DrumBeat: July 12, 2008

Welcome to a world with $500 oil

How far will the real price of oil and other carbon-based resources rise? Experts (I am not one of them) differ widely in their medium-term and long-term predictions, but my reading of the evidence suggests that there is a fair chance that the sky is the limit. In the short run (the next 2 or 3 years) a global cyclical slowdown may provide some temporary relief from rising commodity prices in general and rising oil prices in particular. This temporary cyclical energy price comfort will be deeper and longer-lived if the key emerging markets that have let inflation get out of control (effectively all of them except for Brazil) tighten monetary and fiscal policies to bring inflation down to politically tolerable levels. The resulting cyclical slowdown in emerging market growth will be bad news for economic activity in the industrial world, but will put downward pressure on commodity prices. We will be unemployed but able to afford petrol.

Czechs take measures to offset Russian crude cuts

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic's main oil refiner said on Saturday it was tapping state oil reserves and bringing in crude through an alternate pipeline after Russia cut deliveries to the central European state.

Czech officials said on Friday the cuts would nearly halve incoming oil from Russia -- which could hurt ties already under strain after the Czechs disregarded Russian objections and signed a missile defense pact with the United States this week.

Follow the Oil Money

And it doesn't lead to a good place. U.S. dependence on foreign oil has led to both a wealth transfer and a power transfer.

An Energy Policy We Can Stick To

Energy independence is the wrong goal.

Oil, like all other goods, flows toward the highest bidder. Consequently, talking about "independence" in a global economy ruled by market forces is a contradiction.

As national policy, we must protect the U.S. economy from interruptions in the supply of such a critical commodity -- whether those interruptions are related to natural or political causes. I believe the appropriate aim is to strengthen our energy resilience to adjust to such changes.

Dr. Johann Wingard On Synthetic Fuels and Energy Crisis

I believe that the combination of electrified transport, bio-fuels and synfuels from coal and oil bearing minerals can eventually replace oil based fuels, which would last mankind for the next couple of centuries. I am a hydrogen skeptic, but research and development on fuel cells which use hydrogen bearing liquid fuels may provide the breakthrough, as phenomenal efficiencies are possible with fuel cells used in conjunction with unfired micro-turbines. I agree with physicist David Goodstein who said that fusion and shale oil are the energy sources of the future – “…and will always be.” Geophysicist Amos Nur of Stanford University believes that oil production will have to triple by 2060 just to cater for the world’s expanding population. Clearly that is not likely to happen, meaning that a huge conflict could be emerging during the next few decades.

Analyzing the analysts, part II: Oil price forecasts

The best and worst forecasts of the past decade: Best – Jeff Rubin in 2005; Worst – Dan Yergin in 2004.

Short supply fuels oil crisis in Nepal

KATHMANDU: The fuel crisis in Nepal intensified on Saturday as Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), the main supplier of petroleum products to the Himalayan nation, cut supplies due to non-payment of outstanding bills.

The shortage of petroleum products in Nepal aggravated as IOC cut fuel supplies by 67 per cent to the Himalayan state. The decision to cut the supply was made after state-run Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) failed to make payments of committed amount to IOC, official sources said.

Abu Dhabi rations supply of diesel

Abu Dhabi has rationed the supply of diesel to heavy duty vehicles at its petrol pumps to ease worsening traffic congestion on main streets and prevent a possible supply shortage because of surging demand, suppliers said yesterday.

Malaysia: Diesel Subsidy Scheme For Fishermen Flawed - State Assemblyman

KUALA PERLIS (Bernama) -- A state assemblyman has called for a review of the diesel subsidy scheme for fishermen as it is flawed and leads to abuse.

...He said the present system where subsidy was based on the size of boats and not the actual catch made by fishermen had led to abuse.

Hudson road crews revamp work schedule

HUDSON, NH – Faced with a roughly $90,000 shortage in his fuel budget, Hudson Road Agent Kevin Burns will send his crews out for fewer, but longer days.

Starting next week, highway department crews will begin working 10-hour days four times a week rather than eight-hour days five times a week. Burns hopes the four-month experiment will save up to 15 percent of his fuel budget.

Gas Thieves Use New Tactic To Keep Prices Low

CHICAGO (CBS) ― With sky-high gas prices, thieves have come up with a bold new way to steal fuel, right at the pump.

CBS station WBBM-TV in Chicago reports police and gas stations are now catching on to the scam.

How much will the local school system have to send to Raleigh to cover travel costs?

The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education talked about high fuel prices and the potential impact on schools, students and parents during a meeting held Friday.

Superintendent Randy Bridges said the system doesn't yet know how much money the state will ask to be returned from local school districts in other areas to compensate for rising fuel costs.

Fuel costs a burden on prep sports

Struggling with escalating gas and diesel prices, some high schools and districts are hiking athletic participation fees to help offset the rising cost of transporting athletes to events.

The G8 fiddles while petro-civilization burns

From the ancient Trojans to the louche Renaissance popes who provoked the Protestant secession, to the British who lost America in the 18th century, to the Americans who made their fatally poor decisions in the Vietnam War of the 20th century, Tuchman painstakingly catalogues the information the political leaders were aware of and could have used to make better decisions, but didn't.

Were she alive today, Tuchman would be twitching to write another chapter and this one would follow the grandest folly of them all. It is the story of rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and ocean and the global political establishment's utter inability to cut them down.

Tesla's wild ride

Building the world's first electric supercar was never going to be easy - even without the hubris, infighting, and mismanagement that nearly sent Tesla spinning off the road.

The Only Diet for a Peacemaker Is a Vegetarian Diet

A hundred million tons of grain go yearly for biofuel -- a morally questionable use of foodstuffs. But more than seven times that much -- some 760 million tons according to the United Nations -- go into the bellies of farmed animals, this to fatten them up so that sirloin, hamburgers and pork roast grace the tables of First-World people. It boils down to this. Over 70 percent of U.S. grain and 80 percent of corn is fed to farm animals rather than people.

Oiling the War Machine

Is the Iraq War a US response to Peak Oil? Is it a favor to Israel? Is it meant to bring US consumers cheap gasoline?, or to inflate oil prices that balloon the profits of US oil firms? Ismael Hossein-Zadeh posed these questions and gave his answers in an interesting article "Are They Really Oil Wars?"

War, oil caused most U.S recessions since 1950

WASHINGTON - Wars and sharp spikes in oil prices were behind most of the seven recessions in the United States since the Great Depression.

Following is a list of recessions since 1950...

The Achievable Imperative

Last month the International Energy Association announced that we will reach peak oil in five years because the global demand for fossil fuel has accelerated faster than expected. Gas prices in Hawaii have nearly tripled in the last five years, without the demand crunch. Hawaii depends on fossil fuel for more than 90% of its energy needs, making it vulnerable to the approaching global intersect of peak demand and peak oil production capacity.

Floridians Driving Less, Buying Fuel Efficient Cars

Rising gas prices are changing people’s driving habits. Floridians are driving less and choosing more fuel efficient vehicles. Scooter sales are skyrocketing. According to a report released by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in 2007 Floridians bought 40 fewer gallons of gas than they did just a few years ago. Sarah Williams, A Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman says less gas means less gas emissions.

'Fuel For Thought' On Transport Sector Challenges

A report on how Australia can best respond to the environmental and economic challenges arising from its dependence on fossil fuels for transport has just been released in Melbourne.

The report "Fuel for thought – The future of transport fuels" challenges and opportunities addresses two serious issues – the need to dramatically reduce the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and, how to deal with the economic risks associated with increasingly costly and scarce oil supplies.

Adelaide's great rail divide

After eight hours in a single day on buses and trains, Yvonne Wenham realised Adelaide’s public transport system was shot.

The Onkaparinga councillor wanted to test government claims that public transport in the outer southern suburbs was good enough. She put her car keys aside and used public transport exclusively for a fortnight.

Catholic activist sees living green as a divine calling

"I have been striving for years to live a fairly simple lifestyle, in part because of care for our environment, though mostly because of the poverty of so many of our sisters and brothers in the world," Holtz said in a recent interview. "I was unaware of the severity of the environmental challenges until October 2006, when I read a book about the convergence of the peak oil and climate change crises. Through my prayer and study of 17 additional books and numerous Web sites, it became clear to me that I needed to weave this new awareness into all my other work."

Oil Will Fall to Disastrous Levels in 30 Years: With the arrival of peak oil production, the oil coming out of the oilfields is of lesser quality and costs more energy to obtain

What is Spain's energy situation?

Dire, since Spain's dependence on foreign produced energy and fuel is overwhelming. In 2007, according to British Petroleum (BP), we consumed some 150 million tons of oil's equivalent (MTEP). The government says that we are "dependent" on foreign sources for 87% of that, but that's because it considers nuclear energy "independent." However, a hundred percent of the fuel for nuclear plants is imported; Spain does not control the enrichment process, nor is it the owner of important parts of the basic technology. For me then, nuclear energy is energy which is "dependent" on others.

Russian oil sector at 'critical juncture': Putin

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday expressed concern over the country's declining oil production and said the sector was at a "critical juncture." Putin also said, however, that Russia would not engage in "economic egoism" and would continue to fulfill export contracts even as it met the energy needs of its own growing economy.

"The prospects are good but some tendencies worry us. The rate of growth of production has gone down...In the first quarter of this year, production even declined 0.3%," Putin told ministers and oil executives.

"The oil sector has reached a critical juncture," Putin said after visiting the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk where Russia's first Arctic oil rig is under construction.

Political action needed to deal with reality of peak oil

Wait a minute! Isn't Canada a net exporter of crude oil? Yes, and more than two million barrels a day is flowing into the United States, mostly from Western Canada plus a portion from Newfoundland.

Why then, are Canadians paying world commodity prices for the stuff?

Oil shortage will become a local issue

The 19-member Vancouver Peak Oil Executive, which includes energy consultants, community organizers and artists, aims to "build awareness of the potential effects on metro Vancouver of an imminent shortage of oil and other critical natural resources."

The Texan oil baron and the winds of change

T Boone Pickens was the ultimate Texan oil tycoon. Then he saw the light: the green light. Now he's at the forefront of a revolution that has turned the Lone Star state into the US's biggest producer of wind power. And, he says, that's just the start.

Riyadh agrees to defer Pakistan's oil payments

Saudi Arabia has agreed to defer payments for the crude oil sales to Pakistan worth $5.9 billion during Pakistan's current July-June financial year, a British daily reported on Saturday.

Angola: Oil Production Sets Huge Challenge to Navy

Large scale production of oil in Angola sets a huge challenge to the country's Navy (MGA) in protecting the installations from enemy attacks.

This was said Thursday in Luanda by the chief of staff of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA), gen. Francisco Furtado.

Nigeria's top building firm to pull out of delta

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria's biggest construction firm, Julius Berger, is set to pull out of the oil-producing Niger Delta because of the deteriorating security situation there, a senior security source said on Saturday.

Iran confirms Total's withdrawal from gas project

TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran's oil minister confirmed on Saturday that the French energy giant Total was out of a multi-billion dollar gas investment in the Islamic republic, the state broadcaster reported.

Nigeria navy arrests Filipinos on ship of stolen oil

YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) - The Nigerian navy has arrested 15 Filipinos after intercepting a vessel carrying a significant quantity of stolen crude oil off the coast of the Niger Delta, a senior military official said on Friday.

Vandalism rampant Niger delta region of Nigeria

More than 200 foreigners have been seized in the Niger Delta since early 2006. Though almost all have been released unharmed, but the ransom the militants have extorted from them was much more than people can imagine.

The militants, who said they are fighting for greater local control of the region's oil resources, launched a campaign of violence against the oil industry in early 2006 that has shut a fifth of Nigerian output.

Queues grow as Nigerian strike enters second day

LAGOS (AFP) - Long queues of motorists formed at petrol stations in Nigeria on Saturday as a truck drivers strike to protest soaring fuel prices entered its second day.

"We will not lift petroleum products from the depots until the government brings down the price of diesel and kerosene," said Peter Akpatason, president of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG).

Akpatason said fuel prices had more than doubled in recent months and the government had not managed to do anything about it.

Hummer, How We Need Thee

It would be a mistake for GM, assisted by the raving grease-monkey CPAs of Citibank, to sell the brand to an upstart carmaker in India or China or to breed it as a hybrid, as some have suggested. GM desperately needs an obnoxious, attention-grabbing brand to keep from turning into a dreary shadow of its former self. And America needs the Hummer to remind us of what has always made our automobiles stand out, from the tailfin 1950s to the muscle car 1960s and '70s: swagger. Americans don't just drive their cars -- they proclaim something about themselves by driving them.

EPA says climate rules are the job of U.S. Congress

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The top U.S. environmental regulator on Friday declined to make rules to regulate planet-warming emissions under existing pollution laws despite a Supreme Court decision that has pressured his agency to act.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson said Congress should make rules to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming.

Excerpts from greenhouse gas decision documents

Key excerpts from Environmental Protection Agency, White House and other government documents on the Bush administration's decision rejecting regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act...

White House rejects regulating greenhouse gases

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration, dismissing the recommendations of its top experts, rejected regulating the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming Friday, saying it would cripple the U.S. economy.

Pope expresses worry about climate change

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE - Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday he wants to wake up consciences on climate change during his pilgrimage in Australia.

No road pays for itself in gas taxes and fees

the real gas tax rate people would need to pay on this segment of road to completely pay for it would be $2.22 per gallon...

There is not one road in Texas that pays for itself based on the tax system of today

Texas Department of Transportation

Some examples pay only 1/6th of their cost. And the social costs of pollution, disabilities and deaths from accidents and oil dependence are not accounted for by TxDOT.



It should be noted that the fuel taxes on gasoline and diesel burned on city streets, which are typically paid for with property taxes, are used to subsidize the highways mainly used by Suburban commuters.

The hidden costs of our lifestyle are not invisible any more. The bills are piling up. Time to stop living beyond our means (which BTW includes living beyond walking/biking distance from work/school/outside activities).

Frugality and thrift were once considered virtues. Hard lessons are on the horizon.

Yes, and it is strange, how fragile the veil that separates us from cruel reality really is.

"...it was only after everything collapsed that it became obvious how fragile everything was..." Cormac McCarthy - "The Road"

BTW this 2006 apocolyptic bestseller is already in post production starring Viggio Mortenson and Charlize Theron to be realesed in the fall.

On the life style issue, responding at the top, this also relates to the previous thread, about war premium on oil, see oildrum.

(In the sense that war premium = society premium, but I won’t elaborate, too complicated, long, and questionable.)

Americans love to berate themselves on their high flying life styles, their consumerism, their excessive mindless driving, their gas guzzlers, and so on. Endless posts in this vein are all over the internet. Appealing, rests on a kernel of truth - the US lifestyle is not ‘sustainable’ - whatever exactly that means.

Yet, most Europeans in Eu. countries live better than Americans. Their health (all the official indicators) is far better; their education is far more expensive, and some would argue, superior (a tough one), and the statistics for ownership of toilets, TVs, fridges, books, or whatever (except living space in m2 and car ownership, and even there, Sweden and Switzerland come close or beat), their food, are the same or higher, etc.

