DrumBeat: July 10, 2008

Coming to a city near you? - Be very afraid, please

AMERICA and Israel often hint at military action to stop Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons programme. The latest rumblings, however, may be more serious. The atmosphere has been charged by a combination of factors: Iran’s expanding uranium-enrichment programme, faltering diplomatic efforts to halt it, a dying American administration and a nervous Israel. Throw in the latest war games by Israel, America and Iran—and Iran’s apparent rejection of the latest international incentives to halt its nuclear work—and some reckon the sparks could soon fly.

OPEC exports rise to peak for this year - analyst

LONDON: OPEC oil exports, excluding Angola and Ecuador, will rise by 80,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the 4 weeks to July 26, an analyst who tracks future flows said on Thursday.

Seaborne crude exports from 11 members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, including Iraq, will rise to 24.95 million bpd from 24.87 million bpd in the 4 weeks to June 28, British consultancy Oil Movements said in its latest estimate.

Peak oil: petrol to reach $8 a litre

PETROL could hit $8 a litre within a decade as oil production begins to dwindle and demand continues to soar, a CSIRO study to be released today says.

The study, Fuel For Thought, warns this would add up to $220 a week to the cost of running a medium-sized passenger vehicle by 2018, resulting in severe social and economic consequences.

Gazprom is raising prices... for everybody!

On July 8, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller reported his company's plans to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He spoke about a steady, long-term growth of gas prices for all consumers, be it in Western Europe, next-door neighbors, or at home.

Steam loss shuts Petro-Canada Alberta refinery

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Petro-Canada said on Thursday it has shut down its 135,000 barrel per day refinery in Edmonton, Alberta, after an unspecified incident forced the company to depressurize some units after steam boilers lost water.

Yes, U.S. Gas Use Dropped; But So Did Production

The weekly report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) was released yesterday, and the headline that was picked up by the media was that gasoline usage over the July 4th holiday hit a five-year low, and dropped 3.3% from last year to 9.347 million barrels a day. This fits in nicely with my thesis that oil prices are ridiculously overpriced, and was a source of considerable joy for me when I read it last night.

Greer: Trailing edge technologies

One of the worst of the booby traps built into the contemporary mythology of progress, it seems to me, is the notion that the way out of any difficulty is to keep moving the way we are already going, and do it faster. It may seem obvious that if you’ve gone down a blind alley, the only way out begins by shifting into reverse, but it takes very little attention to the current political scene to notice that this bit of common sense is far from common just now.

For a case in point, listen to the pundits – a sizeable chorus of them just now – who insist that the only way to bring soaring prices of oil, food, and other commodities back to earth is to push forward with the project of economic globalization. The problem here is that globalization was never more than an artifact of the final blowoff of the age of cheap oil, and as that age ends, so do the economic factors that made globalization work.

River use banned after French uranium leak

Residents in the Vaucluse, a popular southern French tourist destination, were banned yesterday from drinking well-water or swimming or fishing in two rivers after a uranium leak from one of France's nuclear power plants.

British Energy's nuclear power output slides

British Energy, the UK's largest nuclear power plant operator, said that its electricity output fell by 17 per cent in the second quarter. A glitch at Sizewell B, the nuclear power station, triggered blackouts that hit up to 500,000 homes in May. Figures yesterday showed that the company's entire electricity output was only 11.4Terawatt hours (TWh), down from 13.8 TWh in the same quarter last year.

The nuclear solution

Nuclear power is the key to resolving three global crises – food, global warming, and resource distribution.

Jordan Goes Nuclear Unhindered

Qatarneh says those world powers that shoulder the burden of standing up to Teheran's nuclear ambitions need to prove to the rest of the world that they have no problem extending a helping hand to "benign" countries in the region such as Jordan, the Gulf states, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, and others that have declared plans to build their own reactors.

"The other factor is the rising oil prices. Jordan has no choice but to tap into its potential and no one can blame such a resource-strapped country for looking for alternatives to conventional fuel," he adds.

Jordan Among 5 Richest Countries in Oil Shale

Jordan is among the five richest countries in oil shale in the world, according to Director General of the Natural Resources Authority (NRA) Maher Hijazin.

He said that the Kingdom's estimated reserves of oil shale is about 40 billion tonnes and expected to be doubled in the coming years.

Lifting drilling ban wouldn't do much for gas prices, report says

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, however, there's not enough oil in offshore areas to make much difference in world prices — which drive most worldwide pump prices, including those in the United States.

OPEC Rakes in $671B in 2007, Stands to Double Revenues in 2008

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) earned $671 billion in net oil export revenues in 2007, a 10% increase from 2006. Saudi Arabia earned the largest share of these earnings, $194 billion, representing 29% of total OPEC revenues. On a per-capita basis, OPEC net oil export earnings reached $1,137, an 8% increase from 2006.

The Latest Oil Shock

LONDON - The world is facing the prospect of its third oil shock in 100 years, as oil prices have jumped over 40.0% this year as supply struggles to keep pace with rising consumption in emerging markets, rising cash flows from hedgers and growing tensions between Iran and Israel.

Air Canada to cut 2,000 jobs

Air Canada will lay off as many as 2,000 employees as it trims back flying in the face of soaring fuel costs, the first sign that even the relatively healthy Canadian airline sector is having trouble coping with record high oil prices.

China's crude oil import up 11% in first half

BEIJING -- China, the world's second-largest energy consumer, imported 11 percent more crude oil in the first half of 2008 than in the year-earlier period.

OPEC sees lower oil demand, warns on investment

VIENNA (Reuters) - OPEC on Thursday warned of growing uncertainty over demand for its oil in the years ahead, raising doubts whether multi-billion-dollar investments in new supply will be needed.

OPEC, in its 2008 World Oil Outlook, said demand for its oil could fall to 31 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2012, below current production, as additions to supply excluding OPEC crude outpace growth in demand.

Another Fine Mess in the Oil Business

Sweeping changes inside Russia's oil and gas sectors in recent years have dented Western investors' faith in the country's rule of law. Caught up in a state effort to claw back control of lucrative assets, some were left badly scarred. In 2006 BP rival Royal Dutch Shell was forced to give up control of the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project off Russia's eastern coast after the country's environmental regulators threatened to shut it down. Gazprom, Russia's state-owned energy company, duly took over the operation.

BP, Russian Billionaires May Clash Again Over TNK-BP CEO Firing

(Bloomberg) -- BP Plc, Europe's second-largest oil company, may clash again with Russian billionaires in an effort to keep its Russian unit's chief executive officer in the post, even as one investor said today that compromise is possible.

UAE: Heavy demand causes diesel shortage

The Northern Emirates are suffering from a diesel shortage because of heavy demand and disruption of deliveries to Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) outlets. The company says the supply problems are caused by a lack of tankers – but transport industry sources say a lack of drivers for the vehicles is to blame.

West Australia Gas Shortage to Cost A$6.7 Billion

(Bloomberg) -- The natural gas shortage in Western Australia, generator of more than a third of the nation's exports, may cost the state A$6.7 billion ($6.4 billion), the Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.

``The gas crisis has already cost the Western Australian economy in the vicinity of A$2.4 billion,'' the chamber said today in its quarterly report. ``With gas supply expected to be restricted until December 2008, CCI estimates the overall cost to be around A$6.7 billion.''

The world oil market on a knife-edge

After failing to find agreement at a summit in Saudi Arabia on June 22, last week’s industry event in Madrid frequently resembled a dialogue of the deaf with both sides sticking to their positions.

OPEC Secretary-General Abdallah al-Badri called on the United States to stop “harassing OPEC countries”, and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for end to the blame game.

Consumer states led by the United States are clamoring for more oil in a bid to cool the market.

But most members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries remain firmly against any increase in their production and blame speculators and the fall in the dollar for the remarkable run up in prices, which have doubled in the last 12 months.

High diesel prices to last through the summer

High prices for diesel fuel will continue over the summer and may only begin to ease next year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has given warning of continuing tightness in the world's refining markets.

A worldwide shortage of middle distillates — oil products that include motor diesel and jet fuel — is continuing because of a surge in Chinese imports and the falling profitability of the refining sector. The price of road fuels would only begin to ease towards the end of the year and more likely by early next year, the IEA cautioned in its latest Monthly Oil Report, published today.

Toyota to shift U.S. manufacturing efforts

DETROIT (AP) -- Toyota Motor Corp. will start producing the hybrid Prius in the U.S. for the first time as the Japanese automaker adjusts its U.S. manufacturing operations to meet customer demands for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Mexico centrists like oil contract plan, eye graft

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A key Mexican opposition party could back a central part of a government plan to boost private investment in oil drilling, but wants tweaks to the proposal to prevent corruption, a lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Australia - Report 'no fuel' suspicion: watchdog

THE Petrol Commissioner has asked motorists to report petrol stations they suspect are withholding fuel when the price cycles are low.

"It is a serious issue and there are significant penalties involved," Pat Walker warned retailers yesterday.

Congress Feels Pressure for Action on Oil Prices

After spending a week in their states and districts with angry and frightened consumers, many lawmakers have returned to Capitol Hill convinced that Congress cannot afford a prolonged stalemate over energy policy.

Pakistan: High energy cost forces millers to halve flour production

RAWALPINDI: The twin city millers have halved flour production due to rising cost to grind wheat.

All Pakistan Flourmills Association, Rawalpindi region, Chairman Abdur Rehman told Daily Times on Wednesday that flourmills of Islamabad and Rawalpindi used to produce 80,000 flour bags a day but the production had been cut by a half due to rising electricity and fuel prices.

'Food versus fuel debate is far too simplistic'

THE indication this week from Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, that there will be a major rethink on the initial target of a 5 per cent biofuel content in diesel by 2010 has been met with disbelief by the farming industry.

California to shame the owners of gas-guzzlers

As if sky-rocketing petrol prices weren't already hurting them enough, the drivers of America's fleet of Hummers, monster trucks, and gas-guzzling SUVs are about to suffer sustained public humiliation, courtesy of the green lobby.

The state of California has announced plans for all new vehicles to carry "global warming" stickers next to their number plate, giving car owners – and their fellow motorists – an instant assessment of their carbon footprint.

Transport: Emissions deal may add to cost of long-haul flights

Passengers could face a further increase in air fares after the European parliament yesterday approved a carbon emissions trading scheme that will include airlines from 2012. Green campaigners said the plans were not harsh enough.

Interview: Peter Head

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Peter Head is a Director of Arup, a global firm of designers, engineers, planners and business consultants. He's playing a leading role in the planning and building of China's first eco-cities -- Dongtan and Wanzhuang.

Saudi Oil: A Crude Awakening on Supply?

The Saudis say they can ramp up production to 12.5 million barrels a day. But a field-by-field breakdown obtained by Business Week shows that's not likely.

A dizzying cycle: As drivers shift to transit, prospective fares rise

Now that thousands of Twin Cities drivers are responding to high fuel prices by switching to buses and trains, Metro Transit is proposing the next logical step: raising fares because of — you guessed it — high fuel prices.

It's a dizzying cycle that leaves transportation thinkers chasing their tails and asking a nettlesome question: As commuters finally begin ditching their cars for a cheaper, cleaner and more efficient mode of travel, is this the right time to punish their good behavior? Is this really the right time for a fare increase?

N.E. leaders seek more US heating oil aid

Alarmed by zooming energy costs, four New England governors yesterday called on the federal government to increase the region's home heating assistance to $1 billion, from $252 million last winter.

State energy effort good, but needs feds' help

For many -- if not most -- Mainers, the only subject these days is the cost of energy.

It's frightening when it costs more than $70 to fill up your gas tank. Where's the money for the next tank going to come from? It's beyond frightening to contemplate the prospect of paying from 50 percent to 75 percent more this winter than last for heating oil. Where's that money going to come from? The food budget? The college tuition budget? The insufficient Social Security payments that come once a month? The paychecks that last year couldn't cover all the family's needs?

America Braces for Highest Heating Costs Ever

Research from The National Energy Assistance Directors' Association (NEADA)--an organization representing state-run low income energy assistance programs--predicts that the national average cost to heat a home with oil this winter will be $2,593, up from $1,962 last winter.1 A typical household fuel delivery that cost $500 last winter will climb to at least $850 this winter--an increase of nearly 60% in just one year.

Asphalt shortage could shut down work zones

AURORA | A nationwide shortage in asphalt supplies will have an immediate effect on the city's paving operations and, depending on deficiency of materials, could impact the condition of local streets into 2009.

Nigeria: Rising prices of diesel, kerosene

The rising prices of kerosene and low pour fuel oil (LPFO) or diesel in the Nigerian market require the Federal Government’s urgent intervention to arrest the unnecessary burden the development is imposing on consumers and the economy. Obviously, the development is an added stress on low income earners who depend on kerosene for cooking, and corporate organisations which virtually rely on diesel for energy. It is unacceptable that kerosene is currently being sold to consumers at between N70 and N100 per litre instead of the recommended price of N50 per litre. Again, the price of diesel has reached an alarming N160 per litre instead of the official N70 per litre. Market feelers indicate that the price of diesel may soon hit N200 – a situation that will put many industries in serious energy crisis.

South Korea: Reckless Energy Use in the High-Priced Energy Era

"In what other country, other than our own, can you find a growing insensibility toward energy despite the unprecedentedly high oil prices that have persisted over the past several months?"

So lamented an energy expert on Wednesday noon when the nation's daily power consumption reached an 11-month record high.

Police: Theft ring stole tons of copper

HOUSTON—Tyrone Fransaw has what he calls a good sense of humor, but he says there was nothing funny about losing his phone service last month.

“It happened one day and then it would come back. Then it would happen again. (It was) frustrating. Yeah, very frustrating,” said Fransaw.

He said he thought it was a problem with AT&T.

Wednesday morning, police confirmed that four copper thieves were the culprits behind Fansaw's troubles.

The oilman's new stripes

WASHINGTON -- T. Boone Pickens is used to getting his way.

So when the famed U.S. oil tycoon and corporate raider launches a multimillion-dollar blitz to convince Americans to kick their foreign oil addiction by embracing wind energy and natural gas powered cars, the obvious question is what's in it for B.P.?

Iraq's Complicated Oil Fields

Despite the caricature of the all-powerful oil conglomerate, all this means the oil companies are more beholden to Iraqi's volatile politics than the other way around. "The industry can't control the internal politics of Iraq," said Adam Sieminski, chief energy economist at Deutsche Bank, "and that's what's preventing development."

The Two Degrees Show - Climate Code Red (podcast)

The most eminent US scientist and head of Nasa, Dr James Hansen, has said that we have passed the tipping point for Arctic and Greenland ice loss. This has dramatic implications for the possible accelaration of the rate of climate change. He suggests we now need to stabilise levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 350 parts per million (ppm) – lower than they are today (ca. 387 ppm). We discuss James Hansen’s recent findings and their implications with Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility who was a reviewer on the IPCC’s 2001 Report; and with Richard Hawkins of the Public Interest Research Centre who is preparing a UK edition of Climate Equity’s “Climate Code Red” report for publication.

The Hindenburg Omen

Political pressure to bite the bullet and take the approach Paulson advocated continues to grow, however, because the consequence of Fed bailouts is inflation run amok. We are already into the worst of all possible scenarios, akin to the dreaded "stagflation" of the 1970s, with rising inflation and stagnating growth.

But the conditions are different now, and worse. Then, it was perpetuated by inflationary and wage hike pressures. The latter is not a factor this time, only energy resource scarcity, something that will not be relieved for the foreseeable future.

Shock, denial, frustration, anger??

Unless you’ve been in a cave (and some of us may be before too long), the price of oil has literally brought the United States to the brink of its worse economic contraction since the Great Depression. And, depending on what happens with the price in the next few months, it could literally send many parts of the world into an economic free fall from which many of us in our lifetimes will never witness a full recovery. Here, too, we’re partly to blame since we not only used oil as if it was going to be in ample supply forever, but we failed to listen to a worthy theory that is now proving to be correct.

State TV: Iran test-fires more missiles for 2nd day

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran test-fired more long-range missiles overnight in a second round of exercises meant to show that the country can defend itself against any attack by the U.S. or Israel, Iranian state television reported Thursday.

The weapons have "special capabilities" and included missiles launched from naval ships in the Persian Gulf, along with torpedoes and surface-to-surface missiles, the broadcast said. It did not elaborate.

Using Oil Trusts to Beat Inflation

Oil industry giants such as Exxon continue to insist that we have plenty of oil for decades, but then add that more investments are needed for offshore exploration. What they are really saying is that higher oil prices are due to Peak Oil – the decline in conventional oil reservoirs, which is forcing companies to focus on non-conventional oil. They use word games to hide the truth because they realize any possibility of Peak Oil will cause a push for alternative energy, which would threaten their monopoly. OPEC plays the same game. Washington goes along with these fantasies as well for a much bigger reason – the preserve the dollar-oil link.

The Skyrocketing Price Of Gas: A Resultant Sociological Morass?

I have been, I realize, writing a great deal of late about the rising price of oil. But there is, I think, a valid reason for this fuel fixation. I believe that, assuming recent cost increase trends continue (and I believe they will, considering political instability and Peak Oil factors, among others), this single issue may redefine society more than any other I've yet encountered (or will encounter) in my lifetime.

Peak Oil: It Doesn’t Translate Into Kurdish

As oil prices again flirt with records, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration hustles to revise upward its forecasts for the price of oil and gas, the “peak oil” camp seems to win more converts every day. Even veteran oilmen like T. Boone Pickens say the era of “easy oil” is over. Just don’t tell the Kurds.

Iraq's oil ministry set to sign deals for new refineries

BAGHDAD — Iraq's oil ministry said today that it is close to signing contracts to build two new oil refineries in southern Iraq.

The ministry is expected to sign one contract for a 300,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Nasiriyah province by the end of July or early August, a senior oil official said.

The official said the ministry was studying proposals presented by international companies to build another 150,000-barrel-per-day refinery in Karbala.

How the Greens Captured Energy Policy

The only group in American that sees energy policy achieving some of their goals are the ones who oversaw its implementation from the beginning: the environmentalist Greens. It's obvious that our energy policy was intended not for the benefit of the public, or industry, or government, but almost solely to fit the agenda and goals of the Green movement, and not even the public agenda and goals, but the core agenda rarely referred to except through euphemism.

This love that cranks my motor

I'M in a destructive relationship. I know it's selfish and immoral and not doing anyone any good but I can't help it.

Every time I try to break it off, the thought of livingwithout the object of my love and lust feels impossible.

So my oversized inner-city car stays right where she is in my undersized inner-city driveway. Together we guzzle natural resources, clog Sydney side streets and scrape bits off smaller vehicles that are silly enough to get in our way when were trying to park.

The world they will inherit

When Hawke's Bay farmers Greg and Rachel Hart's eldest child, George, was born four years ago they began to think about the world he would inherit.

Gradually, they came to the realisation that if something wasn't done he and others of his generation would be left with a polluted planet dangerously depleted of its natural resources.

International Energy Agency sees robust oil demand in developing economies in 2008-2009

PARIS: The International Energy Agency on Thursday slightly raised its forecast for global oil demand this year and said growth would continue in 2009 thanks to demand in developing countries.

Global demand for petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel and heating oil will grow by 1 percent, or 890,000 barrels a day, to 86.9 million barrels a day in 2008, the Paris-based watchdog said in its monthly report. That's up slightly from the 0.9 percent increase the IEA forecast last month.

In 2009 global oil product demand will expand by 1 percent or 860,000 barrels to 87.7 million barrels a day, the IEA said.

Schools cutting bus service because of fuel prices

School administrators are spinning their wheels trying to cope with the soaring costs of fuel for school buses. The bottom line: More students will walk farther this fall.

"All the less drastic measures have pretty much been exploited," says Robin Leeds of the National School Transportation Association. "All that sort of easy-picking fruit has been picked."

Gas Prices Spur Drivers to Cut Use to Five-Year Low

As average gas prices hit a record high of $4.108 a gallon this week, the government released new data showing that drivers have cut back their use of the fuel to levels not seen in five years.

...Even through the Fourth of July weekend -- a time when Americans traditionally get on the road -- gasoline consumption dropped 3.3% from last year to 9.347 million barrels a day, according to weekly data released by the federal Energy Information Administration. For the first week of July, that is the least drivers have used since 2003, when consumption was 9.05 million barrels a day.

Get Ready for the Post-SUV World!

With big-box vehicles waddling off into the sunset, we can expect the nation's roads to become safer and less crowded. But just as the end of the Cold War failed to bring with it a promised peace dividend, the end of the SUV era is unlikely to bring a "green dividend" -- unless it is accompanied by much bigger changes. The numbers show that even the complete disappearance of SUVs from the nation's roadways, without other fuel-saving developments, would put only a slight bend in the rising curve of national fuel consumption.

We're not yet running on empty

Quite recently I had lunch with the chairman of one of the world's largest oil companies. He has a simple test that tells him whether the surge in the world oil price is the result of supply or refining difficulties, or can be explained by other factors such as geopolitical uncertainty or financial transactions such as hedging - a polite word for speculation.

If, as he drives past the huge gauges at the oil-storage silos in Rotterdam, headquarters of the free market in oil, the dial registers close to full, he knows the upward movement in the oil price has little to do with supply. If the gauge is low, he knows that there is a potential production or refining problem and a genuine shortage.

Sydney petrol price skyrockets

The price of petrol has skyrocketed to record highs overnight, with some Sydney service stations selling unleaded fuel for 173.9 cents a litre.

...The price of 173.9 cents a litre - recorded at petrol stations on the lower north shore - is more than 15 cents higher than yesterday's average bowser price in Sydney, which the NRMA recorded at 158 cents a litre.

Canada: SUV sales plummet as gas costs rise

Cornwall Auto Sales' Mike Benoit said locals tend to purchase sport utility vehicles (SUV) nowadays for substance more than style.

"People buy SUVs because of need, to pull a trailer," Benoit said. "They bought them for style before; (but also) more for the image of them."

People with children favour mini-vans or cross-overs now, according to Benoit, or what Shawn Maloney, owner of Miller Hughes Ford, calls CUVs (crossover utility vehicles), a scaled back version of an SUV that combines the ride of a car with the storage abilities of an SUV and better fuel economy.

India: Crude oil price hike plagues plastic makers

The unprecedented hike in crude oil prices has started taking its toll on local plastic manufacturers.

Plastic products and engineering parts manufacturers are finding it difficult to procure the raw materials required for production in the wake of a 30-35 per cent hike in prices.

School lunch programs hit by food prices

WASHINGTON (AP) — Add schools to the list of places hit hard by rising food prices.

The school lunch program — long a reliable source of food for kids — is having serious trouble making cheap, healthy meals.

The culprit is food prices that have rocketed higher as fuel prices rise. It's not just the zooming cost of oil and gas; food prices are also driven by demand for corn-based ethanol, worldwide demand for food and the weak dollar, among other things.

Northwest Air to Cut 2,500 Jobs to Blunt Fuel Costs

(Bloomberg) -- Northwest Airlines Corp., the carrier being bought by Delta Air Lines Inc., will eliminate 2,500 jobs to counter record fuel costs.

High-speed trains seize short-haul market as fuel cost cripples the airlines

The airline industry has been crushed by the price of kerosene and deserted by passengers fed up with delays. After decades of disappointment, false dawns and virtually bankrupt Channel Tunnels, we have finally arrived at the age of the train and the evidence is in the crowd at St Pancras.

Airlines: Curb oil speculation

In open letter, 12 U.S. airlines call on Congress to curb excessive speculation that they say drives up oil and fuel prices, slamming the airline industry.

White House rejects call to tap oil stockpile

WASHINGTON - The White House on Tuesday rejected a call from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to release oil supplies from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help bring down fuel prices.

T. Boone Pickens: My Plan to Escape the Grip of Foreign Oil

Consider this: The world produces about 85 million barrels of oil a day, but global demand now tops 86 million barrels a day. And despite three years of record price increases, world oil production has declined every year since 2005. Meanwhile, the demand for oil will only increase as growing economies in countries like India and China gear up for enhanced oil consumption.

Energy Independence: The Final Frontier

Who said the following?

“Our ability to meet our own energy needs is directly linked to our continued ability to act decisively and independently at home and abroad in the service of peace, not only for America, bur for all nations in the world.”

Answer: Richard Nixon. Amidst Watergate and the Viet Nam War, Nixon said we need a top-level government focus on energy independence equivalent to the US’s program to put a man on the moon.

Nixon also wanted more public funding to explore Alaskan oil and gas, offshore oil reserves, nuclear energy and synthetic fuels from coal and oil shale. The United States, Nixon said, should be independent of all oil producing countries, “including our Canadian friends,” by 1976, saying that the United States must be independent in this area, and we can be.”

OPEC chief warns of 'unlimited' oil prices if Iran is attacked

VIENNA: The head of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries warned Thursday that oil prices would see an "unlimited" increase in the case of a military conflict involving Iran, because the group's members would be unable to make up the lost production.

"We really cannot replace Iran's production - it's not feasible to replace it," Abdalla Salem El-Badri, the OPEC secretary general, said in an interview.

Total withdraws from Iran amid political tensions

PARIS: Total, the French oil giant, has decided to back away from planned investments in Iran because of political uncertainty, a company official said Thursday.

Total's withdrawal from the country, including a planned massive gas project in the South Pars gas field, makes it the last major Western oil company to give up on Iran amid pressure from Washington to stop doing business with the Tehran government. The United States, Israel and other Western countries say Iran is seeking to developing nuclear weapons, but Iran says the program is for civilian purposes.

