DrumBeat: November 25, 2008

ANALYSIS - Oil drop won't ease Latin American resource nationalism soon

CARACAS (Reuters) - Latin American energy producers are unlikely to ease taxes on foreign oil companies in the near term, despite tumbling crude prices, in an attempt to keep government coffers full.

Leaders such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez -- at the fore of a charge for resource nationalism during a six-year oil rally -- and Ecuador's Rafael Correa are facing budget shortfalls as prices tumble from records over $147 a barrel to near $50.

The price drop has prompted Canada to ease back on a proposed royalty hike, but left-wing Latin American leaders will maintain high taxes on their vast oil reserves to ensure a steady flow of cash for social programs, analysts said.

Shell Signs Up to Join Australia’s Global Carbon Capture Body

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, will become a founding member of Australia’s A$100 million ($64 million) carbon capture and storage institute aimed at speeding low-emissions power output.

Melting Arctic, Afghanistan top general's concerns

OTTAWA - Global warming is melting Arctic ice faster than the military projected, posing greater challenges for Canadian Forces already facing a deteriorating security situation half a world away in Afghanistan, says Canada's top soldier.

"Global warming is happening very quickly. I think any projection we have has been underestimated. Flying over Ellesmere Island and not seeing very much snow up there and seeing the Arctic Ocean as a blue water ocean was quite revealing to me," Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of the defence staff, said Monday in a candid and sweeping assessment of the challenges faced by the military from the sun-baked deserts of Afghanistan to the not-so-frozen Far North.

Getting Warmer? Prehistoric Climate Can Help Forecast Future Changes

The first comprehensive reconstruction of an extreme warm period shows the sensitivity of the climate system to changes in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels as well as the strong influence of ocean temperatures, heat transport from equatorial regions, and greenhouse gases on Earth's temperature.

Food: Employers may have to become providers

Dr Elizabeth Stephens, head of credit and political analysis at Jardine Lloyd Thompson, a risk management specialist, says rising food prices have led to increased political risk.

"There have been food protests in 35 countries in the past year," she said. "In Indonesia the price of rice is directly correlated to the number of strikes or riots.

"A sharp increase in prices could cause production problems if there are strikes by workers and civil unrest could damage vital infrastructure like roads or telecoms or the government could impose a political crackdown.

"What companies can do is look after the social welfare of employees and secure a source of food for them such as buying wheat or rice. They also should look at increasing wages for workers if inflation is causing prices of food to rise, although this feeds into an inflationary spiral." she says.

Is World in Obama’s ‘Shock and Trance’ Mode?

Is the world poised to make the transition from shock to trance on climate policy — using the terminology that President-elect Barack Obama chose to describe America’s cyclical interest in moving beyond fossil fuels?

Petro-Canada offshore work to lower 2009 output

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Petro-Canada said on Tuesday it is expecting a series of major maintenance turnarounds in 2009 at its three oil fields off the coast of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, lowering output next year.

Alan Brown, vice-president, east coast Canada, at Canada's No. 4 integrated oil exploration and refining firm, said at a company-sponsored investor event that Petro-Canada expects major turnarounds at the Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose fields next year for maintenance and to tie in new production.

Drill, Garner, Drill

In the history of the Iraq War, one name is perhaps synonymous with the collapse of the Bush administration's hopes for a post-Saddam world: Retired Lt. General Jay M. Garner. It was Garner who served as the first post-war administrator for Iraq, running the country during the fateful two months immediately following the invasion before being replaced by L. Paul Bremer III.

However, Garner's frustrating tenure in Iraq wasn't entirely wasted. This year, he and a small group of former US military leaders, officials, and lobbyists have quietly used their deep connections in Kurdistan to help Canadian companies access some of the region's richest oil fields.

Hard times mean leaner Thanksgiving dinners

Even though prices of commodities like oil have been plummeting, grocery stores prices still reflect a surge in producer prices over the summer. “The pasta that you bought in the store last weekend is based on wheat that was grown months ago — potentially as much as a year ago," Ramsey said.

That formula applies to Thanksgiving dinners as well. Turkeys on sale in the supermarket now were fed corn back when corn was at a higher price.

...But there is hope for the near future, Ramsey says. With the price of oil going down, fuel surcharges on food transport are being scaled back.

He said prices could start going down in certain sectors of the food chain in about six months.

Obama's Energy Department

Let the speculating begin. Not oil speculation, but job speculation for the new Obama administration.

Nigerian military battles oil thieves in delta

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) - Gunmen seeking to protect a trade in stolen crude oil have attacked Nigerian military positions in the Niger Delta for the third time in under a week, the security forces said on Tuesday.

Attackers in speedboats engaged Nigerian troops in a gunbattle on Monday in Okwagbe in Delta state, days after similar raids near major oil sites operated by U.S. firm Chevron and Anglo-Dutch group Royal Dutch Shell.

Petro-Canada Won’t Proceed With Fort Hills Without New Lease

(Bloomberg) -- Petro-Canada, the country’s third- largest oil company, won’t proceed with the next phase of its Fort Hills oil-sands project unless Alberta’s government agrees to new lease terms, Chief Executive Officer Ron Brenneman said.

LNG Deals In High Demand

The current slump in global energy demand may have crushed oil prices to around $50.00 in recent weeks, but even a short-term recession can't disguise the fact that demand in the long term is growing and needs to be satisfied.

That is why Abu Dhabi and China have announced big investments in liquefied natural gas, or an easily transportable form of gas that avoids the need for a pipeline network.

Vt. engineer designs a good life for $5,000 a year

Most of Merkel’s choices are calculated. Consider whether he should eat meat. He tapped a mathematical formula to determine that, because gardening consumes less land and resources than raising animals, a soybean-based tofu burger impacts the environment four times less than a chicken burger and 14 times less than a beef burger.

Merkel has enjoyed boiling maple sap into sugar. Then he discovered he had to burn nearly three cords of wood to make 16 gallons of syrup, “so I got a beehive.”

Sending an e-mail requires a few seconds of electricity, while mailing a letter consumes a tree and truck fuel. But when the engineer weighed all the metal and plastic in his computer, he discovered an electronic message is three times as ecologically damaging as a letter.

Kuwait's ruler puts cabinet resignation on hold

KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwait's ruler decided to put on hold the resignation of the OPEC country's cabinet on Tuesday, leaving his options open for intervention to end a crippling crisis between the government and parliament.

The cabinet tendered its resignation as parliament was about to look into a request by three legislators to question the prime minister, a member of the royal family, over the visit of an Iranian Shi'ite cleric accused of offending Sunni Muslims.

But the three deputies had also wanted to question Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah over a wide range of accusations including alleged corruption and mismanagement in the world's seventh-largest oil exporter.

Kyrgyz energy minister fired amid crisis

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan's president fired the energy minister Tuesday amid mounting public criticism over his handling of electricity shortages in the impoverished Central Asian nation.

Industry and Energy Minister Saparbek Balkibekov presided during a worsening power crisis that could leave large swaths of the country without electricity over the coming winter months.

Venezuela's Chavez welcomes Russian warships

LA GUAIRA, Venezuela - Russian warships arrived off Venezuela's coast Tuesday in a show of strength aimed at the United States as Moscow seeks to expand its influence in Latin America.

The deployment is the first of its kind in the Caribbean since the Cold War and was timed to coincide with President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Caracas — the first ever by a Russian president.

Egyptians protest fuel shortages caused by Gaza smuggling

EL-ARISH, Egypt (AFP) — About 150 people demonstrated in the Egyptian coastal city of El-Arish on Monday to protest a fuel shortage because of smuggling to the Gaza Strip, a security official said.

"About 150 drivers, farmers and construction workers protested the lack of diesel and petrol due to smuggling to Gaza," the official said.

Gazans using tattered notes because of cash crunch

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Desperate Gazans crowded into banks Monday, jostling to get to the front of lines as they sought to withdraw money amid a worsening currency shortage caused by Israeli sanctions.

Israel has refused to allow cash to enter Gaza in recent weeks to ratchet up pressure on the ruling Hamas militant group. With the supply of currency dwindling, banks have limited withdrawals over the past two weeks, and some have posted signs telling customers they cannot take out any more money.

Relax - the recession will keep the lights on

Complacency seems to rule. A spokesman for the National Grid said today, apparently with a straight face, there were "suggestions" that the credit crunch "could lower demand, so the situation has become more comfortable."