As for direct oil use (which should be FF use overall and count in nuclear in some way), overall stats are lacking, afaik, but really on average, many of the developed countries are not too different from the US or even *greedier* consumers. (see for ex one nationmaster link below; or take a trip to Europe. note: The measures are always averages or medians and much could be said about that.)

Yet, this common sense reading of world stats is somehow a dirty secret, not acknowledged either by the EU or the US (uk, aus, canada..)

What gives?

*One* answer relates to the pattern of production and employment (> export.)

According to one figure I read, the US has lost 25% of its industrial employment in the past 10 years.

Hardly flash news, and not dissimilar in parts of the EU: France: -17%. (From G. Steingart, the War for Wealth, google. World: + 16%.)

Concurrently, in The Economist’s voice (eds. Stigliz and Brad de Long), Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev:

“estimate that America devotes about a quarter of its labor force to conflicts over dividing up the pie rather than producing it--far more than other nations. Inequality may be among the reasons.” Behind a pay wall: link

Htlm version of a paper (PDF to download at link) “Garrison America” by B. and J, does not include the cost of war: link

To extrapolate extravagantly, the matchin’ % and history (see paper) could be argued to show that industrial jobs have become security jobs, the latter being not only an utterly, useless, waste, but detrimental in extra ways...

Politics! Politics. Engage in...

Nuff said. Apologies for the length.

nation master oil per cap

As for direct oil use (which should be FF use overall and count in nuclear in some way), overall stats are lacking

Yearly numbers are available for all countries at the EIA.

really on average, many of the developed countries are not too different from the US or even *greedier* consumers. (see for ex one nationmaster link below

Are you sure that link says what you think it says? When I read it, I get the following list of (major) developed countries with oil consumption per capita >= 90% of what the US has:

  • Luxembourg
  • Canada
  • Iceland

By contrast, the list of countries with < 90% of the US's per capita oil consumption are:

  • Belgium
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Ireland
  • South Korea
  • Australia
  • Japan
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • Greece
  • +11 others

It's simply not true that most developed countries use nearly the same amount - of oil or fossil fuels in general - that the US does per capita. A few do, but the US really is unusually high in its consumption as compared to the general group.

As compared to "Old Europe" - UK, France, Germany, Italy, etc. - the US uses twice as much oil and twice as much energy of all types per capita. Full details are given in the EIA data tables I've linked above.

It's simply not true that most developed countries use nearly the same amount - of oil or fossil fuels in general - that the US does per capita. A few do, but the US really is unusually high in its consumption as compared to the general group.

E.g. the Netherlands, tiny territory, highly populated, has no need for long, expensive transport of goods (rail or truck). It has a huge port and receives much by ship... It is also not *extremely* cold there in the winter, as compared to Maine, Norway, or even Switzerland. It has an efficient rail system, and commuters use it. Moreover the Dutch have the reputation of being rather Protestant, careful, modest, abstemious (except for pot which is mostly imported), not being flashy or keen on a hyper consumerist life style, a kind of model for green liberals...

Holland is no 36 (per capita) in electricity consumption, though that rank order means little - in quantity roughly the same as Germany, Israel, Hong Kong, Denmark, Singapore, and Spain, already quite high.

Indeed, the US (per capita) consumes almost twice as much, but less, even much less than other developed, such as Norway, Iceland, Canada, Finland, Sweden. nation m.

(nation master gives a rough indicative picture not more.)

The Dutch are not extravagant as a ‘developed’ country electricity users. They use the electric as my auntie used to call it for light, computers, hair driers, fridges... and batteries for torches! any Dutchman here?

Heh but they guzzle and freely burn... natural gas. See:
nat gas per cap nation m.

Few tally up these different energy uses, mixes, and I can’t attempt it. Holland is a huge user, while actually being well placed for parsimony (see above) and having a reputation of being well.. moderate. Well it isn’t, if one totted it up, it is more than the US, I should think... One bloody clue is that ppl in Holland live better than US citizens.

Just one example, to evidence the complexity, and the fact that myth and hype overwhelm, and that many prefer obfuscation and silence. No thorough round up exists, not even in the specialist literature.

The EIA give country profiles in absolute terms, which mean nothing. Per capita is perhaps not the best measure, but at least it can be easily figured and gives a rough handle.

The Dutch do much of oil refining and petrochemicals for the EU (and we Americans burn a bit of Dutch gasoline), so that is where much of the natural gas goes.

The list of nations that use a lot of natural gas a largely renewable hydro producers, and nuke a major source as well for the group.

Norway - Hydro exporter, Iceland- Hydro & geothermal, Canada - hydro (BC, Manitoba exports hydro, Ontario - hydro, nuke, FF, Quebec - export hydro, Labrador - export hydro), Finland - mix, lots of nuke and more building, Sweden - half Hydro, half nuke


The EIA give country profiles in absolute terms, which mean nothing. Per capita is perhaps not the best measure, but at least it can be easily figured and gives a rough handle.

Per capita, from the link I gave before.

Well it isn’t, if one totted it up, it is more than the US, I should think... One bloody clue is that ppl in Holland live better than US citizens.

And yet the EU uses about 50% of the energy per capita that the US does (the Netherlands is higher - 76% - likely due to its large natural gas and petrochemical industry).

I take that as a clue that we can consume a lot less energy than we do now while not giving up our standard of living.

(which BTW includes living beyond walking/biking distance from work/school/outside activities).

how did you conclude that? what's your cut off for too long a commute? 10 mile roundtrip? 15? 20?

Cut off for too long commute depends on several factors, not just distance but also time and route.

Distance/time: I cycle 18km to work every morning. This takes me about 55 min, less than it would take if I took the bus. I have normal old bicycle and certainly don't achieve the above 20km/h speeds like with the modern sports bicycles that some people have. And considering some people spend 1.5 hours in a car in the morning rush hour or come from very long distances away, one could easily cover 25km with a comfortable average speed of 15km/h for example.

Route: for countries with no road system with space for bicycles, it might take a long way into the collapse before the roads would be clear enough of cars to actually be taken over by bicycles. Certainly many people wouldn't hazard the journey now amongst the morning rush hour.

There are also benefits cycling other than the obvious health benefits. Compared to driving to work, with cycling you have the freedom to choose your route, which is often shorter than the one over the highway intersections and bypasses. There is no congestion, which reduces stress, and you have the choice of taking the scenic route. You can travel at your own pace. And compared to public transport you can decide on your own schedules, leave home and work when you feel like it (especially if you have flex time). All this decreased stress and healthy exercise would actually increase productivity nationwide.

Building a network of bicycle roads extending 25km out from city center's would be faster and cheaper than restructuring the whole infrastructure to take on electric mass transit. This is something we can do now already - just take it on with your local city council today!

Now how about that for a positive attitude post from a doomer-gloomer!

Instead, the vast majority of people drive to work, many of whom spend their money at a health club getting in shape. Drive to work and kill two birds with one stone. Even if it takes an hour to get to work, you get an hour of exercise with only 30 minutes of additional commuting time.

Roads all pay for themselves with economic activity. Look at your house and everything in it that you own. You may not be able to find anything that you purchased that did not spend some time on a truck - even seeds for food. We build roads to get these things for us and for us to get to the jobs that we have, not to mention such things as being able to get to school. 150 years ago, children walked to a one room schoolhouse. Not going to happen today. Ever take a night course at a college? Did you walk? Could you attend if you had to walk?

Roads all pay for themselves with economic activity. Look at your house and everything in it that you own. You may not be able to find anything that you purchased that did not spend some time on a truck - even seeds for food. We build roads to get these things for us and for us to get to the jobs that we have, not to mention such things as being able to get to school. 150 years ago, children walked to a one room schoolhouse. Not going to happen today. Ever take a night course at a college? Did you walk? Could you attend if you had to walk?

what do you think the average commute by car be, if by car at all?

Volume 3 Issue 4 of Omnistats from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows average time and distance for US commuters. 71% commute further than 5 miles, which I'd say is the upper limit for most on bike; to be sure many in good shape can go quite a bit further - I've read of hardcore types who commute 40 miles or more on pedals. That's about 105 million commuters who need motorized transportation of one kind or another to get to work.

You've been to Peak Oil Debunked, right? Definitely you get a warmer reception there than TOD's endless stream of reality based cold showers.

Changes in Urban and Suburban form can change those statistics.

Best Hopes for secure Bicycle Parking at Urban Rail Stations and space enough for bikes on-board (not allowed during rush hour in many localities).


I've ridden the 116 miles round trip by bike. Not bad for 45.

I prefer to drive though.


a reply to this 116 miles is:


I commute every day with decent weather about 5 miles with a pedelec bicycle. At 45 I don't find it a physical challenge... I don't really break sweat even when the weather is hot.

Going through the city I can take a more direct route via bike paths, so the commute time is actually much less. Coming home my route takes me right by the farmers market, the bakery, and the videothek.

I also regularly use the bicycle to also make 25 mile or longer trips without problems.

So given my personal experience I'd wager more expensive fuel is going encourage many people reevaluate that "5 mile upper limit" for commuting by bicycle you've cooked up.

Ever take a night course at a college? Did you walk? Could you attend if you had to walk?

I took a couple of courses at Tulane. Almost every time I walked 2.5 blocks to the streetcar and took it to and from class. Meet my professor on the streetcar several times.

A high percentage of students at nearby schools either walk or take the streetcar to school (I am puzzled that only a handful bicycle).

Most of the nearby streets are 28' wide (cheaper that way) one way streets with parallel parking on both sides.

Sidewalks are as essential to mobility as streets, but much of Suburbia never built them, just massive, oversized swathes of asphalt (think oil) and concrete (think energy).

To save money and "make them pay" lets reduce every Interstate highway to 4 lanes and every other major road to 2 lanes and all the rest to one lane for cars & trucks.


"...reduce every Interstate highway to 4 lanes...."

why not convert every 4 lane interstate to two way train traffic on one side and 2 way auto traffic on the other ?

not going to happen, i know, too radical, maybe someday in the future though we will wish we had.

I am puzzled that only a handful bicycle.

NOLA has a reputation - well-deserved AFAIK - for being a hotbed of crime. What would be the half-life of a bicycle parked at an elementary school every day?

A number of scooters (many more $) are locked to telephone poles, etc. on the street. A bicycle locked in an area not accessible to anyone off the street, during daylight hours, should have a decently long half-life.


"...typically paid for with property taxes, are used to subsidize the highways mainly used by Suburban commuters."

i'm mad as hell and i'm not going to take it anymore.

Spoke with a friend who is attending a family reunion. He is excited since this is the first time his family - mother, spouses, siblings, and grand-children - are under the same roof in several years. A few family members now live in Europe while the others are spread across eastern Canada.

He told me that only thing on the agenda for the weekend was to enjoy themselves immensely b/c this
will be the last time they will all be together.

When I asked if whether this was b/c of his mother’s age or the high price of fuel, he replied: “I don’t think any of us will be going anywhere very far soon. Not likely the airlines will be in business much longer either.”

Signs are everywhere. People are cluing in that the summer of 2008 may be the end of a era.

Eat, drink and be merry. For tomorrow we may die.

Last month my daughter was able to travel from Bangkok to NYC (New York City) direct on Thai Air. This flight was about 17 hours non-stop. On the way back next month, she has to travel through Los Angles because the direct flight has been canceled due to high fuel costs. I told her to remember that she traveled on one of the last commercial flights that literally went around to the other side of the planet.

If this is truly the last of such flights, we really did find our maximum energy exuberance in 2008. Kind of sad really.

Pathetic, not sad--

And here is where its symbolic fortitude is most threatened: For American life to work, the illusion of endless abundance must be maintained. Sure, we must adapt to a future of less-abundant natural resources. Our vehicles will need to become radically more efficient. But we require vestiges of the old dream to sustain our national optimism, which in turn nourishes our national character.

That is from the story "Hummer, how we need thee." posted above.

I guess the American Dream has always been just a dream -- poor, starving immigrants from other parts of the world, landing on the Big Rock Candy Mountain, and imagining themselves kings and queens. Now the scales are falling off the eyes, and we realize that our world is governed by the sun -- not the dark, chthonic forces below ground.

The human species will adapt. But Hummers, and all they symbolize, will remain a repressed nightmare for generations.

Years ago I was working on a computer contract with some folks from England. One of the first things they did, after getting settled, was to buy a large American car. One chap bought one of those frontwheel drive Olds. I'm sitting here reading the TOD while watching the TourDeFrance and admiring all those compact cars along side the road which I would dearly love to own.

Here's another choice quote:

It takes a certain kind of man -- it's almost always the owner of a Y chromosome -- to take a gander at the Hummer, in all its broad, burly, paramilitary gas-guzzling glory, and see himself behind the wheel, striking fear and loathing in the hearts of ecologically sensitive motorists.

I can't decide who is the bigger moron, the editor that let that be published or the author. Yeah it takes a certain kind of man alright, one who thinks during an eclipse it's the wrath of the gods, evolution doesn't exist, the earth is flat and who would think that 2+2 is 5 if there were a shiny object being dangled in front of his nose. It's articles like that which is the reason I no longer read the Washington Post. Idiots. I do hope that guy owns a hummer and ends up having his house foreclosed upon him because he sank all his money into gas.

And in any case wtf? I've seen just as many women driving a hummer as men.

You obviously didn't understand the satire, or for that matter, read the end of the article.

I've been thinking that, too. I'm of two minds about it (as usual ;-). Sometimes I'm really alarmed at how fast the airlines are going down the tubes, not to mention how bad the economy is looking. Will there be anyone in the stands at spring training in Florida next year (aside from the locals)? My dad wants to take the family on a vacation to Hong Kong. Will it ever happen?

OTOH, I can't quite believe it will end that quickly. People will be traveling less, but they'll still be traveling. Perhaps it will be more like it was in '60s. A trip by plane was a big deal, but people still did it. They might save for years to take the kids to Disneyland, but it was in reach for the middle class.

People have been travelling for thousands of years. If it is important, people will still travel, albeit by different means. In the past, people put their lives on the line if they travelled, it had to be important or they didn't do it.

I think for most, they'll simply decide they have no need of travel and stay near home.

Some people traveled. Fewer in the past than now, and probably fewer in the future than now.

My writing group usually adjourns post work session to a local restaurant we've nicknamed Milliways. It seats about 100 and has always been full. Until this past Thursday when we were one of 3 parties at 8pm.

I'm sure we'll see all sorts of discontinuities. We're going to move into triage this fall because merely trying to decline slowly is going to take ever more precious resources. Around here, instead of repaving roads, only short sections - maybe one side or even only a strip along one side - are being resurfaced. That looks like a gradual decline right now, but consider what those bits of road will look like next spring. It will be even more work to fix them and far more expensive.

cfm in Gray, ME

When I visited Maine last winter, I was amazed at the amount of effort put into scraping snow off the roads. Another triage decision for the near future will be from which roads to remove snow, and how often.