Nigerian militants end cease-fire in oil region

ABUJA, Nigeria - Nigeria's main militant group said Thursday it would resume attacks in the country's oil-rich river delta region because of Britain's recent pledge to back the government in the conflict there.

A top leader with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta told The Associated Press that the group was abandoning a two-week-old cease-fire as of midnight Saturday. He spoke anonymously to avoid identification and capture by the authorities.

Inpex Says Kashagan Oil Field Delayed by Two Years to 2013

(Bloomberg) -- Crude-oil production at the Kashagan project in Kazakhstan, one of the largest discoveries in the last three decades, may be delayed by two years to 2013, Inpex Holdings Inc. said.

``It's more realistic to expect Kashagan production to start in 2013,'' Chief Operating Officer Katsujiro Kida told investors in Singapore yesterday. Inpex, Japan's biggest oil explorer, said it has an 8.33 percent stake in Kashagan.

Egypt begins pumping natural gas into Syria as part of giant pipeline project

DAMASCUS, Syria: Egypt has begun pumping natural gas to Syria by a pipeline running through Jordan as part of a giant project to export Egyptian gas to the Middle East and eventually to Europe, Syria's oil minister said Thursday.

In Japan, resistance rises to nuclear-power plans

As global interest in nuclear power grows, Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s struggle with the world's largest nuclear plant -- shut down after an earthquake a year ago -- illustrates how tricky and expensive operating such facilities can be.

Argentine natural ice dam bursts for first time in winter

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) - A natural ice dam in southern Argentina broke open spectacularly on Wednesday -- the first time it has burst in winter, prompting experts to say climate change was the reason.

Japan giving 300-million-dollar climate loan to Indonesia

TOYAKO, Japan (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Wednesday announced a loan to Indonesia of 300 million dollars in the first batch of aid under Tokyo's new initiative on fighting climate change.

Key developing nations reject G-8 climate plan

TOYAKO, Japan - China, India and other energy-guzzling developing nations on Wednesday rejected key elements of a global warming strategy embraced by President Bush and leaders of wealthy nations. And the U.N's top climate official dismissed the G-8 goals as insignificant.

Decade-long Australian drought worsens

CANBERRA, Australia - A decade-long drought in Australia's most important crop-growing region is worsening and there is little hope for relief from either saving rains or a new government conservation plan, officials said Thursday.

The Murray-Darling river system, which produces 40 percent of Australia's fruit, vegetables and grain, is facing an economic and ecological crisis because of a decade of below-average rainfall.

The IEA is out today with the latest Highlights of the latest Oil Market Report

Normally they give us their estimate of last month’s world oil production. They failed to do so in this report however. They did say:

OPEC crude supply increased by 350 kb/d in June to 32.4 mb/d, as Saudi Arabian supply rose to 9.45 mb/d and exports from floating storage lifted Iranian supply to 3.8 mb/d.

Concerning Non-OPEC supply they said:

Non-OPEC supply is seen rising 640 kb/d to 50.6 mb/d in 2009, following a late-year increase in 2008,

That they are expecting a “late year increase” this year in non-OPEC supply tells me that it is not all that robust right now. They did mention the stock draw in the US.

A counter-seasonal US crude stock draw restricted the May OECD total oil stockbuild to 23.9 mb, only half its usual gain.

The reason for the US counter-seasonal stock draw is not hard to find. Net imports in May were down 1,411 kb/d verses May of 2007. Net imports were 11,373 kb/d for May 2008 verses 12,784 kb/d for May 2007. For the first five months of 2008, net imports are down 925 kb/d verses the first five months of 2007. Net imports averaged 11,288 kb/d January thru May verses 12,213 kb/d for the same five months last year.

Net imports peaked in 2005 and have been falling since. They fell rather slowly in 2006 and 2007 but seem to have fallen off a cliff in 2008.
EIA Petroleum Overview PDF

US monthly production and import data are available in Excel for those who like to copy and paste into their own spreadsheet. EIA Monthly Energy Review (MER)

Ron Patterson

2008 net imports are even lower than this, Ron. The April and May numbers in the Petroleum Overview PDF are estimates. The original net imports figure of 11,912 kb/d for April 2008 has since been revised to 11,498 kb/d, a drop of 414 kb/d.

EIA uses a model to estimate exports until they get the actual figures from the Census Bureau, and consistently in 2008 this has been underestimating the numbers. I think it's quite likely that May net imports will be revised downward too.

This is a graph of US oil imports, but gross and net of exports, using EIA data. The 2008 number is only through April, since that is the last month available.

It seems likes almost every product shows big shift in exports. We are now net exporters of distillate (diesel). Again, the 2008 amount is through April.

How ignorant are policy makers on the subject of energy?... Consider:

I’ve looked through some of the 2004 UN (?)reports(?) on global population projections (the ones that say world population will peak at 9 billion). The best I can figure (my opinion only) is that someone took historical population growth, fit a the (growth) curve to a mathematical formula, took the derivative of that formula, plotted it to zero, and then worked backwards until the final number (about 9,000,000,000) came up.

The ONLY other limiting factor that I saw was the potential mortality from an AIDS epidemic. I did NOT find any reference to agricultural, energy, other epidemiological, nor toxicological factors. So, IF the upper “safe” carrying capacity of the Earth is - say - 7.2 billion (just a number, but one that I would feel more comfortable with (and one that I could probably argue with far more mathematical justification)), then this means (inferred) that there are probably no policies in place to handle the Four Horsemen when they come a rid’in through town.

I think we’re all going to get blind-sided.

Would someone (PLEASE) prove me wrong?

Population estimates from the UN and elsewhere are based on present trends continuing, rather in the same way as oil demand (and supply) was estimated from extrapolating the trends.
The latest UN figures made a number of assumptions, among them that birth rates in the developed world would recover slightly, but still remain well short of replacement in most places, and that the developing world's birth rates would gradually drop towards replacement.
In the period up to around 2005 the world estimates have been pretty accurate, although not for individual countries and regions, as mistakes average.
No projection of this type though can stand discontinuities, and oil and energy getting tight and expensive is just that.
On a very provisional basis I have worked out some guesstimates of what peak oil might mean for population:
To have a very rough bash at it, perhaps the following regions might be considered:
The developed world, including North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia/NZ
Russia and Eastern Europe
South-East Asia
South and Central America, relatively developed
South and Central America, very poor
Africa south of the Sahara.
The Mahgreb.
Middle eastern oil exporting countries

The assumptions I am going to make to draw one possible future would be for oil and gas to increase in price and decrease in availability, for this to effectively break the world economy by 2012, and for regionalisation and mercantilist arrangements to take over. Coal prices would increase fairly much in parallel
The economy I am going to assume in the West is going to recover to some extent, with solar getting very cheap compared to current prices and other renewables and a nuclear build gradually kicking in, so we might be looking at a standard of living at perhaps 25% of current levels.
Poor countries will have to cope by themselves, and IMO no further development is to be expected.

Under those circumstances the West would likely have a large decrease in live births, with the US and Oceania dropping to similar levels to Italy - this is typically what happens in depressions in richer countries.
The great unknown here, and one which could send populations up, is immigration.
My central expectation would be that it would be severely curtailed as hard times hit.
So in the period up to, perhaps 2030 my guess for the region would be continued heavy falls in population.

Even with high oil prices Russia has a very low birth rate, and this does not seem likely to change, so both it and Eastern Europe may have continued large declines in population.

China is relatively developed, and hard times will likely have a similar effect, with the present decline continuing.
South-East Asia may follow a similar pattern, but perhaps with some areas like the Philippines and Indonesia going into an Argentina like situation, with a birth rate hovering above replacement. The Mahgreb is also on the cusp between those states that respond by the birth rate falling sharply, and those with rather above replacement rate figures for many years.

We are now coming to the really severely hit regions.
Sub-saharan Africa seems unlikely to do other than to become a war-zone with depleting resources.
Under those conditions the rate of population increase might actually go up, as it often does in wars.
It would seem unlikely that this could be sustained for long though, and it seems likely that very large falls in population would follow, perhaps in the 2015-20 time frame.
Angola and Nigeria might hang on for a few years, kept afloat by oil.
Egypt, Bangladesh and Pakistan seem likely to be in the same boat as most of Africa.

India is the hardest to work out, as it has the potential to go in most directions, either to an African-style collapse or to a relatively affluent solar-powered future.
My bet would be on a muddling along scenario, with population rising at close to the present projected rates by the UN out to 2030.

The oil producers of the middle east seem likely perhaps to continue to rapidly increase until the oil runs out, then to suffer a very severe collapse.

Overall then barring a major war this scenario might give a 2030 population of around the same as today rather than the 8.5billion or so assumed in median projections from BAU, with fairly large increases in India and South East Asia partly making up for relatively modest falls in the developed world and China and large falls in the poorest countries.

The levels of confidence in those figures is not high though, as a poor outcome in India and parts of #South America could knock 1-2 billion from that figure, whilst the emigration from the areas hardest hit, perhaps unexpectedly rapid and cheap development of solar power and the ability of people to somehow scrape through might lead to a much greater figure, although I would be surprised if it were higher than the 8.5 billion given in non-peak aware forecasts.

"China is relatively developed"

No, China is not. Still much poorer than most Latin American countries. If China classifies as relatively developed, then all middle eastern and north african countries and latin american countries and many asian countries classifies as well.

In view of the rather arbitrary nature of exchange rates, it is perhaps not advisable to take GNP figures too literally.
Perhaps though it is more correct to talk in terms of 'much of China' being relatively developed, as the situation in the coastal areas and the interior is very different.
Although differences in income have grown a lot greater in China, it is still not on the scale of Rio de Janiero, with the favellas bordering the gated walls of the wealthy.
Put crudely though, China has a lot of 'oomph', and for me at any rate it is not too difficult to imagine them, for instance, furthering the development of nuclear power relatively unassisted, whereas I have relatively little confidence in any of the nations of South America to branch out on their own in difficult times.
A great distinction should be made though between the likes of Brazil and Chile and Paraguay and Bolivia.
I attempted to make clear that the more severe consequences of peak oil were in my view likely to impact the popualtions of the laggard group much more than the leaders.
If the Chinese ruled Peru and imposed a one child per person policy I would be a lot more optimistic on their getting through in reasonable demographic shape - and the equivalent is happening in the poorer areas of China.
Thanks for the comment!

The rich and poor are more seperated in China than in Brazil because of the hukou-system which forces a huge share of the people to stay put in the grinding povery in the countryside. In Brazil, there's full freedom of movement, not like China with internal borders and internal illegal immigrants, unheard of in any other country in the world as far as I know. But it's not really about inequality, China can certainly compete with many latin american countries when it comes to that, although China is not crime-infested. But its rather about GDP per capita, share of agriculture in GDP and labor, average income levels, oil consumption per capita etc, GNP/GDP per capita can also be adjusted for exchange rate fluctuations using purchasing power parities.

China is a big country, India as well, or Indonesia for that matter, so there will be larger "elite groups of society", and larger tax bases, which make it possible for furthering nuclear development for example, but they are still far from reaching the income levels etc seen in most middle eastern, latin american or some asian countries, like Thailand and Malaysia for example. It will probably take 10 years for China to reach the development level of Malaysia. It's important to have that in perspective when talking about countries like China.

Thanks for the great input!
In your view, does this invalidate my comments on the possible course of Chinese demographics?
I basically see them managing to maintain their population, so that it would in time fall in a manner similar to current UN projections.
This is similar to my median guess for places like Thailand and Malasia.

Indonesia I see as much more likely to get stuck with gradually rising population, making a crash ever more likely, just as the Philippines is today.
Argentina has had a similar pattern for many years, neither growing so fast as very underdeveloped countries nor making the decisive break to sub-replacement rates, as, for instance, Iran has.
Brazil and Mexico also seem to be well on the way to sub-replacement rates, and I have projected them that way, but peak oil could of course throw a giant spanner in that.

It's hard to say, keep in mind the massive use of fertilizer in China which far exceeds any country in the world. There's some serious problems there, but agriculture is of utmost importance for the authorities so they can probably manage it. From a population control perspective, China is in a good position, and certainly was visionary when the population controls were implemented in the late 70s. India is quite a mess in my view on that side, and will probably have big immigration pressures from Bangladesh as well.

It is true that fertiliser user in China is greater than anywhere else, but that is in absolute terms not in per kilometer.

Egypt and Bangladesh are two of the countries which aren't rich and use far more fertiliser per km.
Egypt will probably be able to continue doing so for some time at least, as the Gulf States do not want it to collapse, but Bangladesh is more doubtful.

Interesting link. Although I think fertilizer use per capita is also important combined with the nation's income level, not just per sq km. Egypt and Bangladesh are both delta countries unlike China. I agree with your conclusion regarding sub-saharan africa. That's where the real population pain will be felt I'm afraid. Donor countries will have more than enough with themselves in a peak oil scenario.

Actually, the conclusion on Africa is pretty shaky too.
Nigeria for instance, let alone the Congo, is far less densely populated than India, still less Bangladesh, so an argument might be made that they can continue to up the population, living very poorly of course, for some time.
Solar energy is also likely to be a lot cheaper within a few years - it is around $1.29/watt cost for cell production (1st quarter 2007) from First Solar.

The mobile phone is also cutting down much of the need to install telephone networks, whilst hydro resources are vast.

Having said all that, I would still stick with my judgement that massive disruption and loss of life will occur there if anywhere.

China's electricity generation capacity will roughly double from 2005 to 2010, to reach 1000 GW, surpassing the US. Where the capacity for the next 1000 GW is going to come from will be interesting.

I second this! if having 600 million people with access to electricity is "Relatively Developed" I'd like to know...Relative to what?

'Relatively developed' in the sense that I think they have enough technology and their demography is well enough managed that they seem less likely than a lot of places in Africa to suffer a mass die-off.
If you check out the UN categorisations you will find it is pretty arbitrary too!

Any one country die to poor policy or miss-management can also do unexpectedly well or worse in demography, so India and China are exceptionally difficult to deal with - areas like South America excluding Brazil tend to be a bit easier, as policies average.

No one predicted the success of the Chinese population control measures, for instance, but the UN still did quite well on world rates as mistakes average out.

If China or India screw up, or if the monsoon persistently fails, this would have a huge impact though.

From the nice. smooth, rising curve of population we are now in an era in my view due largely to peak oil but with other factors also significant where the margins of error are a lot wider, and from a couple of percent might be twenty percent with the same degree of confidence.

Just like peak oil, you can't call peak population save with the benefit of hindsight, and a lot more things factor in than the relatively simple geological constraints causing peak oil.

However, the coming period is likely to have many of the characteristics of peak population, with much more instability, both in increased death rates and higher birth rates in areas where conditions get tough enough to trigger the response of having more children that wars typically do.

I hope you find this responsive to your comment, and thanks for the reply.

While the per capita income might be quite low, DaveMart is right, there are areas that are quite developed. I've been to Beijing, very soon now it will all skyscrapers, highways, billboards, Starbucks, traffic jams and shopping malls. Old, poor Beijing is getting bulldozed. Didn't look much like Central America at all to me.

Beijing is only 1% of China though, with strict immigration rules from other parts of the country. I think it is preferrable to travel to rural Guizhou and Gansu as well as Beijing and Guangzhou to get a more correct picture of the country as a whole.

In 2008, food is needed for some 2.5 billion more people than in 1972.

I saw yesterday, can't find it, that 980 million are in line for starvation.

That's the population of Africa now.

980 million seems to be taken as the baseline number in those living on less than a $1 a day.

So, IF the upper “safe” carrying capacity of the Earth is - say - 7.2 billion (just a number, but one that I would feel more comfortable with (and one that I could probably argue with far more mathematical justification)),..

A "safe" carrying capacity would be one that one that could be sustained over the long haul and one that would not destroy the ecosystem of the earth. I don't think anyone could argue with that. But what would that figure be. I would guess it would be somewhere between 2 and 4 billion people. But for absolute certainty, it would be far less than our current population of 6.6 billion.

Consider what our current population is doing to the world's ecosystem. The Aral Sea, once the world's fourth inland sea that fed hundreds of thousands with its fisheries is now mostly a salt flat with a pool of brine but no life. Lake Chad is now a mud hole one tenth its former size. The Black sea, whose fish once fed half of Russia is now a cesspool that supports mostly jellyfish. Many of the wold's great rivers now never reach the sea for most of the year, including China's Yellow River.

In an attempt to feed the masses of people in China, India and most of Asia, irrigation is causing the water tables to drop, sometimes by several meters per year. The world's forest, especially in South America, Central America, and Africa are being cut away for timber and planting. Haiti is a basket case with mudslides after every rain because the land has been denuded of trees. Hundreds of species are going extinct every day because humans are taking over their territory.

And I could go on and on and on documenting the devastation our massive population has wrought but you get the message, at least I hope you do. We are already deep into overshoot and are currently destroying our own niche. When any animal species has done that, evolutionary history has shown, a massive die-off always follows.

But you could give "mathematical justification" that the long term carrying capacity of the earth is 7.2 billion people. This I just gotta hear!

Ron Patterson

Every parabolic curve in decline reaches baseline.

Every curve goes non linear at the fat tail-just past apostosis.

Most every decline overshoots baseline.

That puts us at a +/- 1 billion(1886 pop).

See yeast sponge for details.

Reversion to average - S+P PE ratio since 1995 is 25 and average historically is 14 so it will have to drop way below this for many years.

The same with population. If average for last 500 years is say 500 million and for the last 50 years it was 5 billion then it has to fall way down to several hundred million for a century, mathematically speaking. This would make sense in terms of resource destruction as well in terms of overshoot hypothesis.

Isn't science wonderful?

Yeah, science does provide lots of answers to problems.

The trouble is, lots of people want to ignore those answers. For example, all those comments above about population crashing back to pre-1900 levels tend to ignore the massive accumulation of knowledge which has occurred since 1900. Sure, the Green Revolution in agriculture has made it possible to grow more food with the application of fossil fuels, but the knowledge upon which the Green Revolution depends can be used in other ways than simply applying lots of chemicals to land with heavy machinery to produce food.

With cheap fossil fuels, mankind has been able to replace the efforts of many people with those machines, yet, there is still a large fraction of humanity who lives off the land, MOL. It they were given the knowledge, they could produce much more with their individual efforts. That's not to say that present population levels or wealth could be maintained, but the claims that total population will crash back to pre-industrial levels ignores the massive amount of knowledge available to prevent this. To claim that this is a certainty is the same as claiming that all that scientific knowledge will be ignored or lost. The fact is, information is now so cheap that it's almost free and with the Internet, that information is available to almost anyone who has a minimal level of education. All the scientific studies and their information about the world can be stuffed into a small building on DVD's or other forms of digital data archives.

Of course, politics and economics may prevent the application of the available knowledge, but that's another problem, isn't it? And, local disruptions could well result in rapid declines in local populations as well, especially in areas that have high population densities and which are not self sufficient in food.

E. Swanson

As you say, the Green Revolution wasn't just fertilizer and pesticides, there were new breeds of crops that produced more food. E.g., the wheat we grow now has more grains per stalk than the pre-1900 wheat and it's also shorter so that it can still support itself with a heavier top. That strain of wheat won't go away just because we don't have as much oil as we'd like.

But, one could just as easily make the argument that things could well be changing faster than our ability to cope with it in the near future and it's not practically possible for humanity to stop it. This is especially true if the effects of peak oil are nasty and climate change really does end up changing or removing substantial amount of available crop land and does so rapidly. Usually species can adapt relatively well to limited pressure, but when you start piling things on they tend to get overwhelmed and succumb. In the long term, I think we're in a non-linear system and it's hard to predict what's going to happen.

"That strain of wheat won't go away just because we don't have as much oil as we'd like. "

The problem is that these strains require major inputs of fertilizer and water to do their thing. You can't get something for nothing.

Yes, it is hard to predict what is going to happen...

Monocultures are BAD. Wheat rust rampant this year. Sorry no links.

Our culture can still read clay tablets from the ancient Mesopotamians.

Good luck any one in the future reading DVD's!

That is the same issue as I had, only more ably expressed.
I remember as a kid in the early 60's the newspaper articles about famines in India and Africa.
At the time it seemed a certainty to me that this would worsen and lead to a population crash.
I was blind-sided by the green revolution, and since then have tried to avoid being too definitive in my predictions.

A lot of people who were taking about exponential population growth were also caught out when they dropped below replacement in many areas.

Some simple, relatively near-term things we can be pretty sure of, but it is easy to miss something in relatively complex things, especially over a longer time period.

I agree, far too many people have fallen into the trap of making simplistic predictions about things that are extremely complex, and highly interconnected. The history of futurism is of people taking a trend and projecting it forwards ignoring anything else. To be fair, that problem occurs on all sides. Among many other examples, the "technological singularity".

Perhaps one of the best TV series ever was James Burke's Connections. After watching that, and seeing how convoluted and often unlikely events led to the present, anyone should be very skeptical about any predictions of the future course of society.

I'm not so sure our scientific knowledge will be of that much help.

It's true that American pioneers made a lot of mistakes in their attempts to farm the frontier...but they were newcomers to the continent. In much of the world, the people have been living there for a very long time, and have adapted to their environments. By trial and error rather than by scientific method, but still.

I come across articles about breakthroughs in agriculture in, say, Africa...and it's usually about providing subsistence farmers with hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers. Yes, that "knowledge" helps them greatly now, but how sustainable is it in the light of peak oil?

There's also the question of how long we will keep our knowledge. Knowledge, even very useful knowledge, can be lost. It takes a certain amount of energy to maintain that kind of complexity. Even something as basic as literacy may be hard to maintain. If you need the kids to work, sending them to school is a hardship. Not to mention the burden supporting elites - whether doctors, teachers, scientists, or priests - puts on everyone else.

Imagine a world where everyone assumes their children will know less and have less than they have...the opposite of the current situation, where people expect their children to know more and have more than they had.

Regarding children and school ...

"Food Crisis - Egypt" (12 minutes)


at about 6:10 into the video, we see a boy who waits in line to buy bread for his family for 4 hours. This keeps him out of school.

I was sort of hoping somebody with data could make a graph extrapolating hsitorical trends linearly, say natual incrrease of .1% from year 1000-1500 continuing to year 2500 and see where we would be if the exponential growth had not occurred from 500 million to 7 billion. Where should we be at a sensible trend level and how do we get backto trend? I thinkundershoot will be necessary. Only as in the discussion below carrying capacity is not only humans but total biota. According to Maximum Power Principal I would expect an invasive dominant species to not allow other species to exert themselves to the invasive specie's disadvantage. MPP seems like a suicide pact for a society however. Long term stability has often been acheived in a total ecosphere, including humans. Maybe this is what we are now experiencing. The humans are the global invasive species which over many thousands of generations have disturbed the ecological balance until at some point the balance is consciously attained or the humans just don't get it and the moonscape for cockroaches is left. I suppose a big die off would work wonders and I see no right to life for so many of us as even my grandfather was born before there were one billion of us.

It is plain ridiculous all this emotional protest. Death can be quick and painless and then from the other side it is all a joke. To quote a very famous yogi when asked by another why does God allow suffering he answered "What is suffering? Who suffers?" Obviously we are not the body and the identification with the body is the primary error in our thought processes. We cannot detach ourselves and so make bad decisions based on ego(connection to body)such as MPP types of decisions/purely animal decisions. Science is cold and hard and emotionless based on intellect but true religious thought is much more brutal. Death and life are not in fact beginning or end so we can be colder and more rational than scientists. We can question things out to a more logical end without getting upset. Death is just another experience and extinction too if we can accept it of course. If you are neither male or female in heaven then you are neither human or anything else but just spirit. On the other hand when this is all there is when life is over then who cares anyway except of course for posterity and what the hell is that?

There are two different questions here:

1. Is it possible for humans to maintain a population of 6,7,8 or 9 billion after we have degraded the biosphere to the point where biological diversity and ecosystem productivity is much lower than when we had a population of 1 billion? Can technology allow us to substitute for the natural ecosystems and keep ourselves alive?

2. If the answer to #1 is "Yes", than the next question is "should we"?

It may be possible for 9 billion of us to live for a good long time on a degraded earth, just as 300+ Americans now live in a U.S. that has much less biological diversity and very few intact ecosystems, but that doesn't mean it is neccessarily the best idea, or that it will work forever.

The answer to question number 1 is NO. The answer to question number 2 doesn't matter because humanity has never paid any attention as to what we "should do" and since human nature has not changed lately, will not do so in the future.

Here is just ONE reason the population explosion will soon turn into a population decline.

Irrigated area accounted for only 20 percent of total arable land in 1997–99, yet farmers worldwide harvested 40 percent of all crops and nearly 60 percent of cereals from these lands.7 In China, the 45 percent of agricultural land that is irrigated produced 75 percent of the nation’s food in 2002. Worldwatch Institute on Irrigated Land
Meanwhile, water tables are falling, as farmers pump more water to meet the growing world demand for food. Water tables are now dropping in key farming areas of China, India, and the United States. In China, 70 percent of the grain comes from irrigated land. In India, the figure is 50 percent, and in the United States, almost 20 percent. RISING TEMPERATURES & FALLING WATER TABLES

The area of irrigated land is now starting to shrink in India and China, and soon everywhere else in the world. That is because everywhere in the world water tables are falling and rivers are running dry. As the water table falls irrigation wells are running dry. A very large percentage of the world's population now survives because of food produced from irrigated land. That food is now dwindling and the percent of our population that survives on that food must dwindle also.

