DrumBeat: September 28, 2008

Are we running on empty: It's critical for Hawaii to identify another source of energy beyond the usual suspects

Oil prices are spiraling upward with no end in sight. Consumers are pinching pennies to fill their cars with gasoline, and airlines are going bankrupt amid skyrocketing fuel costs. Clearly, OPEC and the ever-rapacious oil companies are to blame for high oil prices, right? Actually, no — you and I are the culprits.

Civilization's insatiable demand for oil is rapidly depleting the oil stores within the Earth. During the past 100 years we have blown through about half of the global oil resources and continue to use it at increasing rates. The world now uses about 1,000 barrels of oil per second. Americans use 25 percent of that, even though we represent only 5 percent of the world's population.

New global oil discoveries peaked in the 1960s, and we now consume about four times more oil each year than we discover. We produce more oil than ever before, but difficulties in finding new oil fields and the reduced output of aging oil wells indicate an imminent peak followed by a relentless decline — a situation known as "peak oil."

Many factors combine to fuel gas shortage

By the time you stick the nozzle of regular unleaded gasoline into your tank, your gas has endured an elaborate refining process and snaked through hundreds of miles of pipeline. Last week’s long lines and sea of plastic bag-draped pumps tell only part of the story. Here’s what’s going on, according to officials at the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the American Petroleum Institute...

Common-sense steps can make next shortage easier

There are lessons to be learned from this shortage, beginning with the refineries themselves. Gustav and Ike forced them to close, but the plants had cut their production rates beginning earlier this year, so there was less fuel on hand when the storms struck, according to Bloomberg News. As of Thursday, gas inventories in the region were at an 11-year low.

For the refineries, this may have been purely a business decision. But the fuel supply in Tennessee and other states transcends business and becomes an issue of public safety and security. Emergency management officials across the region should be asking refiners to be better prepared for the aftermath of natural disasters.

‘Perfect storm’ led to worst shortage in decades

Scott Dean, a spokesman for the BP corporation, which operates one of the terminals in Spartanburg, said the company quickly put buyers on “allocation,” meaning they could get only a percentage of what they normally buy. Early on, the allocations were around 40 percent. “Now we’re having to give them about 70 percent,” he said Friday.

The heavy reliance on terminals in one place differs from other parts of the country, such as the Northeast, where regional refineries and gas shipped in from overseas feed the system, said Sara Banaszak, senior economist at the American Petroleum Institute, a group that represents the gas and oil industry.

But finding another place to get oil in the South, and building a new system to deliver it, has long been controversial, said Gary Harris, director of the N.C. Petroleum Marketers Association, which represents 330 wholesalers responsible for 95 percent of the gas in North Carolina.

A plan years ago to build a spur off the Colonial that would have fed a terminal in Nashville, Tenn., which was one of the hardest hit cities during last week’s fuel shortage, was shelved after public outcry, Harris said.

Jordan central bank sees US slowdown pushing down oil prices

Amman - Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) Governor Umayyah Touqan on Sunday expected the US financial crisis and the subsequent economic slowdown to put downward pressure on oil prices. "The economic slowdown in the United States and leading European countries will affect the performance of the world economy in the long term and help reduce prices of oil and food, which is a positive aspect," Touqan said in an interview with the official Petra news agency.

To heal a horse

Holme said often horses suffer neglect when owners fall on hard economic times. "When people can't afford their house payment, they can't feed their horses," she said.

A spike in hay and horse feed prices has compounded the problem, Holme said.

"Prices have tripled since last year," said Delpa Eddinger at the Farmer's Exchange in Rock Hill. Hay, once about $2 a bale, now runs $5 to $9 a bale, depending on whether it's purchased from a farm or a store.

...One horse also needs a 50-pound bag of of feed each week, and the cost of feed has risen to $11.50, said Eddinger. "Nobody wants them now because it costs so much to feed them," said Eddinger.

Khan’s bakeries fight Pakistan food crisis

LAHORE // Imran Khan, Pakistan’s revered cricket hero who has transformed himself into the country’s angriest politician, forfeited a place in parliament when he boycotted February elections. Now he is doing what the crisis-burdened government is failing to: feeding the poor.

In depressed urban neighbourhoods of the Punjab, Pakistan’s most populated province, Mr Khan’s party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, has begun operating sasta tandoors (cheap tandoor bakeries), selling fresh roti and nan from traditional tandoor ovens for less than half the market rates.

Soaring inflation and a national wheat shortage – due to over-export, smuggling and hoarding – have made flour an expensive and hard-to-come-by commodity.

Climate-Change Program Gets New Funds and Home

A program that helps poor countries reduce their vulnerability to floods, drought and other climate-related hazards will move to the University of Colorado, Boulder, under a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, foundation and university officials said Wednesday.

The announcement was made weeks after the loss of government support for the program, the Center for Capacity Building. It will move from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, which eliminated its $500,000 annual budget last month, citing budget cuts and shifting priorities, to the university under a $1 million grant spread over two years, said Judith Rodin, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Ms. Rodin said more support was likely. The name will change to the Consortium for Capacity Building because one goal will be to build relationships with foreign institutions.

Iran Sinking as Groundwater Resources Disappear

Iran's insatiable demand for water, which is being drawn out of aquifers far faster than it can be replenished, is causing large chunks of farmland to sink and buildings to crack, according to a new study.

Estimates suggest the water levels in Iranian aquifers have declined by an average of nearly 1.5 feet (half a meter) every year over the last 15 years.

US financial crisis haunts Asian leaders

The US crisis struck as Asian economies were grappling with a severe food and energy crisis.

Think tanks have shaved Asian economic growth forecast following the crisis, which peaked this month with the bankruptcy of top investment bank Lehman Brothers, government rescue of insurance giant AIG and collapse of Washington Mutual under the weight of bad mortgage bets.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in his speech, warned that the international impact of the US crisis could become "more serious," stressing the need for concerted efforts to contain the turmoil.

Chinese exports to the United States have been expanding rapidly and any slowdown due to the crisis could impact growth in the world's most populous nation.

Even on the financial side, China, the world's biggest holder of foreign reserves, is closely linked to the United States. It is the second biggest holder of US treasury bills.

Richard Heinberg: Bailout blues

Sounds like a great plan to me. Why would anyone balk? Just think of the futility of spending a few billion of that treasure on things like building bridges or railroads, projects that might actually hire real workers, when we can instead buy up mountains of toxic debt from a bunch of bankrupt hucksters. Now that’s a real investment in our future!

Sorry for the sarcasm. It’s hard to resist. I’ll try to ratchet it down as I explain just what $700 billion means in terms of our nation’s energy infrastructure. America has about 130 million private homes, so that’s about $5,400 per home—not quite enough to put a one-kilowatt photovoltaic system on every roof. I use that as a standard, because that’s what my wife and I have on our own house, and it basically zeros out our electricity bill for the year.

Gas prices down 11% from high

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Gas prices dropped for their eleventh day in a row, bringing their total decline to about 20 cents over the period, according to a nationwide survey of credit card swipes at gasoline stations.

Trucker finds fuel costs are fifth wheel

"Diesel fuel was 26 percent of our operating budget about two years ago; now it's 78 percent," said the Boonville, Ind., resident.

"Then, you could run an 18-wheel truck on $250 a week; now, it's $250 a day."

Interest grows in 4-day week for Iowa schools

A growing number of Iowa school officials want the power to shorten the school week to four days, a cost-saving concept that has caught on in other states.

Texas: Is four-day school week a possibility?

Would going to a four-day school week save you money?

When the economy teeters and energy prices skyrocket, it’s a natural question for educators and parents to roll over in their minds.

No-emissions house takes builder from zero to eco-hero

Peter Amerongen was a self-described hippie building log houses in the 1970s when the energy crisis hit.

That's when he started designing decidedly more airtight and insulated houses -- a baby step towards his latest project, a hyper-efficient duplex that produces at least as much energy as it consumes.

It's pond scum, but algae could be green fuel: Cost-efficient process expected that would also curb warming emissions

BORCULO, Netherlands - Set amid cornfields and cow pastures in eastern Holland is a shallow pool that is rapidly turning green with algae, harvested for animal feed, skin treatments, biodegradable plastics — and with increasing interest, biofuel.

In a warehouse 120 miles southwest, a bioreactor of clear plastic tubes is producing algae in pressure-cooker fashion that its manufacturer hopes will one day power jet aircraft.

Experts say it will be years, maybe a decade, before this simplest of all plants can be efficiently processed for fuel. But when that day comes, it could go a long way toward easing the world's energy needs and responding to global warming.

Oil prices and the GCC: Could the region be stoking oil prices?

Although production from the GCC 4 is just off its record high of 2006, rising consumption is eating into the exportable surplus. We believe this is the first time oil exports from the region have fallen without an intentional effort to reduce supply. With oil prices where they are, we do not see OPEC reducing production; the issue is whether current production levels are enough to increase the exportable surplus of oil. In the case of the GCC, we see the exportable surplus falling in the coming years.

This creates an interesting reversal in causality: while rising oil prices triggered strong economic growth in the GCC, we believe this relationship is no longer in play; instead, we think strong GCC growth may now be playing a role in pushing oil prices higher.

In the global context, Middle Eastern consumption is significant. The incremental increase in oil demand from China and the Middle East, accounted for 84 per cent of the global increase in consumption in 2006, and 58 per cent in 2007.

Russia Hit The Rocks Hardest: The market crash is due in part to Georgia, even if Putin doesn't think so.

By rights, this year's Sochi Economic Forum should have been a victory lap for Vladimir Putin. Russia's president turned prime minister had just, in his own words, "punched the face" of upstart Georgia, and a year of record oil prices had boosted Russia's currency reserves to $700 billion.

But instead of triumph, Russia's premier business-schmooze event was deep in gloom. Since the Georgian war in early August, an estimated $45 billion in foreign investment has left Russia as spooked investors have fled. Now Russian stocks are 57 percent off their May peak—compared with the average emerging-markets hit of 30 percent.

Oil project cost may hurt output: Iran

TEHRAN: Rising costs for oil projects may threaten new investment in producing countries, Iran's oil minister said in remarks published yesterday.

Gholamhossein Nozari also said volatility in oil prices, which have swung above and below $100 a barrel this month, was partly due to the instability of the US dollar.

Saudi Jazan refinery faces two-year delay

DUBAI: Bidders lining up to build Saudi Arabia's Jazan oil refinery have been issued with a fresh construction deadline of 2015 -- a two-year delay to the original schedule, MEED reported, without citing a source.

Gazprom Wins as EU 'Unbundles' Energy Conglomerates

The European Commission has sniffed out monopolistic leanings in the energy companies of member states. And it’s dissecting them in a process that’s almost identical to the “liberalization” practices of China, where competition is invented out of thin air, and government coffers, when one of the country’s supposedly autonomous companies gets too big for its silk britches.

Unlike China, which has the luxuries of physical isolation, dictatorial government control and size (both in landmass and population), Europe can’t afford to lose its big power players. But it’s too self-absorbed to understand that fact.

UK: Who will look after us once the lights go out at Energywatch?

Around 200,000 consumers each year who have complaints against their energy supplier could be left to fend for themselves after changes to the existing energy watchdog structure take place on Wednesday, MPs and industry experts have warned.

The existing consumer champion for gas and energy issues, Energywatch, which handles around 600,000 cases a year, is being disbanded. From Wednesday it will merge with two other consumer bodies, Postwatch and the National Consumer Council (NCC), to create a £15m-a-year super-champion known as Consumer Focus.

However, the new group will not deal with all energy complaints as Energywatch did. Instead, one of its units will deal with those in the most vulnerable situations, such as people on the point of being disconnected.

EDF chief lashes out at 'whingeing' critics

Vincent de Rivaz, the head of EDF in the UK, has told critics of its £12.4bn takeover of British Energy to 'stop whingeing'.

Consumer groups have criticised last week's takeover, claiming the disappearance of another independent British utility company could result in higher bills.

But in an interview with The Observer, de Rivaz said that the takeover was good news for customers and would lead to billions of pounds of investment in a new fleet of nuclear reactors.

