grown in Nebraska and Iowa Ron?

How about the Cerrado TODers, is the Cerrado known as the rice belt of South America?

Yeah that's what I thought...

The Washington Times and AsiaTimes recently nailed this food vs. fuel nonsense on the head:

WT: "Farmers and food executives appealed fruitlessly to federal officials yesterday for regulatory steps to limit speculative buying that is helping to drive food prices higher. Meanwhile, some Americans are stocking up on staples such as rice, flour and oil in anticipation of high prices and shortages spreading from overseas.

Their pleas did not find a sympathetic audience at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), where regulators said high prices are mostly the result of soaring world demand for grains combined with high fuel prices and drought-induced shortages in many countries." http://tinyurl.com/5mntlc

AT: "The global food crisis is a monetary phenomenon, an unintended consequence of America's attempt to inflate its way out of a market failure. There are long-term reasons for food prices to rise, but the unprecedented spike in grain prices during the past year stems from the weakness of the American dollar. Washington's economic misery now threatens to become a geopolitical catastrophe."

"China is exchanging its depreciating reserves of US dollars for things of value, notably rice, with frightening consequences for dependent countries, and deadly consequences for American foreign policy.

The chart below shows the price of 100 pounds of rice against the euro's parity against the US dollar during the past 12 months. The regression fit is 90%. There is an even tighter relationship between the price of rice and the price of oil, another store of value against dollar depreciation." http://tinyurl.com/6jrz73

There must have been an vertible explosion of rice-to-ethanol plants all around the world in the last year right?

Well, isn't Budwieser still making beer?

As I have said before, when there is a beer shortage that will get peoples attention.

Augie Busch hasn't made any Beer in over 50 years....It's CRRAAAPP water.

The World turns, with or without U.S..

When populations are as close to the carrying capacity as we are globally, you will see much more food hoarding. There will be a time soon when people here will not care about the starving "over there" in spite of the TV ads as they have to try and feed their own families. The time of altruistic sharing is coming to a quick end.

You are ignoring the fact that grains are largely fungible. If corn is not available, people buy wheat. If wheat is not available, people buy rice. Etc., etc.

So as corn prices rise, all other grain prices must rise too as not only the people eating rice keep eating it but people who used to eat corn or wheat switch to rice.

The same thing happens to some degree with energy. Coal prices are up from $35 per short ton in 2005 to as high as $105 per short ton in 2008. What's going on? As natural gas goes higher (and less available), new electric plant designs get switched to coal instead.

This happens in the realm of grains too and this affect appears to be fairly significant by itself, outside of those other effects you list. So biofuels still are part (not all but part) of the cause in rise of prices.

Finally, a record harvest of rice does not offset problems in other grains like wheat that have turned up. Again, you (and Asia Times) are ignoring that these grains are largely fungible and substitution will be made by consumers if they must.

I am not saying you are wrong, just that your explanation ignores other factors that appear to be at least as important as the factor upon which you are focusing.

RE: Fungibility

Yes, grains are largely fungible, however, U.S. corn in the sense that you are trying to articulate - is not.

Millions of citizens in SE Asia, Indonesia, Philippines etc. cannot walk into a store and buy U.S. corn or wheat in lieu of rice.

There's rice. And if one can no longer afford rice then one doesn't eat.

Furthermore, U.S. corn exports do not feed people in the developing world. Rather, this corn is destined (as it has been for decades) to feed livestock in the OECD.

If the fungibility existed as you say, then the price of corn would have floated all grain boats in a relatively even fashion -which is not the case- as evidenced by the drastic differences in grain value that have seemingly occurred in this year alone.

Where are all the wheat-to-ethanol and rice-to-ethanol biorefineries? The price of rice is up %130 percent!! There must have been an vertible explosion of rice-to-ethanol plants all around the world in the last year right?

God help me, an atheist, I keep writing expletives to describe your post El, then I must delete them because they are not fit language for this list. How many times must it be explained to you, and others who simply cannot understand that farmers plant what promises them the most profit.

Lot of wheat grown in Nebraska and Iowa Ron?

YES, wheat is grown in Iowa, YES wheat is grown in Nebraska. Googling I could not find the actual bushels grown in Iowa, but found lots of news about Iowa wheat bushels per acre. However I did find this about Nebraska.

Nebraska Wheat

The 2002 Nebraska Wheat Crop was estimated at 48,600,000 bu, which represented a 32 bu/acre state average yield on 1,520,000 harvested acres.

Now that is one hell of a lot of Nebraska wheat. But that is all beside the point. It does not matter if not a single bushel of wheat was grown in Iowa or Nebraska. Wheat is grown all over the Midwest, South and Southwest and Canada. When in any of these places, wheat acreage is switched to corn, then wheat prices go up.

Rice is grown in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. These states grow corn, wheat and soybeans also. Farmers switch from rice to corn or beans to try to gain the greatest profit. So get a clue El, it is acreage we are talking about, acreage used to grow ethanol crops instead of food crops. And that is what is largely what is driving up the price of corn, rice, wheat, and soybeans up. And if you are still unable to understand that simple fact then you are not capable of understanding anything.

Ron Patterson

While some switching among crops is possible in certain areas, there are infrastructure restraints. Here in northern Iowa wheat is rarely grown. Why? The infrastructure is set up for corn and soybeans. Local elevators do not even offer a bid on wheat. So while theoretically farmers can switch between several crops, as a practical matter there are only markets for a few in many areas.

What seems to be missing in the discussion about which crop is more profitable to grow is which use is most profitable. Ethanol is both economically and energy wise more profitable than animal feeding or corn export.

At the moment it is not the fungibility between all grain crops that matters as much as the fungibility between corn, soy and crude oil. When oil is selling for 17 cents a cup and corn sells for 5 cents a cup, it is a no brainer that the most profitable use for it is to be made into an oil substitute like ethanol. This fits nicely with the ELP model. Using corn locally saves on expensive transportation costs.

Locally we use to have many large 100 car unit trains of corn headed to the Mississippi or the Gulf for export. No more. Fuel costs have made transportation of low value commodities uneconomic.

Corn has been used primarily for animal feed going mostly to huge chicken and hog factories. These uses are very energy inefficient. There is a large energy loss when grain is fed to animals. The products produced are purchased mostly by the more affluent and not the starving of the world. They can not afford grain and certainly not meat, milk and eggs.

There is a major fundamental conflict going on between high priced oil, oil replacements like biodiesel and ethanol and food. The market can not abide high oil prices and low grain (and therefore ultimately human food) prices.

They must rise together. If they do not, grain will be put to the more profitable use: oil substitutes. The high oil input cost of food will result in lower food production if food prices are kept low.

If markets are not allowed to work, ELP will fail. The cure for rising food prices is rising food prices. The same is true for oil. It is folly to try to give food away, since farmers will go broke if they are made to pay the cost. It also destroys markets in the recipient country. It is very bad policy. It is high priced oil that is the fundamental cause of rising food prices and starvation.

What do you suppose will happen in Haiti if food it given to them. We know the answer: more of the same. They have been bailed out before. They will not change.

They just have more babies and sure enough another crisis comes along
and the dysfunctional government and society is unable to deal with it. There is no cure for stupid but to let nature take its course, harsh as it may seem.

Okay, so with ethano use/production rapidly growing, whey is Wheat Down from $14.00/bu, intraday, a couple of months ago to $8.00/bu, Today?

whey is Wheat

No, whey is not wheat.

But it can be made into alcohol, so at least you got SOMETHING right about Ag.

Delete the 'e' from 'whey'. ;)


Here are the facts Ron.

Combined corn, soybean, and wheat planted area is projected at 225 million acres, the highest since 1984.

- Wheat planted area in 2008 is expected to increase 3.6 million acres to 64 million.
- Corn acreage for 2008 is expected to decline 3.6 million acres (to 90 million) from 2007.
- Soybean area is projected to recover to 71 million acres in 2008, up 7.4 million from last year.
- Rice planted acreage for 2008 is projected at 2.70 million acres, down 61,000 acres from last year.

Source: USDA Agricultural Outlook (May 9th official)

Acreage is not being taken away because of biofuels Ron, but added.

The increased price of corn due to U.S. ethanol production, has made corn farming economically sustainable which in turn, is a good thing for the developing world becuase the value of their own crops, can now fetch an equal market price vs. subsidized, first-world agriculture.

The protagonists of global food price increases (in relative order) are:

Exploitative Trade Policies - Population - Oil - Climate Change - Protectionism

There were people who wrote that the doubling of the price of corn would not cause a rise in prices because they were eating highly refined foods that passed through multiple levels of marketing and the price of grain should not substantially affect their food bills. They were not considering what the price of raw grain doubling might do to the poor souls who ate cooked grain as a staple and spent more than half their income on grain. They did not see that a switch to soybeans as biodiesel and a switch from planting soybeans to corn for ethanol would double the cost of their vegetable oil that is a component of much of the food they eat.

The problem is likely to get worse if biofuels production increases due to government requirements. The world has been reducing its stockpiles, if the stockpiles near zero then massive starvation will occur. Converting 40% of the United States grain crop to fuel is likely to be disastrous. If you tack on biofuels production in Europe, Canada, and other areas where it was tried you get a negative impact on food sourcing. The dollar has lost much of its value compared to the euro. What did that do to the price of oil? Is it likely to cause starvation if our dollar will purchase half of what it did a few years ago and wages stayed the same? What is the cost of unnecessary war? If the price of oil is so disastrous why are people buying large SUV's and doing three hour commutes to work?

Biofuels are only a piece of the current problem, increased demand from growing middle class in the developing world is probably more important. Climate change -and bad luck in weather are also important contributors. It is hard to come up with accurate numbers, since their are many factors, the rise in price of important agricultural inputs, is partly due to increased demand for agricultural products for both food & fuel, and partly due to increased costs of inputs, such as oil and natural gas. The easiest to control (short term at least) would be on the demand side -cutting back on biofuels, and cutting back on meat consumption. But for most of us rich world folks, the path of least resistance, is simply to tune out the suffering of the poor.

Let me try again. After allowing for distillers grains we used about 10 Million Acres for Corn Ethanol. Brazil, alone, has 15 times that amount lying fallow.

BTW, again, after allowing for distillers grains, we used about 2% of the world's grain for ethanol production.


Let me try again. After allowing for distillers grains we used about 10 Million Acres for Corn Ethanol. Brazil, alone, has 15 times that amount lying fallow.

URL PLEASE! Lying fallow means not used for any reason, not pasture or any other use. It means arable land being totally unused! And I would desire your source for this bit of information.

Kdolliso, you have been posting about fallow land in several posts now. Kindly stop this crap unless you can prove what you are saying. So far you have not done that. Don't post about fallow land without a URL verifying it.

EDIT: I just did some quick calculations. You say Brazil has 15 times 10 million acres lying fallow. That would be 150,000,000 acres. According to the CIA factbook for Brazil: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/br.html

Brazil has 8,456,510 square kilometers of land. Each sq. kilometer is 247.105381 acres. This means that Brazil has 2,089,649,125 acres of total land. Also according to the CIA factbook, 6.93% of Brazil's land is arable. This means that Brazil has 144,812,684 acres of arable land! Yet you are saying that Brazil has 150,000,000 acres of land lying fallow.

Amazing, Brazil has more land lying fallow than they have arable land!

Methinks Kdolliso, that you just imagine land lying fallow.

Ron Patterson

The CIA factbook(?) is Wrong Again. Imagine that.

The 7.6% is land that's being cultivated for "Crops."

Google "Brazil/arable land" and you will find many, many reference that give anywhere from 350 Million, to 500 Million Acres of Arable Land.

The Brazilian Ag Minister calls Lula and raises him 220.

Reinhold Stephanos says Brazil has 370 Million Acres "Available."


When will you guys learn.

False statements, yet again, from kdolliso.

According to the CIA Factbook, Brazil has a total land mass of 8,456,510 square kilometers which at 247.105381 acres per square kilometer converts to a total acreage of 2,089,649,125.48031 total acres.

According to Earthtrends.org, the total arable land in Brazil is approximately 65,200,000 hectares or at 2.47105381 acres per hectare that works out to 161,112,708.412 acres of arable land TOTAL, or just over 7% of total land. This 7% figure is supported further by InfoPlease.com.

Your assertion then is that Brazil has 150,000,000 acres out of 161,000,000 lying fallow. You are suggesting that Brazil has 90% of its arable land lying fallow? That's an incredible assertion and one which you have not supported with ANY facts whatsoever. I smell another kdolliso propaganda push here.

Finally, you have been REPEATEDLY told that distiller's grains cannot be used en masse to feed cattle. It's not healthy for them, yet you keep playing the distiller's grain canard again and again. The world has already had a lesson that telling big lies over and over doesn't make them true.

It seems like before calling someone a "Liar" you would want to be sure of your facts.

That 7.6% number is the amount of land that's currently being used for "cropland."

I did a quick yahoo of "Brazil/arable land" and came up with scuds of articles giving Brazil's "Arable" land as being between 350 Million to 500 Million Acres. An ex:


President Lula, himself, said in a speech about a month ago that they had 150 million acres lying fallow that they could immediately put into biofuel production. Do I have to google Lula/150 millin acres for you?

As for DD s: Considering that the world is probably producing over 18 Billion Bushels of corn for animal feed, and that we are currently feeding a 30% mixture (improvements are being added so that some will probably be feeding higher blends in the future) I don't think we'll be running out of a market for our, approx., 1 billion bushels of DDs anytime soon.

I wonder.. has it occurred to you that maybe their president might be, well, lying?

There’s another sad story about the environment in today’s NYT. It should have been included in yesterday’s Earth Day stories.

Europe Turns to Coal Again, Raising Alarms on Climate

As far as climate goes, the big problem isn’t oil, it’s what happens as the oil runs out and the switch to other energy sources takes off. Cheap coal is the BAU choice and will wreck the Earth.

E. Swanson

Global warming has peaked. Temperatures for the last 10 years have been stable. Peak oil is the prolem. We need a crash coal to liquids program to keep essential transport going, and must not allow the greens to get in the way of that.

That's not what the data says


Come now emdeef---
Global Warming is a plot by the left to deny me of my divine right to prosperity.
Without those tree huggers and teenage welfare immigrant mothers on drugs, there would be so much oil, we would not even need to charge for it.
The Queen of England and Rockafellars are just hiding from us to make lot's of money!

You can't use data with this guy, he's impervious.. it just bounces off!

Yesterday, he blamed overconsumption on immigrants.. clearly the worst overconsumers in our cultures! Scapegoats are easier than Data!

Immigrants do move from their much lower consuming profile to the much higher consumption profile typical of the US. Part of the reason they want to immigrate is that high consumption profile.

Agreed, but it's picking a bizarre target, and one with clear overtones of Nationalism, when there are such extreme overconsumption patterns throughout the whole society that are much more productive objects of scrutiny. The analysis doesn't have to exclude those who immigrate to one's country, but neither should it turn a blind eye to the Luxury Yachts, Multiple Vacation Homes, Obscene Thermostat settings, Wasted Food and Packaging, Throwaway Products, Redundant Shipping etc, etc..

Weatherman paints the overworked Threat message of "Invasion by Outsiders", same as with the Birthrate statements a few days back, while WE have been the real invaders and the exploiters of record here.

As far as stabilizing population and immigration, I'm not against rational Immigration policy, but the direction needed to reduce the pressure to come to the Rich countries, is to support good governments, responsible business practise (by the Multinationals.. 'the Privatization of Empire') and women's education in the countries that are unable to employ and feed their people.


Bob, the "rich" nations like the US are not. With the US debt, deficit and trade deficits soaring, they are just pretending to be rich.

Question is would you be willing to bring in millions of starving people from Africa putting your own people at starvation risk? At some point you would have to agree to stopping immigration, question is, at what population level of the US? 400 million, 500 million, a billion?

Pointing to our national debt to somehow claim that we are 'poor' does nothing to answer the unarguably Rich level of consumption that we are indulging ourselves in.

Your question is a red-herring. I already said I am in favor of an immigration policy, and yet I ALSO said how I feel our currently 'well-supplied and fertile' nations could be helping to mitigate the starvation, political unrest and birthrates that force populations in third world countries to leave their homes and find a way to survive here.

I have several friends here in Portland from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Kenya. They are becoming part of our community, and are teaching us about their traditions. I welcome them, and hope they stay.. but I also hope that nations with stable governments can help foundering countries back onto their feet, not keep them down and suffering (ahem, Iraq) and infighting so we can sneak out with their resources as they decimate each other. It doesn't take the CIA as much as it takes the State Department, the Peace Corps, USAID(in its ideal form), Cultural Exchange and Global Cooperation. Not Steel walls, not Embargoes or their counterpart 'Free Trade' ..

God help Columbia. With friends like us, all they need now is a lot of undertakers!



That rich level of consumption is coming to an end quickly. The more immigrants who come here the sooner that end will be. We are coasting on fumes at the moment.

Example of how our aid has helped:


Per capita GDP in
Sub-Saharan Africa:
17.1% of the world

Per capita GDP in
Sub-Saharan Africa:
9.7% of the world

We have helped them so much that there are more starving people in Africa due to our aid to help stop starvation.

EVERYONE is coasting on fumes at the moment.

Immigration is an 'annoyance' issue, a decoy to keep people from addressing the mote in our own eye. The very consumption that makes our lives 'Look' rich to the hopeful migrants, when in fact it is not a Rich Life.

I'm not going to worry about defending US foreign policy over the past 50 years. Clearly there have been botched AID programs, as we've tried to mix aid with Ag Protectionism, GMO marketing or Weapons sales. And Of course it doesn't take a Study to see how our embargoes and incursions have been as destructive as war to both our reputation as to the populations they affected. But the Aid programs did not happen in a vacuum, either. They were sharing the dance floor with resource-hungry multinationals and governments, the residual effects of colonization and racism, and climate and social movements that were far beyond their ability to control, so saying that the Aid programs alone made the problem worse is somewhere between naive and malicious.


to support good governments, responsible business practise (by the Multinationals.. 'the Privatization of Empire') and women's education in the countries that are unable to employ and feed their people.

We in US can't do anthing like that; it would threaten our prosperity. To maintain our semblance of prosperity, we will have to grind our boot heels even harder on the rest of the planet. That we can somehow do that and have a sane immigration policy at the same time is unlikely.

A sane immigration policy would be end to "free trade" and the whole legal/technical infrastructure that sucks wealth/low entropy from the periphery to the core. We've destroyed the ability of much of the rest of the planet to support itself and now we are about to pull the rug out from under it all. The rest of the planet did have the ability to feed itself; the US destroyed that ability - typically with the complicity of each country's wealthy elite.

