DrumBeat: September 19, 2008

Hydrocarbons - the formula of war

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - Hydrocarbon prices, new nuclear and hydro-power plants, oil blackmail - energy is now one of the central issues discussed in the world. Even the defense sector is not immune: many analysts tend to view most 20th century wars as wars for energy. The role and significance of energy resources and the part energy plays in wars is worth examining.

As industrial society forges ahead, energy and energy resources play a more significant role in the affairs of nations. Eventually, a nation reaches a point at which accessible energy resources become vital for its existence, and any shortage in these resources may result in serious consequences for its economy. Control over energy production was not the ultimate goal for Germany, Italy or Japan - the aggressor countries in World War II - but it was one of the overriding objectives.

Study group questions military action against Iran

WASHINGTON — The next president would be wise to make contingency plans for a military attack against Iran, but even a successful strike might not stop Tehran's development of nuclear weapons, a bipartisan study group has concluded.

Intensified diplomacy and tougher economic sanctions aimed at Iran's oil and gas industries are more likely to be productive, said the forthcoming report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, prepared under the guidance of former Sens. Daniel Coats, R-Ind., and Charles Robb, D-Va.

"A military strike is a feasible option and must remain a last resort to retard Iran's nuclear development," the report said.

U.S. Won't Seek Emergency Fuel Supplies From the IEA

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. won't ask the International Energy Agency for emergency fuel supplies to offset disruptions from hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, an Energy Department spokeswoman said.

Damages from the storms were ``far less severe than we thought,'' spokeswoman Healy Baumgardner said today in a telephone interview.

Delays Loom in Oil Sands as Small Cos Eye Market Turmoil

While plummeting oil prices have unnerved Alberta's oil sands industry, it is the fallout from the banking crisis that is keeping company executives awake at night.

Fears of a clampdown on credit availability surged after two of Wall Street's biggest investment names disappeared last weekend, with Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LEH) suddenly filing for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch & Co. (MER) due to be sold to Bank of America Corp. (BAC). Morgan Stanley (MS) could also be swallowed up by Wachovia Corp. (WB).

World financial crisis stalks global air carriers

Four years ago, when the price of jet fuel rose by half, the number of passengers dropped by one percent. This year, fuel prices have shot up by 70 percent, and statistics already show a fall of 1.9 percent in traffic - a five-year high.

This means millions of people have decided against flying. Carriers cannot help recalling the "black year 2001" when the Sep 11 terror attacks brought a fall in flights and caused civil aviation across the world to lose approximately $12 billion.

India: Night power cuts leave UP industries bewildered

The night power cuts in Uttar Pradesh is creating lot of trouble for the textile, jute and leather industry, as the entrepreneurs are unable to meet their production targets. Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) has recently imposed power cuts on all industrial units from 10 pm to 6 am on a daily basis.

Long lines as Malawi experiences fuel shortages

APA-Lilongwe (Malawi) Malawi is currently experiencing a shortage of petrol and diesel, forcing motorists to spend hours in long lines in search of motor vehicle fuel at service stations in the central and southern cities of the country.

Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) Chief Executive Charles Kafumba told journalists on Friday that the shortages were due to logistical problems that have affected the loading of both petrol and diesel from the Malawi Cargo Centre Limited fuel depot in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, to the landlocked state.

EPA move could reduce gas prices 5 to 10 cents a gallon

Gasoline stations in Maryland were given permission yesterday to start selling a heavier blend of gasoline that usually wouldn't be allowed until October.

The move, which was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency following a request from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, is intended to increase the gasoline supply in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, which closed several major refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Byron King: The Markets Are Making Almost No Sense

I surely do not envy the next U.S. president. One of these days, the morning National Intelligence Brief will begin, "Mr. President, we have some really bad news about Mexico's oil exports to the U.S. Pemex told us that within the next two months, it just can't deliver the oil that we're expecting. And none of the other oil suppliers in the world can begin to make up the difference."

Al Gore Asks MoveOn.org To Help Udall Despite Congressman's Reversal On Offshore Drilling

Denver, CO (AHN) - Former Vice President Al Gore has sent an email to MoveOn.org members asking for their help raising funds for Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) and two other Democrats seeking their first term in the Senate.

Calling Udall one of his "three champions of clean energy," Gore wrote, "At the convention, I said that the oil industry has a 50-year lease on the Republican Party. And they're drilling it for everything it's worth... We're in an energy crisis, and the burgeoning solar and wind power business is on the edge of shutting down-because Republicans are blocking the tax incentives they count on. Yet they'll fight to the death for huge oil industry subsidies."

7 sexy hybrids you can't (yet) buy

The Toyota Prius changed the market — and automakers are responding.

Farmers go green as petrol prices rise

The increased cost of petrol is providing an incentive for some farmers to consider alternatives such as organic and bio dynamic farming.

New fleet may mean U.S. covets Brazil's oil: Lula

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva warned on Thursday that the resurrection of a U.S. naval fleet in Latin America may signal that Washington covets huge new oil reserves off Brazil's coast.

The U.S. Navy is reestablishing the U.S. Fourth Fleet, which was decommissioned 58 years ago, to combat drug trafficking, provide disaster relief and help with peacekeeping missions in Latin America and the Caribbean.

But the return of the fleet has been met with widespread skepticism in Brazil and elsewhere in the region, where many see a U.S. military presence as a threat to sovereignty.

Reasons To Be Gloomy

The problem is not that the world is running out of oil. It's that future supplies will come increasingly from politically less stable parts of the world—the broader Middle East, the Caspian Sea basin, and West Africa. These regions are especially vulnerable to political turmoil, terrorist and insurgent attacks, war, government collapse, and other serious threats.

And, of course, the sixfold increase in oil prices since 2002 has empowered the governments of some oil- and gas-exporting states to use their newfound market leverage as a political weapon. Political leaders in Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and others already use their hydrocarbon wealth to pick political fights. High prices allow even marginal energy exporters like Sudan and Burma to resist international pressure for political reform.

Why the Current Energy Bill is Bad for Americans

The bill includes a buffer that would prohibit any new drilling within fifty miles of America's coastline. These are the most promising areas for oil and gas production, and this bill would lock up an estimated 90% of America's offshore reserves.

...Nuclear energy was NOT included as a way to meet this mandate. While we must use all sources of alternative energy and all methods of conservation, nuclear remains one of our best options for electricity production. It's clean, technology has made it increasingly safer, and countries around the world are already using our technology to produce nuclear energy.

Global food situation at a crossroads

Los Baños, Philippines – Declining agricultural productivity and continued growing demand have brought the world food situation to a crossroads. Failure to act now through a wholesale reinvestment in agriculture—including research into improved technologies, infrastructure development, and training and education of agricultural scientists and trainers—could lead to a long-term crisis that makes the price spikes of 2008 seem a mere blip.

This stark warning, in line with calls from organizations such as the World Bank, the World Food Program, and Asian Development Bank (ADB), was issued by members of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) following their meeting on 16-19 September at Institute headquarters in Los Baños, Philippines.

Edmonton fat thanks to urban sprawl

Edmonton in 1892 was a svelte nine square kilometres. Then came the age of the internal combustion engine: asphalt, traffic lights, freeways, pump jockeys, eight-tracks, traffic helicopters, shock jocks, cassette players, self-serve gas, travel mugs and heated seats, CD players, hands-free cellular, GPS, satellite radio and a 30-minute commute to the 'burbs, complete with toasty bum and a BlackBerry reminder to stop for milk.

Over those decades Edmonton sprawled to a corpulent 700 square kilometres. Ours is one of the most spread-out cities in the world, with one of its lowest population densities. Our corpulence doesn't even take into account the big-lot bedroom communities, acreages or country-residential developments in the region. Factor in regional sprawl and we're morbidly obese.

Sustainability Conference: Airports, roads and rails face threats

Gallamore said the nation faces a circle of connected crises – the coastal inundation crisis, which is linked to the climate crisis, which links to the energy crisis, which is connected to the economic crisis.

“High oil prices lead to recessions all the time, call it what you want,” he said, alluding to some people’s aversion to using the R word. Gallamore said the nation needs a massive retraining program for those who used to have jobs in industries that no longer exist in the country.

Civilisation And The Carbon Credit Card

I want to introduce you to Lester Brown. The Washington Post called him "one of the world's most influential thinkers." He founded the Worldwatch Institute, publishes an annual State of the World report, and recently founded the Earth Policy Institute.

One of his goals is to provide a vision of the world we want, and a plan of how to get there. He has called this Plan B3. (Compared to Plan A, which is where we continue hell-bent on our current lemming-like course … When the lemmings jumped off the cliff not one of them questioned their actions!)

The Banks Get Their Presidential Pardon

All of this is occurring even as the Republicans seek to entrench the Bush tax cuts, and Obama sings from only a slightly different hymnal. Even as the Iraq/Afghanistan wars is threatening to end up costing $3 trillion, and with the current account deficit coming in at $183.1 billion this quarter. A stunning 5.1% of GDP And while this collapse is having a salutary effect for now on the price of oil the problems with oil supply are really just starting. The next four years certain to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that peak oil is a theory in the same way that round earth is a theory. The costs of climate change too with its vanishing glaciers, artic ice, and monster storms only now just starting to give us hints at just how expensive the future we are building is likely to be.

Australia: State must plan for coastal swamping

VICTORIA must start planning for sea level rises of two metres that will swamp coastal housing and industry, a former planning minister has warned.

Warming World in Range of Dangerous Consequences

The earth will warm about 2.4° C (4.3° F) above pre-industrial levels even under extremely conservative greenhouse-gas emission scenarios and under the assumption that efforts to clean up particulate pollution continue to be successful, according to a new analysis by a pair of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

OSU plans conversion to natural gas vehicles

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State University plans to convert its fleet to vehicles that use compressed natural gas, university President Burns Hargis said Thursday.

IT at sea: Google to launch a computer navy

According to a patent application seen by London newspaper "The Times," Google is considering launching barges up to seven miles (11km) offshore to host the massive data centers required to run its Internet search engines.

The plan would likely see the data centers -- which consist of huge supercomputers -- use wave energy to power and cool themselves while stationed at sea.

Can 'small wind' reap big rewards?

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Micro wind turbines are beginning to pop up all over our urban and rural landscapes. But is it worth investing your hard-earned cash in your very own wind machine? In short, it depends. Take a look at our quick guide to see if "small wind" could help you reduce your energy bills and your carbon footprint.

Gasoline Supply May Fall `Substantially,' Energy Official Says

(Bloomberg) -- The Energy Department's Sept. 24 inventory report may show that U.S. gasoline supplies fell 8.5 million barrels from a four-decade low as Texas refineries assess damage from Hurricane Ike, a department official said.

``Probably the max is an 8.5 million draw in gasoline because demand is down, and it could be as low as 6.5 million'' barrels, John Duff, survey manager for the Energy Department's weekly petroleum status report, said in an interview. The report will show ``the real impact of the hurricane on the refining sector,'' he said. Supplies will fall ``substantially.''

Crude Oil Gains $3 a Barrel as Bank-Bailout Plan Boosts Markets

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil climbed more than $3 a barrel to the highest in a week on speculation government measures to resolve the bank crisis may bolster demand for petroleum.

Chevron venture to develop oil field off Nigeria

A joint venture between Chevron Corp. and Nigeria's national oil company will move forward on development of the Usan oil field off the African coast.

Russian oil firms could develop deposits in Indonesia - envoy

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) - Russian oil companies could be involved in broad cooperation in Indonesia, the southeast Asian country's ambassador to Moscow said on Friday.

Naked Bathers Protest Japan Power Plan to Siphon Hot Spa Waters

(Bloomberg) -- One of Japan's opportunities to tap cleaner, cheaper energy and reduce dependence on imported oil has run into a problem: millions of naked bathers.

The dispute is over deep-underground volcanically heated water that geothermal power plants would tap to generate electricity. Japan, with nearly a tenth of the world's active volcanoes, also has thousands of hot spring resorts whose owners oppose plans to siphon off steaming mineral waters.

Peak Oil - Are We There Yet?

How close are we to the peak?

Recapping from our theoretical discussion on the depletion curves, the peak happens after discoveries have peaked, after consumption has overtaken discoveries, and once total accumulated consumption/production is roughly equal to the remaining reserves.

Looking at the numbers, one concludes that two of the conditions for a production peak have occurred, and a third may be occurring:

1) Discoveries peaked 44 years ago (by coincidence, the United States discoveries peak happened 41 years before peak consumption, although the lag for the worldwide case could vary substantially from the US case).

2) Consumption overtook discoveries in 1980, about 28 years ago (in the United States, consumption overtook discoveries about 32 years before the peak, again possibly just a coincidence of dates).

3) Total accumulated output may be roughly equal to existing proven reserves (this could vary somewhat, depending on estimates, and even more so on probable and possible reserves), the final condition, which is expected to coincide with Hubert’s peak.

IEA sees risk of recession if oil stays high

LONDON (Reuters) - The head of the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday there was a risk of global recession if oil prices stayed around the current level and hurt emerging economies.

Nobuo Tanaka, head of the agency which advises 27 industrialized countries, also said the supply and demand balance in the oil market is tight, leaving consumers vulnerable to a fresh surge in prices.

ANALYSIS - Saudi Arabia lays ground for more OPEC action

DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) - OPEC's surprisingly tough output deal last week lays the foundation for more decisive action to prop up weakened oil markets and it could involve the possible collaboration of leading non-OPEC producer Russia.

Until OPEC reached agreement in the early hours of Sept. 10, most had anticipated the group would leave production unchanged.

But top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which before the meeting said the market was fine as it was, put its name to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC) unanimous decision to throttle back to agreed output levels.

"The agreement was a surprise," said one OPEC delegate. "We had all expected there to be no change."

Can OPEC Curb The Oil Roller Coaster?

The last 12 months have seen a roller coaster oil market. In September 2007 the price of West Texas Intermediate averaged $79.69 per barrel. By July 3 it had reached an all-time record level of $147 per barrel. In the last week, it has plunged to below $100 per barrel. The cuts announced by OPEC on Sept. 9 have created significant uncertainties in terms of the effective size of the production cuts involved and the likely impact on prices.

Kazakhstan to tie up with Shell for Kashagan oil

ALMATY (Reuters) - Kazakhstan said on Friday state oil company KazMunaiGas would create a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell to handle the production segment of the Kashagan oilfield.

"A joint venture between Shell and KazMunaiGas is being formed so that KazMunaiGas could take the lead in the production sector of the project," the government said on its website, government.kz.