A crash course

As world oil production reaches a peak and then declines, Kunstler expects sprawl to leave a legacy of ghost suburbs and radically altered living arrangements. Those suburbs that are not abandoned will be sparsely occupied, with lawns turned into mini-farms. Proud family McMansions will be subdivided into apartments by owners who can't afford to live in them alone. People will be concentrated along rail or bus lines, and those left living in the countryside will be isolated, their trips to town infrequent at best.

The collapse of the housing bubble and high energy prices are already starting to realize Kunstler's expectation. Subdivisions are being abandoned, half-built. And home values are dropping faster in outlying areas than in or near city centers.

Market hurts retirees most

"I don't live extravagantly," said Reid, 70, who has her own financial-counselling business. "I'm a bit of a dinosaur -- I don't have a cellphone. I don't spend on anything I didn't spend on five years ago. And yet my cost of living has doubled in the last eight years." Maintaining financial balance has become a daily challenge for many Canadians, especially seniors, and according to many analysts, it's about to get even more intense.

In a speech this week in Montreal, economist Jeff Rubin projected that the average price of oil would be $150 US a barrel by the second half of 2009, which means higher prices for gasoline, a wide range of other products made with oil, and products like food where part of the retail price is transportation.

Meanwhile, stock markets around the world have taken a double-digit plunge in 2008. Jittery investors are transferring their cash into money-market mutual funds and GICs, which pay little.

Thailand: A shocking assault

Electrical accidents are not as scary for Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) technicians as a user who fails to pay his power bill.

Three PEA officials in Samut Prakan were beaten up by a group of ruffians on Wednesday after they cut off the electricity to an apartment in Bang Phli district because its owner had not paid the bill.

Buffett unit buys stake in battery firm BYD

MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co, a unit of US billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc, said it would pay $230 million for a 10 percent stake in Chinese rechargeable battery firm BYD Co Ltd to support its 'green' technologies.

The deal gives MidAmerican a foothold in the Hong Kong-listed company which is developing electric-hybrid cars it expects to start selling in China later this year and Europe by 2010.

Solar homes on display

More than 80 Chicago area homes and businesses will be on display (with many opening their doors) on Saturday to show off their solar skills as part of the 2008 Illinois Solar Tour, sponsored by the Illinois Solar Energy Association. Among them: this house in Naperville, where owners Jim and Kath Camasto used solar electric and solar thermal (hot water/space heating) panels to help cut their natural gas use in half and electricity use by 60 percent.

Climate change 'sinking Pacific nation'

An immigrant from a tiny Pacific Ocean nation is appealing to the Australian government to assist in evacuations because she says her homeland is sinking under rising sea levels.

Currently bedridden with pneumonia, Kiribati Australia Association member Wanita Limpus in a statement told the Climate Emergency Week rally outside Queensland's Parliament House how climate change was destroying her home nation.

The village at the tip of the iceberg

For more than 2,000 years the Yup'ik Eskimos have carved out a subsistence living on the frozen wastes of southwest Alaska. But now the ice is melting the village is having to move to a new site, and the world's first climate-change refugees face an uncertain future.

The Telegraph on on Carbon Capture:
(I really don't know enough about the science to critic! Any takers?)


At present, to generate 35 per cent of our power, we burn 52 million tons of coal, 22 million tons of which we have to import from Russia. To fit our power stations with "carbon capture" we would need to build at least four more large coal-fired plants just to make up the power diverted into disposing of CO2. And to do that we would have to become even more dependent on imports from such unreliable sources as Russia, at a time when coal prices are already soaring.


This was one of the topics at the ASPO Conference and I quote David Hughes and Pamela Tomski who note that it takes about 20 - 40% of the energy generated by a power plant to run a CCS operation.


But most people have horrible intuitions about energy conversion. Thermodynamics isn't, apparently, a subject taught to most folk. Instead they believe in magic.

Question Everything


EROEI and the laws of thermodynamics are the trump card of the imminent Peak Oil and hard energy limits position. It is unavoidable physics that clinches the case. It is when I grasped this that I became convinced myself of the imminent Peak Oil position four years ago.

Unfortunately, many people in our culture - including economists - are scientifically illiterate, so this intellectual trump card carries no weight with them.

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

H. L. Mencken

Sorry to puncture your bubble, but the laws of thermodynamics don't tell us anything about peak oil.

The Second Law Of Thermodynamics can only be applied to isolated systems and the world's energy producing infrastructure doesn't fit that criteria.

More bubble puncturing time! The second law has been extended to systems far from equilibrium where boundary conditions are sufficiently known. It also applies to all work processes and energy conversions where entropic losses end up as non-recoverable heat. In the end the world is a system essentially closed to material flows and in long-term steady-state with respect to energy flow (excepting radio-active decay heating which is diminishing over time and tidal pulses which are probably negligible for our current purposes) as long as the sun is in stable burn. Our burning fossil fuels is just releasing some of that energy that took up residence in chemical bonds temporarily.

What thermodynamics tells us is that there is no free lunch. That energy is on a one-way trip from source(s) to sink(s). It tells us a lot about the energy infrastructure if we know how to interpret and measure.

As far as Mencken goes, he was right. There certainly can be any number of clear, simple, and wrong solutions. So what? There can also be a simple, though apparently not so clear, answer that is right.

Question Everything

I'm with George on this one. Even analysis of non-isolated systems is possible if you can build a box around a segment of interest and characterize the flows across the boundary. Perhaps a better way of looking at it is everything increases entropy, so any observed state of increased organization implies a corresponding but larger increase in disorder somewhere else.

I suspect we'll get a lot more familiar with the notions of efficiency, entropy, and other aspects of thermodynamics as we go along. The wikipedia linked earlier has a quote worth repeating:

The tendency for entropy to increase in isolated systems is expressed in the second law of thermodynamics — perhaps the most pessimistic and amoral formulation in all human thought. — Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley, Principia Discordia (1965)

Maybe that's where TOD gets it's pessimism -- it's a disciple of the Second Law?

I didn't say that there was a free lunch and I said nothing about being close to equilibrium.

What I did say was that the energy production systems that civilization relies upon are not closed systems.

How do you figure they are not closed systems?

Let's take the simplified example of a pumpjack sitting in a field.

Case 1 - The pump is powered by the oil it brings up:

Approximates a closed system. As the well depletes, the net energy produced by the system will decrease. There will be a point at which the pump is using all the oil it can produce and net energy produced = 0. This is an example of the energy cliff so beloved by doomsters.

Case 2 - The pump is powered by a wind turbine:

Open system because we have outside energy inputs. Approximates the case in Alberta oilfields (and probably Texas and elsewhere). The pump will produce oil until something breaks or the field is dry.

Look c-dude, in case 1 the system is closed to energy flow coming in because there is a finite amount of oil. In fact it's worse than that because you need to increase the amount of oil you use to pump the oil as you go deeper (actually even worse than that but I'll spare you the details). This is EROI (ERoEI if you prefer).

In case 2 you have a steady input of sunlight driving wind but the latter is intermittent. But the real problem is that the conversion of wind to electricity at a high enough power level isn't all that great. You need more windmills dedicated to the job. And as you need more power to pump deeper wells, you need to build more windmills, etc. The boundary conditions are still that oil is finite and usable wind is too.

You still do believe in a free lunch, even though you don't think you do! Just because a system is open to the flow of energy doesn't mean the system will be able to use that energy effectively. You have to convert the raw form to a usable form, what physicists call 'free' energy (free to do work, not free for the taking). That conversion has an energetic cost as well. And, in the case of sunlight, the flow is effectively steady-state, meaning that there is an effective upper bound to how much free energy we can actually obtain.

It may not be turtles all the way down, but it is energy! If you have the math and statistical mechanics background or are willing to work hard, I recommend a classic book by Harold Morowitz called "Energy Flow in Biology". It is a real eye-opener for energetics. He has some more modern books that are aimed at general audiences, so you might try that if your background doesn't prepare you for this book.


FWIW, I have a degree in Mathematics.

In the past forty years, I have seen a lot of fancy mathematics applied inappropriately. The latest was the Wall Street swindle where Black-Scholes was used to cover up fraud.

How do you figure they are not closed systems?

Sunlight, for a start. An average of 250W/m^2 of it.

Considering it's what virtually all the world's agriculture depends on, in addition to the energy source for much of the non-fossil sources (solar, wind), it's pretty silly to pretend it isn't there.

The earth simply is not a closed system.


Of course the earth is not a closed system, energetically. I teach this stuff. The subject was, I thought, the petroleum-based system.

The subject was, I thought, the petroleum-based system.

The original claim was not only about petroleum:

"EROEI and the laws of thermodynamics are the trump card of the imminent Peak Oil and hard energy limits position."

The part I have bolded is what took the claim out of the realm of being about petroleum. The poster appeared to be claiming that thermodynamics means civilization must run out of energy. The laws of thermodynamics say no such thing.

They say civilization can extract a finite amount of useful work from the finite amount of fossil fuels in the ground, but that's a useless statement, as nobody is saying otherwise. The laws of thermodynamics have very little to say regarding EROEI (as the theoretical limits it gives are significantly better than the achievable levels in most cases), so there's nothing to say there either.

Indeed, invoking "the laws of thermodynamics" seems to be little more than trying to put a scientific veneer on an unscientifically-derived conclusion, namely that civilization has (near-term) hard limits to energy. It is precisely the "closed system" requirement of thermo laws and the "open system" nature of the earth that invalidates their use in supporting such a conclusion.

"How do you figure they are not closed systems?"

If the energy system of the Earth were a closed system, it would be a cold rock,


"The Second Law Of Thermodynamics can only be applied to isolated systems and the world's energy producing infrastructure doesn't fit that criteria."

For all intents and purposes it is.

You, like so many people, fail to realise that you cannot isolate one aspect of infrastructure, and ignore everything else that we rely on to run our civilisation.

Energetically, yes, the earth is open to huge amounts of energy from the sun. What is limited is our ability to utilise that energy. Our energy infrastructure allows us to use energy stored in fossil fuels (solar energy that biological organisms locked up in chemical bonds), solar energy, nuclear energy and so on, to do work. We use technology to enhance the range of things we can do with that energy, but ultimately all of this relies on us, and we and our infrastructure require the following (and much more besides):

Fresh water
Clear air
Healthy soil
Diversity of organisms (lack of diversity = prone to disease/environmental extremes/etc, e.g. in crops)
Mineral resources
Scalability (for technologies) - i.e. do not rely on other limited resources
Confidence in systems of exchange (financial systems)

If our energy infrastructure is limited by things other than simple inputs, then it is part of an isolated system.

Another failure to appreciate the complexity issue.

I believe most people these days are profoundly innumerate as well. It probably goes along with the belief in magic.

"Conservative" political pundits will bristle at this or that little social program, exclaiming "why, it will cost millions!" ... but are set to congratulate the Sec. Treas. and central bankers for saving the dollar and the economy by writing Wall St. a blank check with twelve zeros after the significant digit.

The basic thermodynamic difference between the entropy of flue gas, and flue gas split into two streams (CO2, and mostly nitrogen), is a lot less than 20% of the energy generated by combustion. The real issue is in finding a largescale practical way of doing the seperaion/concentration, which doesn't cost much energy. The quoted numbers are for the current leading methods (amine absorbtion, and ammonia), there exist other theoretically more efficient methods. It would make sense to concentrate research funding on those processes with a potentially much lower energy cost, as I doubt CCS with >20% energy penalty will be attractive.

it takes about 20 - 40% of the energy generated by a power plant to run a CCS operation.

Nobody's going to do that when better options are on the table.  Here's a quote from Hannegan's testimony before the Senate Energy Committee:

Such solvents—for example, chilled ammonium carbonate—could reduce the loss in power output imposed by the CO2 capture process from about 30% to about 10%.

That's the energy cost for retrofits.  Plants built from the ground up to capture carbon could almost certainly do better.

Another one bites the dust:

Reports: UK set to nationalize 2nd bank

LONDON, England (AP) -- The troubled mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley is to be nationalized and sold off in parts, British media reported Sunday.