The powers that be in US are betting the chaos can be contained. Those of us who think economic justice must be part of the solution 1) are working against our own self interest and 2) will likely be shot.

cfm in Gray, ME

I didn't blame immigrants per se for over consumption. I said that to curb consumption the population would have to be stabalised. Since in the developed world the birth rate is at or below replacement level, all the increase in population come from immigration. The US and Canada have a population growth of 1% a year, which is to much. Therefore to stabalise population means reducing immigration. If not the population of North America will double this century. Do you want to see that Happen?

The metric is growth, immigration means added consumers. Also an expanded labor force that reduces the leverage that employees have vis a vis employers. For the government to work to reduce immigration it would have to admit that there is a problem, that the emperor has no clothes. The US consumerism is an environmental disaster as well as a strain on the world's resources.

Our consumerism in the developed world is unsustainable, I do not think that we will ever double our population simply because the planet could not handle that, nor do I believe that our current consumerism can continue for much longer.

Our standard of living is going to decline with the decline of the oil fields, as well as the other raw materials that are needed,

We seem to have a battle of the experts. http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/info/warming/ You pays your money and takes your choice.

Battle of the experts? The link you cite has no such experts claiming a final peak to the phenomenon of global warming - indeed, it points to anthropogenic CO2 concentration (which hasn't had any precipitous decline) as the primary factor causing recent warming.

Global temperature average varies year on year, month on month. It is not a smooth curve. Localized peaks are everywhere.

I understand that Hubbert is respected around here... But he was a petroleum geologist who was trying to model statistical observations, and happened to come up with something that matched data in that field. You can fit a bell curve to the amount of lint you find in the dryer over time, the amount of commercials you see on television over time, or the global average temperature over time. The spot on the graph where you see the peak is not an extraordinary event connoting a global maximum which will never be reached again.

I guess we're fortunate to have an infinite supply of coal then. With the Europeans adding more than a coal plant a month, and China adding one a week and the U.S. sure to follow, adding a major coal to liquids project on top of all that coal burning would be no small challenge if coal production could not be expanded forever.

Okay, not glad to hear Europe is turning to coal. However, note the article on China not being able to increase its coal stocks. Consider, coal not going to Europe is going to China, and China is not going to sequester the CO2. With crude and natural gas approaching peak and prices going though the roof as well as increasing resistance to CO2 emissions from coal, I am tremendously more optimistic that a real shift to sustainability has finally begun. As I said, begun.

Weatherman, you are are ignorant. The North pole is melting. This year marks the first year in human history that the ice over the North pole is thin first year ice (see link below). We may see a ice free pole this year, 40 years before the 2006 IPCC report projected this would happen. Fasten your seat beat, you live in interesting times.


The Chinese coal shortage is big, big news in my view. Coal exports and the limits of mining expansion are the flaws in this big global push to build coal fired plants. Is consumption expansion in the form of coal fired electric generation outpacing coal mining expansion and export infrastructure? I wonder if we will ever be able to burn as much coal as we'd like to burn.

In any case, any price advantage of coal over nuclear and oil and natural gas generation may quickly disappear. If we don't increase greenhouse gas emissions significantly beyond current levels, it will only be because we can't dig new stuff to burn out of the ground fast enough.

Remember too, we've been burning the best coal, which produces the most energy per unit of pollution. Just as light sweet crude is better than sour crude, and past American and Australian uranium ores caused less CO2 release in processing than the stuff we will use in the future. The remaining supplies of all fuels will be the bad stuff.

The Antarctic has enough ice to cover the entire world (land and sea) to a depth of over 500 feet. Why is everyone fixated on North Pole Ice that is 10 to 20 feet thick?

hmm.. maybe because it's a canary in the coal mine?
maybe it helps keep the northern edge of the Greenland ice sheet on land?

May I ask an equally germane question?

The Earth is 3/4 covered with water. Why is everyone fixated on the drinkable bits?


Why is everyone fixated on the drinkable bits?

Because clean potable water matters? Without that - one dies rather quick.

Mind you don't slip on that patch of Frozen sarcanol in the road, eh? That was his point..


Because Human Civilization developed with Ice on BOTH poles. It's not that 'there's still a lot of ice somewhere..' It's that there are significant changes occurring, and we're trying to see if we are looking forward to an uninhabitable planet.

Really. That kind of logic is right up there with 'What's wrong with warming? Things grow better when it's warm, right?'

Your comment is full of fail. Your statements are unsubstantiated and unhelpful. The last ten years may show some stability but if you extend your arbitrary period of 10 years to 15 years, then you see a clear upward trend. As for Greens getting in the way - what a ludicrous statement. The thing that is standing in the way of getting to work on peak oil is the established hierarchy that will resist change from a highly profitable, albeit unsustainable, mode of operation. Greens can be misguided and myopic especially with regards to Nuclear power but this does not mean that their contribution can be simply disregarded.

Nothing will get in the way of Mother Nature. She is the ultimate free market. Before her all the Greens and NeoCons and NeoLibs and all the rest of the stuffed shirts tremble.

People only matter in the short run -- of course, as individuals, we only have short runs, so naturally we care. But Mother doesn't. Burn up all the coal -- She will yawn. Maybe in 100million years some new oil and coal will have formed and some new upstart crow will try again to kick-start a world of shiny things.

We need a crash coal to liquids program to keep essential transport going, and must not allow the greens to get in the way of that.

Or even better Biomass to Liquids (BTL). Not using food stuff using wood, wood chips, waste shrubbery, anything woody! Robert Rapier mentioned in his blog that he recently visited the Choren Plant in Germany and was very impressed. Here is a recent news story on Choren:


Freiberg, Germany-based Choren Industries has finished work on its large scale biomass to liquid plant, which it said is the world's first commercial synthetic biofuel production plant. The company said the commissioning of its new €100 million Beta plant would take place in stages, putting 113 sub-systems in 26 main operating units into operation individually and then consecutively. "In parallel we are working on a concept for the first BTL plant on an industrial scale, with an annual output of 270 million liters of biosynthetic fuel, to be built in Schwedt, in Brandenburg," said Blades.

They also have a good website at:


Company and Vision

Our vision is the potentially infinite production of renewable energy – by following nature’s example. Environmentally friendly, clean fuel that is abundant and commercially viable.

Or even better Biomass to Liquids (BTL). Not using food stuff using wood, wood chips, waste shrubbery, anything woody!

We already have a use for wood, wood chips, sawdust and all wood waste products. It is called "particleboard." So any biodiesel made from wood would make building materials higher in price. And you would spend far more energy gathering and processing hedge clippings and shrubbery than you would get from the tiny amount of ethanol you would produce from it.

I posted a link up top concerning the stupidity of using biomass for fuel. This has been shown over and over. One of the best is this one: The most destructive crop on earth is no solution to the energy crisis.

Ron Patterson

Actualy they are not producing Ethanol, they are producing Biodiesel from Biomass. I'll let Robert do all the technical talking on Choren, I think he said in his blog he's going to do a write up of Choren, but i'll leave you with this little bit from their website:

Prof. Scheffer at the University of Kassel/Witzenhausen says that the total bioenergy potential in Germany is the equivalent of 56 million t of crude oil units1. In theory this amount could be used to produce 30 million t of SunFuel. This would be enough to meet 50% of the total automotive fuel consumption needs in Germany – including air traffic. And there would be no restrictions on the supply of foodstuffs either.

I implore you to reconsider...

In both biological and mechanical terms, the bicycle is extraordinarily efficient. In terms of the amount of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance, investigators have calculated it to be the most efficient self-powered means of transportation.[4] From a mechanical viewpoint, up to 99% of the energy delivered by the rider into the pedals is transmitted to the wheels, although the use of gearing mechanisms may reduce this by 10-15%.[5][6] In terms of the ratio of cargo weight a bicycle can carry to total weight, it is also a most efficient means of cargo transportation.

A human being travelling on a bicycle at low to medium speeds of around 10-15 mph (15-25 km/h), using only the energy required to walk, is the most energy-efficient means of transport generally available. Air drag, which is proportional to the square of speed, requires dramatically higher power outputs as speeds increase. A bicycle which places the rider in a seated position, supine position or, more rarely, prone position, and which may be covered in an aerodynamic fairing to achieve very low air drag, is referred to as a recumbent bicycle or human powered vehicle. On an upright bicycle, the rider's body creates about 75% of the total drag of the bicycle/rider combination.

In addition, the carbon dioxide generated in the production and transportation of the food required by the bicyclist, per mile traveled, is less than 1/10th that generated by energy efficient cars.


Hey Spud, No doubt, Bicycles are great. I'm actually in the market for a couple bikes right now, I hope to start riding my bike to work on non-rainy, snowy days as well as doing more cycling around town on the weekends. However, there will be a need for some liquid fuels in the future, and the process described above seems to be something that could work.

Glad to hear that, TAD!

I believe if we can transition to human-powered transportation, we could reduce petroleum demand enough that the price of oil would drop and we would only be importing oil to cover our demand for diesel, heating oil, etc. In that scenario, we may not even need to resort to biofuels or BTL, CTL, whatever.

Thats my optimistic side talking. The d00mer side tells me India and China will gladly take up the slack, keeping things just the way they are, steadily getting worse...

I hope to start riding my bike to work on non-rainy, snowy days

Why bother - the solution to the problem are just around the corner! Riding a bike sounds like acceptance of the doom to me.

Bikes are a wonderful type of transportation, When I lived in Boston I biked everywhere, there are paths that follow the river esplanade. The abandoned B and M RR easements from Bedford to Cambridge has been reformed as a bike . Although the abandonment of the easements by the RRds was in error, the reuse as a bike, ped path was a boon to bike use. A person can bike from Bedford to the alewife t stop almost totally along this dedicated path.

In Washington DC there are bike ped paths along the highway rights of way,

there is a need for employers to aid in this with showers and locker rooms for staff. this way people could bike on a nice day and wash off the days rides sweat. Also bike racks adjacent to employers, racks that are in secure areas. Also bike racks near car orientated 7-11 type shops so people could go to the store and back for a quick pick up by bike. Bike shops should be near to where people would work so a commuter could fix a leaky tire, busted chain etc.

Just a fraction of the money spent on one high interchange could be used to establish a mature system Things like tax breaks - incentives for locally owned and run bike shops, establishment and enforcement of cyclists rights along the roads, perhaps a voucher system to help people to purchase helmets.

A percentage of the gas tax should be dedicated to bike issues, any metro area that does not meet the epa guideline could use bike transportation enhancement as a mitigation tool.

umass82 writes:

Bikes are a wonderful type of transportation.

As a leisure cyclist, I would add some qualifiers:

Bikes are a wonderful type of transportation, provided that:

- it's a sunny day
- it's not too cold
- it's not too warm
- there is no wind
- the ground isn't icy or wet or muddy
- the terrain is flat
- you don't have a long way to go
- your colleagues don't mind if you smell of sweat
- you don't have to wear a suit at work
- you are not physically disabled
- you don't have to bring home the groceries
- you don't have to ferry kids to school every morning
- you are not trying to impress and attract young women


Several reasons why the general public won't convert to cycle-commuting until the price of gas hits (say) $20 per gallon.

Hello Carolus Obscurus,

Railbikes on SpiderWebRiding Networks nicely answers some of these problems.

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

A rain cape and hat work for the me.

People as young as 7 or 8 can ride almost as fast (not quite as far though) as an adult. Kids younger than that ride on the back (small ones need a seat, bigger ones on the bike rack) But if it's close, kids as young as 5 can ride pretty well, I think.

Hills provide good chances to walk the bike.

With groceries, you have to buy small amounts every day, not only once a week.

I agree that the other problems are difficult to overcome.

But not having a car---not even one car-- is a wonderful thing! We save thousands of dollars a year......One of my hobbies is calculating just how much.

Of course, not living in the US makes it easier. But I've heard that the US is developing more bike paths recently.

The best thing is being able to see things closely: bugs, birds, trees, rocks, puddles, whatever. Commuting is really interesting. In a car, I find that one can't properly observe one's surroundings. I hate that.

Another wondeful thing: parking is so easy!

But let me add that grocery delivery services are common here (we use one) and shops also deliver in general (because so many people don't have cars.) Also we sometimes have to take a cab (maybe every month, once) and there are trains and buses here which we also use. But mainly it's the bike.

Pi you are describing a completely Un-American way of life and view of life! First, as Dmitry Orlov explains, middle-class in the US means having a car. And the US takes social class VERY VERY seriously. Hell there are people on here who won't talk to me (send 'em a long private email and no reply, for instance) because I make no secret of the fact that I do not have a car, nor will be able to ever afford one again in the forseeable future.

Our society is more class-bound than anything you've had in Europe in the years after WWII, plus it's a very dog-eat-dog, insecure, paranoid society. US'ians clinging to the closest thing you can get to a tank, the huge SUV or pickup truck, makes more sense if you ever live in this hell for a while.

Building of bicycle paths and lanes only happens in the Evil Empire when bicycle advocacy groups make a lot of noise, over time. Even in very enlightened areas like the SF Bay Area, I've seen people walking in the street because the private property owners don't want sidewalks in front of their fine buildings, and thus, you have mothers with small children (not immigrants necessarily, American "citizens") walking in the roadway with SUVs and other large vehicles whizzing by inches away.

After crash, dieoff, a few revolutions, and some well-justified enforced dieoff of the owning class, perhaps we'll end up with a country where parents and kids can ride their bikes and do a bit of shopping and have a reasonable hope of not being attacked, attempted run-overs, stuff thrown at them, etc. Here's praying for $20 "gas" (petrol).

Are class-conscious snobs smarter than yeast?

Fleam, hon, I know the server can be annoyingly slow sometimes, but have a little patience. Don't keep clicking the "post" button. It's not going to make the server work any faster. You only end up with 20 copies of the same post.

While I don't doubt for a moment that class is important in the US (we wouldn't be human were it otherwise), I don't see your examples as proof. Lots of people don't answer e-mails for lots of reasons. Maybe it got caught in their spam filter. Maybe they just don't like e-mail. Maybe they're just busy. Assuming it's because you don't have a car is a bit of a stretch. I doubt most people even remember who has a car or who doesn't, at least when it comes to online acquaintances.

Me, I rarely answer personal e-mails. I get a ton of them, and I spend enough time on the computer without getting into private e-mail conversations. Sometimes you'll catch me when I have time on my hands and I'll get into an e-mail conversation, but usually I don't bother. If it's something that requires a quick answer, and I can give one, I'll probably answer. If it asks me to do something I can't do, or give an answer I don't have, you probably won't get an answer. I'll put it in my "to do later" folder, where I promptly forget about it until it's so old there's no point in answering. :)

And sidewalks...I love sidewalks as a pedestrian, but I don't blame homeowners for not wanting them. I probably wouldn't want them, either, if I were a homeowner. At least around here, the law makes the land owner responsible for maintaining the sidewalk. And also responsible if someone slips and hurts themselves. Why would I want to take on that liability if I could avoid it?

Sidewalks...and where there's winter, you also get sentenced to incessant hard labor trying to chip ice off the damned thing lest you be sued for all you're worth. Another reason why sidewalks are fiercely resisted even where the need is obvious. I think it's a residue of bygone centuries, when residents were also responsible for the street, but in the present climate, so to speak, I find it hard to conceive of any municipality bringing things up to date by raising taxes and taking on the work and liability itself.

One upshot is that it stacks the deck even more against pedestrians, because in any given block, there's usually at least one property owner who can't or won't clear the walk in a timely manner (or at all.) If you're got osteoporosis, that patch of ice may be all it takes to put you in a wheelchair for life, and even if not, it can still ruin your life for months.

Yes. There's often stiff resistance when you try to put in sidewalks, even in small villages where everyone knows everyone and lots of people walk. Nobody wants to maintain them. And sticking the homeowner with it, as usually happens, can be very hard on the elderly. You get some 90-year-old lady in a walker who shows up at the town meeting and asks how she's going to shovel the walks or hire someone to do it for her when she's on a fixed income.

Given that we're probably only about 15 years away now from there being nothing on the roads except pedestrians and bicycles and NEVs, we're probably at the point where it no longer is worth the bother to put in sidewalks anywhere except along main roads.

Procrastination pays again, just like your e-mail policy! ;-)

You obviously have never been to the Netherlands. Everyday people ride all year long, in all weather.

As for carrying groceries, check out xtracycle.com or any number of bike trailer manufacturers.

And on your last point, recreational bike rides around here (CO) are full of attractive women. In fact, sometimes women outnumber the men.

The Dutch climate is much milder than that of any part of the US except the West Coast.

It's not a deal breaker for bikes, but it does go a great deal toward explaining why we're not yet a fietsvolk like the Dutch.

I live in southern Wisconsin, where there are relatively many bicyles because of Dane County and Madison, which are a bit like being in Berkeley without being in California. I have also been to The Netherlands. I must say I think conditions in The Netherlands far more favorable. One ought not be quite so glib, as what the Dutch do will not necessarily translate well.

IOW, I think CO has, as the English so nicely put it, part of a point:

-Except for a few patches, especially Maastricht and some areas along the borders, Dutch terrain is dead flat. So dead flat that without seeing it, or a non-eroded area of the Great Plains, or the Bonneville Salt Flats, it's hard to comprehend. The hilliest terrain for many miles is apt to be a motorway overpass. That makes it possible, as many do, to use a cheap heavy junker bike without blowing out one's knees.
-Due to the equable maritime climate, the average high temperature is above freezing all year round. The Dutch don't normally cope with perennial sheets of glare ice slicking up all the smaller streets from early December through late March. (Now the Finns are a little crazier, but in the USA, today's litigious Bubble Wrap Generations will never go for this sort of thing.)
-Due to the equable maritime climate, summer weather is normally tolerable and non-dangerous. If it goes over 90F or even a bit less in The Netherlands, then as in 2003, it makes for lurid headlines about the imminent heat death of the entire world. Oh, and the violent thunderstorms that are almost a daily summertime occurrence in parts of the USA are very rare, so being thrown off-schedule and ultimately leaving the kids in a lurch is less of an issue.
-Dutch cities are so jampacked that oftentimes there is not a long way to go. Now, Amsterdam is a lovely place to visit as a tourist, but many Americans would find living there to be another matter (not that it would be likely that, as foreigners, they would be able to obtain residence permits.) I know few, even from the New York area, who want to cram in quite so closely.
-And, actually, there seemed to be a limited social tolerance of sweat - due to the equable climate and unimaginably high taxes, many places are not air-conditioned. In the USA, social sweat tolerance is usually absolutely zero.