Nigerian militants say Shell pipeline destroyed

LAGOS (AFP) - The main militant group in southern Nigeria -- the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) -- said Thursday it had destroyed a major oil pipeline belonging to Royal Dutch Shell.

"Fighters from MEND using high explosives have destroyed a major pipeline belonging to Shell Development Company at the Elem-Kalabari Cawthorne Channel axis in Rivers state," the group said in an email to the media.

Nigeria militants turn against each other in delta

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian militants clashed with each other in the restive Niger Delta, a military spokesman said on Friday, highlighting the complex security situation in the oil-rich region. Two militant factions with close links to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) exchanged gunfire on Thursday at Harristown in Rivers state, a village known to be a battleground for the lucrative trade in oil theft, more commonly known as oil bunkering.

Shell says Nigeria violence to hit earnings

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil major Royal Dutch Shell Plc said an escalation in violence in Nigeria in the past week would likely weigh on its earnings.

A spokesman for the Hague-based company said the attacks on oil facilities would have an impact but declined to put figures on production outages or the extent to which quarterly earnings may suffer.

Peak Oil: America uses 21 million barrels per day

The concept of peak oil is not about running out of crude oil. It never has been. A Shell geologist (M. King Hubbert) in the '50s formulated, from his years of study of oil field production, his theory of Peak Oil. He predicted, accurately, that U.S. crude production would peak between 1965 and 1970.

Be clear on this. It’s not about running out. We are pumping crude in the U.S. today, 38 years after the U.S. peaked. The peak comes when daily output can no longer be expanded and begins to shrink inexorably, year after year.

Medvedev pours in more oil billions as battered stock exchanges stay shut

Russia’s battered stock exchanges remained closed yesterday as President Medvedev ordered the Government to pour billions of pounds into saving the financial system.

He told ministers that there was “no more important task” than stabilising the markets after a torrid week that has seen share prices slump and brought warnings of a financial crash.

Russia plans more oil sector tax cuts-Kremlin aide

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will propose more tax cuts for the oil industry this year and implement them in 2010, Kremlin economic aide Arkady Dvorkovich said on Friday, without giving many details of the plan.

President Dmitry Medvedev met top officials from the Kremlin and the government on Thursday to discuss tax reform after a debate between a pro-growth camp, which wanted a major cut in value-added tax (VAT), and fiscal hawks, led by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.

Shell plans Russian oil exploration project-source

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research) plans a new exploration project in Russia and is considering three oil fields in Kalmykia in the Urals as possible sites, a source familiar with the plans said on Friday.

"The fields require deep drilling, over 6 kilometres," the source said on the sidelines of an investment forum in Russia's southern city of Sochi.

Russia says new-style OPEC link "interesting"

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is considering renewed ties with OPEC, a minister said on Friday, a move that could rattle nerves among energy consuming nations.

Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said Moscow will send a high-level delegation to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' next meeting in Algeria on Dec. 17.

"We are planning again to take part in the meeting by sending a high-level delegation. The prospects of cooperation in a new format between OPEC and the Russian Federation are very interesting," Shmatko told reporters.

Airlines fail to pass on oil cuts to passengers

British Airways and Virgin have declined to drop their fuel surcharges, despite oil prices falling by more than a third

Airlines, cruise lines stand by fuel surcharges

Despite lower crude oil prices, fuel-related fees added by airlines and cruise companies are here to stay.

Citing soaring fuel prices, airlines and cruise lines have added fuel surcharges and other transactional fees in the past 12 months to help recoup their costs. But the oil price is now far below the level at which it stood back in the summer, when the latest round of fuel surcharge hikes went through.

Alitalia airline cancels flights

Alitalia has cancelled a number of flights from Rome's Fiumicino airport, increasing fears that the carrier may soon go into liquidation.

The airline confirmed that a number of flights have been cancelled, but denied it had run out of aviation fuel.

Slump in oil prices should enable Ryanair to break even this year

A SLUMP in oil prices during the past two months should see Ryanair break even this financial year after it had earlier predicted a loss of up to €60m, chief executive Michael O'Leary said yesterday.

Speaking at the airline's annual general meeting in Dublin, Mr O'Leary told shareholders that as long as oil prices remain under $100 a barrel for the remainder of the year the low-cost carrier should break even.

Futurologist Richard Watson's 2050 vision: goodbye Belgium, hello brain transplants

The environment will remain vitally important, but climate change won't be the only game in town - the approach of peak oil, peak coal, peak gas, peak water, peak uranium and even peak people (a severe shortage of workers in many parts of the world) will also have an impact, and require a profound shift towards sustainability.

Wind Power Can Solve the U.S. Oil Addiction

It's become cliché to say that the United States is addicted to oil. I'll make no effort to refute the claim because it's true. It's an expensive habit, too. The upshot, however, has been the explosion of interest in renewable energy sources. Last year, investors poured a record $71 billion into the alternative energy space. And billions more funnel in every day.

But with so many possibilities - hydropower, wind power, solar power, geothermal, biofuel, clean coal technology - investors are forced to pick which alternative energy source will distinguish itself as the most viable replacement for oil. It's a crapshoot.

That is, until you realize the shooter (in this case Wall Street) is rolling a pair of "loaded" dice.

India's Iconic Electric Car Gets Energised

MUMBAI - Long before "green" cars became trendy in other parts of the world, a boxy electric two-seater began rolling out of a small factory in the Indian city of Bangalore, which was then emerging as a software services hub.

Today, scores of Reva electric cars can be seen tootling down Bangalore's crowded streets, their bright colours and minimalist design drawing curious looks, even smiles, from commuters.

US Power Firm To Build Biomass Energy Plants

Oglethorpe Power Corporation (OPC), America's largest power supply cooperative, has recently unveiled plans to build as many as three 100 megawatt (MW) biomass electric generating facilities in the state of Georgia.

Designed to utilize woody biomass, one of the state's most abundant renewable resources, the power plants will be carbon-neutral and provide power to OPC's 38 member cooperatives, which supply electricity to nearly half of Georgia's population.

New system could help avert collapse of fisheries

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Guaranteeing individual fishermen a share of the catch could help avert a global collapse of fisheries, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

Such programs, known as catch-shares, eliminate the frantic race to get the biggest share of the catch as in traditional open-access fishing, a system that promotes overfishing and habitat destruction, putting a key global food supply at risk.

"Under open access, you have a free-for-all race to fish, which ultimately leads to collapse," said Christopher Costello of the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose study appears in the journal Science.

"But when you allocate shares of the catch, then there is an incentive to protect the stock, which reduces collapse. We saw this across the globe," he said in a statement.

Chicago outlines plan to slash greenhouse gases

CHICAGO - Mayor Richard M. Daley has announced a plan to dramatically slash emissions of heat-trapping gases, part of an effort to fight global warming and become one of the greenest cities in the nation.

The plan calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to three-fourths of 1990 levels by 2020 through more energy-efficient buildings, using clean and renewable energy sources, improving transportation and reducing industrial pollution.

Australia to launch ambitious global carbon capture scheme

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia will launch a multi-million dollar international carbon capture and storage institute to fight global warming, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced Friday.

Rudd said the plan would be the centrepiece of his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week, adding that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had already offered his support.

UN chief appoints two new special envoys on climate change

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - UN chief Ban Ki-moon has appointed two new special envoys on climate change, one of his top priorities, his press office said Thursday in a statement.

Former Botswanan president Festus Mogae and former Macedonian foreign minister Srgjan Kerim, who has just stepped down as president of the UN General Assembly, are to join two other special envoys for climate change appointed last year: former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos and Norwegian ex-prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Live Earth climate change concert heads to India

MUMBAI, India - Jon Bon Jovi and Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan will perform at this year's Live Earth concert, when the music extravaganza aimed at raising awareness of climate change heads to India.

The changing climate of war and peace

While voices in the political world remain locked in inertia, alternately debating and decrying the science of global warming itself, top military leaders and defense think-tanks have been taking it seriously.

Terrorism is a malevolent problem, but climate change, observers say, is a malignant problem, and the world can ignore neither.

The American military has been examining future implications of global warming as a threat to peace, hoping to head off a world fighting over reduced natural resources, food and water, and conflicts brought on by population locations created by droughts, floods, and diseases.

A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon you are talking real money. The great thing for the club, as the article notes, is that all this is going to make further spending on the needs of the USA (i.e. energy infrastructure, health care, you name it) pretty difficult. Loot the treasury-right out of SHOCK DOCTRINE http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/13602.html

By the way, I think this brings the looting meter up to about 1.9 trillion-not sure how much rail, nuclear, wind or solar you could get going with those bucks. Oh well, easy come, easy go.

Warren Buffett told us so:

Buffett's "time bomb" goes off on Wall Street

Five years ago, billionaire investor Warren Buffett called them a "time bomb" and "financial weapons of mass destruction" and directed the insurance arm of his Berkshire Hathaway Inc to exit the business.

They always say, "Nobody saw it coming." When in fact, some people did see it coming, and were ignored. Even people as influential as Warren Buffet.

It was the same with the dot-com boom (and bust).

It's going to be the same with peak oil.

The first person who says to me "but nobody said that fossil fuels would run out" gets a biff on the nose.

To be fair I've already had someone say that they didn't really believe me when I said there was a peak around the corner (said in 2001), but when they saw $100 they remembered my prediction. It seemed so remote then.

Also got 9/11 ahead of time and a number of others. No pandemic yet and no impact of the demographic timebomb being noticed either. The dissolution of US is still on track.

The problem is always timing. Buffett issued his warning five years ago...long enough for people to assume he was wrong. Similarly, the first warnings about the dot-com boom came three years in...and the crash didn't come for another three years. So the party went on twice as long as the Cassandras expected. I sometimes wonder if it will be the same with peak oil.

There's that famous FEMA report, that came out in 2001, that predicted the three biggest and most likely catastrophes: a terrorist attack on NYC, a Cat. 5 hurricane hitting New Orleans, and a major quake hitting San Francisco. The terrorist attack happened shortly after the report came out, and Katrina came in 2005. You'd think this would worry the residents of SF, but they don't seem all that concerned.

There is a nice RAND report about the impact of a container nuke in SF (which has about the same probability of occurrence as an earthquake). Insurance turned out to be the big bugbear - which is interesting given AIG.

I'm sure such a thing would be considered a bigger shock, whereas everyone that lives there expects the quake.

We've built a system and a society that has little resilience at its heart. People aren't expecting large scale disasters, whereas simple stats should say they should prepare to cope with one every few years.

While an earthquake in San Francisco would be catastrophic, its effects on the nation would be comparatively limited relative to one in Los Angeles. Because the Port of Los Angeles is our major Pacific import/export port, 65% of all interstate truck traffic originates from the Los Angeles area. While diversion is possible, the disruption of the flow of trade would be immensely problematic. On November 13, there is going to be the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history in southern California.

Learn more here:

The Great Southern California Shakeout

Yes. The FEMA report took into account what was most likely. Apparently, they think the Big One is more likely to hit SF than LA.

The BIG one will be the Cascadia subduction zone quake centred just NW of Washington state. Forecast to be 9.75 on the richter scale, affecting Vancouver, Seattle and Portland, and it is supposed to be the most expensive natural disaster in history. Last I heard, they figured there would be a 10% chance of it happening this century.

When I first met PO, the date was set at 2005. Now it is 2010. Rembrandt says it will be 2012-2015, so yes, it will take longer to happen then initially anticipated. (though what is 7 years?)

And Katrina hit NO as a Cat 4, not a Cat 5 huricane. Another time maybe?

Katrina hit as a Cat. 3, but she was a Cat. 5 earlier, and brought a Cat. 5 storm surge.

Right. Thanks for the correction.

Global oil production crossed the 84 mbpd line in 2004. In the 4 years since then global population has grown by over 300 million yet global oil production has grown by a measly 1.5 mbpd or so.

So putting that as a percentage, global oil production has grown 1.7% despite prices quadrupling while population grew by over 4.5%

This is definitely Robert Rapier's "peak lite" scenario and it looks like it is happening just as we are reaching the crest of global production anyway. And on a 200-250 year total production curve, what's a year or three difference in picking the exact peak date mean anyway? Mere semantics.

plus the net is far less. even if measured in dollars. we are at marginal cost of oil and gas (in north america) now. so we will continue to pull out the cheap stuff found long ago. peak date a)is not the relevant question and b)due to banking/finance crisis is cemented in - rembrandt will have to adjust his numbers later this year..

It looks to me like the jury is still out on the exact "Peak Date" with 2005 still being in the running.

Barring truly unexpected growth in production we appear to be solidly into a 3+ year peak plateau where the exact peak production date will probably never be known any closer than +/- 1 year in any event.

The peak of true significance is peak net energy. It doesn't matter if you increase production, if net energy declines mean that less energy is available to run the global economy. Deepwater oil, tar sands, heavy oil, and most enhanced recover techniques like water injection all require extra energy to get the same volume of oil.

We've been on a gross production plateau since 2005, but net energy has been going down since then, or maybe a little before. IMO, using basing one's understanding on gross oil production is the most common mistake in oil analysis.

"The peak of true significance is peak net energy."

I heartily second that, and would only add, as GreyZone discusses above, that growing population means that peak net per capita is already behind us.

Quibbling over the exact point of peak oil just confuses the issue. The point is, unless there is a sudden upsurge in oil production in the next couple of years, we are at peak oil right now and have been at that point for a little over three years. What no one expected was this plateau. It could go on for two or three more years but it is still the peak oil plateau and it is happening right now!

Non-OPEC production has been on a plateau for five years. However 2008 will be the year of lowest non-OPEC production since 2003. It appears that non-OPEC production is sliding off its five year plateau. World production however may have a while to run on its plateau but it will now be much harder to stay there since non-OPEC production is trending downward.

But don't fret about the exact month of maximum peak production because it simply does not matter, it simply clouds the matter and detracts from the fact that we are on the peak plateau right now.

Ron Patterson

I agree with Ron that we are on the plateau right now and that trying to time it precisely is not very productive. And a global recession/depression could even further cloud the issue by

  1. giving people something more immediate to worry about (e.g. their 401K)
  2. potentially lowering the dollar price of oil
  3. reducing demand below current levels

The most obvious signal for most folks that peak oil is happening would be the price of gasoline. That seems like an external phenomenon. If the price goes down in a depression but folks can't afford it because they lost their job, well, that seems like a personal problem. Hyperinflation, on the other hand, would seem like a problem with the treasury but not necessarily with energy supplies.

It's difficult for folks to see the relationship between peak oil, banking and the economy especially when the MSM is telling them Peak Oil is 'just a theory'.

It's my personal belief that showing folks data graphics with production curves for various nations and fields is the best way to convince thinking people that we have a problem right now. I'm not sure how to convince the masses, however.