And this article from Canada argues that the problem of underestimating risk was not just with investment banks:

Solvency Street, a penny at a time

The United States, home of more than 8,000 financial institutions, has had relatively few of them go broke since the savings-and-loan debacle, and that was nearly 20 years ago. Only three small FDIC-insured banks failed last year and none in 2005 and 2006. There has been plenty of time to build up the fund. But it hasn't happened because some genius decided, back in the mid-1990s, that the deposit insurance fund need not save too much for a rainy day. So for the next decade, most U.S. banks got a holiday from sending their dimes to FDIC.

Well, baby, it's pouring outside now. And the tale of FDIC seems like a perfect illustration of what has made the U.S. economy so sick. Subprime mortgages are just a manifestation of the bigger problem: The people don't save, the government doesn't save and even the parts of it that exist to set aside money for the bad times, don't save enough.

Another worrying story is

Remortgage timebomb set to explode

where it's suggested a significant number of UK people needing to remortgage an expiring deal have put things off in the hope of rates coming down when they have instead gone up and at this point they don't have a choice. (I don't know whether "exploding timebomb" language is justified in terms of the wider economy.)

And another one. Remember Fortis?

Regulators Seek to Increase Confidence in Fortis

(Bloomberg) -- Belgian and Dutch central banks and regulators were discussing measures to restore confidence in Fortis, the financial-services company whose stock plunged 35 percent in Brussels trading last week.

Is the urgency for the rescue package because the Fed is running out of liquidity?

the pressure being used on the Congress to pass the Paulson Plan is the threat of Fed illiquidity. As of two weeks ago, the Fed had lent out more than $600 billion of its $800 billion balance sheet Treasuries against crap MBS collateral.


The urgency is to lock in the profits and to prevent the possibility of any actions by the next administration other than slash, slash, slash. It's a fiscal 9/11 meant to forestall any government action on anything - other than military and police because, after all, it will be necessary to maintain order in difficult times. Forget action on energy, climate change, health care, pensions, you-name-it. Who knows better than those involved that the looting "bailout" will not restore the financial infrastructure; their aim is to lock in what they can right away before the meltdown progresses.

cfm in Gray, ME

Off topic, cfm, but I hope you brought in the BBQ and fastened down the tarps for Kyle's arrival.

Starting to get a little blustery here across the Bay of Fundy from you (at 3:15 p.m., Atlantic time) though the rain has not started yet.

Looks like Maine and New Brunswick will bear the brunt of this autumn gale.

Stay dry. Cheers!

PS: Much easier to prepare for Kyle's arrival than the autumn gale emanating from Washington and New York:-)

It's me. I'm back in Maine shopping for lifeboat-land.

I brought a hurricane with me, hope y'all don't mind; it sure was tough stuffing it in the overhead compartment!

Hi DIYer and cfm,

Hurricane Kyle update: http://watch.ctv.ca/news/latest/kyle-moving-in/#clip96736

Since this newscast, looks like Kyle is migrating ever so slightly eastward which is good news for the folks in Maine/New Brunswick, less than good news for Nova Scotians along the Fundy coast (where I live). The winds are really picking up here and the rain is falling in sheets.

Strange enough Kyle is expected to make landfall near Yarmouth, NS shortly after midnight, Atlantic time, Monday, 29th September 2008.

Hurricane Juan made landfall shortly after midnight near Prospect, NS (outside Halifax), Monday, 29th September 2003.

Some differences this time. Juan arrived as a Cat. 2 hurricane. So far Kyle is a Cat. 1 and expected to loose some of its punch. Still landfall is expected at high tide so may cause some coastal flooding.

Problem with hurricanes reaching northern landfalls this time of year is that trees are laden down with leaves making them particularly vulnerable to wind gusts (not a problem in winter). Usually means a loss of power. Got my flash lights ready.

Juan caused quite a swath of devastation (fortunately only a few deaths, could have been far worse) when he blew through.



Here's hoping for the best from Kyle.


Thanks DIYer for the gift, I owe you one:-)

Latest update from the National Hurricane Center puts Kyle's track right about above my house (approximately where the first circled s is on the map above the current storm position).


Should be an interesting night.

Kyle arrived early and didn't stay late.

Cat. 1 hurricane yes, but moved through quickly enough for minimum impact. Calm and balmy, even if overcast, this morning. Quite nice.

Nice to hear it. Overcast in Maine, a few rays of sun in the afternoon and it has stopped raining for now.

I'm off to walk some property lines later this morning.

The option of doing nothing is simply not an acceptable option.

Senator John McCain, ABC This Week, 28th September 2008

Shrill talk and brinkmanship to precipitate a deal "to save the markets" by Monday has worked brilliantly. Now, no opposition is possible or allowable or "acceptable". Protest is treason.

In other places or at other times such action would be called, "extortion".

Markets face major crash if US bail-out plan collapses

Watch. The legislation will be fast tracked and passed quickly. I suspect this crisis will blow over and within a few hours another storm will be hot on its heals.

Banks are dropping like the autumn apples. Some of the choicest fruit will be gathered and eaten. Some others will be squeezed for the juice. Many others will be left to rot on the ground. All that's being decided now is who gets to be chief picker in the orchard.

What no one is saying is the obvious: the apples haven't fallen because of a natural frost and seasonal cycle. No, the apples are falling b/c the trees are dead. Not dormant. Not waiting for spring. Dead. The sap is gone. The life has been drained. The nutrients have been bled dry. Best to be chopped up for firewood.

There is an article in the Washington Post today describing the mortgage bailout as something that will take months, not a onetime check for 700 billion dollars. Supposidely it only buys the worse of the securities.

In my opinion worse means those are the least likely to make a profit for the tax payer.

The apples that dropped to the ground were gathered and used for applesauce. They were not allowed to rot ... if you get enough harvesters into the orchards.

Some banks will not be able to pull out of tailspins. The prime paper is in danger as unemployment rises.

Many acres of corn in the MidWest are lying even with the ground after Ike blew them down.

Excluding sub saharan african countries united states is the country where the elite has most control on common man with a wide margin from the second country in the list. Elites in usa not only control all the means of production to the extend that american dream is limited to having a job, house, car and dog whereas in large if not most part of the world the dream of common man is to own a business of his own, he already own a house and he not need a car because of cheap and abundant public transport.

Another step forward of elite control over the common man is to make him now cover the losses of elite directly from his pocket through higher taxes and/or decreased value of currency.

Everywhere in the world the elite have the most control; isn't that the definition of elite? The difference is that the US has so much wealth that if the bottom 90% of the population shares only 10% of the wealth, it is still a lot compared to other countries.

The last I heard in Pakistan two or three dozen families own most of the nation's wealth. What is the Gini coefficient of Pakistan?

Hmm, seems like you not update your information about pakistan since 1960s, it was then that two dozen families controlled almost all factories and farms, the service sector which contribute 50% of gdp was and is very widely spread.

There is no country in world where elites made working class pay for their losses in business directly from their pockets, that is the point. In all countries of world except usa when one elite make a mistake and suffer a loss some other elite replace him.

Everywhere in world except usa the working man do own his own house and do have his own job therefore he dream about bigger things like owning his own business. Usa ofcourse is a very different country from the rest of the world.

What is the Gini coefficient of Pakistan?

About 30, vs. about 40 in the USA, and about 30 in the EU. (source)

The bailout will *NOT* stop the meltdown, but it will put money back into the pockets of the most wealthiest Americans - Buffett, etc. Just another re-distribution of wealth from the poor taxpayers to the rich who never paid a dime. There will be a meltdown when unemployment hits 20% next year, and the new President is still trying to fund all of the worthless government programs. At that point the US will be bankrupt as a nation. Then the US dollar will become worthless. We will be forced to raise taxes, take away benefits, and the list goes on......

My suggestion is to invest in hard assets - *NOT* stock, bonds, paper of any kind.
Do not depend on the Fed for anything, FDIC, insurance, defense, health care, education.
We will have to take care of all of our own needs.

Hello Nowhere,

Perhaps you have seen this special Monopoly gamecard:


Thanks Bob; that was great!

I think this is a severe overreaction/simplification. Brad Delong had a discussion on the probably cost of the bailout today. See:


The history of US bailouts, is that in most cases longterm the taxpayer has come out ahead (i.e. the government made a profit on the fund used for the bailout). The savings and lone cleanup twenty some years ago was an exception. It is of course unknown whether this one will make a profit for the government, but at least we aren't throwing the money into a black-hole, the net cost will be much lower than the $700B, and might even come up negative. Of course no-one thinks this bailout will be the end of this problem, but with any luck the remaining crisis will be smaller than the current one.

A bigger problem, will be that the economic slowdown caused by unwinding this mess, is not likely to be a short one. We are likely to lose more tax revenues due to the slowdown, than due to the bailout. There is of course still a few more days to try to obtain better provisions for the bailout. But political opposition means that the better Sweedish solution (nationalisation) is off the table. Paul Krugman doesn't like the bill, but will support it (holding his nose). The likely results of balking on the bailout could be pretty sevre, I don't see us as having a choice, but to go with it. Hopfully the psychological shock will be such that we as a people will change our attitudes towards debt, and financial regulations.

Just curious, I attempted to respond to Alan's thread about hurricane damage in the Gulf of Mexico and found it gone! Is there some reason that "off line oil" is no longer a fit subject for this list? If not then here are the numbers posted once or twice a week from the government's Minerals and Management Service: MMS Press Releases on Gulf of Mexico Oil offline

Ron Patterson

I deleted it because it's a duplicate of something he posted yesterday. The rule is "no reposts."

I might suggest a rule change allowing reposts, so long as the thread begins with a clear notice that the information was previously posted. Something like:

REPOST: This information was previously posted in the 9/27/08 Drumbeat.

This would allow those who have read the DB in question to avoid deja vu, while still allowing those reading the current DB to see the information.

Just my two cents. Thanks.

I don't think that would be fair. As it is, people complain about other people posting too much and hogging the bandwidth, always getting the first post of the DrumBeat, etc.

On some sites, reposting messages (or bumping your posts by replying to yourself, on message boards that work that way) is a bannable offense. I wouldn't go that far, but I would like to discourage reposts.

Since it was the first "front line" report on the extent of pipeline damage and, by inference, the expected delay in bringing the GoM back on-line fully, I thought that it was important enough to repost.

The earlier post was at 10 PM and few see those DB posts. I clearly stated that it was a repost, no deception was attempted.

Next time I will delay putting important (IMHO) information up so that I can get a larger audience later.


Dear Leanan, Greg, et al,

Thanks for your moderation, Leanan. I'd second Greg's suggestion (another 2 cents), and echo Alan in that the time-zone and time makes a difference.

It seems like posters are more tending to take up topics on a new day, rather than look at previous day's DBs.

(People complain? :)). (This doesn't sound like the TOD way!)

It seems like posters are more tending to take up topics on a new day, rather than look at previous day's DBs.

If so, why not wait? I don't think it's too much to ask - that people give some thought to when and where to post something.

And it's not like the subject won't arise again naturally. Gail has a new infrastructure thread up.

I thought that timeliness was an issue. A number of lurkers of TOD use information here for a variety of purposes, some with significant economic impact.

Some would read the 10 PM posting and I wanted to get it out to them ASAP (Gustav + Ike = Katrina + Rita in pipeline damage is significant info IMO) and catch more readers on next day's TOD.

Rarely are double posts clearly warranted. This was one of those cases.


Everyone always thinks their own posts are worth posting again.

The MSM had articles saying the same thing on Friday. Your confirmation was interesting, but hardly earth-shattering.

Here's an alternate bailout package

Bank of China says it is open to buying Wall Street banks

Bank of China, the country's oldest financial institution, said it's opened to the possibility of investing in Wall Street firms, as the U.S. financial crisis takes hold and banks seek buyers and protection from bankruptcy .

Perhaps a foreseeable development with a sovereign downgrade for all debt US in the wind.

Ha!! more back door socialism!!(I refer to the phrase used in relation to the bailout)

Well, bailout is not quite as obnoxious as in its original incarnation. Limits on golden parachutes, the government gets some equity for its cash, taxpayers to get some money refunded if they lose money on the deal.

But I have a feeling this won't work. As Denninger says, the problem is lack of trust, not lack of money.

It seems you're not alone.