So there we have it. The only thing that will keep the lights on in the years ahead is the fact that the economy is collapsing.

Iraqi lawmaker criticizes gas deal signed with Shell, says oil ministry was not transparent

BAGHDAD (AP) _ An Iraqi lawmaker has accused the Oil Ministry of a lack of transparency when it signed a preliminary deal with Royal Dutch Shell PLC to tap natural gas in southern Iraq.

Hassan Balo, head of the parliamentary committee on oil and gas, says other companies should have been allowed to bid. He says the deal grants a 25-year monopoly on gas development in southern Iraq to Shell.

Pre-Salt to Make Brazil's Reserves World's 9th Biggest

About $400 billion will be needed to develop Brazil's promising pre-salt oil area over a 10-year period, according to a preliminary estimate, Haroldo Lima, the president of Brazil's National Petroleum Agency, or ANP, said Monday.

The Philippines: Electrifying injustice in the Visayas

General managers of electric cooperatives are questioning why electric consumers in Leyte and Samar Islands would have to contribute to the cost recovery of the Panit-An plant. The geothermal plants in Leyte are the only sources of power in Leyte and Samar Islands.

Now, animal power can light up your house

Bangalore: Forget horse power, it is over to cattle power! They can provide a solution to the energy crisis faced by rural masses. A pair of them and a generator can light up a house.

The process called as "energy generation through animal power'' is simple - rotate the generator with a pair of cattle. This is a simple equipment with only a shaft, gear box and a permanent magnet alternator. As the animal rotates, like in a traditional gana (place where oil is extracted using animal traction), the central shaft moves in sync. By making the alternator run, electricity is generated.

Monbiot: The planet is now so vandalised that only total energy renewal can save us

It may be too late. But without radical action, we will be the generation that saved the banks and let the biosphere collapse.

World on cusp of clean tech revolution: Merrill Lynch

Clean technology will rival the Industrial Revolution and every major technological development since then to become the "Sixth Revolution," as the world grapples with the threats of peak oil, global warming and the need for energy security, says financial analysis firm Merrill Lynch.

While such revolutions occur only about every 50 years, and can deliver "a golden age" based on the new technology's transformative possibilities, we are now on the cusp of the next great change, says Merrill Lynch clean-tech strategist Steven Milunovich.

...It also foresees: A world in which energy is not to be conserved but, paradoxically, so abundant as to be wasted, and one in which power generation is no longer the integrated monolith it is now, but one that is decentralized among users. A world in which electric automobiles navigate our roadways, solar panels heat our homes, and where hotels and large buildings use "utilities in a box" that offer electricity, heat, hot water and cooling on site by recapturing waste heat. And with transmission costs and new power plants adding dramatically to power costs, it will be a world in which "microgrids," or clusters of small on-site generators, serve office buildings, industrial parks and homes without overburdening aging transmission lines.

Economic Slump May Limit Moves on Clean Energy

Just as the world seemed poised to combat global warming more aggressively, the economic slump and plunging prices of coal and oil are upending plans to wean businesses and consumers from fossil fuel.

From Italy to China, the threat to jobs, profits and government tax revenues posed by the financial crisis has cast doubt on commitments to cap emissions or phase out polluting factories.

Global crisis hits downstream oil projects

Gulf downstream oil projects are expected to be the main victim of the global financial crisis as strong Asian demand for crude could keep upstream ventures on track, according to a key Gulf investment bank.

Pirate Attacks Fail to Revive Tanker Rates as Oil Demand Slows

(Bloomberg) -- Oil shipping costs may extend this year's 76 percent rout as shrinking energy demand and a global recession eclipse disruptions caused by pirates off east Africa capturing their largest-ever freighter.

Tanker rates next month are about 7 percent lower than yesterday's level on the Persian Gulf to Japan route, according to derivative contracts called Forward Freight Agreements that trade privately among banks, brokers, hedge funds and shipping companies. Transport costs plunged this year as OPEC curtailed production, lowering demand for vessels.

Russia May Coordinate Oil Production Cut With OPEC

(Bloomberg) -- Russia may coordinate oil production cuts with OPEC as the world’s second-largest crude exporter reels from falling energy prices.

“Russia will coordinate with OPEC to defend its interests,” Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said at a conference in New Delhi today. “We cannot rule out cutting production.”

Total to Buy Heavier Crudes as North Sea Oil Supplies Dwindle

(Bloomberg) -- Total SA, Europe’s third-largest oil company, is planning to source heavier crudes for its Lindsey refinery in the U.K. as North Sea supplies dwindle.

“Total foresees a requirement for the ability to bring deeper draught vessels into Immingham Oil Terminal” and is investigating the possibility of deepening the approach to the Humber estuary, the Paris-based company said yesterday in an e- mailed statement.

Total is planning to secure heavier, sour, highly sulfurouos crude grades from the Middle East and Russia as it shifts from using light, sweet oil from the North Sea, it said.

Kenya readies for oil spill scenario

NAIROBI (AFP) – Kenya is preparing to counter a possible oil slick from a Saudi super-tanker seized by Somali pirates should efforts to free the vessel and its two million barrels of crude go awry, officials said Tuesday.

Venezuela's Chavez Seeks `Fair' Oil Price of $80-$100

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries should return to a system of setting a price band for crude oil in order to guarantee stability in the market.

The country would consider a price of $80 to $100 a barrel to be ``fair,'' Chavez said today in a televised press conference in Caracas. OPEC created price bands in the late 1990s to try to keep oil between $22 and $29 a barrel.

Gazprom: Ukraine to pay part of gas debt by Dec 1

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom said on Tuesday Ukraine has agreed to repay by Dec. 1 its gas debt to Russia for all September and some October deliveries.

Gazprom said in a statement, issued after talks in Moscow between Chief Executive Alexei Miller and the head of Ukraine's Naftogaz, Oleg Dubina, the sides would continue talks on gas cooperation after Dec. 1.

Will the Financial Crisis Put an End to Reckless, Planet-Destroying Consumption?

The spiraling economy has forced the American consumer to halt and take stock. And that's a good thing.

Financial crisis? That's nothing

The coming energy crisis is going to dwarf the financial crisis, says the head of Shell: if only he were wrong.

Kunstler - Zombie Economics: Don't Bail out the System that Gave Us SUVs and Strip Malls

Why squander our remaining resources on a lifestyle that doesn't have a future?

Food system "can't cope with crisis"

London Mayor Boris Johnson’s food adviser has warned that the capital’s current food system is not equipped to cope with a crisis.

Rosie Boycott questioned where London would get its food from if faced with a crisis, adding that we are likely to be on the brink of a crisis due to the baking collapse, wildly fluctuating oil and food prices and climate change.

Silver lining to global financial storm clouds

HERE'S a counter-intuitive thought to balance the gloomy news pervading investment markets.

All the weighty problems investors and companies were fretting over a year or two ago have disappeared.

Back then, soaring oil prices and the peak oil theory was viewed as a serious threat to profitability for businesses ranging from airlines to manufacturers to retailers. Politicians were clucking about easing the bowser burden through poorly devised monitoring schemes or rash promises to cut excise.

Fewer holiday travelers despite cheaper gas

Even though gasoline is more than a dollar lower than it was this time last year, more Americans are staying home this holiday weekend.

AAA estimates that 41 million people nationwide will take a trip 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, a 1.4 percent decrease from the 41.6 million who traveled last year.

British Gas cuts prepayment energy price premium

LONDON (Reuters) - British Gas will reduce the premium that customers on prepayment meters are charged for their power and gas compared to other payment methods from Dec. 18 and may cut all bills next spring, the subsidiary of Centrica said on Tuesday.

Householders who pay for their electricity and gas using prepayment meters are charged more by energy suppliers because of the higher costs associated with running them.

Norway Slips On Scarcer Oil

The Norwegian economy contracted by a sharper than expected 0.7% in the third quarter, in part because North Sea crude is becoming harder to extract.

Dreaming of oil, Greenland votes on more autonomy

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Dreaming of oil wealth, Greenland voters are expected to decide in a nonbinding referendum Tuesday to extend the island's self rule in what many see as a key step toward independence from Denmark.

Potential reserves of oil and minerals have increased hopes of independence though the small, mostly Inuit, population still grapples with social problems such as alcoholism and a high rate of suicide.