Happy Exploring!

-- Jon

So the party went on twice as long as the Cassandras expected. I sometimes wonder if it will be the same with peak oil.

It already is.

People have been sounding the peak oil alarm for literally decades. They've been wrong for, literally, decades. Yet we know that at some point they'll be right, as oil is finite and hence must eventually peak.

If one wishes to actually provide warning or education, it's important to distinguish between "prescient" and "persistent". Saying "peak will happen" is prescient - it's providing a valuable insight, and not making unwarranted claims. Saying "peak is now" is making a bold claim, and making it over and over and over until at long last it happens to be true is just persistence.

Even a stopped clock is eventually right, but only long after people have given up on paying attention to it.

It already is.

No, it isn't. Because we have not yet reached the point where everyone admits that peak oil is real, and has happened, and we were stupid for not worrying about earlier. We may never reach that point.

If we do, then we can determine if the party went on for twice as long as Hubbert, etc., predicted.

I can say with confidence that we will never reach the point where everyone admits that peak oil is real.

The fact that American oil peaked in 1970 is still denied.
How many of us here know that English coal peaked in 1913?
The deforestation of Europe for cooking, shipbuilding, and housing is still widely denied, hundreds of years later.
In New England you'll find very few people who believe in peak cod, either.

The human mind, it seems, has a blind spot for resource depletion.

Well, "everyone" is probably not reasonable. But even peak oilers still disagree about whether we are at peak oil or not.

I'll settle for as much acceptance as AGW has.

They always say, "Nobody saw it coming."

Yesterday I stumbled upon a paper published by a couple of PIMCO executives back in April of 2006. It illustrates that "they" certainly did know it was coming, or at least were forewarned, but nevertheless chose to throw caution to the wind:


(This is pretty wonkish stuff and, for someone like me who is not trained in economics, it took hours to wade through this short 11-page paper.)

If one can look past their recommended preventative policy prescriptions (which at this late stage are worthless--the patient is already on the emergency room table suffering from a heart attack, eminent kidney failure and lung disease) and focus upon the assesment of the economic situation at the time the paper was published back in 2006, one is struck by the prescience of the authors of the paper. The paper also helps one to frame current economic events in a much larger, global framework, giving one a more universal understanding of just what in the Sam Hill is going on. Their warning was this:

...it must be a national priority to substantilly reduce both the fiscal and current account deficits without inducing a recession in the US. Failure to implement policies that alter the otherwise inevitable expansion of these deficits will result in a very bad outcome--one whose form is impossible to predict.

The paper is chock full of wonderful information and insights, all fascinating and worthwhile, but I want to focus on just two.

To begin with, the authors observe that the foreign governments who hold massive and ever-increasing US dollar reserves "may, among many choices, decide to:

1.  Consume US goods in exchange for their exports
2.  Consume commodities and raw materials for internal infrastructure
3.  Invest their reserves in productive US assets
4.  Lend the reserves back to US borrowers, which include
     • The US government ($7.5 trillion, including state & local)
     • US corporations ($10.9 trillion, including all business loans)
     • US households, divided into
           a.  Homebuyers ($10.6 trillion)
           b.  Consumers ($2.6 trillion)

I have inserted in parentheses the dollar amounts for each of the debt entries. These were the amounts outstanding at the end of Q2-2008 and come from the Federal Reserve:


My concern is that, after the reshuffling of the debt chairs announced by our government last night, with its implication that the US government is to become guarantor of all US debt, that the new configuration will look like this:

1.  Consume US goods in exchange for their exports
2.  Consume commodities and raw materials for internal infrastructure
3.  Invest their reserves in productive US assets
4.  Lend the reserves back to US borrowers, which include
     • The US government ($31.6 trillion)

I think the quandry/sentiments/concern of just about everyone this morning were expressed by Yves over at Naked Capitalism:

Oh boy, bye bye the US AAA rating (at some point, not due specifically to this move, but from the philosophy it represents) and the dollar. The financial markets are simply too large for the US taxpayer to stand behind them all, but that isn't going to prevent the authorities from trying.

To put the enormity of the problem in perspective, consider that there are 116 million households in the United States. If we divy up that $32.4 trillion in debt amongst those households, the average debt burden per household is about $280,000. Given that the median US household income is only about $48,000 per year...


...it's easy to see there's a problem here. The plan announced this morning comes straight out of the Hoover economic playbook. But, just like the Hoover administration's economic prescriptions, it fails miserably to deal with the underlying problem--a debt burden that is just too great to be borne by America's households and businesses. Regardless of how they shuffle the chairs, the debt burden is still too high. Some of the debt chairs will eventually have to be thrown overboard by default, or shrunk in size by inflation. And to make the problem even worse, our policy makers seem to labor under the delusion that we can not only keep all the debt chairs on board, but keep adding more.

The second point the paper makes that I want to emphasize is this:

[Princeton economist Frank D. Graham] understood that poorly crafted sets of economic policies and rules in a global economy would lead to great imbalances that threaten stability and freedom.

The authors make the case that the global fiscal and trade imbalances that have existed for the last thirty years are similar to those that existed in the 1920s that caused the Great Depression, the subsequent rise of fascism and ultimately World War II.

Of course back then the U.S. was a creditor nation. Germany was a debtor nation. However, I will leave you with this one final thought from the authors:

The global economy is going through a similar upheaval today and the growing imbalances will ultimately lead to extreme global economic hardship over the next two decades if not corrected. History suggests that this hardship will be concentrated in debtor nations, however creditor nations dependent on debtor-nation aggregate demand will suffer just the same. The U.S. is the world’s largest debtor nation today, with China the world’s largest creditor.

PIMCO published a follow-up paper in September 2007. It deals a lot more specifically with energy issues and how they integrate into the larger economic picture. I am still wading through it, but am very interested to learn their thoughts on energy.

Wow, this is fascinating stuff. Thank you for posting it.

But...what should we do now? What's the best way out?

Everyone keeps warning of the terrible things that would happen if we allowed AIG, etc., to fail. What, exactly, would happen? That Joe Public would notice, I mean.

Gosh, Leanan, I don't know. The problem is there is no painless way out of what the authors call a "debt trap."

The prescriptions that the authors of the PIMCO paper recommended back in 2006 were preventative, so if they were viable then, they certainly wouldn't apply now. Our chain-smoking, bourbon-swigging, fast-food junkie is already on the emergency room table. It may be a little bit too late to cut out the booze and cigarettes and begin a low-fat diet and exercise program.

I suppose, taking examples from the past, three possible options are:

1. We can do what Great Britain did--tighten our belts, live within our means and pay off the debt. As the authors point out, "Estimates suggest that Great Britain paid a quarter of its wealth to the United States during World War I..."

2. We can follow the nationalistic path of Germany, implement national socialism, default on our foreign debt and direct our anger towards foreigners and chosen domestic minorities, or

3. We can follow the path of Russia and turn our anger against the economic, cultural and academic elite. The current version of this is the class warfare we currently see playing out in Venezuela.

I suppose some combination of the above is also possible.

IMO, deflation is the only way out of the debt trap, at least once we're this far into it. At one point we might have inflated our way out of it, but I think it is too late for that. The economy isn't going to recover until the debts are cleared out.

The good way to do that is with rising income/economic growth. We haven't had that for decades. Most (all?) of the growth of recent decades is just credit expansion. The bad way to do it is with inflation. The problem with inflation is that it will raise interest rates, so it doesn't work in the long run unles you stop taking on new debt. The ugly way out is default. Welcome to ugly.

I'm currently reading an interesting book on the Great Depression that was written in 1931 (A Bubble That Broke the World. I'm not very far into it, but right off he tries to identify the delusions that prevailed at the time. First of these is

the idea that the panacea for debt is credit


That pretty much sums up the current situation.

As the authors of the paper pointed out, inflation was the path the Weimar Republic chose, which opened the door for National Socialism.

I want to stress that the United States during the Great Depression was a creditor nation. It is now a debtor nation. For the US, it may be a whole new ball of wax this go-round, very unsimilar to our experience during the Great Depression.

Here's a nice short article at Sudden Debt that captures the basic problem:

The problem is quite simple, all over the West: there is too little earned income at the foundation of the economy to support massive debt and thus overinflated asset prices.
By their current actions the authorities are attempting to prevent the inevitable, logical and even healthy process of debt elimination and asset price correction that would restore some semblance of balance between debt and income.

I agree completely.

What the administration and congress are currently doing comes straight out of Hoover's palybook. Frederick Lewis Allen, writing of the Great Depression in Since Yesterday, explained the problem thusly:

But no natural adjustment could be reached unless the burdens of debt could also be naturally reduced through bankruptcies. And in America, as in other parts of the world, the economic system had now become so complex and interdependent that the possible consequences of widespread bankruptcy to the banks, the insurance companies, the great holding-company systems, and the multitudes of people dependent upon them—had become too appalling to contemplate. The theoretically necessary adjustment became a practically unbearable adjustment. Therefore Hoover was driven to the point of intervening to protect the debt structure—first by easing temporarily the pressure of international debts without canceling them, and second by buttressing the banks and big corporations with Federal funds (via the Reconstruction Finance Corporation).

Thus a theoretically flexible economic structure became rigid at a vital point. The debt burden remained almost undiminished. Bowing under the weight of debt—and other rigid costs—business thereupon slowed still further. As it slowed, it discharged workers or put them on reduced hours, thereby reducing purchasing power and intensifying the crisis.

The difference is that during the Great Depression the debt was owed to fellow Americans. This go-round much of the debt is owed to foreigners. That gives the situation a little bit different twist. An uptick in jingoism is probably inevitable as Americans learn who it is that holds much of the debt that is causing them so much grief.

For all the complex explanations of the Great Depression, I think this is the simple (and unbearable) explanation underlying it. The bosses want us to spend more on their products than they're willing to pay us to make it. The banks want us in debt. Eventually these lovebirds will mate and produce a method for us to get hideously indebted and utterly indifferent to our real wages. Then we take on delusions that we too are part of the Republican investor class and elect the perfect idiots to oversee catastrophe.

No matter how many times we dig our way out of these messes, the survivors will die off over time and society will make the same mistakes until the resources that make them possible are exhausted.

At its most basic I see the problem as fractional reserve banking. This practise has been in place for centuries and is at the heart of monetary supply so it is rarely questioned and generally considered anathema to do so. However, if you have one dollar and you lend out nine dollars you are lying. Of course as you make money on your loans there is great incentive for this lying practise to continue. It is only possible where money functions as an abstraction for tangible wealth. If a farmer said I need to borrow 5 tractors for a harvest and the bank then showed up with one tractor and 4 pieces of paper you would say, you don't really have 5 tractors do you.

In normal times, fractional reserve banking works fine, though with many pernicious influences as detailed in a moment, as most people don't ask for thier money placed in safekeeping with a bank at the same time. That is it works fine when all is blue skies and sunny days, however, it is precisely when there is "systemic risk" that is when difficult events (funny the bank was for safekeeping) lead a large number of people to simultaneoulsy need their money that the system is exposed as a lie. Moreover, a number of positive feedbacks may come into play which worsen the crisis. First, if large numbers of people begin withdrawing large amounts of money and if economic expansion has been predicated on businesses using bank credit, i.e going into debt, to expand their businesses, well the banks having lower reserves now can't lend as much. Economic expansion slows or reverses and even more people need their money from the bank, while the initial precipitating financial crisis is magnified. Second, if people see large numbers of other people taking their money out of banks they (understanding quite reasonably that the banks actually lent out more money than they have) might also want their money precipitating a "crisis of confidence" or bank run. Considering the alternative, if I didn't know someone I'd be happy to say, don't worry, things will be fine, and hope that the crisis passes. But it's probably worth noting that George Bailey ran the small bank and Mr Potter the large powerful bank.

I am not saying put your money in a mattress, the people who have lots and lots of money will hyperinflate, hyperdeflate, start wars, kill people, put people in jail to preserve power, just that it is a bad situation and the central problem is that fractional reserve banking is predicated on a lie and no number of credit default swaps, hedging or derivatives can alter this.

There are also a number of pernicious influences, even in good times, from this fractional reserve system that might be touched on briefly. If one person deposits a dollar and the bank, for its livelihood, is striving from this reserve to loan out nine dollars, that is put nine people in debt one dollar, to the extent the bank plays a central role in a nation's economy how does debt not massively increase. From the bankers point of view, debt, to the extent it can be stably maintained, is profit, it is money and power. Secondly such a system, and this ties in with PO and so many other topics from this board, does not merely promote, it neccessitates conspicuous consumption. For the nine people who have placed themselves in debt for a dollar (from the one person who deposited a dollar) it is not enough to maintain themselves, they have entered a contract charging 5-10% interest on their debt. They must expand or perish. Once these people are in debt, the wolf is at the door. Hence the mantra of economic growth, the depletion of resources, the disregard for the environment.

The good way to do that is with rising income/economic growth.

Umm, isn't the false belief, that continued unmitigated economic growth is even possible, that got us into this mess in the first place? It's really time for politicians and economists to go study some basic physics, chemistry and biology. For starters I'd suggest that as part of their education they be loaned a half acre plot of land and a plow and told to sustain themselves for a year or two, if they survive then they can be allowed to proceed with their education.

IMO, deflation is the only way out of the debt trap, at least once we're this far into it. At one point we might have inflated our way out of it, but I think it is too late for that. The economy isn't going to recover until the debts are cleared out.

The good way to do that is with rising income/economic growth. We haven't had that for decades. Most (all?) of the growth of recent decades is just credit expansion. The bad way to do it is with inflation. The problem with inflation is that it will raise interest rates, so it doesn't work in the long run unles you stop taking on new debt. The ugly way out is default. Welcome to ugly.

I'm currently reading an interesting book on the Great Depression that was written in 1931 (A Bubble That Broke the World). Right off he tries to identify the delusions that prevailed at the time. First of these is

the idea that the panacea for debt is credit.

That pretty much sums up the current situation.

There are two extreme ways out of this: hyperinflation and default. Both are just two different types of defaults.

But neither is acceptable for TPTB as we would lose our status of a goods-for-paper nation. That's why I think they will try to do something in between - they will be running the printing press as fast as they can do it without creditors "noticing". This explains a lot of the delaying tactics we are seeing recently. Blow one-two more bubbles, hold the line for another year or two, and all those trillions will be just a loose change in Bernake's pocket.

Sorry for the double post. I intended to use preview then back up and fix any formatting errors. I guess I hit post instead, then backed and reformatted. Oops.