And as I said, that is just ONE reason that the earth cannot possibly support, for very long, our current population. There are many, many other reasons.

Ron Patterson

Just to be pugnacious and controversial I will make a strong statement. I find this quibbling over carrying capacity to be virtually meaningless.

Carrying capacity will be determined by the organization of political societies. If we allow Archer Daniel Midlands and Mansanto to determine the policies of agriculture for most of the world then our carrying capacity will be extremely low. But if we replicate the Cuban model of creating individual gardens for the growing of food then many more people will survive.


If we follow Richard Heinberg's Oil Depletion Protocol to regulate the last amount of oil then we will not have catastrophic wars. If we follow the Lockheed Martin/AIPAC/HR 362 plan of hegemony over the Gulf then we will have war followed by a massive die off.

If we reach peak oil and we follow Milton Friedman's plan of continuing to allow the top 1% of society to accumulate more resources then we will surely have a massive die off, with Blackwater protecting the compounds of the super-wealthy.


But if we find some way to redistribute the wealth in the world then more people will survive. This cold debate about whether 2 billion people or 5 billion will die, ignores the real choices that Peak Oil confronts us with. That is not to say that we should not be aware of environmental degradation and carrying capacity but ignoring the real political fight for power that is ongoing is irresponsible.

Neoconned, carrying capacity is not determined by any political organization. Carrying capacity is determined entirely by nature. Carrying Capacity is defined as:

largest number of individuals of a particular species that can survive over long periods of time in a given enviroment, this level depends on the effect of the limiting factors.

"Long periods of time" implies that the environment is not degraded because if it were then the carrying capacity would be reduced. Our current environment is being seriously degraded. This means that we are currently well above the earth's carrying capacity of human beings.

Ron Patterson

Carrying capacity on Easter Island was determined by the political structure and culture of the island.

The Vikings of Greenland could have adopted the culture of the native peoples but they continued their culture of cutting down trees and sheep herding.

The world today is greatly affected by the SUV driving, militaristic society of the United States that consumes 25% of the world's resources. With a combined military budget greater than all the military forces of the world combined, our decisions will affect how many people will be alive 20 years from today.

There will be a die off but the severity of it will be determined by how enlightened the United States acts and the other powerful countries in the world today.

Your scenario of doom is the most likely outcome but it is not inevitable and should be fought against.

Neoconned, you are delusional if you think that political structures can alter what reality can provide. But maybe you are an economist...

Political structure, if it is very wise, foresightful, and flexible, can perhaps figure out some way of socially engineering a more-or-less graceful descent back down to carrying capacity.

This does not (necessarily) mean a "die-off". But it certainly implies attrition of population over time, at the very least.

Do you honestly believe that our political structure can and will manage this? Can any political structure? I guess that's the question.

The carrying capacity of Easter Island, Greenland, etc., was not determined by the political structures. It was ignored by those structures, resulting in collapse.

Carrying capacity is a physical reality. Politics (whatever that means) can learn to live with that or not. But politics can not determine what the carrying capacity is. If you believe it can, you do not understand the concept.

Politics can affect the carrying capacity.

Do "we" maintain the irrigation system or not ?

Do "we" store surplus from the good harvests for the bad years ?

Do we make ethanol fuel from food ?

Do we export food during a famine ? Do we allow cheap imports in or not ? (Both of these political measures could have raised the carrying capacity of Ireland during the famine).


How silly of you Alan.

As we all know irrigation systems, food stocks, and harvests are not "Reality" with a capitol R.

The only reality is the species, environment and carrying capacity. Stopping muddling the dogma, I mean model with noise.

That's right, neoconned! ;-)

To the extent that your irrigation system doesn't rely on massive importations of fossil fuel (to drill deeper into the ever-depleting aquifers, provide fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, run the machinery, etc.), irrigation is wonderful! Of course, it salts up and ruins the soil in time.

It is not dogma. It surely is reality, with a capital R, and if you don't get it, you don't get it. You can't change what the land will produce sustainably, nor the population that that production can support.

There is a fixed amount of incoming solar, a fixed amount of (sustainably) arable land, a fixed amount of available water. That is reality, that is what carrying capacity means.

C'mon, admit it, you're an economist, aren't you! ;-)

No, I am a political scientist but now that you have enlightened me about carrying capacity, I realize that all the models we have been using are all wrong.

Take for instance the model I used for the Rwandan genocide. I used to think that it made a difference that U.N. troops were pulled out of the country while the genocide was taking place. That the U.S. refused to call it genocide because of our experience in Somalia. I used to think that the Hutu leadership that wanted to stay in power was important and that the militias they formed made the killing more efficient. I used to think the fact that Rwanda was a densely populated poor country was one of many factors. Now I realize it was the only factor.

Those Tutsis just exceeded their carrying capacity. Screw em.

Sorry for being so sarcastic but your model does not explain everything in the complicated world we live in. And when you take your model too far it just simply doesn't work. This doesn't your model is useless it just means that it only explains some of the variance not all of it.

It means that you might want to learn a little bit about Ethiopian history before you flippantly dismiss the suffering of a population that "exceeded its carrying capacity."

"Those Tutsis just exceeded their carrying capacity. Screw em.

Sorry for being so sarcastic but your model does not explain everything in the complicated world we live in."

Arrgghh! Where do you get "screw the Tutsis" from my explanations of CC? You are getting really trollish here. "Sorry for being sarcastic", my ass - you revel in it. You are not making any sense.

"your model does not explain everything in the complicated world we live in."

Yes, my bad, because I repeatedly said it explains everything (he said sarcastically). You are not being serious, are you.

"It means that you might want to learn a little bit about Ethiopian history before you flippantly dismiss the suffering of a population that "exceeded its carrying capacity."

As it happens, I know a fair amount about Ethiopian history.

Are you deliberately trying to be an asshole? I am anything but flippant about the suffering of Ethiopians, or any population, as I have said repeatedly. I do not blame them, nor do I want them to just go away. In fact, to the bottom of my soul, I want to avoid such situations in future, in the name of our shared humanity.

I have just had that cold feeling wash over me, that I have been trying to have a meaningful conversation with a troll. You'd think I'd know by now.

sgage-- I think that you should take a few breaths before you start accusing people of being trolls or economists when they happen to disagree with you.

Name calling is often employed when people's dogmas are questioned and frankly I was questioning the religious tone that I hear from you and others sometimes.

The truth is we have no idea what is going to happen in the future as a result of Peak Oil. And I get a little tired of people who are so sure of the future based on one model or another.

The main point of my comments was to introduce some complexity and uncertainty to the future. And secondarily say that more than one discipline is needed in order to understand the mess which is human society-- something that you don't necessarily disagree with. I think that we were talking past each other to a certain extent. You need to lighten up a little bit- I am a sarcastic Irishmen not a troll.

"I think that you should take a few breaths before you start accusing people of being trolls or economists when they happen to disagree with you."

I don't accuse people of being trolls for disagreeing with me, as my long history here will confirm.

And I yield to no man in my appreciation of complexity and uncertainty. I am an ecologist, after all.

I was just trying to define terms. CC is a technical term, and folks were misappropriating it.

I am extremely lightened up - just having a bit of intellectual fun. Well, it's important too.

If you are a sarcastic Irishman, I dedicate this Smithwick's to you! Cheers! We're all in this together, my friend!

The fundamentalist, right wing influence on our birth control policies including the prohibition of abortions if aid is provided, is not helpful. Instead, we just sit back and wait for the inevitable genocide or mass starvation that results from too many people on too little land. Jared Diamond discusses extensively the relationship between reduced availability of agricultural land and genocide. Yes, intervention might be able to reduce conflict for a time, but one is still left with the lack of land per person and reduced food per person. As long as we don't figure out a way to institute meaningful birth control, we will continue to see mass genocide and/or starvation, and death.

Fighting over resources is nothing new, of course. It is just that it is just more stark and tragic in places like RWANDA. People come up with all sorts of supposed reasons for killing each other, but ultimately it goes back to the resource. We are finally learning that about Iraq.

Those of us who have never really been in true deprivation mode have trouble understanding this. Starve us for a few days and see what would happen.

No, I am a political scientist

Doh!!! That's as bad as admitting your an economist!(sorry prof. Goose)

The underlying resource capacity creates conditions of scarcity which make it more likely that certain ethnic and political groups are more likely to, in essence, reduce scarcity for themselves by engaging in genocide and pushing people off the land. Both the U.N. and the U.S. exacerbated this situation by not taking necessary action to stop the genocide. Resource availability was probably the primary factor creating the conditions for the genocide that ensued. This doesn't mean that how that all plays out is solely determined by the resource scarcity. However, as long as there are not sufficient resources to go around, these kinds of conflicts and genocides will continue. The closer the populous is to mere survival, the greater likelihood that conflicts and mass killings will occur.

Political action and the nature of the society can alter the course of speed as to how this all plays out. But to the extent that these societies, or any society bumps up against scarcity, violence and death will ensue.

As resources become more constrained on a global level, especially energy resources, we may reach a situation where our very survival in in jeopardy because, for example, the Chinese have locked up much of the world's remaining oil supply. If we don't take steps to secure oil supplies or find ways to survive on alternative sources of energy, history would indicate that we will eventually be at war with China or any other country that endangers our survival.

I don't think this is all either/or. It is not all about carrying capacity,nor is it all about political, cultural, or social arrangements. They interact with each other in a way that determines the degree and severity of conflict.

The challenge is to find a way to bring into balance the resident population and the resources available, carrying capacity if you will. To the extent that every improvement just results in additional population, the problem never gets solved. Ultimately, the population needs to be stabilized and reduced. In the absence of declining birth rates through population control of some sort, people will die in massive numbers fighting over the dwindling resources.

The green revolution is no longer an answer because it is highly dependent upon expensive and scarce inputs of fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. Many farmers in India, for example, are recognizing this problem and going organic. They will be able to make a living for a time because although productivity will decrease, increased revenues make up for the decrease. In a world with organic agriculture however, regardless of how well done, there will probably be a decrease of food available. Changes in diet and distribution can partially compensate for decreased production but ultimately population will have to be brought down to bring things back in balance.

We should not be simply writing off any group of people but we should be providing assistance that takes into account the fact that we live in an increasingly resource constrained world. Without assistance that meaningfully reduces population through birth control, death control through genocide or other means will be the preferred solution.

I wouldn't write off al aspects of the green revolution too hastily.
GM plants to fix nitrogen might be handy, as might drought resistant varieties.
We also have agrichar and permaculture which are showing promise, although not all is plain sailing there.
I wouldn't go overboard on optimism either, mind!

"Politics can affect the carrying capacity."

Not in the long run. But I am beginning to see what's going on here. You see, I am an ecologist, and CC has a specific meaning, and most folks here seem to be making up their own definition.

But think about time scale, geographic scale. The carrying capacity of Ireland is the carrying capacity of Ireland. Political measures could have helped a lot of folks. But the Famine was not about carrying capacity - it was about reliance on a single crop that failed.

Importing food, even cheaply, would not have raised the carrying capacity of Ireland. Carrying capacity does NOT mean how many people can we feed this year and next. It has a time element - sustainability.

There is a solar flux upon Ireland, an available amount of arable land, water, a certain degree of native soil fertility. That determines carrying capacity.

Precisely! It is perhaps also worth noting that the different political conditions of Ireland compared to the rest of the UK were what gave rise to the over-reliance on potatoes, and their inability to cope when that crop failed.
Different legislation meant that it was difficult to improve the land and benefit thereby.
Much of the excess rural population of England and Scotland went to the cities, where industrialisation gave them work, whereas in Ireland they farmed ever smaller plots.
Partly due to the absence of fossil fuels and partly due to restrictive legislation there were few industrial jobs to go to in Ireland.
The shortages of food in Ireland were mainly a result of shortage of money to pay for it.
Potato farmers in other regions of the UK had alternatives to starvation.

I doubt that the carrying capacity of England per acre was far different to Ireland, but the results were very different.
It also seems doubtful that you will get most folk here to use the term 'carrying capacity' precisely enough to be much help in any debate - but the best of British in trying! ;-)

Better yet, cut off all imports to Japan for a year. See how many people would die. We have trouble understanding CC because are so globally interconnected. But once the world runs up against CC, we run out of options.

Hello Tstreet,

Jay Hanson once speculatively suggested that the Govts give everyone a death insurance policy to further induce those so-inclined WTSHTF; when the burden becomes too much to bear. A person committing suicide; their early self-selected removal from the gene pool and subsequent footprint reduction would give a small cash payout to the chosen beneficiaries. No payout for a normal death, of course.

One could picture a whole family tree decimating themselves so that one seed would have a much greater postPeak future. Could help reduce Overshoot quite quickly. Not unlike prior to WWII, where some aware families sold nearly everything to try and send a child ahead to America. If memory serves: I recall that Andy Grove, who later became Chairman of Intel, was one of the lucky children.

Naturally, a planned decline in this family manner would be much better than a wholesale lemming plunge such as the Saipan cliffjumpers. A logical Overshoot retreat thus preserves the greatest potential for maximum human genetic diversity going forward, which, IMO, is important for optimal adaptability to changing conditions. As a non-biased example: if we stupidly killed off every member of the genetic 'polkadot' family--> that maybe prove sufficient to insure the extinction of all.

Recall my earlier speculative posting series on universal finger amputation based upon ecologic extinction rates being higher than the normal background extinction rate. This has multiple benefits:

1. Everyone shares in the pain as the gorilla, tiger, lion, dolphin, elk, tuna, elephant, eagle, giant sequoia, sahauro cactus, german shepard, camel, tomato, apple, carrot, etc, goes extinct. The cost of Overshoot becomes real to all.

2. No corruption possible: If everyone in the world has nine fingers [or less over time], it would be impossible for some person to never reveal that he/she still has the full ten.

3. By starting with the index trigger fingers: it becomes increasingly problematic to accurately discharge guns, throw spears, shoot arrows, swing machetes, or weave fishing nets. This will help the remaining animals to have a greater chance to survive, thus gradually reducing the extinction rate as more fingers are gradually lopped off over time.

4. Once the thumbs and sufficent fingers are lopped off: it will be nearly impossible to practice extrasomatic reach. We will be unable to light a fire, or use most handtools--> thus bringing us back to full harmony with our environment.

5. Obviously, one could forsee people trying to use their feet to accomplish tasks as their fingers are whittled away over time. Quickly lopping off their feet should rapidly halt this practice.

My guess is that once our index fingers are gone for everyone: the resulting mitigative change would be so rapid for everyone that Peak Outreach would be universal everywhere. Nobody would be willing to lose any more fingers--rampant cooperation everywhere to protect ourselves, with the simultaneous protection of the environment.

This speculation originally occurred to me when I read about a tribe in New Guinea [?] where the wives chop off their own finger when they lose a family member. IMO, this tribe practices the most advanced ecologic thinking on the planet. I wouldn't dare call them 'primitive'.

But I bet 'advanced' tribes will never accept this mindset to protect our biodiversity. :(

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

I used to say, and this is coming from an environmentalist, that if one is a true environmentalist, that one should commit suicide and be buried naturally, of course, in order to contribute to soil fertility.

We could being a less radical approach than you suggested by saving our own seed and not using it for impregnation.

Then the Irish potato famine dropped the population far below the "carrying capacity". Within a couple of years (from memory) new blight resistant potato varieties had been introduced.

In more normal circumstances, human societies can make the "political" decision whether to store excess crops for several years or not. If the decision is "not", then the carrying capacity is what can supported by food grown in a crop failure year. If the decision is "yes" (see Joseph in Egypt), then the carrying capacity is far higher. According to the Bible, Joseph may have quadrupled (SWAG) the carrying capacity of Egypt through seven lean years (later the Hebrews breed at near record rates per the Bible).

It is my understanding (NOT an expert) that the Mayans had exceeded their carrying capacity and had a revolution. Said revolution disrupted their political organization and lead to a lack of maintenance on their "sustainable" irrigation systems. Lack of irrigation then dramatically lowered their carrying capacity.

There are a variety of other ways that humans can raise or lower their carrying capacity.



CC is a physical limitation, based on soil, insolation, water, etc. Humans do not raise or lower the carrying capacity. Humans can surely raise or lower the number of people living in an area at a given time. But this is not the ecological concept of carrying capacity. CC is a technical term, based on what the Earth can sustainably support.

There is only so much arable land, so much incoming solar, so much water (not your problem in NOLA :-) , so much fertility. When you start to talk about importing various inputs, well, these are just temporary palliatives.

CC can only temporarily be subverted.

CC can only temporarily be subverted.

Now that is the kind of statement I have difficulty with!
I don't think that it is possible to completely detach the level of technology from the carrying capacity, at least if we are talking about human populations.
As we discussed earlier, cities are in apparent violation of this edict, or you would have to define 'temporarily' very broadly.
In practise, of course, they draw on a broader area, so the real limits as opposed to theoretical are dependent on transport being maintained.
It may also be argued that whole nations such as Britain have contravened this for many years, as they were reliant on food imports.

If you wish to argue that CC is a purely theoretical construct, dependent on water, soil and sunshine, then this limit is never breached and nor can it be subverted.
If it actually has some bearing on actual populations then it is simply inaccurate, and neither is the population dependent on soil, sun or water in any given area which is less than the total area under the control of that society - it is also a construct dependent on technology, energy resources and politics.

"As we discussed earlier, cities are in apparent violation of this edict, or you would have to define 'temporarily' very broadly."

Cities are totally in violation of this "edict". They gather in from a hinterland. They suck their life's blood from the rest of the world.

Technology, whatever that is, has nothing to do with it.

"It may also be argued that whole nations such as Britain have contravened this for many years, as they were reliant on food imports."

That's EXACTLY why they have contravened it! You simply are not getting it. What happens to food importing nations when the food exporting nations can't export any more? It's a temporary workaround.

"In practise, of course, they draw on a broader area"


"If you wish to argue that CC is a purely theoretical construct, dependent on water, soil and sunshine, then this limit is never breached and nor can it be subverted."

I DO wish to argue this. It is NOT purely theoretical. It CAN be breached temporarily, in some locations, at the expense of others. It can absolutely NOT be subverted.

If you think it can, you have left the path of reason.

CC can then only properly be construed as consisting of the entire biosphere - in which case it is impossible to subvert it.

The rest of the argument depends totally on the political and economic system prevalent.

It appears that you wish to argue that cities should not exist, and that nations can only 'temporarily' import food.

Well, Rome did it for a few hundred years at any rate, so it depends what you mean by temporary - nothing is forever, including a sustainable population, as the carrying capacity of land can change.

It all seems like a pretty fancy way of saying that you don't much like cities, although apparently villages would be OK, although if you want to restrict the area enough they violate the principle of sustainability just as much as cities.

It is possible that 'I am just not getting it' - however, from my POV it appears that you 'just aren't getting it' and so debate on those terms seems pointless.

So what you are basically saying is that you don't like cities and don't think it right for a nation to import food?
Bang goes civilisation for around the last 5,000 years then!
I very much doubt that the society you suggest would be able to support specialists, like, say, ecologists.
Nor would it be able to sustain itself against other societies which did group large numbers of people together and specialise, for instance into warriors.
That is why the City states became dominant.
And that is why Italy and later Britain ended up as areas of concentrated population which ruled far larger areas and imported most of their food.

It might be 'temporary', but 5,000 years ain't bad.

Now that is the kind of statement I have difficulty with!

Well then actually express why the definition given by sgage or even Odum (in the eMergy model) for carrying capacity is wrong.

Show how the soil-photon-water nexus is wrong.

Eric, if you are unable to understand or alternatively disagree with the extensive discussion which has already taken place on this issue in this thread I am unable to help or elucidate further.

Well you are not giving YOUR reasons as to why you 'have an issue' with the analysis.

Your thinking might just be flawed - but the only way to know that is if you spell out what you are thinking so others can look at it to determine the flaws.

The reverse is also true, you may be right, but you have zero chance of influencing the debate if you do not explain.

Your handwaving is noted however.

Food storage allows temporal importation.

Joseph imported grain from the 7 good years for people to eat instead of starve during the 7 lean years. This raised the carrying capacity of Egypt dramatically (consider the population after 7 years of famine vs, what the Bible records). I consider food storage to be sustainable *IF* the "political" situation allows it.

Maintaining irrigation systems vs. neglect (failure) has a dramatic effect on crop yields and human population carrying capacity since irrigated fields yield much more than dry land farming (typically). Traditionally irrigation was an extremely political act. (as was draining marshes, etc.)


How does that solve the ultimate problem though? We can mitigate and mitigate, if we exceed the capacity, eventually the limits click in. If we happen to destroy too much of the support system around us while increasing our numbers, that is part of it as well.

This will sound snarky but so what. There ain't no solving the ultimate problem. On a long enough time line we're all dead. You want to solve the "ultimate problem" pick up a bible and believe every word of it. Then you have absolute certainty. You got it all figured out.

Sorry but some of this ecology/environmentalism is striking me as religious. Human beings are pattern creating machines. They seek certainty. They do this through religion and sometimes science. But true science understands the limits of human knowledge.

Instructive to read Jared Diamond's "Guns Germs and Steel". Political organization became possible to a large extent only because of food surpluses. Armies, bureaucrats can only be fed if there are food surpluses.


Looking at some of the largest cases of famine that have occurred in the world up until this point you see that politics had a much greater affect than the environment.

The Irish Potato Famine- crop failure followed by the British Government continuing to export food from Ireland.

The Great Leap Forward- Communist village officials place high quotas on the amount of food they will give to the government. The food is taken away and rots while approximately 50 million people starve.

Ethiopia- a civil war turns food relief into a way of strengthening the military. This model of war and famine plays out in countless other African countries.

The next potential famine: The Great Famine of 2008. After Congressional approval of HR 362/SR 580, Bush begins the blockade against Iran that later turns to war. Oil prices go to 350 dollars. Agricultural exports and shipments are cut off. Millions die.

"The Irish Potato Famine- crop failure followed by the British Government continuing to export food from Ireland."

Not to let the British Government off the hook, but they did not "allow" a crop failure. There was nothing to be done about the blight that destroyed the Irish potato crop. They surely could have mitigated the catastrophe by handling it more compassionately, and criminally did not, but they did not "allow" the crop failure. I feel precision in these matters is important.

But now we edge into another subject. The carrying capacity of, say Africa and the carrying capacity of, say, the world. Does "the world" owe it to Africa (or China, or whoever) to allow its population to grossly exceed their own carrying capacity? Or run populations up to levels only supportable if everything goes just right, this year? Populations live up to their food supply...

This is not a rhetorical question - it gets to the heart of the matter. What happens when food exporting nations undergo crop shortages? (See Australia) What do corn farmers in Iowa owe people in some far off land? Why?

People just don't think these things through on the most rudimentary level.

"Ethiopia- a civil war turns food relief into a way of strengthening the military. This model of war and famine plays out in countless other African countries."

Why does Ethiopia NEED food relief? Think it through... the concept you're groping for is carrying capacity.

The argument between political effects and environmental effects is much like the argument between nature and nurture. This is a false dichotomy.

We are biological beings in a cultural setting.

The environment has an effect(the potatoes come up black) and the political has an effect(the British Parliament ignores the starvation of the Irish Catholics).

Some of the environmental determinism that occurs on TOD is counterproductive. Our society, culture, and politics will have a great effect upon what happens as we reach Peak and subsequent depletion. I am extremely uncomfortable with people from the first world blithely debating about the starvation of the third world. It doesn't mean that we can necessarily stop it from happening(no I am not an economist-what a dumb comment)but I think there is an inherent superiority that underlies your debate about the inevitable billions dead. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't talk about carrying capacity or the environment but we should always include society and politics in that discussion.

Environment is not completely deterministic. The evidence of this is all around us. http://www.lars.purdue.edu/seminar/presentations/2005_Seminar5.pdf

"The argument between political effects and environmental effects is much like the argument between nature and nurture. This is a false dichotomy."

Bullshit - bogus analogy. Political structures can (perhaps) more-or-less recognize and fit themselves to a given environment. But there is no argument between political effects and environmental effects - environmental effects set the parameters of the game. Politics can not extend these parameters, it can only fake it temporarily, with the inevitable overshoot.

"The environment has an effect(the potatoes come up black) and the political has an effect(the British Parliament ignores the starvation of the Irish Catholics)."

True, of course! But it has nothing whatsoever to do with the carrying capacity.

"(no I am not an economist-what a dumb comment)"

Not at all a dumb comment - people who think that social constructs can change what reality can ultimately provide are very often economists.

"It doesn't mean that we shouldn't talk about carrying capacity or the environment but we should always include society and politics in that discussion."

Of course we should! Who says otherwise? But the outside parameters are everywhere and always set by the environment, or as I like to call it, Reality. Society and politics can choose to recognize this and accommodate it, or not. But Society and Politics does not change carrying capacity. If you don't get that, you don't understand the concept.

We are biological beings in a cultural setting.

One could just as truthfully say we are cultural beings in a biological setting. :)

Environment is deterministic in that it imposes limits to growth. Technology, an aspect of culture, can find ways around some of those limits, and, given enough time, energy, and materials, may be able to continue to overcome those limits indefinitely. But let's keep the discussion practical, not theoretical. Given that we currently have no equivalent energy alternative to fossil fuels, we are depleting other resources necessary to support our population (i.e. NPK), we haven't yet developed the technology to mine or colonize other planets, and we are rapidly degrading the ecosystems that support our species (as well as all other species), I'd say the environment has determined that there are too many of us and our numbers must be reduced. Nature will cull the weakest first. Political structures will determine who they are. Political structures cannot prevent the culling.