Actually, I went on a three-day cycling tour in the Netherlands in Summer 2006.

I guess one reason the Dutch cycle a lot is that their roads are so congested with motorcars. They cycle a lot because they drive a lot, so to speak.

I am trying to explain the mindset of 98% of the population, not to condone it.

Carolus Obscurus

your colleagues don't mind if you smell of sweat
- you don't have to wear a suit at work ... you are not trying to impress and attract young women

That is why I also said that there has to be infrastructure available such as locker rooms and showers, etc.

The other issues you mention are valid points for some, not all and not always for those some, there will always be barriers to one mode of transportation or another there are also workarounds, buying a front basket for picking up small grocery items on the bike, ride sharing to the grocery (or walking as I do) carpooling the kids, and biking on your off days.

If it is not for you that is ok, however even if it is only for some people, should not those who decide not to expunge green house gases, burn up our depleting oil and add to the crowding of our roads at least be given the same consideration as those who do?

I for one would prefer to have the option to bike to work, rather than always depend on a car.

There are those who will bike and those who will not, all I am trying to posit is that for those to whom the option of biking is viable, government and corporate policy should be geared (pun) to make it more viable.

My brother commutes five miles each way into the Loop in Chicago all year long, by bicycle. As long as it is over 10F and not too icy, he goes. This only cuts out about 30-40 days a year, even in Chicago which is renowned for its tough conditions.

I read where there are now over 10 million electric bicycles in China. With an electric bike, a 10 mile commute can be done without breaking a sweat in most weather, even if it is hilly. No insurance, no license requirements. They are limited to 20 mph, but this is easily bypassed on most machines.

Unfortunately, most electric bikes are junk. There are only a few brands worth owning, and a lot of real crap. It you are at all mechanical/electrical, the best option is a good mountain bike and a Crystalyte kit. If you have a ton of money, the Optibike is to electric bikes what the Tesla is to electric cars. It will drain your wallet, but you'll have a true high end bike with a great innovative drivetrain.

Here's an outfit that figures it can produce diesel from Brazilian Sugarcane. Lula figures they can increase their sugar cane production by about a hundredfold.


Yup. And it's not just particle board. Paper, cardboard, etc.

Sawdust shortage forces up prices; Fewer mills mean supplies are cut

I would also add that it's not really sustainable. Dead trees, fallen limbs, etc., nourish the soil for future growth. Ditto "stalks and grass." The grain for the farmer, the straw for the land.

Dead trees, fallen limbs, etc., nourish the soil for future growth. Ditto "stalks and grass." The grain for the farmer, the straw for the land.

You got it. You're a smart person Leanan. Not only does stover, slash, organic residues in general.. restore micronutrients & improve soil tilth, it also sequesters carbon in the form of refractile humic & fulvic substances. Lignocellulosic biomass conversion to biofuels is just as bad an idea as ethanol from maize or biodiesel from oil seed crops.

Serious question: isn't there significant nutrient value in the ash, which can be returned to the soil? Or are we talking making alcohol first, in which case, wouldn't the nutrients be in whatever is left over in (wood- celulosic ethanol)? Couldn't these be returned?

They could be, but that would reduce the already small EROEI, having to cart the ash back where it came from.

I think biofuels may have a place, but it will be local. Farmers growing it for their own use. Or burning the straw directly to generate heat for a village, as they're doing in parts of Europe.

If China had gotten its farmers to make their own biodiesel, they would have had the advantage of already owning nasty old "donkeys", motorized carts with one-cylinder diesels, which could function both as transport and electrical generation and thus reduce farmers' needs for more roads and power stations. Presumably the donkeys will all go into landfills instead given the fuel crisis there.

Any ideas to use the exhaust from biodiesel burning generator engines to warm a house?

Just getting started on that one. Have an old Rabbit Diesel(still driveable) powering up an onboard 10kw 240v unit. Hydraulic Quick couplers for the rad is next buy.

The next step is to install one radiator (using the trans cooler for hot water) into the heat duct for coolant and exhaust pipe (with in line exhaust cutout) in from outside for the exhaust xchange. Before we get too worried about CO, even though there are nasties in diesel exaust I have run a diesel indoors with the doors shut and a good quality detector right next to the outlet (please don't try this at home on my reccomendation) and with no CO detected. Biodiesel better. Anyway the exchanger has to be heavy and well sealed anyway. (Heck VW's heated you with CO ladden gasoline exhaust for years if you had an old bug. It was just sorta well sealed)

For electrical power and heat on an itermittant basis this would be my backup for down or winter when PV is useless where we are. Hot water, heat, power, and recharging in one movable unit able to run to the field as well. You could even PTO one axle.

Oh and I agree (and some of your other takes) on China but those 'donkeys' are their lifeblood. Guess that's kind of what we're designing ATM. Shouldn't need too much fuel in either case. Maybe 1/2 gallon (maybe less) an hr at 5kw. Haven't done the math yet but the stratified charge was just a 'sipper' known to get 55mpg on the road.

Please, please, please find a way to vent the exhaust to the outside, by all means pass it through some type of heat exchanger first to capture the BTU's. But get the exhaust to the outside CO is only part of the problem, CO2, Ozone, unburnt Hydrocarbons etc. are just some of the byproducts of air breathing combustion, none of which you want in any quantities in your home. BTW I still have one of those old VW's the heating system works by passing air through the heat exchanger boxes over the heads, on the other side of the air cooling system. Unless you punched a hole through the exhaust mainifold (possible but very unlikely) and didn't notice the extra noise even for a Beetle, the exhaust doesn't vent anywhere near the air intake for the heating system which was on the front of the car, very similar in practice to the way they use the heat of a jet engine in flight to keep the cabin toasty the exhaust never mixes with the air going into passenger section of the car.

Please, please, please find a way to vent the exhaust to the outside

LOL NOOOO! It's going outside but through the heat exchanger first. And it's very good to clarify so no one on here gets the wrong idea. The point is as Super390 was initiating that the diesel is somewhat safer to use in an exchanger as far as if you did get a leak which isn't too likely, but possible. The point of my test was on CO. with a known working digital readout no CO. As I said there are nasties in there and don't try this at home. (behind closed doors)

Unless you punched a hole through the exhaust mainifold (possible but very unlikely)

And as you see that is the same type of system I am building. The early 36hp and 40hp units were not very well sheathed and as you probably know #3 cyl. was famous for getting hot and blowing out the exhaust gasket where the exhaust made the 180deg bend there in the heater box and I have seen the pipes rotted there. All the systems blew air directly over the exhaust pipes for heat. They got more pipe fins as time went along as the boxes got longer and 'fresh air' pipes were added from the cowling. (worked for VW, mechanic)

As far as using waste heat. Lots of it being done. The waste oil burner I installed here at work is a good example but this notion of using the coolant for hot water and the exhaust for heat while using the electrical output for power and recharging means a lot more of the FF energy will at least be useful on it's way up the stack. IIRC articles on this sort of scheme being in Mother Earth news also had ways of running the exhaust out and in a pit for sound deadening.

We heat with wood. Hey, the diesel/gen thing is not very elegant and certainly not very green unless you go all bio diesel but with 6 mo. of winter here if the power did go down it would allow us a few comforts. It might also be an idea for spot use of some of the hulking power plants in the thousands of diesel trucks which will be pretty useless soon. They idle on very little fuel and could (and probably will) provide some warmth, shelter and electricity if TSHTF.

Lots of donkey cart in China you can still see them in Beijing. China tried all sorts of Bio-fueled endevours apparently a lot revolving around biogas but scale is the problem.

Serious question: isn't there significant nutrient value in the ash, which can be returned to the soil?

Yes, but wood ashes tend to raise soil pH, which may be a good or bad thing depending on where you live.

OK, so it mostly requires soil management like adding acids. Not insurmountable, but requiring a bit of proper prior planning and extra work for sustainability. I imagine copiced wood production--my initial naive response without doing the math is to mix in acidic leaves with wood ash. I guess the result would be like a regular ordinary forest fire.

Still, this is the cheap-ass non-tech approach--Personally, I'd rather have an acre of solar panels than 40 acres of firewood.

Agreed - it infuriates me when I hear these schemes to use all the "waste" biomass. What waste?

There are a number of sources of truly waste biomass. I have seen some recently, literally mountains of the stuff that they are trying to find a home for. I know probably half a dozen sources like this.

While we're discussing waste biomass, does anyone know anything about a company called AdaptiveARC in SoCal?

New trash technology aims to turn waste into energy

The so-called ‘plasma arc’ reactor, which is about the size of a tractor-trailer and equally portable, converts trash to energy. AdaptiveARC, a Southern California company, is looking to test the new technology at Santa Cruz County’s Buena Vista Landfill.

Our county is looking at their ‘plasma arc’ reactor for our landfill. I was already pretty skeptical (my nature) but a letter today said it's basically just an incinerator.

Trash plan not environmentally sound

Are our County planners being duped?

Bottom line is your right it's a waste to energy incinerator. We had one in the county I used to live in, if I recall right it produced a decent but not huge amount of electricity for the operating cost. Only problem was it was the 3rd most air polluting place in the county, of course the 2 biggest polluters were the oil refineries it was placed between so ended up looking pretty good next to those places. The "plasma arc" part is the new twist it is suppose to reduce the number of toxic pollutants spewing into the atmosphere by burning the "fuel" at much higher temperatures thereby "cleaning" up the ash a a bit. So while probably at least one order cleaner than previous incinerators your still burning garbage and putting a large amount of the byproducts of that into the air.

I haven't heard of that company, but St Lucie Florida is trying to do something similar with their partner company Geoplasma. They were supposed to be up & running by 2010, but that's been pushed back to 2011 at this time.

Yes, but I would argue it's "waste" because of our wasteful fossil fueled lifestyle. For example, the animal manure from our factory farms is waste now. In a sustainable world, it's valuable fertilizer that farmers are reluctant to part with for mere money. We currently don't need to recycle the "waste" because we have petroleum-based substitutes (fertilizer, etc.).

That's one of the problems the turkey parts plant ran into. They expected to get the "waste" for free, but ended up having to pay for it.

Very true Leanan, also as farmers begin using natural fertilisers and soil amendments (France wants to increase organic farming to 20% for example), there will be a shortage of usable organic waste. Many town councils here in Europe use garden and landscape waste to make compost which is eventually returned to the soil. Forestry waste is left in the forest to maintain the natural balance and help produce the next crop of trees. Some sewerage works also produce compost I believe.

We cannot take from the land without replacing what we've removed, otherwise we deplete the soil. The very idea that organic material is waste is obviously a deeply flawed idea and probably originated from the heinous pseudo-science of economics :)

The basis of this ecological principal is the 1st Law of Thermodynamics, or conservation law. Energy and matter can not be created or destroyed.

When plants grow in soil they incorporate minerals into their tissues. When these tissues are removed the soil is depleted. Therefore, to maintain the mass balance in the soil anything removed needs to be replaced. Different soils have different pools of nutrients and as soon as one of these becomes limited productivity goes down--i.e., Liebigs Law.

All cellulosic materials contain minerals too. These are measured in pounds of acre equivalents that can be translated into fertilizer replacement requirements.

Actually, the only way wheat "straw" ever helped us get a better yield the next year was if we burned it in the fields.

Try this:


Edit: Here no till is saving their bacon, permitting yields today that probably wouldn't have occurred otherwise. On a not exactly greenie site.

Wheat fell to its lowest levels since November today. A combination factors, but the overwinter shortage figured heavily in increasing plantings worldwide. As it was predicted in the spike run up. But then so did the end of the wheatbelt drought. I imagine world wheat stocks declines to be marginal if at all this year, buying breathing room.

One other indicator for the onus off wheat stocks is Russia removing their wheat export restrictions.

``Today we canceled all restrictions,'' Timoshenko told reporters in Kiev. ``All grain exporters can ship as much as they want.''


"Ukraine farmers will harvest at least 40 million tons of wheat this year, the government estimates. The country will have enough to ship 7 million tons of the grain, said Leonid Kozachenko, president of the Ukranian Agrarian Confederation, on March 10. Last year Ukraine's exports totaled 3.4 million tons, according to the USDA."

I would also add that it's not really sustainable. Dead trees, fallen limbs, etc., nourish the soil for future growth. Ditto "stalks and grass." The grain for the farmer, the straw for the land.

That all depends on scale. If you try to run the country on it, it isn't sustainable. But you can harvest some level of biomass off the land in a sustainable fashion. After all, where did that biomass come from? Mostly from CO2 pulled from the air. You just have to use the right sources and be realistic about what level of fuel it can provide.

"You just have to use the right sources and be realistic about what level of fuel it can provide."

It doesn't get any more simple than that.

And yet, here I sit, watching TODers rehash the exact same arguments from 2 years prior... over and over again as the iceburg approaches. A scene that replicates itself in the halls of the decision makers.

I tell you Robert, it's mindnumbing.

Colleagues of mine: scientists, analysts, brilliant men & women alike, are walking away from academies and labs in this field because no one higher up the chain wants to seriously solve the problem.

And if that weren't bad enough, I would almost argue that we, as a society MUST hit that iceburg, we NEED to hit that iceburg because not one of us seems to be able to grasp how else to end the Titanic story.

Robert Rapier writes:

But you can harvest some level of biomass off the land in a sustainable fashion.

What part of the word 'some' is it that I don't understand?

Debunking hardhats (such as your admirer, Robert Bryce, author of 'Gusher of Lies - The Dangerous Delusions of "Energy Independence"') would ask for more precise data. Are we talking about 1% of total energy consumption, or 0.1%, or 0.01%?

If we're talking 1%, fine. If we're talking 0.1%, perhaps. But what if we're talking 0.01%? My feeling is that biomass harvesting may be something of a red herring -- a kind of distraction from the big issues. At any rate I think it it would be a good idea to try to establish a reasonable order of magnitude.

Poet is figuring on getting approx 100 gallons of ethanol per acre of corn land by utilizing the cellulose from the cobs, and 1/3 of the stalks. (they, also, expect to power their entire ethanol plant by burning the leftover lignin.)

At 90 Million Acres of Corn, this would produce about 9 Billion Gallons of ethanol (or, about 6% of current gasoline demand.) Now, on to cotton stalks, bean stalks, wheat straw, forestry waste, lawn clippings, etc..

I suppose poet might need to dream of a way to make cheap enzymes to convert grass clippings to high energy liquid fuel. Like turning lead into gold, it is on the list of projects not yet accomplished by alchemists for change. A few might write they have the solution, yet they cannot show cellulosic ethanol production for under $4.00 a gallon, only begged for more subsidies and research grants. Usually poets were not awarded chemical engineering grants, else they would be called chemists.

Some claim if they gasify coal they might make ethanol. If they gasify coal they are not using renewable resources. I have seen photovoltaic cells and windmills people have found more of a market for their products than cellulosic ethanol people who have yet to produce.

*watches in horror as said enzymes and bacteria escape into the wild..

Yup. That is why I shake my head whenever I hear the 'we'll just bio-engineer our way out'. To make some bio-process work only under human control you need processing EQ - and that raises the price. To make it cheap leans towards the problems of escape into the environment.

The "I told you so" moment better be darn well worth it.

Biofuel should be limited to biogas byproduct in the production of biochar. The biochar is recycled to the soil (gardens) to increase food production.

The biggest problem with biofuels is man's appetite for energy is nearly limitless. We are a basically lazy species with endless wants. We all want the elevator, incessant travel to distant lands.

"The really bad news is they want to use oil the way we do."

toplink above "Oil tops $119!, what's next?"

Or even better Biomass to Liquids (BTL). Not using food stuff using wood, wood chips, waste shrubbery, anything woody!

If I thought you were actually able to learn I'd bother explaining to you why this is a long term bad plan - due to the size/skills/costs needed to run such a plant. As such, no 'farmer' can place one on his/her land so that the output could be put back into the soil.

I know a lot people on this site don't agree, but I still think algae will be the way to go with biofuels. There are over 15 companies in the US working on this and Boeing & Shell are both on board with investments.

It might very well be. I think the potential is so huge that everyone is afraid to really think about it.

I think the potential is so huge that everyone is afraid to really think about it.

Well its a good thing that its just what 'you think'.

Because the reality of the algae process when scaled up shows it won't work.

Example - Say you opt to process a cities waste stream. Where, near any city, will the surface be aviable to place the algae to gather sunlight? Now, how are you going to get the waste stream to that location?

"weatherman" has given us the usual denialist argument, based on cherry picking the data. Sure, 1998 was an ususually warm year. But, if one looks at a longer period, say 20 or 30 years, the temperature trend is upward. I've seen this bogus argument so many times that it really makes me livid. The statement shows either a complete lack of understanding of the science or a cynical disregard for truth. Maybe you are just another ignorant dupe who has swallowed the denialist propaganda, otherwise, you should be forced to read aloud lots of dry, boring scientific literature about climate change while standing in an airport lobby until you go blind.

E. Swanson

It almost doesn't matter now.

I posted this story a few days back but it's worth posting here again. A Storehouse of Greenhouse Gases Is Opening in Siberia. The IPCC models don't even consider hydrates outgassing in a serious way until the 22nd century, as I recall, and then only if we fail to mitigate what's happening. Yet here it is starting on a fairly notable scale in an area that was previously stable.

In short, it doesn't matter what weatherman says and it probably doesn't matter now what homo sapiens does, at least in terms of mitigation. We won't get serious about climate change until we have to think in terms of triage. And when triage as a model enters the climate change debate in a large way, then maybe something will happen to save some small portion of civilization. But until then? Expect denialist crap like weatherman even while the oceanic hydrates begin to prepare the planet for the next phase of the warming trend.

This, I fear, is the situation in a nutshell. Since last fall when the new work on climate sensitivity came out, I've felt the odds are very much against mitigation. Here we've got to go backwards on emissions, but Bush wants us to get to zero *growth* in emissions by 2020 or some such? Joke. And, now, just like we saw in the Arctic, we have new infornmation indicating a tipping point/bifurcation has been passed/occurred. But we keep arguing about how bad it REALLY is and what we SHOULD do and HOW SOON and TO WHAT EXTENT...

Chaos waits for none.

What's that fiddling I hear? Nero, is that you?


How many parts per million is too much? And what will you do when we get there?

Really? CO2 up more than 2ppm last year...

Dream on, Pinball Wizard.


(Edited for %/ppm error.)

GCC is a terrible tragedy, but it is time to face up to the reality: we (humanity) WON'T be doing anything about it. Every bit of FF that we can get our hands on will be burned, as quickly as possible. It is a done deal, count on it.