Thanks for your thoughtfull answer. Having just acquired this massive debt on top of the existing half a trillion, it may take a while before we see belt tightening and a debt reduction plan. Shoulda just bit the bullet.

I don't know how this is going to shake out but the beliefs of my lunch companions today may provide some insight:

"Bob" believes that oil is not of fossil origin but constantly forms in the magma. (This one's been floating around for a while.)

"Tom" believes that the human eye is far too complex to have evolved. It must have been created by an intelligent designer. Ditto.

"Joe" believes that we should conquer any country that allows citizens to chant or in any other way proclaims Death to America and install a dictator and leave with a stern warning: "Next time it'll be worse." He has no problem using nukes...as needed.

I work for a Fortune 100 company. These guys are professionals.

I have kids and I'd like to see, and I put my time & money where my mouth is, a better future and I'm one of many working for it. But I'll be damned if I know how it'll even begin to happen when a huge % of halfway intelligent people believe this kind of stuff. I can easily see my lunch mates in jackboots.

Just another day in Idiot America...(published awhile ago but still plenty relevant)


BTW, thanks for posting this; I find it helpful when contemplating potential futures (and I don't mean commodities trading).

Wow, what a coincidence that the Creationist museum was created by something called AIG. A name shared with a firm that requires an $85 billion Federal bailout because:

1. its faith that America as a country would always grow enough to hide the lack of collateral for the paper it insured

2. our faith that the Federal government cannot now default on its added debt.

As comforting as Creationism.

bourbon-swigging, fast-food junkie ...
hooked on low interest and easy money

Looks like it's time for even newer lyrics to Billy Joel's classic tune, We didn't start the fire

I see Nouriel Roubini hazarded a nuts and bolts proposal....


He believes policy makers have began to see the light:

So by Wednesday this week as markets were in total panic (stock prices collapsing, interbank spread surging to levels never seen before, credit spreads reaching new highs and Treasury bill rates practically down to zero as investors rushed to safety) the policy authorities decided that something more radical – that many of us had advocated for a long time – needed to be done. The most important policy action is not the decision of extending the swap lines between central banks (so as to provide dollar liquidity to non-US banks abroad); it is not the re-imposition of limits to short sales (a policy action that is itself a naked attempt to manipulate upward stock prices); it is rather the realization that a generalized debt and solvency problem required a solution that leads to significant debt reduction.

(emphasis mine)

He argues that government intervention is necessary:

...a disorderly 'market' workout would end up being more costly for the government as 1000s of banks would go bankrupt and - given deposit insurance –the fiscal cost would be much larger than the one in an orderly workout."

For his plan to succeed, regulators of good will, independent of banking industry lobbying and pressure, will be needed.

His proposal also left me with these questions:

1. How much of outstanding US mortgage debt is still on the books of the banks? Who owns the remainder of the outstanding US mortgage debt?

2. His proposal deals only with the debt still on the books of the banks. What about the debt that has been sliced and diced and is now owned by, for instance, the Chinese or Saudi government? If distressed homeowners are going to achieve the needed debt relief, won't there have to be a mechanism to write down that non-bank-owned debt too?

3. All that debt that was sliced and diced and sold off to the Chinese and Saudis was insured by credit default swaps. Since the banks, hedge funds and insurance companies who wrote that insurance don't have enough money to cover all the losses, is the U.S. government now going to step in and cover those losses?

Does that paper actually say how much is owed to whom? If a large percentage of that is owed to the American people then it makes the burden much lighter. If you like some reactionary pundits believe that Social Security obligations are part of that debt then the money owed to me and all working families from Social Security ought to be subtracted and actually can be counted as an asset. Same with the money owed to American banks can be counted as assets of the bank. All that money owed to foreigners is more of a problem for them than it is for us. If China cuts us off and we can no longer buy from them then they have a serious problem with a big increase in unemployment. High unemployment means the government must step in to prevent a second revolution. The same economic disparity between the rich cities of eastern China and the agricultural central and western provinces which led to Mao's Long March are there again.

SBS news in Australia focuses on world events. The last few nights they have featured an economics professor interviewed live who has explained very clearly how this debt has been growing since ww2. His view is that there is no way out of this crisis. Basically the world financial system must collapse.

They always say, "Nobody saw it coming." When in fact, some people did see it coming, and were ignored. Even people as influential as Warren Buffet.

What's ironic is the date... Check out the copyright date in the right side...

I humbly propose that that first domino is labeled incorrectly. It says, "CPI/inflation rises, etc."

I submit that the first domino should read "growth in world oil production stagnates, 2005. Prices for energy, and thus everything, begin to skyrocket," and so forth, down the line.

It's all one big picture, a large "cluster," if you will, like those peanut-studded candies.

We can't leave energy production shortfalls unremarked.

(BTW: Michael Klare's article "Barreling Into Recession" says basically this.)

Yes! And when also considering population growth, and declining EROEI, the net available energy per person has been in decline for some time now, and the gross extraction peak is accelerating that decline. We built the industrial economy on an energy return of more than 100:1, which is like getting a 10,000% return on your investment. Since per capita net energy plateaued around 1980, we've been operating industrial society on an energy return of roughly 20:1, or a 2,000% ROI (note the order of magnitude drop). We are now trying to run said society on an energy return of perhaps 10:1, 1,000% return (which sounds good until you compare it to the 10,000% we started with). And we are beginning to turn in desperation to energy sources with returns in the single digits (tar sands, ethanol...) Little wonder the wheels are starting to fall off. Money is ultimately worthless. It is only a construct of our monkey brains. Energy gets work done and feeds us. It is the first domino. And it is falling rapidly, if not precipitously, in net per capita terms.

And for some much needed levity, here's Jon Stewart's take on the financial crisis:


Here's reason to stay calm

Reading headlines about tumult in world markets is like hearing that the Ebola virus has escaped the lab: Many of us can't talk knowledgeably about the threat, but it sure does sound spooky. What's also spooky, though, is the way these onslaughts of treacherous-sounding information provoke our human tendency to equate "bad" with "catastrophic" and even "unmanageable."

So you're telling me Ebola has escaped from the lab. I feel calmer already.

like hearing that the Ebola virus has escaped the lab

Wow that reassures me.

The following link is now "Not found" (because of their quest to update pages it says on the homepage) but here's what was in Google's cache yesterday - just checked still seems to be cached.

UTMB opens bio terror defense lab

GALVESTON ­- UT System leaders broke ground for a bio-terror and infectious disease defense laboratory at UT Medical Branch Galveston on Wednesday, and were joined by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugarland, who stressed the importance of the Galveston National Laboratory in the post-Sept. 11 world.

The midday event was a break from the first executive session of the Board of Regents, which is meeting over two days at UTMB-Galveston.

Research conducted at the lab, expected to be built by June 2008 at a cost of $167 million, will be dedicated to developing vaccines and diagnostic tests for diseases and pathogens such as anthrax, bubonic plague, Ebola, West Nile virus and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Lucky the storm hit 1 week before the lab was stocked up wasn't it?

Ike renews fears for biodefense lab on Galveston

AUSTIN – Hurricane Ike's timing – just a week before the opening of Galveston's massive national biodefense lab – is raising new questions about the prudence of housing deadly pathogens on a disaster-prone island.

...UTMB officials have worked for years to convince local residents that the new lab – and the existing ones – are foolproof. Their facilities are built to withstand tornadoes, which can have stronger winds than many hurricanes. And dangerous agents are stored in powerful industrial refrigerators, with chemicals that can keep them cool for at least three weeks.

University spokeswoman Chris Comer said the national lab, which is not yet open for research or specimens, withstood this weekend's storm well. At the campus' other high-security labs, there was some minor flooding in an unused basement, and a couple of generators failed, she said, but nothing endangered any research.

But accidents do happen – and UTMB isn't immune to them.

Please don't feed the trolls.

Please don't feed the trolls.

How is posting a major paper's op-ed on the financial situation in Drumbeat "trolling"?

Is it somehow less valid than the opinion in The Archdruid Report, which you posted yesterday? Or the opinion of Right Side News, which you posted the day before?

Or is the problem simply that it's not pessimistic, and hence doesn't feed the "correct" meme of unavoidable doom?

It's the history. TAD has a history of hastily posting without reading the posts he's replying to, or even the links he posts. Sometimes he posts "I agree!"...when in fact, the person he's responding to said the opposite of what he thought. And sometimes he posts links to prove his position that actually argue the opposite...he just looked at the Google summary, and jumped to conclusions.

It's not that he's an optimist that's the problem. It's that he's such a thoughtless poster. I discourage that from everyone, cornucopian, doomer, and moderate alike.

I like to think of "The Antidoomer" as TOD's version of Casey Serin...

SubKommander Dred

TAD is a pollyanna who uncritically and reflexively posts "feel good" stuff, no matter how tenuous. He falls into troll territory rather often.

Also, there is no "correct" meme of unavoidable doom, so stop with the whining.

Aw, those trolls look cute. Can't I feed them just one piece? Can't I? Aw please?

Well, just this once. Of course, I, for one, have never ever fed a troll ;-)

Trolls LOVE this site, because regular posters here cannot, will not, ever stop responding to them. An unanticipated consequence of the thoughtful discussion that prevails here.

I love these ridiculous articles. They always start the same-it is all so complicated that no one can understand what is going on. What an incredible load of BS. Mangement of financial companies have engaged in both widespread fraud and widespread reckless behaviour. They are being bailed out with giant sums of taxpayer money so that they can continue with the same garbage. Trillions of dollars transferred from the productive economy into the rathole, never to return. As I type this the MSM is still incredibly spinning the yarn that mass derivatives "efficiently reduce risk". I guess they rightfully assume that any population that would accept Sarah Palin as a VP candidate would accept anything.

Scary that we are supposed to be reassured if something is too complicated for us to understand.

If the system is getting too complicated for you to understand, then you are losing your rights and power as a citizen. If you must choose between complexity and liberty, then the choice of complexity is the last choice you will ever get to make.

That goes for the economy too.

These financial vehicles are complicated to obscure the fraud and basic lack of utility-you can't just say we have a product here that will help us overstate current earnings at the expense of future earnings, here is another way we can purposefully undervalue liabilities, overvalue assets or hide liabilities. It all has to obscured with complicated jargon and absurd layers of complexity like it is the design of the first manned spaceship to Pluto.

Arguments that are too complicated to understand are to be rejected as false. It is a principle of logic called the "Law of parsimony".
If two or more explanations of a phenomena are presented, the most simple explanation should be presumed the more likely true one.

In this case fraud is the most likely explanation. The overly complex nature of CDOs and such was to disguise the fraud. Complexity in any argument is likely to allow in a fallacy in some step. And it only takes one false step to make the whole argument false.

It is one of the reasons that I feel confident that EROEI when applied across different forms of energy is false and total nonsense.

Arguments that are too complicated to understand are to be rejected as false.

So if I don't understand an argument, I can automatically reject it as false?

If two or more explanations of a phenomena are presented, the most simple explanation should be presumed the more likely true one.

I think that this statement is an oversimplification of the concept. You left out the key phrase, "all other things being equal...". The simple explanation can only win out if there an equal amount of evidence for both.

Complexity in any argument is likely to allow in a fallacy in some step.

Conversely simple explanations about complex phenomenons are are likely to be incomplete.

Umm, err... if it takes a ten BTU's to produce 100 BTU's, then there are net 90 left for society to use for building skyscrapers and running interstates and night baseball and everything else.

If it takes 90 BTU's to produce 100 BTU's, then society is going to have a harder time building or running those things.

That's not nonsense. It's reality. And it doesn't matter if it's 'across energy forms' or not.

EROEI matters hugely.


EROEI applied across different forms of energy is the only way to make intelligent decisions. You are really coming across as a simpleton with your "false and total nonsense" song.

This particular post of yours is like so much word salad. And of course you end it with your EROEI song.

You must be very heavily invested in corn ethanol - my condolences, but get over it.

You should take a beginner's course in Thermodynamics. Can you please explain why EROEI is a complex idea for starters. Amd why you believe that comparing EROEI across energy forms is nonsense instead of simply asserting it. Would be interesting to hear your views of how old the earth is.

Joule is a joule is a joule is a joule.


HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher tonight 11:00PM.

Musician and Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am., journalist Naomi Klein, political blogger Andrew Sullivan, and economist Paul Krugman.

Lookin forward to it.

Loved Sullivan's religiously fanatic defense of "true capitalism".

When is Bill Maher going to take on that religion?
(invisible hands? life after debt? fiscal fundamentals? derivative swaps? ... oh please, I'd like to go back to rock 'n roll and the old country style religions)

I think those who said Houston production would be back online in a couple of weeks need a little reality check.

If you put yourself in the shoes of a typical worker in south Houston (say a welder at a refinery), you would have spent the last week saving your own house and checking on your grandmother's house. You would not worry about the broken refinery first. That is for next week. When you get there, the bean counters tell you that we need to take inventory of everything before we get back to work because we need to account for the losses due to the storm for insurance.

Reality is much slower that estimates!

I would also maintain that it would be reckless to restart a refinery if your emergency services/ first responders are not fully prepared for something to go wrong.

Hello TODers,

People may never understand FFs & energy, but I would hazard a guess that our brains are acutely wired to instantly understand hunger, malnutrition, famines.

From SeekingAlpha website: 10 page transcript of Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. Q2 2008 Earnings Call

My two key takeaways below:

Bill Doyle on Food Demand:

..I think the global pressure on food is so enormous and the ability of the earth to respond to that increasing growth is being stretched, quite frankly. The challenge is to produce a record crop every year and we need that because you’re going to have record demand every year. If you think about where global grain inventories are, we’re not even talking about replenishing global grain inventories which are at an incredibly precarious state. As I’ve said for years now, we should all be concerned about this current grain inventory situation because we are literally hanging on each harvest and if we have a major upset anywhere in any year, we are going to have problems and very, very serious problems.

Tom Regan on future sulfur availability and pricing:

You know first of all the most important facet with sulfur is supply. ..Then you quickly turn your attention to pricing and we have seen settlements in the third quarter up $165. In our forecast we have included strong sulfur pricing throughout the year.

Now when will it change? I think a lot of that depends obviously on when some of these projects that oil companies have announced interest in dealing with heavy crudes. That will definitely impact the supply of liquid sulfur in North America. I would say that most of those are probably several years out so I do not see a dramatic change within the next 24 months.
Of course, much more detail on I-NPK in the full ten pages.
Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

totoneila: "People may never understand FFs & energy..."

I'm much more optimistic about the ability of human beings to learn and adapt.

About 30 years ago, very few people knew anything about computers. That was the domain of specialists, people thought. Much too complicated for ordinary people!