Asian Central Banks Cut Rates to Counter Impact of U.S. Crisis

It seems that Asia bankers are looking at the possibility of cutting out the middle men. (Hank and Ben) With the bailout/rescue the debt limit is raised to 11.1 trillion.

"May you live in interesting times"

Whatever the term, I see no possibility that this "bailout" does anything other than buy us time. Credit card delinquencies, car loan defaults and energy prices, all combined, will make this seem meaningless in just a few months - specifically by the Inaugration.

I would be interested in seeing what impact others think the brief benefits of the bailout will have on the price of oil.

With all of the press CHK is getting, I would expect to see the price of natural gas drop pretty quickly, and totally unrelated to the bailout. If financing is to be so hard to get, I would anticipate that the dream anyone has of building either coal or nuclear power plants will be at the least delayed by the financing nightmares, even if regulatory hurdles could be cleared, which I hope that they won't. (Maybe we can come closer to "clean" coal by that time.)

I would expect to see the price of natural gas drop pretty quickly, and totally unrelated to the bailout

oh-oh I hope not cause we loaded our little liferaft with NG :-)

My sense is that with folks spending more time at home and with the investment lapse there will be a supply decline and demand for both heat and surge electrictrical will be pretty strong.

And I agree with you on the bailout and how little time it'll probably buy. A new 'cheap homes' market can't be good for the list of woes you mentioned.

If money is an abstraction of the stuff (matter) that is moved around (energy), for a large society (complexity), then the problem isn't about money.

The problem is not just the things we don't know, it's also what we know for certain that just ain't so, apologies to Mr. Clemens. Money is a map, an abstraction, and the exchange of goods between large numbers of people is the territory.

Most people believe the map is the territory. That money is the exchanging of things it represents.

The distrust arises because the problem is that the territory no longer matches the map, and most people think that there is something wrong with the territory, and that the map is still accurate.

Our money tool is breaking.

The capital structure is imploding. It's becoming a "free-for-all" - or better said, a "free-for-the chosen few." I think that we have entered a stage of "managed anarchy" in the capital markets.

Seems to me if we keep telling China what they can't buy with their Dollars they will just dump them.

Right now it looks like they will just try and out last us and wait until we are desperate enough to sell them our grandmother.

By hook or by crook they'll probably be able to force the outcome. Sorry grandma.

The real wmd (for usa) which the usa must be afraid of is the 1700+ billion dollars in cash reserves in china. If china start dumping them usa economy would crash within weeks if not days. China will not go to this extreme because it not yet threatened directly by usa and it is still in the process of construction of its infrastructure. Once the infrastructure is in place and chinese living standard raised to half as much as usa (GDP PPP) china may start muscling its arms in the region.

I have a feeling that japan and china consciously drowned the usa economy. Japan played its part by giving too much debt at low interest rate for too long to usa which resulted in over consumption in usa. China played its part by slowly closing usa's industries by flooding the market with its ultra cheap products. Arabs also played their part after the iraq war by taking out their investments in usa which is in trillions of dollars and invested it in dubai.

The last nail in the coffin of usa's economy is ofcourse the shifting of world to some non-dollar global money. Iran had already started selling its oil in euros and yen, others may follow.

First of all, China doesn't hold "dollars", they hold US Treasuries. Since Treasuries are not callable, they're stuck with them.

However, you mention they could just dump them. Assuming you're not talking about just flushing them down the toilet, who would be the buyer of 1.7T dollars of treasuries? Certainly not Pakistan. Before they were to have sold the first 100 Billion, they remaining 1.6T would now be worth about .8T These are not stupid people and they're not going to just throw away that kind of money.

This argument has never made any sense. The only option for any unhappy large owner of USTs is to hold them to maturity and not buy anymore. While this would not be good for interest rates, it hardly constitutes dumping.

As for nails in the US economic coffin, well, we'll see. I think again this is an ignorant argument as the US econony is part of the larger global ship, and as a Navy veteran, I can assure you that you cannot sink half a ship.

Jtee: Probably, but your argument is still illogical-both sides get hurt in any battle. China would definitely suffer by dumping treasuries so IMO it isn't happening anytime soon, but if they ever decide it is necessary the USA is going to hurt 20 times more than China. The USA has no ability to take care of itself re manufactured goods-eventually the market for Chinese made goods will be primarily domestic (Chinese) at which point the USA is very similar to Mexico in this regard.

I agree with you. Perhaps my post should have been shorter or longer. I'm reminded of the old addage, "If you owe the bank a million dollars, you're in trouble. If you owe the bank a billion dollars, they're in trouble".

My point is that neither country wants to suffer. It's not in China's self interest.

As far as the US not being able to manufactuer enough goods, I would argue that if people stopped gratifying themselves on useless stuff, then we have more than enough manufacturing capacity. I believe that if a product is desired, and cannot be produced in China, someone else will make it. Perhaps Mexico. Perhaps New Mexico. "I guess I don't really need it" just doesn't seem to be an accepted option.

Thank you for the discussion.

My point is that neither country wants to suffer. It's not in China's self interest.

The pursuit of power is a fairly universal desire among nations. Those that get big enough to exercise any power, will. Hell, here in Korea it's said in all seriousness that Korea is/will be the Hub of Asia economically and that someday the world will speak Korean.

Here we have China, already powerful and once the most developed, strongest nation on the planet, but they don't thirst for power? Of course they do. The US is soon to be a has-been as a super power. Who does that leave to fill the void? China or Russia, at present. Why wouldn't China take its shot? IMO, they already are by securing their energy sources while the US plays the role of Nero, fiddling away while the flames leap higher and higher.

Let us note that China has, from the Great (Bloody Graveyard) Wall to Tianenmen, demonstrated a very clear willingness to use their people as they see fit. That is, becoming desperately poorer in order to see the US become destitute, thus allowing China to usurp first position, seems not only within the realm of the possible, but maybe even edging towards likely.


There was someone who used to post here awhile back, who had an interesting analysis of this. He was in the finance industry, and had lived in China for awhile.

He said that China might very well dump all their treasuries. Yes, they would suffer. Yes, they know it. But they would be willing to do it anyway. They see it as the economic equivalent of nuclear war, but they would be willing to do it.

He argued that the various statements coming from China were in fact a warning. They are willing take some pain if the suffering is shared equally. But if the US attempts to inflate away the debt and leaves them holding the bag...they won't take that. He felt that they would be perfectly willing to sacrifice their middle class over this, and are in fact preparing for the social unrest that would result if it comes to that.

If China starts dumping US treasuries, the market essentially shuts down because there will no buyers. The US will then say that China has declared economic war and freeze those treasury bonds.

I think the best China can do is not buy anymore treasury bonds. They are stuck with what they own.

But if China were to "dump" their treasuries, it would tank the market price for treasuries, and other internationally traded US debt. That would effectively be the end of the US capacity to fund deficits via foreign borrowing. We would then be forced to cut our current account edficit instantaneously. While we need to do that anyway, I'd prefer we have to few years to make the necessary changes. An instant cutoff, would be a very hard landing.

The real wmd (for usa) which the usa must be afraid of is the 1700+ billion dollars in cash reserves in china.

$1.7T is the amount of US debt owned by all foreign nations, not just China. Japan is still the largest holder of US debt, although by an increasingly small margin. (It's possible they've been passed by China, as most of the debt attributed to the UK in that table actually represents holdings of financial companies for others, but in any case the amount of US debt that China holds is only about 1/3 of the total foreign amount, which is itself only about 20% of the total US federal debt.)

Once the infrastructure is in place and chinese living standard raised to half as much as usa (GDP PPP) china may start muscling its arms in the region.

Probably before, but that's still a ways in the future - China's PPP GDP per capita is about 11% of the USA's. All estimates I've seen suggest that the 50% mark will take decades to reach; keep in mind, the number of people in China's poor, rural regions is still half the population.

As for the oft-repeated but rarely-supported concerns about US manufacturing, keep in mind that the US is the world's largest manufacturer, and that its share of world manufacturing output is pretty much on par with its share of the world economy.

Buffett to Congress: Bail out economy or face 'meltdown'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Billionaire Warren Buffett told congressional negotiators that if they can't agree on a proposed financial bailout, the nation will face "its biggest financial meltdown in American history," two sources familiar with the talks said.

Yeah, but is this bailout actually going to do anything to help? I wish they'd stop and think about it for awhile.

A while, like about 120 days...

Buffett has a $5 billion conflict of interest in the passage of the bailout!

He has an interest for sure. However, I fail to see the conflict as he can't vote.

He is being quoted in the MSM and listened to by members of congress as if he is some objective observer interested in what is good for the USA-what a farce.

The guy gave 30 Billion to charity and supports the Estate tax. There must be someone else you can pick on? If he has an opinion, given his track record, it is worth listening to whether or not you ultimately believe it is correct.

Jamie Dimon negotiating with WaMu while simultaneously negotiating with FDIC to take over WaMu is a conflict of interest. Expressing an opinion, whether you benefit from it or not, is not a conflict. That was my only point.

Warren has gone on record saying that he is leaving very little of his huge fortune to his children. The Estate tax poses no threat to Buffett in any way. The guy is the largest shareholder in Moodys, one of the rating agencies propelling a lot of the blatant fraud that has led to this mess. That guy has conflicts of interest re this whole mess in spades http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/02/19/buffett-angers-rival-insu_n_873...

BrianT, you are a US resident right ?

You know something about
Warren Buffet, right ?

Well, then, who else would be
better ?

Actually, I think you're just whining !!

Not bad-you got 1 out of 4 correct.

Not bad-you got 1 out of 4 correct.

It's the fourth one, right?

His kids don't need his money, they're substantially well off on their own.

OK, BrianT I'll play ...

I'm a US resident who has lived most of 30 years in Nebraska, some in Omaha. I have read much about WB – but I have also driven through his neighborhood and seen where he lives. My limited firsthand experience is consistent with the good things I've read.

So here's my take. WB is a capitalist of the first degree. Most capitalists at the level WB operates are less than humane, IMVHO. Any other way I can think of parsing this situation ends up still with a vote of confidence in WB, and not anyone else.

Disclosure: I am not an investor in B-H or have any money in any way invested in any relationship regarding WB. In fact, I'm not even much of a capitalist ! ;)

He can't vote, but he has tremendous influence over lawmakers every time he opens his mouth.

only $5B? according to Denninger, it could be far more.

Or to be more precise, "is this bailout actually going to do anything to help the average taxpayer?"

I think it will help larger finance businesses, and it will help Buffett. It may even help the 5% of homeowners who risk imminent default.

I fail to see how it will help the rest of us over the long term, except for maybe the stricter regulations and oversight aspects. Those barn doors have been swinging in the wind for years, but better way to late than never I suppose.

If the DOW financials go way up, and next month foreclosures are up, we'll know it's failing. If the DOW goes down but mortgages stabilize, maybe it's helping.

It REALLY bugs me that they talk about rate reduction and principal forgiveness for FMC and FRM mortgages. As my daughter used to say when she was about 5, "But what about ME?".

Right on - is it going to help average taxpayers ?

That's the relevant question but I'd say no way - this is yet another attempt at desperately trying to prove that "trickle down" actually works...

No matter how many years it has to be proven as a complete joke they keep trying to bring it out as a new re-tread in some form.

This might just be the latest, greatest attempt.

And yet again it will be proven to be fundamentally flawed...

The only "trickle down" that has ever been seen to work is the rich pi$$ing on those below.

Didn't he just invest $5 billion in Goldman? Hmmmm. He wouldn't try to persuade congress to hurry if he had a vested interest in a $700 billion safety net, would he?

Always follow the money.

You know I have always been a pretty laid back guy. But lately I have an itch to sharpen my pitchfork. Enough is getting to be enough with this crap.

On the topic of "will it do anything to help", I think the answer is "yes". It will give a brief bounce to financial stocks (still closed to shorting), allowing the insiders to dump their shares before they seek their true value: zero.

It's a little game called "pump and dump".