The fact that the global reserves of FF are limited is the one silver lining on the cloud, and is the only thing that might just keeping us from otherwise totally destroying the earth.

Nevertheless, while we all know that all FF will soon peak and begin the long downward path of depletion, that will occur too late to avoid passing some serious global tipping points; indeed, it looks like we may have already done so.

Adaptation and coping is the name of the game at this point.

Adapting to a cold and adapting to an generally lethal cancer are different processes. We still have some control over the severity of the global warming; we need to avoid the lethal cancer analogy by doing as much as we can.

The smoker diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer needs to do as much as they can, too, mainly by quitting smoking. Except that they won't.

What people CAN do and what they WILL do are two different things.

"We" meaning you can I can and will do a lot, but it will only be a drop in the bucket. "We" meaning the whole of humanity, and particularly governments and corporations (who have it in their power, unlike us, to make a big difference) will do nothing. Their doing nothing will matter a lot more than anything and everything ordinary people like us can do. That doesn't mean that we don't do anything, but it does mean that we might as well be realistic and not cling to false hopes.

Which Smoker won't quit? Your statement makes it sound like NONE of them quit smoking, while in fact many do.. even before being diagnosed.

Of course, as with energy use, we're talking about addictive and habitual behavior, so being able to quit is sometimes damnably difficult, and takes numerous tries. Same thing with efficiency and alternatives movements, social action, etc. Many people are working on it, some give up, others join in..

Best Hopes for a viral activist movement, and moderate statements.

I read yesterday that the average smoker who quits actually quits 8 to 11 times before succeeding.

Bet we don't get that many chances.

A friend of mine was diagnosed with the early stages of emphysema 12 years ago and he quit smoking. He was fine at the time. He is now on oxygen 24/7 and he is just 60. Not long for this world I'm afraid.

Maybe that's the way global warming is going - too late to do much about it.

Stopping using our cars, computers, big-screen TV's, stoves and microwaves is not really a choice for most Americans. For most Americans using energy is like breathing! The prospect of stopping doing those things is akin to giving up our guns - "after they pry my cold, dead fingers" from it.

I am like a lot of posters on TOD. I grew up in a time when we didn't think about gas and energy or even the destruction of the planet. Plentiful energy was here when we were born and we were too busy living to give it much thought. Now we are slowly waking up (too late) and we are sad for the mess the planet is in and for our children who will have to do most of the suffering.

I went to the Earth Day events in Balboa Park on Sunday. It was robust. But then I glanced at the armies of cars and mountains of trash that the event generated and I despair that for the most part it was just another reason to throw a party!

Quitting smoking is not that difficult. I have a friend who does it practically every month!

To put it another way, ALL hopes are 'false hopes'.. they don't exist yet, and you want them to.. but you have to both define your 'hopes' AND make a plan and take action and join forces and advocate loudly.

Others out there are Hoping for Ethanol, Hoping for Antigravity, Hoping for Nuclear Power.. some are also actively pursuing these things, and some may have their day.

"We" meaning the whole of humanity, and particularly governments and corporations (who have it in their power, unlike us, to make a big difference) will do nothing.

Finally, someone who gets it! I have been preaching this fact for years. But no one seems to get it. Every book on the subject, every essay on oil, the environment, species extinction, global warming, and anything else concerning humanity ends with something like this: "Here is what we must do." "We" meaning "we the human race" will not do one damn thing. Upthread SynchroGENized suggest things "we" meaning he and I, could do to help fix the problem. Yeah Right! Go piss in the sea and see how much the water rises.

We can do a lot to try to improve the chances for ourselves and our loved ones of being among the survivors. But there is nothing we, meaning humanity, will do to stop the coming collapse of civilization as we know it. What we "can" do is immaterial, what we "will" do is all that matters. We will do nothing! Well, by nothing I mean nothing to alter the coming catastrophe. What we will do is continue with our destructive ways then scream bloody murder when it is way too late to do anything.

We are but observers and when you are watching TEOTWASWKI it is just damn hard to take your eyes off it.

Ron Patterson

Tsk Tsk,

Change is possible. There were no present tense reasons to act before - no obvious catastrophe. Now the N pole is melting and energy prices are going through the roof. Once people must change, driving potentially successful change gets much easier. Anyway, drive yourself crazy with complete pesssimism if you must - but your still going to try.


Change is possible.

You are absolutely correct. In fact change in inevitable. Let me give you a great example of change. In the 1950s the Aral Sea was the fourth largest inland sea in the world. On its banks stood the largest fish factory in the Soviet Union. It employed thousands of workers produced 6,500 tons of fish products per day.

Today there is virtually no Aral Sea, only a couple of pools of brine with no fish whatsoever. Today, the area that once was the Aral Sea is a salty desert, it will grow nothing because of the salt. The area around the former shoreline is now almost a desert also. Now it will grow virtually nothing. The rivers feeding the sea was diverted to grow cotton. But the cotton fields soon salted up. Now it takes half the water to wash the salt out and the other half for irrigation. But the cotton yield has fallen to less than half that as when the fields were first irrigated. And the salty waterlogged ground will not grow vegetables or fruit.

Now that is change! And I could give you dozens of other such examples of change. And more such changes are happening every day.

The Aral Sea story above was taken from When the Rivers Run Dry: Water--The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-first Century

There were no present tense reasons to act before - no obvious catastrophe.

BullCrap! There are such catastrophes as the Aral Sea all over the world, and people are doing nothing! No one is doing anything to stop deforestation or to stop species extinction or water tables from falling or to stop rivers from running dry or to stop desertification or any of the other catastrophes that are happening right now.

Anyway, drive yourself crazy with complete pesssimism if you must - but your still going to try.

Try what? To save the world? No, try to save your own butt and your efforts will be far better spent. But you can just sing "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and I am sure that will help you. Help you, not me. As I said days ago, I have help. I have good bourbon.

Tsk Tsk, so many people have their heads in the sand, or up their arse as the Brits would say.

Ron Patterson

On another topic, near and dear to the doomer heart -namely how to preserve wealth in a post-peak world, I think you hit on it. Bourbon.

In my defense, my activism began about 4 years ago related to issues of global warming. Realizing change must come from pain, I switched over to peak oil issues as the pain seemed more imminent.

P.S. keep up the good fight

"I have good bourbon."

When the patient (civilization) prognosis is terminal I guess the only logical course of action is to make oneself as comfortable as possible.

I went to permaculture seminar a couple of weeks ago and they asked each of us to tell the group what drives our passion. One woman declared (to enthusiastic applause) "Having another baby!"

I had to walk out. I immediately sought relief from pain. (Scotch double OTR)

Hi Joe,

I hope you return. Perhaps she'll decide to adopt. You just never know.
With the Scotch, no one got to know you. And visa versa, in a way.

(As someone said on this forum quite a while ago, women want babies as much as men want to "practice". She at least got it out on the table, so to speak. Perhaps they were applauding her zest for life.)

Two cents.

Ever try Van Winkels? (Bourbon)
I'm starting to enjoy it as much as the Aberlour. (Scotch)

Actually, I'm inclined to only be moderately doomerish. Given the instinctive drive for survival, the capacity of humans for creativity, and the tendency of people to try to take advantage of marketplace opportunities when they present themselves, I suspect that a lot of people will do a lot of things that work to make the path down a little less catastrophic than it could be. What they do will probably be in spite of and with the opposition of big government and big corporations, rather than with their help, but they'll nevertheless be able to accomplish some things. Under no circumstances should the above be read to imply that I think that the "invisible hand" of the marketplace will save us from our folly. No, we are going down, but with a little luck just maybe the landing can end up being just rough and not fatal.

Given the instinctive drive for survival,

The drive for survival could very well end up with Armies raping and pillaging their way across entire countries, looking for the last available resources to prop themselves and their hangers-on up.

I'm with you, Ron. Do we see this because we are old farts (I'm 69 like you.) and have gathered more wisdom or whatever you call it? It drives me up the wall when people now clamor to "do something." Hell, the time to do it was 25-30 years ago but people always say, "we didn't know!" Bullshit! I could see what was coming in the late 60's, left my job as a chem plant manager and moved to the boondocks in 1974 - where I have remained ever since.

Now, when I say tough luck to humanity, I get the response that, "Well, you've got yours so you don't care." In a way, that's true. I had the prescience to take bold action that most people thought was nuts. BTW, I didn't make the move to be a "survivalist" but rather to attempt to insulate myself from the vagaries of society.

People are in denial when they believe that there is an answer to gross overshoot. Folks, there is no answer. Get used to it.


Just turned five oh but I get it.

I think the only "Solution" starts with something like the 1968 movie called "Wild in the streets". (saw it at the drive-in in '69).


"Max Flatow is a precocious, social miscreant who has a way with home-made explosives. When he tires of these, he runs away from home only to emerge seven years later as Max Frost, the world's most popular entertainer. When Congressman John Fergus uses Frost as a political ploy to gain the youth vote in his run for the Senate, Frost wills himself into the system, gaining new rights for the young. Eventually, Frost runs for the presidency. Winning in a landslide, he issues his first presidential edict: All oldsters are required to live in "retirement homes" where they are forced to ingest LSD, taking the 60s"

I saw that film also and it was pretty good.

Another doomer film to check out was "The Bubble" (1966): Its other titles were Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth and The Zoo. The film's 3-D effects were intended to create the impression of a bubble floating off the screen and over the heads of the audience. It's 3-D special effects was the lure that drew me to see it (I was smoking a lot ganga back then)but the part of the movie that was impressive was that the invaders has turned a small part of earth as a sort of zoo for extra-terrestials who observed earthlings in simulated activities. People kept doing the same things repeatedly like a watchmaker fixing the same watch or a woman putting her child on a ferris wheel over and over again.

The climax comes when the hero, Michael Cole, who had arrived after the invasion, destroys the "feeding machine" that gave the townspeople nutrition. The people panic when it appears that the colony has been abandoned by the aliens and the bubble disapears. They only reluctantly leave the area to survive!

I guess the relevant question should be: What will people do when the machine stops feeding us?

I try to find a way to look at these issues with some degree of optimism, but every time I think it through I end up at the same place you did. Given what's already been set in motion, I'm skeptical that anything can really be done (at least that would have an effect within the lifetimes of our grandchildren), and even more skeptical that anything will be done.

In a way, I can understand why some (smarter than they look) politicians "deny" Peak Oil. I was sitting at the counter and having breakfast at a restaurant very early this morning as the next door gas station attendant was changing the price sign for gas.

A conversation started. I thought for sure that I was going to witness a full scale anxiety/panic attack among the few people that were there. And this was just over the price, nothing more.

Who to tell about Peak Oil and to what extent? This is an ethical question... to which I have no answer after seeing what I saw this morning.

If you are close or past 40 - explain to the kids what gas rationing was - I was a kid sitting in the back of my dad's Chevy Nova who was waiting in line to get the opportunity to
buy gas.

The response will be instructive

Mostly you just mumble about this and that until people get used to not using petroleum.

We've heard the story of how the Easter Islanders cut every tree on their isolated island. One good point that was made was, when the last tree was cut, probably nobody noticed because they had already made the transition to a "treeless economy."

When prices rise high enough that not using petroleum becomes common (ie demand destruction), then the price of petroleum will be irrelevant. It's like the price of heating oil for a person with a solar-heated house.

It's like the price of heating oil for a person with a solar-heated house.

Or the price of heating oil for a person with no money.

Hi econguy,

Like 80 per cent of the homes in this province, my primary heating system is oil-fired. Locally, residential fuel oil is running between $1.10 and $1.15 per litre ($4.25 a gallon) and has been steadily rising with each passing week. At this point, oil is 1.2 to 1.5 times more expensive than electricity depending upon the operating efficiency of the boiler, and once this becomes more widely understood, we can expect an increasingly number of homeowners to turn to electricity to satisfy more of their space heating and domestic hot water needs (I, myself, will be installing an electric water heater next month). This will potentially stress the distribution system to the breaking point because it was never intended to support major loads of this kind. Furthermore, our provincial utility doesn't have much surplus generating capacity at its disposal and lacks the means to import power from neighbouring New Brunswick in any meaningful quantities. I also question whether Nova Scotia Power possesses the logistical resources and financial wherewithal to beef-up its transmission and distribution networks, secure additional long-term fuel supplies and related fuel handling facilities and bring new generating capacity online if this shift to electricity is as rapid as I expect. [Note the order time for a major transformer can be measured in years.]

We know what can happen when people (or cargo) move to one side of the ship en masse. I fear our electricity system could experience much the same thing if oil prices continue to spiral upward.


I'd be looking at putting in a wood stove if I were you, and laying up a few cords of wood -- and laying up plenty of warm clothing and blankets!


I could have just as easily gone with wood as a backup source, but opted for propane instead for reasons of simplicity, convenience and cleanliness. There's a chance I may come to regret this, but at the time it seemed like the right call -- my fear was that as my partner and I grow older and if we should both face declining health, neither one of us would be physically capable of the work.

Our propane tank has a storage capacity of 360-litres (net); at 24,200 BTUs per litre and at 70% steady-state operation, we would have, at best, no more than 1,800 kWh of heat available and that's assuming we start out with a full tank. Adding a second tank would effectively double our capacity but, even so, it's a pretty modest amount of heat no matter how you cut it.

Our situation with respect to fuel oil is somewhat better. In this case, we have up to 900-litres at our disposal; at 82% AFUE, we net 8.77 kWh per litre or just under 8,000 kWh per tank. Assuming power supplies become intermittent, we would run the heat pump whenever that option is available to us, as well as the boiler if the former should prove insufficient in itself. I figure two hours of electricity per day would be all we require to keep this house at a reasonable temperature given the boiler's 100,000 BTU/hr rating. The boiler is wired to a backup generator, so barring mechanical breakdown or a complete exhaustion of fuel supplies, we should be able to maintain some heat under auxiliary power. Propane is the backup fuel of last resort, for the sole reason that we use it for cooking purposes.

The good news is that our home is energy-efficient and that we both tolerate the cold far better than most (e.g., at 15C/59F, I'm still lounging around the house in t-shirts and shorts). I would also hope we might be able to pool our resources with friends and neighbours in an effort to stretch supplies and ensure no one is left out in the cold. It might be something as simple as having our friends stay with us for a few days so that they can turn down their heat and them reciprocating in kind the following week; we would all enjoy reasonable comfort, but our combined fuel usage would be that much lower.


For us, propane is primary and wood is the backup - for now. I suspect that propane will remain generally available for another 10 years, maybe 15 or 20 if we're lucky, but of course the price has no place to go but up into the stratosphere. (Or maybe ionosphere!) We're right in the middle of some of the largest forests remaining in the eastern US, so I know that I can count on being able to get wood. Good backup, and could become primary if (when) needed.

We're also far enough south where solar is feasible at least for part of our heating. We're fortunate in having a house with a good southern exposure, so I'm thinking of putting in on or two solar heating panels. Those plus the wood stove would enable me to discontinue the propane furnace altogether.


Sounds like you're in pretty good shape, all things considered. We have very little passive solar potential, so the first order of business was to reduce our household demand to the greatest degree possible and I think we've largely accomplished that. Next, it was a matter ensuring at least some provision for fuel substitution based on relative cost and availability and we've done OK on that end too (i.e., ductless heat pump, in-floor electric radiant heat, oil-fired boiler and propane fireplaces). Wood would be a nice compliment, but it's a little hard to integrate into our plans at this time.

Well, on another front, I'm leaving for Toronto this afternoon and have 1,800 km of road ahead of me. With a second collie making the trip back, I'll be taking the station wagon and that means HEMI. Wish me luck at the pumps!


The only "solution" to that danger to the electricity grid is to raise the price of electricity pro-actively. I've suggested it here in Vermont, you can imagine the reactions I've got... Around the world, people seem to prefer rolling blackouts over moderating their usage. This alone is enough to make me a doomer.

Hi vt,

That would be my thinking as well -- if you diminish its attractiveness by raising price, you remove the economic rationale for the move. However, if the supply of oil becomes the real issue, not cost, electricity is pretty much the only game in town. Moreover, if folks can no longer afford to fill their tanks (now upwards of $1,000.00) or pay the minimum drop charge (typically $300.00 to $500.00), electricity is once again the natural choice. In addition, oil is paid for in advance and consumed later, whereas electricity is the reverse; that, in itself, could tip the balance towards electricity, especially if homeowners can negotiate some sort of repayment plan should they are unable to make payment in full. Higher electricity prices would no doubt help, but these other factors could still have some bearing as well.


It was shortly before I moved here (California), but during the California power crises of 2000-2001 voluntary demand reduction of 8% was achieved. So at least in some cases, people will do the right thing.

HiH, you've made the case for one of my concerns for electricity supply in BC - fuel switching. People are going to do just what you are.

In January I was attending a BC Power conference in Vancouver and asked a senior executive of BC Hydro if their demand and supply projections to 2030 accounted for FF powered systems moving over to the grid. The immediate response could best be described as "deer in the head lights". This was followed by a bit of stammering and then the usual things will be fine. In the margin of my conference booklet I wrote "We're Screwed".

It was the same case for Puget Sound Energy serving Washington State. They're "hoping for LNG" to fuel 1.2 GW of new generation by 2010 to 2012.

I'm designing and building electrical systems and infrastructure. Transformers of high voltage (230 kV and up), and hence large size can have a long delivery time as you stated. Just as frustrating, its taking even longer to get people in the utilities to see what is really going on. They haven't even thought of manning the lifeboats on the Titanic, they are still selling tickets or tending bar!

Recently I've deducted from Laherrerre's N.A. NG production projection the U.S. will have an electricity production shortfall of 10% by 2020 based on current numbers. Uh-oh! Electrification as a means to mitigate PO impacts is starting to look like a lame horse now.


Thanks for sharing your insight; there's some measure of comfort in knowing I'm not the only one squirming in my chair right now. I fear we're fast approaching the point where someone screams "Fire!" in a crowded theatre and everyone rushes to the exits only to discover the doors have all been locked. And as much as I worry about a sudden shift from oil to electricity here in Atlantic Canada, I suspect the utilities at greater risk are the ones most heavily dependent upon natural gas; if spot shortages should emerge (and I tend to believe that's pretty much a given), you can basically pack your pockets with jam and bend over because your ass is toast.


Shouldn't you have some good wind potential around there?


We do, thankfully; one of the benefits of living on the coast. NSP will have about 300 MW of wind on-line by 2010, up from about 60+ MW today (for perspective, I believe peak demand is something in the range of 2,100 or 2,200 MW). Hopefully there will be a lot more to come.


he U.S. will have an electricity production shortfall of 10% by 2020 based on current numbers. Uh-oh! Electrification as a means to mitigate PO impacts is starting to look like a lame horse now

Conservation of -14% of electricity by 2020 (-10% for shortfall, 4% for upper limit of my dreams for Non-Oil Transportation) is quite doable.