Don't be silly, they won't remove any snow. The horses will pull the sleighs on top of the snow. Well, that is if they haven't eaten all the horses.

In the old days here in Maine, they used to harness horses to these huge wooden rollers that would pack down the snow for sleighs. If you know where to look, you can still see a few of them rotting in the fields.

welcome to southeastern europe :). what you consider normal.... how normal is it in other places? like the roads being flat and well-kept

many times i have been amazed by the amazement of americans when they leave their country, regarding public transportation. never in their wildest dreams did they imagine it could be that way. you'll learn a different set of "normal" things the coming years

The real Florida Spring Training died when the Dodgers gave up their great old facility in Vero Beach. That was the last remnant of the past, the last chance to get a feel of Old Florida Spring Training Baseball. It was the last place that most of the greats played. I once sat a few feet from Roberto Clemente...to me, the greatest outfielder to ever lace up spikes, including Willie Mays. Later I talked to Strawberry while he sat on the same bench. I saw Don Larson pitch there and later at a field in Arlington Texas where he was doing triple A rehab...The mayor showed up and gave Don the Key To The City. Later the Texas Rangers would play in Arlington. Vero was little baseball fields set in a tropical paradise. A place where one could sit a few feet from the stars and rooks who sat on a simple wooden bench, no dugouts. No tall mesh fences, heads up or eat a foul ball line drive. Walk among flamingos and peacocks that wandered around free. The new facilities are sterile, boring, cookie cutter look alikes, probably designed by bean counters. Everybody that was anybody or nobody went to Vero to watch the Dodgers play exhibition games against Natl and American league competition. I miss it as much as Route 66 and the glory days of Marine Land before Dizzy World came to Florida and Orlando was still a patch of orange groves. All gone.

A trip to Disneyland can be done by train, and is probably the better way to go already. No air pressure changes causing really little ones to cry on descent. See the scenery. See "fly-over" country, etc.

One thing that will take a while to wind down is the trips by Congressmen home to their district every weekend. It would probably be a good thing for democracy if weekly trips home were curtailed.

geek 7...I have spent quite a bit of time and California and never felt compelled to visit Dizzy Land...but I like visiting the San Diego Zoo or watching the Dodgers play a game or going to spend an afternoon at Santa Anita and losing a few bucks on the horses.

I have owned property in Florida since the 1960s and live 55 miles from Dizzy World. I have never felt compelled to visit there.

My wife took my daughters whey they were young and most of my grand children have been to Dizzy World.

It doesn't interest me. If I want fantasy I have a very good imagination, that said, I would rather go for a ride on a Harley with my friends and hit a few places for food and spirits. Or, I would rather pick up a good book and read and possibly learn something. Hey, I would rather hang out on TOD than go see Dizzy World.

Disneyland, to me, is a lot like Las Vegas--it's worth seeing once just for the spectacle. I like Disneyland better than Disney World, because one ticket gets you the whole enchilada. The really ugly thing to me was Epcot--each nation pavilion comprised a tiny bit of info about the country, a restaurant, and a great big gift shop. Plus there are the incredibly manicured grounds.

Mark Folsom

"They might save for years to take the kids to Disneyland..."

but that was back when saving was still in fashion.

While I've been extremely worried about PO for about seven years, I still chose to take up a job in Mongolia. Now it really is a constant worry for me that things may get very ugly here. I don't really need to fly to get back home, I can take the train (to Finland via Moscow), but I'm telling people here that they shouldn't expect affordable flights to be available in the future..

One of my closest friends here (an American) ridiculed me tonight when I said that things will probably get very ugly soon, perhaps before Christmas. To anybody who hasn't actually studied these issues, I suppose that just seems like classic fear-mongering. It's so frustrating, I tell people all the facts, a lot of which come from the brilliantly researched articles here at TOD, and yet most people will not even try to understand. Oh well.

Another thing is, here all the foreigners get paid in USD, and I'm actually thinking of changing all my money into euros, just to avoid being shafted after the inevitable collapse of the USD. It's not really that much money, but shouldt the USD start going down the drain, at least I wouldn't be left with piles of worthless paper. What do you TODers think?

Personally, I'd switch it to Euros.

IMO Swiss Francs if you are looking for a currency.

Ulaanbaatar is fairly cosmopolitan now, but Swiss Francs? Not known! :)

I guess Euros it is then. Sounds like an interesting place.

The Euro is fine now, but I think it is over-valued (in an absolute sense, not vs. the dollar). I think the ECB will be forced to lower rates soon. That coupled with Europe's economic troubles could put a lot of pressure on the Euro. Still, I think Euros would be better than dollars. If the dollar really tanks, you might find people refusing to take them at all, and I don't see that happening to the Euro (though inside the EU there is apparently some reluctance to take Euro that were printed in certain member countries, like Spain).

If you can afford to, I'd keep some money in a mix of currencies. Rubles might be good, given that you're going to have to travel through Russia. They shouldn't be too hard to unload in Finland if you don't need them before you get home.

I like rubles too. Or maybe Jussi could get RMB.

Until fairly recently I was paid by the Russian government, in USD, and a couple of times I joked with another European that perhaps we should go to our boss and ask to be paid in a hard currency instead, like the rouble or the renminbi... It's just very hard to think that these currencies, that we have laughed at all our lives, could actually be better than western supposedly stable ones. But yeah, if I can get over my cultural prejudice, I may even go for the RUB or the RMB.

Moe, I agree. Russia still has a lot of oil and other natural resources and Putin has been stock piling gold. I would go with Rubles.

man, why not just go for the gold to begin with? paper currencies will only appreciate so far vs. the dollar before causing problems for their respective meddling governments.

ferd...yeah, I just started accumulating gold and trading in gold...in the 1960s.

Gold is an excellent store of wealth. I do not consider it an investment and I would never buy gold certificates that are held in a vault. Nor would I buy physical gold that I did not have direct control of.

Those that buy physical gold should give carefull consideration to storage of same. Governments will confiscate gold and issue fiat currency as a 'purchase'. If I wanted the fiat paper I would not have bought gold in the first place.

The only reason that I recommended rubles is that Putin has been accumulating a stock pile of gold and Russia has lots of natural resources left. I believe that Putin has figured out what is coming. Various fiat currencies are going to collapse and Putin/Russia will back the ruble with gold or perhaps FFs or maybe a basket of commodities. In any event, Putin is a savy leader and has contingency plans in place...unlike some countries that come to mind.

I just started accumulating gold and trading in gold...in the 1960s.

Gold is an excellent store of wealth. I do not consider it an investment

That's probably wise of you. The price of gold has risen from $35 in 1967 to about $900 now, or an increase of 2470%. During that period, though, inflation has been 550%, meaning that the change in real price is only 300%.

300% increase over 40 years is a 3.5% annual rate of return, as compared to 7.3% for the stock market. In other words, and in constant dollars, $1 invested in gold 40 years ago would be worth $4 now, whereas investing that $1 in the S&P500 would have left you with $18 (as of the end of 2007; probably about $15 now).

Gold is a more tangible store of wealth, certainly. You do pay a large premium for that physical store, though.

How are plans to get financing to electrify and double track the main line through Mongolia coming along ?



I have no hard knowledge, but I assume not very well. We still get very cheap Russian petrol/diesel here, so I don't think anybody's too concerned about that now. And the traffic isn't really that heavy either, and I don't think it's getting busier any time soon. But I admit, I'm uninformed right now. I'll try to find out as soon as I meet people who should know more and will let you know then.


We have a friend from Thailand who has lived in the US for the last 30 years. She went back to visit 6 months ago. Too bad she didn't stay then. We finally convinced her if she was going to retire back to Thailand with her family she needed to go now. It cost twice as much for the ticket as it did 6 months ago. 6 months from now she might have been stuck here dreaming of home.

It's definitely time to get where you are going in the world, or look forward to finding yourself spending the rest of your life where you are.

Besides the price of the ticket, airlines are finding it difficult to find a business model that makes air flight cost effective. Soon, airlines may not exist because there is simply no profit in it.

Already there's crazy talk of lawn chair type seats and passengers paying per how much they weigh.

It's definitely time to get where you are going in the world, or look forward to finding yourself spending the rest of your life where you are.

Umm, Ever hear of this thing called a sailboat? Guess what, they have been know to cross large expanse of water and not use even a single drop of jet fuel. Not to mention that about three quarters of the surface of the planet is covered with water? So it might take you a few weeks to get to your destination instead of overnight, I think that is still well within the realm of the possible for most people if they really have to go somewhere. Wouldn't you think?

I have a lot of experience sailing. It is something you need tremendous skill to do, especially when you get far from land and out to where the Coast Guard can't easily rescue you.

It can be downright dangerous if the skipper is foolish....or if there is big storm.

It is a wonderful sport and a wonderful means of traveling but I think I would rather not venture on an ocean crossing, for any reason.

I wonder how much longer GPS will be functioning. Where can one buy old fashioned nautical navigation equipment? Who can train you in how to use it?

Go down to your local used book store and look for a copy of Bowditch. Also try to find a copy of the Blue Jackets Manual. There lots of used books available to teach you use of a sextant and star charts to famaliarize you with the stars and constellations that will be important. You can buy a perfectly adequate sextant made from plastic and learn to use it with nautical charts and declination tables. Learn on land, it's easier than a heaving deck with salt spray flying. Practice with a sextant is the key to being good with it. Do lots of LOPs, lines of position, and you will get good and fast. If you can afford a good quality brass sextant buy one but learn on the plastic one. If you drop a plastic sextant you won't be out a lot of money. Just sayin'...

All you need for taking a celestial sight is a sextant [ $50 in plastic and quite good, up to pro models costing $2000 new ] People are literally giving their old perfect sextants away and buying multiple GPS instead. Also an accurate time piece which should keep or lose seconds at a predictable rate [ could be a $30 Casio or a $500 wind up chronometer. Also a set of navigation tables [ HO 211 tables are often found in the back of navigation books and are also called 'the lifeboat tables' More advanced and bulkier tables are HO 229, 249, etc. Cost up to $150. Also a nautical almanac for calculating different dates and celestial bodies. Now thats the old way.
A sensible approach is to buy a $250 celestial calculator, a watch and a sextant. A sextant is child's play to use. Most people figure it out in 5 minutes. Simply take the sight elevation and time and enter into calculator. This will give you a line on a chart. You are somewhere on that line. Further shots later will give you crossing lines and an estimated position.
Accuracy within a few miles is standard.
Classes on how to celestial navigate are given in planetariums and various schools. Cost about $500
Or you could sail with me since I seem to be the last person on the planet who still knows how to do it and still shoots sights.. Cheap alternative is to locate a retired US Navy commander and ask for help. I know I'd be delighted if someone asked me to show them how, but nobody has done that in 20 years. Knowledge is dying.
Please note above comments on finding an experienced skipper. A fine skipper will make everything look easy, almost a ballet. People will also call him ' lucky '. No such thing.
Fair winds and following seas


How about Loran C? Don't have a link, but either the FAA and/or the Coast guard are supposed to be updating and modernizing the equipment, as a backup to GPS.

Someone realized that a repairman in a 4x4 is easier to send out than launching a missile/satellite on demand.

Loran would be better for North America, or any one of the continents as far as jam proofing.

Here is the link, bottom of the page. Apparently Homeland Security is pushing a new improved eLoran.

Many currencies look set for devaluation. USD especially. Hoarding oil or food is probably impractical. I would keep a small amount in whatever currency is most convenient, betting that any change would be fairly incremental, at least initially. Consider buying gold with any surplus currency. In that part of the world, Chinese bullion coins called Pandas may be readily available. They come in 1 Troy ounce size, and fractional ounces. The smaller coins generally carry a higher premium over the spot gold price. They have little numismatic value.

Gold is easily portable, universally recognized. If you return to the US eventually, and need to sell, there is still a good market for Pandas - just check EBay for example. Be sure it's legal for you to own gold where you are, and have a plan to keep it safe and secret.

Many think silver (coins or bars) is an even better investment, but it's definitely less portable, at current values.

Global oil production will be at disasterous levels in 10 or 20 years, not 30. Exports are declining fast. In 30 years I doubt if the EU and USA will exist.

According to energy investment banker Matthew Simmons, global oil production is now declining, from 85 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. Simmons knows the studies of oil depletion and then adds his knowledge concerning the number of oil rigs, investments, and the sad condition of infrastructre.

During this time the IEA and EIA indicate that demand for oil will increase some 12%. This is like a 45% drop in 7 years. No one can reverse this trend, nor can we conserve our way out of this catastrophe. Because the demand for oil is so high, it will always be higher than production; thus the depletion rate will continue at the same rate until all recoverable oil is extracted.

Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment.

We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel trucks for maintenance of bridges, cleaning culverts to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables, all from far away. With the highways out, there will be no food coming in from "outside," and without the power grid virtually nothing works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated systems.

Without chain saws and truck, fire wood will be tough to get, and just keeping warm will be a challenge. And if you are in an area that does not need hear, you will need irrigation.

Like my old carpenter friend used to say: cheer up, worse days ahead :(

Hey, anyone interested in relocating to a nice, pretty, sustainable small town in a semi tropical area :)

Global oil production will be at disasterous levels in 10 or 20 years, not 30. Exports are declining fast.

Its already at the 'disaster' stage.

Look at price VS past pricing and a willingness for people to use violence over oil.

In 30 years I doubt if the EU and USA will exist.

Depends on how much the corporations benefit from EU/USA existing.

Neither will exist as they did in 2000.

I'll bite, where?

Roads with less traffic will last for a few decades with modest repair. They won't be racetrack smooth but will suit mountain bikes.
Can chainsaws and portable generators run on ethanol or moonshine?

Not if trucks are using said roads. Loaded semi-trailers do most the damage to roads. They would last virtually forever if companies didn't use roads for shipping goods. But then none of us would be eating anything.

People ate pretty well before trucks. For maybe 20-30,000 years. No doubt there were local areas of want, but there were many naturally rich areas as well. Only the coal and oil-powered industrial revolution has allowed giant concentrations of human beings that are now facing global famines.

People ate pretty well before trucks. For maybe 20-30,000 years.

Going back before the industrial revolution, some people ate pretty well during good times, when rainfall was plentiful and pestilence was not a serious problem. Others were almost perpetually hungry. In other times when drought, insects or blight were a serious problem, a percentage of the people simply starved. People then always lived at the very edge of their existence, having many children in order to hopefully have two or three to survive to childbearing age.

Sennely is a typical self-sufficient village near the French City of Orleans. It consists of subsistence farmers whose needs are supplied locally: rye grain for bread, cattle, pigs, apples, pears, plums, chestnuts, garden vegetables, fish in the ponds, and bees for honey and wax.

Population and resources are more-or-less in balance because of the poor health of the residents: they tended to be stunted, bent over, and of a yellowish complexion. By the time children were ten or twelve, they assumed the generally unpleasant appearance of their elders: they moved slowly, had poor teeth, and distended bellies. Girls reached the age of 18 before first ministration.