23-billion ton ultra large coal field discovered in China's Turfan Basin

After efforts by geological exploration teams for over a year, an ultra large coal field with a forecasted 23 billion tons of total reserve was found in the famous Turfan Basin in China.

ElBaradei to West: Syria nuclear aid not bomb risk

VIENNA (Reuters) – Syria's bid for aid in planning a nuclear power plant poses no bomb-making risk and a Western move to block the project threatens to discredit the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA's director said in remarks released on Tuesday.

Jordan, China sign nuclear protocol

AMMAN (AFP) – China on Monday signed a protocol with Jordan to help the tiny desert kingdom produce nuclear power to meet its growing energy needs and desalinate water, a senior official said.

"China is going to assist Jordan in mining and enriching uranium as well as training and studies related to building a nuclear station," Khaled Tukan, head of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, told the state-run Petra news agency.

Thorium may surpass uranium - ex-Uranium One CEO Froneman

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Thorium may in time surpass uranium as a nuclear fuel, says former Uranium One CEO Neal Froneman.

While remaining bullish on uranium, the current Gold One CEO says that thorium has a fuel cycle of its own.

"You will hear a lot more about thorium from an energy point of view in the not-too-distant future," he adds.

The car of the future — but at what cost?

Car manufacturers still haven't figured out how to produce hybrid and plug-in vehicles cheaply enough to make money on them. After a decade of relative success with its hybrid Prius, Toyota has sold about a million of the cars and is still widely believed by analysts to be losing money on each one sold. General Motors has touted plans for a plug-in hybrid vehicle called the Volt, but the costly battery will prevent it from turning a profit on the vehicle for several years, at least.

More than 195,000 wind turbines to appear outside homes by 2020

More than 195,000 wind turbines will spring up outside homes across Britain over the next 12 years, according to energy advisers, after the Government pledged to pay people for generating their own electricity.

Wind power meets record demand in Spain: industry group

MADRID (AFP) – Wind power supplied a record 43 percent of all electricity demand in Spain, which is being lashed by heavy winds and rain, for a brief period on Monday, the Spanish wind power association said.

Palm oil price crash spells misery for SEAsian farmers

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – The global economic slowdown has sent palm oil prices crashing, spelling misery for countless smallholders who have been forced to watch their harvests rot on the trees.

Hundreds of thousands of farmers in Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce 85 percent of the world's palm oil, are reliant on the industry which has gone from boom to bust in just a few months.

Obama Under Pressure Over Role of Ethanol in Energy Policy

Environmentalists agree with President-elect Barack Obama on many points, but his policy on ethanol isn't one of them.

In the ongoing debate over the future of the country's energy policy, biofuels occupy a unique and precarious position: reviled in some quarters, championed in others. Ethanol producers have enjoyed meteoric rises in the amount of ethanol they can make and sell, but they also have been accused of harming the environment, prompting food riots abroad, and throwing away government money on unsustainable endeavors.

Brazilian Farm Credit Dries Up, Forces Growers to Reduce Crops

(Bloomberg) -- Coffee farmer Joao Carlos Terra says his trees will yield about a third less than planned next year because he can’t get a big enough loan to buy fertilizer and pesticide as the global credit crunch bites in Brazil.

China sets a green standard

WASHINGTON - China's efforts to green its financial sector have earned a thumbs-up from US environmentalists, who say regulators in the US could learn from Beijing's recent success in stimulating investments that don't despoil the planet.

Friends of the Earth-US, highlighted in a recent report Chinese financial sector policies designed to limit pollution and climate change and to encourage lenders and investors to take a longer-term and broader view of risk, one that factors in the risk of losses stemming from potential environmental problems.

Going green saves money, spins profits in coal-addicted Poland

KISIELICE, Poland (AFP) — Standing in the shadow of a massive windmill, Mayor Tomasz Koprowiak thinks part of the answer to Poland kicking its coal habit is blowing in the wind and growing in farmers' fields.

"Our new straw-fired heating plant serves 80 percent of the community and is saving everyone money," Koprowiak says of Kisielice, a poor north-eastern rural municipality of 6,500.

Brazil, Mexico Lawmakers Back CO2 Limits for Some Poor Nations

(Bloomberg) -- Brazilian and Mexican lawmakers backed a proposal to impose greenhouse-gas limits on some developing countries after 2020, as long as the richest nations first curb their output of emissions blamed for global warming.

The plan represents a departure from the traditional negotiating stance of most poor nations to reject any binding targets. The proposal was formed during a meeting of legislators from North and South American countries who met in Mexico City through yesterday to address ways to stem carbon-dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.

Ocean growing more acidic faster than once thought

University of Chicago scientists have documented that the ocean is growing more acidic faster than previously thought. In addition, they have found that the increasing acidity correlates with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a paper published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Nov. 24.

Little gain from oil sands carbon capture: report

Canada's government saw only limited opportunities to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands using carbon capture and storage technology, according to briefing notes obtained by a Canadian media. Skip related content

The notes, prepared by a carbon capture task force, were used by Canadian federal and provincial politicians and were obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, which said it requested them under freedom of information legislation.

"Thus the goal must be to create energy that is abundantly cheap that it can be "wasted," the report states." --Merill Lynch

Whatever happened to the fundamental principle of thermodynamics? Energy can neither be "created" nor destroyed.

don't take it ad literam.

by created the author probably meant to be extracted. a rock on top of the hill has energy, but you can't use it. when you convert one type of energy into another, you create the other type of energy, kindof :)


Lynch means "wasted" as in put it in the tank and drive around, buy cheap plastic trinkets from Wal-Mart, build more suburbia. Go shopping. Consume. That sort of thing. Our economy and Merrill Lynch both depend on the generation of huge amounts of waste. The more energy (and resources generally) to waste, the better the economy.

cfm in Gray, ME

Don't take [them= Merril Lynch] ad literum. By "create" the author probably meant ...

No. The MBA-indoctrinated types at ML and other financial houses are accustomed to the verb:

WE produce steel.
WE produce bricks and mortar.
WE produce computer chips (and potato chips).
WE produce oil.

Go into any production facility (i.e. potato chips or computer chips, ain't no difference). You can see with your own two lying eyes how our capitalist system mass "produces" all kinds of stuff on the cheap.

Just put Henry Ford's lazy engineers to work and, if properly incentivized by the infusion of capital, why they can "create" and "produce" almost anything.

It's about time they "create" and mass "produce" energy on the cheap. The markets demand it and "they" must therefore supply it. Simple as that.

There are no fundamental principles anymore -- just wish upon a star. What a joke! Figures though. They apparently think energy is like money, with which they have a lot of experience: you can create as much of as it want and then just waste it -- by giving it to banks for example.

Not to be too picky, but it's really mass-energy that is conserved, as you probably know. Energy can be "destroyed" by conversion into mass as was done recently when photons were converted into electrons. The reverse happened in Japan in 1945.

I think this must be the goal for Merrill and others. Energy too cheap to meter, otherwise the strides in alternatives could decimate their investments. Concentrated solar, photoelectric, wind, efficiency measures like heat pumps would die on their own accord, for once the cost advantage is lost, why bother with the fuss over personal power generation and efficiency. We've been down this road before.

Waste in the context of to expend liberally in the pursuit of things other than survival.

And yes, you can't destroy energy, but it does flow in a one way direction to less useful states by doing "work". The energy expended to move your car will never do anything useful again - most of it becomes waste heat, gone, the rest transferred to the rotational momentum of the earth (as I understand it at least).

...you can't destroy energy, but it does flow in a one way direction...

Hence the stupidity of the term "renewable energy." Elements recycle energy doesn't. Yet you can't get these facts thru to what passes for the brains of these "renewable energy" advocates. Same for the fact that EROEI analysis needs to include ALL inputs, in order to be meaningful. Since all inputs aren't known or can't be quantified, EROEI analysis can't be meaningful. This fact doesn't prevent 'em from making multitudes of colorful grafts w/ the chart wizard. There they sit at their computers as the house (oikos) burns down.

Perhaps renewable fuels is more accurate but is the wind considered a fuel and the thermal mass of a passive solar house also a fuel? Is the water behind a hydropower dam a fuel? Wood is a renewable fuel only if the land is properly managed. Ethanol could be a renewable fuel if the fossil fuel inputs were eliminated. Getting hung up on semantics with writers who are scientific illiterates doesn't help the cause of eliminating fossil carbon fuels.