"Why does Ethiopia NEED food relief? Think it through... the concept you're groping for is carrying capacity."

No the concept that I am groping for is men with guns determining who will live and who will die.

On a long enough time line all of this environmental determinism is correct but not necessarily in our lifetimes. Men with guns will determine who will live and who will die. Decisions will be made that will have very real consequences. Sudan's carrying capacity has very little to do with the suffering of those people. Africa is abundantly rich in resources with a sad history of colonialism and crappy political systems.

To stand back and say, "Oh well, why should we help these people? They exceeded their carrying capacity." Turns my stomach.

"No the concept that I am groping for is men with guns determining who will live and who will die. "

But it wouldn't be an issue if Ethiopia was not reliant upon imported food aid! I.e., if Ethiopia was not exceeding its carrying capacity by a large margin!

"To stand back and say, "Oh well, why should we help these people? They exceeded their carrying capacity." Turns my stomach."

Aren't you the sensitive soul! Yes, I am gleeful at all the misery in the world - you found my secret. Talk about a dumb comment!

Look, they exceeded their carrying capacity because we dumped food aid on them. Populations grow to their food supply. NOT talking genocidal instant cessation of food aid here, just saying that creating an ever-larger population of starving people, vulnerable to your "men with guns", just might not be the right way to go. If for no other reason than the time is going to come when we can't feed them.

You just aren't getting it at all.

Just curious. Have you had any advanced biology or anthropology courses?

I agree with you neoconned. Concepts based on animals don't translate easily to humans. People were starving even when food was super-cheap a few years ago. Actually, food is still super-cheap today. It is more a question of who gets the food, and how do they get the food. I would guess that about 50% of all the food in the US is wasted one way or another.


Easter Island's carrying capacity was altered by the inhabitants (who - it seems - had no idea as to the extent that they were altering their environment).

The Vikings at Greenland are a bit of an archeological mystery. New evidence indicates that it might have been a voluntary withdrawal off the Island as the climate got colder. The latest I heard was that the remains of the last Viking couple to have been married in Greenland were recently found to be buried in Iceland. Also, there is question as to whether or not the Eskimoes were in the area when the climate was warm. Besides, given the choice to adapt... or head off to warmer climes I think most would pick the latter.

The story of Easter Island depends on whose history you read. Easter Island was apparently doing OK when the West first visited, but after a few years of introducing rats and Western diseases, and taking away natives for slaves, Easter Island seemed to take a sudden downturn. "Witness statements" from starving Islanders seeking aid from Western missionaries were heavily biased in favour of not blaming Westerners.

Since Easter Island was certainly significantly affected by contact with the West, and may also have been affected by climate change, drawing definitive conclusions is impossible.

The rats came with the original introduction of people to the island. They were not introduced by the west.

And Easter Island was a barren wasteland when first visited by the west.

The island collapsed long before westerners visited.

There isn't a single sentence in your post that is correct.


When Easter Island was "discovered" by Europeans in 1722, it was a barren landscape with no trees over ten feet in height. The small number of inhabitants, around 2000, lived in a state of civil disorder and were thin and emaciated. Virtually no animals besides rats inhabited the island and the natives lacked sea-worthy boats. Understandably, the Europeans were mystified by the presence of great stone statues, some as high as 33 feet (10 m) and weighing 82 tons (75 metric tons). Even more impressive were the abandoned statues-as tall as 65 feet and weighing as much as 270 tons. How could such a people create, and then move such enormous structures? The answer lies in Easter islands' ecological past, when the island was not a barren place.

I think that neoconned is saying that socio-political decisions can REDUCE the carrying capacity, or prevent it from being achieved (same thing). Of course there is a maximum long-term sustainable population that is determined by soils/climate/etc, but we should expect the actual population (after "correction" of overshoot) to be well below that level. That is because maximization of the population requires optimal sharing / trade / avoiding waste etc. But humans generally don't behave that way. Those that "can" will keep eating meat of grain-fed animals, while others starve for lack of grain. Etc etc. (Biofuels...)

As for sgage's cries that carrying capacity is regional, and why would Americans "owe" surplus food to Africa etc, I would say: where do you draw the boundaries? Does Kansas owe wheat to Oklahoma, when Oklahoma runs out of oil to trade for it? The finer you divide up the countryside, the more barriers you erect against mutually-beneficial interactions, the more people die. The boundaries, and the behaviors they lead to, are arbitrary human inventions, that reduce the effective "carrying capacity" that otherwise could have been. Which is exactly what neoconned was saying.

"As for sgage's cries that carrying capacity is regional, and why would Americans "owe" surplus food to Africa etc, I would say: where do you draw the boundaries? Does Kansas owe wheat to Oklahoma, when Oklahoma runs out of oil to trade for it? The finer you divide up the countryside, the more barriers you erect against mutually-beneficial interactions, the more people die. The boundaries, and the behaviors they lead to, are arbitrary human inventions, that reduce the effective "carrying capacity" that otherwise could have been. Which is exactly what neoconned was saying."

If Ethiopia requires food aid, it has exceeded its carrying capacity. You may find it ethically warranted to supply Ethiopia with food aid, but it doesn't change the carrying capacity of Ethiopia. It temporarily allows an end-run around it.

But seriously, I largely agree with what you say - I was honestly asking the question of "how regional" do you make the calculation? What happens when the drought and/or torrential flooding renders the US incapable of exporting food? (as is happening now with Australia). Is it fair to get other regions dependent on us for food? How dependable are our food supplies going forward in an era of climate change? "Sorry Ethiopia, we need our entire harvest this year - good luck!"

What are countries for?

These are all serious ethical questions that I am merely asking, not answering. I just really think they need to be faced honestly, which they are clearly not.

What IS the geographical granularity that you calculate CC upon. What is the granularity that works the most ethically?

But CC itself is an ecological concept with a precise meaning, and it bugs me to see people confuse it with politics.

Come up with another term.

Clearly the carrying capacity for a single species is greatly determined by the politics/culture. Hunter gatherer societies never exceed a low population density. Agricultural societies have a much higher population density (of humans, perhaps not of ecological measures such as total standing biomass etc). And with agricultural societies, the carrying capacity is affected by innovations such as irrigation, terracing, and the slow process of selecting plants which yield more human edible food per plant. Now many of these processes may not be sustainable for a long time frame (for a sufficiently large value of long). But I think we are discussing sustainability for maybe a century or two here, not geological time spans.

Even if we could perpetuate the current and projected increase in population, why would we want to. And besides, in order to do this, we have to ignore all our species which are going extinct at an unprecedented rate. The dieoff began a long time ago;it's just that we ignore nonhuman species.

I could increase the number of people living in my house and on my land but why would I want to unless I needed to for economic reasons.


You must be a learn-ed man to know pig bathing.

Carrying capacity on Easter Island was determined by the political structure and culture of the island.

And you know this how? The extensive video record of the 'day? Newspapers? You were there?

How are you able to make the claim that you have made - what is your source of knowledge?

I must admit my knowledge of Easter Island is not extensive. My understanding of it is that they destroyed their trees partly due to the cultural/political motivation of building more statues. They could have made other decisions as other island cultures did. It's just based on Jared Diamond- who I greatly respect because he uses a cross-disciplinary approach, just as Heinberg does.

Ecology is probably one of the most if not the most important way of understanding our future but if you rely on it exclusively then you make some of the mistakes that I have been reading on this board.


that is precisely the point. A given polity can understand the nature and sustainability of its resources, manage them wisely, or ignore the limits. Whether that polity ignores the nature and sustainability of its resources or not, doesn't change the nature and sustainability of its resources.

This is called "carrying capacity". That's all.


Hrmmmm - I'm not sure but the only 'partly' in science is things like photons which are partly a wave and partly a particle.

due to the cultural/political motivation

Now - why do you have this 'political' view of the world? Is this because the only tool in your toolbox is 'political science' and therefore all things are expressible with the only tool you've got?

(BTW - Science has repeatable experiments, and for a given cause, you always have a given effect. In another post you claim that you are a student of political 'science'. So, lets see some actual science - show where repeatable experiments happen - and the outcome is what the math shows will happen.)

make some of the mistakes that I have been reading on this board.

You claim mistakes. So fine, show the math. And actual Science should be able to produce math - math that works. Going from 'hogwash' to 'partly' and a 'I admit my knowledge is not extensive' on a topic - I'd like to see actual data to back up the claim of 'mistakes'.


Yes things have partial causes. It's called a multi-causal argument, you might want to try it sometime. I eat carrots sometimes because they are cheap, healthy and tasty.

We invaded Iraq to control the oil, make a ton of money for some greedy a------s, protect Israel, lock out the Chinese, send a signal to other oil producers, have permanent strategic bases, pull out of Saudi Arabia, keep the Republicans in power etc.

And as for the mistakes that I hear. I hear some people say that they know what the carrying capacity is of a given society-- that is the height of arrogance. The unknowable reality always far exceeds the knowable. Maybe I am wrong but sometimes ecological arguments take on a religious tone and seem to end the conversation rather than begin it.

you might want to try it sometime.

Rather snarky for someone claiming 'science' in politics. I've asked for math and equations to back the claim of 'science'. If snark is all ya got, that's fine. I can snark right back.

I hear some people say that they know what the carrying capacity is of a given society-- that is the height of arrogance.

So why ya posting here about what you HEAR elsewhere? (Unless you are blind and have TOD read to ya - in which case, what dedication to have drumbeats read to you.)

What I READ here is people taking guesses on what the CC might be. Sometimes someone links to someone else who's claimed .5-2 billion population numbers.

And the occasional poster who points out there are starving people elsewhere and therefore the carrying capacity has been exceeded. Or how pollution is building in the environment, thus showing the CC is exceeded.

But hey, you keep thinking its arrogant for pointing out that starving people/pollution shows an exceeding of carrying capacity.

(and for the rest of the readership - http://dieoff.org/page25.htm Notice the bits on how pollution becomes the CC limiter.)

Maybe I am wrong

Well considering that you've made claims without a provable basis WRT Easter Island and your claims of why Iraq was invaded is also not provable .... rhetorically one should question your declarative statements.

(and if you have actual written proof of the 'what were they thinking/what were the reasons' for the Iraq conflict that conflict with the official reasons told to the press/American people via press releases/speeches - by all means provide them. Your list is in conflict with the official version.)


Snarky is a bad habit but perhaps I sure should clarify some points that are quite complicated.

When I say that I am a political "scientist" that in itself is an arrogant statement. I really don't think that people who study politics are hard scientists for the simple reason that human behavior can not be repeated. We can not do a controlled experiment and repeat political happenings. There are millions of variables in any given international political event.

I feel the most important political happenings are wars and no two wars are anything approaching alike. Therefore, you say that I can't prove that Iraq was caused by those variables- Absolutely correct. No one can prove beyond a shadow of doubt why Iraq happened. Yes, of course it had everything to do with oil but we don't know whether it was oil for power, contracts, profits etc. There were many different players and we didn't have microphones in the White House. We couldn't hook Dick Cheney to a lie detector machine. The best we can do is look at Dick Cheney's words and actions before and after the war in order to approximate his intentions. Messy, Messy, Messy. It's not even close to hard science. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't make arguments- it just means that when discussing human events the most important thing is to have humility and understand that you are only capturing a "part" of the larger picture.

And here is why I caused so many problems in my posts and it was intentional. Human behavior is not predictable in the short term. Ecology can predict what is going to happen in the long term and it can make approximations in the short term.

When scientists try to understand human behavior they often make the cardinal sin in my book. They assume that there is some predictability to human events. There isn't. At best we have approximations and arguments. The paradox of applying science in the wrong way to human behavior is that you get DOGMA and RELIGION--- the opposite of science.

So when discussing carrying capacity, I think it is extremely important to have some humility. sgage knows more about it than I do obviously. Carrying capacity does not necessarily under a strict definition change. In the long term it provides the limit to growth. But in the short term carrying capacity interacts with the socio-political environment so I feel it is important to understand that carrying capacity does not explain all the variation in a given human situation. And that ecologists should be careful about how far they take their models.

I find it a little disturbing that ecologists on this site can be so sensitive to people challenging their ideas. Ecologists should work with all the disciplines even including the dreaded economics. On this site there seems to be a growing group think and insulated feel to some of the questions of ecology. I am very open to studying ideas on ecology-- if people threw out texts and articles I would be very open to reading them. But ecologists should be just as open to reading history, political science, economics, geology and other disciplines. And when ecologists post they should be aware of group think and talking amongst yourselves. I know that I will be marked down for saying this but there shouldn't be any taboos on this site.

With apologies for the length:

Your thesis is incorrect and/or you are using the term incorrectly. Carrying capacity is indeed determined by Mother Nature. It would be more correct to say that human political structure/culture is determined by carrying capacity (although there are obviously other factors at work as well). Human culture and technology evolved to allow us to survive in environments for which we are not physiologically adapted. It allows us to change the balance of an ecosystem to favor ourselves and the species we prefer as food sources over the native species, but does not allow us to change the absolute limits of the system’s productive capacity. With agriculture/pastoralism, we are simply replacing a diversity of natural species with the particular plants and animals we want to eat. We can overshoot, as can any species under favorable conditions, but we will inevitably crash when we have consumed the available resources which are limited by the total amount of usable solar energy (including that stored as fossil fuels) and water within the system.

On Easter Island the imported culture failed to successfully adapt to the existing environment or to the changing environment brought about by the invasion of the human and associated species into the existing ecosystem. When the first signs of overshoot began to appear, the people reacted by intensifying rituals and practices that they thought would magically reverse the environmental degradation occurring around them, not understanding that those practices were a contributor and ultimately the final straw in the environmental collapse. Had they better understood their situation, they may have been able to create a sustainable society but they would have had to limit their numbers to the island’s natural carrying capacity (which is exactly what happened to the survivors after the collapse).

The Vikings could have adopted the environmentally adapted culture of the indigenous people and survived in Greenland (and would have likely become indistinguishable from the Inuit, their numbers well within the carrying capacity of the environment). Instead they tried to impose their own culture on a new environment. This culture had functioned well in the resource rich Scandinavian environment until the population grew to the point that raiding and emigration became necessary for survival. In Greenland, the Vikings replaced native species with their preferred species, overshot the carrying capacity of the ecosystem for those species, and died out or left. Their political structure and culture failed to save them.

One should remember that nearly all indigenous peoples (defined here as long-term inhabitants, with cultures well adapted to local conditions), especially those in marginal environments, use some method of controlling the growth of their populations, including infanticide, abortion, ritual warfare, restrictions on marriage, etc. in addition to natural attrition due to disease, injury, and starvation in lean times. Controlled, limited growth is the key to avoiding overshooting your environment’s carrying capacity. Uncontrolled growth will inevitably lead to collapse regardless of the dominant political structure, culture, or level of technology.

Yes, our decisions will affect how many people will be alive 20 years from now. They will probably affect which people will be alive. But those decisions will only affect whether our numbers will be gradually reduced to the Earth’s actual carrying capacity of the human species in balance with all the other species, or whether humanity will be reduced to a tiny fraction of that or, possibly, whether we will be extinct altogether. There will not, however, be more of us than the Earth can support within a viable global ecosystem no matter how smart, just, or compassionate we are. Redistribution of wealth (resources) would certainly improve the situation for the multitudes who are now suffering, but only temporarily and, if it results in a higher birth/survival rate in those populations, will only exacerbate the problem. Once those resources are consumed, then what? There are no easy answers, or actions without consequences.

I submit that everyone on this thread (and TOD) hopes for a controlled descent, accomplished humanely and fairly, and that most will work toward that end. Unfortunately, I don’t have that faith in the majority of humanity, especially those possessing the political and social power to make the decisions. I agree with neoconned that the “scenario of doom is the most likely outcome”.

Autodialect has some interesting points. But biological carrying capacity is not a fixed thing. Changes in geology and or climate can change it up or down. Even in a steady climate it may change year to year. Introduce a new dominant species, and it will likely be effected. Sometimes it will go up as a result of the changes, and sometimes it will go down. For an environment where water availability is an important determinate of carrying capacity (most desert and semiarid areas), physical changes, such as damning a stream can have an important effect. This doesn't mean that farming is sustainable over thousands of years. It is entirely possible for an artificial system to be slowly depleting one or more essential resource, such as say a trace nutrient. In which case over many generations the CC may gradually decline. With humans cleverness, in many cases, the environment is controlled to increase the carrying capacity -at least in the near term, as humans are not so good at determining what constitutes sustainability over the very long term.

Please go reread Collapse. The Inuit arrived in Greenland after the Norse. And while customs and politics do affect carrying capacity, geography does far more. There is no society which will let Easter Island support the same number of folks/square mile as say Sumatra. The rain and the soil just aren't there.

"Nested within this large natural experiment, Greenland offers us a smaller one: the Vikings met another people there, the Inuit, whose solutions to Greenland's environmental problems were very different from those of the Vikings. When that smaller experiment ended five centuries later, Greenland's Vikings had all perished, leaving Greenland uncontested in the hands of the Inuit." (Diamond, pg. 179)

I don't know about you, but I interpret this to mean that the Inuit were there first, or at least at the same time as the Vikings.

The carrying capacity is lower if one adds the requirement that we maintain the other existing non human species as well. Based on that criterion, we long ago exceeded carrying capacity of all species. But hey, all most people give a damn about, if that, is the human species, as all other species are generally considered irrelevant. I could easily expand the "carrying capacity" of land in Colorado. Unfortuntely, many of the chipmunks, ground squirrels, mountain lions, deer, elk, rabbits, and bobcats would have to go. I would prefer to keep the ratio between human beings and my acreage as it is.

We could also increase the number of people visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. As far as I am concerned, however, we long ago exceeded the desirable number of tourists as the solitude of the trails has been eliminated.

Let us shrink the human population back to a maximum of one billion and then evaluate whether we should have even fewer people. I don't know how to do that without dieoff, however, and that is where carrying capacity comes in.

How do you impose this 'requirement' short of bumping off people in countries who happen to be relatively powerless or poor?

How is this alleged carrying capacity determined, and by whom?

Does it vary if the climate changes?

Does it vary if the technology changes?

Would it be the same if we engineered drought resistant crops, which fixed nitrogen?

Would it be the same if we used permaculture and agrichar?

Don't get me wrong, I would love it if we only had a billion people on the earth, and it would make a lot of things easier, including preserving the wild and plants and animals.

I think a lot of these generalisations have got stuck up their own theory though! :-)

BTW, this is a response to the chat in several posts here about carrying capacity, not a response in particular to your post tsstreet.

It's getting from a to b that is difficult.


Excellent questions all.

But carrying capacity is real. It is not "alleged", and that was a cheap shot. But I understand - this medium brings out the snark in all of us.

But CC is determined by the real world. It is not some "theory". There is only so much this planet can give.

We may or may not be able to "engineer" drought-resistant, nitrogen-fixing crops. But you don't get something for nothing.

Rather than your sensationalistic red-herring of "bumping people off", how about exporing possibilities of other ways of more gently lowering global population? Because it's going to be taken care of, at some point or another, one way or another. Why not face this issue?

Hi, I am greatly in favour of 'gently lowering population'!

I spoke in terms of 'bumping people off' in response to talk of setting 'requirements' - a lot of the debate on these sorts of things often assume godlike powers we juct don't have - we tend to be pretty much stuck with however many people we have most of the time.

There certainly is a maximum sustainable carrying capacity - the problem is that it is exceedingly difficult to define, and without such definition doesn't really mean much.

It was not a cheap shot to talk about the 'alleged' carrying capacity of the earth, as unless the statement is so generalised as to be almost meaningless it is attached to some figure, , and if it is that figure which is an allegation.

It is tough enough to determine maximum carrying capacity in a particular region, but when generalised to the world becomes mind-bogglingly complex.

A case in point, which you are likely to be far better informed about than I, was arguments about deforestation in the dry lands bordering the Sahara.

There was a lot of chat about is and anecdotal evidence, with stories about what had happened in particular relgions, and most held it to be a function of density of population - 'too many people'

AFAIK, when more careful studies were done then it was far more difficult to substantiate the idea that trees were in overall decline, and in particular the amount of trees related much more to whether the benefits were held in common or that those who looked after them benefited by them - the 'tragedy of the commons' appeared to be at work.

Under those circumstances the population issue appears to have diverted a lot of attention away from the best way of dealing with the problem - sorting out land use issues.

As another example, if the population in much of Africa is held to put pressure on firewood resources, and hence there is a maximum sustainable capacity, what happens if you introduce very cheap solar cookers?
Has the carrying capacity gone up, and if so, by how much?

So how much use is the talk of 'maximum sustainable capacity' actually been in practise?

Is Constantinople 'sustainable'? It certainly can't feed all of it's inhabitants, but the fact that it has been there for a few centuries with a substantial population perhaps leads to the suspicion that 'sustainable carrying capacity' is a pretty elastic term, and relies on the precise definitions as much as anything.

I am not sure how much additional light has been cast by the concept of sustainable carrying capacity in human populations to date, although at root there is obviously some substance there - it just tends to be heavily disguised.

"It was not a cheap shot to talk about the 'alleged' carrying capacity of the earth, as unless the statement is so generalised as to be almost meaningless it is attached to some figure,"

Well, I disagree. There is so much solar, so much water, so much land. But OK.

"Is Constantinople 'sustainable'? It certainly can't feed all of it's inhabitants, but the fact that it has been there for a few centuries with a substantial population perhaps leads to the suspicion that 'sustainable carrying capacity' is a pretty elastic term, and relies on the precise definitions as much as anything."

Well, it relies on importation of virtually all of its needs from a "hinterland", and the question becomes, how large is that "hinterland", and how dependent is it upon unsustainable sources of energy and fertility.

As I've said all along, the whole point of the carrying capacity concept is where do you draw the geographical line to make your calculation? And what happens when your suppliers can't supply any more? See WT's ELM, e.g.

We are pretty much in agreement, I think. I have no problem with the idea of carrying capacity providing it is contextualised.

Since you are fully aware of this, then you would be using it carefully.

It is a tricky little devil though, and can lead to blanket and unsupported statements!

I don't think most people realise how difficult the question of 'what is overpopulation?' is.

"I have no problem with the idea of carrying capacity providing it is contextualised."

It seems to me that the only contextualization of the CC concept is the geographic granularity.

"Since you are fully aware of this, then you would be using it carefully."

It is a well-defined concept from ecology, I have always used it precisely. I am an ecologist. Others have played games with the term.

"It is a tricky little devil though, and can lead to blanket and unsupported statements!"

Not by me.

"I don't think most people realise how difficult the question of 'what is overpopulation?' is."

I don't think most people have ever entertained the notion that there could be such a thing as overpopulation beyond what Earth can sustain.

I don't think most people have ever entertained the notion that there could be such a thing as overpopulation beyond what Earth can sustain.


And when they first encounter it, the reaction is apparently "them's fightin' words!" (i.e. "that can't be true").

Do you think we are not overpopulated? Do you think that we will come up with technology to support our existing and projected populations? Would you like to see a smaller population? Yes, in part the question of overpopulation has to do with values. We could probably support a very large population with a soylent green scenario. But most of us would reject that based on our population. Do you think our current population is sustainable after all the information we have on peak oil and declines in critical resources like phosphates. No one can come up with a magic firm number on what the appropriate population is. But one thing is for sure. We cannot continue a reasonable standard of living with the current population. Reduce the population and you make it more likely we can mitigate things like climate change, for example.

Who decides? Well, who decides anything. We, as individuals decide, and then we engage with the powers that be to do something about it. Have we even begun to do anything truly meaningful about birth control.

To deal with a couple of bits of that, and ignoring the rhetorical devices:

Do you think we are not overpopulated?

Maybe. We will know for sure if there is a major die-off.

I'll pass over most of the rest, as they assume that I can somehow make things happen by wishing for them, but the same as most I am pretty well stuck with the conditions we have.

But one thing is for sure. We cannot continue a reasonable standard of living with the current population.

Again it is a definite maybe. Actually, as I have posted elsewhere in detail and with numbers it seems to me fairly unlikely that we will be able to support the projected growth in population out to 2030.
I am unable to determine where you get your absolute certainty on the matter from though - and please don't tell me.

Have we even begun to do anything truly meaningful about birth control.

You do not appear to have noticed that almost all of the developed world and much of the developing world has below replacement birthrates.
But then again it seems that your intent is rhetorical rather than to make any fact based statements or constructive arguments.

Regardless of birth rates, the population continues to increase and the resources available for that population continue to decrease. So, I gather that your approach is to just simply wait for the dieoff. We also have other trends which are leading to runaway global warming. I am not claiming absolute certainty but I do not think that we need absolute certainty for a reasonable person to conclude that our current course is unsustainable.

Better to take the precautionary approach and undershoot our capacity rather than overshoot. With respect to the extinction of other species, we are already in overshoot and dieoff.

Things are challenging enough as it is to maintain any sort of future standard of living that will be reasonable without frying the planet. Why would you want to take the risk that we are already on a course for overshoot and dieoff?

I take it that you are also uncertain about our current condition and the future. In the face of uncertainty, wouldn't it make sense to reduce risk by reducing population?

And please spare me the sarcasm and snarkiness. And don't tell me these are merely rhetorical devices.