Now elementary school children and 80-year-olds surf the web and have a basic knowledge of computing. The change in attitude and behavior is astonishing. Most people still don't understand what a bus is, or how domain names work, but they are able to interact successfully with computers.

totoneila further makes the point that, in contrast to energy, humans are hard-wired to understand hunger and famines.

Good point about food, but if you look at history, I think humans also have an intuitive understanding about energy. We are good at getting what we want with a minimum expenditure of energy.

It doesn't mean that people understand abstract theories like Hubbert, though.

The challenge is to develop robust, intuitive models that regular people can use to guide their actions.

These models are known as proverbs, myths, commandments, etc. For example: "A stitch in time saves nine".

Or the popular interpretation of the laws of thermodynamics:
- You can't win
- You can't break even
- You can't get out of the game

Energy Bulletin

- You can't win
- You can't break even
- You can't get out of the game

Bart, great interpretation of the laws of thermodynamic.

There is the little known 4th law,

"If the heat is on someone else, it is not on you!"



I disagree. 30 years ago computers were so simple that they could be explained to high school students at the level of binary code, and the parts that handle that code could be seen with the naked eye. People today do not interact with the actual computer or its machine code, but with a very complex interface designed to be user-friendly, meaning to mask the essential nature of how the machine works. If something goes wrong with the computer's hardware we are more helpless than in 1978 to fix it ourselves. If something is bad in its software we will never live long enough to debug it ourselves.

Um, it's more of a mixed bag than universally hopeless. Lots of people using programs for which they have the source code (the GNU/Linux/BSD crowd) debug at least to the level of figuring out the erroneous program instructions. Sometimes they can fix it themselves, sometimes it needs the core developers to fix it in a way that doesn't break something else. Having observed a bug, debugging is not that impenetrable even these days.

The thing that worries much me more than simple "complexity" is there's so much computer to computer to computer to ... interaction that never gets seen by a human, so that software bugs may well just not be observed (in order to trigger debugging). (How do I know this http response isn't also containing miscellaneous some info from my hard drive, that somehow gets sent somewhere else as the response gets rewritten as it passes through various routers and proxies? It almost certainly isn't, but I'll never look at the data at various points in order to spot if it did.) Back in 1978 almost all computer programs were doing something directly for the user.

You're right, I forgot about Linux. And it's a good thing to have a hobbyist cult of self-programmers, because economic rationality would demand that we let paid specialists do it all along the Microsoft model. Like gardeners, these guys could become valuable soon.

The economic rationality argument is actually complicated and much debated. The Microsoft model works for one-size-fits-all software (operating system, word processing, spreadsheets, databases, games, etc). But lots of software is of the sort where the dominant cost is actually the salaries of the people tuning and maintaining the setup (eg, running a popular web-server is much, much more than just installing the server software, so I hear), so that the advantages of making the source code available to get improvements from others outweighs advantages from keeping everything closed. The claim is that it's a different take on how the economics stack up rather than ignoring economics. Not sure that I believe that entirely.

Already most universities run at least part of their systems on GNU/Linux/BSD and pay support licence fees to do so because the things they want to do are each slightly different and having open sources lets them do that kind of tweaking. You can't buy behaviour changes from Microsoft without really, really huge contracts.

I entirely agree with this. If you know just a little about computers (uh, like me, I suppose) you know more than 95% (WAG) of the computer-using population. Hence, the rise and success of services exploiting said lack of knowledge (Best Buy's Geek Squad, Circuit City's Firedog).

From Bloomberg...

"The oil survey has correctly predicted the direction of futures 49 percent of the time since its start in April 2004."

Does anybody else think that is funny?
I think flipping a quarter would have better odds :)

Wow, it's getting worse. It used to be 53%, or something like that.

Indeed, they could probably save a lot of money by investing 25 cents into a quarter instead.

And it was even worse then 49% but has improved recently as the "analysts" always say lower next week.

Couldn't you get better stats if you just followed the trend? (whatever happened last week, ditto!)

So more from the 'prediction business'

Lehman Bros.


But they failed to predict their own demise :-)

Even a blind hog can occasionally find an acorn...

In the statement this afternoon:
Paulson doesn't know in detail what he is going to do, but whatever it is will cost hundreds of billions, and he plans to expand the derivatives trade via lending more through Frannie, as all the problem is in the housing market, not in crazy financing, apparently.
Any reforms are going to wait for later.

The main problem with the system is that the fox doesn't have enough chickens to kill, but he is going to fix that-the farmers are just going to have to suck it up and work a little harder. You have to admire the guy in a Tony Montana/Cat Burglar sort of way.

So far, the most interesting article I've come across today is the one about fisheries.

It ties into something Jared Diamond said in Collapse. The key to avoiding collapse is making sure everyone in the society has a stake. This works in small societies, where the entire group feels ownership of the environment. Our water, our trees, our beach, etc. But it fails in larger societies. People lose their sense of ownership, and it becomes, "I better cut this tree down before someone else does." Or they pillage their neighbors' resources in a way they wouldn't dream of doing to their own.

But...maybe it's possible for large societies to give everyone a stake, somehow.

I find ideas like this far more promising than electric cars or nanosolar. Electric cars don't solve the basic issue of sustainability, they just push it further into the future.

The EU sign deals with corrupt African governments allowing EU fleet to empty tropical waters of locally needed fish for a bargain. Desperate locals flee to Europe in wooden canoes as a result.

Large trawlers from Russia and Japan (and Holland, Spain etc.) strip the oceans to depts of over 700 meters of all life.

I like the idea too, but it will take decades of political negotiations before this can be implemented (if ever), and after that it would take some serious law enforcement to actually accomplish that. You can forget about it.

True, there will continue to be problems with fisheries collapsing. But let's look at it from a sideways perspective. How can we take a proven 1% success rate and use the concept to solve problems in other areas where resource depletion is critical.

Maybe I'm just looking for a glass half full story after a week of bad news:)

Electric cars don't solve the basic issue of sustainability, they just push it further into the future.

Sustainability: Living within the bounds of nature based on renewable resources used in ways that don't deplete nonrenewable resources, harm essential ecological services, or limit the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The notion of Sustainability has recently been co-opted by every corporate sponsor from Toyota to B of A and Dupont. Edward Bernays would be grinning from ear to ear. What you have lightly touched on is a conflict of interest: Sustainability vs Multi-National Corporatism aka

Capitalism: the economic system in which the means of production are owned by private persons, and operated for profit.

But cooperation is the antithesis of competition or capitalism. What you are implying is

Communism: a socioeconomic structure that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership of the means of production.

These opposing views of the world are rooted 200 years in the past. These views are Marxism vs. Malthusian.

Let's compare the Neo-Malthusian view to a Neo-Marxism.

Thomas Malthus asserted in 1798 that "the population of man will soon outstrip food production and local resources and will eventually collapse into starvation, crime and misery".

Several decades later Karl Marx presented an opposing view: "population growth resulted from poverty, resource depletion, pollution and other social ills."

Rather than argue about which philosopher is right why not form the conclusion that they're both right!

But a quick glance at current events will tell you where TPTB are going: Insanely rich Lynn Forester de Rothschild gave a press conference where she accused Barrack Obama of being an elitist. How do you get the rich to cooperate with any schemes that smell like redistribution? Could you imagine her or any of her ilk willingly moving into a Yurt?

The Sustainability Movement (if you could call it that) is going to be a protracted battle going forward and short of establishing a totalitarian state I don't see how it will ever win out. The challenge is human greed and that could be tricky to rewire.

I understand this. And I certainly don't think we're headed for a classless society. We are too large for that. Just as we are too large for the "small society" solution described by Diamond.

I think our best hope for sustainability without global tyranny is to somehow incorporate some of those "small society" solutions into the modern global world. It won't be easy. But I think we have a better chance of successful innovation here than we do with, say, nuclear fusion.

Leanan - For a lot of us who gave up on Utopia the issue of Peak Oil has been a ray of hope.

I don't imagine that the Power-Down will be painless because all real change (as opposed to campaign slogans) is profoundly painful. For those who still remember America 50 years ago, with her beauty and promise, it is heart-breaking to see the cess-pool of greed and self-interest that this country has morphed into.

Peak Oil (as well as Peak Everything else) just might be the limiting factor to this insane growth paradigm that is killing the earth.


On another current event: Government Plans Bold Financial Rescue


This is another example of taking care of the elites at the expense of everyone else. This is essentially the socialization of the elite banking establishment

Barrack Obama is now carrying the corporate tune assuring the Nation that "this will help restore the credit lines..." For who?

Where is the rescue of those homeless and indigent or the chronically unemployed, evicted from their homes and disenfranchised from a system that long ago excluded them.

This political/economic system exists solely to represent the corporation. The sooner it comes down the better!


You aren't surprised, are you? Barack Obama isn't going to trade his $3 million mansion for a yurt any more than Lynn Forester de Rothschild would.

John McCain, Mr. "De-regulate everything," was one of the few who called for more regulation of Fannie and Freddie. Back in the Enron days.

But he was strangely silent when they started going under, and so was Obama. Because they were both in bed with Fannie and Freddie.

"You see a consensus developing that the current system is unsustainable," said David C. John, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "But actually saying what has to happen next is a little bit scary if you're in a campaign, especially if some of your most prominent supporters have such deep ties to these entities."

One of the funniest lines yet to be uttered during the Presidential Campaigns just happened on MSNBC. A political pundit on live TV refering to the McCain campaign rhetoric:

...recently the McCain campaign has gone through a series of wild fuckuations!

This should be on the Daily Show by Monday.

I think that one is going to stick-fuckuations pretty well sums it up better than anything else I have heard.

Barack Obama isn't going to trade his $3 million mansion for a yurt any more than Lynn Forester de Rothschild would.

What's so bad about a yurt? They do make very nice ones nowadays...

Bring in some stuff from Ikea and it doesn't look so bad. Imagine how many we could build if we could cannibalize the suburbs! Just full in the rafters with insulation... Probably pretty energy efficient too... Put a nice fire in the middle for heat. They'll call it the 'Post-Modern Home'... Or for the realist, it'll be the Post Peak-Oil home. The other two types of homes surviving Post Peak will be >$1Mil mansions, and FEMA trailers along the gulf coast.

I looked into Yurts a while back when my son brought them up as a possible new home option in Hawaii. Looking at them again from the perspective of peak oil has some interesting considerations. Our current housing stock was built with the benefits of cheap energy and abundant wood. There are now new building designs that take into account the high cost of energy and construction materials, but most are "conventional" when it comes to floor plans and the buildings exterior design.

A Yurt has no site orientation issues. It's round, so windows and doors can always be placed facing the proper direction to minimize energy use. The roof is round so siting solar panels and water heating panels is a non-issue. The interior floor plan is a blank slate. Instead of having to build rooms immediately as you typically do in a new house, you can build them as they are needed and easily modify them as your life situation changes. You can leave the rafters open and put foam insulation on top of the roof and get better insulating efficiency. The round design dictates a stove chimney is within the building envelope; a critical factor for proper wood stove operation and efficiency.

Perhaps the biggest benefit is the square foot limitation. A standard Yurt's size is limited because of the unique construction model it uses. Just as our vehicles must downsize so must our dwellings. A Yurt will insure maximum consideration is given to how the interior floor plan is laid out. The era of choosing a 20' x 16' living room versus a 24' by 20' living room is coming to an end.

I'm just throwing out some ideas. I've done some construction work over the years but have never done an analysis of the current construction models. I'd be interested to hear from any builders who can put some better perspective on my perceived advantages to Yurts:)

I actually built and lived in yurts some during my high school days and have used the backcountry "ski-to" yurts in Colorado. Their great advantage is portability, easy set-up/teardown.
They are easy to heat with a central woodstove, but they offer no privacy, their durability is limited by the exterior fabric (canvas, coated nylon in US, yak felt in Mongolia), and most have only 6" of insulation, so by my estimate a PassivHaus style superinsulated passive solar frame building is more environmentally (and consequently financially) sustainable design for most people.
Multi-family dwelling are inherently energy-conserving because of shared walls and in most of the world, truly free-standing dwellings are uncommon (look at European cities and villages, Indian/Nepali row house,etc.) and 1/3 of walls have no heat loss because of adjacent heated spaece.

On Forest Service land, some of the yurts are taken down every summer and put back up every winter, and they are perfect for that, plus they rest on simple pier foundations (sometimes just stakes driven in) so site impact is minimal.

NObama's economical advisers come from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley with a sprinkling of IMF.

Economically he is Wall Street's bitch and socially he comes from the school of Farrakhan and inner city racial extortion groups.

I am not too sure what 'sustainable' means, since anything is unsustainable if continued for long enough.
The more allegedly 'sustainable' societies over the last few hundred years proved themselves anything but, as they could not generate the weaponry and level of exploitation of material resources needed to sustain themselves against aggressors, and so disappeared.
Like it or not, warfare and competitiveness is part of our natural environment, as it is part of nature, specifically in this case human nature.
The idea also heavily discounts change, in particular technological change.
Many of the arguments I have heard here, for instance, would have ruled out most of the industrial revolution, as the Newcomen engine was very inefficient and clearly would have been incapable of supporting, for instance, railroad engines.
At root, the idea has some merit, and I would certainly wish that some idea of sustainability had been fed into ever increasing debts and rising 'values', but as commonly used as a kind of religious badge to divide the sheep from the goats it really gets in the way of rational consideration of alternatives.
Nothing is for ever - the question is, how long?

...anything is unsustainable if continued for long enough

Dave - If you are talking in geologic terms you would be right but if you are talking in terms of ecosystems you're wrong.

If a species or any population immigrates into a system there is always an exponential rise in growth and consumption but in living systems (as compared to synthetic ones based on fossil fuel depletion) it quickly reaches the carrying capacity of the said environment. In living systems who live within the confines of the Solar Constant there is an intrinsic leveling out of population and eventually a codified balance. This is hard-wired into all living systems, otherwise we would be up to knees in flies and fleas or just about any other living organism that balances biotic potential with resource limits.

Human Societies have only recently taken themselves out of this living ecology largely through destructive agricultural methods, religious dogma and the extraction of fossil fuels. These practices have allowed us to live outside of these natural limits and forces us to prepare for the inevitable die-off when these unsustainable systems break down.

There are however numerous examples of human populations living sustainably over thousands of years in contrast to examples of societal collapse due to stubborn adherence to unsustainable doctrines.

IMO 100 years from now when historians try and sort out the tragedies of bubble economics: "The American Way of Life is not negotiable", will be the epithet of the oil age.


Hi Joe,
AFAIK no-one is talking about reverting to a hunter-gatherer society, save perhaps inadvertently, so what I am actually calling into question is the way the term is currently used to differentiate between different technological choices.