Especially, if retail space is cut in half or more (x10 per capita since 1950) and average house size gives up a fraction of the gain since 1950 (x2.4 for SFRs while average household size shrank). Add German standards for insulation, solar hot water heaters, etc.

Bicycles and shoe leather will be unaffected by shortfalls in electricity.

Best Hopes for Non-Oil Transportation,


Hi Alan,

I'm a strong advocate of energy conservation and load management and I believe their potential to be truly enormous, but I don't see this transition to a more energy-efficient economy happening as quickly as either of us would like, especially in the face of growing financial and material constraints. In a "normal" world, getting from "A" to "B" might not be a problem given sufficient resources and a strong commitment, but I suspect we're fast running out of time and most of us are blissfully ignorant of what lies around the corner. By the time we recognize the problem, develop a course of action and implement the solution, it could very well turn out to be a case of too little, too late.

[Ack!, have I now crossed the line and officially become a 'doomer'?]


[Ack!, have I now crossed the line and officially become a 'doomer'?]

I think you're starting to understand that "doomerism" isn't so unreasonable after all.

It seems to be contagious as well.

Sir Alan of BE,
Although it may not come across as such, I am actually in full support of your rail electrification goals. I am really supportive of light rail for local transportation. My point is highlighting the challenges we face on all fronts. It won't be as conceptually simple as switching from one fuel source to another. We just better have our ducks in a row before we take off on more energy misadventures. (Unleaded, leaded, or maize sir?).

Yes, I was a newly minted driver just in time for the Iran oil crises and used leaded in the Chev station wagon.

About a year ago I went to a public information session on Jacksonville's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan. I asked how viable their service would be with diesel at $4, $5, or $8 a gallon. More blank stares (is it just me? I'm getting a complex here). Along with other proponents, we were trying to show them the folly of their ways and put the efforts into urban light rail instead. Back in the day our neighborhood had a traction (?) trolley system running up the center of Main St. with palm trees on both sides connecting to the downtown about 1 mile away - just like N.O. The historic neighborhood is coming back, but the ugly 4-lane Main St. is not. Just about every resident would love to have the trolley service back.

Support Western Alternative Life Kinetics to reduce energy consumption!

Around 6% energy consumption reduction possible cheaply?

IDC, has announced plans to mass-produce an inflatable solar panel and make it commercially available for less than 100 pounds ($200) , a great leap forward in making green energy available to the masses.


About 40% of consumption goes to residential space heating, I believe - although I am unsure if this includes transport needs.
Hot water uses about 15% of this.

Even in the UK climate most of this can be taken care of by solar thermal, the problem is that it costs a couple of thousand pounds for the panels.

Systems like this might make it possible to rapidly install vast numbers of panels, although of course the plumbing would still cost.

You and three neighbours could band together to install a gas-fired turbine and three heat pumps, as advocated often on TOD.
That costs money, but it's an option.

Same as Airline instructions.

Place the Oxygen mask to your OWN face first before trying to assist children with theirs

Otherwise, you both will die.

Ron, You (as always on this subject) are DEAD on (pardon the pun) with Over Population being THE problem. Overshoot.

And as we have witnessed before countless times, It is hard to explain that to many many people.

To use a phrase that I coined (apologies to Gertrude Stein or whoever)

You Can Lead A Man To Knowledge, But You Can't Make Him Think

Mother Nature Bats Last.

The Graph is here.


Better still (also at dieoff):

"The Tragedy of the Commons" Garrett Hardin, Science, 162(1968):1243-1248.

I wonder what percentage of the educated public have ever even heard of the essay, let alone read it. Naturally I'm not referring to TOD readers.

Oops, forgot the link:


We could learn a lot from lemmings.

My sarcastic solutions for the core problem don't usually get a lot of yuk's or accord. During Earth Day I was saying if those people are really sincere about reducing environmental impact they should go drown themselves. Wife didn't like that one...

While we are on the subject of Tragedy of the Commons, I'd also suggest:

The Commons revisited: The tragedy continues, Bob Loyd, Energy Policy 35, 2007


Reference much appreciated -- rare to find an article in this field with a 'peer-reviewed' look about it.

Now I must get round to reading it.


That is it, The pols know, few will talk about it, "profiles in courage types" because people do not want to hear that their standard of living is about to collapse.

As to who to tell, at this point I no longer bother, I get one of two reactions, either 1) they do not believe it and will not until the pumps are dry or 2, they kinda believe but are uninterested because there is (in their minds) a. nothing they can do about it or b. they have to many other things to worry about.

People will change and begin to want to know, at that point I will discuss it as long as things do not get so bad people will want to shoot the messenger, which they might do because we did not warn them.

and this is why pols do not but rarely talk of this.

Ironically I just received an email out of the blue, from someone I haven't talked to in a couple years .

I hit him with "The News" about 4 years ago. They do wake up. Giving them the news, then let daily news headlines start to "Soften them up" like artillary coming in.

Here's what he said, and I only share this because we sometimes lose sight of or don't realize that the many people we have talked to may later have epiphany and we may never know how many we have affected.

How are you?! You are on my mind these days, I wonder why? None
of the things you predicted have come true, well unless you want to
count oil prices near $120, oil decline in Russia, Mexico, and now Saudi Arabia saying nope to increasing production - I even saw an article talking about a growing number of people questioning whether SA can increase their production!

You even nailed Fannie May, Food prices, GM, and Airlines going belly up. So, thanks for bringing this to my attention, without our talks I would never be picking up on all this and putting 2 and 2 together. I just saw a documentary by Matt Simons on Discovery Channel called What if: There was no more oil?


I just about have my head around this, and my family is right there as well. The timing works well with some of the changes we want to make in our lives so we are making moves to help soften the blow and hopefully positioning ourselves to help others through more difficult times. I'm just glad you helped me become aware of this.

(me replying)

You said: I just about have my head around this,

The most precious thing that you attained by knowing early was Time 'To Get your Head Around It'. It takes Calendar Months/years to go thru the phases of Denial... grief.. Anger.... etc. Coping. (ie your last few years)

Most of the people you see will not have that luxury. They will have to be coping mentally while they are trying to secure food etc. They won't have 2-4 years of business as usual while they make mental adjustments. That being the case....

Watch for some "Abnormal Behavior" taking place.

him replying
Very true:
I've been amazed lately, how the speed of which this is
unfolding is increasing dramatically. The docu-drama that Matt Simons put together was supposed to depict 2016, but most of what was dramatized is happening or has already happened. They might have put 2016 to make it more pallatable for the networks to put on the tube, or easier for people to accept, instead of saying 2008.

So, We DO make impacts. One Life At A time.

how the speed of which this is
unfolding is increasing dramatically.

Yes this is happening very fast, is is not?

interesting times

"Who to tell about Peak Oil and to what extent? This is an ethical question..."

That's baloney! I have had enough of politicians and corporations lying to the public in order to promote their personal agendas. I tell everyone who will listen about peak-oil, and population overshoot. Trust me, the invitations to parties and barbeques have dried up as a result. But I don't give a damn.

"Gimme some Truth" John Lennon

I try to be more subtle, rather than peak oil,I'll mention price and supply/demand, with the former at best not increasing much, while the later..... Then they still don't get it, but at least I've planted the seeds. As events continue to unfold they may come around.

"Who to tell about Peak Oil and to what extent? This is an ethical question... to which I have no answer after seeing what I saw this morning."

The only way to even begin dealing with a problem is to acknowledge that it exists at all. It is our moral obligation to inform people. It is also our moral obligation to support a plan that promotes the greatest relative good for the greatest number of people. Anything else would be categorically unethical.

"It is also our moral obligation to support a plan that promotes the greatest relative good for the greatest number of people. "


Greatest relative good? Who judges that? What does that even mean? What plan? What gobble-dy-gook!

Who are the people that this 'relative good' is to be distributed amongst?

"Anything else would be categorically unethical."

Because you say so? 'Our' obligation?

There is no 'plan'. There are individual ethics.

A year ago you'd probably never believe that you might be offered advice like this, from the pages of the Wall Street Journal no less. Yes, the suggestion is offered as quasi-investment guidance, but the latent message is one of a buffer against potential shortages. Under any analysis, it's quite a turn.

"Load Up the Pantry": http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120881517227532621.html

Wow. I remember a few months ago, there was an article at one of the MSM sites that asked people where they were putting their money. One guy answered "Soy beans. No, not soy bean futures, actual soy beans." I thought he was joking...

Food production is the game now.I just hived 8 colonies of bees 2 days ago,and am re-thinking my rice supply.Next goal is to scare up the cash for 1000lb of sugar [for the bees]and to bring the garden to full capacity this year...right now,off to work..

Yeah, I've done a massive expansion of the garden this spring and my wife finally switched from growing ornamental flowers to herbs and spices. I need to secure my rice supply as well since I cannot rely on wheat, rye, or barley due to gluten intolerance. Stocking up has been a learning experience for me, especially as I am both lactose intolerant and gluten intolerant. Getting packaged vacuum packed foods without those things in them has been a chore and I've focused more on dried goods that I can store myself.

Same problems here, except with potato added to the list. If you haven't read Dave Jacke's Edible Forest Gardens, check it out. Groundnut, aka hopniss, has more protein, more nutritional value, provides beans, and is a Nitrogen fixer. Grow it with Sunchoke and Chinese Artichoke. Also check out Amaranth and Lambsquarter as potential grain subsitutes, both offering edible leaves, as well. In fact, dark green leafy veggies are quite important given your dairy issues. I've found that I can somewhat tolerate sheep cheeses (no instant heartburn, cramps, nor subsequent bathroom launch sequence ;) ).

Groundnut - never heard of that before. Thanks for writing that. I found more hits at Apios americana, including three places that sold seeds/plants. I'll have to add that to my garden. We're also trying amaranth this year and moving the sunchokes to some better soil.

On the same lines as Amaranth and Lambsquarter, I'm giving Quinoa growing a go this year. I'm a little skeptical about how it will turn out though, given that I only have poorly drained soil to put it in.

For those that can tolerate potatoes I came across an ingenious invention a while ago called the potato box (crib?) (it's mentioned here: http://www.perc.ca/PEN/1994-06/s-cleary.html - but I know I've seen a better description). Anyways, it's basically a simple wood frame construction filled with compost, manure and the like with little gaps or holes for the shoots to stick out of on the sides. I do recall that at one time you could even buy collapsible ones that are easy to store when not in use.

Depending on the size of your box, I understand you can get in excess of 100lbs of potatoes from it. It's a great alternative to the traditional method and is perfect for those without too much space (you can stick it on a deck).

As a disclaimer, I haven't tried it myself, but I'm giving it a go this year since my container grown potatoes were a little disappointing last year.

I should also point out that Ann Cleary's columns in the newsletter I linked to above are fantastic for gardening advice... in fact the newsletter as a whole is great, although they stopped publishing it two years ago, they were so far ahead of the curve that most of their articles from 10yrs ago are plenty relevant today. I do admit that the site is not at all well organized, so enter with caution...


There's a search function waaay at the bottom of the page.

You guys have me really eager to get back to California somehow. Out here in the Outer Asteroid Belt, you really can't grow anything without a greenhouse and a lot of care. It's been made very clear to me that I am NOT to try growing anything - it's Un-American or something.

I'd rather grow stuff secretly, planting in alleys and odd places in California than not be allowed to grow anything at all here.

Regarding the 1000lb of sugar for your bees I would recommend you start saving honey and feeding that back to them when they need some rather than giving them sugar. Sugar should be used only as a last resort to keep the hive from starving. Honey is much better for them. 8 colonies is a lot, good luck keeping them all alive.

Speaking of bees....

Beekeepers want Government to stop 'disaster'

Beekeepers have called on politicians to help them prevent an "economic and ecological disaster in the making".

Numbers have been falling for several years but bees, which pollinate plants as well as producing honey, are critical to the UK food supply.

As a side light.

The local waste and refuse collection company makes garden compost which they sell at £2 ($4 appx) per 40 litre bag, I asked if they could deliver me maybe 2 or 3 tonne unbagged, They said if I could collect it the cost would be about £2.50 (App 5 USD) per tonne, but if they had to deliver it would raise the cost to £100 for 3 tonnne, (about 200 USD.) they cited fuel and manpower costs as reasons.
I am now being flattering and attentive to friends with trailers.

I bought 3 bags of cement and one tonne of ballast from our local builders suppliers, it cost £75 (about 150 USD)delivered

Same reasons given.

Soy beans. No, not soy bean futures, actual soy beans."

Mogumbo Guru?

"Gold is for Optimists, I'm diversifying into Can Goods

I'm doing large fertilizer/soil amendment buys. One of the appropriate for my soil is soybean meal. And as of yesterday the price had not gone through the roof. Though, interesting, all supplies were out. Ditto Sul-po-mag, ditto fish meal.

...interesting, all supplies were out.

Well... seven or eight weeks ago that would have been a real problem. It is end of April. Garden prep is done. Supply scarcity, at this point in the season, means good inventory practice, not material shortages.

Cottonseed meal will substitute for soymeal. So will coffee grounds... if you have a local coffee business that's looking to recycle waste.

I'm in Maine. Usually I put that in as a sig, sorry. No, the Farmer's Union, the Ameses and the larger gardener supply houses haven't gotten their *first* delivery yet. [I'm writing a story about yesterday's experience desperately seeking fertilizer.] I've got 4000 sq ft of garden - not including the orchard, brambles and chickens - that's a LOT of coffee grounds.

I'm hoping to double the garden this year and go market-garden next year. Maybe.

There is still snow in part of my garden where the front end loader put a big pile, but my soil is so sandy everything else is workable. Others can't work anything for a while. I heard someone in Cornish Maine is already putting in early corn - go figure.

cfm in Gray, ME

What's the difference between stocking up and hoarding?

Probably nationality-if they do it, it's hoarding, but we stock up. China has much of their grain storage on-farm in earthen jars. They were termed hoarding this last winter.

Stocking up is usually thought for short term emergencies, or to weather a short spike in price. But the signal to stock up-rising price-often catches many buying at the peak. And if the price should reach up to a new level, the stocking up has a minor effect in the long run on the pocketbook. The price of wheat, oats and barely is trending down again. Local elevator down to $8.05 for spring wheat Monday. I'm still leaning to the sixes before harvest.

Hoarding has a connotation about it that is unfavorable. Food storage has on the other hand a favorable connotation, kind of like the cricket and the ant. If someone goes into a store and buys all of an item depriving someone else of the opportunity to make the purchase then that would fit my definition of being unfavorable hoarding.

However if a person or family goes into the store and buys a little extra a bit at a time and then has extra food, then that is food storage, especially when purchasing items on the open market, the LDS church encourages a years worth of food storage, also in Florida the state encourages extra food in order to better prepare for disruptions caused by hurricanes.

In reality a hoard and storage might look exactly the same, however one is the result of prudent planning and th other is the result of panic buying during the time of a impending crises.

Either way if the SHTF it is better to keep knowledge of an extra large cache of food close to the vest in order to protect it, and this is easier done when it is purchased intermittently, and not all at once.

Very useful advice, and Yes, how it works is: Those nasty ChiComs (communist Chinese) hoard, We, and by We I mean people who look like the Grant Wood painting, store.

And yes, buying a little extra and keeping a store is a very good idea.

Once I ride, hitchhike, however I can get out to California from this moonscape, and get situated (safe place in the bushes to sleep, a storage unit to keep stuff in) I can stick rolled oats and stuff in there too.

At the point it becomes against the rules to stockpile food, I think I'll declare myself Mormon. It came up today and my wife is OK with our new religion as long as she doesn't have to wear the funny underwear.

yeah, it's hard to believe what with how used to cheap food and 24 hour supermarkets we've become.

But I also have begun the stockpiling of dry goods. The children are just going to have to learn to like beans.

From the WSJ link (regarding rising price trends):

And if you are hoping they will pass, here's the bad news: They may actually accelerate.

From Drudge (Walmart Joins Costco in restricting some bulk food purchases):

Wal-Mart's Sam's Club limiting sales of rice

Sam's Club said it is limiting sales of the rices to four bags per customer per visit, and it is working with its suppliers to ensure the products remain in stock.

Sam's Club, the No. 2 U.S. warehouse club operator, said it is not limiting sales of flour or cooking oil at this time.

I went down to the local Sam's here in East Texas this morning and loaded up on rice, beans and pasta. Belizean rice and beans are actually one of my favorite dishes. Supplies appeared to be more than adequate at the store; there was one other person there buying bulk rice. Anyway, on the way out I ran into a couple who are my neighbors who gave my 50lb. sacks of rice and beans the once over but didn't ask any questions. So much for having a secret supply of food!
Possible future food shortages here in ET are not on anyone else's radar besides mine that I know of.

Dear Boby

Care to post a recipe, please? Always looking for good recipes...

Here ya go http://www.belizenorth.com/belizean_recipes_text.htm
The red recado is the same spice as achote which can be found in hispanic groceries. The stewed chicken is simple but divine.
peasant food at its finest.(my favorite)

The wife and I don't eat rice daily, despite she being Korean and us living in Korea, but we decided we'd waited long enough to load up on a little rice. We bought 80kg for about $150. We've now got about 110 kgs. We figure that will get us through a year even if we start eating it daily. Also bought more flour and sugar. Additionally, we bought the goods to start practicing food production on our balcony. We'll likely get it all set up and planted by the end of the weekend.

Best hopes for continued preparation for TEOTWAWKI - or whatever.


I guess you have the tremendous future advantage of being able to drive (or pedal) a few miles into the countryside to buy rice directly from the farmers. I wouldn't know how to do that here in Texas rice country.

During the American firebombing raids against Japan, normal food distribution networks broke down (as the US intended) but city people took electric commuter trains into the countryside to deal directly with the growers. An advantage to the Japanese model of mixing small farms and towns.

Interesting thought. Haven't checked on that. We were hoping this latest seeming bifurcation was off in the distance a year or two, actually. I really hope things settle down a bit as we are trying to position ourselves to buy 500 to 1,000 sq.m. of land and build an off-grid home. The soil should be in good condition (I hope) and we would hope to start producing our own food in one of the various high-yield systems I've been researching. Still, at the time of the transition or before, I'd like to have an 3 - 5 year emergency store of rice, beans and other staples.