I said they were rhetorical devices because that is exactly the format they were framed in - as rhetorical questions.

Do you imagine that I have a choice so that I can say: 'OK folks, keep the babies down?'

If you wish to have a substantial debate rather and are not interested in rhetoric as you say, how about answering the substantial points in my reply?

How do you think we can bring about this preference for a lower population and how would a preference for a lower population level make that come about?

Why did you state that no progress had been made on reducing population, when clearly birth rates are below replacement in many countries?
The alternatives would appear to be either that you chose to ignore this, in which case your statement was indeed rhetoric made for effect instead of being fact-based, or you were yourself ignorant of it, in which case it would appear you have not informed yourself of the most basic information about the subject on which you have such absolute opinions.

The fact that birth rates have been reduced in many countries does not mean that we have made progress in reducing population. The population is still increasing at millions of people per year. Apparently, you define progress as meaning that certain countries have made progress in reducing their birth rate. That is not the same thing as reducing population. Your snarky comment about not informing myself about population is absolute nonsense. I did not ignore what you said and I was not uninformed.

There are many things we should do and there are many things both you and I would like to happen. The fact that I cannot personally cause population decline or solve peak oil for that matter does not detract from the validity of my wish. Should we just discount every opinion you have because you cannot personally make what you desire to happen? In case you think that is rhetorical,the answer is no.

From other posts you have made here, my take is that you believe that a lower population would be desirable.

Everyone one of my questions could have been answered by you, whether you think they are rhetorical or not. A rhetorical question really does not ask for an answer. They were intended to elicit an answer. Just because you personally cannot cause the population to decline has nothing to do with whether or not you can express a preference.

Instead, you just engage in insults, as if that is a way to have a serious discussion.

In no way were my replies to you insulting, or so intended.

To the point of discussion though, when you say that 'no progress' has been made in reducing population, you wish to discount birth rates which are below replacement!
This is quite extraordinary, as in time this would lead to reduced population.
Presumably then if birth rates were higher we would not be doing any worse?

Of course, what you must mean for your statement to have any reason at all is that progress have been limited and insufficient in your view.
This kind of talk is exactly what rhetoric is, and why I called it that, in the strict sense rather than as an insult:

In contraposition to scientific debates, rhetorical arguments, as in politics or even justice, do not make use of demonstrable or tested truths, but resort to fallible opinions, popular perceptions, transient beliefs, chosen evidence or evidence at hand (like statistics), which are all properly called commonplaces as they help establish a commonality of understanding between the orator or rhetor and his/her audience.


This is usual in public discourse, but in closer debates such as here it is more usual to be more precise, and perhaps say something to the effect that any progress was insufficient and too late, which is far more accurate, and a strong case can be made that it is all too little, too late in the light of global warming.

No personal reflection on yourself was intended, but this is the way TOD works - any loose phrase will be questioned!
BTW, I would love it if we could figure a way to get to a lower population without billions dying - but then again I would love to be a millionaire too, but I just can't figure out how to get there!

My concern is that reduction in population will take too long even given replacement rates in some countries. Other countries, which constitute the majority, will not be fortunate in that they will run against up their carrying capacity, including their ability to attenuate that effect through imports. I will grant you that it would be more precise to state that progress is not sufficient considering the fact that we are going against resource constraints given the current population, not even considering the rising population. Population will continue to rise notwithstanding it may eventually stabilize.

Without an effort and firm policies previously unknown, except perhaps in China, it is highly likely that we will have mass dieoff. That is an opinion but one based on extensive reading on related subject matter.

None of the above even considers what we are doing to the world's nonhuman species, both animal and vegetable, in the interim.

Obviously, I came across to you as making a rhetorical argument. My intent was to ask a series of questions that you would answer and then provide some backup for your answers. I was trying to get a better understanding of some positions you posited before my first comment in this string of comments.

My perception, since we are trying to be precise, is that you think the view that we have exceeded our carrying capacity is merely a popular view. I am not sure at all that this is a popular view and think it is more likely it is a minority view.

Perceptions are important here. Your perception is that I was making a rhetorical argument. That was not my intent. My perception is that you were being insulting and presumptious, i.e. you presumed that I was not aware that we may reach replacement rate given certain trends. If that was not your intent, as you say above, then perhaps we can engage in further discussions in a spirit of cooperation, or a mutual pursuit of the truth.

I've had a number of discussions here, some more productive than others, about levels of confidence in predictions.
I don't know how much you have dealt with this sort of thing, but it is a firm academic discipline, which attempts to categorise probabilities of outcomes.
Some don't seem to either be aware of or accept the basic concept, so in that case discussion is not fruitful, as they tend to deal in terms of: 'this is going to result in that'.

In actual fact major corporations and governments no longer operate that way, but tend to try to draw up plans in reference to different scenarios - the IPCC ones on climate change are the best known.

The basic idea is that some things can be worked out relatively easily and certainly, where the inputs are limited and you are trying to predict outcomes from a large number of specimens, so for instance if you want to know what the carrying capacity of a petri dish with algae is then you can calculate exactly providing you know the inputs and the time period etc.
What you can't do is calculate the result for an individual algae, just provide an average.

The problem is that most of the issues we are interested in are actually damnably complex and messy, so for instance translating the idea of carrying capacity to a particular place and a particular time and a particular level of technology to find out if an area is 'overpopulated' is almost impossibly difficult, so we are left with guesses.

Some of the uncertainties can be easily calculated fairly accurately, so if I argued for instance that billions of people would die from starvation in 30 years, and was completely mistaken because they were already dead due to the impact of a killer asteroid, the chances of that occurring can be calculated fairly well.

The point is, it may be small but it is still non-zero, so we always have to deal with an uncertain world.

In practise things get fuzzier the more complex the system and the further out in time we go - you are trying to predict the outcome of ever more events which are in themselves uncertain.

Some of those can be looked at with some degree of precision at least, for instance if we think that a lot of a projected die off will happen due to energy shortages then presumably more cheap energy would help to mitigate that, so if solar energy drops rapidly in price then it might reduce die off.

At least the cost part of this we can put some numbers on, and it does indeed seem that in the years after around 2015 solar energy will have major impact, but whether that will be in time and on a big enough scale, or even how relevant it is to major die-off is a lot less clear.

What is clear is that this is an event of good probability of occurring, and which would have some substantial impact.

It is also easy to be totally blindsided by events out of the blue.
The already classic study of this is 'Black Swan' by Taleb, which talks of how rarely the really big things are predicted, the game changing times and events.

On a more personal level and what made me chary of definitive prediction, when I was a kid population really was on an exponential growth curve, there were always famines in India and Africa and I would have bet my life's pocket money we were in for a die off to around the level at the turn of the 19th century by this time.

The whole prediction was falsified by the Green revolution.

We don't know what we don't know.

My best guess though is that we have exceeded the actual carrying capacity, at least with peak oil and the present political set-up, so in essence I don't disagree with your conclusions that we are due a major die off, but I do believe that there are still significant uncertainties.

I guessed a population in 2030 of around the current figure, as opposed to the UN estimates of around 2 billion more, with most of the losses in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, and risks on the downside significantly higher than on the upside.

We don't know what we don't know. Thank you for making statements like this and for all the people who post with humility and some grain of skepticism.

JESUS CHRIST!!!! YIKES!!!! Since when did we start marking people down for saying that we can't be certain about what is going to happen.

I see a lot of posts that are being marked down for saying awful things like "maybe" and "I don't know". It's a bit cultish, frankly.

And when I am confronted with absolutely certainty the sarcasm just flows and it always will. History is littered with fools who tried to explain human behavior with absolutes.

So, since no one is in a position to determine CC, my guess is that you think we should just sit back and let the shit hit the fan. Dieoff will be the result and, by saying no one can decide that is what you are encouraging.


I didn't say "long term" carrying capacity. I just meant the carrying capacity under current conditions. My definition of "safe" means no one event will cause a noticable major reduction in numbers. (Today, many people die due to famine, but when looking at population numbers on a year-to-year basis it's not noticable that a famine occurred. In an "unsafe" state, it would be noticable that something occurred)

These are just my own definitions for this little exercise that I did on my own time. They aren't going to be taken seriously. I just point them out because it seems to me that no one who is getting paid to watch out for this threat is actually watching out this threat.

I understand Ignorant, you have your own definition for "carrying capacity". I can understand that but you should, when doing so, indicate that this is "your definition" and not the standard definition for carrying capacity.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

From Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Yes Darwinian,

Ignorant and neoconned have no idea what carrying capacity means. They just make up their own definition, and completely miss the point. Oh well.


I ask the following in a polite tone: Please explain what point I am missing.

(I made up my own definitions just so as to have boundaries for my mathematical models.)


I answer in the same spirit with which you ask.

"Carrying capacity" is the population of a given species (let's say, us) that can be supported by a given land area in a sustainable fashion.

The issue then becomes, of course, what the appropriate given land area is (Iowa? The US? The US and Africa?, etc?). And there are some who would like to quibble about what "sustainable" means, though I figure it means "into perpetuity". Of course, things change.

CC is an ecological concept, with a precise definition. The concept of CC does not mean (necessarily) that humans shouldn't send food aid somewhere in an emergency, but sort of hints that making food aid a chronic condition of supporting a population somewhere is something less than, well, sustainable. And when that emergency hits the food exporting region, what then for the food importing region?

The concept of CC just maybe should possibly inform policies regarding food aid and population and whatnot. In my opinion, we need to confront this honestly as soon as possible. Because, contrary to the opinion of neoconned, I do not relish the prospect of mass famine and dieoff in food-importing regions (and he is an ass for playing that card).

What are dependable levels of food production going forward, given likely climate unpredictability and fossil fuel declines? How should they be apportioned? By whom? What is the frickin' CC of this poor old planet?

I ask these questions honestly and openly, because to me, they are the crux of the matter.

And I appreciate your honest and open inquiry.

And yes, I am an ecologist. I have thought about this stuff, in great depth, for decades.

sgage, don't you think the CC for, say, pre-agricultural humans is different than that for agricultural ones?

"sgage, don't you think the CC for, say, pre-agricultural humans is different than that for agricultural ones?"

It totally depends on your definition of "sustainable", and the geographical extent of your calculation.

I'm not sure which meanings of "sustainable" you're thinking of. I was just trying to say that it seems likely that technology has *some* impact on carrying capacity, and if that's true, then politics and culture probably do as well, since they affect the level of technology that a population can achieve.

Maybe fire is a safer example of a sustainable technology than agriculture. My impression is that early humans had a roughly sustainable lifestyle involving the use of fire, and their population was greater than that before the use of fire, so they had increased the carrying capacity of their environment.

"I'm not sure which meanings of "sustainable" you're thinking of. I was just trying to say that it seems likely that technology has *some* impact on carrying capacity, and if that's true, then politics and culture probably do as well, since they affect the level of technology that a population can achieve."

In the long run, the only sustainable concept is that which factors in local (however you define that) solar flux. Technology might be able to eke a bit more out of it, but think of the inputs. People think technology just happens, as if it were purely a mental construct. A lot of that kind of thinking goes on around here.

We are bumping up against real, physical limits to what we can do. Technology is not energy, technology is not stuff. OTOH, technology is what we do. Technology is a pretty sloppy term, when you think about it :-)

If early humans had a sustainable lifestyle, it was because they weren't empowered enough to screw it up. It is our lot to try to reconcile our crazed primate whatever-it-is with actual reality. Not virtual reality. Actual reality.

And it is our lot to see how it pans out. How lucky we are!

In the long run, the only sustainable concept is that which factors in local (however you define that) solar flux. Technology might be able to eke a bit more out of it, but think of the inputs. People think technology just happens, as if it were purely a mental construct. A lot of that kind of thinking goes on around here.

In the long long run, nothing is really sustainable--think sun dying, heat death of the universe, etc. It seems like the concept of carrying capacity means absolutely nothing without precisely defining your boundaries -- in space and time.

There is one technology that could get us beyond the carrying capacity based on solar flux as the "endless" energy supply-- fusion power. Will that technology ever be possible? Will that peak too? On what time frame?

Your question is anthropocentric. Carrying capacity for whom? If just for human beings, yes, probably. But agriculture requires that other species have less land and nutrients available to them.

Well, yes, that was sort of the point. I was trying to suggest that carrying capacity for humans may not be as simply defined as for other species since humans are capable of different modes of living with different inputs and side effects.

I would ask a different question. Are all these people necessary for human well being and happiness? Are all these people likely to diminish human well being and happiness in the long term? Can we solve our resource depletion problems and global warming will all these people?

My answers would be, "not freaking very likely,yes, and not freaking very likely". The powers that be are complacent about overpopulation because they see a market. It is the market that rules. It is money that rules and there will be more money for the chosen few if we have lots and lots of people. The future and the planet be damned.

Who decides? It begins with the individual who says I can't take it anymore. Hopefully, it spreads from there. Governments decide. And thus far, they have decided that carrying capacity doesn't mean a damn thing, especially if we have enough weapons to adjust our own carrying capacity.


I understand, but my original point/post was whether anybody "at the helm" is looking out the window. Apparently no. I don't even know what the point is for having these reports commissioned as they don't consider the obvious.

My "7.2" number was just used just for arguement's sake. If you want, I can develop quite a detailed report on what I think the planet's current carrying capacity is... but I do expect some guarantee of a speaker's fee.


And that is why the true environmentalist, the true supporter of minimizing human suffering, should be glad we aren't going to be able to keep this biosphere-raping juggernaut going for much longer. Overpopulation is the key that few want to talk about. An estimated 70 million net humans are added to the straining web of life every single year. Only when the global human footprint begins to shrink - and this means dramatic reductions in energy flows and disintegration/evolution of previous "infinite growth" techno-worship - only when we hit the downslide of Hubbert's Peak will human populatoin begin to drop. The sooner humans are forced back into a sustainable relationship with nature via global climate disasters and energy descent - the less human suffering will occur overall. Certainly the suffering will be stupendous either way - but no one with an ounce of sanity can tell me that adding 70 million net resource-sucking humans is either moral nor sustainable. I've studied all the issues relating to energy for many years - and the evidence indicates that the sooner and faster energy descent happens, the sooner human hubris and myopia are stripped bare by our finite planet, the better. Because those millions of newborns added each year are going to have a hell of a time surviving the global climate and environmental catastrophe caused by short-sighted humans. I guess that's a very big picture view, as just denying women's "right to procreate" is seen as heresy by the ignorant, psuedo liberal masses. They don't realize that every birth is a small additional weight hanging around the throat of the planet. Permaculture and anti-consumerism will soon grow exponentially - but people are soon going to see that the laws of physics do apply to us clever monkeys. Even here on TOD most people seem to think the problem is simply a deficit of energy, when the truth is energy descent is the cure to humanity's self-induced disease of overpopulation. Someday soon, people will realize that a simple life that meets hunger with plant food, thirst with water, and companionship with friends is the answer. Trouble is the evidence indicates that we've sabotaged this Titanic, and the time for voluntary massive adaptation is past. Even so, I don't deny the power of permaculture/polyculture - and I think the big picture evidence shows it to be 1000 times superior to the BS "green revolution" which destroys instead of maintains. Only time will tell just how quickly soils can be amended - but the process isn't even up for discussion for most "modern" people.

"Overpopulation is the key that few want to talk about."

In my opinion, this is the crux of the matter. Until this is honestly faced, everything else is a joke.

Veganmaster, loved your article and agree with every word of it. However you should learn how to make shorter paragraphs. Your article, because of no paragraphs, is very difficult to read. But thanks and please keep posting good stuff.

Ron Patterson

I've been waiting a long time for someone, anyone, to know what I mean by permaculture in any of the hundreds of conversations I have with random people (or non-PO friends).

I agree with most everything you say, but also with neoconned. Technical definition of "carrying capacity" aside, the sooner things get ugly, hopefully the sooner people will take a fresh look at our relationship with the planet and begin to implement things that are long overdue.

Unfortunately, in my crystal ball I have trouble seeing the guys with guns voluntarily putting them down and doing with less for the greater good.

I agree that population is the problem and limiting population growth (including policies which produce negative growth) is essential if a big crash is to be avoided. That the "Greens" seem to have let this fact slide off the radar screen is a big problem, IMHO. That's not to ignore the possibility that it may be impossible for population to be brought into balance with the available natural "life support systems" quickly enough to do any good. As we all know, there's a large fraction people within the U.S. that don't think there is any need to limit population, worse yet, some apparently think it's OK to procreate as fast as possible.

That the lack of understanding of basic science is rampant is well known. Conflicts between the popular religious perspective(s) and the natural sciences may eventually sink the ship. Those with a fundamentalist viewpoint may accept the produces of science and technology, but that is little more than a veneer which covers their rejection of the basic teachings of modern science. For example, there's a story about training of the Afgan Army, in which the young soldiers didn't understand why a bullet fired from a gun would drop at an ever increasing rate the farther it traveled. The reason was that they did not know about gravity. The scary thing is that there are lots of Flat Earthers still roaming the roads of the U.S., who think that there's a place called "heaven" above the clouds and another place called "hell" that's underground. I've found that I have almost nothing to say to them about science, because I've learned that they aren't going to listen...

E. Swanson

Regarding carrying capacities and population; It is impossible to forecast the future. One can guess, but one will always be wrong. One can make 'scientific' guesses, but these will be invariably wrong, too.

It is hard to put fixed values for either and expect them to hold. On a practical level, our social organization has always been an inch (25mm for you Euros) from chaos and collapse. Nevertheless, there is always a certain muddling through which allows the 'Biosphere Raping Juggernaut' to jugger forward for a few more years at a time.

One reason is the elite part of the jugger has control of most of the resources of the naut and has been able to rearrange how the inputs and outputs are distributed - for its own benefit, of course. The elites hire the finest scientists, technicians and other specialists, then define the problems to be solved, then they sit back and collect the money that they conveniently print for the purpose. The non- elites never seem to do this, they don't have the access to resources.

The non- elites receive what is due them on the bounce. Trickle down does work; new crop varieties were invented for a lot of reasons, many altruistic, but mostly for profit. Nevertheless, the starving masses starve a bit less as a result. This divide and profit mechanism is at work right now, witness all the solar panels and wind turbines sprouting up here and there.

As far as what the carrying capacity is of something, the issue is more a matter of what the carry-ee's will endure. If 20 billions souis would endure miserable food, bad water, disease, rampant crime and other forms of debasement, then it could be said that the carrying capacity is 20 billion. Can 20 billion ... or three billion ... live like middle class Americans with two or more giant cars, a big house, a vacation house, a swimming pool, several long airplane trips annually, several children each by multiple marriages and drug/alcohol abuse problems ... the answer would have to be no. Qualified with the modifier 'current technologies'. Newer technolgies will make an increase in standards of living possible because this is what benefits the elites.

A lot of today's economic and energy problems have derived from a newer cast of characters wanting their place among the old- school elites. These would be Chinese and Indian idustrialists, Russian oligarchs, Saudi and other Persian Gulf extortionists and whatnot. They've gotten the idea of what elites are supposed to be like by watching re- runs of 'Dallas' on TV. These newbies don't know how to behave and feeling a bit insecure; they want their place in the sun and are throwing their new weight around. How the arrivistes intersect with the natural order of things (not to be confused with nature) will determine much, but it is in no elite's interest - newbie or otherwise - to have widepread famines or a 'Grand Mal' economic lockup or an all- out nuclear exchange. Once the elites - new and old - realize the current situation is serious beyond posturing and other foolishness, new arrangements will be made. Look for these to closely resemble the old arrangements, but possible some headquarters of something or other in Tehran. The juggernaut shall jugger forward again ... for yet few more years.

The most dangerous 'exploding population' category is petro consuming machines. I watch with dread the new Chinese Cadillac SUV customers and the arrival 'in the market' of a cheap Indian car. Whether it is a Landau or a touring car is beside the point. It is entirely possible the USA will be auto- free in the near future while the emergent elites turn their factories and massive workforces to the manufacture of hundreds of millions of 'Landau's'. What will happen then is anyone's guess. It would be best if high energy prices can dampen this demand before it gets out of hand.

Finally, looking at the overall record, it is worth noting that every fifty years or so half the human race gets the unconrollable urge to murder the other half. Fortunately, we now have the internet and we can all flame each other instead.

Amen, brother. We were born in a garden of Eden and ever since we have been in the process of destroying it. The Earth is abundant, but not for 7 billion people. The descent into the shit storm will not be smooth and it not end well. Heal the Earth. Heal ourselves.

"there are probably no policies in place to handle the Four Horsemen when they come a rid’in through town."

OTOH, there are definitely policies in place to hasten the arrival of the Third Horseman: corn ethanol and soybean biodiesel.

This time he'll be coming driving a biofuel-powered SUV, though.

Right now there's a OPEC presentation about the "World Oil Outlook 2008", live at http://www.opec.org/streaming/external/

The PickinsPlan radio ads are now playing on WTOP Radio in the DC Marketplace.

I saw commercials on FOX and CNN yesterday.

China's Aluminum Producers Agree to Cut Output by 10%

July 10 (Bloomberg) -- China's biggest aluminum producers, the largest in the world, agreed to cut output by as much as 10 percent to ease a power shortage, sending metal prices to a record.

Re the "Developing countries' demand" above, what I feel is flying under the radar to a certain extent is Chinese growth. At current rates, Chinese IMPORTS will exceed USA imports by 2013. The geopolitical ramifications of this are enormous. China is already the #1 customer of a great many countries and therefore has political leverage that is increasing at a fast pace. There was an article yesterday implying Europe should cozy up to Russia but IMO Europe cannot compete with China for Russian energy-should be interesting.

There is also a paradigm shift in how China is going after oil.

Instead of trying to buy its oil in the "free market" it seems to be favoring long-term contracts and joint ventures with producing countries, the goal being to lock up oil supplies for decades to come. They are doing a lot of deals with Latin American and African countries. I saw on CNN the other day where they just did a joint venture with Venezuela to build a new refinery in China that can handle the Venezuelan heavy sour crudes, tying up 1 million BOPD of the Latin American country's production for years to come...


I have read in other places that they are paying tremendous premiums for these long-term supply commitments.

And when I saw the announcement by Total Petroleum today that it considered it too risky to invest in Iran, I immediately though "bingo", another investment opportunity for China. China can certainly afford the risk, and it can afford to pay whatever premiums are required to insure its long-term oil security.

I suppose that's the advantage that sitting atop $1.7 trillion of U.S. dollars gives one. Even though the United States government won't let China invest those dollars within the boundaries of the United States, it cannot keep China from deploying those dollars to tie up the world's oil supplies.

And this doesn't even touch upon the subject of how China and Russia are using Iran as a proxy to challenge U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.

DownSouth -

While the US is busy making war, China is busy making deals.

While the US is busy making enemies, China is busy making friends.

While the US is busy blaming everyone for its problems, China is busy solving theirs.

Is there a pattern here?

Looks like the textbook actions of an empire in its death throes to me.

Yes, joule, I think so.

Could the difference be that China has the wherewithal to actually buy the petroleum, whereas the U.S. has to steal it?

Or is it that the imperial tradition is so engrained in the American ethos that it is almost impossible to shake?

If so, I think early 17th-century Spain offers a stunning parallel.

When king Phillip III died in 1621 and his son, Phillip IV, assumed the throne, there was a concommitant sea change in politicl ideology. As J.H. Elliot explains in Imperial Spain: 1469-1716, "the supine policies of the Lerma (Phillip III's Favourite) regime were regarded with anger and contempt..." The new Favourite, Gaspar de Olivares, was heir to the "great imperial tradition, which believed firmly in the rightness, and indeed the inevitability of Spanish, and specifically Castilian, hegemony over the world." He and his followers believed that "Spain could remain true to itself only if it remained true to its imperial tradition, and they despised the defeatist policies which had, in their opinion, brought it to its present miserable state."

The result was a huge uptick in the belligerence of Spain towards its European neighors. There were some early successes, but by 1640 Spain lay in shambles. Humiliated militarily, the country was also bankrupt.

As Elliot concludes:

So passed the first and the last ruler of Habsburg Spain who had the breadth of vision to devise plans on a grand scale for the future of the world-wide Monarchy: a statesman whose capacity for conceiving great designs was matched only by his consistent incapacity for carrying them through to a successful conclusion.

Sound familiar?

Could the difference be that China has the wherewithal to actually buy the petroleum, whereas the U.S. has to steal it?

DownSouth, I am pissed at Bush for a lot of things, primarily the Iraqi war. It is a horrible and totally unnecessary war with no end in sight. It is impossible to win because no one knows who the enemy is. But when I post my gripes about Bush, the US and the war, I try to be as truthful as possible. You, obviously do not. We are paying Iraq the full price for their oil! In fact, some in congress are complaining that Iraq does not even give us a discount.

Even if the war was, and is, about oil, it was not to get the oil free, or even at a discount. It was, if anything, an attempt to secure Iraq, and the rest of the Persian Gulf, as a source for oil.

Claims that we are stealing Iraqi oil has no place on any list that values truth.

Ron Patterson

Ron: With this one, you are playing games with the truth. The USA military currently controls or attempts to control Iraq. "Iraq" who you state is getting paid market value for their oil, consists of the puppet government policed/controlled by the occupying USA military force. Quite a bit of this "Iraq" money is currently sitting on deposit in the USA-not dispersed. Quite a large amount has gone missing. Stealing might be an overstatement, but paying the full price is a bald face lie.