Billionaire Warren Buffett told congressional negotiators that if they can't agree on a proposed financial bailout, the nation will face "its biggest financial meltdown in American history,"

So, the second richest man in America is reduced to rhetoric. No facts to support his position. Just more of "the sky is falling." Any politician who can't talk intelligently about what the money is needed for is guilty of the same rhetoric as Warren Buffet. No shocker there:(

We hear scary projections such as some employees will not get paid because businesses can't borrow money. A company who has to try and borrow money to meet payroll is a week away from bankruptcy. No bank in their right mind would loan a business money to meet payroll.

We won't be able to borrow money to buy cars or houses for a while. That's an emergency requiring part of $700 billion dollars? I don't think so.

The stock market will crash? No, financial companies with devalued assets will crash. Why would we want poorly run banks and financial companies to survive? Other companies will see a temporary drop in their stock price. The key word here is temporary.

The bailout will "loosen" up the credit markets. Would someone please get the word out that tight credit markets simply means higher interest rates and higher credit standards for borrowers. This requires 700 billion dollars?

The latest bailout plan uses a shotgun approach. Money can be thrown at any problem as the treasury sees fit. You can be assured plenty of shotgun pellets will hit targets that should not be given a dime.

I do believe there is a need for some investment in the economy, just not $700 billion dollars, and every dollar should be spent to solve a problem that can be measured and the result of that spending evaluated.

What bothers me the most is the timing. This is the perfect time, politically, to do this. Immediately after the bailout is passed the focus will be on the election. There will be dozens of books written about this bailout in the coming years. It will be painfully obvious in retrospect just how badly the public was fleeced.

We are being screwed twice. First, by the companies that got us into this mess. Second, by the politicians who "fixed" it.

This bailout is scary. It shows how unprepared we are to deal with reality. I'm afraid I'm going to have to join the ranks of the doomers.

PS. McCain just gave a short speech on energy and global warming. Yup, I'm now a doomer.


The Doomer Introduction and Welcome Lunch is usually held on the second Wednesday of the month. A packet of information will be mailed in 2-4 weeks.

Doomer in Good Standing

To be fair to Buffet, this what the media is reporting from closed testimony to congresscritters over the phone. There's not enough info to know if that's just the juicy headline or that is all he said.

IMHO, the bailout serves one purpose regardless of its eventual efficacy. For those who have not yet bailed out of the stock market or the commercial bond markets, this is their chance. Wait a couple of days and then get totally into cash or treasuries. Otherwise, I don't think we have a long term solution here. They will be back next term for more money.

As I recall, Henry Paulson said the "economic stimulus package" would create 1/2 million new jobs by fall, we have lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 650k jobs so far this year. Why should we believe this man's projections?

I don't think his projection was too far off...

We'll have 1/2 million more gov't employees trying to make sense of the hopelessly complicated mortgage "assets" we now own.

His timing may have been a bit off - he probably should have said "winter".

MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co, a unit of US billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc, said it would pay $230 million for a 10 percent stake in Chinese rechargeable battery firm BYD Co Ltd to support its 'green' technologies.
I personally agree with the view that there is no technical way to replace our fossilized sunshine energy but it seems to me battery technology is one of the techno areas that should get a lot of research and development. In the long run it might give our grand kids a good alternative to the ICE for industrial, public transit and agricultural applications. It won't, however, replace a billion ICE powered personal toys that presently allow us to roam at will. It isnt clear from this article that this particular investment will lead to significant research and development but that seems to be its intention (as well as making a profit for WB).

The Chinese stock market has lost nearly 60% of its value in the past 12 months. That is a 1929 type stock market crash. We had a similar sell off in the tech stock NASDAQ speculation peaking in in the first quarter of 2000, the Y2K boom-bust.

The Chinese who emptied their bank accounts to play the stock market are amongst the losers.

The Banking Crisis Explained - Really

>>>Analogies are never perfect, but here's one using horse racing. Don't expect a perfect correspondence to the banking situation, but I think it is close enough for government work. Joe goes to the track and bets $2 on a horse<<<


This is just playing with meaning of words: gambling versus "investing".

Is there no distinction between someone who spends funds in caring, feeding & training a horse in hopes of winning trophies & prize money and someone who bets funds on the outcome of a particular race?

Are both investors? Are both gamblers?

It doesn't matter. Both are part of a luxury economy, and the guy who trains the horse for cattle and fence work will be ahead of both, on average.

And by concentrating the efforts of so many horse breeders on winning races, the horse racing industry makes life harder for people who actually use horses for work. racehorses are too brittle boned for work.

Is there no distinction? ... Are both investors? Are both gamblers?


I think you score a point by questioning the right of a person to use money for substanceless transactions (or effects of such use):

(1) Joe Sixpack pays the carpenter to fix his kitchen cabinets and the carpenter uses the money to buy organic health food at the local Mom & Pop grocery.

(2) Joe Sixpack places a bet at the local horse track and gets a bet receipt in return.

(3) Unbeknown to Joe, Jill Winesipper bets on whether Joe will be holding the receipt stub in his left hand or his right hand as the horses cross the finish line.

As for #3, Jill is sending no message into the economy as to how the economy should change or continue its behavior because Joe doesn't know about her bet, the race track doesn't know, and the horse breeders don't know.

As for #2, Joe's behavior encourages the race track owners to keep the race track open and encourages horse breeders to "invest" in race horse procreation (to keep producing race horses). So by placing his bet, Joe is sending certain "messages" into the economy about how it should behave.

As for #1, Joe's behavior encourages the carpenter to keep carpenting, The carpenter's action encourages the health food store to keep producing health food. The end result of these activities is increased "wealth" because Joe's kitchen is improved and the carpenter's health is improved.

The question really is not about whether we should call one activity "investing" and the other "gambling". The question is about what kinds of hidden messages are distributed into the economy over time by the exchanges of money in each instance. Is Jill destroying the time value of money? Is her behavior unethical for that reason, namely, that the money could have been put to better use in that time interval?

>>>The question really is not about whether we should call one activity "investing" and the other "gambling". The question is about what kinds of hidden messages are distributed into the economy over time by the exchanges of money in each instance.<<<

I take your point and largely agree, but I think your position is mostly a nihilistic one. People have sincere intentions regardless of there ultimate consequences.

"Mass Starvation is on the horizon for Zimbabwe"


Wasn't Zimbabwe the first nation essentially to run completely out of oil in 2005? Now the chickens are coming home to roost - yet another canary in the die-off coal mine.

Hello PhilRelig,

Sad to see Overshoot Decline gaining further momentum in Zim. My hope is that they will make some effort to make it an Optimal Overshoot Decline...Time will tell. My guess is Haiti, down in the Carribean, will be our first North American victim:

...Aid to rebuild Haiti has not poured in as many had hoped. The U.N. has only received 3.4 percent of its $108 million appeal for relief after the storms, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
The Grim Reaper swings away...and gets ever stronger every day. Sadly, He is immune to a personal ERoEI calculation.

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

The problem is that its very easy for the affluent and the comfortable not even to notice a die-off - for the exact reason that it DOESN'T unfold right in front of their nose. This is a big problem in getting people I know and am close to to appreciate the seriousness of the situation they're in: As long as they are not personally affected, there is effectively no problem for them.

Hello PhilRelig,

PROPOSAL: import, then bury all unfortunately dead under-five-year old children on our golf courses until the TopDogs acknowledge Malthus, Peak Everything, etc.

Roughly 50,000/day and increasing. Recall that during the early 1800s the British Isles dead-headed directly to their seaports 3.5 million immigrants/year for O-NPK enrichment. We might as well get a jumpstart...


If the golfers have to wait while the graveyard diggers play thru first and/or constantly--> too bad, make 'em read Dieoff.com.

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

The problem is that its very easy for the affluent and the comfortable not even to notice a die-off

Actually it means that they will have their choice of peasant girls offered up for sale to the highest bidder.

Hello Enemy of State,

Good point, and it has a much longer history than the short history of the US:

Book Review: White Gold by Giles Milton

The first was the cost of slaves. While it is tough to estimate the price of slaves based upon local costs, I can do the mark to market based upon the price of slaves which the British government paid at that time. In 1646, the cost of a white Christian slave (let’s not mention the black slaves here) was averaging £38 per slave. That’s male slaves, mind you. Female slaves were brood mares, of course, and their redemption costs in 1646 ranged from £800 to £1392...

Considering that wealthy London merchants would hardly earn £40 per year, which was a gigantic sum of money for that time. In today’s terms, a very conservative solely inflation adjusted value would be £4,930 for the male slaves and £104,000-£180,600 for the female slaves. The average annual wage today is about £26,000. So you could perhaps get the male slave, but you will think twice about purchasing a female slave. Quite a turnaround, eh? Now, women are paid less than men, but back then, if you were a female slave, you would be worth 38 times that of men.

..It is a brilliant conveyor belt of money, resources, sex and theological brownie points. If it did not rely on slavery and some very weird thinking, I would admire the sheer economic brilliance of it. And think about it, this system lasted for more than 300 years, longer than the United States of America’s history.

Eventually, 'sustainable' (forgive the buzzword) economic growth has to be close to zero. I've been wondering for some time now whether capitalistic market models allow zero growth. Considering the time value of money in contemporary capitalism, a zero growth economy would have problems with paying off loans.


Mike Hearn's Interesting Economics is worth a read, if you haven't seen it.

It would be a lot tougher, but I don't see why capitalist economics can't work in a falling economy, as some areas will always be growing, just as in a rising economy money can be lost:
I would argue that for the right project finance would still be available - I will re-post a reply I made to Gail, when she was seeking to argue that debt only makes sense in a growing economy:

If you have capital and are living in a world with negative growth, then holding onto it and not seeking to invest implies a stable store of money.
Fiat currency is unlikely to have this quality in this sort of world-wide condition - Japan was a special, not a general case, and monies from there could be invested abroad, albeit at a low effective rate of interest.
The investment problem then becomes one of minimising your losses year on year, rather than making money.
Someone still gets to hold the biggest pile of chips, even if the pot is smaller.
Perhaps it is even possible to argue that the reason for the lack of investment in infrastructure such as energy production, distribution and transport is due to the artificially high return rates available from asset bubbles in real estate and finance, certainly this underinvestment has been most pronounced in the bubble economies.
According to this line of thinking the collapse of those bubbles would perhaps result in more of the admittedly reduced resources available for investment going towards real productive assets.
About the only other places they can put their money is into agricultural land and commodities - and rising oil prices would increase the return on other energy investments.
BTW, there have been times when the economy was contracting, seemingly without destroying the pattern of lending at interest, although precise figures are difficult to come by as the economy was less sophisticated.
14th century Europe springs to mind, after the Black Death, when falling population his the economy hard.
It should be noted though that in England, for instance, they rapidly switched to a less labour intensive economy based on sheep.
When put to their shifts people are pretty inventive in keeping things going, regardless of theoretical concerns over resource limits.

As a society, we have borrowed from the past through oil consumption. We have borrowed from the future through debt obligations. We have borrowed from the world through trade imbalances. There is nothing left to borrow.

I fear that posterity will view the American generations since WWII, and Baby Boomers most of all, as beneficent despots, benightedly unaware and blindingly selfish looters of the planet, who wasted 10,000 years worth of energy in a few short decades.

We are highly motivated idiot-savants, unfettered in our exhuberance, powerful in technology, and ignorant in vision.

Despite the moral nature of debt payback, I don't think it's really a question of whether we meet our obligations to ourselves or to others, but when we elect to let each fail. Once there is no more to borrow, the world becomes a zero sum game but with a negative overall trend.

I think it will become a game of last man standing, and those without resources will be the first to fall. Economies will probably crumble first, then starvation will set in. Will poorer countries in Africa be first?

I fear that posterity will view the American generations since WWII, and Baby Boomers most of all, as beneficent despots, benightedly unaware and blindingly selfish looters of the planet, who wasted 10,000 years worth of energy in a few short decades.

Periodically I hear on this blog the argument that Baby Boomers are to blame for the waste of energy. I find this assertion somewhat amusing and basically nothing more than a temper tantrum. I mean, you could blame your mother for your birth, but what good would that do? We see/need food; we kill it and eat it. In the process, we use whatever energy is available to achieve that end. Sure, since the late 1890's we've used oil as a source of energy and we have pretty much used it up. But so what! It would have been irrational for humans to have left the oil alone, once discovered and once technology allowed its use as a primary energy source. It's human nature to use the easiest and cheapest source of energy for survival and oil has fit the bill for the past 100 or so years.