Getting hung up on semantics with writers who are scientific illiterates doesn't help the cause of eliminating fossil carbon fuels.

Yeah, I agree, but we aren't exactly talking about quantum physics or the theory of relativity here. I would think one could reasonably expect a little more precision in the use of the Anglo Saxon vernacular by such writers.

It's really quite simple, the water behind a dam, for example, has static potential energy that can be released to produce usable kinetic energy, when the gates are opened and the water flows through a turbine and generates electricity. While fuel containing hydrocarbons can be combusted in the presence of oxygen in a chemical reaction that releases potential energy in the form of heat which in turn can be used to do work. Just basic concepts from high school physics and chemistry,based on the laws of conservation of mass and energy. This isn't exactly E=MC2,since we are leaving nuclear energy out of this for now ;-)

Just basic concepts from high school physics and chemistry,based on the laws of conservation of mass and energy. This isn't exactly E=MC2

Like the rest of us nerds here at TOD, you were probably sitting in the front row of Mr. Kotter's science class, raising your hand, and saying, "Ooh ooh, Mista Kotta, I know the answer to that question. It's simple, energy and mass can neither be created nor ..."

But if you had bothered to turn around and look at the back row, you'd of seen Vinny and the boys dozing off on their desktops (these were not computers back in the old Mr. Kotter days) ... probably they was dozing off on Ludes and stuff.

Anyway, many years later, Vinny and the boys woke up and realized they need to become "professionals" and get a job. "Go to business school," their moms said. And so they did.

There they learned fundamental principles of "economics", like supply, demand and how the bountiful commodities of our society are "produced" (yeah, yeah, "created", whatever) by them who do the "producing" in our society.

But financial types don't have to worry about that techno-nerd stuff. Financial types do the financing. That's their job.

"You want a default derivative swap buddy? I got one right here for you pal."

"Physics? Chemistry? The laws of conservation of mass and energy? E=MC2? Sorry buddy, I don't remember any of that elementary stuff. That's only for Fifth graders. Right?"

I would go along with you in a profound scepticism of most EROEI calculations, but on occasion where it is kept fairly simple then it can have some approximate use, for instance in showing the absurdity of ethanol from corn.

Mostly of course it is used as a polemic to diss whatever energy source the writer dislikes, rather than with any more profound analytic intent.

The term "renewable" is perhaps unfortunate. Perhaps a better term, though somewhat unwieldy, would be "local, current, solar energy, be that photovoltaic or wind or bio or whatever".

the rest [of the energy is] transferred to the rotational momentum of the earth (as I understand it at least)

Well, not exactly. It gets radiated out into outer space as IR radiation emitted by the atmosphere. Energy is constantly outflowing from the Sun to the outer reaches of the solar system. The Earth is like a little pebble caught in the flow of this mighty river. Some of the energy flow gets temporarily trapped here (i.e. as oil plus un-bounded oxygen). But ultimately it is released (when C combines with O2) and the released energy then continues its entropic journey to the outer reaches of the solar system.

It could be called "sustainable" energy instead of "renewable"

Definition of renew:

To make new, or as new, again; to restore to the same condition as when new, young, or fresh.

Oxford English Dictionary

Hence the term renewable energy because a renewable energy source is constantly renewed/replenished from another (usually the sun). Renewable is completely different to reusable. There is nothing incorrect about the termrenewable energy as this refers to the replenishment of the energy source, not to the constant recycling or reusing of the same energy. Reusable energy would certainly be a stupid term, which is probably why no one uses it.

The sun is ultimately a finite source of energy, but this is not really relevant on a human timescale. The output of the sun is not under human control and the sun is not 'depleted' by human activity as other energy sources (such as fossil fuels) are.

As for EROEI, that fact that it can't be measured exactly does not make it meaningless. The declining EROEI of oil for exmaple, can be shown by reference to increasing rig counts and footage drilled. As a smaller subsystem within a larger one (your 'oikos'), the human economy is subject to the same laws governing energy capture and use as any other smaller system (e.g. ecosystems and individual organisms). Of course EROEI calculations can be biased and manipulated just like any other statistics but this does not make the concept of EROEI meaningless.

Will someone tell the idiot that

a. We have been wasting energy for the past 50 years (just visit Singapore and you will know what I am talking about)
b. Only 20-25% of that energy will go into useful/useless work and the rest will warm the earth and leave a nice little mess for our children to pick up.


I thought I saw (and read) a Megaprojects update yesterday. It now seems to have disappeared. Did it jump the queue?


It was accidentally posted before it was supposed to be. It will probably be up later today.

The Wiki page was updated on the 19th. Eyeballing the 4.5% decline rate chart it looks like we peak next year; of course the IEA has upped the ante on that figure anyway.

Ace (Tony) has added a few more things. I planned to post it this morning, but had HTML problems.

Because of low readership over the holiday, we may wait to post it until next week.

Clean Tech Revolution? Golly Gee Whiz. I remember when nuclear power was going to be too cheap to meter. What is Merril Lynch smoking? Maybe they are talking about the next great speculative bubble, anything to dispell the "I screwed up blues". Where will the capital and energy come from to rebuild the Industrialzed World along clean energy lines? Somebody has not done the math, nice fantasy though. Just click your ruby slippers together and say, Hope, Change, Hope, Change and everything will be all right.......

No wonder ML is swirling the toilet bowl. The lack of critical thinking exbibited by the comments in this overview indicate that they are smoking something at ML and that it is called delusion and denial. Being a Kansan I thought the same thing click those ruby red slippers and just make it so. JHK would say Jimminy Cricket is wishing on that star. Just feel good fluff JIT for Thanksgiving.

I'm not sure what ML is smoking X but they are certainly blowing smoke. Obviously their sales pitch isn't meant for the collective wisdom of TOD. From my perspective we don't need a new tech revolution as much as the application of already existing technologies. Technology development is critical to addressing PO and it will advance on its own merit. But at the moment we haven't begun large scale application of many energy saving techniques already available. Conversion to better mpg vehicles already on the market would be a big boost even though it will take many years for the switch over. Light bulb conversion is also obvious. True this wouldn’t be a great leap forward but it is available to us right now and not 10 to 15 years down the road.

I think you're right: ML is trying to stoke one of the few positive investment segments out there. Same old story: if the stocks don't trade then the commission checks don't get written.

I think this ML statement is sign of desparation, wishing on a star. This is understandable though, because it's beginning to look scary out there unless something miraculous or magical turns up.

For decades there have been really serious, structural problems with the US economy which have been "solved" by the creation of collosal ammounts of "fake wealth" or debt. This was almost like old-fashioned alchemy, turning base metals into gold, a dream that was pursued for centuries by some of the most brilliant minds around, the men of natural philosophy or "science" of their day.

It's really quite disturbing that a company like ML would publish something like this. A sign of the turbulant times we live in.

So Merrill is banking on a faith-based financial future - Is it any more illogical than waiting for the Rapture or the Twelfth Imam to rescue us from the shackles we've forged for ourselves?
It's human nature - Hope was the last evil to escape Pandora's Box.

Too cheap to meter??

A comment by the late great Petr Beckmann who wrote among other things: A History of Pi, The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear and essays on radiation hormesis.


Actually, AFAIK, the 'too cheap to meter' claim was on some editorial in the equivalent of Reader's Digest.
However convenient as a polemic for the anti-nuclear camp, it is hardly relevant to any informed discussion.
Please find another straw man if you wish to exercise your prejudices.

Well Dave, yet again you don't know very far. But don't let that stop you from posting whatever crap enters your head.


At about the same time -- in 1954 -- the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis L. Strauss, said in a well-publicized speech that atomic energy would make electricity "too cheap to meter."

Thanks for the information.

In that case, if someone at some time who had some position somewhere in the nuclear industry made an ill-advised comment, then it is apparent that if that has to be continually dragged up then the case against nuclear must be even weaker than I had thought.

Personally it hardly seemed worthwhile digging about to locate the precise provenance of a 54 year old comments as it has little relevance to the situation at present, but whatever floats your boat.

Stay well.

Hey no problem. Just another chapter in Dave posts whatever crap enters his mind and the rest of us correct him.