Brian, you are really confused here. Quite a bit of Saudi money sits in us banks, same for every other oil exporting nation. What has this to do with anything?

Quite a large amount has gone missing. Stealing might be an overstatement, but paying the full price is a bald face lie.

What are you implying? Do you have any evidence concerning this missing money from deposits in US banks? You are just making up crap Brian, and you know what the word for that is.

Does Valero pay full price for Iraqi oil? Does any other US refinery get any discount? Are you implying that refineries get a back-door payment, from these US deposits, giving them a discount? If not, then how are they not paying full price for the oil?

Simply saying that we are not paying full price for Iraqi oil, by implying that missing deposits from US banks somehow...in some way or another...means that that oil is purchased at a discount, is irresponsible for anyone that values the truth. Such rhetoric is nothing more than "good old boy gossip" and calling me a bald faced liar is typical of people who engage in such silly unverifiable nonsense.

Ron Patterson

Ron: There is a search engine out on the newfangled World Wide Web called GOOGLE-try it for maybe 30 seconds before you start with your all too common insults, Granddad http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/jan/30/iraq-not-using-oil-cash-...

Good God man, is this your evidence? Is this your proof that the US is getting oil at a discount.

The report cited unofficial figures saying about 24 percent had been spent.

Meanwhile, some $6 billion to $7 billion from last year's budget is "being rolled over" and invested in U.S. treasuries, said Yahia Said, director of Iraq Revenue Watch, part of the private watchdog group Revenue Watch Institute.

Investing in US Treasuries, that is exactly what China is doing! That is what most other oil exporters are doing. And you take this as proof that US customers of Iraqi oil as getting oil at a discount.

Methinks Brian, that if this your evidence that the US is getting Iraqi oil at a discount then you owe me an apology for calling me a bald face liar for claiming that we are getting NO discount from Iraq on their oil. And let me remind you that it was YOU that are throwing insults around, calling me a bald face liar.

Ron Patterson

The plan was never to get the Iraqi oil cheap. The plan was to allow US integrated oil companies to pocket the profits of full-priced Iraqi oil. To be sure, they have not achieved their goals yet, but then few people would say that the Iraqi adventure is either successful or finished.

The US has made a big fuss about the oil sharing law that the Iraqis are (understandably) reluctant to pass. Even so, the aforementioned IOCs (plus Total, thrown in to buy French cooperation) are set to re-enter Iraq. Once they are in there and pumping, it really will be "Mission Accomplished".

The US went into Iraq, took over the country, and are dictating the terms under which they are permitted to pump "their" oil. We can engage in semantic arguments all day as to whether that constitutes "theft" or not, but I'm not sure it is helpful to characterize either side of that semantic debate as dishonest.

A minor semantic quibble which I think is strongly correlated to ELM:

"Mission Accomplished" will not be achieved when the IOC's are pumping Iraqi crude, but when the IOC's are permitted to take the vast majority of the profits out of the country.

IMO, it's not in US geopolitical interest to have the IOC's and Iraqi's mutually prosperous, as that is when ELM begins to take hold. Rather, the prefered outcome is to have those resources or profits from those resources to flow to the US.

Unfortunately, I believe this precludes any intention of the US wanting any semblance of democracy in Iraq; as what democracy would permit the proceeds of the extraction of its natural resources to be taken overseas without benefit to themselves - think American Revolution?

Yes, it's so obvious:

It's not about who gets the oil. The oil is sold on the world market, more or less. Refiners around the world get the oil.

It's about who gets the MONEY from selling the oil.

Geez, Darwinian, where have I heard that sort of sophistry before?

Oh yeah, I remember.

Here's a little history on the imperial trajetory of the United States in Latin America, just so you can get a little flavor of how U.S. imperialism works, gracias a Carlos Fuentes:

In the phase immediately after independence, Britain managed Latin America's foreign trade; in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the United States came to be the principal partner. However, they employed the same instruments of economic power, namely favorable agreements for their merchants, loans and credits, investment, and the handling of the export economy of minerals, agricultural produce, and natural products required by Anglo-American expansion. A highly privileged local minority served as intermediaries, both for these exports and for the imports of manufactured European and North American goods, which were in demand among the urban population in the interior....

By 1910, U.S. property in Mexico amounted to 100 million acres, including much of the most valuable mining, agricultural, and timber land, representing 22 percent of Mexico's land surface. The complexes owned by William Randolph Hearst alone extended to almost eight million acres...

Our perception of the United States has been that of a democracy inside and an empire outside: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We have admired democracy; we have deplored empire. And we have suffered the actions of this country, which has constantly intervened in our lives in the name of manifest destiny, the big stick, dollar diplomacy, and cultural arrogance...

Military interventions and occupations in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Hondoras were all carried out in the name of stability, democracy, law and order, and protection of U.S. lives and property (notably those of the great agribusiness of that itme, the United Fruit Company). But no nation in the region suffered more prolonged humiliation than the Central American republic of Nicaragua, first taken over by the North American freebooter William Walker in 1855 and then almost continuously invaded an occupied by the United States from 1909 through 1934. In that year the rebel leader Sandino was assassinated, and with the support of the U.S. Marines, his murderer, Anastasio Somoza, was put on the presidential seat at Managua, where he and his family reigned until their defeat by the Sandinista revolution of 1979. During these decades the somozas got all they wanted from Washington. As Franklin Roosevelt put it, "Somoza is a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."

(Carlos Fuentes, The Burried Mirror)

There was a short moderation of American aggression towards Latin America during WWII, but it was soon to begin again, as Fuentes goes on to explain:

Once the hot war was over, the cold war began, and the achievements of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations were quietly buried. Elected governments in Guatemala and Chile were overthrown with U.S. help and approval because those governments could be construed as possible Soviet beacheads in the hemisphere. Military dictatorships stepped in, torturing and killing in the name of anticommunism... In Chile, the socialist government of Salvador Allende was overthrown in 1973 by a military coup headed by General August Pinochet. In a savage action, Allende partisans were rounded up, gathered in a stadium, and murdered en masse... Pinochet did all of this in the name of democracy and anticommunism.

President Bill Clinton proclaimed that "protecting our people, our territory, our way of life" are the objectives of U.S. national security policy, goals that are to be advanced "through engagement and enlargement"--NAFTA and drug control are listed as two key elements of such "engagement and enlargment."

"U.S. National Security is a global strategic doctrine, relative to maintaining economic, political and military supremacy in its zone of influence" is how Mexican politlogue Adolfo Anguilar Zinser defines these same policies.

U.S. "National Security" is a Cold War concept codified in the 1947 National Security Act, which also created the National Security Council, to combat Communist penetration of U.S. spheres of influence. In the name of its hallowed "national security," the United States has mounted military invasions and suppressed internal dissent in Latin America, encouraged political assasination, civil wars and military coups, winked at torture, applauded fraudulent elections and ignored genocide. In the process, the U.S. has also transformed itself into what Daniel Yergin labels "a national security state--a nation in which internal and national security concerns become dominant and domestic concerns are subordinated..."

The whole Iraq thing is nothing more than a continuation along this very same trajectory. The only difference is that with Bush and the neo-cons, we no longer have the common sense to find some son-of-a-bitch to do our torturing and murdering for us.

For crying out lout DownSouth. All I said was that the US is not stealing Iraqi oil and that we were not even getting a discount on it. And you take off on US history, going back to 1910 then to Roosevelt and Truman, and say absolutely nothing about the subject of stealing Iraqi oil! Do you have any proof that the US is stealing Iraqi oil? If so, please post it and stop trying to dodge the question by posting a lot of history that has absolutely nothing to do with the subject being discussed.

Do you actually think, that by quoting 60 year old history you can prove that the US is stealing Iraqi oil?

No one (in the US) is stealing Iraqi oil DownSouth, and you are just blowing smoke when you say they are. Iraqi oil is being stolen by Iraqis and sold on the black market. The same thing was happening under Saddam and is currently happening in Nigeria and several other places in the world. But that is another story entirely.


Ron: This NYT article claims that the missing Iraq oil revenue is from 5-15 million daily for 4 years, approx 7-22 billion dollars. You have inside info that this was taken by Iraqis and no one else-present your evidence, expert http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/12/world/middleeast/12oil.html

Why hell no Brian, any fool should realize the money was taken by US refineries in order to give themselves a discount on oil they purchased from Iraq. Good God man, get a life!

Ron Patterson

Who are you trying to convince, me or yourself? There is absolutely no way you are stupid enough to believe this nonsense you are spinning, so why are you spinning it? You haven't presented any evidence at all to refute what the NYT and Washington Post claimhas happened,except to make a sweeping generalization that unnamed Iraqis are responsible for any and all thefts. The reality is that basically very little of the "Iraq" oil revenue has been available to be used by the country itself for the last 4 years. This isn't a subject of debate-why do you have a dog in this fight?

Brian, knock it off. I am agreeing with you. The money was taken by US refineries in order to give themselves a discount on Iraqi oil. I figure the only way to get rid of you is to agree with you. Bye now.

Ron Patterson

Now what I find curious is that you are so horrified by the suggestion that America is a for-profit empire. A million dead, you can accept that's a terrible (but accidental) thing. But you can't deal with the idea that the ultimate manifestation of greed is mass violence. What's the story here?

I think America is a repeat offender, and the penalty should be the revocation of its empire license. By Constitutional amendment if possible, by UN edict if necessary.

"America" is not a for-profit empire. Some people are saying that the Iraq war will cost the US taxpayer in the neighborhood of $3 trillion dollars. Figure out how much oil that would buy, even at $100 a barrel (which is much more than it cost in 2003), especially when taking the time value of money into account. Let's put it this way: the INTEREST on $3 trillion, at 5%, is $150 billion a year. At $100 a barrel that would pay for about 4 million barrels per day of crude, which is about Iraq's total production in the most optimistic scenario.

So, where's the profit? The profit comes when you USE THE U.S. MILITARY FOR FREE (taxpayer funded) to steal oil in Iraq which you can then SELL to the U.S. public for $100+ a barrel.

You see, it makes perfect sense to spend $3 trillion of SOMEONE ELSE'S MONEY (the taxpayer), especially if you can channel a lot of it to your Halliburton/Blackwater cronies, to steal a $500 billion asset.

People are so blinded by the decades of rhetoric that "we" or "America" is doing this or that, that they can't figure out what is really going on. Follow the money!

No one (in the US) is stealing Iraqi oil DownSouth, and you are just blowing smoke when you say they are. Iraqi oil is being stolen by Iraqis and sold on the black market.

Of course no one in the US is stealing Iraqi oil. Because the US is an ocean away from the oil.

Care to argue instead that US policy and actions have no bearing on oil theft in Iraq?

steal 1a: to take or appropriate without right or leave and with intent to keep or make use of wrongfully b: to take away by force or unjust means c: to take secretly or without permission d: to appropriate entirely to oneself or beyond one's proper share 3a: to seize, gain, or win by trickery, skill, or daring

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary

By the way, here's a link to an article that treats more specifically about Iraq that picks up the story-line in 1980 and carries it up to 2007:


And here's the latest volley:


You've got to love the former chairman of Exxon/Mobil's comment:

“There is an enormous amount of oil in Iraq,” Mr. Raymond said. “We were part of the consortium, the four companies that were there when Saddam Hussein threw us out, and we basically had the whole country.”

Geez, Ron,

What about the Iraqi no-bid contracts awarded to US oil majors in the last few weeks? That is a discount in anyone's book!


Well NO! The contracts are to be, perhaps, awarded to Exxon, Shell, BP and Total. That is ONE US major, one Dutch major, one British major and one French major. No contracts have been awarded yet. And the contracts do not involve the share of any oil. That is, they are not production contracts but technical contracts, contracts to help rebuild Iraqi's oil infrastructure.

Iraq's Complicated Oil Fields

Meanwhile, the contracts given to the Western oil giants aren't production contracts, but preliminary technical contracts. Add to that the fact that most companies don't want to send personnel to Iraq, because of the persistent instability. Yet, the contracts could still create political problems for the Iraqi government, if their terms offend a fiercely nationalistic population.

Ron Patterson

Republicans will simply deny that those contracts are for actual ownership of oil. As if corporations haven't wormed their way into countries with innocuous "starter" contracts before. Much easier to bribe and corrupt the local officials for bigger deals once you've got a secure HQ there.

And then there is this...

IMO, Control is more valuable than the money you get for it and that we undoubtedly did steal.


Worse, we learn from the British newspaper Independent that Washington is holding $50 billion of Iraq’s money hostage in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as leverage against Iraq’s government which has been asked to agree to 51 permanent US bases and an oil law that would hand control of Iraq’s oil to foreign giants.

Its not stealing in the simple direct meaning of the term. But dictating conditions, and the sale of an indigenous resource -even if we pay market rates for it is clearly a morally indefensible activity, akin maybe to stealing-lite. Giving favored companies development and production contracts, from which they can extract hefty fees, is also a form of theft-lite. This charade might be sufficient to fool the majority of Americans -who don't want to see their country as the bad guys. But, clearly very few outside of America will be fooled by our selfrighteous rhetoric. Expect some form of blowback to come from this. It can reasonably be argued that 9-11 was a form of blowback for past meddling in that part of the world. Just because few of the victims were aware of the crimes which their country may have committed, doesn't mean it isn't blowback for real (or perceived) past wrongs.

DownSouth, Russia has been attempting to implement long term gas contracts with it's European consumers, much as China is doing with long term oil commitments. Russia's success has been partially blunted by US and European outcrys that 'Russia is using gas/oil as a weapon', well, yeah they are. As Rumsfeld regretably said 'you go to war with the army (and weapons) that you have.'

All is fair in love and war.

The US is heading for the unenviable position that the USSR found itself in after collapse...Except, we do not have the quantity of natural resources of Russia to pull our fat out of the fire. If this is an incorrect analysis I welcome others reasoned comments.

I am making a day trip today. Harley rules...45 comfortable mpg and miles of smiles.

Hey River,

Have a good ride!

Ride safe dude...I watched a Harley rider get pasted here in Ely, Nevada yesterday; the truck driver was at fault but the rider ate the asphalt.

Folks on bicycles have the same problem. A young woman in DC got run over (and killed) by a garbage truck earlier this week. I recall reading that it was a right-hook situation..

Those of us on two wheels need to all stick together...

A quote worth bookmarking !


Re: We're not yet running on empty, linked uptop (because of adequate crude inventories)

I addressed this topic in 9/07, in the following article on net oil exports & crude oil inventories. The US has clearly gone to a Just In Time inventory system, presumably because of the SPR, and the five year range of crude oil inventories just represents minor variations in a thin margin of supply in excess of the MOL. I assume that Europe has done the same. In any case, I do know that one German refinery a year or so ago suffered damage when they experienced an unannounced decline in crude oil shipments from Russia--which gives you an idea of how thin their excess supply on hand was.

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2975 (September, 2007)

My contention is that instead of focusing on crude oil inventories, we need to focus on world net exports, crude oil prices, refinery utilization, product prices and product inventories.

I expect to see crude oil exports trending down, crude oil prices trending up, refinery utilization trending down, product prices trending up, and product inventories trending down.

You're asking for some right-brain activity.

The people responsible for making the decisions on inventories are not idiots. I would suspect that the reductions to JIT, long used at most retail outlets since supply is just and hour or so away, for most points of sales, are based on assurances that releases from the SPR would be readily available. This would make the SPR something which the Current Occupant has repeatedly said the SPR is not. With higher inventories there would be higher oil commodity prices, and a more unstable economy going into the elections. If that is the case, the buffer of feedstocks supplied by reduced inventories will quickly be unavailable for further releif, and we will have as bad a situation as could possible be created. This would also supply the buffer for the decline of Cantarall, and in part for the buildup in Chindia.

Would you think it possible / probable that the Chinese SPR-equivalent will be building less quickly after the Olympics? The absolute embarassment of shortages during the Olympics was the most probable reason I could think of when the filling continued in the face of these historically high prices, especially when the Chinese are building plants to handle heavy sour crude, which should give them some protection anyway.

Oh,sure - GREAT time to be going to JIT!

Yes, they are indeed idiots.

US refinery percentage utilization is definitely trending down. Most of you know that, but this is a graph showing it:

One reason is that the crude oil we are using as inputs to the refinery is trending down, as a % of world crude production. (2008 is only through March):

It seems to me that whenever there is an uptick in world oil production, the new oil gets refined elsewhere.

It seems to me that whenever there is an uptick in world oil production, the new oil gets refined elsewhere.

Personally, I'm being persuaded more and more by Memmel's claim that there simply has not been an uptick in production. It's a Saudi lie and the figures are massaged with double counting of oil pumped in/out of storage etc. There was no new peak this year if you believe this.

Electrification around the World

I found the following table in an Indian railways document (2000)

. . . . . . . . . .Total km. Electrified. % Electrified
Switzerland. . . . 3,284. . . 3,057 . . . 93%
Japan . . . . . . . . 12,668. . . 8,939 . . . 71%
Sweden. . . . . . . 11,797 . . . 7,440 . . . 63%
Italy . . . . . . . . . 16,146 . . 10,030 . . . 62%
Germany . . . . .40,710. . . 16,202. . . 40%
France . . . . . . . 34,837 . . 12,611 . . . 36%
Russia . . . . . . . 88,716. . 38,600. . . 43%
Ukraine. . . . . . .22,631. . . 8,344 . . . 37%
U.K. . . . . . . . . . 16,938 . . . 4,911 . . . 29%
Portugal . . . . . . 3,068 . . . 2,132 . . . 69%
South Africa . . 20,319 . . . 8,976 . . . 44%
India. . . . . . . . . 63,140 . . 16,986 . . . 27%
China . . . . . . . . 61,539 . . 16,000 . . . 26%

Indian Railways was arguing that 27% electrification was inadequate and not up to international standards.

Best Hopes for 20% electrification of North American Railroads,


Alan, the table is obviously incomplete. It does not show the electrified rail in the US.

Maybe they should revise it. I would hate to guess the % for US. 1%, maybe ?

The United States of America has the Iowa Traction Railroad, 12 miles (using 80 y.o. locos), a Utah mine to power plant line (50 miles ?), Amtrak's Northeast Corridor 363/457 miles and Harrisburg-Philadelphia 104 miles plus assorted commuter lines, Long Island RR (about 60% electrified being the largest) plus Urban Rail that are not considered to be railroads.

All told, MUCH less than 1%.

Our aborted response during the last oil crisis

31 kb

They missed the Dallas-Houston electrification study by the Katy RR and proposals in Mexico.


I just finished reading about the Eurostar station in central London, and it is absolutely depressing (in the sense that our train network is in horrible shape). Then again, I also read the story here about the degree of fossil fuel self-sufficiency in Europe, so I understand they have a greater sense of urgency over there.

On a more positive note, I attended a meeting earlier this week:

Most industrialized countries have made huge strides in mass transit in recent years. China has a train that travels at 220 miles per hour and can carry passengers from Beijing to Shanghai – approximately the same distance as from Boston to Richmond – in four hours, said Oberstar.

He added that high-speed trains have allowed people in France to commute over 200 miles daily to and from Paris in a reasonable amount of time. Thirty percent of trips for any purpose in the Netherlands are made by bike.

"What is wrong with us? Are we a third world country?"

Who said this? Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Mn.), chair of the transportation committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Note that he not only talks the talk, but he rides the bike too (he is an avid cyclist).

Both Moran and Oberstar were talking about the need for transit oriented development, and that building roads won't solve our problems. But the current (soon to be former) administration is actively hostile towards all transit projects. Oberstar says that he can use his position to try and force the Feds to act, but they work equally hard to evade the requirements.

Ed Tennyson was also there and gave me a report. His only point of disagreement with Oberstar was High Speed Rail. Both he and I agree that the USA cannot afford true HSR. Too many other pressing needs.

An article soon on TOD.

Best Hopes for Better Politicians, We are going to need them !


Quote in Article:

Lieut. Ed L. Tennyson, Office Chief of Transportation, US Army states that 90% of ton-miles were by rail during WW II

Would it make sense to say that if new passenger rail lines were being planned, that they should be done in such a way that an upgrade to high-speed would be easy (or easier)? Things like avoiding lots of sharp turns, for example, so that the same right-of-way could be used for HSR at some point in the future.

There is always a cost-benefit with these sorts of things, of course.

Large radius curves are always good :-)

HSR often requires wider ROWs (noise) and also often uses steeper grades than freight can (up to 6% I think on some German ICE lines). 2% grades give freight haulers heartburn and are avoided where possible.

Of course HSR can use 1% grades as well.

Few all new rail lines are going to be built in the USA anytime soon.


the USA cannot afford true HSR. Too many other pressing needs.

I think you are being overly-pragmatic here Alan. If we are going to promote an Eisenhower-esque expansion of rail infrastructure in the U.S., we should be doing it right the first time. Going back and upgrading rail to allow high speed in the future would be very wasteful. All new rail lines laid down should be designed for high speed. The demand and private sector investments will be there (already is in many corridors) as the airlines continue to contract. Interstate travel and tourism is important to keep afloat if we want our economy to be even remotely "normal" 30 years from now.

BTW, don't you support ripping out select interstate highway segments? If we have the money for that, surely we have the money to lay 21st century rail infrastructure.

Even post-Peak Oil, jack hammers and dynamite and front end loaders to rid cities of selected ill-designed highways will not be unaffordable.

CSX has proposed $15 to $25 billion to grade separate and add semi-HSR (110 mph) tracks for 1,200 miles DC to Miami. Two regular freight tracks the entire distance, two 110 mph tracks DC to Richmond, one from Richmond to Miami.


Best Hopes for affordable semi-HSR,


PS: Energy use is the square of the speed (with minor adjustments for track-wheel friction)

They have proposed this upgrade, but the question is what is stopping them from actually doing the work?

GWB asked for "congestion relief corridors" projects and got 19 new or expanded interstate highways and this outlier from CSX.

Odds of funding before Jan. 20, 2009 ?

<< 1% IMHO.

Still, a very interesting and worthwhile proposal.

CSX just got (gossip not confirmed) taken over by a shareholder group that wants less spending and more profits. (Hint: the most profitable RRs today are those that invested the most in infrastructure).

Best Hopes for more RR capital spending,


Ugh. Shareholder groups rarely have the long term best interests of the company in mind.

Sorry for the ignorance, but when you talk about high-speed, are you referring to Mag-Lev or a different system? Would mag-lev trains work on relatively flat routes in the US?

No, not mag-lev. That is hugely expensive - even more expensive than the high speed trains in Europe.

I take Amtrak a lot. 50MPH (average) would be satisfactory, and for them, High Speed Rail

Just take I-95, lay electrified track on it, and run HSR.

Sorry, related but wrong pdf


is more directly relevant.

Best Hopes for Information Overload :-)


While you may be right overall, it is good to remember that wind resistance increases as the cube of speed. Centrifugal [OK, centripetal] force on curves increases as the square following laws of acceleration. That said, the combination of assorted drags and turbulences would vary from design to design and also vary with crosswinds and such. My guess is that it is probably closer to the cube than the square for higher speeds.

I'm a big proponent of LSR or low speed rail. I don't WANT to go anywhere in a hurry and would rather spend a day watching the scenery instead of a blur or watching a DVD at 210 mph. Why postpone life? As for whether the American public would accept this, they have in the past and will probably have to in future. Once you've decided that you're no longer in a hurry to postpone life, you've arrived.

I remember LSR trips in Spain but have forgotten HSR in France.

Best hopes for electrified LSR. Or non electrified.

I tend to agree with you. HSR will never be HS enough. The Japanese complain that their Shinkansen is not fast enough - and the mid range ones (Hikari) go about 250 kmph and average close to 200 kmph. I took a Hikari from Kobe to Hiroshima (about 250km) and it took me 1hr and 14mins (precisely). The Nozomis go closer to 300 kmph, but are more expensive.

The Japanese rail system is truly amazing. You get BULLET trains going from Tokyo to Osaka (Tokaido Shinkansen) almost every 6 mins starting 6:00 a.m to 10:00 p.m. Many are 16 coach trains that carry 1500 people in them. Some of these continue on the Sanyo Shinkansen to Hakata in Fukuoka City.


Indian Railways on the other hand does not have HSR. The fastest trains run at a max of a 150 kmph and average 103-105 kmph on the fastest sections. Most long distance express trains average 40-45 mph (60-70 kmph) over a distance of 1500-2500 km. IR however has been making a profit of close to USD 4 BILLION the last few years. IR is also planning two dedicated freight corridors (DFCs) to enable faster freight movements.


.....And they should be laying 200+ mph tracks. Creating a national high speed rail network would probably take 300-500 Billion (~4% of GDP, 1/2 cost of Iraq war). Over $200 Billion has been programmed for airport expansions across the country alone. Diverting this money, combined with a shift from highways to transit in the $245 Billion federal transportation budget makes HSR definitely feasible.


Nice fit with this:

"The study assumes that capacity is provided for long-distance Amtrak and local
commuter passenger rail services that are currently operated over rail freight
lines, but the study does not forecast the need for new passenger rail services or
the necessary capacity to support passenger rail growth. The Commission has
convened a passenger rail committee that is studying the need for improvements
and investments to support passenger-rail demand through 2035. The findings
of that committee will be reported separately."

National Rail Freight Infrastructure Capacity and Investment Study
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
Estimating future corridor volume in trains per day, using U.S. DOT’s. Freight Analysis Framework Version 2.2 forecasts of rail freight demand in. 2035 by ...


Your map has Atlanta to Cincinnati being electrified.