You say that we have been "ignorant in vision," but again that is nothing more than an attack on human nature. "Vision" generally does not lead to collective action until a crisis obligates collective change. That is not ignorance, it just is. So we may individually, or as small groups, decry the use of oil as energy (and I do), do not expect collective action until scarcity obligates the coming together to save the species by taking another course of action. And, it does no good to blame anyone, or any generation, for the natural actions of the species. Instead, let's work toward a solution so that when the time comes that collective action is required to "save" humanity, we are prepared to implement that collective course of action to maximize our survival.

"And, it does no good to blame anyone, or any generation, for the natural actions of the species."

Said the lemming to the one standing next to him as they step off the cliff...

I was born in 1955. Not sure if that makes me a "baby boomer"? But I, and many of my contemporaries, have spent our entire adult lives trying to call attention to and mitigate against environmental catastrophe, population explosion, energy crises, etc.

I never invested in any of the bubbling crap, and I am broke trying to live a right livelihood. It pisses me off to a high degree when people just lay down a blanket "it's the baby boomers fault" rap.

I admit I was painting with a broad brush, and certainly meant no individual slight, as I include myself in the group. I suspect that all of us can look at this in two ways -- that we were blessed to live in the most energy-rich period in history, and that we're going to live through the biggest down-turn in history.

Certainly many have been the voice of reason as you state, but more have taken what was available without much thought beyond getting the kids off to school in the morning and making the mortgage payment on Friday. Certainly I myself spent 15 years in a day-to-day family grind, and very happily so, and really it's only my innate desire to provide for and protect my family that has awakened me. I've been less consumptive than some, thanks largely to my family upbringing, but far less prudent than I could have and should have been.

Much or most is just human nature -- perhaps the macro scenario has always been inevitable, and we're just along for the ride?

...and an interesting ride it shall be! Feels like a roller coaster reaching the top with a fairly steep downhill ride coming up. Let's hope we get though it in one piece. :)

1946-1964 or thereabouts.

Aside: I've often wondered why nobody has ever tried to determine who the last Baby Boomer(s) is/are. Nothing but a factoid, but a really cool one. I'm probably in something like the 99th percentile, myself.


I don't have a link, but I read somewhere years ago that the "peak" year for the number of births in the US was in 1957 either in numerical terms or on a per capita basis.

The Myth of the Oil Crisis: Overcoming the Challenges of Depletion, Geopolitics, and Global Warming

I saw the above book today in a bookshop but decided not buy it until seeing the general mood of the reviews on Amazon. Unfortunately, there are too few as its a very new book. Has anyone reviewed this book or has views on the arguments or knowledge of the author?

I know nothing of the book, but this statement says it all for me:
while promising no easy fixes, he is yet hopeful: "gloomy predictions do not resemble the real world and take no account of human integrity."

"Gloomy" is not a very good measure of relative reality, and human integrity has little to do with geology.

Even in the teaser it say conventional supplies "may have" been underestimated (or overestimated, one might also argue?), and unconventional supplies are "vast" (and composed primarily of unobtanium, given current technology?).

The reviewers who applaud it are both on the hopeful side of BAU.

I imagine there is nothing new in it, but I'm feeling cynical today.

No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up. - Lily Tomlin

Here's a review by Steven Martinovich

Here's an audio review with the author Robin Mills

Here's the author's ad for his book

and his email address

I haven't read the book but it appears that the author Mills is relying upon technology and the oil resources contained in shale oil, tar sands and heavy oil. The author does not seem to be using project basis to support his statements. Consequently, the author's forecasts are based upon faulty logic.

Hello everyone.

I don't contribute to ToD but I do take the time to read through everything posted here. I've been closely reading posts regarding ERoEI with reference to possible economic demise. I don't understand a couple of things and would like some clarification, if possible.

I'll begin by quoting WisdomFromPakistan:


When net energy available for society decrease economic activities decrease which result in contraction of economy. This means the growth that was providing the interests on debts is no longer available. Now the business have to actually cut their working capital to pay the interests. Ofcourse cut in working capital result in less goods and services produced by economy that compound the contraction of economy.

To begin with, I totally agreed but after talking this over with a friend, I decided that a net energy decrease will not necessarily result in economic decline that will spell the end of the world as we know it.

There are many businesses throughout the world that don't use or produce much energy/work/goods yet they are still very profitable and I beleive they will continue to be despite net energy declines. Take professional services firms for instance; PwC, Deloitte, et. al. They don't use much energy and could possibly run their business with very low energy costs if they had to. They add worth to the economy through auditing firms and identifying areas for improvement, thus increasing efficiency.

Basically, after discussing this with my friend, we agreed that money was never really used as a definitive measure of a unit of energy or 'work done' and never will be. This is shown by the fact that people are willing pay a lot of money for Art or spend significant time building religious shrines etc..

I agree we have a big problem on our hands with reference to interest-based debt banking but I think it is perhaps incorrect to assume declining net energy available for society will be the end of the world as we know it and furthermore, it is also incorrect to assume that net energy available will not actually rise in the future. Yes, it is a long shot but it can be done, especially if we consider a specific country, area of the world or community.

Thanks for your time and feel free to tell me I'm talking rubbish - I want to understand this issue.

Incidentally, Mike Hearn is the friend I was talking to. He has written a couple of articles for ToD in the past concerning alternative currencies.

The problem is that the reason all these low-energy service firms are able to exist and be profitable is because of cheap production of fundamentals--like cheap food, based on cheap energy.

Once you no longer have cheap energy, there's less free money floating around in the world to be spent on non-essentials. That's why Starbucks is suffering, and why their advertising agency will be suffering, and their accounting firm, and their cleaning services, etc.

If you look at the types of business that existed before cheap energy, vs. after cheap energy, you'll have a better idea of the kinds of businesses that will be profitable in years to come.


I like your suggested thought process here. What winners/losers would you pick? Here are a few that jump out at me:

1. Increase in energy production/extraction industry and related services
- oil/gas
- wind/solar
- nuke
- batteries
2. Increase in energy conservation industry and related services
- home energy conservation
- 'green' building design
3. Decrease in non-essential, high energy use industries
- tourism
4. Transportation shift to more efficient modes
- transit
- rail

My gut tells me that farming should be a winner, but I suspect my intuition fails me on this.

Agreed. We will not have a growth economy based on selling each other insurance.

There are a lot of hidden energy costs of even "low-energy" businesses. The energy it takes to support the businesses that support them. The energy it takes to manufacture their computers and other equipment.

Perhaps most importantly...the "overhead" it costs society just to support "experts." The education system that produces them, the teachers and administrators of that education system, etc. It wasn't so long ago that many Americans dropped out of school before graduating, because they had to help out on the farm or go to work to help support their families.

This is something Tainter discusses at length - basically, how energy-intensive it is to maintain experts. I think we're already seeing the strain. People on the lowest rung of the economic ladder are struggling to send their kids even to "free" public school. Even the middle class is finding college unaffordable (and often not worth the expense).

It's got to be a pyramid -- there is value in having many workers, some experts and planners, and a few researchers and trainers, and certainly it should remain a priority to maintain knowledge in technical matters and so forth.

I do not doubt that many "expert" fields will collapse, and probably some will persist (say, tax accounting and property law) while others that are closely related (personal investment advising and intellectual property law) will largely disappear.

I think there could actually be a resurgence in semi-skilled work, including all forms of technical trades that have gone overseas. I hope that some of the next-rung-up work, such as development engineering and production optimization, will persist well also. Beyond that, I suspect raw research and non-tactical R&D will be drastically cut, and a lot of ivory-tower and mid-manager sorts will have to change careers, and the college-bound will revert to the more privileged few.

On the plus side, there should be a solid need for older people who know how to run machine shops and factories who got squeezed out of the workplace during the 80's and 90's but still have practical knowledge in their heads to share.

Good Evening Moe,

Thanks for your reply which describes the situation very clearly.

To be honest, in my mind, I already knew what you have written in some form or another, however I didn't want to believe it for some reason. The irony is that I've been trying to convince my family and friends that peak oil will bring awful consequences if we continue with BAU. I've tried to convince my Dad to sell the house, move into the country-side and diversify his investment portfolio. My efforts have been unsuccessful because he thinks I'm talking rubbish / doom mongering.

This is my problem; I talk to so many people that are closed minded that I'm forced to constantly re-evaluate my stance on peak oil.

Furthermore, I've recently graduated and just returned home from living in China for a year. I'm looking for a 'graduate career' however my options are somewhat limited, espically given what I know about peak oil. I could either:

- Return to China and continue learning Chinese.
- Get a private sector job in the UK (IT, admin, proj. management, prof. services, banking).
- Go for the public sector (I've concentrated my efforts in this area).
- Go to Sandhurst.

... but to be honest with you. I don't really know what to do with myself. I graduated in computer science, hate anything to do with software engineering and am struggling to find a career which has a future AND interests me.

So, giving a rough estimate, how long do we have before the TSHTF? What can someone in my position do about it?

Get thee back to China. Its influence on world affairs will likely be growing. Fluency would be a great investment. Also, the Chinese economy is going to teeter along longer than the UK's.

Go teach English and learn Chinese. Start spreading your fingers into other things, create an opportunity for yourself.


Hi, Roj.

For the vast majority of people, the best thing to do is quickly move into the "need to have" economy. Much of our economy is in the "nice to have" category and will soon go away.

One way to think of need to have is to make, repair or grow something, although there will be a small set of service jobs outside the repair category that will be valuable, like energy efficiency auditor, for instance.

Personally, my plan is to be ready for 2010.



You and your friend are absolutely right that many businesses do not use much energy and thus are not so energy sensitive especially if they are high profit. However there are many that are highly sensitive to energy pricing. Transportation is one. After the initial expense of buying a truck, most of the operation expense is energy costs. Since transportation is sensitive, then the cost of food is sensitive because food must be hauled from production area to consumption area. A mechanized farm is very energy sensitive. Like the truck, after a tractor is purchased, the prime cost of operation is energy. The electrical power grid is very sensitive the same as a truck or tractor. When you examine each and every business in your country, you find that many of the critical ones are very sensitive to energy cost. Sometimes, one may switch from one form of energy to another, like electrifying trains that used to run of diesel. This may lessen the impact but does not eliminate it. Most types of office jobs are not very energy sensitive but people have to eat, go to and from the office and use electricity, computers and heating and air conditioning. I believe that is why it is said that the price of energy directly effects the economy.

I hope this helps understand the equation of energy = economy.

Thank-you for your response Lynford.

Once explained clearly, this is such a fundementally simple issue. What I find hard to believe is, why isn't anyone doing anything about it? Either the general consensus is that ERoEI decline will not be an issue or we will diversify our energy needs and facilitate efficincy through technology advances. I do believe that either is possible, though unlikely.

When I lived in China, the local city people demonstrated to me that it is possible to live a life, albeit a poor one, with very low energy usage. Operating pedal-powered rickshaws, growing organic fruit and vegetables, delivered by means of human-powered transport. Perhaps this is what the future holds, though I imagine when everybody realises this is their destiny, attepts will be made to mitigate the causes of an impoverished future.

There are many businesses throughout the world that don't use ... much energy [and] yet they are still very profitable ... Take professional services firms for instance; PwC, Deloitte, et. al. They don't use much energy ...

Don't use much energy, eh?

1) How did all those white collar employees get to the office from their suburban homes?
2) What keeps the air conditioning working in the building so they don't get too hot under the collar as the markets tank?
3) How many dry cleaning establishments are there cranking every day to keep those white shirts squeaky white?
4) How does the office building get cleaned night after night by the invisible work force of "illegals"?
5) What is keeping all those data storing banks of hard drive disks spinning day in and day out to support the "white collar" enterprise from remote, and thus unseen locations?

Out of sight, out of mind.
Not much energy. Right.

so they don't get too hot under the collar as the markets tank

Oops, I didn't intend to be a soothsayer this morning of the "29th".