Both of you might benefit from reviewing the Reader Guidelines:

"4) Treat members of the community with civility and respect. If you see disrespectful behavior, report it to the staff rather than further inflaming the situation.
5) Ad hominem attacks are not acceptable. If you disagree with someone, refute their statements rather than insulting them."

A multi-article running flame war is disruptive. Please either take it elsewhere or just stop responding to each other.

And your comment 14 hours after the last exchange helps how?

Unless you're in your late 80's I somewhat doubt you actually remember the quote in context.

I think most of what Merril Lynch describe sounds very reasonable - for at least a small amount of the world population in some areas of the world.

Some parts of it appear to be true already:

"...And with transmission costs and new power plants adding dramatically to power costs, it will be a world in which "microgrids," or clusters of small on-site generators, serve office buildings, industrial parks and homes without overburdening aging transmission lines."

That sounds like how things work daily in parts of Pakistan, South Africa and a few other places around the world.

See? Look how much we have to look forward too.

For decadess, so-called "total energy" systems have been available to provide combined heat and power. They use large diesel driven generators and capture the waste heat from the engines to provide hot water and space heating. As a result, the efficiency is quite high, even though the efficiency of the diesel engine is low. Some 30 years ago, such systems were installed in large buildings. The utilities did not like losing the customer base, so they would contract to sell electricity at below cost to discourage such independent minded efforts. Of course, the lost revenue was shifted onto the smaller customers.

The utilities now are in a bit of a bind supplying new customers, after decades of expansion. Their model has been based on generating electricity with large, centralized power plants, then distributing the electricity to the consumer. That model causes the grid to be a one way street, so to speak. Of course, with little effort, the grid could move electricity in either direction, so local generation could be fed into the grid. I think this would be a better model for the future than adding more centralized generation, whether from conventional sources or from renewables. Worse yet might be building high tech "electric pipelines" using super conducting lines from places where renewable sources of electricity are abundant to satisfy BAU for the consumers located in cities half a continent away.

Small is beautiful...and resilient as well.

E. Swanson

Sort of like bit-torrent.

Why wouldn't it work? No profit for centralized producers.

Like bit-torrent

But bit-torrent works. Mostly.An intelligent Consumer Unit with some protocol to restrict power pulled off the grid proportional to the amount generated would be a neat way of rewarding microgeneration.

"Small is beautiful...and resilient as well."

I agree. I was just thinking of how ML's prophecy has already come true in some parts of the world - in the "Monkey Paw" sense.

Third world cities and country side where the large utilities can't meet demand - that's where we see "microgrids clusters of small on-site generators" because of the constant threat of spontaneous load shedding.

Is that what ML is actually seeing for our collective future ???

Some thoughts on--what else?--Net Exports

If we assign some reserve numbers to our simple little export model, only 10% of post-peak production would be exported from Export Land, with 90% being consumed locally (Initial conditions at final peak: consumption at half of production, production decline rate of of -5%/year, consumption increases at +2.5%/year).

If memory serves, Khebab's middle case was that only about 25% of combined post-2005 production from the top five net exporters will be exported, with the rest being consumed locally.

Currently, slightly over half of world total liquids production is (net) exported, with the rest being consumed in importing and exporting countries.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that we have about 1,100 Gb of remaining conventional total liquids reserves worldwide, and let's assume that 25% of this will be (net) exported, about 275 Gb. Let's assume current net exports of about 16 Gb per year. So, at this rate of net export, the remaining net export capacity would be depleted in about 17 years. Of course, this is why we anticipate a long term accelerating net export decline rate.

Then there is the unconventional aspect. Net Exports from Canada have increased from 0.7 mbpd in 1997 to 1.1 mbpd in 2007. To put this 0.4 mbpd increase in perspective, I estimate that Saudi Arabia's consumption in three years will have increased by 0.5 mbpd. In any case, let's also consider Venezuela (which of course is handicapped by Chavez, but a production decline is a production decline, and Venezuela's production started falling prior to Chavez coming to power). Venezuela's net exports fell from 3.1 mbpd in 1997 to 1.9 mbpd in 2007 (all data from EIA). So, the combined net exports from Canada and Venezuela fell from 3.8 mbpd in 1997 to 3.0 mbpd in 2007.

I feel like you left out the punch line.

Are you going to tell us when the decline rate in exported oil will catch up to the new consumption curve?
I'm assuming that "puff the magic dragon" (A.K.A. Obama) will cause some hope and change in the economic outlook in the short term. We have all speculated that as soon as the economy starts to turn around, it will hit the wall of the new depletion level. I am hearing very little about people's guess on the timing. Are we looking at next summer or two years from now. I know that it doesn't matter to many of you, but my life boat is not finished yet.

My guess is that a combination of involuntary + voluntary net export reductions will cause the average 2009 price to be higher than the average 2008 price (around $100)--subject of course to how bad the recession/depression is.

Thai protestors storm Bangkok's main airport

All flights are cancelled as the political crisis worsens and turns violent

I was in Bangkok in 1986(?) during a plane hijacking that went bad----
What a drag it was, as I was interviewed and searched by numerous over zealous officials.
Finally got to Japan .

I assume you were flying in or out at the time. Probably wished you had taken the boat. My son has a boat at the present time on the hard in Hawaii, and itching to get back on it. If you have the time give me an e-mail, my address is in my profile up top.

the old hermit

Will do--
A neighbor of mine in Kula just died, and I'm thinking of increasing my carbon footprint and attending the funeral.
Travel between Hawaii and the mainland will become increasingly a luxury in the near future.

Wealthy Countries Grab Overseas Land for Long-Term Food Supply

Rich governments and corporations are triggering alarm for the poor as they buy up the rights to millions of hectares of agricultural land in developing countries in an effort to secure their own long-term food supplies.

The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf, has warned that the controversial rise in land deals could create a form of "neo-colonialism", with poor states producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people.

Rising food prices have already set off a second "scramble for Africa". This week, the South Korean firm Daewoo Logistics announced plans to buy a 99-year lease on a million hectares in Madagascar. Its aim is to grow 5m tonnes of corn a year by 2023, and produce palm oil from a further lease of 120,000 hectares (296,000 acres), relying on a largely South African workforce. Production would be mainly earmarked for South Korea, which wants to lessen dependence on imports.

This is a relatively new development that we should be watching. Wealthy nations with more cash than arable land are thinking about their future; how to ensure there will always be food to export when there may be little or no surplus for export in food-growing countries? What if the price of food reaches ruinous levels they simply can't afford? The obvious answer: "Own the means of production." By owning the farmland, they ensure a regular supply of food. Same thing China is doing, buying up energy and mineral assets around the globe.

Of course this raises the specter of large plots of land in Kansas, Illinois, Iowa and North Dakota, farmed by legions of foreign workers, fertilized and pesticided by their deep-pocket landowners, millions of bushels of vegetables, corn and soybeans trucked away for shipment to the Middle East, while small family farms next door look on, impoverished and unable to raise a loan from the bank for next spring's planting, amazed that the United States has sold its very soul, its farmland, to strangers in return for a few more barrels of oil. Riff on that theme and see where it goes.

- Dick Lawrence

I recall reading some recent reports of Saudi Arabia trying to buy large tracts of agricultural land overseas.

Here is an August, 2008 article from the Economist:

The process may be ramping up but it's not a new angle. About 20 years ago the King Ranch corp of Texas (a very big early ranch in the area) began buying large chunks of Brazil to extend their cattle biz. I think it may be the largest cattle ranch in thw world by now. I'm not sure but at last count I think it was over a million acres. But for the scenario to develop as described will take collusion by each country's gov't. If critical food stocks were being over exported a gov't could simple attach a significant export fee to the product. Unfortunately, given the level of corruption in much of the 3rd world such fees might never come to pass.

I expect a lot of future world trade to consist of net food exporters trading with net energy exporters, which puts big food and energy net importers like Japan in a rather precarious position.

I recall reading somewhere that Madagascar actually is giving or gave away (long lease or whatever) a large piece of land to S Korea (I think it was) in return for employment and I don't know what else.

Daewoo wants half the tillable soil in Madagascar:

Hello Davemart,

I wonder who gets Zimbabwe and the surrounding countries when they have finally and totally collapsed?

My guess is the UK, which will be in dire straits itself by that time, will be strongly considering a 'New Rhodesia'. But China's current efforts in Africa may be too well entrenched to easily displace by then.