These 'sustainable' societies largely no longer exist, as they proved themselves unable to defend themselves and so could not sustain themselves.
Present ideas for an ultra-green society based solely on renewables seem likely to me to suffer a similar fate, as it is going to get nasty on the way down from 6.5 billion people.

Present ideas for an ultra-green society based solely on renewables seem likely to me to suffer a similar fate, as it is going to get nasty on the way down from 6.5 billion people.

Dave - I'm glad you brought that up because those are the kind of dialogues that need to be taking place.

Getting back to what Leanan brought up in her original post cooperation and real sustainability we need to extrapolate those ideas to where we are right now and the challenge of bringing our societies within the realms of specific resource limits. These are easily measurable mathematically from the equations of the Solar Constant. Once there is an acknowledgment (moving past denial) that the current system is unsustainable then we might arrive at real measures of what is truly sustainable.

Can we continue consuming at our current rate? Is a more fair distribution of resources between developing countries and developed countries possible or even desirable? If you and I and our brood quit eating meat because of the altruistic notion of fairness can we also decide to support family planning and poverty reduction in poorer societies? I see a real choice between Mad Max resource wars and caring compassionate societies living within sustainable limits.

When people choose to live in ways that reflect cooperation and genuine altruism then there is real hope for the future of mankind free of the specter of Nationalism.

I doubt human nature will change - altering it would seem to me a far more considerable challenge than merely somehow changing from oil in an unprecedentedly short time for swapping a primary energy source.

The solar constant is just fine though - there is plenty of energy falling on the surface of the earth for everyone - check it out on wiki or somewhere - the figures are something like 30,000 sq km for all the power needed by the US or whatever, depending on the assumptions made.
Nuclear power and geothermal power, which is also a result of radioactive decay, are also very large resource bases many times larger than human consumption - or ocean thermal.

There is plenty of energy, it is just getting from A to B that is difficult.

30,000 sq km for all the power needed by the US or whatever, depending on the assumptions made.
Nuclear power and geothermal power, which is also a result of radioactive decay, are also very large resource bases

Dave - I think that large centralized systems are the root of our difficulties. We need to be looking at small practical solutions such as: roof-top solar installations, energy conservation, a slow protracted dismantling of the suburban sprawl, growing food locally, redefined water-resource management based on sustainablility and efficient mass transit systems.

We have all grown up in the age of large centralized governments so it is difficult to imagine people living otherwise but as events play out it will leave us with the stark choice between intelligent Power-Down or Self-annihilation.


Nothing in what I wrote implies that any solar system would need to be centralised - it just gives an indication that the total area would be very acceptable.
You do the math.
Solar incidence is around 1kw/sq meter, the average available per hour is around 0.18 at the average latitude of the US, and you can put in whatever you fancy for the efficiency - say 0.15 at a reasonable guess.
In any case, plenty of space and plenty of power.

It is switching the argument somewhat to argue against centralised power, since the case that you were trying to make is that there is no enough power in an absolute sense, and that is clearly not the case.

One argument at a time!

We can debate the most appropriate system another time! - but it is often the case that we have to make do with a system which is counter to our preferences, but still does the job - I personally greatly dislike coal power, with it's emissions and health implications, but it has kept me warm and fed so far!

Our food supply system has always been as diffuse as solar energy. Even at one acre per person it would take 12,500 sq mi of farmland just to feed the people of NYC. Some estimates I've read say it takes as much as 10 acres per person for the typical American diet.

I agree, joemichaels. This is one reason biologists talk about punctuated equilibrium - because ecosystems can sit in very narrow stable states for millions of years. So the "norm" is stability (and sustainability, at least insofar as life relative to the duration of this planet goes) whereas instability is the aberration.

One side effect that none of us will see but which would be amazing if we could - in the aftermath of human ecosystem destruction, if we do not destroy all life on earth, the next several million years should produce an amazing array of interesting evolutionary "experiments" by nature as it attempts to refill those empty ecological niches.

Actually, let me add one more thing. Marx has proven the existence of time travel. The odds of being this correct in his analysis of capitalism, from a point of over 150 years in the past, are remote. He must of time traveled into the future.
But good point, we must be open to the fact they are both right.
While Marx was incredibly precise in his analysis of capitalism, his views on human nature have proven less so, as any sociobiologist can verify.

His analysis of capitalism never took energy depletion into account, and his predictions will stray from actual events yet again.

I think that Marx was assuming that the polarization of wealth in his time was headed towards a point where actual worker wages began to decline. Whether that was already happening is tricky because Europe was not a single market, but one could argue that by being driven off their lands to work in factories many people had already reduced their net worth. His time frame looks to have been for revolution in a few generations at most (about the max time frame that the first Christians had in mind for Jesus' return - we discount the future too much beyond that).

I know that Marx believed that the capitalists would never compromise with labor-driven leftist reform parties, and he was wrong about that. In his time, capitalists made a living selling absolute necessities, and if they cut their workers' wages, the workers were stuck still having to spend close to the same amount. There seems to have been a burst in both economic and radical activity from about 1900 to WW1 that changed the generosity of the capitalists; the age of Teddy Roosevelt, Lloyd George and Henry Ford's $5 day. Major wars also change the bargaining position of the proletariat, since the labor market gets much tighter.

But being that this is The Oil Drum, the event of that period that we tend to credit with bailing out capitalism was the golden age of cheap energy. I don't know how to verify that, but the jump from coal to oil and its associated consumer goods seems to have made standards of living broadly higher outside of the countries really wrecked by WW1. I could surmise, for instance, that the conversion of transportation from coal to oil fuel freed up coal to electrify cities. That's a big change. We also have all the issues of the creation of the consumer economy in the 1920s, which faltered from debt overextension and then resumed in the '50s. From this time forward, bosses could not afford to cut the wages of their workers because they depended on the sale of discretionary (or luxury) items to prosper.

So maybe cheap energy held off the final capitalist crisis by a century. Now the Marxist idea of the crisis was that it would occur after the "commoditization of all relationships", in which as the middle class was forced down into desperate poverty, humans would strip themselves of all superstition, religion, patriotism, and even familial love, becoming soulless whores. I can follow it up to this point, but I don't understand how such whores would ever organize a world revolution. Marx seems to believe the commoditized person would be more rational than before, but Mancur Olson argued that a truly rational actor will not risk collective action, but will wait for others to do the dirty work of revolution and gamble on reaping the rewards. Thus revolution can only occur when non-rational incentives are provided.

Also, we don't seem to be getting more rational. We are bending our superstitions, religion, patriotism and even familial love to the power of commoditization, and they are all getting stronger as a result. If science tells us that current forms of economic growth will destroy our species, we redouble our faith that our economic growth will conquer the world for God. We have become alienated from the purpose of our jobs, as Marx predicted, but that has in fact freed us to revert to medieval, even tribal thought without their original context. Our technology has become magic; we don't need to understand it or its consequences; there's no difference between free energy and a magic carpet.

There seems to have been a burst in both economic and radical activity from about 1900 to WW1 that changed the generosity of the capitalists;

This assertion of "generosity" or altruism on the part of capitalists glosses over the very real threat the owners feared from communist ideologies.

The current dominance of Capitalism has little to do with winning hearts and minds. It is the default system due to what Naomi Kline refers to as:Disaster Capitalism

Klein argues that the free market policies of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics have risen to prominence in countries such as Chile under Pinochet, Russia under Yeltsin, the United States (for example in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina), and the privatization of Iraq's economy under the Coalition Provisional Authority not because they were democratically popular, but because they were pushed through while the citizens of these countries were in shock from disasters or upheavals. It is also claimed that these shocks are in some cases, such as the Falklands war, created with the intention of being able to push through these unpopular reforms in the wake of the crisis


However when you lift up the hood and look at the mechanics of Globalization (the dominant paradigm) it's easy to overlook the Ghost In The Machine: Cheap Fossil Fuels.

Peak Oil in the end will bring down unsustainable systems


I just finished reading "The Shock Doctrine" this afternoon. I think it will be my new Bible.

What does "Living within the bounds of nature" mean?

Ever since Homo Sapiens left the hunter gathering, we have been modifying nature to suit our needs. Should we go back
to hunter gathering then? You first, no rush please.

Then what is "renewable"? Laws of thermodynamics tell us that energy does not appear from the nowhere, it just goes from one form to the other. Is solar energy sustainable by this definition? The hydrogen in the Sun's core is finite. Hence the Sun is unsustainable. Hence not only solar energy but life on Earth is unsustainable.

The definitions you cited are just a self-serving ideological sound bits to serve someone's anti-technological agenda. Good luck with them.

LevinK "What does "Living within the bounds of nature" mean?"

As I mentioned up-thread we are not going to be able to return to our former Hunter-gatherer status. The biosphere is far too damaged to support even pre-agricultural populations.

When you remove fossil fuels from the equation a 6th grader could do the math and conclude that the system is un-sustainable. Our chance of survival as a species requires cooperative communities powering down with a big emphasis on careful. Going back down this mountain we've climbed with the utilization of fossil fuels will be the challenge of the 21st century. We need to begin to turn our backs on large centralized systems. All they have to offer are more Moai statues.

An aspect of this dilemma that gets shorted is we don't have very long to figure all of this out. 20 years at best...less maybe.


"The definitions you cited are just a self-serving ideological sound bits to serve someone's anti-technological agenda. Good luck with them."

I don't know about anyone else, but I like a warm house, a full stomach and a good shot of Jack every now and then. Without technology of some sort none of these things are possible.

Nothing is sustainable, all things die and entropy is real. Just accept it because you sure can't change it. Like it or not, we are part of nature. A beaver builds his dam and we build civilizations, but both of us alter the "natural" state. True, we've altered alot more with FF but they were just force multipliers. Nothing lasts forever or is sustainable. Unless there is a sudden development in fusion or solar and we don't nuke ourselves, 2050 is going to look alot like 1850, and 2150 will look alot like 1750. Enjoy these luxurious times, they sure won't last forever.

"We are bending our superstitions, religion, patriotism and even familial love to the power of commoditization." No we just have alot more time on our hands than our ancestors. Its been awhile since witches were burned at the stake for a bad harvest, so our religious superstitions have nothing on our ancestors.

You may have heard that Sarah Palin's favorite pastor is an African fellow who harassed a woman out of her village with accusations of witchcraft, making him a big hit in Pentecostal circles, apparently. I predicted over a dozen years ago that I would live to see a witchburning incident in the United States, so the clock is running.

On Peak Oil:

As a coworker and I stood outside my office the other day looking at the graphics I keep posted, the dramatic increase in oil prices over the past couple of years really stands out. It occurred to me to plot the production values versus the monthly average prices. Seems the curve goes straight up at 73 MMBPD (C+C) and 85 MMBPD (All Liquids).

The two possibilities are severe oscillations in both price and production (which will shift the curve left, at least for awhile) or in a more "stable" situation will hook the curves back to the left. When I drew these curves I thought surely someone else has thought to do this and it turns out the Ken Deffeyes had, indeed, drawn a similar curve a while back.

What the curve reminds me of is the 4th power relationship between voltage and current that characerizes the operating curve of electrostatic precipitators used for partuculate matter control. But under certain dust and temperature characteristics those curves can alos curve back on themselves (bend back to the left at ever higher values on the y-axis) indicating a condition known as "back-corona." In electrostatic precipitators that's not a good thing. I suspect when these scatter plots curve back upon themselves we might understand that the peak has been passed.


The supply curve for a physical commodity is always a letter J like this; there is some production level that is unattainable regardless of price. It's just that we usually don't get to approach that level.

The term "J-curve" already refers to something else in economics, so I propose we call the fully traced supply curve the Deffeyes Curve, since Ken Deffeys was the first to post this kind of scatter plot in the context of oil.

Technical Analysis (TA) – 8th Post

Oh my God! We have just been informed that we may have to buy up all of the financial company's bad debt! This is said to be what is needed to reinvigorate that real estate market. So, in response the LIBOR has lost 1.78 percent to 3.2%, the bank stocks have gone to the moon, and we are on the hook for 500 billion (as said by cnbc) but lets call it 1 trillion, because they always underestimate these things to make us feel better.

So the mortgages are now down to 3.2% plus... Ok, lets imagine that the mortgage rate was lowered to zero. How man people are going to buy a new house when they would have to sell the old one at a loss? How many people are going to buy a house when they need 20% down and a great rating? How many people are going to buy when they don't have a job, or their job is threatened? How many people are going to buy when the prices of the houses continue to go down? And, imagine how long this effect is going to last..

This just makes me sick! It is nothing but yet another bald-faced rip-off of the American taxpayer. And, you know what we can do about it? Nothing! Our government is totally under the control of a powerful cabal, and there is nothing we can do but to bend over and well you know... I wonder what they have planned for us next? And, oh yes, we can be forced to pay for all of this, just read the book The Creature from Jekyll Island. They are loading a lot on our backs, on the positive side, they must think that we are very strong.

And, to make it even better for the financial companies, their stock can no longer be shorted until, what is it, October 3rd. What the heck is up with that? What about all of the short squeezes that the Smart Money (SM) are so fond of? Wait, this is to effect the Mother of all short squeezes! Yet another bald-faced rip-off of people who were investing according to the “rules” who then have the “rules” changed... And, you know what we can do about it? Yup...

One message received, “The market is not a safe place, the rules can change in a heartbeat.”

But wait, we are also on the hook for the risk in the money market to as well. How much? 50 Billion to insure 3.5 trillion?

I wonder what they have planned for us next? I picked a bad day to quit drinking...

Oil is up again this morning! Gold is up too and this is bullish for oil. The dollar is trending down, and this is bullish for oil.

So, what does TA say about all of this? With my program, I am only getting one weak short signal from the breakout strategy (24/99), and all of the rest of the strategies have stopped out (from being short). There are no program patterns in the last couple of days. Still no buy signal...

It is a classic TA buy signal when the price goes pass 100. Yesterday there was a doji candlestick pattern that might mean indecision, but today's price movement seems to indicate an upward trend. Consolidation patterns are the norm after long trends, and I hate to get whipsawed. On the other hand, oil is great insurance for many nasty potential futures...

Tonight I plan on putting the gasoline ETF “UGA” on my program and see what it says. Just a quick look at the chart indicates that it is down recently and todays action is an indecisive doji pattern. Given the gasoline shortages, this could be a better long investment than a crude oil ETF like USO.