Malnutrition was the norm. One third of the babies died in the first year and only one third reached adulthood. Most couples had only one or two children before their marriage was broken by the death of one parent. 'Yet, for all that, Sennely was not badly off when compared to other villages.'

George Huppert, After The Black Death page 3.

Ron Patterson

'having many children in hopes that some would live to child bearing age'...

Ron, I have often wondered about the reason people had lots of kids in days of yore. For one thing they didn't have modern birth control methods. For another they needed many hands on a farm without FF powered implements. I question the statement that they cared about their kids reaching child bearing age because in times of want the kids were often 'whats for dinner'.

Just think...If the people of yore had modern birth control methods and FF implements we would now be living in the post FF age and probably would not be typing messages of questionable use on the internet.

Once my dad thought that it would 'build character' in me if I spent the summer working on my uncle Irving's dairy farm...up at 4am to bed at dark. I worked my ass off all summer, never got paid except 'keep', making hay, milking, scrubbing down the dairy for the inspectors, shoveling cow shit, you name it, I did it.

Did it 'build my character'? No, it just pissed me off. The next summer I made sure that I found my own job working on a hybrid corn plantation (seed corn) from daylight to dark. Much better hours for 50 cents an hour. I wasn't pissed and I made some money. I don't buy that 'build character' baloney...but parents like to use it on their kids. :)

River, I never intended for my statement to mean that people's purpose of having many kids was to have some survive to childbearing age. I meant that's the way it worked out in nature. It was just natural for them to have many children and only one, two or perhaps three would survive to childbearing age. But there was nothing intentional about this, this was just the way it worked out. Of course they had hopes that all would survive but this very seldom happened. However I understand that my statement was poorly worded.

Of course many farmers loved lots of kids because that meant more to work the fields. I was raised on a farm and my parents had ten kids, nine who survived to adulthood. Back then the cotton had to be chopped and picked by hand and there was plenty of chores for everyone to do. The more kids you had, the more crops you could grow and the more animals you could manage.

Ron Patterson

It was just natural for them to have many children and only one, two or perhaps three would survive to childbearing age.

Sounds like nature's way. Our preventing the death of children through advances brought about in large part through abundant petroleum, has led to the spike in human population, and the woes to follow.

"...cotton had to be chopped and picked by hand and there was plenty of chores for everyone to do."

I have little personal exposure to living or working on a farm or for that matter enduring hardship. I remember reading Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson "Path To Power" and I can still remember vividly the parts about what "grinding poverty" did to Lyndon Johnson and people of the Hill Country in Central TX during the turn of the century. What few people are aware of is that LBJ was one of the primary pushers of the Rural Electrification Act of the 30's which changed life in rural America. LBJ later recalled that the image of his mother "working herself to her death" was what motivated him.

One thing I know for certain is that living my entire life in the "Oil Age" I would never be able to adapt to those levels of hardship should the collapse occur in my lifetime.

Best Wishes For A Slow Decline. Joe

LBJ is a lot more than an interesting study. Many lay at his feet the loss of the formerly democratic voting block in the deep south to the republicans. Johnson had first hand experience with poverty as my parents and grandparents did and I had to a lesser degree. Many historians contend that the great depression ended in the deep south at the end of WW2. I am here to tell that is just plain bs...it began to end when LBJ came to power and slowly the economic situation improved. A savy economic historian can make a convincing case that the areas of the south dominated by cotton agriculture went into depression at the beginning of the civil war and didn't emerge untill the early 1960s. When I was growing up in the 50s there were no credit cards except for a few rich folks and there were no loans without pledged collateral unless one had a long standing and positive relationship with one's local banker. A couple of years of bad crops on a marginal farm would leave the farm in the hands of the banker and the former farm 'owners' looking to make a share cropping deal with the bank or the new farm owner. Yeah, LBJ was deeply impressed by poverty and so were many others on farms across a great swath of farmland from Texas to Eastern Carolina. I didn't know that things were better elsewhere untill years later. Some very tough people came out of that area and era but they are mostly gone now.

As late as 1955 lynchings of blacks were going on in many areas of the south. One of the most frightening things I ever witnessed, when I was eleven years old, was the hanging of a black man from a RR trestle about 200 yards from the front porch of my grandmothers farmhouse. Our so called civilization is a very thin veneer. Ask the poor Iraquis.

River not to dissect your story here. However it did build character... You seek your own path after the exploit. I would half believe this was your fathers motive to kick you in your butt to do something and make something of yourself. Am I wrong?

SlicerDicer, My dad was shrewd and intelligent. He had to quit school in the seventh grade because in 1933 his father and brother died in the same week of Pnewmonia. They could not afford a doctor or medicine. Times were very hard. He ran the farm, 16 miles from Monroe La., from 1933 untill Pearl Harbor was bombed then he talked things over with his mother and five sisters and they decided that he should fight for America. Those that didn't volunteer were being drafted anyway and it was seen as more honorable to volunteer. The farm was paid off by Dec 7 1941 and my grandmother and her daughters kept the place going during WW2. Butter and egg money, a truck garden, lots of canning, chicken on Sundays, raise a beeves on halves. Butcher a hog on occasion in the winter and hang most in the smoke house. A simple but healthy life with lots of hard work. There was never a tractor on that farm. My grandmother had a team of mules that lived to an incredible age. She continued to care for those mules long after they were retired and one was blind. She was a pillar of strength and I miss her and dad terribly.

Dad got out of the military after WW2 (Army Air Corps B17 gunner/radio operator) but was recalled for Korea and decided to stay in since he was over half way to retirement. He took lots of courses and got his GED. He read a lot and that is were I got my interest in reading history and economics, political science, Philosophy, Physics, Astronomy, anything of interest. He passed to me his love of fishing and hunting but I gave those up some years ago.

I was never one to shirk work and my dad was well aware of that. We would go out and stick frame a house and then build all the cabinets and trim out the entire house. The only things that we bought were varnish, hardware and lumber. We did buy some pre-hung doors and sash weight windows later on. I started helping him when I was about 5 and continued right on through school. Dad knew that I had done a lot of different farm and garden work but had no dairy experience and he and uncle Irv were friends. Irv's kids were grown and gone and dad made the call that I would spend the summer on the dairy. Irv couldn't get in the hay and run the dairy in summer by himself. Dad knew what he was doing and Irv and wife treated me better than their own kids. I ate three huge meals a day of very fine and simple food, all grown right there. I was never obese...when one works really hard there is little opportunity to gain weight.

Looking back on that summer I would say that the decision was practical for the family. I was needed and I went. Dad's decisions were final. I don't regret the experience or helping my uncle Irv but it did interfere with making money to buy a different motorcycle. Would I do it over again were I the same age, yeah. Did it build character in me? No, my dad had already seen to that.

Darwinian "After The Black Death" by George Huppert. I read through the Amazon introduction and I was intrigued. I went on-line and ordered the book and I look forward to recieving it.

One question though. That was a relatively obscure text. I have read your posts with interest for a long time. If it isn't being too nosy : What is your background?

One question though. That was a relatively obscure text. I have read your posts with interest for a long time. If it isn't being too nosy : What is your background?

Joe, from the wording of your question and remark: "That was a relatively obscure text." I assume you think I may be an academic. No, nothing could be further from the truth. I have only a high school education, plus a lot of technical schools.

I was born in a sharecroppers shack in North Alabama in 1938. In 1945 Dad bought his own farm, from his mother, and we were sharecroppers no more, we were (literally) in high cotton. I spent six years in the military where I got most of my electronics training. Then I spent my career as a computer field service engineer. That is a fancy term for computer hardware repairman. (Half way through that career I spent six months as a stockbroker but that is another story.)

But as a computer repairman, I simply sat on my butt most of the time. When nothing is broken you simply don't have anything to do. Rather like the Maytag man. This gave me plenty of time to read. Yes, I did most of my reading at work. I loved reading non-fiction science books. I read almost every book and essay Issac Asimov ever wrote. I also loved history. I would read one book about every two weeks. That is how I came to be so familiar with such books as "After the Black Death."

Well, you asked, now you know.

Ron Patterson

Thanks - that's even more interesting!

Ron, you are discussing the era of agriculture, from roughly 10,000 BC forward and your comments are very accurate for that time. For millenia before that, the earth sheltered on the order of 10 million total human beings as hunter gatherers. As hunter gatherers, they had far less disease, especially chronic disease. The fossil record clearly shows stronger bones and healthier teeth. And what we know today about surviving hunter-gatherer tribes is that they expend roughly 4 hours per day in survival related tasks, tend to be far healthier than their agricultural counterparts, and lived into their 60s quite regularly (unless dying of violence).

What happened 10,000-12,000 years ago was the first population crisis. We could have died off as we exceeded the carrying capacities of the niches in which we then existed. Instead we invented agriculture and the rest, as they say, is history. From diets high in fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and small amounts of very lean meat, we switched to diets high in starches and higher in fatter meats (via domestication of cattle and other such animals), and actually lower in fresh vegetables and fresh fruits.

The paleontological record is pretty clear that homo sapiens, in the niche in which he actually evolved, should be about 10,000,000 or so total population max. Instead current population is 65,000% higher than that yet many here are incapable of seeing the simple truth of this overshoot, even when it is plotted on a graph right in front of their noses.

Anyone confused about population overshoot and anthropogenic influences on the earth here is a short one minute video:



The paleontological record is pretty clear that homo sapiens, in the niche in which he actually evolved, should be about 10,000,000 or so total population max. Instead current population is 65,000% higher than that yet many here are incapable of seeing the simple truth of this overshoot

The development of agriculture permanently and sustainably increased the food base available to humans by an immense amount. Large-scale agriculture has been practised for thousands of years (around China's Yellow River, for example), suggesting that this increase of resources is sufficiently long-term to be considered permanent in any discussion concerned with time-scales under centuries.

Accordingly, it's basically irrelevant how many human hunter-gatherers the world could support, as we're not hunter-gatherers anymore. It's like saying we'd be in overshoot if we only ate kiwis; we don't, so that's a null argument.

Thank you for admitting, in a back handed way, that all the rest of the agriculture we currently do is destructive, varying from somewhat to massively so.

It's not a very good picture when only one place on the entire planet has managed to practice sustainable agriculture while multiple ecosystems, like the entire Mesopotamian complex, have been destroyed by that same process.

And surely you are smarter than that to argue that we have evolved outside our basic niche in under 10,000 years? We may have a tiny subset of homo sapiens living sustainably in agricultural situations but that neither removes the hunter-gatherer traits from our natural selected genetic background, nor does it even imply that our species has successfully managed to practice agriculture (as a species).

So I don't think it is a null argument. Overshoot is destroying the climate. Overshoot is destroying entire continental aquifers. Of course you know that but avoid it because it invalidates your message.

Thank you for admitting, in a back handed way, that all the rest of the agriculture we currently do is destructive

As I've done nothing of the sort, I'll thank you for not putting words in my mouth.

It's not a very good picture when only one place on the entire planet has managed to practice sustainable agriculture while multiple ecosystems, like the entire Mesopotamian complex, have been destroyed by that same process.

Sorry, but the facts don't fit your preconceptions. Plenty of places have been undergoing cultivation for a very long time and are still productive. A few - very non-exhaustive - examples:

Pakistan has had farming for about 7,000 years, and is the 9th-largest producer of wheat and oilseeds, 6th-largest of pulses, 12th-largest of rice, and so on.

Egypt, breadbasket of Rome, is still a major agricultural producer (wheat doesn't even make that list, even though it's the 17th-largest wheat producer in the world).

Closer to the "destroyed" Mesopotamian area, Iran is a top-15 producer of wheat, lentils, pulses, potatoes, and a bunch of other staples.

Until sanctions in 1991, Iraq produced about 4 million tons of cereals, which I will wager is far, far more than it ever produced when it was Mesopotamia.

You're simply wrong here.

And surely you are smarter than that to argue that we have evolved outside our basic niche in under 10,000 years?

You're making the mistake of assuming that the only way to leave an ecological niche is through evolution.

If an animal evolves on a small island, it will have a small sustainable population. If later a land bridge connects that island to a huge continent, then its sustainable population will be vastly and permanently larger, with no evolution required.

Humanity's niche is now much larger than it was 20,000 years ago, but as a result of technological rather than evolutionary change.

Of course you know that but avoid it because it invalidates your message.

My "message" is "back up your argument with evidence instead of assumptions".

Especially you, as your claims often turn out to be completely wrong.


Darwinian nailed it.

it was pretty amazing watching a big eighteen wheeler tear up a paved (repaved just last year) n Livermore this week. It was 109 degrees, and just the act of him turning around dug deep grooves into the formerly smooth pavement.

Don't forget that "she who must be obeyed" ie. mother nature, winter, thawing, freezing, will make rubble of those roads in short time. No maintenacnce, no culverts cleaned, thus roadway washouts, and bridge collapes from lack of maintenance, slides, abandoned trucks, cars, rubble. Oh my, it will be a ghastly site.

She who must be obeyed.

Only in miserable climates does that happen. Move to a temperate area and if the trucks don't chew up the roads then they last 50 years plus. (no fuel=no trucks=no chewed up roads)

You are aware a lot of people live in "miserable" climates and that not everyone can move, no? Also, that such mass migrations would be extremely disruptive themselves, no? Further, that climates are changing all over the world, so those that are temperate now will not be in the future?



Quite aware that the disruptions in the next few years will cause huge migrations. The problem is that these hungry and cold migrants will move (and swamp) the temperate areas and add to the chaos (moshpit). Climate change will only spice things up.

MIgrants are arriving daily from Latin America. Higher standards of living were not sustainable south of the border as many lacked knowledge and self-control. Migrants from all over the world are arriving via airports. Airport arrivals to some areas were more numerous than departures to those same areas. Some temperate zone populations cannot sustain high standards of living as it is.

I'll say it again.. because you continue to say your end of it again. People will not just be sitting still as things crumble.. They WILL crumble, but when a bridge collapses, people will rebuild it. New England might see a resurgence of the classic wooden Covered bridge on some of its roads, if we get backwarded enough, but they won't just shrug their shoulders and swim across the river from there on in.

The problem I'm having with electric chain saws is that they weren't built in the 1960s.. what you can get on the shelves today is largely built to the same 'disposable' junky standards as so much of what we use.. but my dad is giving me two fine gas saws that I will look to re-fit with quality electric motors. We can still look up how quality tools were once built, and as people start to think they might do well to invest in 'Durable Goods', such products should thrive.

You seem to view hardware and any tool more complex than a handsaw as impossibly doomed, while I think that you can get a good ways higher on the complexity chart than that before you have equipment that is simply unsupportable without the 'oilbath' that many of them were born into. I tend to expect that Nuclear Power Stations easily fit into that category, while networks of power-lines are not as impossible to support. After all, the 'Grid' doesn't need to be functioning Nationwide to be able to function regionally or locally. It's comprised of countless sub-networks with the potential to be semi-autonomous when need be. Anyway, in addition to that, electrical motor and generator equipment is often very durable, and power can be generated and used very locally, so a broad-based grid is not an absolute predicate for having the countless advantages of electrical power at your fingertips. It can be generated from a tiny scale to a massive scale, making the sourcing as flexible as the application.