I wonder whether the track would belong to NS or CSX?

Edited to remove the width= tag.

There's really no point. The graphic is small enough that it can be displayed at full size on even small displays.

On large displays, using the "width=" tag forces the graphic to display at much larger sizes that it was meant to. It makes text unreadable.

It's also silly to force people to download the full file while displaying it at only a fraction of its real size.

Iowa Traction Railroad runs from Mason City to Clear Lake. It is a decrepit old line. I have never seen its locomotives move. Although a few cars of scrap iron on the track in Mason City indicate that it does move something once in a while when I'm not looking.

I don't think it goes to Clear Lake anymore so the 12 miles is an exaggeration. About 2 miles would be my guess for all that is used anymore.

Iowa does not lead in electric rail.

Percentage of overall track electrified is maybe not the best way to look at it, as many tracks, especially in the developed countries might not be in use - or only used once a day/week. I know that's the case with both the UK and Germany, that many tracks only exist for very limited services (e.g. go to a power station, a mine, or a twice a day commuter route.) In those instances Coal might be a better solution that electrifying the lines.

With rare exceptions, all rail networks have both little used spurs and main lines. The 80/20 rule (80% of the ton-miles of 20% of the track miles) seems close in most cases.

A reasonable generic assumption is that 50% of track carries 95% of the ton-miles. Remember that when looking at the table.

Southern Railroad (before N-S merger) studied electrifying the Atlanta-Cincinnati line.

BTW, your link is bad.


And of course, notice who doesn't even make the list. The US doesn't even rate a footnote.

Where does T Boone Pickens stand on Electric Rails ??


I really wouldn't stand on electric rails!

Mitsubishi could launch i MiEV retail sales in mid-2009

The Nikkei business daily is reporting that Japanese drivers may be able to get their hands on the electric kei car by next summer. The combination of record oil prices and good test results so far has evidently given Mitsubishi the confidence to get the ball rolling sooner than planned.

Apparently only 2,000 units planned for the first year but, it's a start. It'll take at least another 3 years or so before these start showing up in the Japanese domestic used market, at which point they're more affordable for third world markets. No mention of any plans for introduction into EU or NA markets.

Alan from the islands

"CANBERRA, Australia - A decade-long drought in Australia's most important crop-growing region is worsening and there is little hope for relief from either saving rains or a new government conservation plan, officials said Thursday.

The Murray-Darling river system, which produces 40 percent of Australia's fruit, vegetables and grain, is facing an economic and ecological crisis because of a decade of below-average rainfall."

I'm saying right now 15 MMT is all the wheat Australia will produce.

and that's a topside est.

What Yahoo article, courtesy Leanan does not say:

"Updated Sat Jul 5, 2008 7:23pm AEST
Lower Lakes crisis ... the Opposition says Mr Rudd has 'zero credibility'

The federal Opposition says the Prime Minister is without any credibility when it comes to managing the Lower Lakes region of South Australia's Murray-Darling Basin.

Mr Rudd today visited the region today, to inspect the condition of Lake Alexandrina near Milang.

He says he was stunned by how far the water had receded but says the Federal Government is addressing the problem, which he has attributed to climate change.

"If we fail to act on climate change we are condemning great river systems like the Murray-Darling to an entirely perilous future, and the result of our Government is to act," he said.

"It will be tough, it will be difficult, it will be expensive, but we intend to take on this challenge."



Ms Hartnett says the river in South Australia desperately needs water sent from upstream in New South Wales.

"It's a national disaster because it's caused by water policy upstream," she said.

"It's also national because this whole area and the River Murray is an icon and a valuable part of Australia and cultural heritage."

The icon is dead. The fifteenth largest river system in the world.

Not the last one either.

"The Darling is the longest river in Australia, measuring 2,740 km from its source to its confluence with the Murray at Wentworth. The Murray is 2,530 km long from its source in the Australian Alps to its mouth on Encounter Bay in South Australia. For some 1,880 km of its length, the river marks the border between New South Wales and Victoria (it is actually on the top of the bank on the Victorian side of the river). The Murrumbidgee is 1,690 km long. The Darling, Murray and Murrumbidgee are among the world's longest rivers. The longest continuous stretch of river is from the source of the Condamine, about 100 km south-west of Brisbane, to the mouth of the Murray, less than 100 kilometres south-east of Adelaide, a distance of approximately 3,750 km.

While the Darling, Murray and Murrumbidgee are the longest and most important rivers, they are but three of the twenty major rivers in the Basin (Table 4). Between them, these major rivers have hundreds of tributaries.


Urban farming takes root in Detroit

Could growing fresh vegetables help save crumbling inner cities around the world and tackle hunger?

That is the ambitious aim of a charity called Urban Farming, which has its headquarters in Detroit, the capital of the US's wilting car industry.

The idea is very simple: turn wasteland into free vegetable gardens and feed the poor people who live nearby.

Maybe something that could work in suburbia as well?

Do you have a link for that? (Doesn't work...)

I fixed it. The coding was bizarre. I don't know what it was, but it wasn't HTML. ;-)

Folks, if HTML isn't your forte, just post the plain URL. It should "linkify" automatically.

There is a way you can test your links before posting to make sure they work. I always do this because I sometimes make a mistake in typing the link in. You can just click on "Preview Comment". You can test your link when your comment is displayed. If it doesn't work, then examine it and see what you did wrong, then fix it before actually posting it.

There is also a Firefox add on called CoLT https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1812 which makes linking easier.

There have been numerous stories in the news about the dire straits that GM finds itself in. But yesterday there was a story in the NASCAR news that my fiancee alerted me to. Apparently GM is spending boku bucks to buy Tony Stewart out of his contract so that Tony can join another team and drive a Chevrolet instead of a Toyota.

Apparently there will be a news conference at 2:30.

With all of the problems that GM is facing, this is what they are spending their money on? If I were a shareholder, I would be outraged. I guess it is further evidence of the total cluelessness of the management, and of the inevitability of bankruptcy.

At many American corporations, management's main focus appears to be the transfer of wealth from shareholder to management. It is just another issue regarding the USA economy that is not being addressed. You could successfully make the argument that Skilling was a scapegoat for a much larger problem.

This only works as long as there are people lined up willing to buy the stock.

Actually, it works until the company ceases operations. If you can tap into the taxpayers' pocket, like Fannie Mae (and others) will, then you can keep cashing your fat cheques for a very long time.

But here's where the party stops.

It will cost $1.4 trillion to cover Fannie/Freddie.

By XMas.

And Wachovia, Lehman. Who gets the Bear treatment first?

$700 Trillion in derivatives.

IMO most people are underestimating the size of the bill to Joe Sixpack. Read Pimco's latest-Gross is advising Obama to run up a Trillion dollar deficit. IMO he is real light on this number.

IMO most people are underestimating the size of the bill to Joe Sixpack.

Joe Sixpack says he ain't payin' no stinckin' bill.

Just keep the gas, cigs and beer cheap.

Joe Sixpack will pay the bill through his paycheck but he won't know it-everything he needs will go up in price (must be the Moozlems or Al Gore causing trouble).

I believe that is what much of the push to privatize Social Security was really all about. The market seems to becoming more and more of a ponzi scheme, always in need of a new influx of cash to keep it from collapsing. Retirement plans like the 401(k) kept it going for a long time and disassociated those who are making the "investments" from those making the decisions for the companies, especially long term decisions. Getting even a portion of the Social Security pie would have allowed for market to have access to capital at a cheaper cost than risk/reward would otherwise allow.

With household budgets getting strained, I wonder if contributions to retirement plans are going to go into steep decline. How will the market react to this decrease in their stream of cheap capital?

Ilargi goes further-he labels all this organized crime http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com/

He's right. It is.

Germany did a cost production analysis of Ford truck plants and
decided not to nationalize it because they couldn't build the trucks
any faster or cheaper than Ford-1939.

ericy -

Considering GM's financial condition, at first glance it would seem the height of irresponsibility for them to be spending money on NASCAR, of all things. However, when you get right down to it, compared to GM's overall expenses it is a miniscule amount, which they no doubt view as a form of cheap advertising or image maintenance.

The US auto companies have a long history of spending money on marginally profitable limited production models (e.g., original T-Birds and Corvettes, and more recently, the Dodge Viper) in order to create some excitement that they hope will rub off on their more mundane models.

However, it still looks like a poor choice, as I question how much of a rosey future NASCAR has. It's not so much the fuel that the race cars use that's the problem, but rather the many orders of magnitude greater amount of fuel that the tens of thousands of fans consume in driving their SUVs, vans, and even RVs hundreds of miles to and from a race. Perhaps it will become mostly a TV thing rather than a live spectator sport.

Oil demand will soar, but so will supply - OPEC
Cartel blames speculators and weak U.S. dollar for recent price runup.


Bullshit! Supply will not soar!

Airlines are begging customers to contact their Congressmen! To stop oil speculation!

Read this letter from Airline CEOs.

[edited by Leanan to remove excessive quoting]

This may lower the price of oil, but will not stop peak oil.
We must get off of oil or our enemies will choke us.

We must get off of oil or our enemies will choke us.

We are our own worst enemies and are choking ourselves. NO ONE is forcing us to behave the way we do.

We are our own worst enemies

Yes. One can pick from the 'I'd like these things to happen' list by Osama Bin Laden and see how many of them have been done by the US of A.

On personal levels, people eat wild-caught fish (loaded with heavy metals - and they tell ya that right in the rule-book you are handed with the licence), overeat, drink booze, et la.

Now they're really going too far....

US Airways cuts movies on domestic flights

US Airways says it will start removing in-flight entertainment systems on domestic flights in November to save about $10 million annually in fuel and other costs.

Spokesman Phil Gee says the movie systems weigh about 500 pounds each, forcing planes to use more fuel to get around the country.

It doesn't surprise me though. I flew recently, and I was surprised that for what previously had been a sort of major route, they were now flying smaller jets - essentially regional jets, I guess.

If the price of jet fuel continues to climb, I think we can expect to see the cost of travel being assessed based on the weight of the passenger plus luggage. That might be an inducement for some of our fat cat neocons to lose some weight...

E. Swanson

The obvious next step is going to cause a stink with human rights groups: they will vary surcharge on passenger weight.


Seats are next to go. Just go with standee straps. Then remove food and water.

Also you must piss before entering the aircraft.

The bag will be located right beside your strap-extra charge for #2.

I was surprised that the system was claimed to weigh 500pounds. I suppose they can later reintroduce a scaled down version that doesn't add much weight.

Now how are they going to play the safety video?

NG Storage Report:

Working gas in storage was 2,208 Bcf as of Friday, July 4, 2008, according to EIA estimates. This represents a net increase of 90 Bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 389 Bcf less than last year at this time and 70 Bcf below the 5-year average of 2,278 Bcf. In the East Region, stocks were 27 Bcf below the 5-year average following net injections of 61 Bcf. Stocks in the Producing Region were 20 Bcf below the 5-year average of 737 Bcf a net injection of 14 Bcf. Stocks in the West Region were 22 Bcf below the 5-year average after a net addition of 15 Bcf. At 2,208 Bcf, total working gas is within the 5-year historical range.

It looks like it fits within the five year range people are looking at.

Of course, as our usage goes up, perhaps we should be adding storage so we have more. It will be interesting to see whether we can build enough in the weeks ahead.

1. Here's a link to the TOD Readers Group on Linkedin:

Linkedin is basically a networking site that allows folks to connect with people who are thinking about or working on similar things.

Other social media links: http://twitter.com/theoildrum and http://friendfeed.com/theoildrum.

2. Thanks for helping spread our work and efforts around. If you have a blog, or are a member of a messageboard, or play at a link farm like metafilter or anything else, the more you plant links to our stuff that you like, the more eyes it gets...it's that simple. Every little bit helps. Submit our stuff to those link farms or use the ShareThis buttons found around each post, they're simple (as long as you are logged in to the respective sites).

3. We really do need and appreciate your support. That and educating folks about the problems we face is what keeps us all going.

Thanks for hanging out, and thanks for making this all worth doing. I learn something here every day--and I apologize for these incessant reminders of things.

OK, I could not find the group, but I did find you as you are a 3rd degree connection.

Linkedin will have groups searchable on the 11th. And my profile here on TOD has a list of energy groups I could find w/o the search engine.

Can you point to a good general explanation of these sorts of services and how to use them? I don't use any o them because, well, the computer age passed me by when I was away from it for a few years and it's just such a pain to catch up. None of it is intuitive.


We've gotten a lot of reader email about an article over at counterpunch.org. An example:

There is an article on Peak Oil that is so shabby and dishonest that it deserves to be roundly criticized. I have already kicked the editors butts about it, but the drum members might want to deliver a few kicks. http://counterpunch.org/zadeh07092008.html The author tries to over-simplify and misrepresent Peak Oil in way the really disgraces the site.

There's no comment area, but feel free to write the contact box over there or tear it apart here and send them the link. :)

Dr. Kyle Goose,

I sent you an eMail about needing a slot next Monday for the article the politician wanted. I have received no response yet. Did you get that eMail ? (Some issues on my end).

Best Hopes,


That article is all over the net. Asia Times, Payvand, Middle East Online, The People's Voice, Al-Jazeera, etc. It was first posted in mid-June.

I saw that piece of junk last night, and I'm glad I'm not the only one miffed by it. I wasted several minutes of my life reading the article, and it really is an overlong, poorly constructed rant about the fradulence of "peak oil theory".

The worst part of the article is that I can't figure out what the author's counterpoint is. He seems to insinuate there are no wars being waged for oil, but rather for some notion that the West is just on another Crusade. There are aspects of the current situation that resemble the Crusades, but it is all too obvious that certain elements in the West desired, and have managed to turn Iraq into their own private oil tank.

Heck, the orignal Crusade was a scam by the Pope to build up his secular power over Europe. The knights he subcontracted the gig to went all Blackwater in Constantinople and looted the place before they ever saw a Moslem. Not much evolution in 900 years.

That was the fourth crusade. The first was requested by the Byzantines (and they had to be in deep sh*t to ask for help from the barbarian heretics in the west) and actually did temporarily grab the holy land and take the pressure off Byzantium for several decades.

re: Counterpunch article

"The Peak Oil thesis serves as a powerful trap and a clever manipulation in that it lets the real forces of war and militarism (the military-industrial complex and the pro-Israel lobby) “off the hook; it is a fabulous redirection. All evils are blamed on a commodity upon which we are all utterly dependent.”[2]

This is the most bizarre meme developing in the blogesphere that I have seen recently. That if peak is happening, it is an acceptable excuse for war and therefore it can't be true.

I had somebody tell me on another blog that the Bush administration just wants us to think that Iraq is about oil???? What a strange world we live in...


alas, this is all part and parcel of the denial/backlash, from the "left" and the "right". To whit:

"I don't like some of the implications of proposition X, therefore proposition X clearly is not true".

This is standard human cognition.

Also, I find it disconcerting that some folks on the right blame the conspiracy of the left, and vice versa. Each side seeks to blame another side... Otherwise intelligent and reasonable people somehow become fantasy-deniers when the topic of peak oil is brought up. Cognitive dissonance I guess. But I still find it unsettling.

Unsettling ain't the word for it! Depressing is more like it...

How about some good news today? Arctic sea ice seems to have backed off from testing last years low:


EXXON: "that pesky ice.......it was supposed to melt"

One more humorous detail. It looks like the ice island that the north pole web cam has itself been flushed down toward the bottom of the cap. I looks as though it is ending up in the drink http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/latest/noaa1.jpg

The real game starts near the end of August. What makes this year special is there is little perennial ice left. Normally in late summer the melt comes up against the old, thick, low salinity ice and slow considerably, this year that will not happen. Go to this page http://ice-glaces.ec.gc.ca/app/WsvPageDsp.cfm?id=11892&Lang=eng go a third of the way down and view the movie of the quickscat there. You can see the perennial ice begin flushed out the Fram Strait. Also note you are just looking at ice extents in that figure, not ice concentrations. Look at the cryosphere depiction of the arctic cap http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/arctic.jpg, there is a lot of red there, that ice is heavily broken up.

We won't really know until late in the year. The ice doesn't look healthy this year, i.e. it started out thin, and it has become wet (meltwater on the surface, and lower albedo) roughly three weeks early. NSIDC listed three major factors in the extent of summer ice melt. One is the date of ice becoming wet. The other two are determined by the luck of what sort of weather predominates. Last year was very sunny, and that allowed very strong melting.

Additionally a metric based on surface area could change very rapidly. If a large area of ice thins to zero thickness at roughly the same time, the extent could drop very quickly at some point.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the planet:

New evidence has emerged that a large plate of floating ice shelf attached to Antarctica is breaking up, in a troubling sign of global warming, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday.

The latest images, taken by Envisat's radar, say fractures have now opened up in this bridge and adjacent areas of the plate are disintegrating, creating large icebergs.

Scientists are puzzled and concerned by the event, ESA added.

But this latest stage of the breakup occurred during the Southern Hemisphere's winter, when atmospheric temperatures are at their lowest.

One idea is that warmer water from the Southern Ocean is reaching the underside of the ice shelf and thinning it rapidly from underneath.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

PALMER: "I wonder... Where did that heat go? It's gotta be around here somewhere."

It is not that easy any more to separate the articles from THE ONION from the rest of the MSM-it is funny enough that this guy is the Alzheimer patient's main economic advisor-listen to him talk http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/10/mccain-adviser-americans_n_1118...

The average Chinese currently consumes 2.2 barrels per year. The average Mexican or the average Malaysian consumes 7 barrels, the average Korean uses 16 barrels. When South Korea was at the same stage of development as China is today, the oil consumption started to skyrocket. When the average Chinese consumes as much as the average Mexican or Malaysian, China will have added another 20mb/d to the global marketplace, that's another US in the market for oil. The global oil demand forecasts are way too conservative, considering that their forecasts are based on oil at sub-100 dollar oil. The middle east will probably double their oil consumption by 2020 as well relative to 2007, we're talking 12mb/d+.

Why would global demand be much less than 130mb/d in 2020 in a sub-100 dollar oil environment (all forecasts I've seen use oil prices that are much less than 100 dollar)? All mainstream demand forecasts 10 years ago were completely off, and they continue with this year after year.

Take a look at the 2007 income per capita statistics of different countries and the 2007 annual oil consumption per capita statistics, the connection is extremely strong. If Asia grows at about the same pace or somewhat slower to what it has done in the last five years until 2020, income per capita levels will suggest Asia-Pacific consumption rates of 55-60 mb/d. Russia will probably add another couple of mb/d to their daily consumption as well.

Strictly speaking, there is a difference between what people want to consume and demand, which is what they are willing and able to buy.

But in any case, for the reasons you cited, plus declining net oil exports, we have seen oil prices increase at the rate of about one percent every five days, since May, 2007.

It depends how you measure demand. Current demand for oil is about USD 11.5 billion per day. In gold, it is 12.2 million ounces. I'm not sure what it is as a percent of world GDP, but this is maybe the best way to measure it.

All forecasts uses different oil price scenarios, and they are all well below current oil price levels, but their demand forecasts are still very low. When the IEA or EIA predicts 100 mb/d demand in 2020 in a 50 dollar a barrel scenario (I don't remember exactly their 2020 demand forecasts), it simply doesn't add up. It is very important to be realistic about demand pressures when talking about possible "demand destruction". Here's a rough estimation for global demand by 2020 given reasonable GDP growth rates for different regions and using historic and current per capita oil consumption rates for different countries as a guide to forecast the oil consumption when per capita income levels increases to levels similar to other countries (2006 oil consumption are in brackets):

US and Canada: 23-25mb/d (23mb/d)
Latin America: 10mb/d (7.6mb/d)
Europe+Turkey: 16mb/d (equal)
FSU: 7mb/d (4.2 mb/d)
Africa: 5 mb/d (3 mb/d)
Middle East: 12 mb/d (6 mb/d)
Asia-Pacific: 58 mb/d (24.5 mb/d)

Total: 132 mb/d in 2020

Probably the biggest difference relative to mainstream forecasts (which all operate with oil prices well below current levels) is the Asia-Pacific region. 58 mb/d is an increase of well over 100%. If we divide it up, China will consume 23 mb/d, India 14.8 and both the Phillippines, Vietnam and Thailand well over 1 mb/d. Indonesia is at almost 3 mb/d. This translates into 6 barrels per person annually in China (remember Mexico and Malaysia today is at 7, while Thailand is at 5), and 4 barrels per person in India, Indonesia and the Phillippines in 2020. Given reasonable GDP growth rates, the Asia-Pacific countries will reach an income per capita level in 2020 which suggest these oil consumption figures. At least, that is what other countries consume today with income levels similar to what the Asia-Pacific countries will have in 2020. I don't see anything unrealistic with this scenario, probably the most unrealistic would be Europe and North America having about the same consumption level as today.

Income levels per person is a better way to figure out future demand pressures, I don't favor using historic oil consumption growth rates. And the pressures is immense up to 2020, much larger than the mainstream figures. Remember, South Korea increased its oil consumption 100% in five years from 1990 to 1995. Don't be surprised if we see the same huge demand pressures from China. It could happen tomorrow. What we saw in 2004 from China was just a taste. China's oil consumption is slightly lower than what would be suggested from the income level (for example oil consumption in Guatemala is higher than in China).

Reading suggestions?

I am taking a couple of trips soon, and am looking for suggestions for reading on the topics of peak oil, population, food production, sustainability, etc. What would be some good choices, and more importantly, what should I avoid?

So far I have read Roberts' The End of Oil, The Long Emergency, and Omnivore's Dilemma. I liked all three.

"The last hours of ancient sunlight," by Hartmann.

From my ELP Plan article:

Author Thom Hartmann, in his book, “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight,” described a high tech company that he consulted for that went through several rounds of start up financing, and then collapsed, without ever delivering a real product. At the peak of their activity, they had several employees and lavish office space--until they ran out of capital. His point was that this company was analogous to a large portion of the US economy, which has the appearance of considerable activity and uses vast amounts of energy, but how much of this economic activity delivers essential goods and services?

mcgowanmc on July 7, 2008 - 11:32am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | [Parent subthread ] Comments top

The shakeout happens on Monday.

Tuesday afternoon inventory gets talked about.

Wed inventory two of the five categories miss.

Oil drops in the AM, rallys at the close.

Thursday rally sets record. Friday holds gains.

Rinse. Wash. Repeat.


$141.70 Thurs Jly 10, 2008

Why'd it happen?

The PPT took off it's positions.

And/or someone's on the wrong side. And/or needed
immediate funds.



NEW Real-time: 16.06 Down 3.68(18.64%)

I have only perused the contents and some chapters...but seems to fit your topics well:

Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization


Wendell Berry is a brilliant writer seldom mentioned here... pens excellent, highly disciplined, essays on the topics you mentioned above. His books will be at your library.

And if you're ready for it... Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine" is something to consider. Read some comments on Amazon. Just issued in paperback. The thesis is fascinating... capitalism takes advantage of (and foments) disaster.


I thank you for mentioning Wendell Berry - an inspiration to me. A very deep thinker, and a great writer. Folks, if you haven't encountered his work before, you owe it to yourself to do so...

Suggested titles?

I'd look on Amazon, read the comments, pick a couple titles and head for the local library. Most of Berry's books are collections of essays that he's published in various magazines. You can start anywhere. They're all worthwhile.
One of my favorite essays is called "The Whole Horse".

Berry is exceedingly intelligent and bitingly critical of our manipulations of reality.

And on top of all that, he can rap..

I am wholly willing to be here
between the bright silent thousands of stars and
the life of the grass pouring out of the ground.
The hill has grown to me like a foot,
Until I lift the earth I cannot move.

Some of my favorites:

Collapse, Jared Diamond
The Upside of Down, Thomas Homer-Dixon
The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan
Twilight in the Desert, Matthew Simmons
The Collapse of Complex Societies, Joseph Tainter

Thanks all for the suggestions. Is Twilight super technical? I'm a little intimidated by it, and wondering if I know enough from his powerpoints and TOD.

Also, are Deffeyes and Heinberg worth reading? Has anyone read the fiction "Sunset on Ghawar"?

I'm not really the one to ask. I'm an engineer, so my idea of "technical" might not be the same as yours.

I read Deffeyes' first book, and liked it. It's technical, but worthwhile. Especially if you've ever wondered how he knows there aren't a lot more Ghawars out there, if only we drill deep enough. Reading it, I could see that he was probably a pretty decent college professor, at least as far as teaching goes.

I haven't bothered with his second book yet, because everyone said it's very similar to the first.

If technical isn't your thing, you might like Heinberg. He covers a lot of what's in the other books, in a quick and very readable way.

Good books I've read lately...

End of Food by Paul Roberts
Uncertain Peril : Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds by Claire Hope Cummings
Holy Cows And Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer's Guide To Farm Friendly Food by Joel Salatin
Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planetby Mark Lymas
Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer

For a different view on civilization/sustainability...

Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization Derrick Jensen

I lent out all of those books after reading them and never got them back. I can only hope the borrowers passed them on. Isn’t there some kind of movement about leaving books in places with a note written of the cover to pass them on?

After reading "The Botany of Desire" I never wanted to eat another commercially grown potato.

BookCrossing.com lets you track books you "set free in the world."

There also sites like BookMooch, where you can get credit for books you give away, and use it to get books from other members. A lot of people like the idea of reading used books, since it's "green" (less consumption, etc.). Authors hate it, though. They don't get paid if you borrow a book, or get it second hand.