Where did all out gas go? We have rising food prices, major wheat shortages, declining drinkable water, wanting to cut school days by 20%. What on earth is really happening? Is this not the tell tale signs of a recession to come? I found it ironic that Russia’s currency reserve has risen to $700B. hmm ring a bell? Bailout sound familiar? Perhaps we should ask Russia for a loan to help stabilize our economy. HA. The tables have turned for the US, and once great empire appears to have fallen to her knees. When and IF we make a comeback on the world scale as a “super power” we will have many stories to tell, and endless experiences to share with our youth. Further Reading

Hawaii has a geothermal potential of ~1.3 GW according to an old DOE report. Wind maps suggest that report Hawaii has at least 1 GW of offshore wind and hundreds of MW onshore.
There's a large tidal potential and solar as well.


Current electrical demand is 2.5 GW running up about 1000 GWh a year almost all from petroleum.

They import 52 million barrels of oil per year.
In the 1960s Hawaii produced up to 12 million tons of sugar cane per year but today its only 1.6 million tons.

It's unlikely Hawaii can do much to ween itself off oil.

If it cannot change, will it not become another Haiti, at least the main islands?

Why can it not use nuclear, sugar cane, wind, geothermal, and waves, as you note? Isn't it more a question of investment than technology?

I imagine, though, that there will be little investment once tourism slows, and many people will simply leave.

Hello TODers,

I just recently printed out a warning label, then applied it to my gastank--> you may wish to do the same, then spread the word to others; to promote the viral dispersion until even potential gas-thieves become aware of what follows in my next 'Wild & Crazy' idea.

I forget the TODer who wrote in an earlier thread about tossing a match under the vehicle where a thief has punctured the fueltank, then is stealing the gasoline, but full credit to him/her for my next brainstorm [brainfart?].

I am not an engineer, but I am sure there is a TODer, much more brilliant and skilled than me, that could invent the following, patent it, then make bigbuck$ [Please be generous and send me a 10% check for a portion of your million$]:

Place above the fueltank a piezo-electric sparker [like what is found in many modern natgas stoves], that has a feedback circuit that senses off the fuel gauge that the tank level is dropping + but the engine is not running. Then, the thief, immersed in a bath of fumes under the vehicle gets quite a 'warm welcome' surprise.

If prior and/or future vehicle design places this sparker and associated mini-power source above the tank in such a way that the thief must first remove/unbolt the entire gastank-- he will choose an easier target versus risk being burned alive. By having a separate power source for the sparker: it prevents the thief from just quickly disconnecting the main car battery or cutting the power wires that run back to the top of the fuel tank, then stealing the fuel.

Of course, as noted above in my intro paragraph, it would be only fair to give the thief some prior warning: the fuel tank would have a label applied warning of the sparker. IF he fails to read it and heed its dire implications, well, then it is his choice to accept his Darwin Award.

For diesel vehicles [diesel is harder to ignite]: the sparker would set off a small supply of stored gasoline, white phosphorus, napalm, explosive; whatever is most cost effective and reliable as the environment under a vehicle will tend to coat the sparker setup with dust and mud over time.

The cool thing about this idea is that every vehicle does not need this actual setup: it can be randomly installed in just a few vehicles because once just a few thieves get torched-->the underneath practice of puncturing fuel tanks or cutting the fuel line quickly stops. Just applying the label will send the thief elsewhere. A similar sparker + explosive setup could also be randomly installed in hybrids and all-electric vehicles. Parked farm and construction equipment, which is often targeted by thieves, could also benefit from this device.

Some more engineering considerations for you TOD inventors:

1. In the course of regular vehicle maintenance: fuel filters need changing--> so this sparker must not detonate when the mechanic is under your vehicle and he leaks some fuel during this filter change-out process.

2. My guess is the sparker would also need some kind of accident sensing disable circuitry. It will not thrill parents very much: if a school bus full of kids gets hit by another vehicle, then instantly ignites into a fireball due to a broken gasline tripping the sparker.

I would think the Ins. Companies and/or vehicle Mfgs. would easily fund the researcher with the best potential invention as it could potentially save billion$ in claims to replace fuel tanks, plus free the police much time to pursue other criminals.

Thxs for any feedback pro or con, and don't forget to print out your own label and spread the word to others.

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

This is how I would like the official factory applied fuel tank label to start off:

"Hey Punk--Do you feel lucky?"

Appealing though it may be, it is my understanding that any sort of booby-trap is against the law.

Probably the best you could hope for, and this would have value as well, is to use the tank monitor to trigger a typical alarm system.

I am not sure that the tank sensor is "on" except when the car is running, and the mechanism varies by make and model, so you'd have to adapt for that.

In normal usage, gas goes down very slowly, so it probably doesn't matter whether the car is running or not -- if the rate is excessive, alert!

Hello Paleocon,

Thxs for responding with good points/ideas. My guess is there are plenty of 'lurking' engineers from the various vehicle, farm, and construction manufacturers, plus others 'lurking' engineers from the American Petroleum Institute that read TOD: they are probably now racing to come up with their own best solution to this problem as it could be quite the postPeak sales/marketing clincher.

Potential Advertising Campaign: Buy a Chevrolet--> never worry about having your fuel stolen again.

Potential Insurance Company Advertising: 10% Discount for fuel-proof ICE vehicle owners and/or Batt-proof electric vehicle owners!

Vigilante justice is ilegal in US.
Even if the cops and judge approve of your action the LAW says you would go to jail if your booby trap caused 1st degree or worse burns. Additionally you would be sued by the criminal AND the criminal would win.

Here is an asinine story; a criminal broke into a stores skylight three times to steal stuff. The owner was pissed so he put a booby trap under the skylight. Theif injured and caught...owner of store sued by thief and the thief got over $10,000!

Another booby trap; years ago an aquaintance called himself Mercedes. He loved Mercedes, but was too poor to buy one. He stole the hood ornemants from Mercedes; had a whole box of them (what stupidity IMO ) He stole the ornemant from one car three times...the third time the owner had hand filed all edges to razer sharpness. Mercedes had some cuts from that third time stealing the hoodd ornament;)

A booby trap that MIGHT be legal is to rig something like a taser/stun gun to your car (I think this was in a James Bond movie ) The reason this might be legal is the taser technology is not dangerous unless someone has a heart condition. In this case even if it were illegal the legal penalties would be trivial compared to a potentially crippling/lethal trap.

Two options that are reasonably cheap and not booby traps.
1. Install a heavy duty wire mesh in the intake to the gas tank. The mesh has to by innaccessible to the thief so this would be a bit of a hassle. This would stop hose based gas siphening.
2. Go to a metal shop and have them fabricate a 1/4 inch thick shield to completely cover the gas tank. My estimate is this would be about $500 dollars including installatiion. $500 dollars is still 125 gallons of fuel, but there are other issues re cost effectiveness. If you consider towing costs to mechanic, cost of gas tank, and cost to install gas tank...then add the cost of gas, $500 is not too bad. But really untill gas is over $8 dollars a gallon I think its not worth it. IMO due to ELM gas at $8/gallon will be in 2112 to 2116.

As I understand it, deadly "man traps" are likely to be illegal, such as a shotgun pointed to your doorway with a string connecting the trigger to the opening of the door. Using the fuel gage would likely require sending a signal thru the sensor, which uses the voltage drop across a variable resistance to indicate fuel level. The electric current required by that process would drain the car's battery after some period of time. If the car has an alarm, there would likely be some way to tie in a tank intrusion sensor to the other sensors used to trigger the alarm. Or, the tank could be armored with something like a Kevlar blanket to minimize the chance of success if someone tried puncturing it to obtain the fuel.

E. Swanson

As a non-lethal alternative: maybe they could use those exploding dye packs that tellers give bank robbers. I have no idea if these packs give off a spark [not good], or if they are just compressed air release [safe for the thief].

The question then becomes if you can buy new cars faster than nature can provide dumb thieves to steal the gas and trigger explosions?

What is that "cutting your nose" thing again?


Hello Francois,

Thxs for responding. I am beginning to think my dye/ink pack idea has great merit as a non-lethal solution. It could also protect the very expensive catalytic converter/muffler setup from theft. To protect the very expensive under-the-hood engine components: the owner or mechanic use a special key to disable the inkpack plus unlock the hood-lock mechanism, then they can safely lift the front hood.

I laughed when I saw my earlier posts downrated: my guess is those thinking of stealing gas and/or car parts down-rated me. LOL!

Years ago, I had my battery stolen. The worst part was the thief cut my batt-cables-->it was a lot of work crawling under the pickup replacing those. Another friend had his radio/tape deck stolen, but the thief busted his window, then took a crowbar to the dash to quickly get the item out. What a mess!

I still think someone can earn million$ off this brainstorm. Send me my 10% please! I saw a recent TV commercial for a film about the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper--his Mona Lisa moment!


You saw The Road Warrior, right? Don't you remember Max's V-8 Interceptor had a booby trap bomb on the gas tank? If not, see here.

So someone else thought of your idea way back in the 1980s. But, you're still the Ayatollah of Rock 'n Rolla as far as I'm concerned.

Hello Brother Kornhoer,

Thxs for the link, it was a long time ago when I last viewed Mel.

Speaking of wrecked vehicles and lives, I think we need to update our definition of Boneyard [from WIKI]:

Boneyard, a place for retired planes, automobiles, ships, etc. Commonly used since once an item arrives there, it will usually not leave intact, but will be cannibalized for parts until nothing but scrap metal remains.

I assume you read my upthread link on the baby boneyard buried in golf courses-->same could be done for NASCAR:
TV Announcer: the pack is now speeding down the Zimbabwe straightaway heading for turn one, the tight Haitian corner...

..Uh-oh, car #4 hit the wall in turn two, Hawaii, and is now headed for Nepal for repair.. [the name given to those children buried in pitrow]

..The leader is now floor-boarded down the Sri Lankan backstretch headed into the most dangerous left turn on the track. Look at him go through the Bangladesh, folks, what skill! Look at the grandstand crowd in the Pakistan Corner cheer him on as he comes thundering by...

Other ideas: say a Yacht Marina.
Here is your parking receipt, Sir, your Rolls-Royce will be parked in the Myanmar Graveyard by a valet. Your Hatteras Yacht is good to go at the Somalia Dock and if I may say it again, what a splendid 80 footer your craft is....

Airport Control Tower:
Flight #442, this is Chicago Control, you are now cleared to land on Runway Zambia as the snowplows have just left the area, then please taxi on Boneyard Phoenix to Terminal Four-All...
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Instead of igniting the vehicle, you could just have a device which injects syrup into the fuel.

Good thinking-->the thief wrecks his ICE!

You had better hope you device doesn't malfunction and inject syrup in your gas tank.

The warning label should read...


Also an additional label reading...


Initial losses of oil/refinery production rival losses from Katrina and Rita:


Corn and soybean harvests behind schedule in the upper MidWest after spring flooding delayed planting.

The harvsters in Ohio were having to set combines to very low settings to scoop the corn off the ground after it was flattened by Ike. The corn is too moist but might be dried in the silos.

I walked a fresh-cut cornfield earlier today in western Iowa and saw the same thing--very short stubble and a lot of ears on the ground. The landowner told me the guy farming it expects around 145 bushels per acre, vs. 170 last year on the same land. Still, they're making it work. Amber waves of corn & beans abound, and it's been a great harvest season so far weather-wise in these parts.

Things are still pretty good if there is nobody following along to scavenge the dropped ears.

A link to Zimbabwe (I think) earlier showed women and children picking for grain lost by trucks on the highway, and the rate of a pound of grain per day found. They'd be in heaven with field residue!

I hope my kids or grandkids don't need to do that someday.

Hello Cedar,

Looks like farmers are beginning to understand the dangers of my much discussed FF/I-NPK latency as it ripples through those amber waves of grain:

Fear in the fields as Iowa begins rich harvest

...but the real fear is about the harvest a year from now...
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

I see a link between housing costs and farming. When interest rates where lowered in the early part of this decade, the cost of building materials and all housing related products shot upward. The same is happening in the business of farming, one year of higher commodity prices has sent the cost of farm inputs rising rapidly. A vacuum is never a vacuum very long with profiteers ready to take up the slack. The cost of production for 2009 is thought to be about $7.50 for wheat and $5 to $6 for corn. Heaven forbid, the farmers actually making a decent profit for a change, can't have that, they must remain enslaved to the government farm program, control is everything.