I want to see if I can make an SUV ferris-wheel that will act as a hybrid "Windmill-Flywheel" (very Fly!..) to power Portland. Then, all the tourists training and sailing up from Boston and New York can have a classic Roadside Attraction to draw them up to Post-Peak-Portland. Like it?

Bob Fiske

(Living very unsustainably this week on a cash-crop job in Las Vegas! for all I know, it's the last one they'll fly a cameraman out from Maine for! ..alas, no time to hop south)

People will not just be sitting still as things crumble.. They WILL crumble, but when a bridge collapses, people will rebuild it. New England might see a resurgence of the classic wooden Covered bridge on some of its roads, if we get backwarded enough, but they won't just shrug their shoulders and swim across the river from there on in.

I wonder. For small creeks, maybe, but for major rivers?

I live beside a rather substantial river, with a toll bridge over it. Even though the toll is only $1, the river is a kind of psychological barrier. Not because of the current price, but because historically, ordinary people didn't cross it often. The bridge was there, but the toll was prohibitive for normal folk. It's quite strange, really. The local phone book doesn't list businesses on the other side of the river, even though they're much closer than some of the businesses that are listed.

I've talked to old-timers about it, and they don't remember ever paying the toll to cross the bridge when they were kids. Instead, people waited until winter. The river would freeze, and they'd drive across then. A lot of the people who did use it were commercial - farmers, truckers, and such, bringing supplies to the city on the other side.

The bridge cost about a quarter of a million dollars to build in 1930. Not cheap. Useful as it is, I'm not so sure it would be replaced if something happened to it, if there's significant economic difficulty.

Mind you, I'm not pretending that every bridge would get rebuilt. A lot of redundancy and convenient duplication will probably get downsized. Just saying that we're not looking at decay that you'd see in a ghost-town. People will make paths to get where they have to go. If a road is superfluous (does that mean 'over water' somehow?), then maybe it'll be a memory, maybe it'll become a ferry.


A lot of redundancy and convenient duplication will probably get downsized.

Yes. That's why I think we're in danger of losing a lot of technology altogether. Greer pointed to the example of the Romans losing their extremely useful ceramics technology. They had more ceramics than they needed, so when TSHTF, they simply stopped making it. By the time they needed to make more, they could no longer do it.

Similarly, there are bridges about every half-hour across this river. If one collapsed, it would be an inconvenience, but not a disaster. As people travel less, the loss of a bridge here or a bridge there may not be significant. Until the last bridge collapses.

Just saying that we're not looking at decay that you'd see in a ghost-town.

I think some places will see ghost town like decay. Heck, it's already happening.

People will make paths to get where they have to go.

They also may decide they don't have to go places where there's no convenient path.

One thing that strikes me when I talk to the old-timers is how small their worlds were. I live just outside town...and people who were children ca. 1950 remember it as being the utter boondocks. It was an apple farm then, and there was also a racetrack. Once in awhile, their parents bring them to the "country" to pick apples and watch the races.

It's three miles from downtown. You could walk (and I have). But they thought of it as being practically on the moon.

Thank you for bringing up those memories. I grew up in a very small town in Michigan at that time(my graduating class had 36 people). We used to go out "to the country"(we lived in town) which was just outside of town. The next town was 6 miles away, and could have been in the next state, as far as our interactions. Behind our house was a field and woods where my dad would hunt.(Remember we lived in town)
Outside of town there was nothing, dirt roads through woods and fields and the occasional farm. The world was very small back then. Of course there was only 2.5 billion people then. Lots of elbow room.

a bridge is not the only way to cross the river. maybe ferries will make a comeback (diesel/electric hybrid of course)

Suppose there were a bridge collapse at a place where it was very convenient to have a crossing for some special geographical situation. Wouldn't it be likely that someone would figure out how to have a ferry there? Its a lot easier to build a ferry crossing than a bridge.

For small creeks, maybe, but for major rivers?

If it's useful enough. For what it's worth, the technical capability to do so is likely to remain available - bridges over rivers in excess of 100m long have been built since at least Roman times (example).

Bow saws run on rice and pasta.


Are you assuming that because of a decrease in global production, mechanisms which bring the remaining petroleum and its derivatives to market will fail? It's difficult for me to imagine a scenario in which an individual of a limited degree of wealth would have trouble finding the gasoline for a chainsaw. I for one don't buy the argument that just because production goes from 85-60 million barrels, that the remaining 60 million barrels won't be available because of either price or a breakdown in the whole system including petroleum production and distribution.

Will there be recession? Seems like there already is, and it will probably get deeper. Depression? Maybe, I haven't lost MY job yet. =-)


Exactly. I'll say it again - this is going to be a crisis according to how wealthy you are. And that's on a global scale. If 30% have to die to balance the books then you can be damn sure that not a single one of those will be from the billionaire club.
It is utter nonsense to fantasise over some post-nuclear style wasteland after even a 50% cut in oil production. We all got by with that amount in 1970 and I don't recall riding around in a horse and cart and heating our house with dung.
We waste so much energy on crap - a waste which will come to a juddering halt. 3rd world countries will go all to shit, that is for sure. Maybe the UK will be in tremendous difficulties, debt default even but that would lead to emigration for those that can and reorganisation.
As my father-in-law says - 'nothing is as bad as it seems or as good as it seems'. He also says 'there is no decision to be made until a decision has to be made'. He has lived his life by this and it is excellent advice for some of the SUV axle chicken coop nutters.

Going back to 1970 would be great but the problem is there are 2 billion more people than then and the nuclear club had maybe 5 members then compared to 10 or more now.
When the fighting starts over which 2 billion need to leave the planet then some nasty revolutions will sweep the world. Will the Saudis be able to say no to Pakistan when they demand oil? or India?

When the fighting starts over which 2 billion need to leave the planet

That presupposes that 2 billion people will need to die; if they do, it won't be due to oil.

Food shortages might cause large population losses, but the effects are likely to be fairly localized - the poorest are the first to lose access to food, and are also the ones least able to transport themselves or their food demand to nearby regions.

Food production and distribution also uses a very small amount of oil - even with out current practice of flying in strawberries from New Zealand - so a low oil supply is likely to drive up the price of food marginally, but is highly unlikely to disrupt it to any large degree, as food production will naturally take priority over other, much larger and less vital, uses of oil.

Will the Saudis be able to say no to Pakistan when they demand oil? or India?

Yes, in large part because neither country has any effective means to invade the Middle East, and neither is run by people suicidal enough to want to try throwing nukes around in an area important to countries with vastly superior force-projection capabilities than they have.

What makes you think either country will attempt to take oil by force or threat, however, especially from someone so far away? Such a naked act of aggression would put them at odds with virtually every other country, and the resulting collapse of their international trade would do far more harm to their economies than simply paying a little more for a little less oil would.

The US is the only country powerful enough to try enforcing its will like that, and as we've seen over the last five years, even they're not really capable of doing so effectively.

The problem is that as the Pakistani poor (or any other countries poor) start to starve in the tens of millions then they will riot more than they are now. Massive riots added to ongoing problems with fanatics will either bring a revolution (a Taliban friendly theocracy?) or a massive crackdown by the army and perhaps another war (nuclear?) with India.
Saw that article (in the oil drum?) yesterday on the Saudis giving $5 billion credit to the Pakistanis to buy oil. How can Pakistan settle each years accounts in a global depression? If the Saudis cut off credit and the Pakistanis go without oil you will have starvation (and riots and revolution). So the Pakistani govt will have to pressure the Saudis to support their muslim brothers (with the bomb as a trump card).
BTW hasn't North Korera just got a shipment of oil playing the nuclear trump card?

I question the premise that famine leads to civil unrest. War can certainly lead to famine but I don't see a lot of support in the historical record for the obverse.

I question the premise that famine leads to civil unrest.

Have you seen Pakistan lately, or Zimbabwe, or Niger, the list goes on.

Both the Russian Revolution and the French Revolution were precipitated by lack of food.

I question the premise that famine leads to civil unrest.

Have you seen Pakistan lately, or Zimbabwe, or Niger, the list goes on.

None of those countries support the notion that famine leads to civil unrest.

Pakistan has no significant reported famine nor widespread unrest, and what unrest it does have is generally religious in nature rather than based on hunger.

Zimbabwe has unrest and hunger for the same reason - thuggish, incompetent rule. Given that, though, it has surprisingly little unrest; it may be too dangerous.

Niger has no significant reported famine, and what unrest it does have is tribal in nature (e.g., groups in the delta resisting government rule) rather than based on famine.

Both the Russian Revolution and the French Revolution were precipitated by lack of food.

Perhaps, but lack of food is much more common than revolution, meaning there's a very weak relationship between them. Accordingly, the premise "famine leads to civil unrest" still needs to be supported.

The problem is that as the Pakistani poor (or any other countries poor) start to starve in the tens of millions then they will riot more than they are now.

That's not so clear.

First, look at recent history. Were there large-scale riots during the 1980s famines in Ethiopia? Doesn't seem to be the case. Are there large-scale riots in Zimbabwe? Don't seem to be. In North Korea during their famines a few years ago? Didn't seem to be.

Serious malnutrition may make rioting difficult; I would imagine it's hard to clash with government troops if you can hardly walk.

It's also not clear that there'd be a sharp transition that'd help catalyze a large-scale riot. Unlike famine caused by a crop failure, famine caused by rising fuel/fertilizer costs would hit slowly, and would also hit the least-powerful members of society first. Moreover, it may not even result in a famine, per se, rather than largely showing up in the form of decreased food availability and the resulting increased malnutrition (which already kills about 6M per year, mostly via lowering their resistance).

So it's really not at all clear that the scenario you're proposing is at all likely.

If the Saudis cut off credit and the Pakistanis go without oil you will have starvation

Why? Pakistan's survived without this special oil facility up until now, so it's unlikely to explode now if it loses it.

Moreover, it's not really that big of a change:

"Under the expected deal with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan may get the oil facility for three to four years on deferred payment mechanism. “If it is assumed Islamabad gets the oil facility of four million barrels a year at a cost of $125 per barrel, the facility in that case would spiral to an amount of $5 billion.”

To a question, the official said Pakistan was getting the oil facility on 60-day deferred-payment mechanism at the price of $121 per barrel."

From the sounds of it, they're arranging a fixed price for the next 3-4 years, which isn't so different from what many companies do (Southwest Airlines, for example).

hasn't North Korera just got a shipment of oil playing the nuclear trump card?

1) No. They got a shipment of oil by agreeing to disable their nuclear facilities, not by using threats of nuclear violence.

2) North Korea is a perfect example of exactly why nobody who's in charge of more than their keyboard will seriously consider nuclear blackmail. Compare North Korea - a country that's been economically isolated from the rest of the world due to its belligerence - to South Korea, which in just a few decades has become part of the developed world. Now imagine the wrenching shock if South Korea became as isolated and miserable as North Korea, and how long the guys in charge would last if they did that voluntarily.

Those who have the nuclear option tend to be a lot less cavalier about it than those who merely talk about it.

Pitt, I think your examples to refute my arguments actually support my arguments,
1: Ethiopia; while I agree with you that the famines of the 80's didn't lead to revolution the famines of the early 70's was a major factor in the overthrow of Emporer Haile Selasie in '74.
2: Zimbabwe; has a relief valve in South Africa (2 million refugees). 2 nights ago on SBS news (Australia) had an item showing a SA white farmer who said it was the best season in 40 years, also a African food programme buying record tonnage in SA for the rest of the continent.( So assuming Zimbabwe also had a good season then what will happen when the next bad season comes? No crop, No food programme, Plenty more refugees turned on in SA by locals (like happened a month ago), etc = chaos.
3: Pakistan; 200 million+ mostly poor who are already having problems, are you seriously thinking that the mullahs won't forment trouble when 10 million+ die of starvation?
4: North Korea; their veiled threats worked; they got oil (and still probably have some nuclear capability).
The mindset that countries will go on with trading as normal is a fallacy once the US dollar collapses. Once normal trading collapses then bully boy trading begins ( give me your lunch money/food/oil or else!). With 10+ in the nuclear club it only takes one despirate enough to push the button and a few others will join in.

Ethiopia; while I agree with you that the famines of the 80's didn't lead to revolution the famines of the early 70's was a major factor in the overthrow of Emporer Haile Selasie in '74.

Major unrest had been wide-spread in the country for years before the Derg took over, so it's quite a stretch to attribute it to the famine in 1973.

And how about the other few dozen famines in Ethiopia over the last few centuries, few or none of which seem to have led to regime change?

Cherry-picking examples of when famine inflames existing unrest while ignoring the far-more-numerous examples where famine does not lead to major unrest doesn't make for a good argument.

So assuming Zimbabwe also had a good season then what will happen when the next bad season comes? No crop, No food programme, Plenty more refugees turned on in SA by locals (like happened a month ago), etc = chaos.

Zimbabwe had a drought in 2005, and chaos failed to materialize, so recent history disagrees with your assumptions.

Pakistan; 200 million+ mostly poor who are already having problems, are you seriously thinking that the mullahs won't forment trouble when 10 million+ die of starvation?

I'm asking you to provide evidence to support your claims, instead of just asking people to take your suppositions as gospel. In particular:

1) You keep leaping to "OMG zillions dying!!" without explaining why you're assuming that. Fertilizer supplies won't suddenly vanish (fertilizer production consumes about 4% of world natural gas production), and rising prices don't lead to a sharp shock like a drought does. Fertilizer prices have already more than tripled in the last five years, yet there does not seem to have been a huge increase in either unrest or famines.

2) Radical islamists are already fomenting trouble; you need to explain why they'd be radically more successful in a crisis situation where people are more concerned with finding food than with forcing their beliefs and customs on others.

North Korea; their veiled threats worked; they got oil (and still probably have some nuclear capability).

Veiled threats - sabre-rattling - are very different from actual threats. Nevertheless, who exactly did North Korea threaten?

Moreover, it's not like they got this shipment of oil because they had nukes; they stopped not getting oil because they started giving up nukes. Their nuclear program (among other problems) has meant they were not able to receive foreign aid from most of the world, despite the desperate state of their economy and people. As the regime starts acting a little more sensibly (e.g., dismantling its nuclear program), it will become more and more eligible for foreign aid, including fuel oil.

Think of it this way: a child says "I won't finish my dinner unless I get dessert" and its parent says "you don't get dessert unless you finish your dinner". If the child finishes dinner and gets dessert, which one was "threatening" the other?

The mindset that countries will go on with trading as normal is a fallacy once the US dollar collapses.

Two huge assumptions here:

  1. The US$ collapses.
  2. The majority of trade which is not in US$ would suddenly decide to stop.

Sure, if you're going to assume that all world trade suddenly stops for no readily-apparent reason, then there's going to be problems. Unless you give some evidence that that's a plausible assumption, though, there's no reason to believe it, meaning the rest of your story falls apart.

Basically, you're saying:

  1. Assume collapse.
  2. OMG, collapse!!

Not the most persuasive argument.