The UK's best strategy may therefore be to take full-control of Morocco's phosphate reserves [small, militarily weak, and close-by]. Farmland anywhere won't be very productive if a Liebig Minimum can be used for extorting profits. Will the US be a partner in this resource grab? Two powerful naval forces as the ultimate pirates?

Of course, the greatest risk is WW3 over depleting phosphate ores and the huge amounts of energy & resources to keep the I-NPK global supply chain functioning.

Since the naturally superphosphated guano is gone [War of the Pacific, Atacama, etc]: IMO, sulfur and phosphate, along with potash, will loom large in the military planning postPeak.

The UK is currently a second or third rate power.
After the current crisis unwinds it will not even appear on the map.
Already most of the supporting fleet, destroyers and so on, for the projected new aircraft carriers have been cancelled, and there is no chance at all that the capital ships will be built.

Seizing resources is a game for powers at the peak of their game.

The US may have enough left in their locker to take Morocco, but the UK no way.

Agreed. Britain is going to be broke, broke, broke. If we couldn't hold together a coalition to squat on Iraq's oil fields, then no alliance will suffice either.

Glad to hear that Brown is facing at least one tiny corner of reality and cancelling the ships - he should drop a shilling and send Obama the news.

He is still planning to build the aircraft carriers, or at least carrying out the preliminary work as that is in Scotland where he is politically vulnerable, and is just ignoring the fact that without the correct support vessels the carriers will be completely useless.

Not to worry, as after spending significant amounts of money on getting ready to build them, their chance of actually getting built it non-existent.

Hello Davemart & Super390,

Thxs for the replies. Recall that the UK dead-headed 3.5 million 'immigrants'/year in the olden days for topsoil refueling.

I don't know how to do the ERoEI comparision, but it might be more energy efficient to strategically grab Morocco early than to try to 'militarily harvest' the bones of 3.5 million/year again.

Morocco is located close-by versus the ever-increasing transport distance required to seek out a new source of immigrants for the topsoil.

Failure to accomplish this may result in Morocco becoming a dominant force. Recall my earlier postings whereby the North African slave markets sold Icelanders and other Europeans, plus Americans, for great profits. An attractive, young, female Caucasian slave generally sold for 38 times the price of the avg male slave--highly desirable breeding stock for the aroused new owner.

The top powers take desirable resources.
That means the US or China, or perhaps the EU.
Certainly not the UK.

The other thing is, I suspect the military equipment one wants for a long term conquest is different from what the UK has currently on order (if as you say it actually gets delivered). Even the US with its huge military spending has almost overwhelmingly been spending on stuff for destroying stuff (and increasing the safety of the troops deploying it), not for controlling a populace. If someone knows more about the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, I'm sure they'd have some useful information about what kind of military hardware is actually needed in even trying to occupy a country; I bet its not strike jets or surface to air missiles.

I wouldn't hold him up as an authority, but even Frederick Forsyths The Dogs of War has the clear point that small force of highly equipped mercenaries can take the capital, but they can't keep it without a much larger number of soldiers (in the story, various tribes of natives) to actually hold the country long term.

My guess, and it is that, comment from military people would be appreciated, is that it is not really that difficult to seize control, as long as you are prepared to be ruthless enough.

Churchill simply used aeroplanes and poison gas in Iraq.

I doubt Stalin would have experienced much trouble in holding down Afghanistan. If the resistance is based on merging with the local population and knowledge of the terrain then you kill or remove the relevant population.

The reason this policy was not carried out on a very large scale in the past was that the productivity of the native population was required, and so it did not usually make sense to eliminate them.

Where their productivity was not needed, in Tasmania and in the American West, then resistance was simply crushed.

Modern engineering to exploit resources means that the utility of allowing a large population to survive is doubtful.

Poison gas, germ warfare, the destruction of water sources and so on should do the job pretty effectively without any need for very high tech or huge manpower.

Without a standing army in the field guerrilla warfare is usually just a protracted way of dying.

Yeah, but sort of the point of my comment was that, say, Stalin probably wouldn't have kept a conquered Afghanistan with military hardware designed for another purpose (analogous to using aircraft carriers to take over, rather than flatten, a country) but with tanks, jeeps and probably a hell of a lot of ground soldiers.

I really don't know much about the british in mesopotamia to know what was done in addition to the bombing and the gassing. I guess if you're just extracting minerals you could almost literally annihilate the population without problems and bring in your own crews to work diggers, etc, but if the UK were to risk international retaliation by taking somewhere over I'd imagine we'd try and get as much from it as we could, presumably including food growing and any kind of local manufacturing capability, for which we'd need to keep people around.

I'm just not convinced that either the UK or the US (or lots of other places) have built the right kind of military for resource wars, regardless of any other considerations about resource wars.

Most of the hassles appear to be due to trying to keep people alive, not kill them, at least in most terrains.

If you take somewhere like Falluja, for instance, if you don't need the productivity of the populace you can just surround it, with foot soldiers basically, as you don't need tanks if you are not intending to enter the city, and any tanks which come out can be taken out with helicopters.
You then knock out the water supply, and shoot anyone who emerges, so night vision glasses are handy.
If you are impatient you can send in a couple of aeroplanes to drop some poison gas.

It might be handy to make a fake peace, and allow the population to come out so that they can simply be killed in transit, but you can employ any impoverished people for the control needed.

It is the forces which are backed up by military industrial complexes which count, civil populations are more or less entirely helpless if you are not interested in their productivity.

With primitive equipment in the middle ages huge numbers of people were wiped out.

Recall that KSA recently just gave $500 million to Morocco-- I suspect to cement a future quid pro quo whereby KSA guarantees recovered sulfur from their sour crude and natgas in exchange for beneficiated phosphates that KSA can sell for great profit and/or political favors for those specially chosen to buy this Element--more precious than gold.

Worse come to worse, those leases are meaningless in a country that's starving. I don't know why people worry about that. Its a very precarious position to buy land somewhere you can't defend it. If anything, atleast this helps give a market to an area that doesn't have one.

"Its a very precarious position to buy land somewhere you can't defend it."

Why do you say they can't defend it?

History shows that "demand destruction" (wink wink) is usually part of the purchase agreement.

ask any banana republic dictator how long you can keep a populace starving before a coup...the most successful dictators combine political ruthlessness with the ability to keep a population fed and docile. The only dictator I know currently that is keeping a starving populace at bay is Mugabe and ask him how well that is really going. Corporations and Sovereign Wealth Funds have the same liabilities when it comes to "owning" land without military support.

Corporations and Sovereign Wealth Funds have the same liabilities when it comes to "owning" land without military support.

They have Blackwater when they need it. And anyway,in Latin America, the national army supports the foreign "investments" over the natives, even when they are starving.

The British certainly found out about food exporting during a famine -- the history of Ireland is there for all to see. I don't think that is really over even now.

Those days are over. South Vietnam was a tyranny of landlords, and half a million armed Americans couldn't keep its peasants under control. If anything Iraq was worse; the Iraqi insurgents started with no experience compared to the Viet Minh, they had no outside support comparable to North Vietnam, the USSR and China, their weapons were no more advanced than the Vietnamese while America had a 40 year improvement, etc, etc. Rendering our troops irrelevant was so easy that Iraq's factions spent most of their time fighting each other instead.

Blackwater would last about 10 seconds without the protection of the (unwilling) US military. In fact, I'd like to watch the video of the mobs chasing them out of Baghdad the day after we leave.

No, the problem is going to be the warlords who can obtain more value - and supporters - by growing narcotics on that land than the corporations can growing anything legal. I have to admit, I'm kind of cheering for the drug gangs in that matchup - at least if I snort cocaine I know what risk I'm taking, while the conglomerates will produce dangerous substances that look like food to ordinary consumers.

I can add at least one more successful dictator to your list Greg. Google Equatorial Guinea...interesting story. Last year I worked in this charming little spot off the west coast of Africa. A few years ago the current "president for life" destroyed the commercial fishing fleet of this small island nation. He was afraid it might be used in a coup. So here are many folks slowly starving (and fading away from malaria which was once eradicated but reinstated by the president) to death with a world of fish protein swimming around them. But the good news is that some have developed a taste for the giant jungle snails on the island.