But, yes, there appears to be sufficient rice production in Korea. There may well be rice fields nearby. Competition should be fierce at 340+ people per sq. km. Sadly, Korea only meets about 5% of it's own other food requirements! They are trying to lease/buy land in Russia to deal with this, apparently.


Will we see $120/bbl today?

Just a reminder: that would mean an increase YOY of over 80%.

Keep up that pace, and this time 2009 we'd be looking at $216.

By this time in 2010 we would be at $389.

2011 would bring us to $700.

And 2012 would get us into quadruple digit territory at $1260.

The magic of compounding. . .

As long as it's denominated in dollars, all that is possible.

There's no reason a currency can't be massively devalued overnight. The Japanese yen was worth 50 to the dollar until 1948, when the US Occupation reset it at 360. Now we're used to hyperinflation forcing such situations in the open market, but what happened in Japan seems to have been just the stroke of a pen.

Peak Water at Wired Magazine

Focuses on three geographic areas:


On the descent into Sky Harbor International Airport, Phoenix's endless grid of streets and tract homes is etched into the desert floor like the imprinted surface of a microchip. When the sunlight hits at the right angle, the canals that zigzag across the landscape light up like semiconductor traces surging with electricity.

And Phoenix is sprawling at a rate that seems to rival Moore's law. In the 1990s, the metro area was growing at the rate of an acre every three hours. The population is expected to nearly double in the next 20 years. But cities, unlike microchips, don't double in efficiency every 18 months. A 2007 government report stated that staggering growth in the American Southwest "will inevitably result in increasingly costly, controversial, and unavoidable trade-off choices." The issue: how to parcel out a dwindling water supply.


Looking out at Kensington Gardens in London, where ornate fountains shimmer in the sunshine, it's difficult to imagine that this famously damp city has less water per person at its disposal than Dallas, Rome, or Istanbul. But it's true, and the problem is getting worse. I'm sitting in a restaurant next to the gardens with John Rodda, a hydrologist with Britain's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. White-haired and buttoned-down, Rodda presents his doom-and-gloom outlook with quintessential British stoicism. He pulls out a map of Britain and points to the country's southeast, printed an angry shade of red to indicate water scarcity. "We fall well below the World Bank standard, per capita, of a water-stressed region," he says


Australia has always been dry. It's the most arid continent after Antarctica. Covering an area roughly the size of the lower 48 states, it supports less than one-tenth the US population, and even that is an enormous strain on water supplies. The country was founded during the second-worst drought in its history, but the worst dry spell is unfolding right now. Rainfall, which has declined to 25 percent of the long-term average, is projected to plummet another 40 percent by 2050.

...and Spain.

Spain suffers worst droughtStory Highlights
Spanish reservoirs on average half full after six dry months

Past six months are driest in Spain in 70 years, when record-keeping began

Worst-hit areas are Catalonia and central Spain

Government building 60km pipeline to supply Barcelona


...and Spain.

The Sahara is in the process of taking Iberia, the Med isles, peninsular Italy, Greece, the Arabian peninsula... Likewise it is spreading south and will likely take the forested nations of West Africa. Human overpopulation, deforestation, overgrazing, agricultural malpractice, etc., is largely responsible for this rampant desertification. Orbital forcing doesn't explain it.

God created Arrakis to test the righteous.

Frank Herbert,

In Spain, they aint righteous.

Most of Spains population growth and consequent property boom have come from 30 decades of expat immigration from northern europe.

Holiday homes / second homes and the like.

They are rich and currently compete with farmers for water

Including golf courses in southern Spain that need permanent watering.

The expats are high water users (3 showers a day), large swimming pools, watering non-regional plants etc. Add sewage and potable water to this as well.

Bit like Phoenix Az.

This is an ecological disaster for the Spanish Mediterranean Littoral.

It WILL be a human disaster as well.

South Spains expat population is wholly untenable and ultimately a draw down on local resources. Also , they are aging and beginning to burden the Spanish infrastructure.

Worse still. Spanish expat style property prices are plunging and , for the Brits , the Sterling is performing badly against the Euro.

I warned people against buying into Spain five years ago and was as popular as a turd in a swimming pool. Not now.

Watch Spain.

It will show you how things go in the sub tropical sun belts.

that should read 30 years, not 30 decades doh!

You can edit your post, as long as there are no replies to it.


I would like to add that all the North European Expats that couldnt be bothered to learn Spanish and are now regular vistors to Spanish Hospitals are having a particularly hard time.

The expat villa (''a unique and never failing financial investment''- as once explained to me) is crashing in value and many cannot now afford to come back to the UK.

It will get much worse when airlines stop the five quid flights to Alicante.

It seems to me Spain may be a soft point, a country in which an American may find it easier to penetrate the sanctum that is the EU, and live and work, farm, make shoes, anything, and perhaps become an EU citizen. Wash cars, mend nets (I know how to do that!) etc., I think most Americans would be willing to do this work, if they could become EU citizens eventually.

Gonna go out and saddle up the Worm right now!

I am curious how that Sahara fellow is supposed to take Iberia when climate models show that while large parts of Iberia are indeed expected to become drier, there are parts of the north and northwest of the peninsula where rainfall is actually expected to increase even further. And note that these are already some of the most humid parts of Europe -- in some places annual precipitation can exceed 3000mm! (That's 120 inches)

Iberia is large and diverse. Please don't lump it all into a homogenous mass.

But anyway, there are already tensions between Northern, humid areas, and Southern, drier regions in matters of water. Southern regions would like water to be diverted from the North to the South, and complain about lack of Northern solidarity. The North, on the other hand, argues that most of that water would be used to irrigate golf courses anyway, and if the South wants solidarity they should put the valuable resource to more sensible use (like agriculture, for instance).

About London, recently the Mayor Ken Livingstone vetoed the building of a desalination plant by one of the water companies. He thought it would waste energy. The last I heard the matter had gone to appeal. Political stupidity is universal.

"He thought it would waste energy."

sooooo, with declining sources of oil and natural gas, a recently killed large windfarm and aging nukes - how DO you propose to power a big desalination plant?

how DO you propose to power a big desalination plant?

At the end of a long converstaion on peak oil my MP told me he has 'faith in technology' - sadly, technology is just another way to use energy! At that point I gave up - you can lead a horse to water, but you need two bricks to fill him up.

I have come to realise that the politicians don't know what to do - they are intelligent people and must realise growth can't continue forever. They realise that human lives are short and hope that growth ends after they are dead I guess! Typically they only think two or three years ahead - even peak oil won't get us that quickly.

May I respectfully suggest a positive course of action, that Britain build a non-oil transportation system as an alternative to your existing oil based one (with some non-oil bits and pieces).

Electrify more of the rail lines, and work to expand their capacity once electrified. Look at abandoned rail lines that might be worth restarting in an expensive oil environment. Look at ways of speeding freight shipments via the Chunnel (why use lorries for French and Spanish produce ?)

Build out Urban Rail at breakneck speed (France plans to build 1,500 km of new tram lines in a decade, could the UK do 1,000 km ?)

Expand bicycling everywhere, even at the expense of cars. See the French velib proposals.

And promote more housing and commercial development along the new and old tram lines.

Also conservation standards comparable to the German ones (take a group of MPs on a tour of German construction sites and French tram lines :-) and perhaps even solar hot water heaters in parts of the country.

Best Hopes,


Alan you always assume we will need to travel somewhere out of our 'village' - travel takes a lot of time, money and energy.

Just a hundred years ago my grandparents lived in a very different UK society where any fuel used was either coal or wood - with no trains, no cars, no aeroplanes and no busses - and most people didn't venture much further than 20 miles from home in the whole of their short lives. A large part of the world's population still lives like that since they don't have access to the cheap energy or money for investment.

Just a hundred years ago my grandparents lived in a very different UK society where any fuel used was either coal or wood - with no trains

Trains went to every nook and cranny of the British Isles in 1908, usually with multiple passenger trains per day, even on "milk runs" (rural spur lines so named because they also went through the countryside picking up milk).

Trading goods of every type, Medical care, Education, family connections (weddings, funerals), some residue of culture, etc. will keep a need for transportation regardless.

The UK has zero chance of devolving into a rural self sufficient society, unless you go through the choas of killing off 90+% of your population.

And even in THAT scenario, having electrified railroads (connecting to the Chunnel and the rest of the world) would be an advantage.

Do promote Non-Oil Transportation, it will be still be useful after 50 million Britons die off.


Nevertheless, I do think that people are going to eventually have to start getting used to the idea of staying put to a far greater degree than most can even imagine today.

A tripling of pax-miles by Non-Oil Transportation can be (and probably will be) coupled with a 2/3rds decline to total miles traveled, by both freight and people in the UK. Higher ratios in the USA.

IMHO, people from the UK can still holiday in Spain (perhaps every other or every fourth year) via Chunnel and TGV, absent a massive economic collapse.

I am quite happy within a 3 to 4 mile radius of my home.

Best Hopes for Interesting and Enjoyable Homes and Home Towns,


I'm trying to remember if it was here that I read this, perhaps someone else can prompt my memory.

But I recall an examination/discussion of mobility and the notion was that the typical contemporary american actually has no larger, and perhaps an even smaller, circle of geographic knowledge that their ancestors. The difference being that in the past of area of mobility was based on a single center, where as now it is based on multiple centers located at the ends of our commute paths.

If something like the CoolEarthSolar -or other potentially very cheap, but intermittent power schemes come to pass, we will have the problem of having a lot of very cheap power available -but only part of the time. Then the problem becomes one of finding uses for lots of cheap power, that is only available for perhaps a third of the time. Assuming that storing the power to make it dispatchable will still mean the price of power when you want it versus, when oodles of it are available will be a pretty big incentive to find uses for the cheap but inconvenient power. Things like pumping water, desalination, powering oil wells, perhaps some types of power intensive industry come to mind. Of course none of these possible cheap, but unreliable energy sources are yet proven, but I think they are likely enough that we should start thinking how we would take advantage of them.

we should start thinking how we would take advantage of them.

Any process that can tolerate intermittent starting and stopping or even slowing/speeding up would be a candidate.

Electric transport of non perishable goods. Processing of dry material in hammermills. Machine assisted composting. Greenhouse heating. Once one starts looking for dump loads, one can find 'em.

At the end of a long converstaion on peak oil my MP told me he has 'faith in technology' - sadly, technology is just another way to use energy! At that point I gave up - you can lead a horse to water, but you need two bricks to fill him up.

I have faith in the Lottery too, so how's that for a business plan? Maybe you could use that one for your next property or income tax bill.


In London and the home counties, about one third of all potable water is lost through fractured pipes.

The Victorians laid out the primary infrastructure (we had money then...) But re-working the failing infrastructure is getting beyond our economic ability in the UK.

Once upon a time, Water and sewage were regarded as municipal / county / regional issues.

Some Chicago School types then decided that Water, Power , rail were best served if privatised.

We bought into it. Profits were internalised, costs were socialised (ignored).

Desalination would be an emergency short term quick-fix which would put Londoners at the mercy of gas supplies from aboard.

We will pay for all this short term planning in ways we cannot even yet imagine.

When water leaks out of a pipe it winds up in the water table, where it is pumped out again by the next water utility, or it reaches the seashore and is forced up by the denser salt water and makes a wetland or swamp.
It is not destroyed.
I'm not harshing on you to say "I'm smarter than you", I'm saying you want to think about what you are saying. London and southern England have serious water supply issues. Leaky pipes are only a problem when the water reaches the ocean or is contaminated and can't be used for people to drink or plants to transpire.

London, along with several other UK cities, is already at sea level and at the coast (the Thames is tidal into the heart of the city, not a good idea if sea levels rise much more!), is sinking (hence the expensive Thames Barrier), and is increasingly post-industrial - the bizarre implications of the post-industrial (let alone leaky pipes) are a dangerously rising water table despite the very dry conditions, (bankers don't use much water in their whisky :-) )



Kunstler has a word to describe the situation we increasingly find ourselves in!

Add the US Southeast. A traditionally wet basin that keeps getting drier..

Been raining again. Sonny prayed.

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending April 18, 2008

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.8 million barrels per day during the week ending April 18, up 591,000 barrels per day from the previous week's average. Refineries operated at 85.6 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production moved slightly higher compared to the previous week, averaging nearly 8.9 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production rose last week, averaging 4.1 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 10.0 million barrels per day last week, up nearly 1.2 million barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged more than 9.5 million barrels per day, 711 thousand barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 1.0 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 261,000 barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 2.4 million barrels from the previous week. At 316.1 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are in the lower half of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 3.2 million barrels last week, and are at the upper limit of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and gasoline blending components inventories decreased last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 1.4 million barrels, and are in the lower half of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 2.2 million barrels last week. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 0.7 million barrels last week, and are in the lower half of the average range for this time of year.

And here's what was expected:

Latest weekly fuel inventory data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration due later on Wednesday is forecast to show a 1.2 million barrel rise in crude stocks last week, while gasoline stocks are expected to have fallen by 2.3 million barrels.

Total products supplied over the last four-week period has averaged 20.7 million
barrels per day, up by 0.8 percent compared to the similar period last year.
Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline demand has averaged nearly 9.3 million
barrels per day, up by 0.9 percent from the same period last year. Distillate
fuel demand has averaged nearly 4.3 million barrels per day over the last four
weeks, up 0.5 percent from the same period last year. Jet fuel demand is 1.3
percent lower over the last four weeks compared to the same four-week period
last year.

Wow. Just a couple weeks where demand for motor gasoline fell 0.3% or 0.4%. Now it's back up by 0.9% over last year. And even overall petroleum demand is up over last year.

Weather has been great for 2 weeks now on the East coast so I'm not surprised people want to drive more.

Some people insist on being surprised that $3.50/gal does not create much demand destruction in the US, regardless of the weather.

Price Elasticity of Demand
4 Week Averages 08 vs. 07

Finished Motor Gasoline. . . 9,292 . . 9,207 .+0.9%
Kerosene-Type Jet Fuel . . . . 1,592 . . 1,613 . . -1.3%
Distillate Fuel Oil . . . . . . . . . 4,281 . . 4,258 . +0.5%
Residual Fuel Oil . . . . . . . . . . . 749 . . . . 735 . +1.9%
Propane/Propylene . . . . . . . . .1,122 . . 1,160. . -3.3%
Other Oils. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,685. . 3,587 . +2.7%
Total Products Supplied . . . 20,720. 20,559 +0.8%

Not Much Hope,


There is more hope than you think, Alan.

Source: EIA and the Fed.

What happens if the 12-month average price goes to $4 for a couple of years? My guess is that demand goes to 10.5 barrels per capita.

Unfortunately, those charts are "per capita". And I doubt that oil exporters care that we have more "capitas" (by about 1% per year) than, say, Japan or Italy.

Population +1.0% (roughly), Gasoline use +0.9%, Overall Oil Use +0.8%, hey we *ARE* cutting back (per capita).

The oil exporters care about what we can offer in exchange for oil. Those green pieces of paper were nice, but ...

Best Hopes for a Lower birth rate and less net emigration,


Total consumption of oil in the US has definitely stopped rising, though it is a noisy series even when averaged over an entire year like below. The question is....What will it take to make it fall?

What will it take to make it fall ?

Reduced economic activity (Recession/Depression).


Alan, here's a little more hope for you. US oil demand may have decisively turned a corner.

This graph includes today's data.

Of course, our local Deffeyesians believe that even with $4 gas this summer that graph is going to turn around and head north!! ;-)

...In millions of barrels per day.

Source: EIA

I think that it is self evident that with net oil exports falling, someone is going to be reducing their consumption.

Isn't that the graph for Motor Gasoline and not "Oil Products" ?

I REALLY do not see a lot to have hope for in that graph :-(


Yup, mislabeled it. Thanx for catching it.

I looked at the 1991-2003 linear trend:

2004-2008 data points are pretty much on the linear trend.

Looking at the residuals:

The residual variance seems to have come down since 2004 which means that the summer demand peaks are a little bit less intense than prior to 2004:

So prices do have an effect on demand.

So prices do have an effect on demand.

Yes, but such a subtle one that extensive data mining is required to extract it.

I much prefer "higher grade data ore" such as "The most recent 2008 4 week average Motor Gasoline Supplied is -4.7% lower than the comparable weeks in 2007".

Simply grab the data in unrefined form and use it to show the strong price elasticity of demand.

Still Not Much Hope :-(


BTW, your analysis supports the hypothesis that a small % of driving is considered discretionary.

You're right, I think higher prices have mainly affected discretionary driving (i.e. the peak amplitudes) but we are still on the same trend year over year. It will take higher prices on a long period to have structural change in demand (i.e. an actual change in driving habits or in the average gas mileage).

This summer will likely provide a lab experiment to test our contradictory points of view.

I would say that if gas stays in the $4 neighbourhood, over the next 12 months you will see demand falling at a rate that isn't that much different from the rate it rose.

Alan wrote:

So prices do have an effect on demand.

Yes, but such a subtle one that extensive data mining is required to extract it.

Yup. So subtle that unless you use extremely exotic tools like a simple moving average (requiring massive expertise to perform) you can't see it. Oh what a genius wizard I am!!

Good grief!!

I was referring to Khebab's residual standard deviation, which convinced me that there was a subtle observed effect.

I discounted the moving average, not convincing. The 4 week average is also a moving average, and it shows increased use. Just what should be averaged and why ? Is it noise of a real effect ?

Like the "last ten years GW has stabilized" claims. Not true for the last 9 or 11 years, just the last ten years.

Hopes that explains my interpretation. And Best Hopes that $4 gas will cause "-4.7% declines in y-o-y gasoline consumption".


>>I discounted the moving average, not convincing.

A 52 week moving average gets rid of seasonal fluctuations (rampant in this data) because it spans a whole year.

Come on Alan. It's not that hard!

BTW, you don't need to use a moving average. Just add up the previous 52 weeks of consumption for every week. Same thing.

Winter weather has a significant impact on gasoline use.

Given the year to year (and week to week) variability of winter data, I just do not use it in analysis of the price elasticity of demand. So one 52 week period could include more severe snow storms than another, skewing the results.

Also, given the great variations in price over time (52 weeks for example), data over that long a period has very limited value.

I do like the EIA 4 week average though.

Best Hopes for surprisingly large drops in gasoline consumption in 2 months,


Also, given the great variations in price over time (52 weeks for example), data over that long a period has very limited value.

I do like the EIA 4 week average though.

No economist claims that price immediately translates into lower usage.

The claim is that as expectations of high prices become more common, sales will fall. And it's a multiyear phenomenon.

No economist would use 4-week data to analyze price elasticity of gasoline.