When I was a child there was a little over a third of the current population. Losing even half the population would only give you a few decades before you're back in the same boat. That isn't how dieoffs happen in nature. When a dieoff happens, one year the species is everywhere, the next, you hardly see a one. Expect most everyone to die. That's a more realistic senario.

The Irish potato famine lasted four-seven years and killed 20-25% of Ireland's population.

Since total oil and natural gas liquids production actually rose since 2005, we cannot link the current food crisis to a sharp drop off in oil production.

One may look to biofuels production as one source of the current food problems. Abnormal weather around the world is normal. Fifteen years without a major Midwest flood, and now the results of a recent catastrophic flood will unfold. The year before there were problems with flooding in India. Since monsoonal flooding in India was common; acute food supply problems might be deeper than weather abnormalities. The onset of aridity in Australia seems to be a long term trend, similar to the decades long expansion of the Sahara Desert in Africa. Early predictions of an Australian bumper wheat crop have been down graded to expectations of an above normal crop.

There may be an exaggeration in inflation fears that panicked the commodities markets into buying food, energy, and metals, similar to the way people stampeded to buy Florida real estate only to find the realities of foreclosures and falling prices later.

I went to the supermarket yesterday and looked at a 20 pound bag of rice that sold for about 8 dollars during the winter currently priced at about 16 dollars. The price of tomatoes is down to 2 dollars a pound due to seasonal variations in supply. The price of pasta is up as much 20 percent within a year. No new jobs were being created; rather jobs were being eliminated with population rising.

Small quibble, Sahara means desert, calling it the Sahara desert is like saying Desert desert.

We all got by with that amount in 1970 and I don't recall riding around in a horse and cart and heating our house with dung.

And in 1959 Ton Lehrer sung:
Nearly three billion hunks of well-done steak.

Hint: Populations have went up from 1970. The planet is at 6.5 billion

According to Wikipedia, world population in 1970 was 3.7 and is now estimated at 6.8 billion.

The Tom Lehrer video is on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frAEmhqdLFs

"Here's a rousing, uplifting song which is guaranteed to cheer you up."

And we will all go together when we go.
What a comforting fact that is to know.
Universal bereavement,
An inspiring achievement,
Yes, we will all go together when we go.

We will all go together when we go.
All suffused with an incandescent glow.
No one will have the endurance
To collect on his insurance,
Lloyd's of London will be loaded when they go.

Oh we will all fry together when we fry.
We'll be French fried potatoes by and by.
There will be no more misery
When the world is our rotisserie,
Yes, we will all fry together when we fry.

And where has that 3.1 bn increase come from ? The 3rd world. And that, I am sorry to say, is where the 3.1 bn decrease will occur.
At some point in the near future we are going to have to come to an awful decision : do we keep feeding Africa etc over its sustainable capacity and thus bankrupting ourselves in the process or do we pull up the drawbridge and plug our ears ?
On an individual level if my family is hungry then Bob Geldof can wave his arms around as much as he wants I will not part with a red cent and neither would any of the other billion in the 1st world. Ethics are a veneer affordable to those with full bellies.
It will be a slaughter on an unprecedented scale and God help us all.

What I would like to know: How much fertilizer and food flow into Africa as Western aid?

In other words, cut off Western support for Africa and how much will food supplies go down?

':do we keep feeding Africa etc over its sustainable capacity and thus bankrupting ourselves in the process ..."

the us with 4% of world population uses 25% of world's energy. how is that sustainable ?

and we dont need to keep feeding africa to bankrupt ourselves, the neoCONS are well on the way to doing that via ..........(drum roll please)......... looting the treasury.

*You* feeding Africa? Excuse my language by the US is too busy f***ing Africa.

I agree the US and the west should stop sending "aid" to Africa, as many African leaders have argued for years. The "help" usually makes things much worse, such as increasing indebtedness, and promoting monocrops and other non-traditional and unsustainable practices. Or they send in their expert "advisors" who advise really bad things such as cutting all public health care, education, etc. and just trust the free market.

But, don't just stop the aid, stop pillaging them. All western companies must leave too. So, no more natural resources or cheap labour.

What a joke, the west is stealing *trillions* from Africa, and you have the *balls* to complain about piss-ant "aid" payments?

Arabia is simple. We get oil, they get food. Nigeria? We get oil, they get food. No oil, no food. Also, no chocolate, no coffee, no tantalum, no chrome, no fish, no manganese, no etc, then no food and fertiliser. Fertiliser? Morrocco is in the Arab world, not the African world. We will still get phosphates if we keep shipping corn to Morrocco.
Africa gives us more than we give them. We could mine our own low grade manganese instead of their high grade manganese. But it works out the same way for them. We provide them with phosphates and potash and ammonium nitrate cheaper than they can provide them for themselves. Ditto for China.
That's why trade works. We make a profit on the deal.

1970 was yesterday, today is a different day, with lots more people, more energy hungry roads and infrastructure, a more energy wasting military, a more suburbanized dispersed population, less arable land from metro areas and soil erosion, more use of oil in agriculture.

SUV axle chicken coop nutters

What does that mean?

Also "there is no decision to be made until a decision has to be made" simply means "God will provide." It's a paleo-cortical way of thinking. If civilization is to survive, we need to promote logical, neo-cortical thought to the fore.

Historically, the wealthy haven't done all that much better than the poor in major upheavals. What you need is luck and survival skills, but mostly luck. Dollars in the bank or gold under the mattress won't cut it.

Obviously you havent read much about the French Revolution. The only wealthy people that made it through that bottleneck were the few that sneaked out of France dressed as peasants.

The only wealthy people that made it through that bottleneck were the few that sneaked out of France dressed as peasants.

Actually, that's not entirely true. There were lots of wealthy revolutionaries. It was blood, not money (alone), that was the problem. Even blood and money could be overcome if your politics was right, as demonstrated by Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette, a name that should be familiar to every American school child (though Lafayette did run afoul of the Jacobins in the end, but by that point the issue wasn't money or blood).

To emphasize Shargash's point, consider Talleyrand:

"Talleyrand, through skill, cunning and plain luck, managed to survive the reign of Louis XVI, the revolution and reign of terror, the Directory, the rule of Napoleon, and the reigns of both Louis XVIII and Louis Philippe."

He was an aristocrat from an old, monied French family

Shargash, Bryant, You have only shown examples where some smart shrewd, lucky, wealthy Frenchmen/women avoided the chopping block. There will always be with humanity the shrewd, wealthy types that sense early which way the political wind is blowing and avoid calamity...sometimes with the help of more than a little luck. In many cases shrewdness, and luck, is how they became wealthy to begin with. I suggust you read 'The Black Swan' by Taleb...Many that accept great praise for their almost 'swami status' came to their position by luck, not talent or being good economic forecasters or brokers...luck.

In any case, you certainly have failed to prove the point that 'Only the wealthy are going to survive the coming disaster' and that was the initial claim. Extrodinary claims require extrodianry proof. BTW, I am familiar with Lafayette and Talleyrand.

I take your meaning River; but what you said was:

Obviously you haven't read much about the French Revolution. The only wealthy people that made it through that bottleneck were the few that sneaked out of France dressed as peasants.

I realize that you were responding to another's post, but the truth is, I have read a lot about the French Revolution. I agree that Taleb's book is vital reading...especially to balance the words of "experts".

I was not defending the assertion that 'only the wealthy would survive', only that you overstated your case. You may be guilty of ascribing to a false narrative - something Taleb warns against.

Bryant, You are right, I should have let it go after the first sentence in my post.

That said, the original posters claim was way over the top so I didn't feel compelled to reign myself in with one sentence.

Have you spent an entire day or an afternoon attempting to avoid creating narratives from random facts? I did, it was excruciating. The human mind must have evolved with the creation of narrative an integral part of that evolution. I wonder if other mammals, ie; whales, dolphins, elephants, etc., use narrative as we do. My guess is that they do...see, I slipped into narrative again. :)

I agree...I simply can not avoid making narratives about everything! I try to stop, but the best I can do is retroactively remind myself that my narratives are probably false and to make up countervailing narratives. I am not sure what place narratives have in Mediocristan, but they are very misleading in Extremistan. NNT says to avert narrative fallacy with experimentation or by tallying predictions, but experimentation on non-reproducible events is problematic and tallying requires noting each narrative. My own method is to practice saying "I don't really know" to everything...unless I forget and believe my own narratives again.

One of my common narrative fallacies involves TOD; I think I know more about posters than I actually do. I build narrative based on things they say and come to believe I "know" what they are like. Thank you for responding as you did...it allowed me to give myself a good dope slap!

Don't feel too bad Bryant - "narratives" is how humans think. Here is the tale of the birth of Artificial Intelligence (many years in the future)...

The computer scientists are gathered around their latest attempt at true Artificial Intelligence, a super-duper-computer. They wanted to assess its "intelligence", and they figured they'd start out with a tough question. So they asked it... "what is the nature of the Universe?".

The machine buzzed and thought and sat there for a couple of minutes, and finally came out with its answer. It said...

"Say, that reminds me of a story."


Sgage, The 'Say, that reminds me of a story' is a very probable response of the intelligent computer programed by humans. Maybe there is another life form somewhere that could build the computer to respond to the same question...'I don't know'. That response would impress me more than the first.

Stories are fun and narrative story telling has been lost by many in todays hectic world. It might be due to tv exposure, not enough interaction with other people, etc. I don't know. :)

The farmers in N Louisiana of my grandfathers era had a tradition of gathering on the hillside of one of their farms and turning the hounds loose to chase fox. The farmers would build a good camp fire and throw a few sweet potatoes in the coals, maybe some sweet corn for 'roasting ears' still in the shuck, and listen to the dogs off in the distance. The purpose was not to have the dogs catch a fox, this rarely if ever happened. The purpose was to sit around a campfire and tell stories all night with friends, while listening to the dogs bellow way off. Each dog had a distinct voice that was recognizable at great distance. It wasn't unusual for a farmer to have several hounds and they would be scattered far and wide by morning. The dogs would come up to the nearest farmhouse when they got tired and hungry and would be returned to their owner. These were the people that we now consider poor. There life style was anything but poor by my lights. Of course if a rich city dweller happend upon these farmers sitting around a campfire listening to dogs and eating an occasional sweet potato he would not have known what to make of the situation. Sometimes the rich men miss what is really important in life.

River, I admit I was being a little pedantic. I just thought your original comment was too blanket a statement. Historical pedantry is something of a failing of mine. History is full of subtle nuances and complexities, and I sometimes feel compelled to say something when I think someone has over-generalized or over-simplified. What you said was true in general, though I do think it was more targeted towards blood than money (though it wasn't necessarily easy to separate two in 18th century France).

Shargash...no problem. The original poster was over the top and so was I. Two wrongs don't make a right.

If there is a major crisis, most billionaires will die. People will acurately say that they were running the world and that they screwed up. Russia in 1917, Northern Korea in 1945, Cambodia in 1975, all had very high mortality for the upper classes that weren't smart enough to get out of town before the crisis hit.
Lesley Fish has a chill song about post nuclear war survivors waiting patiently around the last bomb shelters for the leadership to come out.

We don't have a pot to piss in, let alone buying oil at $500 or $5,000 a barrel.

I think it's premature to grieve about the prospect of "$500 or $5,000" oil.

What might be of more immediate concern is what will a dollar be worth when oil gets to that price?

Will Peak Oil be a concern when noone can afford to buy the stuff?

Exports are declining fast.

Never a truer statement, so let's find out what the Saudis are really doing with "our" oil

Saudi drivers pimp their rides - BBC's Crispin Thorold

Rather a novel way of impressing the ladies - since one cannot take them unaccompanied anywhere.

Wrong link Alfred. This link is about a drunk football referee in Belarus, nothing about Saudi Drivers. But here is the correct link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7498634.stm

Ron Patterson

Thank you Darwinian!

Ron, I enjoyed the Drunk Referee Shown Red Card better than the Saudi autos that are tricked out. Thanks for the link. Btw, around these parts we have words for degrees of drunkeness. 'Buzz' is a nice glow. 'gooned' is a lot more than a nice glow (I would catagorize the ref as a little past gooned). Then there is 'blitzed', which is unconciousness. :)

Hey, anyone interested in relocating to a nice, pretty, sustainable small town in a semi tropical area :)

If you'd consider tropical as an option, then may I suggest this one, João Pessoa Brazil.
They even have a pretty decent mass transport system in place already.


There's an interesting interview with Dennis Meadows (Limits to Growth) on Electric Politics. It covers a nice variety of topics.


That link is broken, Bman.

That link don't seem to work. Try this one:

sorry about that. I somehow dropped the 'l' in 'html':


Scientists surprised by midwinter collapse of massive ice shelf

EVEN the depths of winter are proving unable to halt the climate change-induced collapse of an Antarctic ice shelf.

When the Wilkins shelf began a runaway disintegration at the end of last summer, scientists thought it unlikely the collapse would continue through the pole's coldest months.

But satellite images show losses growing in recent days, so that at last sight, only a thin and fractured ice bridge held the bulk of the giant shelf in place. Its loss would put the rest of the 14,500- square-kilometre ice shelf at risk, the European Space Agency said.

Going, going, gone ... dam breaks for first time in winter

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.

The 60m high wall of ice from the Perito Moreno glacier that usually divides Lake Argentina in Patagonia bursts from time to time under the built-up pressure of the held-back water.

The event is one of the prime tourist attractions of Argentina.

But until now it has occurred in the warmer seasons

To put this in perspective the Wilkins ice shelf is at 70 degrees latitude, the same as Murmansk, Northern Norway, and Prudhoe Bay. If it were square it would be 75 miles on the side, or 5,600 square miles, smaller than Cherry County, Nebraska, the largest of it’s 93 counties.

Wilkins is exposed to the prevailing sea current on the western edge of the peninsula, as opposed to the eastern shore, completely enclosed by sea ice.


Also located on the Antarctic portion of the Ring of Fire, which extends entirely across West Antarctica.


I'll bite, what does the "Ring of Fire" thing have to do with the ice shelf? Or are you a fan of old Johnny Cash songs?

Pacific Ring of Fire

90% of the world's earthquakes and 81% of the world's largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire. The next most seismic region (5­6% of earthquakes and 17% of the world's largest earthquakes) is the Alpide belt which extends from Java to Sumatra through the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, and out into the Atlantic. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the third most prominent earthquake belt.


I know what the it is, but I was wondering why this had anything to do with the collapse of the ice self. It would seem that the increase in warm currents undermining the ice that has caused all the other ice self collapses in Antarctica would be the easy to pinpoint as the cause. Why even bring this up? It just seemed weird.


What's weird is that people will find any way to deny the truth.

"But the new study is the first to show direct evidence of a relatively recent eruption from under the Antarctic ice sheet—one that could still be affecting the ice sheet today.

The study appeared January 20 2008 in the journal Nature Geoscience."

I would never suspect that the journal Nature Geoscience had an agenda to deny GW.

But it could be that in the course of scientific study, that surprises can occur at random intervals.