I may just take the day off, fall off the wagon, and wait until I see what other goodies that “we the borrowers” will have to give the financial industry. I'm guessing that I will need a whole case of booze help me cope with the financial pain that will be induced by the next “weekend surprise.” Wait a minute, how is it that we been trained? I know, “The more we spend, the lower our taxes. Therefore, lets spend more and lower our taxes.” Chip in brain turning on...must consume...all will be ok then...

(For my TA, I am using OmniTrader (20-day backtested, end-of-day) with the pattern recognition module (short, med, and long), and I trade USO as a proxy for oil. I am using the standard strategies for breakout, trending, and reversal (all filtered and non-optimized), one that I created with all 75 systems, and another one I created with only the volume systems (both optimized and minimally filtered). Once again I have put myself out as a fortune teller – a sure way to end up looking like a fool. I am not an expert at TA, I am a beginner. Please add to this analysis, and don't feel shy about flaming me if I said something dumb. I definitely want to stay out of the group of the “stupid people losing money.”)


You seem like a smart guy who knows what he is doing so I presume you know how to compost and grow potatoes?!!!:-)


I’m growing a mulch-style (guru- Ruth Stout) garden this year – but I haven’t had a garden for several years beforehand. I grew mulch-style many years ago and am attracted by its low-input nature. Here in Atlanta there is currently a HUGE free supply of leaves and other organics. The biggest problem is nitrogen. I also use a good bit of lime and a 7.0-pH buffer. This type of gardening is perfect for potatoes; you just pull up the leaves to get at the good stuff. Sweet potatoes really kick it in this area, and Irish potatoes don’t do badly either. For a Doomer, a great thing about potatoes is that the food is “hidden.” On the down side, my tomatoes wilted during the recent wet weather - next year I will put them in a well drained location. Just wait until next year!

General... Lee?-

Good luck trying to find any heads or tails with the market. It's all noise, all over the place... We have treaded dangerous waters with the subrpime mess, and are drowning in seas of bad debt. Who is left to throw the life preserver to us but the government? And yes, they're throwing us that life preserver, but the catch is that in the end we will pay the price for that prserver... Because in reality, that preserver is coming off of the neck of someone else.

But, I'd say to take a break for a week or so, or at least until Wall Street stops imploding and Washington has a coherent bailout plan. I'm sure that if this program (OmniTrader) were run in October of 1929 you'd get some interesting responses from it then too... Too much uncertainty now; too much chaos to find out what the true trend in the market is.

On a final note, and a bit of advice, out of my playbook- Assume a future of ever increasing energy costs, ever increasing interest rates, and ever decreasing economic conditions. Pay off your debts- all of them, or as many as you can. Buy an energy efficient home, or update your house. Buy a fuel efficient car. And save 3 months of your income. And, once you OWN your car and home outright AND have no further debt, AND have a comfortable savings, then play the market... Because, if it is going like it has over the last year or so, it'll continue to be a suckers game... Could be wrong, but my advice is to reduce/eliminate your personal risk before assuming market risk.

Ok...so us little ol' taxpayers are going to cover the bad debt. Exactly what does that mean to the individual? Will our tax bracketing be increased for 2008? By how much? How will we feel the pain exactly? Until the average taxpayer (like me) gets a sense of this..it won't feel real...it all seems just like funny money at this point. If we could get a sense, in real terms, before congress votes Yes on this move by the Treasury, and they will vote Yes...I don't think we'll be heard on this issue or the outrage will not kick in until it is too late.

If history is our guide, expect a couple rounds of tax cuts for those in the higher income brackets, followed by a Wal-Mart subsidy check in your mailbox.

Oh, and followed by fuel price increases greater than the rebates doled out so the end result is the little guy has less than before...

I wish I knew the answer to this.

At the very least, I expect everything's going to get a lot more expensive. Denninger predicts that the worst case scenario is food and fuel triple in price, relative to income.

Sooner or later interest rates will go up, or the government will stop being able to borrow money. You just can't keep piling on debts and expect people to keep loaning you money. As I've pointed out before, not only are we probably looking at something like a trillion dollar deficit next year, starting in 2011, we'll have to roll over the debt from both Reagan's first administration and Bush II's first administration. That's something between 3 and 4 trillion dollars between 2011 and 2014. Add a trillion dollar a year budget deficit, and you're talking about a sum of money that probably can't be borrowed, considering the financial condition the world is likely to be in by then.

It will actually get pretty ugly towards the end. Some people are already floating the idea of forcing a percentage of everyone's 401K to be in treasuries. Essentially they'll force us to loan money to the governemnt. The Social Security trust fund is already just a bunch of IOUs from the government. Our 401Ks are next.

Hah! I'll fool them. I don't have a 401(k)!

Actually, I've been thinking I should get into treasuries. Not that I have a lot of faith in them, but why not? I don't have a lot of faith in the stock and money market funds I have now, either.

Cashed out my two (modest) 401ks over the past two years and paid off the mortgage. Other than my few PO aware friends, folks thought I was nuts. But I had (and have) no faith that the financial system would survive long enough for me to collect at maturity, in 12-15 years.

I have read somewhere that our “current” governmental debt plus our “unfunded obligations” like Medicare and Social Security is around 75 trillion dollars. Assuming that we shaft the old folks, any additional debt would just about balance it out. So, I’m guessing that 75 trillion dollars may be realistic. I recall that this works out to a current value of $130,000 for every man, woman and child in the country.

To make this real, do this: Imagine a world where every man, woman and child in your family and in all the other people that you know has an outstanding loan of $130,000. Add details like sight, sound and feelings. What do you think your world would be like?

I know that this doesn’t seem possible, but it could be much worse. On the other hand, hyperinflation may mean that the payments are less. However, living in a world of hyperinflation is pretty miserable too… I’m sorry about all the gloom.

Yup, you caught that! I used to be a war gamer and at first I was a fan of General Lee, and Generaly was my handle. Then I did a bunch of research and found that his solders loved Lee, but many of them died. Currently, as far as Southern Civil war generals are concerned, I’m more a fan of Johnston. Not many victories, but he mainly had to fight defensive battles, and if you served under him, you had a better chance of survival. My family lost a couple of men in that war, and several in later wars. I guess that you could say that we are tired of war.

I do think I will not make any more purchases until I start getting some clear signals of some type.

The only debt that I have is our house. We bought it with zero down and I am playing the Argentina game. This is where you get a fixed rate mortgage and predict hyperinflation. Sooner or later the employer will have to raise salaries, but the mortgage stays the same. I know someone who paid off a condo in Argentina in this way with one paycheck. Of course this assumes that I have a job and that the salary increases.

Thanks for the advice.

Not a bad strategy... However... This assumes that the value of the home does not decrease faster than the dollar value due to inflation. You could end up upside-down IF inflation stays low. But, with the bailouts going on right now and no real way for the US to afford them, you could absolutely be in the right by predicting hyperinflation.

BTW, this is why I've scrambled to buy my first home (offer accepted yesterday) and I'm locking in a mortgage rate ASAP this upcoming week...

It's a pretty small, well built brick home that is very energy efficient (or will be when I put in decent windows and add insulation to the attic). And yes, I own a Prius. Outright.

"I know someone who paid off a condo in Argentina in this way with one paycheck. Of course this assumes that I have a job and that the salary increases."

I'm really hoping it works out this well.

We may look back ten years from now and realize what a bargain for the taxpayers buying AIG was. Just like the bailout of Chrysler in the late 1970s didn't cost the taxpayers a cent the FED is now entitled to 80% of future profits. It has been argued that partial ownership of corporations by the government is a good way to finance or even replace social programs. Just like wealthy investors who never put their own money at risk the government borrows money to buy stock and uses future dividends to repay the debt and provide funds for social programs. Much better reason for government debt than land wars in Asia.

The bailout of AIG may pay off to the taxpayer if:

1. There are no giant claims made that strain its reserves.
2. All of AIG’s investments do well enough to justify the price paid.
3. Customers around the world keep AIG and/or new customers sign up.
4. The overall world economy is good enough to avoid a significant downsizing. I recall the new CEO Allen stated that he already had a downsizing plan in place. I’m not sure what this means…

Overall, if it seems like if AIG was such a good deal, then others would have snapped it up. I hope that AIG will turn a profit, but I’m afraid that the economic conditions are so different; it is in a significantly different situation to Chrysler’s.

As far as the “backups” and RTC types of activities are concerned, there is no doubt these will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to the American “borrowers.”

I'm seeing reports of long lines for gasoline in Tenessee. Not much from anywhere else.

this report has a few details.

Hard to compete on a "hundreds of billions of dollars needed" news day.

Yes. I'm hearing that, too. Here's a link:


Across middle Tennessee, many places that sell gas have run out after Hurricane Ike damaged the supply line that comes out of Texas last Friday. Gov. Phil Bredesen said the damaged pipeline has been repaired, so the problem should start to improve.

Because of gas shortages, more people are fueling up than usual, which is worsening the problem.

Nashville seems to be where the problem is. Knoxville is fine.

I've found some folks on twitter giving live updates.

You get a real interesting set of posts when you just search Twitter for "gas". Lots of reports of outages from around the country and occasional references to bodily functions.


Summary of Twitter gas reports:
90 minute wait in line to get gas in Nashville, police at the stations, some fights, people posting are blaming the media and speculators/ gougers. Some cars parked on the road, inoperable, tank empty.

Lots of stations on the south side of Houston are either out or carrying only regular unleaded and not much else. I have not seen any "price gouging" at all and the few stations better supplied have been very busy places. But there are definitely shortages on the south side of Houston this week. I also note that many companies on the south side of Houston appear to have told employees who cannot find gas to not come to work. Plus many buildings are not yet safe to occupy for regular work either. So the demand in the Houston area appears down at the moment as well (thankfully).

The Houston Chronicle in a recent article noted that many refineries that were expected to come up this week remain down. In most cases it is a result of electrical problems. Exxon's Baytown plant recently announced that it would not restart until September 30 now because of electrical supply issues. Valero has not issued any specific statements that I have seen (I may have missed them) but they have given general indications that they too will remain down for an extended period due to power grid issues.

So both gasoline supply in Houston and refining remain negatively impacted by Ike. Given that the Houston-Port Arthur refining capacity represents about 38% of the entire US refining capacity, having most of that down for an extended period is going to cause problems.

Clarksville, TN also reporting significant gasoline outages:
The reader comments expand on the situation:

I commute from Clarksville to Nashville daily. I went to three stations yesterday (in Nashville) - the first two were out of all gas and at the third, there was only premium. I was scared that I wouldn't find any gas in order to make it home to C'ville.

Yesterday here in the NC Triangle, some stations were out of regular and/mid grade, but didn't see any dry. Weird thing was, the price was identical everywhere - 3.99. When Ike hit, stations right next to each other were .50 apart. And of course in 'normal' times, differences of 10-15 cents are common. I attribute it to the fear of being prosecuted for gouging. Logic says they can't prosecute everyone, so the price found the highest agreeable level given the supply shortage.

Yep, Ben, you're right. "Hard to compete on a "hundreds of billions of dollars needed" news day."

Here's another gem just under the radar.

Alitalia cancels a number of flights from Rome's Fiumicino airport, increasing fears that it may soon go into liquidation.


Italy is a little less assessable these days.

When in Rome, ... yikes... stay put???

And why would staying in Rome be 'yikes'?

same reason being grounded anywhere would be yikes...

My apologies to any Romans out there. I'm sure you have a very lovely city. No slight intended!


yikes! "assessable" -- is that even in the dictionary?

Yikes indeed jbunt. I'm having a poor grammar day. Should read "accessible", as in 'easy to be reached', not assessable, 'able to be valued for the purpose of taxation'.

Dang spell check... doesn't pick up on my misspeak...

First insult all Romans, now all lexicographers, yikes yes! Batting a thousand.

Mind you after today, 'assessable' may apply to the whole USA... :-)

Guardian Angels Are Here, Say Most Americans


If anyone thinks this is off-topic, they don't get it.

Jesus is coming back. Look busy.

"Yes, I think I will see Jesus come back to earth in my lifetime." - Sarah Palin

BTW, her husband Todd is the 'First Dude' of Alaska. Imagine McCain dying of old age and Todd being the 'First Dude' of America.

"Seems American culture is turning into a trailer trash, televangelical soap opera, featuring a moose killing 'soccer mom', and her self-described child hating red-neck son-in-law to be. Pray this is NOT our future! - Arye Michael Bender" Run, get out before we close the borders to seal you all in!!!

It's worse than that. Believing Jesus is coming back means we will get away with stuff in the long run - after the Rapture. Believing in guardian angels means we can get away with stuff right away. Why bother with actuarial tables, Blue Cross, seat belts, the Food & Drug Administration, or, well, a savings account when you've got a little winged homunculus hovering overhead like a Homeland Security spy probe?

Actually, my step-dad sold a pension plan to a forty-ish mid-rank Jehovah's Witness in the very late 80's at a time when the Jehovah's Witnesses were predicting the end of the world in 1994. (I can't remember the exact dates, just being told that there was no way he'd benefit from the pension unless the end of the world didn't happen.) Just because you keep telling everyone else to repent ready for the imminent end of the world doesn't mean you don't personally hedge your bets. I'd be surprised if anyone who's saying the rapture will happen soon isn't socking away money (whether legitimately or illegitimately obtained) for the future.

I caught this at the DailyKos. Not a very clear answer coming from the person who knows "more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States".

Palin's Nonsensical Answer On Domestic Energy (VIDEO)

"Oil and coal? Of course, it’s a fungible commodity and they don’t flag, you know, the molecules, where it’s going and where it’s not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first," Palin said. "So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it’s Americans that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It’s got to flow into our domestic markets first."

Please stop. You are scaring me.

Amazing. GWB is clear and articulate by comparison :\

That's the funniest thing I've read all day. If Jon Stewart doesn't have a field day with it, I'll be surprised.

Very lucid. Reminded me of the monkeys and the typewriter story.


"Jesus is coming back. Look busy."

LMAO !!! Oh godz, thank you for that one BrianT. I'm going to make that into a bumper sticker.

So we've got Three Headf*cked Religions to worry about now:

1. The Church of the "Singularity" Techno-Tards,
2. The Islamic 12th/Nuclear Imam and
3. The Christians Carrying Glocks

Just lovely.

And you know what they all have in common? They hate Greenpeace..... :-D

They all hate the Earth - physical reality. And that is why we are totally screwed. :-D


Yeah just think of all the trouble we'd be in today if we had listened to those stupid environmentalists 30 years ago. :-D


EDIT: added obligatory smiley...

Must have smiley! :-)

Oh, I get it, but thanks for posting it.