Price does indeed have an immediate effect on demand. Look at fruits and vegetables as they go into and out of season. If dry cleaning increases by 50%, demand drops, at least a bit. Etc.

A 52 week series, with the current oil market, is almost meaningless IMO. OTOH 4 week averages have the data that I am looking for (and failing to find) a short term price elasticity of demand.

the structural response takes years, and we may not have that many years to respond.


I think Alan is pretty much right on on this one.

A lot of the big drops in oil usage in the 70's 80's where related to residual/industrial usage as switching over to NG or coal. If the data existed it would be very nice to see how much usage in transportation changed during this time period.

You may find this interesting.


I remember that motorcycle VMT tripled and there was such a rush to fuel efficient cars that foreign (or at least Japanese) imports were restricted. Big Detroit iron sales plummeted, and those that did sell often had smaller engines. Hugh Downs (Today TV show host) did a bogus fuel economy run (downhill, favorable winds, 40 mph) run in oversized Ford and advertised that he got 22 mpg from Las Vegas to Loa Angeles (from old memory).

I have seen far less of a shift in new car demand today, and far less interest in fuel economy (TV shorts, discussion, etc.).


If the data existed it would be very nice to see how much usage in transportation changed during this time period.

Per capita use of gasoline plummeted in the early '80s. See chart up thread.

This had nothing to do with switching over to NG and coal!!

Khebab! You just fit a line to economic data!!! Geez, man, isn't that a bit embarrassing?

Why not go all the way and fit a line to the whole series?

isn't that a bit embarrassing?

as long as it's a good fit, it's ok with me :).

Economists love exponential but it's an overkill on such a small growth rate.

Actually, you did it to lead the eye.

That doesn't have anything to do with economics or science. It has to do with selling a point of view. You not sneaky!

Perhaps you might want to add average annual spot crude oil prices:


It shows a pattern roughly the same as gas prices in my first graph.

I thought that the demand response to the 2004 to 2005 price increase was interesting.

Definitely. The widely held reasons for that lack of response are (among others):

a) Americans are a bit richer than they were at the end of the '70s.

b) They use less petroleum per capita than they did then. Thus a price rise hurts less.

c) They have much easier access to credit now.

d) (Leanan's favourite) In the past there was much more of a panic atmosphere because lineups and shortages were in evidence.

Makes sense to me.


The percentage of "Drive or Starve" Americans is higher today.

In other words, a lower % of VMT is discretionary.


Is there data on this or is it something Kunstler thought up? :-)

I was a teenager in the late 70s. Didn't give a damn about driving or about cars....but my parents did. They chucked me in the car and took me down to get my learner's license. Only a month later I was marched off to take the test for a full license -- which I barely passed.

It was definitely a car culture extraordinaire. Intensely so, and I was more or less inducted into in by force because my parents had no interest in continuing to chauffeur me to part-time jobs, music lessons etc. As a new driver, I was quickly made a chauffeur for my siblings, granny and other old folks in the community that my parents knew.

BTW, there were a lot of people back then driving complete and utter junk-heaps. Why do we no longer have such wonderful derelict vehicles?

BTW, there were a lot of people back then driving complete and utter junk-heaps. Why do we no longer have such wonderful derelict vehicles?

Cars have gotten much, much more reliable since the 1970's. If your 1970's vintage car would go for 100,000 miles it was an achievement. Now just about any car will run for 250k miles with only minor maintenance. This means that there are a lot fewer cars that are badly functioning out there. The other big change is that auto paint has gotten lots better so a 15 year old car usually still looks OK.

If your 1970's vintage car would go for 100,000 miles it was an achievement.

My Mom told the tale of my Aunt's call at her funeral.

It was 1:30 am, and the phone was ringing. She answered the phone, and heard "Tell him it just made 100,000" and then dial tone.

Took a week 'till Dad figured out that his mother's car just made 100K - and its longevity was blamed on his maintenance of said car.

Umm. Can we get a correlated overlay of C+C produciton on top of this? Just at the eyeball level, it's uncanny.

I think it's fair to say prices are having an effect. We just haven't seen significant demand destruction in the rear view mirror yet. That said, I think the new car sales data is telling. People are buying far less in the way of SUVs/gas guzzlers than they used to and the trend is, finally, toward lighter, more fuel efficient, models. Airlines are also consolidating or closing routes while, at the same time, attempting to purchase more fuel efficient aircraft. Trucks to trains is also speeding up. So the economy is building in efficiencies.

Best hopes for seeing falling US consumption soon. Unfortunately falling consumption here is likely to be matched by increases in Russia, China, India, the Middle East. Not so hopeful for falling world consumption until PHEVs and BEVs become more mainstream. At that point, we may well have noticed an obvious peak in world oil production in the rear view mirror.

Best hopes for peak consumption before visible peak oil. A little apprehensive at the moment...

Who cares about the demand "per capita"? Overall demand is increasing. The price of oil is increasing. We won't avoid shortages and economic hardship because "per capita" demand is decreasing, if overall demand is increasing. It is a seriously delusional argument to make.

Overall demand is increasing.

Not in the US.

That chart documents the growing impoverishment of the average American (the "per capita" part of your chart). There is NO total decline in consumption due to population growth remaining steady in the US near 1%. And it doesn't matter jack squat if individuals use less if the aggregate total is using more. The problem of the last 4 years has been that there has been no "more" to share, hence the rapidly ascending price (supply/demand problem).

The problem is partially mitigated by the fact that US demand has been contained. It is not rising. (See my 2nd chart above).

The price of constrained US demand is gas at $4 a gallon. If that goes on for two years there probably won't be a single solvent airline remaining in the US. That kind of demand destruction will feel very destructive to all the people who get laid off.

Per capita consumption must inevitably fall as oil peaks. But there's lots of ways that the fall could (and probably will) happen in a really ugly manner. "Partial" is a very necessary rider to the words "problem" and "mitigated".

I don't think you all are factoring in our use of 550,000 bbl/day of Ethanol.

You mean something is going to happen to Southwest Airlines. We got one solvent airline right now.

Alan's data, direct from the EIA, refutes your statement. Demand is up for the US over the same 4 week period a year ago, nearly 1%. US demand has not been "contained".

Hint: Make a graph of the 4-week moving average.

It's a very noisy statistic.

But, anyhow, if gas prices push north of $4 for the summer (or even get close), I think my point will be made for me.

What happens if the 12-month average price goes to $4 for a couple of years? My guess is that demand goes to 10.5 barrels per capita.

Someone worked out this graph for you a long time ago.

"Where are the economists?" They're telling doctors and public health professionals not to worry about the current "spike" in energy costs. An economist recently (huffily) told me at a panel discussion hosted by the Lehrer Report "Growth solves lots of problems. I'm not worried about energy; there's lots of that around; we'll just switch to coal and nuclear."

Someone commented here at TOD recently on Foucault's concept of the "Episteme". Accordingly, the last assumption most economists -and Americans- will surrender is that economic growth will save us.

Dominant neo-classically (roughly neo-liberally) flavored core convictions in economics imply that preoccupation with “peak oil” is nothing more than fearing fear intensified into dreading dread. But if you insist on an answer you may get it in a form of reproach: “You don’t have enough faith in the invisible hand.” What young assistant professor aspiring for tenure would risk such an explicit reprimand from the department chairman?

I think the invisible hand is giving us the finger...

No, the invisible hand is giving an invisible hand job.

I find your lack of faith in the Force... disturbing.

Akkk! Akkk!

The economists grow bitter.

They cling to their graphs,
to their Smithian religion and
to their fear of foreign physicists
because that's all they have left.

--Obee wan Kannobama
("Return of the Wet Eyes", 2008, Subtitled: "How I learned to stop fearing the Peak and to love having a good cry", a War-n-Brothers production)

In fairness, there are more and less well educated economists on energy and climate change, and economists who think that climate change is a problem and those who think it isn't. A lot of the people we beat up around here as economists are not actually economists. Yergin is a journalist. Lomborg's degrees are in political science. On the other hand, Krugman and Feldstein are top notch economists who think we have a problem.

Krugman goes into more detail on his comments on Limits to Growth on his blog here. His criticism of Forrester is mostly that Forrester and associates jumped into what was essentially economics without looking at what economists had already studied. It was probably a bit arrogant to assume anything that had been considered before was beneath looking at. From Krugman's perspective, Forrester ended up with garbage in - garbage out because Forrester didn't bother to check with the economists across campus. Krugman wrote another blog entry about the garbage in he had to deal with on oil alternatives estimates here.

It isn't as though economists haven't looked at the effects of oil prices on the economy in the past. You could spend a solid week or two reading working papers posted at the National Bureau of Economic Research on this topic. The problem is that like any real scientific field, it takes time to study something and to get a study published, you have to be breaking new ground or looking at a previous study with new analysis or better information, and everything has to go through peer-review.

Backlash grows against the housing bailout

Many Americans want no part of a government-funded bailout for troubled mortgage borrowers.

I paid off my mortgage. No one helped me out. Many months it was a real burden coming up with that payment, but I did what I had to. I resent the government (taxpayers) coming along now and bailing out people who are struggling to make their payments. They could have gotten a fixed rate mortgage, bought a smaller home, etc. It isn't fair for people to be bailed out of a problem due to their own stupidity, while people who borrowed prudently and met their obligations receive no similar benefit. I don't mind my tax $s going to feeding the hungry but bailing out the banks & imprudent borrowers - no way.

Not to mention bailing out the home builders who got in over their heads.

Though you have to feel sorry for the people who did buy within their means, pay their mortgages, etc. - and now find themselves in half-abandoned neighborhoods where it's not safe, and the prices have dropped so much they can't afford to move.

The main problem I have with the bailout is it's not going to work. They're trying to bail out the Titanic with a teaspoon.

Sometimes it's less energy-intensive to make do with what you have.

If the banks raise an army of thugs to roust millions of losers out of their houses, this will just make things worse for everybody. The losers will be out on the street with their children, overwhelming the charity system at a time when food is already short. Wherever the refugees go they will still consume energy. The houses will lie empty because, well, we're all broke now. The banks will thus also lose. And the army of thugs - I don't even want to imagine what that will lead to.

So the banks should be wise enough to want to keep the losers in their houses, whether the government offers a bailout or not. But if the banks know a bailout is possible, then they will lie about their current ability to carry the losses on their books so as to get their hands on our tax $. We can't trust our politicians to negotiate sternly on the minimum amount of assistance needed to keep the banks solvent.

Now it's often been suggested here on TOD that boarding houses are the wave of the future. Many McMansions are horribly located to take in boarders and the solvent neighbors will raise hell. But if urban governments coordinated efforts by local losers to, in effect, share a smaller number of houses, the stigma would be reduced by the sheer scale of the effort, and there would be downward pressure on rents, which ordinary renting citizens should appreciate. The existing landlords would lose, but they're not facing homelessness.

If the banks raise an army of thugs to roust millions of losers out of their houses, this will just make things worse for everybody.

I just thought of something, You know how they publish child sex offenders addresses on the web(nothing to do with that) but like in kind,

I can see someone who was foreclosed upon setting up a web site to publish where BANKERS live.

You know, just so the homeless people can go over and say "Thanks" in person so to speak.

I remember an abandoned boarding house as a kid visiting my grandparents in a small town in the UP. I broke in and explored ....there were still dishes on the tables in the basement. Great sort of spooky place. At least three stories with a central staircase and lots of little rooms. I think it has been completely torn down now.

When I was a kid back in the sixties we would explore all the old, abandoned farmhouses in upstate New York. Old abandoned factories, too. Now all those factories were either torn down or turned into lofts and offices, and those farmhouses either collapsed or were turned into weekend and summer places for New York City people.

Bailing out may not work, but it will not stop the USGov and UKGov from trying - UKGov injected £50 billion of tax payers money on monday.

Why are they fighting this fight?

They know that hundreds of thousands of de-housed people will cause social unrest to levels not seen since the Russian Revolution or the Wiemar Republic.

Add the following into the mix:

- Food energy and fuel costs ramping
- Monetary inflation
- Infrastructure overburdening
- Immigration (''the enemy within'')
- Returning veterans with specialist killing skills and very little hope, and from a war that dehumanises young men and women.
- Unemployment

Sound familiar?

All it will take are Friekorp SturmAbtielungen vs Spartists on the streets and along comes a charismatic loner with oratory skills.

Does history repeat or rhyme?

The bastard may be dead but the bitch that bore him is in heat again...

Sometimes it isn't that easy.

I'm curently considering getting a loan to finish my house having done most of the restoration work myself over the past ten years. The money will be used to make the house properly livable, and to install basic comforts like insulation and a heat pump for heating. This is my only home and I don't really think that I have the option of doing nothing to keep myself out of debt. I don't think either that selling and renting a place would be a good alternative (the house comes with a bit of land which would be perfect for a vegi garden).

I can see that the coming years will bring hardship, but I can only hope that I can hold out the 10/15 years needed pay things off.

This future scares me, since I can see that I could very easilly get caught up in this mess, but I don't really think that I have the choice.

Welsh - You spent 10 years restoring your house, and now you need to borrow money to make it "liveable?" With basic comforts like insulation and heating. I am glad that you do not work for me by the hour!

I'd like to moderate your statement a little:

1. Not all people in trouble now bought unwise adjustable rate mortgages. A number simply got a job in another locale and found it impossible to sell their old home and are now forced to support two mortgages or mortgage + rent as the values drop puts them upside down. Another group bought homes for other reasons and likewise found it impossible to sell. Of course, the lesson here, late being learned is don't buy until you can sell.

2. Other people find themselves in trouble simply because the value of their homes are falling. They may need to pay medical bills or some other extraordinary expense. But now the 'savings account' equity is gone and loans are much more difficult to come by.

3. The government propping up the banking system to prevent fallout has aggregate benefit as does the government propping up homeowners and builders. It spreads the pain more evenly in the form of inflation and tax burden to wealthier Americans. In the longer term it benefits everyone as the economic downturn is moderated and the means to generate wealth is enhanced by the preservation of wealth generating infrastructure.

4. A very strange balance is being reached between the deflationary pressures of the credit crunch/housing crises and the inflationary pressures of bailouts, falling currencies, and spiraling oil prices. Given the strains on our economy today, I'd honestly expect things to be a lot worse than they are. But I'm glad they're not.


1. I am not an upside down/ adjustable rate/ multiple mortgage homeowner and share the tax burden for bailing out companies, homebuilders, and individuals caught in trouble/unwise decisions just as I share the burden for the war in Iraq. I consider the latter to be a far more wasteful and useless venture than the former. I think 200 billion per year to build solar, wind, and nuclear energy infrastructure as well as electrified transportation would be a far wiser allocation of resources.

2. In 2005 Alan Greenspan recommended that people make use of adjustable rate mortgages. So, at least in small part, the Fed needs to take responsibility for 'unwise' decisions. Now before the conspiracy wackos come out of the woodwork, I do not believe that Greenspan engineered the current fiasco. But I do think he wanted to extend the good times for as long as possible and saw the new mortgages of a way to further increase home values and revenue for all. As we can now see, this is just another indicator of the cyclic bubbles of unchecked capitalism (greed/fear).

3. My analysis is outside of the subject of peak oil which will, undeniably, make managing other crises more difficult. It is, I think, unwise to assume that high energy costs have not, at least in small part, contributed to the current credit and housing troubles by removing choices/income where people would otherwise have them.

Your point 3 is interesting: if you spread the pain too widely it becomes shallow everywhere and risks becoming "subliminal" (or perhaps "at the limit where people bitch about it but don't actually do anything"). The issue about wealth generating infrastructure is something I'm unsure about: an awful lot of the infrastructure in the UK is basically service sector, which would probably be hit hard by a widespread tightening-of-belts. What's the size of the differential between what gets crushed by this general belt-tightening and by a large number of people in dealing with negative equity? Dunno.

If we're going go socialize the losses, then the profits need to be socialized as well. Perhaps, any company that is bailed out should should have to pay 75% of their net profits after normal taxes for 5 years.

It is uncharitable, but I am of the same opinion. I've seen too many of these personal examples, usually a couple with no children and half my income buying twice as big a house as I did (with 3 kids), and then not being able to survive the reset! They obviously were not able to think beyond the realestate brokers false advertising claims, but I am supposed to feel sorry for them!

From NPR:

Home Prices Drop Most in Areas with Long Commute


Jonathan Hill, vice president of Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, which tracks home sales, sat in his office recently, clicking through page after page of price data sorted by ZIP code. There were a lot of negative numbers, but not in places that are close in or near public transit. The 20912 ZIP code, for example, showed almost a 10 percent increase in average sales price, Hill said. David Stiff, chief economist for the company that produces the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, saw the trend in other cities, as well — including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, San Diego, Miami and Boston.

I agree with Jeff Brown that if you live in the far burbs, prolly a good time to sell your house. However if you live in the city there is no way you should sell your house. Now is a great time I think to get a place that is in a nice downtown district or near the city by a subway/rail station. In addition, if you sell for "5% under the market price" and you live on say capitol hill, I personally would like to come to your house and beat you with a wiffle ball bat. ;)

Hey, Mr. antidoomer, stop talking like a doomer! Here's your big chance to Buy It Now!


700 houses going up for auction in the Atlanta area! Another fast growing Sunbelt location with lots of open space and long commutes! A great Buying Opportunity, now that the prices have come down! Don't worry, the Invisible Hand will provide ever more fuel for the commuters! Just what the NeoCon economist think is great.

E. Swanson

#1 Don't live in Atlanta.
#2 Don't need a house, I prefer Condos in walkable neighborhoods near mass transit.
#3 As you can see above never said buy a commuter home, I said you'd be nuts to sell your house if you lived in a neighborhood like Capitol Hill (DC) and it could be a great time to get a place near mass transit as we move into a age of new urbanism.
#4 Have a great day!!

Atlanta is, like Rome of old, going to die from a lack of water, even with MARTA the city is in a constant state of vehicular gridlock, the great majority of the housing stock is post war junk that was designed and built during the Air Conditioned era and would be stifling hot without A.C., one day without power (if the energy crises ends up causing rolling black outs or brown outs), would un bearably heat up a house for a day or so, even after the power has gone back on.

Walkable areas near mass transit will be regenerative, as more people walk and take mass transit more shops will be geared to pedestrians and more mass/public transit will be provided as it will become more cost effective.

Commuter homes will become burdensome to the owners, transportation fuel for the retail consumer will become more expensive because of shortages and because government will restrain use by rationing by tax or unit or both, petrol will be reorientated to keeping public works vehicles, police cars buses trains and big rigs going to keep the economy going.