From your linked article

But it can only be responsible for a fraction of that change, he added, since the volcano only affects the nearby Pine Island Glacier

Minor effects with the macro coming from AGW. People who wish to deny focus on the micro effects, same thing happens in peak oil.

I am not sure that even qualifies as micro effects. The entire page has a certain crackpot quality to it that screams don't waste your time.

Since a suitable simplified model for today's economy is the case of Easter Island as described in Jared Diamond's book Collapse (actually in Easter Island they had the chance to restrain tree cutting to match the reforestation rate, whereas now we don't have that possibility with fossil fuels), the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac issue of late inspired the following news item, which would have been dated a few years before the Island's societal collapse:

Rapa Nui News Services - The Island Councellor in charge of Economic and Financial Affairs hosted a press conference on the recent troubles affecting the Federal Moai Loan Corporation (Femo Loa). He said: "I am proposing the Island Council that Femo Loa becomes backed by the full faith and credit of Rapa Nui. Moai construction and related activities are an essential part of the Island's economy, providing jobs to one third of the Island's workforce. The ongoing crisis in moai financing has already caused a significant slowdown in moai construction and threatens the prospects for the Island's economic growth."

When asked his position on the views that moai construction was causing an unsustainable rate of felling of the Island's palm tree reserves, the Councellor said: "The concerns of so-called Peak Palmers are unfounded, and their predictions have already been proved wrong in the past. They underestimate the impact of technological advances and human ingenuity."

He further pointed out that the recent launch of a new generation of whistles with customizable sound frequencies was a clear demonstration of the ability of technology to overcome challenges.

Are you suggesting that the government should let Fannie and Freddie go down the tubes which would effectively eliminate the housing industry, at least for awhile? Just asking, because at some point it seems like our inability to incur additional debt may require something like that. Or is our ability to incur debt unlimited? We act as if it is unlimited.

Maybe we should apply reduce, reuse, recycle to housing. We need to inhabit smaller living spaces, anyway. Doubling up is one way to do this.

"Or is our ability to incur debt unlimited? We act as if it is unlimited."

This, I believe, it the key to our pickle. It is the interface between energy and finance that we are as yet largely blind to. In a world of expanding net energy, then the Ponzi scheme that is corporate capitalism/fiat currency/debt based growth could indeed "act as if it is unlimited". Economic output could ever grow, so the interest to pay back that expanding debt could be created/earned/generated. But economic output is nothing but the result of work, and work is energy expended. Now that net energy is in decline, the game is up. See "Money as Debt", or read "Web of Debt" for more on the financial end. And learn about EROEI (in addition to simple peak oil and net exports) for the key to declining net energy. Put the two together to get a more complete complete picture of the coming collapse.

It has come to light today that the Fed did not give an implicit guarantee that they would open the discount windows to Fannie and Freddie. That was simply another rumor started by the shorts according to the following links.

One of the links is very interesting because of the roll call of bond holders of F and F bonds. It appears that the Chinese have the lions share of these instruments. A bailout would rescue the Chinese from a risky investments that they knew were risky because it is so stated right on the bonds...hmmm, I do not know if the risk statement is written in Chinese and English. Lawyers could have a field day with this one.

'U.S. Taxpayer Bailout of China Over Fannie Mae'

The top five foreign holders of Freddie and Fannie long-term debt are China, Japan, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, and Belgium. In total foreign investors hold over $1.3 trillion in these agency bonds, according to the U.S. Treasury's most recent "Report on Foreign Portfolio Holdings of U.S. Securities.

FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe commented, "The prospectus for every GSE bond clearly states that it is not backed by the United States government. That's why investors holding agency bonds already receive a significant risk premium over Treasuries."

"A bailout at this stage would be the worst possible outcome for American taxpayers and mortgage holders, who have been paying a risk premium to these foreign investors. It would change the rules of the game retroactively and would directly subsidize the risks taken by sophisticated foreign investors."

"A bailout of GSE bondholders would be perhaps the greatest taxpayer rip-off in American history. It is bad economics and you can be sure it is terrible politics."




Posted by Barry Ritholtz on Saturday, July 12, 2008 | 06:43 AM
in Federal Reserve | Legal | Psychology/Sentiment | Short Selling | Trading
Go figure: In the midst of a deep selloff, a bullish rumor seems to have been planted that would allow for the rescue of Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac FRE).

It turns out to have been shit:

"Federal Reserve has not had any discussions with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about access to direct loans from the central bank, Fed spokeswoman Michelle Smith said.

"Federal Reserve officials are following the situation closely,'' Smith said in a telephone interview today. "However, there have been no discussions'' with the companies ``about access to the discount window,'' she said.

Shares of the two largest U.S. mortgage-finance companies plummeted this week on concern they don't have enough capital to offset losses from the mortgage meltdown. The discount window offers direct loans to commercial banks at an interest rate that's now 2.25 percent, a quarter point above the Fed's benchmark rate.'...snip...


That's good to hear, if true. Too bad the Fed couldn't have said that yesterday, instead of the "no comment" they actually made. As I posted yesterday, I'm not sure the Fed can handle a bailot of F&F, at least not with "sterilized" money. It is highly questionable whether teh US government can handle the bailout, given the current deficit, the debt that has to be refinanced in 2011-2014, the state of the dollar, and the state of the economy. But I'm not sure the economy can handle the two failing.

Usually I have some idea of what should be done, even if that means doing nothing. This time I'm stumped. All roads look like they lead off a cliff.

Shargash, I agree. Not many good choices. Pauslon is now talking about a move to covered bonds, as used in Europe and other areas. I believe a move to covered bonds long ago, with the bonds remaining on the originators book, would have prevented much of the disaster that we now see.

If the 'standard' mortgage model is converted to covered bonds at this point will the public suddenly find faith in banks again? Will local, regional banks be able to expand fast enough to switch to the covered bond model? The process of eliminating many mortgage originators is ongoing and they have been replaced largely by Fan and Frd. Lots of questions about this move.

Here is a link to a PIMCO explanation of covered bonds...I take all that PIMCO has to say with a dose of salt. Hat tip to Mish.

PIMCO offers a discussion on Bond Basics: Covered Bonds, for those who want to get up to speed.

Fannie and Freddie could push the US into Default

Standard and Poor's said in a recent report that Fannie and Freddie posed "a large contingent fiscal risk: if the risks were to translate into increased government debt, they could hurt US credit standing". The markets have already begun to sense danger. The cost of insuring against default on 10-year US Treasury bonds surged from 8 basis points to 15 at one stage yesterday.

If Washington does take on the liabilities of the two, this would double the US Treasury's outstanding debt load at a stroke and raise serious concerns about the triple-A sovereign rating of the US itself. There may be no choice. Bill Gross, head of the bond giant Pimco, said a default by the two agencies would set off a "firestorm of intolerable proportions".

"America's 'AAA' rating has become a joke," said Peter Schiff, head of EuroPacific Capital. "I believe the losses from Fannie and Freddie alone could reach $500bn to $1 trillion dollars. ''The US government will not be able to meet repayments on its debt once interest rates rise," he said.


"If Washington does take on the liabilities of the two, this would double the US Treasury's outstanding debt load...."

which debt are you refering to? the debt was at around $5.3 trillion when bush took over, it is at over $9 trillion now. bush will have nearly doubled the debt.

it does seem that bush and neoCONco are bent on bankrupting the good ole' usa.

The (in)ability to incur additional debt is not the important point. The critical issue is physical and can only be seen from a PO-aware perspective: construction today means more suburban and exurban McMansions. It means the US digging themselves deeper into their current suburban trap hole.

Tstreet...Here is a good article about the link between oil and it's unique status in the current economy. Oil as a replacement for gold in the 1931 debacle...except gold isn't necessary in the way that oil is. It also outlines how the monetarists are in a tizzy about the meaning of the various Ms (money supply measurements) that are acting in strange ways and how the Fed might come to rue inflation targeting. Thanks to Yves at NK. This article is worth perusal.

...snip...'And oil is now playing a role that is weirdly parallel to gold in 1931. England abandoned the gold standard, which was tantamount to a devaluation. The US stayed on it at that juncture and raised interest rates even though the economy was very fragile. Countries that stayed on the gold standard in 1931 on average suffered a 15% fall in real GDP in 1932.

But gold was not an essential economic input. Oil is, and thus constrains the Fed's ability to lower rates further (not that it has much leeway at 2%, since most economists regard going below 1% as risking falling into the zero interest rate trap that has enmeshed Japan).'...snip...


I like the Dante quote from Evans-Pritchard: "Blue pinch'd and shrined in ice the spirits stood." The world's central banks are frozen. They cannot raise, they cannot lower. The situation is largely out of their control, though there are things they can do to make things worse.

I would say things are even worse than Evans-Pritchard thinks. E-P discounts Peak Oil and the effect it is having on both prices & the global economy. Peak Oil, AGW, and the credit crisis have multiple interleaving feedback loops. The train's wheels have already left the track. Governments are powerless to stop the wreck, and it is all but certain that what they try will only make things worse.

Shargash, yeah, I liked the quote as well. Lots of people, me included, are watching this situation unfold with a macabre fasination, spellbound.

Even though I have followed GW, PO, and the sinking US economy and dollar for lots of years, I somehow did not think this train wreck would happen in my lifetime...although I knew that it certainly could. I was in denial although I did not know it because I was following the situation closely. Most on this board attempt to be rational thinkers and confront the issues as they arise. This one is SO big that it is hard to get one's mind around the possibilities. Reminds me of the first time I attempted to imagine an infinite universe as a little kid. Sort of overwhelming.

I agree that governments are powerless to stop this one. Central bank actions have already made things worse and will continue to do so as they try to 'cushion the crash'. I believe that their attempts are like throwing a few old mattresses betwenn a runaway locomotive and a mountainside.

I think that it was well known in academic circles that Bernanke was intelligent and had spent his life studying the great depression in detail. I also believe that it was known that Bernanke believed that he could have taken actions to avoid or lessen the damage of the great depression. Hindsight is 20/20. Thus, Bernanke was asked if he wanted the job and he took it. The trouble that Bernanke ran into is that history rimes, but seldom if ever repeats itself. This situation is not exactly like the great depression and Ben is in trouble. I really feel sorry for Bernanke and for all of us that attempted to act responsibly. It doesn't seem 'fair' that we will all suffer for the irresponsibility of a small minority. I am reminded of the Clint Eastwood movie where he told the sherriff of Big Whiskey, Little Bill, that 'fairness ain't got nothin' to do with it.' In another scene he told the kid with him that 'hell, we all got it coming kid'. I suppose Eastwood might have seen it coming too. That movie (Unforgiven) is a lot more complex than surfaces in a first viewing. Very dark humor indeed.

That is why I finish some posts with the 'get some popcorn, roll film' comment. I am not attempting to be sarcastic, I believe we might as well watch the show and take notes so revisionist historians will not be able to shift responsibility from where it belongs. Posting on TOD is a way of leaving a record...if these ones and zeroes are not lost to posterity.

To your comment about history rhyming I would also add that it is usually possible to come up with any number of hypotheses that explain the facts in hindsight. Bernanke certainly has a hypothesis, and he thinks it accounts for the facts about the Great Depression. But there are other hypotheses that account for them as well.

The hypotheses that are most correct will be the ones that can predict what will happen in the next verse or next stanza of rhyming history. But to do that you have to go through a similar situation. In essence, we're running a series of tests of Bernanke's hypothesis about the Great Depression. I think we're going to discover that his hypothesis wasn't one of the better ones. I hope I'm wrong, but so far he doesn't seem to have been any more effective than the Fed in 1930.

You are right about the multitude of hypotheses and Ben using the economy as a guinea pig. Another question has occured to me...long ago when I read a several books by several different authors about the events and actions taken during the great depression: Was there any action then or is there any action now that would avoid the train wreck after events were in motion. It seems possible to me that the easy credit availability and lax lending standards that were allowed leading up to these events might have rendered any action impotent. Just a thought. I do have a hunch that if Glass-Steagle and other partitioning regs had been left in place the current train wreck might have been avoided. I am going to have some popcorn and watch an old film noir movie. It's getting a bit late for me. Thanks for the conversation.

While getting the popcorn and rolling the film may be the appropriate response, one problem is that many of us may be part of the film.

Yes, you are definitely right. We take what actions that we can and then we wait. While waiting I am going for the popcorn and movie. I don't see that fretting and losing sleep will make the situation better or make it go away. Iow, I don't doubt that I will be in a movie that I have no desire to be in but what the hey can I do about it that I haven't already done?

It is instructive to me, at least, to learn that a small number of wise Rapa Nuians existed, and they tried to stop the deforestation and replant the trees.

Trouble was, the original colonists, several hundred years before, had brought rats with them. Everything was fine as long as there was plenty to eat -- but now they were also starving, and they ate all the seeds of the trees, so there was nothing left to replant!

That's the thesis of Hawaii University's Professor Terry Hunt.

According to this April 1, 2007 article at Smithsonian Magazine, it's not the consensus view.

It's a nice story, though. And anyway, I don't trust the Smithsonian. And we all know about "consensus". No truth is derived by consensus --

I've noticed the Easter Island example coming up lately...it's simply not true.

View of Easter Island Disaster All Wrong, Researchers Say

Again, that's the thesis of Professor Terry Hunt. The Smithsonian Magazine article I linked to in my post above (dated one year after the article in yours) shows that the issue is still not settled among researchers, and that Professor Hunt's thesis is the minority view.

BTW, I don't necessarily regard consensus views as correct and minority views as wrong. At one time Galileo's and Pasteur's were minority views. And "Peak Oil Now" (to which I assign 98% probability of being correct) is still probably a minority view among energy analysts.

Hunt is quite correct in his criticism of radiocarbon dates in the material time frame. They can be very problematic due to multiple peaks in the radiocarbon calibration curve at that time and have large unacknowledged errors. I mean to really crawl thru the Easter Island 14C dates controversy sometime to use it as a lesson in a class. Haven't done it yet. As an ecology Ph.D, his thesis that introduced rats could have severely decimated the native vegetation seems quite possible. I have always been very uncomfortable with the use of Easter Island as a "poster child" for ecological collapse. It's much more ambiguous than as Jared Diamond presents it. Certainly early European accounts use words to describe the island that could include "wooded". As I recall the first accounts are Dutch. As well, Diamond and other do not discuss much the well-documented European violence against the islanders, including murder, rape, slavery and introduced epidemics, which are sufficient to cause population collapse. I remember reading one very disgusting account in which European sailors for "sport" raped and killed an appreciable number of the Island's young women. That's going to affect your demographics.

When you wrote "multiple peaks in the radiocarbon calibration curve", did you mean plateaus? I think there's some indication that disruption in the THC for a time, such as the 8200 BP event, would stop the loss of 14C into the deep ocean for a while. I think this effect shows up in the comparisons with well dated tree ring time series.