You know, up until a few weeks ago GWB was generally considered to be the worst leader in USA history, but when the topic arose other names were mentioned just so a debate or discussion could ensue. No more-like the Sultan of Swat, GWB has picked his spot and literally drove that baby right out of the ballpark, crashing through a skyscraper window half a mile away. His legendary status is at this point unassailable, almost mythic. He is the one.

"Famous or infamous, doesn't matter. I'll be remembered."

Kim Philby, Russian mole in British intelligence.

Comparison of the Proposed Energy Policy and Climate Change Plans
of the 2008 Presidential Campaigns


Oil posts second biggest dollar gain ever, settling up $6.67 to $104.55 a barrel.

So, fix the finance mess and Oil price goes up? Hmmm... That's not good over the long term...

Well at least it wasn't up $6.66

Market watchers threw on an extra penny not to get the 'rapture crowd' too excited on this momentous day.

Could cause panic if they all thought they were leaving this evening.

Tho would make for an interesting US election if the GOP VP nominee got suddenly beamed to heaven.

Who knows? The rapture may have side benefits for all humanity. Psss... keep it quiet. The elect think they've got heaven all for themselves.

I wrote a near-future novel a few years ago in which America's economy is collapsing and everyone spends all their time at home doing crappy jobs remotely over broadband via brain jacks. The Christian Right executes a scheme to create a cyber-rapture using the jacks by recording the memories of their followers and then killing them with electric shocks, then sending the "ghosts" to take over Missile Command and annihilate the rest of the planet.

Under the current circumstances I'm wondering if I should just spend the cash to self-publish the thing before Election Day.

super, under the circumstances go for it. To make your plot more believable throw in a few guardian angels.

I can see it now. A run away best seller. Especially among those who are not be able to tell it apart from fiction:-)

I noticed that, too!

I could not find this article on TOD:

Oil market collapse waiting to happen

Great quote from that article...

"The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil market price has become almost entirely irrelevant in the real world of physical and forward oil trading, which largely takes place, believe it or not, in Yahoo chat rooms."

'Australia launches global carbon capture scheme'; somebody has suggested there is a new rabbit to pull out of the hat. However the Richard Heinberg article seems to cover all possibilities and they all fall short.

It's kinda embarrassing. Australia took all the high fives and back slapping for signing the Kyoto protocol leaving GWB and the evil USA as the bad guys. Since then the carbon cut target has been watered down to 5% by 2020, all kinds of crazy offsets have been proposed and now we'll have the 'Clean Coal Institute' ..perhaps they make a kind of soap that can be mail ordered. I guess it also means we can build new coal fired power stations since we're onto a winner.

So, I used to relax over the weekends, but lately, who knows what "surprise" will occur on the financial front. Any guesses? Can this week be topped?

Naa...certainly not.

Gasoline shortages spread from Tennessee to the rest of the eastern US.

It's not happening because I don't see it on CNN. Na, na, na...I'm not listening...(fingers in ears).

For those who can speak Italian, I suggest this article, about the of the automatization of Capital and its pratical consequences:


The work follows the ideas of Amadeo Bordiga, a great engineer and thinker, teacher of Antonio Gramsci, a contributor to Communist theory, the founder of the Communist Party of Italy, a leader of the Communist International and, after World War II, leading figure of the International Communist Party.


This is the English section of the website:


Hello TODers,

Satellite images show ethnic cleanout in Iraq

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Satellite images taken at night show heavily Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad began emptying before a U.S. troop surge in 2007, graphic evidence of ethnic cleansing that preceded a drop in violence, according to a report published on Friday.

The images support the view of international refugee organizations and Iraq experts that a major population shift was a key factor in the decline in sectarian violence, particularly in the Iraqi capital, the epicenter of the bloodletting in which hundreds of thousands were killed.
This study obviously makes the surge success argument of McCain/Palin worthless now. IMO, just more evidence of the time proven strategy of 'Divide, then Conquer' whereby the tacit allowance [purposeful encouragement?] into tribal devolution and geographic demarcation serves the larger goal of resource extraction.

You nailed it.

Who's next?

i have been saying all along that ethnic cleaning brought the violence to a end not a few extra soldiers.

edit: Care to take bets when the next stage of this conflict starts? thats when one of those enclaves decides that the other one shouldn't be there?

Apparently we Californians have a budget:

Please join Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – via webcast – for a discussion on the state budget at 3:00PM this afternoon. The live webcast can be viewed at:

Well no, you don't have one, at least not lately, but maybe they're hoping to produce one, somehow, like, you know, with magic or something.

They miquoted Schwarzeneggar...he said the state bundt cake, not the state budget.

For some good humor in the spirit of yesterdays discussion.

Are you a Democrat, a Republican, or a Redneck?
Here is a little test that will help you decide.

The answer can be found by posing the following question:
You're walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children.
Suddenly, an Islamic Terrorist with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, praises Allah, raises the
knife, and charges at you.

You are carrying a Kimber 1911 cal. 45 ACP, and you are an expert shot.

You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family.
What do you do?


Democrat's Answer :
Well, that's not enough information to answer the question!
Does the man look poor or oppressed?
Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack?
Could we run away?
What does my wife think?
What about the kids?
Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand?
What does the law say about this situation?
Does the pistol have appropriate safety built into it?
Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does
this send to society and to my children?
Is it possible he'd be happy with just killing me?
Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me?
If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me?

Should I call 9-1-1?
Why is this street so deserted?
We need to raise taxes, have paint and weed day and make this happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior.
This is all so confusing! I need to debate this with some friends for few days and try to come to a consensus.

Republican's Answer:

Redneck's Answer:
Click..... (Sounds of reloading)
Daughter: 'Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silver Tips or Remington Hollow Points?'
Son: ' Can I shoot the next one?'
Wife: 'You ain't mounting THAT one on the wall?'

Cheers to the rednecks out there.

A Republican giving my money away to a corporation seems to be a far more imminent threat than any knife wielding Islamic terrorist.


The Worst President in History?
One of America's leading historians assesses George W. Bush

George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.

And this was two years ago before the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the thrilling events of today. If you still proudly call yourself a Republican, you really haven't been paying attention.

Look, we all know you're a right wing-nut by now who will say anything as long as it's anti-Democrat, so you can lay off the retarded stereotyping "humor".

"Look, we all know you're a right wing-nut by now who will say anything as long as it's anti-Democrat"

How about getting it straight, I'm a a libertarian nut by now who will say anything as long as it's anti-Obama" I would have voted for Clinton, but as always the democratic part lets you down when you expect meaningful opposition and not Nancy Pelosi in the opposite sex.

Sad part is, as corrupt as Bush is, Obama will be worse......Chicago politics on a national level. Other sad part is that there isn't much else to steal, George,Dick and Goldman took it already.

Member of the Administration's answer:

Both knees, then it's off to a lifetime of interrogation and waterboarding for you, me lad

Democrats Answer:

Here's a Green Card, subsidized housing, and a government sponsored health care plan for you and your seven kids. Still feel like stabbing me? Didn't think so.

Republican's Answer:

Tell you what, Mexican, how about you take that knife and prune my hedges for $2.00 an hour while I call my congressman and complain about how illegal immigrants are destroying America.

Redneck's Answer:

Bang. When cops show up: I swear officer, I was aiming at the terrorist. I must've hit my wife by accident.

With things getting worse and worse, isn't it great to have a convenient group to fear and blame?

yuck - go pedal this filth on Freerepublic where it belongs

Suppose you and your family are just strolling down a quiet Blog, and an Exuberant Conservative wielding another unlikely Gun/Terrorist fantasy starts waving it at you. What do you do?

Launch into a song!

"When the Moon, is in the Seventh House - and Jupiter aligns with Mars,
Then peace will guide the planets And love will steer the stars!
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the Age of Aquarius- .."

(That swelling and itching should subside in a month or so, but the nervous tic is yours to keep!)

I know you were just going for a chuckle, so right back atcha, babe!

oh, I can't stop.. I can't!

"Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation
Aquarius! ..

Ok, here's one for all you victims out there! Y'all Put your hands together now, yah, behind your backs, and place your faces on the street.

"Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'.
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drummin'.
Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it.
Soldiers are gunning us down.
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?

Wolf Blitzer interviewed Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. They had an emergency meeting today. Dodd wouldn't give details, but he said when informed of the consequences of the financial crisis, "The oxygen went out of the room." Everyone was shocked and speechless.

He says there's no partisanship; they all agree that they have to work together on this.

Translation: they're in panic mode.

Meeting Wolf Blitzer would make anyone shocked and speechless.
I don't think there is anyone on television with the same pompous self-regard - 'This is the finest team on television' endlessly repeated.
Someone who can be fully counted on not to ask any awkward questions or rock the boat, I would have thought, as he appears to be the establishment given visible form - I doubt he has ever had a thought which was not an approved platitude.

I don't think there is anyone on television with the same pompous self-regard - 'This is the finest team on television' endlessly repeated.

The News Better Run

The Daily Show news team will bring you all the news stories first, before they're even true.

It was the senate committee that was shocked and speechless, at their private meeting. Wolf wasn't there; it wasn't open to the public.

Dodd came across very well talking to Wolf. They showed McCain and Obama talking about the credit crisis after Dodd, and they came across as real lightweights in comparison. Of course, they're running for president, so they kind of have to.

The entire CNN business crew seems to be freaking out. They keep saying "Worse than the Great Depression."

They said the most striking thing is the conservative, free-market Republicans who are insisting a bailout is necessary. They know a free market should allow bad businesses to fail, but they can't do that this time. Too many innocent people would lose their jobs and their retirement funds. People who didn't do anything wrong would suffer. They're afraid it will be...yes..."worse than the Great Depression."

It was the senate committee that was shocked and speechless, at their private meeting. Wolf wasn't there; it wasn't open to the public.

I know. I was fooling around.:-)

"There are no Libertarians in a Recession"

Meeting Wolf Blitzer would make anyone shocked and speechless.

As phreephallin suggests you should watch The Daily Show (if you don't already) - taking the piss out of Wolf Blitzer (amongst many others) is a regular feature. It's shown in the UK the day after US transmission on Channel 4's "More 4" at 8:30pm every weekday. Tony Blair was the guest today. His usual cheesey grin, hand wringing and "best of intentions".

Full show available for replay tomorrow at http://www.thedailyshow.com/

3 minute "out-take" special for UK audiences (with Jon Oliver explaining UK politics...) already up.

Amusingly CNN itself carries a weekly international edition of The Daily Show at weekends.

It's about the best thing on CNN, although I quite fancy a couple of their presenters from Hong Kong!

...perhaps they were told that there will be no more donations to political campaigns anymore due to the budget crisis...

What really happened was the republicrats looked at each each other and
realized how close they are to losing power in this country. The events in
Washington and New York this week proved that we have a one party system.
Today, while walking to the podium with the thugs, Bush made a sigh gesture that
spoke volumes.

If the oxygen actually had gone out of the room, our country would be better off today.

Ameribank, Inc., was closed today by the Office of the Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named receiver. The FDIC entered into purchase and assumption agreements with Pioneer Community Bank, Inc., Iaeger, West Virginia, and The Citizens Savings Bank, Martins Ferry, Ohio to take over all of the deposits and certain assets of Ameribank, Inc., Northfork, West Virginia.

Ameribank has five branches located in West Virginia and three branches located in Ohio. Pioneer Community Bank, Inc., Iaeger, West Virginia will assume all deposits for the five branches located in West Virginia. The Citizens Savings Bank, Martins Ferry, Ohio will assume all deposits for the three branches located in Ohio.
As of June 30, 2008, Ameribank, Inc. had total assets of $115 million and total deposits of $102 million.
The cost of the transactions to the Deposit Insurance Fund is estimated to be $42 million. The failed bank had assets of $112.62 million, .033 percent of the $13.4 trillion in assets held by the 8,451 institutions insured by the FDIC. Ameribank, Inc. is the first bank to be closed in West Virginia since First National Bank of Keystone, Keystone, on September 1, 1999. This year, a total of twelve FDIC-insured banks have been closed.

Yes, it is Friday!

Hello TODers,

Recall my earlier discussion on Haiti & Cuba, yet most Americans have no idea of Olduvai Gorge, and potentially much worse, so close to our shores.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Four tropical storms have wiped out most of Haiti's food crops and damaged irrigation systems and pumping stations, raising the specter of acute hunger for millions in the impoverished country.

"The system of agriculture has been destroyed," Agriculture Minister Joanas Gue told The Associated Press.

Now Cuba:

Food supplies on the island are nearly exhausted. The crops and livestock for domestic consumption and cash crops like tobacco and sugar cane, necessary for the hard currency to import food - are devastated. The island's electrical grid is severely damaged and in some places non-existent. Communication towers are down across the country. Roads are blocked with rubble from collapsed buildings, trees, or just washed away. Schools, hospitals, and clinics have suffered extensive damage or are non-functioning.

And it will only get worse...
One wonders if Ike and Gustav have now spread the Olduvai infection to the North American continent starting with the soft underbelly of Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula.

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

Food supplies on the island are nearly exhausted. The crops and livestock for domestic consumption and cash crops like tobacco and sugar cane, necessary for the hard currency to import food - are devastated. The island's electrical grid is severely damaged and in some places non-existent. Communication towers are down across the country. Roads are blocked with rubble from collapsed buildings, trees, or just washed away. Schools, hospitals, and clinics have suffered extensive damage or are non-functioning.

Um, wasn't it like that before the hurricane?

After reading the entire thread...I became confused. I understand the American goverment has moved to secure hundreds of billions,possibly a trillion or more, of bad paper(DEBT) in an effort to "calm the markets".Lets start by explaining why Iam confused...
Isnt the American gov over $9 trillion in debt already? Hasnt the Amer gov been running the largest budget deficit in history? Is it not so, that the dollar has never been weaker? Does anyone realise that
Americans collectively have a negative savings rate? I am correct when I state that the largest portion of the Amer economy is the export of one single thing...
When the media promotes that a weaker dollar is beneficial, I suggest making it worthless...
well...because if weak is good, worthless should be better. When the media promotes further debt to unlock a frozen economic situation caused by DEBT...well..Iam confused...Shouldnt we shoot for more
debt and make a utopia instead of a mere valhalla?
Please, any remarks concerning or explaining "Bad" debt as opposed to "good" debt will cause a synoptic
electrical storm in my cerebral cortex ...so be kind.
I heard everyone that was ever in a debtors prison, swore they were innocent. At least thats what Henry David Thoreau said.

Privatize Profit. Socialize Debt.

Mischief Managed.

After reading the entire thread...I became confused.

There's your problem, you let the facts get in your way. ;-)

Another tonne of [finite] Helium wasted this week:


Thankfully it's not the UK electricity supply powering this baby..