For months I watched a flare burning about $150,000 of NG per day. The operator had offered to pipeline it to the shore for free but the gov't turned down the offer. Didn't want to pay for the infrastructure upgrade. And besides, it would only increase the survival rate. But the folks could entertain themselves by sitting on the beach (with their bloated stomachs) and watch as tankers hauled 2 million barrels of their oil off to Europe every week. No, it's not difficult to keep the locals at bay as long as you have all the money and guns.

Add Kim Jong-Il to the list.

of course if they had been allowed to fish, the oil being shipped away probably still wouldn't have bothered them. Yes, if you have all the guns, you can pretty much wreck a nation, as long as you can keep your guns happy, which requires a loyal faction large enough. It is a perilous position though and frequently reverses itself in these nations.

Several decades of civil war in South America prove that this arrangement only lasts as long as you can keep the population weaponless and uneducated, which either leads to a Zimbabwe style collapse or revolt.

I believe that this is the President who, when a relative attempted a coup, had him strung up with wire (slow hanging) and then ate his liver (according to someone you has worked there).


FWIW - after all its the MSM - NBC Nightly News is doing a nightly segment this week on "The World Food Crisis". It sarted last night.

Can't expect much in a 3 minute segment, but we are talking about the audience for the MSM - present poster excepted ;-)

First segment here on the Phillipines: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619/#27896681


NPR had a report out of Zimbabwe with some rather graphic descriptions of folks sorting undigested corn out of cow manure for rinsing and cooking. Hard to get that image out of my mind.

DickLawrence -

Indeed, the competition for foreign agricultural land has all the makings of a scenario at least as nasty as the current international competition for control of oil reserves.

The export of food by controlling interests while the local population starves is certainly not without precedent. During the Irish potato famine of the mid-1800s, wealthy British absentee landowners were exporting livestock to Britain at the same time that hundreds of thousands of Irish peasants were starving. That episode has never been forgotten by the Irish and had become a long-festering sore that poisoned Irish-British relations for more than a century. When it comes to outrages like that, people have very long memories.

But the perpetrators of that sort of thing operate not without risk. In 15th-Century Italy, there was a bad grain harvest one year and one of the regions was rapidly slipping into quasi-famine conditions. Well, it turns out that one shrewd grain merchant had anticipated the bad harvest and had been hoarding grain for some time, to the point where his storehouses were overflowing. However, he withheld the grain from the market in the hope that shortages would send prices climbing even higher.

One day a large group of peasants went to the merchant's posh villa to beg him to loan them some grain just to carry them over to the next harvest because their families were starving. They would pay him back with interest. The merchant (evidently far more skilled in business than in diplomacy) arrogantly snarled down at the peasants from his balcony, "Mangia piedras!" (Eat stones!) The furious peasants then proceeded to storm the villa, dragged the merchant out into the street, and hacked him into irrecognizable pieces with their farm implements. This degenerated into a full-scale riot, with hundred of people killed.

I think the merchant might have said the wrong thing.

If I wanted to invent the fastest possible way to start resource wars all over the planet, I could not have come up with a better way than creating colonies of farmland surrounded by impoverished natives. We don't have the troops to make this work for long, and neither does any other country.

First, we start with roadside bombs...

It depends on how prepared you are to eliminate the problem population.
With abundant resources, the big powers have been playing comparatively nice.
I doubt that will be the case in the future.

World on cusp of clean tech revolution: Merrill Lynch

same title, different year. what a lovely image they describe, looks a little like the jetsons. any article containing something similar to "abundant energy" rings my alarm.

they got the waste part right, though

This comment on why the UK stimulus package yesterday was for only around 1% of GDP, not really enough to do much, is worthwhile looking at as it gives a good idea of just how dangerous the UK position is:
Why is Britain not emulating the US in going for broke?

The answer is that Britain is much more vulnerable to further meltdown in the financial system. As bad as it is, the total size of the contingent liabilities of the US banking system is probably no more than 30 per cent of US GDP.
In Britain the number is probably between 200 and 300 per cent. If a large chunk of that eventually has to be met by the Government, the scale of the fiscal crisis would be awful in America but literally catastrophic in Britain.


My best guess is that rising unemployment and the present still very high level of house prices relative to income will result in large new falls in the coming year, coupled with a crash in commercial estate as shop revenues drop and offices close.
Credit card debt will also start to default in a major way.

This would mean that the banks would again be drastically undercapitalised.
Present figure show that they might need another £100 billion. This would seem to be very much on the low side to me, and I can't see how the Government can write new cheques to cover it.

This would mean a run on the pound, bank failures and enormous difficulty rolling over Treasury bonds.

Although the financial position is less extended than Iceland's was, in particular the level of national debt being relatively modest, it is hard to see how the position can be maintained.

Presumable The EU will make strong efforts to keep the UK afloat, but with the banks having around £4.5 trillion outstanding, it seems doubtful that the Continent will be able or willing to underpin it.

Things should unravel by the summer, I would have thought.

EDIT: I have just discovered that the small print in the pre-budget Government report envisages a further 25% drop in house prices in 2009.
Under those circumstances Bank capitalisation must be entirely inadequate, although of course the Government does not realise it.

Financial services and building also employ around 25% of the British workforce, so without leveraged products to sell and administer and without houses being built an additional 10% of the workforce loosing their jobs before taking into account knock-on effects would seem to be a very modest estimate,


I share your concerns and analysis almost %100. The UK is in an extremely disadvantageous position and the government's choices are narrowing all the time. They are desparate.

I think the sittuation has the potential to move in a very negative direction indeed, perhaps even worse than the Great Depression. Britain's economy and positiong in the world, relative to many other countries, like the US is actually far, far, weaker than it was in the 1930's. So many of the jobs and skills people have are extremely "fragile" compared to the "robust" industrial training, qualifications and abilities people had back then. Take the money out of financial and allied services and what exactly do people have to sell in the marketplace? What can they really do to earn a living? Are people as tough, flexible and adaptable as they were in the 1930's?

Are people as well-organised as they were in the past? What used to be called the working-class was far better organised than it is today. It had newspapers, magazines, associations, the trades union movement, political parties represented in Parliament, a whole culture in fact. Today very, very, little of this "working class" culture remains, so how does one protect one's interests? How does one oppose the direction the government is leading the nation? How does one express oneself when one has virtually no voice, no platform and no one is listening?

Although the corruption seems to be at a lower level than in the States, or perhaps better hidden, there is absolutely no indication that anyone in Government or on the Conservative opposition benches has the slightest idea what is happening.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat shadow Chancellor or whatever he is called, was spot on.

The use of most of the £20 billion stimulus to provide a 2.5% discount on VAT will do absolutely nothing when shops are already discounting by 25%.
OTOH the same money given to the lower paid either through increased allowances or social credits of one sort or another would have immediately impacted sales, as at that end of the pay scale most of what comes in is soon spent.

That is not to say that that would be the best use, as instead of the pathetic £100 million for insulation or whatever it was several billion could have been spent, which would have made a real difference to the construction industry and reduced gas imports in future, as the energy account nose-dives.

Instead they are going to waste the seed corn on hopeless attempts to preserve the banking system, and the millions of jobs which will inevitably go as the world economy de-levers.

Unfortunately, I just don't believe that the current crop of British politicians are capable of initiating the "reform" strategy that's required to "save" the economy from "collapse." Thats' leaving aside the debate about whether the system should even be saved. Given where we are, we don't seem to have much choice, as "collapse" similar to what happened in the Soviet Union, isnt' a particularly pleasant option. Whether we like it or not, we're in a game and there are rules.

I think our situation is almost like the start of a war. Very, very, rarely does one finish a war with the same generals in charge that one started with. Mostly the qualities required to become a general/leader in peacetime, are not the qualities needed in wartime, under fire, on the battlfield, in the harsh grip of cold and unforegiving - reality.

The risk of default on UK Government bonds is now being priced into the market:
Fears mount that Government will default on bonds

The cost of insuring against the British Government defaulting on its gilts in the next five years surged to 100 basis points above libor at one stage yesterday, before closing at 88.2 basis points.
In comparison, insuring against leading banks failing to pay back their debt now stands at 58.8 basis points for BNP, 65.2 for Commerzbank and 68.6 for Credit Agricole. In the UK, Lloyds TSB is priced at 95 basis points and 99.2 for HSBC.
Traders said to insure against the Government defaulting – via a derivative known as "credit default swap" (CDS) – a year ago would have been just two basis points above libor.