E. Swanson

I meant "peaks" i.e. a given percentage of 14C in your sample can correspond to multiple dates. "Plateaux" are further fun a given percentage of 14C can correspond to a broad range of dates. Then, there is the problem that the object you have the date on might not really be contemporaneous with the event you are trying to date, sediment reworking, plus contamination, prior, in the field, in your lab during sample prep, in the AMS lab, etc. Try http://c14.arch.ox.ac.uk/embed.php?File=oxcal.html for the calibration curves and Raymond S. Bradley's "Paleoclimatology" has a nice chapter on some of the problems with radiocarbon. http://c14.arch.ox.ac.uk/embed.php?File=typical_cal.html shows how bad the curves are around 1000-1200AD, a period i have professional wrestled with.

Thanks for the links. My point was like yours as I wanted to point out that a single measurement of 14C date could fit the data for several calendar years, a plateau, if you will.

Those error bounds present quite a different picture from what some folks would think when a 14C date is published. I wrote a paper a couple of years back objecting to some work by a fellow that took published ocean sediment core data, fitted a curve to it, then extrapolated the curve as a climate prediction for the next 100 years. He did that without consideration of the error bars. Even without the problem of dating errors, his analysis violated the Shannon-Nyquist Criteria. Of course, his work was pointed to by those who would deny any problem with Climate Change as evidence that a cooler climate is coming in this century...

E. Swanson

Would it be possible to strike any future post that contains the words "Easter Island?" If so, I vote do it.

An easy fix is to open a window of a text editor, place it over any unpleasant posts and type in "La, la, la, la" as many times as necessary to cover the offending material.

Re: "Pope expresses worry about climate change"

It's great that he's talking about the problem. However, I'm just wondering how Pope Benedict will address the underlying but fundamental role of global overpopulation in causation of climate change.

Good wondering, they don't promote condom use yet in Catholicism do they?


Abstinence and the natural infertility caused by breastfeeding are the only methods deemed moral by the RCC for avoiding pregnancy. In other words, the only birth control methods deemed not to be sinful are those which are ineffective.

abstinence is ineffective ? well maybe unilateral abstinence.

I went to a Catholic HS in Memphis in the late 70's - early 80's. One day Brother Nameless gave The Talk on the church's stand on birth control. He then locked the door and said "now we speak about reality"; He opened a drawer in the desk, showed us what was there, told us it would always be there and that none of the Brothers would ever see anyone in that desk. My HS had two pregnancies in the 4 years I was there.

All I can say is: Wow. Was he Jesuit by any chance? Some of those guys can really THINK.

Worry is not an action plan. Talk is cheap.

Judging from some of the provocative speeches he has made, and some of his writing, the Pope seems to want to get rid of the 2 billion or so Islamists-- which would of course make some dent in the human over-population of the world. However, most of them are living at a subsistence level, and they aren't the ones driving up the atmospheric CO2.

Hmm, maybe he could put out a Papal Encyclical stating that it's ok for Catholics to do birth control by means other than the rhythm method. He might also give his blessing to family planning clinics.

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE - Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday he wants to wake up consciences on climate change during his pilgrimage in Australia.

Clearly the Pope needs to be informed that, even if fossil fuels were burned in the cleanest of ways, with each and every CO2 molecule produced being captured and sequestered, there is still the problem that fossil fuels are being extracted from a finite, exhaustible endowment, so that their global extraction rate will inevitably peak and decline thereafter. Which is critical because those fuels provide energy and raw material for the overwhelming majority of today's economic activities, including those fulfilling the most basic human needs. And that the problem is compounded by the fact that society has become culturally dependent on perpetual economic growth.

And this need may be more urgent according to this June 3 news item:

In his encyclical (to be published in autumn), the cardinal said, "[Pope Benedict] ... will apply Church teachings to contemporary problems.

"I am thinking of globalization and other problems, like the food crisis and climate change," Cardinal Bertone said.

Il Giornale's Andrea Tornielli reported last week that the committee working with the Pope on the encyclical includes the Pope's recently named successor as archbishop of Munich and Freising, Reinhard Marx, a specialist in Catholic social teaching, the top two officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, and Stefano Zamagni, a lay Italian economist.

Although guidelines in moral matters issued by the Pope are relevant only to Catholics, and perhaps only a minority of Catholics take them seriously, I think that even so the visibility of the Pope's statements is high enough to warrant an attempt to help him perceive that Peak Oil and more generally the Hubbert's Peak of the global extraction rate of fossil fuels is the most urgent and critical of the "contemporary problems". Because otherwise, the situation would be analogous to issuing moral guidelines to the people aboard the Titanic under the perception that the most urgent and critical problem facing them is that the ship is heating up!

To that purpose, PO-aware people (I'd say preferably with academic credentials and using real names) could send an enlightening communication to one or both of the following (whose e-mail addresses can be found at the respective web pages):

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (Cardinal Renato Martino)

Professor Stefano Zamagni

keep in mind your talking about a religion that takes the signs of scarcity as a sign that their lord is coming.

And one that protects its wafers (ritual cannibalism) by golly (article and followup):

'Body Of Christ' Snatched From Church, Held Hostage By UCF Student
Initial Article: http://www.wftv.com/news/16798008/detail.html

Cook claims he planned to consume it, but first wanted to show it to a fellow student senator he brought to Mass who was curious about the Catholic faith.

"When I received the Eucharist, my intention was to bring it back to my seat to show him," Cook said. "I took about three steps from the woman distributing the Eucharist and someone grabbed the inside of my elbow and blocked the path in front of me. At that point I put it in my mouth so they'd leave me alone and I went back to my seat and I removed it from my mouth."


Orange County, FL -- One week after a University of Central Florida student snatched something sacred from church, armed UCF police officers stood guard during Sunday Mass to protect what Catholics call "The Body of Christ."

Minutes before the Mass began, Student Senator Webster Cook returned the Holy Eucharist he was holding hostage in a Ziploc bag ever since smuggling the blessed wafer of bread out of the Catholic Mass service Sunday June 29.

A Note on Rising Food Prices
Prepared by Donald Mitchell, World Bank analyst

The World Bank index of food prices increased 140 percent from January 2002 to February 2008. The increase was caused by a confluence of factors but the most important was the large increase in biofuels production in the U.S. and EU. Without the increase in biofuels global wheat and maize stocks would not have declined appreciably and price increases due to other factors would have been moderate.

... the combination of higher energy prices and related increases in fertilizer prices, and dollar weakness caused food prices to rise by about 35 percent from January 2002 to February 2008 and the remaining three-quarters of the 140 percent actual increase was due to biofuels and the related consequences of low grain stocks, large land use shifts, speculative activity and export bans. (emphasis added)

This is the "secret" report that was not published officially because "it was too hot for the Bank to handle." It has been released online by The Guardian.

As aways, nobody talks about the weard weather of 2007.

If you read the report you'll see that they do factor in weather and climate.

Page 3

Drought in Australia in 2006 and 2007 and poor crops in Europe in 2007 added to the grain and oilseed price increases

Page 13.

The summary of weather impacts noted that the effects of el nina caused drought in the south central U.S, extreme cold in the northern plains, and heavy precipitations in the Mid West

More bad news about the oceans: A Third of Reef-Building Corals at Risk of Extinction

Because coral reefs are home to more than a quarter of all marine species, their loss could be devastating for biodiversity in the world's oceans.
Of the 704 corals classified in the study, 231 were listed as "vulnerable," "endangered," or "critically endangered" according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.

A decade ago just 13 species met the same criteria.

The pace of the decline is remarkable. IMO, recent news about stresses to the ocean food chain is much scarier than anything going on on land.

I live near and often scuba dive from my kayak on the coral reefs near Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood Florida. There is still some healthy reef to be seen here. I find that it is very difficult to explain to non divers how incredible the reefs really are and no, watching a video is not the same as being there. The average beach goer or developer is not much concerned with the environmental degradation that happens beneath the surface and is not immediately visible. They are not educated in the impact that the continual unraveling of the complexly woven tapestry of life will eventual have on us in the long term.

The pace of the decline is remarkable. IMO, recent news about stresses to the ocean food chain is much scarier than anything going on on land.

I agree, peak oil doesn't depress me as much as knowing what is happening to the marine environment. http://scienceblogs.com/deepseanews/2008/07/is_it_all_over_for_corals.ph...
The news is not all bad.

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to spend most of a week on Heron Island, a 42-acre coral atol w/reef & lagoon in the Capricorn Group at the southern reach of the Great Barrier Reef. I am filled with wistful longing every time I think of it. Coral reefs are magical places, and their importance to the health of the ocean is vastly underappreciated.

This is why i think a fast crash is good. every day this current system goes on, a day's worth of damage is done in every respect. habitat destruction, top soil loss, c02 emissions, fossil fuel and other natural resource depletions etc.

I think one way to look at the post-peak situation is to consider each element of our current lifestyle. Those that are "durable goods" that embody a lot of cheap energy consumed in their manufacture AND that offer continuing utility will greatly increase in value, as they will be hard to replace. Those that require energy to produce yet are "consumable" will simply go away, as they will no longer be feasible. Energy-consumptive service industries will be the worst of all.

Of course, there will be many inter-connected and overlapping applications of such notions that will determine what stays and what goes away.

Some examples: A concrete hydro-generating dam will be of immense value, as it (a) cost a lot to build, (b) would cost even more to replace, as cement is energy intensive, and (c) it can produce energy with little recurring cost. It will have so much value that if infrastructure breaks down a city will grow around such an asset -- with access to water and power you simply can't do much better.

A concrete road though, will vary in value according to location. If it's a major trade link for short-haul travel, it will be like Route 66 of yore, connecting communities. If it's a rural road to nowhere, though, it may go into disrepair, as a new train-track would be of higher utility, and the upkeep will exceed the value.

Cars will recycled for steel (which has a high embodied energy value) but the car itself will decrease in value as the expense factor increases. Tractors, though, will increase greatly in value, as replacement cost will be high while the need continues unabated, and even if they're used less for high-petro farming, they will still have a LOT of utility on the farm.

Houses of course have much embodied energy, but as is ever the case with real estate, the real top three value determinants will continue to be "location, location, and location". Value will also vary based on new factors, such as energy efficiency and solar potential. A smaller house with good insulation, efficient appliances, a basement, a large garden, and some opportunity for passive or active solar energy will likely be worth far more as a single-family dwelling than a much larger inefficient house on a tightly-paced suburban lot, and many of the much-derided McMansions will be scavenged for in-town in-building from the far-flung suburbs, as they suffer based on both location and efficiency. Most McMansions in town will likely turn into rented-room apartments.

History shows time and again that during periods of growth the risk-takers gain vast rewards, while during hard times the more conservative win out. We've had a lot of years of risk-rewarding, and I imagine that bodes poorly for most of us when things get bad. I fear one of the most depressing aspects of the pending downturn is that those who have lived conservatively will be tapped to continue the lifestyles of the foolish through mortgage bailouts and public services. In the end it won't help, as the collapse of any unsustainable situation can only be delayed, not prevented.

Iran will target US bases if attacked

Iran says its Armed Forces would target the heart of Israel and 32 US bases before the dust settles from an attack on the country.

"If the enemy was confident that it would emerge victorious from an attack on Iran, they would not put it off for even another day," an aide to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Mojtaba Zolnoor said on Saturday.

Today, through the efforts of Iranian experts, the military capabilities of the country's Armed Forces have reached an advanced level, he added.

"If the US or Israel fire one bullet against Iran, the Iranian Armed Forces will not hesitate to target the heart of Israel and 32 US military bases in the region before the dust settles," warned Ayatollah Khamenei's representative in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

'Iran would destroy Israel, US bases'

Speaking at Labor party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Barak also asserted that Israel doesn't balk "when its vital security interests" are at stake. "Even so, we are not acting within an empty cavity. Israel is very strong but we are not immune," he said.

And now this from The Sunday Times
President George W Bush backs Israeli plan for strike on Iran

Despite the opposition of his own generals and widespread scepticism that America is ready to risk the military, political and economic consequences of an airborne strike on Iran, the president has given an “amber light” to an Israeli plan to attack Iran’s main nuclear sites with long-range bombing sorties, the official told The Sunday Times.

“Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by for immediate attack and tell us when you’re ready,” the official said. But the Israelis have also been told that they can expect no help from American forces and will not be able to use US military bases in Iraq for logistical support.

ELM in action:


SUVs lead Ford's first half sales in the Middle East

Dubai: Ford, Lincoln and Mercury sales grew by 21 per cent in the Middle East during the first half of 2008, Ford Middle East said in a statement on Saturday.

Led by a strong surge in Ford sports utility vehicle (SUV) sales (up by nearly 50 per cent), the results show an increased consumer preference across the range and Ford believes this trend would get stronger with the launch of the all-new 2009 Ford Flex full-size crossover in the next quarter.

In UAE, Ford reported a 25 per cent increase in sales during the first half of this year. "While the US market is witnessing a downturn in SUV sales, Ford has a success story in the Middle East where we see considerable growth across our utility vehicle range," said Hussain Murad, Ford Middle East's sales and marketing director

And Russia is now the #1 market for new cars in Europe.

Still dwarfed by the Chinese market, which is closer in size to the USA market than the Russian.

Next time someone says we don't make anything anymore just point out we have record exports.

The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in May as the cheaper dollar spurred gains in exports, helping make up for the soaring cost of imported oil.


I am not arguing the nature of the exports, I am just saying we have record exports.

Neat that you equated "exports" with "making things". What lead you to that conclusion?

Neat that you equated "exports" with "making things". What lead you to that conclusion?

Probably reading a list of the US's exports.

From the CIA WFB entry on the USA:

"Exports - commodities: agricultural products (soybeans, fruit, corn) 9.2%, industrial supplies (organic chemicals) 26.8%, capital goods (transistors, aircraft, motor vehicle parts, computers, telecommunications equipment) 49.0%, consumer goods (automobiles, medicines) 15.0% (2003)"

Why, what were you thinking the US exported if not "stuff it's made"?

I think it has to do with the disconnect between making things and assembling things. We can make things and do make things. We also import things and assemble other things out of them, and then export them. This is quite reasonable.
We don't have to make everything. But we used to, except for things like silk, rubber, chocolate, coffee, etc. We could have made the silk and rubber (Guayule) pretty easily. Coffee was harder. Chocolate almost impossible to do economically. Except next to the warm water springs of Idaho, maybe? Chocolate trees are incredibly sensitive to cold.

Apropos earlier discussions of investment in the US electricity grid, a recent article that I haven't seen mentioned:

It's alive: The urgent need to upgrade the grid

"Those weaknesses are now being addressed. The Edison Electric Institute reported transmission investments by publicly-traded utilities jumped last year to $7.8 billion from $2 billion in 1997. Over 240 miles of much-needed high-voltage lines have been added in the Western states alone in just the past year."

Good to see the underinvestment of recent years is getting addressed to some extent.

Hey Pitt,

Is this adding news lines without doing anything to maintain an overloaded and rusting grid system. The WSJ reported not to long ago that many coal fired plant plans were scrapped, as too expensive given regs.

It would be nice to see a favorable rating by NERC (said the future looked grim) or the Nat. Assn of Civil Engineers (last rating I saw was a "D)."