Bob in Phx,

There is a lot to fear in that article. One of the farmers' chief fears, the Register article notes, is a crash in farmland value. Interestingly, around here gains in farmland prices have been supported even more by increases in land that has been developed as small residential acreage. In the western hills of Iowa within around 50 or so miles of Omaha, a lot of former farmland (thousands of acres) has been converted to residential land with houses plopped on them. The booming economy in Omaha and relatively cheap gas through early 2006 or so made such land attractive to those wanting to live in the country and commute to the city, and it wasn't uncommon to see small lots under 6 acres selling for 10, 20, or 30 thousand $$ per acre. This pushed up nearby farmland prices as well, as "potentially developable" land.

Recently these small acreages are not selling and the prices are beginning to drop, especially in less desireable or more distant locations. Undoubtedly farmland in the area will get dragged back down as well, especially if crop prices fall. And of course, the developed land is no longer farmable.

Want to develop 133 acres of rolling former farmland on a hardtop road 1/2 hour from downtown Omaha?


Cost of keeping horses.

To me this is a clear pointer to Post Peak decline in discretionary spending. I checked on a riding school yesterday and was told 15 horses had 'gone' ie ended up as pet food. A new scheme near here for irrigation and mini-hydro has stipulated less hoofed animals and more high value crops. One of those crops will be poppies for both medical opiates and oil for biodiesel.

World wide the hoofed animal herd should decline except maybe for hardy goats. To those who think they can live like the Amish and plow fields with horses just try doing it without external income. Soon industries like thoroughbred horse racing must show a sharp decline. That industry employs a lot of people and the turnover of equine rejects no doubt keeps down the price of dogfood. The Post Peak shakeout will change a lot of things we never expected.

Petfood? During the last energy crisis, people ate horsemeat. Yes, the animal rights people protested. But beef was wicked expensive, and with horsemeat costing half as much, many had no qualms about eating "Belmont Steaks."

I can't wait until my local Humane Society, ASPCA, and city dogpound animal shelters start advertising specials on Poodle Steaks, Labrador Retriever Chops, Kitty-Livers, etc. /rant off :(

Don't flame me-->I love animals!

On further thought there is another downside to the horse vs Peak Oil connection. A lot of demand for houses on small acre blocks on the urban/rural fringe was driven by horse owners. What seems to happen a lot is that 14 y.o. Miss Pony Club either falls off too often or discovers boys. The parents sell the gas guzzler used to tow the horse trailer but they can't sell the house and move in closer to work. However they are stuck with a 75 minute commute even if their jobs are safe. That combination of widespread job security and carefree lifestyle seems to have peaked in the late 20th century and will never come back.

In Vancouver till the eighties there was still a butcher shop selling horse meat and a local purveyor of rabbit used the advertising line "Make it a habit eat a rabbit". Bunny in a bun anyone?

The daily special at Zara's (my corner grocery store, 2.5 blocks away) 2 weeks ago was rabbit with gravy over rice and mixed vegies on the side.

Pretty good.

Rabbit and duck often appear on local menus.

Best Hopes for Diversity in meat (and food) sources,


In the mid 80's I raised rabbits and chickens for our table, on a one acre plot in a small town Nebraskan agricultural community. I did the outdoor work, the EX did the indoor work. I'd like to get back into that aspect, but my cooking skills will need a serious upgrade !

T Boone Pickens was the primary driving force (see $$) for a US law to prohibit the slaughter of horses in the USA. Massive surplus of unwanted horses has resulted. And no legal horsemeat in the next Great Depression II.

I am unsure if one can legally slaughter a horse you own for personal consumption.


I am unsure if one can legally slaughter a horse you own for personal consumption.

I think dressing out a 900-1300 lbs animal would be a challenge...elk are big but horses? But who would know anyway? Assuming you can keep your kids quiet. ;-)

I have always thought that the problem with eating horses is that there is no good name for the meat. Pigs are pork and cows are beef, but horses are just horsemeat. We need a good name; this is a "branding" failure(no pun intended). I thought "horck" but it is too derivative. I guess we could call it "(G.W.)Bush" meat.

Why not use "cheval", the French for both horse and horse-meat? From a marketing point of view it might be better to corrupt the spelling to "Shevalle" in order to get a closer-to-correct pronunciation.

Bon appetit!

Count me in as a Chevalier!

The prohibition is an emotionally driven one, of course. Just as I recoil at the idea of poshingtang (dogmeat stew), I'm sure there are many who recoil at eating horse. But here's the thing: what make one animal meat and another not? Emotion, pure and simple. Thus, a ban is beyond ridiculous.

The only restrictions I would be in favor of would have to do with the cruelty aspect. Free range Equine Steak? Why not. I've had horse, buffalo, elk, deer, snake, alligator, possum, turtle, rabbit, quail, all manner of raw fish, squid, octopus, shark... It shouldn't be a crime to be an omnivore. We are, after all, designed for it.

More importantly, if things get bad enough, it's going to become stupid to waste pretty much anything, but especially food. While I wouldn't really want to raise horses for consumption for the same reason I wouldn't want to raise cattle, if it's free range or a work animal that dies or must be put down, it will become foolish not to make use it.


The propaganda may be emotionally-driven. The actual reason for the resistance to eating horsemeat in the US is the longtime power of the beef and pork industries. They're the ones who lobbied against horsemeat for human consumption.

I was on the meat vs. vegan track... Should have been more careful with "only"...

Thanks for the info.


The horsemeat steak I had in France was delicious.

Just saying...


I thought this was a fairly enlightening metaphor for financial derivatives:

At a secret meeting of top Communist officials at the start of this decade, Zhu Rongji, then China's premier, summoned senior academics and finance officials to teach a crash course on complex financial instruments.

Financial derivatives, in the best explanation provided that day, were described as like putting a mirror in front of another mirror, allowing a physical object to be reflected into infinity.

From an article in the FT cited above:


The "uber" pyramid scheme.

Better than ethanol, better than whale oil...40 miles on 80 cents worth of electricity:

GM Volt


Here's something new, at least to me. Taking otherwise unrecoverable oil and turning it into extractable natural gas would change the numbers significantly (though not change the ultimate result). You could even do a gas-to-liquids at the surface.


Japan's Inpex to Use Bacteria at Old Oil Wells to Produce Gas

Japanese researchers have developed a method of using bacteria found in depleted oil wells to turn leftover crude into natural gas, a technique that could help meet 10 percent of the country's demand for the fuel.

Inpex Holdings Inc., Japan's largest energy explorer, has produced methane using microbes and crude residue from the 139- year-old Yabase field in northern Japan, said Haruo Maeda, director of a laboratory operated by Teikoku Oil Co., an Inpex unit. A 2 billion yen ($19 million) trial will start in 2015 to decide if gas can be produced commercially at Yabase, he said.

Conventional oil extraction exploits only 30 percent to 45 percent of underground deposits, said Kensuke Kanekiyo, managing director of the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan.

Inpex aims to turn the rest into cleaner-burning gas, Maeda said.

One kind of oil-eating microbes turns crude into hydrogen and the second reacts with hydrogen and carbon dioxide, which is added, to produce methane, according to Inpex's Maeda.

Inpex has found bacteria that can penetrate wells as deep as 1,500 meters and produce methane gas at temperatures as high as 55 degrees Celsius (131 degrees Fahrenheit), Maeda said. The experimental technique could potentially be used at oil wells in China and Indonesia, according to Fujiwara.

In its field trial, Inpex plans to inject carbon dioxide into an oil well using a steel pipe, according to a project concept prepared by the company. The well will then be sealed to allow bacteria to produce methane, which will be extracted through another pipe and stored in tanks on the surface.

This is actually a fairly old technology....15 to 20 years at least. Originally it was used to repair damage in the reservoir close to the well bore which was caused during the drilling phase. The problem with applying it to enhanced oil recovery has typically been economic. High NG prices and horizontal drilling technology could change that though.

Bacteria had long been a problem when injecting water into oil reservoirs to increase recovery. Bacteria injected with the water has converted some of the oil to NG. This leads to complex multiphase flow problem. Typically a bacteriacide is injected with the water.

Hello TODers,

I/O-NPK pricing upward according to this well-written roundup:

Rising Food Demand and Supply Constraints to Sustain High Fertilizer Prices

..The use of pesticides and insecticides is also of limited use as excessive application can render crop unfit for human consumption. Hence the onus of increasing agricultural productivity largely falls on fertilizers.

..Prices of natural gas and sulphur used in production of nitrogen and sulphur fertilizers have increased 62% and 350% y-o-y in June 2008, respectively. (Source: Bloomberg and Tempa Sulphur)
Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

Financial Troubles Humble U.S.

The success of the pending rescue of the U.S. financial system probably depends as much on the central banks of China and the Middle East as on Congress and the Federal Reserve. The U.S. is turning to foreign governments and other overseas investors to buy a good chunk of what could total $700 billion in Treasury debt expected to finance the bailout. Foreign investors also are needed to shore up the depleted capital of the nation's financial institutions, seen in the plan by Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group to buy a large stake in Morgan Stanley, which is weighed down by bad debt and market distrust.

This is a bittersweet moment in U.S. economic history. In one sense, the growing importance of foreign cash represents the triumph of a half-century of U.S. proselytizing for a global financial system in which money flows from those who have it to those who need it. But it is also an unmistakable sign of U.S. economic decline. The global financial system the U.S. designed had anticipated that American banks and financial firms would be the world's financial lifeguards; now those institutions are like exhausted swimmers a stroke or two away from drowning.

The Man Who Should Be President


The 700 billion bailout is being driven by fear, not fact... Why aren't we having hearings... Why aren't we questioning the underlying premise of the need for a bailout with taxpayers' money?... Why aren't we asking Wall Street to clean up its own mess?... Why aren't we reducing debts for Main Street instead of Wall Street? Isn't it time for fundamental change in our debt-based monetary system so we can free ourselves from manipulation by the Federal Reserve and the banks? Is this the US Congress, or the Board of Directors of GoldmanSachs?


Industrial Capitalism can finally be destroyed as we finish hollowing out our economy by substituting Casino Socialism, where the only real product is debt... work becomes denigrated...

Will Hutton On Paulson, etc.


Hank Paulson certainly acted decisively in launching his plan, but the former Goldman Sachs CEO, who negotiated a special exemption from tax when he took the job, like his former Wall Street colleagues is not well endowed with the fairness gene. It polluted the very design of the scheme.

He knows that unless the US government does something comprehensive, the entire financial system is at stake, but his original plan was designed to bail out the system intact. It made no demands that any financial executives sacrifice pay or bonuses despite having driven their firms and wider economy to the point of bankruptcy. He does not want the government to provide new bank capital to help recapitalise a bust banking system. Instead, he wants the government to buy their toxic debt and so leave the banks unreformed. On top he wanted complete discretion to act as he chose without any oversight.

MSNBC is reporting that Citi is buying Wachovia.

Banks are dropping faster than prom dresses after the prom. Jewish lawmakers have forewarned they won't be voting after sundown Mon 29th as its the beginning of Rosh Hannah. Using the spiritual theme of 40 that reaccures again and again...40 days, 40 months, 40 years...take your pick, its gonna be a bumpy ride and today will be the day we embark.
As with any travel adventure, the mode of transportation dictates certain nuances by the traveler. Those riding the "Dog" or Greyhound bus lines are familiar with the clientele who prefer the rear of the bus and "refreshments" from a bottle in a brown paper bag. The admonishment from those found there was..."Its for medicinal purposes". A bit of the hair from the dog that bites you as it were.

I suppose bankers getting billions if not trillions, also are partaking in a "A bit of the hair of the dog"
They used to bite everyone with. Only difference is, they sit in the back of a Lear jet and drink from crystal glasses. La Chaim!

in refr. to the first link, first article:
notice the lack of mentioning , how much of the World GDP the USA produces, with that 5% pop.
beat the drum but you are lying through omission.
oops. How did that happen again.

"The world now uses about 1,000 barrels of oil per second. Americans use 25 percent of that, even though we represent only 5 percent of the world's population. "

Energy in , products and services out.

go figure.