I lived in DC (foggy bottom) during Bush I, I remember walking in the ares of the capitol and seeing these great boarded up town houses, some from which you had an unobstructed view of the capitol.

The inner city housing is coming back, this has been going on for a while places like Baltimore (inner harbor) Providence (federal hill) Boston (south end) have been renovated.

However it is one thing to transform inner city housing that is empty or abandoned for reuse and another to displace current residents, as has been happening and i fear will continue to happen.

The old pre war housing was so well built that in many cases it can be brought back from decades of neglect. I doubt that the press board shell, vinal clad dreck built today would last as long.
In fact many new homes that have gone into foreclosure have been so poorly built that after only a few months of abandonment (combined with vandalistic harvesting of their innards) they are already too far gone to ever be used as housing again.

#1 I lived in Atlanta for some 40 years.
#2 My point was that the conservative, antidoomer response should be to buy on the perceived "dip" in prices. After all, don't all antidoomers know that the present downturn is just a temporary blip in the perpetual upward price of real estate?
#3 Many of the houses on the list are within the City of Atlanta boundary, which hasn't been expanded since about 1948 and I noticed a few houses from the 1920's. However, some folks might find that living in a majority black neighborhood is not to their liking.
#4 I wish. I need to go crank up the chain saw to cut a tree which the wind blew down across a neighbor's driveway. I'm trying to build a firewood stack for next winter and my back is giving me fits.

E. Swanson

Regards doomer or anti doomer, I am pessimistically optimistic, that is I think that there is still time to avoid the doomer outcome if something is done, but quickly.

That the world is going to change I have no doubt, however with some leadership and foresight we can avoid a total collapse, the easter island - Roman scenario.

If for no other reason than self interest, people should be pushing for the powers that be to give up on the last man standing, non negotiable standard of living policy to one that is more focused on a long term vision.

If the world goes on until there is not enough energy and other resources to support the population on a large scale we could end up with widespread famine and starvation, the outcome of which would be truly horrific.

I was optimistic back in the 1970' after the OPEC Oil Embargo. I thought sure that after the Iranian Crisis and the resulting jump in the price of oil that Government would Finally Get It. Then the people elected Ronnie RayGun and what Carter had started drifted away. All the extra money went into the military industrial complex and lots of efforts toward renewable energy systems were cut off. When the credits for solar systems died (was that Jan 1984?) something like 90% of the solar companies in the U.S. went out of business. Admittedly, many were in the business to harvest the tax credits, not produce quality products. One company I recall sold products which they never delivered and the president went to jail. I'm sure there were others.

My fear is that the West has waited much too long to admit that things must change. Economics based on perpetual growth simply can not continue, yet we are constantly told that it must happen. The average man on the freeway doesn't understand energy or entropy and won't change until something seriously bad happens to kick him in the butt (or, more precisely, in his wallet). The U.S. is still a very rich country and it's unlikely that food shortages here will lead to starvation. That's not to say that people will still be able to buy the food our farmers produce, which may obscure the basic issue. Sadly, I think that folks in other very poor nations, such as Haiti, will be left with no option but to die, either by starvation or by violence.

E. Swanson

Economics based on perpetual growth simply can not continue [forever],

... yet we are constantly told that it must happen. The average man on the freeway doesn't understand energy ... [but then again] the people elected Ronnie RayGun [and Compassionately Uncurious George] ...

Black Dog,

Great analysis of our non-negotiable cultural history.

If Nancy Reagan were in the White House today, she'd probably advise the Haitians to just eat cake and advise her petro-addicted fellow Americans to "Just say No" to oil.

I wonder how historians of the future (if there are any left) will analyze the political decisions made by the Easter Isle Merrycan peoples of the 1980's-2000 era. Why did they elect movie actors and failed oilmen to run their country? And Senator Inhoffe to handle climate change?

What were they thinking?

(Just say No to intellect?)
(Gore's a bore, Give me that old fashion Iraq and Oil any day?)

I think you are mistaken in your timing but correct in your assessment of which properties will be desirable. The recent rally is not a bull market rally but a simple retracement while the market evaluates how bad things really are. And the financial data continues to worsen.

The house you mention may be worth buying someday but it's price is going to come down soon too. A more realistic expectation for the bottom in housing prices is 2009-2010, based on the size of outstanding problem financial instruments coupled with the slow rate at which they are being exposed to the market (probably to try to avert a stampede for the exits).

Probably more like a dead cat bounce.

Having a city neighborhood 1887 house in Jacksonville, FL I can only sit by the keyboard with a grin. Thanks to the likes of TOD I was able to see this one coming.

If there are electricity shortages we can open the doors and windows to get a good breeze through the house while we sit on porch sipping tea. And, we get to talk to our neighbors as they walk by.

Entropy wins every time.

Re: United Airlines - they are contracting just as predicted by the "peak oil pranksters":

United Airlines parent UAL Corp. lost about a third of its market value Tuesday after reporting a $537 million first-quarter loss due to soaring fuel costs and saying it is cutting flights and 1,100 jobs.

... higher fares would likely diminish demand for air travel, and prompt carriers to further reduce their schedules. ...

Chicago-based UAL said its nearly 8 percent growth in revenue from the first quarter of 2007 was more than offset by a $618 million jump in fuel costs, which rose nearly 50 percent in a year. ...

High oil prices and the global credit squeeze are also affecting demand for new planes. ... European planemaker Airbus said Tuesday that the ever-weaker dollar and high metals prices are forcing it to raise prices. Airbus announced increases of as much as 3 percent to catalog prices — on top of the 2.74 percent annual hike for 2007 already programmed.

... UAL also said it will cut capacity 9 percent by the fourth quarter, on top of a 5 percent reduction in the fourth quarter of 2007, and take 10 to 15 more narrow-body aircraft out of its operating fleet for a total of 30 to be grounded.

"The path to sustainable profitability requires us to fundamentally overhaul every facet of our business," Tilton said.

"Delta, Northwest report combined $10.5B loss on fuel costs"

ATLANTA - Delta Air Lines Inc., the nation's third-largest carrier, said Wednesday its loss widened in the first quarter to a whopping $6.39 billion because of soaring fuel prices and the steep decline in the company's market value.


One of the articles in the Atlanta paper after the merger reports was Mergers Essential to Growth, Delta Officials Say.

For some reason, I don't think that growth was the reason for the merger. The year ahead doesn't look good for airlines.

As to the Mexico article.

Oil production down 7.8%, oil exports down 12.5%.

Here we go......

U.S.-Brazilian venture to turn cane into biodiesel


The Artic ice extent is back at the same point it was last year despite record amount of freezing this winter:

It may prelude another record low for next September.

"Cold as it was this winter in the Arctic and most parts of Canada, it wasn't enough to temper the heat that warmed the ocean and melted so much ice last summer."

Toplink above:

Arctic ice melting at alarming rate

Forced out of the field by a snowy, rainy day, I've been wondering about the extent of this summer's ice loss. In recent springs, we've started earlier on the ice melt, --see downslope of graph above--but then it was old, thicker ice melting. It sure has been a relatively cold spring-local lake iceout weeks later. For Arctic melt this year, I could see it go either way-record loss or back to normal ice extent.

I feel much better about the threat of forest fire this summer in the northwest. A needed respite, well, at least for June fires...

Here is the source link to the sea ice graph above:

Last frame of animation of arctic at cyrosphere, it appears to from day 49 of 2008.

The gray ice, including that over the pole, only formed this winter. The north pole could be ice free this summer.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

What was the cost-adjusted price of building streetcar and interurban lines in days gone by? I'm beginning to take an interest in the local prospects for rail.

A better analogy is the planned French efforts.

1,500 km of tram lines for 22 billion euros.

Purchasing Power Parity of the euro in US$1.12.

Portland has developed a technique for low cost streetcar lines. I took a 3 day class at Portland State on that.

Best Hopes,


History of the North Texas Interurban system (1908-1948):


From the website:

The advent of the automobile contributed to the closing of the Plano station on December 31, 1948, when the Denison to Dallas Interurban made its last run.

Future History(?):

The decline of the automobile contributed to the reopening of the Plano station on December 31, 2011, when the Denison to Dallas Interurban made its first run.

I was on the first Canal Streetcar in 40 years, (3 AM April 14,2004#). There were at least 5 people there who had ridden the last Canal Streetcar 40 years prior. They were so anxious to take it out of service against popular demand that they cut the power to remove the copper trolley wire before it finished it's run.

Best Hopes for Old Lines,


# Only in New Orleans would we start service st 3 AM for a new line. It kept the crowds down to 400 or so, instead of many thousands. Quite an interesting party on the neutral ground waiting for the first car.

A better analogy is the planned French efforts.

1,500 km of tram lines for 22 billion euros.

About 38 million/mile? Hope I'm missing something there!

We're studying options for a short light rail line, not a streetcar. Problem is getting federal funding to service the 30K county seat to my SW, traffic passes through a 3K town on the way, creating a really hideous traffic bottleneck which the residents are loathe to address. Studies show there's insufficient ridership to justify building a line all the way to the seat (McMinnville). Looks like feds will go 80/20 on rail to where I live (Newberg, 20K residents). Convincing voters to support even 10m in added taxes is an uphill battle to say the least.

Blog entry on the newspaper article linked above has one contributor making a strong case for settling for buses for the time being, simply on an initial cost basis, and I'm on his side - gave the PO rap at the paper's forum as well, I think that as fuel prices go ever skyward we'll see the feds roll into town big time, and buses wouldn't go to waste - plenty of dinky farm towns out here that'll need transport when the time comes, too. Not to mention the tallest mountains in the Willamette Valley right outside my window.

That is for running commuter rail on existing rail lines, no new infrastructure needed except stations and perhaps signaling.

I would oppose buses because once you get a federally funded bus system, you are stuck with it (absent a needed revolution in DC @ FTA. I hope to lead the pitchfork brigade as we storm it, but DO NOT COUNT ON IT !).

Look for ways to reduce costs (bare bones stations, used equipment, etc.) but stay away from oil burning buses.

Best Hopes for Rail,

The Four Flavors of Urban Rail

Just a short one this time

Streetcar - New Orleans streetcars, Portland Streetcar

Light Rail - Tri-Max (called modern trams in EU)

Rapid Rail - Subways

Commuter Rail - The new service south of Beaverton on freight railroad tracks.

The costs for commuter rail are far lower/mile than light rail because you are using existing tracks in most cases.

Hopes that Helps,


Hopes that Helps.

Always! Bear with me while I grok.

Parts of the Westside Blue Line follow the old Oregon Electric line, too. Guess they purchased the ROW from BN, dunno if they had to replace the track.

I would oppose buses because once you get a federally funded bus system, you are stuck with it (absent a needed revolution in DC @ FTA. I hope to lead the pitchfork brigade as we storm it, but DO NOT COUNT ON IT !).

Really! Is that covered in their Bus and Bus Facilities (5309, 5318) guidelines? I see a few red flags like this:

1. Requirements Related to Local Bus Fleets. FTA has established several policies that are meant to ensure that buses purchased or leased with Federal funds are maintained and remain in transit use for a minimum normal service life and to ensure that the buses acquired are necessary for regularly scheduled transit revenue service (i.e., to meet peak service requirements with a reasonable allowance for spares).

1. Service Life Policy. Service life of rolling stock begins on the date the vehicle is placed in revenue service and continues until it is removed from service. Minimum normal service lives for buses and vans are given in the paragraphs below.
1. Large, heavy-duty transit buses (approximately 35'-40', and articulated buses): at least 12 years of service or an accumulation of at least 500,000 miles.
2. Medium-size, heavy-duty transit buses (approximately 30'): 10 years or 350,000 miles.
3. Medium-size, medium-duty transit buses (approximately 30'): 7 years or 200,000 miles.
4. Medium-size, light-duty transit buses (approximately 25- 35'): 5 years or 150,000 miles.
5. Other light-duty vehicles such as small buses and regular and specialized vans: 4 years or 100,000

And then a list of replacement guidelines, etc. I'll pass on this info to our local who's pushing buses over rail on the blogs, as he does envision Fed funding:

I would like to see a report showing ridership and costs of a comparable bus system that would connect McMinnville as well as Newberg with the Portland metro area, using modern, long distance intercity coaches, with frequent all-day (and weekend) service at least hourly, with connecting service to Carlton/Yamhill/Gaston, Amity, Sheridan/Willamina/Grande Ronde, and a Dayton/Lafayette loop. I suspect that Yamhill County could start such a program for less than $5 million, and still obtain 80/20 funding from the federal government. Newberg can get additional service with a short-line Newberg-Tigard route (which connects with WES and TriMet's 64 and 94 expresses) for rush hour service with limited stops at Six Corners and King City if necessary.

Also, if you build (or buy) a bus garage, you have to keep running buses until that is fully depreciated (30 years ?), I think that you can run into problems if you downsize your fleet too much.

I know New Orleans had "discussions" with FTA when our 24 streetcar Canal Streetcar would have retired about 50 buses (out of a fleet of about 350). There was talk of a pro rata refund for a new bus garage. I think they only got rid of 30 buses and the FTA was Ok with that.


Random thought.....

Saudi Arabia's production seems to closely follow the OPEC quota. However, Saudi Arabi is OPEC's most influential member. Wouldn't it stand to reason that they would always make sure their quota was not more than they could handle? Perhaps production is not following quota, rather quota follows expected production capabilities.

Amazing :) And as needed all they need to do is bow down to the demand of the more bullish members and agree to lower quota's. And if needed they can of course accuse the other members of cheating and unilaterally lower production to ensure OPEC as a whole is within quota.

OPEC quota's and KSA is the same as the US Dollar value vs the Fed.

Each can control both to a pretty good extent.

Actually this is why I don't think KSA and the quota are all that important except I agree it says something about what KSA would like to produce.

I've said a few times in my opinion from all the information I've gathered KSA is practicing a depletion protocol and has been for 30 years. Their goal is to be the last major oil exporter in the world. This could well be 2mbpd but the point is they will be one of the few sources of oil at some point.

Eventually we will of course eliminate using oil in private transportation and other stupid uses but even after that the world will need a significant amount of oil for a long time.

If you think about it once you have removed the obvious waste in the US and to a lesser extent in other places your still left with quit a bit of oil demand even if you say half the world GDP since I think that GDP from energy based business are often in the non-discretionary side. Farming etc.

Although I don't think I've seen a key post on this if you dig you will see that we could remove say 25% of the oil usage in the US by effectively destroying the middle class. This would probably lead to and additional 10% reduction from economic contraction. But once you get past this 35% or so of reduction it gets really hard to do more cuts short term without major infrastructure overhaul.

This would basically be Kunstlers abandoning of the suburbs scenario. But once we reach this sort of 2-3rd world lifestyle. The problem comes after this.

On Public Television tonight:

Dangerous Catch; Dirty Secrets CC LTBX
Reports indicate that 90 percent of important commercial fish are gone, and the world's fisheries are declining; water supply problems; host Edward Norton.

Comes on in one hour. Saying the same thing that I have been saying for years, we are in deep overshoot and our carrying capacity is declining dramatically.

Ron Patterson

Holy crap! Nearly 300 comments. It's going to break my browser.

Seriously, you should all go home and watch Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. One of the best films ever made. Perfect for doomers.

Ron CHeck this one out

From a couple of years ago. But Great Reference.

Study Sees ‘Global Collapse’ of Fish Species
This loss of biodiversity seems to leave marine ecosystems as a whole more vulnerable to overfishing and less able to recover from its effects, Dr. Worm said. It results in an acceleration of environmental decay, and further loss of fish.

Dr. Worm said he analyzed the data for the first time on his laptop while he was overseeing a roomful of students taking an exam. What he saw, he said, was “just a smooth line going down.” And when he extrapolated the data into the future “to see where it ends at 100 percent collapse, you arrive at 2048.”


I've often use this analogy to make a point.
"If you and I go out and each have a 1 lb Lobster tonight no big deal.
But everybody when out tonight and had lobster, that's 300 MILLION POUNDS OF LOBSTER, GONE in one night.


fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, "wringing oil out of fish," as one business journal snidely put it.


Moreover, fears about dwindling fish stocks have pushed some industries to start extracting omega-3s from algae. Indeed, companies such as Martek Biosciences and Lonza are already offering algae-derived omega-3 DHA as a dietary supplement.

Re: 'Flammable ice' could be mined for fuel

You can burn methane from a boat,
You can burn it with a stoat,
You can burn it from the sea,
You can burn it with a bee.
You can burn methane from your cow,
You can burn methane anyhow.

Katey Walter -- igniting the earth's farts for ahh, at least six or eight years now.

Here is Katey's PALIMMN study, the first of her research I stumbled upon:

Hello TODers,

Acid Rocks

*A backdoor way to play the boom in metals,
*An investment theme you'll never hear on CNBC,
*Taking acid to the bank while the bankers are on acid, and more...
Reads as a pretty good summation of my numerous earlier sulphur postings.

Fertilizer Maker Grows As Farmers Struggle To Meet Global Demand

...Credit Suisse analyst Mark Connelly thinks the company's might have been burned earlier this year by steep increases in the price for sulfur, another key ingredient in phosphate fertilizers.

Uralkali raises spot potash prices to $1,000/T
Consider that for a second--people are willing to pay more for basically specialized dirt than an ounce of pure gold! Like theMogambu Guru said, "Gold is for optimists, I diversifying into canned goods".

TECHNICALLY SPEAKING: Fertilizer Stocks Set Up For A Fall
I think it alot depends on future sulphur and FF pricing and how it affects the mining and beneficiation to process and distribute I-NPK globally. Recall that, just like FFs: it is the global flow rate of I-NPK, not the size of the depleting P & K reserves, or depleting natgas Haber-Bosch manufacturing of Nitrogen.

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

Hello TODers,

The price of rice will rise

Thai rice hits new record, feeding food fears

...In Bangkok, some traders said Thai 100-percent B grade white rice, the world's benchmark, could hit $1,300 a tonne due to unsated demand from number-one importer the Philippines, which fell well short of filling a 500,000 tonne tender last week.
Yikes! Let us hope that rice becomes less popular and some other native plants in these areas can be an effective substitute.

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

"Yikes! Let us hope that rice becomes less popular and some other native plants in these areas can be an effective substitute."

'Cake' perhaps? :o)


Fusion of Rail & Road Makes Bulk Transport More Efficient

We've had this for years. It's called Trailer on flatcar (TOFC), Container on flatcar (COFC), or TrailerRail/RoadRailer (a semis trailer where you hitch a set of rail bogies directly to the chassis). This 'new' system actually reduces efficiency by making the semi haul two sets of wheels around.