I have to admit, I don't read as much as I used to. Maybe there's something to the idea that the net rewires your brain so you don't have the patience to read books any more.

World Made by Hand
Five Acres and Independence
Plows, Plagues and Petroleum
I second Leanan's choice of Collapse and Phreephalin's suggestion of 6 Degrees. Guns, Germs, and Steel is also excellent, but outside your request range.

I really liked Dmitry Orlovs "Reinventing Collapse".

NozzleRage: Attack of the Pump


Anybody have additional info on this?

New Kits Turn Any Car Into a Plug-in Hybrid

I'd have a lot more confidence in the 123 systems than in the Poulson - 123 is a spin off from Caterpiller, and is one of the battery manufacturers involved in the Volt.
They talk a bit more about it here:

What I don't understand, and would make me wary, is that the Prius is a parallel hybrid, meaning that not everything is funnelled through the electric motor, rather than a series hybrid, which is purely electric until the ICE is engaged.

The whole box of tricks to co-ordinate the two motors is pretty complicated, so presumably they have had to alter the programming somehow, and you would invalidate your warranty.

Square those reservations for a home kit form a smaller manufacturer like Poulson.

The Hymotion kit is legit. They definately know what they are doing.

As for the others, I'm not sure how they work but at that price there probably isn't a lot of complicated interaction between the motors. Maybe just a thumb throttle near the steering wheel for the electric motors?

The Hymotion kit is legit. They definately know what they are doing.

Maybe. I'd be worried it only has a 3 year warantee. And like Dave points out, it nixs the Toyota warantee.

WTI crude closed up $5.60 at 141.65. Large buy orders near the close caused by uncertainty in the Iranian situation.


Come now, think a little....

Do you really know why it was bid up, or are you just repeating MSM drivel?


Of course I am just repeating what was said on CNBC. I thought that was implicit in my post. But that was the word on the floor of the exchange and caused everyone to start screaming and waving their fingers at the order takers. Something about more test missiles being fired. So there is a pretty good chance that this was the cause, at least that was what the CNBC reporter on the floor of the exchange was saying.

Ron Patterson

We are also seeing a continuation of what we have seen since May, 2007--an increase of about one percent every five days. To stay on trend in July (relative to May, 2008), we need to average about $140 for the month (June was slightly above trend).

Pretty wild when you think about it. On average, every five days, for going on 14 months, oil prices have bumped up by another one percent.

Would be interesting to plot the Fannie Mae stock price against WTI since May, 2007. From my April, 2007 ELP Plan article:

I have been advising for anyone who would listen to voluntarily cut back on their consumption, based on the premise that we were probably headed, in a post-Peak Oil environment, for a prolonged period of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices.

So, what's the outlook for the next 12 months?

The bubble will burst of course......

john15 on July 9, 2008 - 10:59pm
"Price will be below $100 barrel by the year end"

that is entirely possible.

john15 on July 8, 2008 - 6:54pm
For the record, I'll only say I told you so when oil gets below $115.

Copper Thefts Hitting the Rails

So when a section of the track went dark, Union Pacific, along with the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, took it seriously.

"We wanted to catch somebody. We have had so many wire thefts, that to be able to get their quick enough is the problem," said Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee.


All three of the thieves took off running, leaving the evidence behind. Livreri was arrested in a nearby ravine. The Leeder's ran through the woods into Washington County, Utah where they were arrested the next morning.


Sheriff Lee says the FBI took over the case and believes this will be the first time anyone will be tried federally in connection with copper theft from the railroad.

"Railroads are part of the critical infrastructure of this country. So, absolutely it is something that we are interested in," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Steven Martinez.

Best hopes for protecting the infrastructure from crackheads.

India manages to keep almost 30% of their tracks electrified.


These geniuses were stealing the wiring used for signaling. If they were attempting to take wiring with a high voltage flowing through it, they would be more likely to receive a "Darwin Award" rather than jail time. I wasn't trying to make a statement about electrification of rail, I'm all for it. But since you brought it up, do they have crystal meth in India?

And the signal wiring can be replaced with optic fibers, which have far lower black market value.

And will have to be replaced...

Copper theft is old news.

The new thing is stealing flour.


HIGASHIMATSUYAMA, Saitama -- More than two tons of flour, worth 270,000 yen, has been stolen from a wholesale company's warehouse here, police said.

Investigators suspect that the thief stole the flour in a bid to resell it as flour prices have been rising sharply in recent months.

Copper theft is old news.

I posted that because they actually got caught.

Local police suspect that the thief used the truck to transport the flour and later returned the vehicle to the warehouse.

Even the criminals in Japan are polite.

anyone else see the emails sent out by the airlines today about "speculation" and the link to stopoilspeculationnow.com? F-ing retards.

Dear XXX,

An Open letter to All Airline Customers:

Our country is facing a possible sharp economic downturn because of skyrocketing oil and fuel prices, but by pulling together, we can all do something to help now. Visit www.StopOilSpeculationNow.com.

For airlines, ultra-expensive fuel means thousands of lost jobs and severe reductions in air service to both large and small communities. To the broader economy, oil prices mean slower activity and widespread economic pain. This pain can be alleviated, and that is why we are taking the extraordinary step of writing this joint letter to our customers.

Since high oil prices are partly a response to normal market forces, the nation needs to focus on increased energy supplies and conservation. However, there is another side to this story because normal market forces are being dangerously amplified by poorly regulated market speculation.

Twenty years ago, 21 percent of oil contracts were purchased by speculators who trade oil on paper with no intention of ever taking delivery. Today, oil speculators purchase 66 percent of all oil futures contracts, and that reflects just the transactions that are known. Speculators buy up large amounts of oil and then sell it to each other again and again. A barrel of oil may trade 20-plus times before it is delivered and used; the price goes up with each trade and consumers pick up the final tab. Some market experts estimate that current prices reflect as much as $30 to $60 per barrel in unnecessary speculative costs.

Over seventy years ago, Congress established regulations to control excessive, largely unchecked market speculation and manipulation. However, over the past two decades, these regulatory limits have been weakened or removed. We believe that restoring and enforcing these limits, along with several other modest measures, will provide more disclosure, transparency and sound market oversight. Together, these reforms will help cool the over-heated oil market and permit the economy to prosper.

The nation needs to pull together to reform the oil markets and solve this growing problem. We need your help. Get more information and contact Congress by visiting www.StopOilSpeculationNow.com.

Robert Fornaro
Chairman, President and CEO
AirTran Airways

Bill Ayer
Chairman, President and CEO
Alaska Airlines, Inc.

Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman, President and CEO
American Airlines, Inc.

Lawrence W. Kellner
Chairman and CEO
Continental Airlines, Inc.

Richard Anderson
Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Mark B. Dunkerley
President and CEO
Hawaiian Airlines, Inc.

Dave Barger
JetBlue Airways Corporation

Timothy E. Hoeksema
Chairman, President and CEO
Midwest Airlines

Douglas M. Steenland
President and CEO
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Gary Kelly
Chairman and CEO
Southwest Airlines Co.

Glenn F. Tilton
Chairman, President and CEO
United Airlines, Inc.

Douglas Parker
Chairman and CEO
US Airways Group, Inc.

I was going to suggest a companion effort: www.stopentropynow.com, but it looks like someone already has the website.

However, we can get behind the efforts to Repeal the Laws of Nature:


WTF? Are they really that ignorant, or is there some other motive, here? That is a very strange website. Write your congressman?

They want a gov't bailout, because the problem is "temporary".

They worry about their end of year bonus check.

They are sort of between a rock and a hard place. If speculation isn't responsible for the high oil prices, then they are toast and they know it. So you assume that it is speculation and try and work that angle.

Reminds me a bit of how you play a hard hand in tournament bridge. Sometimes you have to assume that you get the breaks and play the hand that way. If you don't get the breaks you are going to lose no matter what.

Well, I did expect to see a parallel increase in delusional thinking as oil prices continue to increase. Kind of funny how they didn't complain as poor Third World consumers were priced out of the energy markets.

Continuing apologies: Ask not for whom forced energy conservation comes, it comes for thee.

From 2006:

As Fuel Prices Soar, A Country Unravels
Chip Cummins, Wall Street Journal via China Gate
Energy shock hits the upwardly mobile poor hardest
in Africa's Guinea. Riots, blackouts cripple cities.
A hospital's incubator shuts down

The impact of today's energy crunch on the poor is plain in rich nations such as America: Expensive gasoline and soaring heating bills make a hard life harder. In impoverished countries such as Guinea, where per capita income is just $370 a year and surging gasoline prices have helped spark bloody riots, the energy shock has become a matter of life and death.
(18 Nov 2006)

It's discussed upthread. "Nowhere" posted it early this morning.

Obviously it's retarded, but it's just a PR exercise. If enough airline passengers buy the spiel, it will be worth the few thousand dollars spent on the website.

I went to the stopoilspeculationnow.com site and took the opportunity to send my congress critters the latest from Richard Heinberg.

It was nice to see Heinberg is in favor of direct allocation, i.e., a rationing system. Has he been reading my posts about rationing on TheOilDrum?? I think a rationing system must include jet fuel along with gasoline and diesel, so those airline executives wouldn't like it, even though their cost of fuel might decline in the short term...

E. Swanson

I just looked at my inbox. Sure enough, as a "perks" customer on Nortwest (meaning I flew with them sometime in the last year) I have that exact letter.

I see it's also signed by Southwest. WTF? Does that mean LUV wants to give back all that money they saved by buying jet fuel contracts? Are they gonna stand around the pumps at the Valero station and hand it out to motorists who pull in?

Matthew Simmons article in The Economist

"The Economist" is about as mainstream as it gets for business. This week they have an interview with Matt Simmons under the title "The Only Way is Down".

"He magnanimously excuses The Economist’s poor record of predicting the price of oil: our suggestion in 1999 that oil would remain dirt cheap was conventional wisdom at the time, he says soothingly."

"Most of the world’s oil analysts, he believes, are far too optimistic about how long existing fields will last, the prospects for new discoveries, technology’s ability to unlock new sources and to extend the life of existing ones, and so on. He prefers to rely on data rather than daydreams. And according to the American government’s own numbers, the world’s oil output has been more-or-less flat since 2005."

Good to see "The Economist" coming around.

They play a non-sense tongue in cheek at the end of the article, quite a nerve, they should listen more and talk less.

Heh. Simmons loves to use that "Drowning in Oil" cover in his presentations, though. :-D

Good link.

One of those "how far we've come" moments...

In the meantime, Mr Simmons is taking no chances. He plans to start up a farm near his house in Maine, in case the supply chain that provides America with food breaks down for lack of fuel. He plans to fertilise his fields with manure, rather than chemicals derived from oil and natural gas. He thinks globalisation must stop, and that as much trade as possible should be conducted by boat, to conserve whatever oil remains.

Good gravy. Talking about stuff like this in The Economist? Without making him out to be a complete loony, either.

Not only is the Economist profiling Matt Simmons and peak oil, it's cautioning against any sanguine attitudes regarding the tensions between Israel/US and Iran. Note the above link: Coming to a city near you? - Be very afraid, please

Quite puzzled by the word "please". Is the author saying: "please be very afraid" or perhaps something else, like "Be very afraid", now please BAU?

Wow, Simmons is a lifeboater!

Just think, a multi millionaire banker is preparing for a life of spreading poop around his fields.

That is sobering.

The Rainwater Prophecy (12/05)

Part of Rainwater's routine when he's down on the farm is to go for gizzards at Allison's, a no-frills truck stop up the road. Driving in a red BMW SUV on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, he points out who lives where: the local doctor, the Taiwanese Nan Ya workers. He chokes up momentarily passing the home of a woman who worked at the farm, whose son has just returned from serving in Iraq. The sheer incongruity of his wealth in Lake City is not lost on him. But at Allison's he seems right at home, lathering the deep-fried gizzards with hot sauce and self-serving a large coffee which he spices at the hot chocolate machine.

Back on the farm that night, he and Moore discuss future projects with their landscaper, Jenks Farmer, over a glass of wine. Farmer, who has a master's in horticulture and lives on the property, maintains Moore's extensive gardens, including vegetable beds that produce all year round. That morning Rainwater had been surfing the web, researching greenhouses in his quest to further ensure a steady flow of food through the winter. At his prodding, Moore has installed an emergency generator and 500-gallon storage tanks for diesel fuel and water. When Rainwater says that he's thinking about opening a for-profit survivability center, it's not entirely clear that he's joking. Later in the night Rainwater returns to musing on how different his lot is from the residents of Lake City. And then, returning to the debate in his head, he gets a serious look on his face and says: "This is going to get a little religious. I ask why I was blessed with this insightfulness. Everyone who has achieved something, scientists, ballplayers, thinks they were given their talent for a reason. Why me? Was I given this insightfulness at this particular time? Or was I just given this insightfulness?" He pauses. "I just want people to look out. 'Cause it could be bad."

Has the salicornia been discussed here at TOD? It seems that they (GEF and Carl Hodges) are trying to set up some experimental plots in Mexico:


If there are two things we are surely not running out post PO, these are desert and seawater. And although it would take some energy to pump seawater into desert, it could be probably achieved using solar or wind powered pumps.

It almost sounds to good to be true. It certainly is only new thing that gives me some optimism in a long time. Since it allows us increase arable land several times, would not be constrained by fresh water and would actually make biodiesel something to consider.

That is interesting. I agree it almost sounds too good to be true, and it almost sounds feasible.

The plan is to cut an ocean canal into the desert to nourish commercial ponds of shrimp and fish. Instead of dumping the effluent back into the ocean, the company would channel it further inland to fertilize fields of salicornia for biofuel. The seawater's next stop would be man-made wetlands. These mangrove forests could be "sold" to polluters to meet emissions cuts mandated by the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

It seems to me that the salt would build up over time, as it did with the dead sea, and eventually kill everything. If one could overcome that problem, it might work.

Of course there could be many long term sustainability problems, but I think salt buildups can be avoided as long as proper outflow back to ocean is maintained.

It just amazes me that nobody talks about it. We talk about sugar cane, algae, switchgrass, etc. but all these consumes valuable (in future) fresh water and arable land.

CNN has a series of videos on the Alberta oilsands and Fort McMurray.

CNN Visiting Fort McMurray

"Most Americans probably don't know that one third of the world's known oil deposits are buried in the dirt of Canada's Alberta province. The Oil Sands of Canada - as they are known - contain the largest known oil deposit in the world, significantly larger than that of Saudi Arabia. One and a half million barrels of oil are extracted from the land every day, most of it sent directly to the U.S."

"Alberta supplies about ten percent of America's imported oil - some of it from conventional wells, but a growing amount from Oil Sands. And the fast-growing industry has turned the town of Ft. McMurray into a bonafide "boomtown" with folks here juggling new riches - and new problems."

First "The Economist" and now CNN - I'm beginning to see a pattern here...

Of course, I assume that Fox News will keep foaming at the mouth until we all go over the cliff :)

some links

Bush ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.


Cow farts collected in plastic tank for global warming study

In a bid to understand the impact of the wind produced by cows on global warming, scientists collected gas from their stomachs in plastic tanks attached to their backs.

picture is a must see

Jack Horkheimer (Star Hustler on PBS) AGW denier?

And now let me share some very special pictures with you because famed planetary photographer Dr. Donald Parker of Coral Gables has been regularly sending us images of Jupiter as it's been coming closer to opposition. And his pictures show not only the great red spot which is a huge salmon-colored football-shaped storm over two Earths wide, but two more little red spots which have been recently discovered and which have been causing a lot of buzz in the astronomical community because this means that Jupiter's atmosphere has become much more turbulent over the past couple of years which leads some experts to think that global warming has arrived on Jupiter.


"Cow farts collected in plastic tank for global warming study"


Energy crisis solved.... :)

Wow, the economy is really getting bad.


Nearly half of analysts, stockbrokers and hedge fund managers say 'the other woman' is first to get the chop as they cut their spending habits.

Divorces have also soared as City bonuses fell for the first time in five years last month.

You're forced to dump your girlfriend cause you're poor. Then your wife give you the boot cause you're poor.

Jeepers creepers peoples. Between Leanan's toplinks and your various threads today, my doomometer's off the charts. Can somebody please give me some internationally-friendly, non-partisan good news?

Thanks in advance.


France – A Comprehensive Non-Oil Transportation System

• High Speed Inter-City Rail
• Inter-City Freight Rail
• Urban Rail
• Bicycles
• Walkable Neighborhoods

President Chirac made it a national goal to electrify “every meter” of the French National railroads (SNCF) and “burn not one drop of oil”. This goal was set on January 1st, 2006 with a twenty year deadline.

France has been building their famous TGV lines for over 30 years, one line at a time. Now that the original Paris-centric system is 100 km from completion, a new network of additions, bypassing Paris, have been announced and, for the first time, three different TGV lines are simultaneously under construction.

France has had an aggressive tram (Light Rail) building program for over fifteen years, with only five French towns of population 100,000 or more without a tram or plans for one. Recently, France has stepped up the pace with plans for 1,500 km of new tram lines (22 billion euros) in the next decade.

And velibs. Rental bicycles scattered all over in almost a dozen French cities, typically with the first half hour free. Many more bicycle paths and lanes have been built in recent years. The stated government objective is to ensure that 10% of in-town journeys are made by bike by 2010, but the results are trailing plans with only 3% in 2007. However, Portland Oregon and Davis California are the only US cities that exceed 3% AFAIK.

Mulhouse France (population 110,900, metro 271,000) illustrates just how comprehensive the French program can be in a best case. This remote town where France, Germany and Switzerland meet, got it’s first tram (Light Rail) line in 2006. By 2012, they will have 58 km (34 miles) of new tram lines (they would also have had a tram line to Basel Switzerland if Franco-Swiss co-operation had been better).

In 2011, Mulhouse will be the temporary terminus of a new TGV line and 200 velibs (rental bicycles with the first half hour free) have recently been installed.

The end result is that by 2012 a resident of Mulhouse can walk out their door, grab a velib rental bicycle, drop it off at the tram station or just walk, take the tram to the TGV station and be in Paris in 4 or so hours, and anywhere in France in a long day, all with a drop or two of lubricating oil and minimal carbon footprint.

In the non-transportation area, France is installing large numbers of solar hot water heaters and geothermal heat pumps.

With significant difficulty and economic loss, France could adapt to a prolonged loss of a fraction of their imported oil.

Switzerland started building their Non-Oil Transportation system in the 1920’s as a National Defense policy. This successful policy enabled Switzerland to endure a six year 100% oil embargo during WW II with a functional industrial economy, democratic institutions and a deterrent defense.

Germany, unlike France, kept their Urban Rail network after WW II and has been steadily enhancing it instead of rebuilding it in a crash program. They are also building a high speed rail network, but at a slower pace and have world class insulation standards.

Best Hopes,


Thanks- your posts tend to be optimistic and informative. I find the French bicycle program fascinating, and hope it can inspire folks far and wide beyond their borders. Best hopes (beyond hope?) for NOLA & environs.

Actually, even your post is depressing. Why can't the U.S. be like France? They identify a problem and then come up with a solution. We can't even agree on the problem. Is this an anglo saxon disease? Not sure the British are much better at this than we are. Oh, but we so hate the French. Perhaps it is jealousy. Freedom fries, anyone?

Here ya go.


I'm not sure how informed it will keep you. But its full of good news.

The good news is, it's full of good news. The not so good news is, you have to subscribe to it :(

LOL! Thx. A little brain opium goes a long way.

High oil prices may be good for Hollywood

A certain kind of film financier has been the most obvious beneficiary of the recent spikes. For instance, Ingo Volkammer's Leomax Entertainment, a Los Angeles- and Berlin-based financing and production banner, has found that the jump in oil prices has opened up its financing options.

The company has created a five-year slate using money from an oil-based hedge fund -- one of its current projects is a thriller called "Short Cut" from Adam Sandler's production company -- and found financing relatively easier to come by.

"If you need to shelter windfall profits, there's really no better place than the movie business," Volkammer says.

Basically, that's because tax laws in some European countries require that windfall profits are taxed heavily unless the money is quickly invested in an intangible asset like fil

Regarding: 'Coming to a City near you', Be very afraid.

Gauranteed war with Iran - absolutely certain. How can it not happen with all arrows pointing to a war before the next US Prez election? The Repukes are looking dismal in the polls, both for McCain, the Senate and the House. Whenever a war starts with all the bombing air strikes played on TV 24/7 people salivate like Romans did watching gladiator games 2,000 years ago. Then as time passes the air strikes are over and people start to wonder if another war was really necessary. What was it all for afterall? Why did so many soldiers have to die and get maimed? To take full advantage of the initial salivation, which will result in higher poll numbers for McCain and Co., the air attacks on Iran will be timed to occur no more than one month prior to the election. Not so close to the election that it would delay it, but close enough to impact poll numbers enough to change the outcome of the election.

Don't think Bush would dare do so without congressional approval? Guess again. He'll coordinate the attacks with Israel, so that Israel will make the first air attack, then the US will wait for Iran to retaliate and then make good on their threat to protect our allies in the region by attacking Iran. If Iran should get off a missle that hits a significant US target, like a US ship or base, Bush will have his excuse to either use strategic nuclear strikes or order a multiple warhead nuclear strike. A nuclear attack will scare everyone in this country ____less, and they will cower under the umbrella of a war first Hawk McCain.

McCain will win the election and him, Bush, Cheney and the rest of the neoconchaingang will be smiling from ear to ear at huge GOP election celebrations on the night of the election.

It's in the bag!

Hello TODers,

Fertiliser prices to keep on rising

Farmers were warned yesterday to expect further increases in fertiliser prices as global demand remains far in excess of supply.

The next two links are related to sulfur:

Kazakhstan Energy Ministry suggests creating National Sulfur Storage

"By 2010, the whole volume of sulfur on the territory of Kazakhstan except for the export one should be placed to the storage", Mrs Samarzina reported.

Kazakhstan urges Chevron to store sulphur indoors

Raushan Sarmurzina, a senior Energy Ministry official, told reporters the ministry had put forward its demands "in a strict manner".

"By 2010 all the sulphur must be stored in a storage facility if it's not sold by then," she said. "It's our goal and we've put forward this question in a strict manner."
Will their 8 million ton sulfur stockpile form the initial basis of their 'Federal Reserve Banks of I-NPK'?

Canaccord initiates fertilizer coverage, puts $425 target on Potash Corp.

Put simply, Mr. Carpenter figures that the fertilizer market (specifically potash and phosphate) will be robust for "years" into the future as people in developing countries change their dietary habits. "Supply will not be able to meet the growth in demand over the next five years," he wrote in notes to clients.
It would be interesting to see what he expects if he knew about how Peakoil effects this going forward.

Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

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

Hello TODers,

Is anybody here an expert on Rhodium, and its possible impact on Nitrogen-based fertilizers? Will this be the 'straw that breaks the camel's back' sending billions into starvation if we haven't sufficiently ramped O-NPK recycling and Nitrogen-fixing crop rotation everywhere?

The Brightest Stars in the Commodities Boom, Part Two

...Rhodium has two unique characters among the PGM metals. First, it's the most rigid and has the highest melting point among PGM metals. Second it is the only one that facilitates chemical reactions involving nitrogen, while being the only one strong enough to resist even the nitric acid. These two characters make rhodium virtually indispensible in all its applications...

...Rhodium is also used as catalyst in a number of very important chemical processes, including the Ostwald Process to produce nitric acid, and the Monsanto Process that produces acetic acid. Nitric acid is the basis of the nitrogen fertilizer industry and a whole family of many chemical products....

...Without gold, life on earth goes on and nothing much has been missed, but...



[I CAPITALIZED the above for emphasis!]

...because there will be no nitrogen fertilizers to boost food production to feed the hungry population. Without rhodium, companies like Monsanto (MON), Agrium Inc. (AGU), Potash Corp (POT), DOW Chemical (DOW) will have to shut down a major portion of their businesses. That's the whole reason why rhodium, at a mere 4% supply shortage, can reach such astronomical price level, $10,000 for one troy ounce.
Yikes! Yikes! Yikes! :(

From the USGS website:

The chemical industry uses a significant amount of either platinum or a platinum-rhodium alloy catalyst in the form of gauze to catalyze the partial oxidation of ammonia to yield nitric oxide, which is the raw material for fertilizers, explosives, and nitric acid.

Platinum group metal alloy gauzes have been used as an ammonia oxidation catalyst within nitric acid production for nearly 100 years. Since the introduction of platinum gauzes as ammonia oxidation catalysts, metal losses have always gone hand in hand with catalytic activity. The introduction of platinum rhodium alloys strengthened the gauzes, which helped to reduced metal losses. For over 70 years 10% rhodium platinum gauzes woven from 76 or 60µm diameter wires were the norm within nitric acid plants until in 1991 Johnson Matthey introduced knitted gauzes. Knitted gauzes can further reduce metal losses but they are impossible to avoid, and are in fact desired if the catalyst is to act at maximum efficiency.
I hope everyone reads the included links.

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

Bob, I am very familiar with rhodium. It is used in the chemical industry to produce butyraldehyde, which is then converted to butanol. One of my key jobs when I was a process engineer in a butanol unit was to eliminate rhodium losses in the unit.

However, you can produce nitrogen fertilizers without rhodium. Ammonia is produced via the Haber process and doesn't require rhodium. And while ammonium nitrate is a great fertilizer, other ammonium compounds will work. You can even add ammonia directly to the ground, but you lose some to evaporation.