If this continues to soar it will eat up any giveaways, and the cost of servicing the National Debt will in itself guarantee severe recession.

What is the cost of Truth? Or lack there of?

I had a conversation with my dad the other day. He was upset about the fact that the Car Makers are trying to get a bail out. He was especially mad that "they had 30 years to work on making small, efficient cars like the Japanese" and they wasted it. Now they want a bail out. I pointed out that perhaps they had no reason to believe in Peak Oil or that we would run out in the foreseeable future. I mean, look at the USGS estimates, the IEA estimates, the OPEC claims of proven reserves, CERA, etc. When you look at all of the "official sources" there was no indication of an imminent problem.

Along the same lines, we are facing a failing economy. How did we get in this mess? We have not been in a recession for a while. A recession is defined as consecutive quarters of lack of growth as measured by the GDP, measured by the BLS (Bureau of Lies and Statistics). We have had a growing economy! Just look at the numbers. We have been steadily loosing our manufacturing and industrial base for almost 20 years, and despite this we have managed to grow the economy through the creation of more non-productive jobs. We learned we did not need to have an economy which actually produces something tangible. We could create a "Service Economy". It is like a small town where everyone works as a barber. We just exchange services ad infinitum. Could I get a show of hands of how many people really believe we could offshore our manufacturing base to Korea, China, Malaysia, etc, and actually increase our GDP? The BLS uses Moore's Law of Doubling Computer power every 18 Months... and if Computer power doubles, productivity doubles! Voila! Does anyone remember the time before PCs. Have we really increased our efficiency and productivity that much, or are we just deluding ourselves.

If the numbers are distorted, imagine if we have really been in a recession for the last 10 years, but were also in denial. The solution is not to actually increase our output but to go out and spend more! Now money down and 0% financing. No payments for 24 months, and cash back on every credit card purchase. No money? No problem, just re-fi your house, interest rates are at an all time low... Take out the equity...Don't worry we are not in a recession, everything is fine. The patriotic thing to do is to go out and spend.

If the inflation rate is to high, adjust the CPI through substitution. We can reformulate the equations until we get to the politically acceptable numbers.

Does truth matter? How will we every address the problems facing us until we start to get at the truth?

/rant off

estamos - I would call it the parasite economy where we have sucked the profit out of everything including the future.

For a very good detailed understand of what has happened over the last 30 years and leading to an understanding of what is to come I reccommend listening to this all the way to the end;

"The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class"


"Distinguished law scholar Elizabeth Warren teaches contract law, bankruptcy, and commercial law at Harvard Law School. She is an outspoken critic of America's credit economy, which she has linked to the continuing rise in bankruptcy among the middle-class. Series: "UC Berkeley Graduate Council Lectures"

I get the impression that the middle classes are not longer required . As we don't make anything we don't need a class of well educated citizens , well paid, to buy them.

all we need are aristocrats and serfs

I guess I know my place ;)



This insight is unfortunately true. First one "exported" the working class out of the US - poof! Now, the middle class, the backbone of the American Dream, is being crushed, as even their skills aren't needed anymore; and their historic role as a bulwark protecting the "capitalist class", or if you prefer, the aristocracy, is no longer required.

In a globalized economy the aristocracy are not reliant on any specific, national, working or middle class to support them. They can just move production and resources somewhere else, where the profits are higher and the peasants are under control and stable. Of course this is somewhat of an over-simplification.

One could ask, what are the great mass of Americans really for, what good are they? One can argue that they are really only consumers now, less the incredibly successful producers they once were. They resemble and have been almost been turned into an enormous, gigantic, herd of cattle, "consuming" until they explode.

One of the ways to bleed the "cattle" dry, like giant vampire bats, was to move US productive capacity abroad and make more profit. Then, one could disguise this process by drowning them in debt, enslaving them in debt. Instead of increases in real wages and wealth, one could palm them off with fake wealth and fake "wage debt." And miraculously, if one owned a bank, earn even more money off the backs of the cattle! Screwing them in both ends at once so to speak. So the vast majority of Americans were simultaneously; weakened, exploited, robbed, enslaved and finally, abandoned; all at the same time and what's worse - they were even paying for it?

Now, of course, there is no more false wealth to access. The party is over. Marx, a very clever, dedicated seeker after the truth about the workings of the early capitalist system he saw alll around him in England, once remarked that religion worked something like a soothing and escapist drug like opium. If he'd been alive today, I imagine he'd have looked around and wondered if debt wasn't similar to opium for the people, or maybe that should be television?

What, exactly are aristocrats for, for that matter. The world ran just fine without any people for a very long time, storing up fossil fuels for our eventual emergence on stage. Are we all here, all classes of us, just to trash the place? What are People For?

Clearly brains aren't enough -- nor is the false sense of control that comes with being "on top." I'll bet Paulson and his crowd aren't sleeping very well at night, even knowing as they must, that any competition from the middle class is being destroyed.

From What Are People For? by Wendell Berry

Good work finds the way between pride and despair.

It graces with health. It heals with grace.

It preserves the given so that it remains a gift

By it, we lose loneliness:

we clasp the hands of those who go before us, and the hands of those who come after us;

we enter the little circle of each other's arms,

and the larger circle of lovers whose hands are joined in a dance,

and the larger circle of all creatures, passing in and out of life, who move also in a dance, to a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it except in fragments.

I have a theory about how ruling classes form.

Ever notice that wolves can work together to bring down a buffalo without being able to talk? There's one wolf who's in charge, and he's learned how to growl and bite and intimidate the other wolves into committing the acts necessary to run down the buffalo.

Now a pack of humans can carry out the same task with an egalitarian social order, by simply talking with each other and planning it out. But if you put those same humans to work on something even more complicated like agriculture and storing of surpluses... here comes the big man who's good at growling, biting and intimidating.

Isn't that what our bosses are?

Shouldn't we learn ways to make a living that don't require bullying and "leadership"?

But instead we squander our talents on creating something yet more complicated and lucrative.

Hello NeverLNG,

"What are People for?"

I would suspect that at some point postPeak when dire NPK shortages are really putting the hurt on: most males, hopefully dead first, will be fed headfirst into a wood chipper for maximum resource extraction, and young female slaves will reach their maximum price.

People often forget that we will do anything and everything for NPK [same for water]--there are No Substitutes to these elements to leverage photosynthesis above Liebig Minimums.

This is better than the ancient Chinese Emperor who told his citizens to exchange young children, then eat.

Monty Python has a good routine where the compost the Pope after death. NPK returned.

The saying going around Russia these days: "Everything Marx told us about communism was false, and everything Marx told us about capitalism was true!"

"Them" labelling "us" as a consumer is dehumanizing. Not original - I read that somewhere - probably here or maybe Naomi Klein.

I suppose that's all part of it.

Rhetorical: What is to become of a consumer who can no longer consume?


Along that line - I read an essay about 20 years ago by an author who blamed oppression not on Communist economics, or capitalist economics, but economics itself. Meaning the rational planning of every instant of human activity to maximize productivity. That was the thing that enslaves us.

Excellent lecture ... but like all experts she doesn't get the big picture ... it's much worse than she thinks because she doesn't consider things like limits to growth - and you must have growth to pay off all that debt.

Add in savings being made for pensions are extreemly unlikely to fully pay out due to demographics/shorter working lives of the people who must actually provide the goods and services to the pensioners and things certainly don't look so rosy!

Elizabeth Warren. I recall listening to an interview with her several years back on effects of proposed changes in bankruptcy and credit card laws. Very insightful, and in hindsight, correct.

Warren is the author of The Two-Income Trap. She doesn't "get" peak oil, but I think she's correct about the causes of bankruptcy in the US.


For what it's worth, the truth doesn't matter, at least not compared to faith. Faith is often stronger than truth. For most of human history most of what we've had faith in and believed hasn't been true. That did not stop us believing it.

The values and attitudes of the Enlightenment challenged superstition, ignorance and faith and darkness; and wanted to free people from these chains and reveal the truth about the world, which is why they valued rationality and science, their Big Truth.

Summers, who Obama wants in his government is an economist who once said something along the lines of "Spread the word! The laws of economics are like the laws of engineering!" This is a pretty outrageous claim for a subject so steeped in dogma, ideology and politics, and "class interests."

I feel that as a culture there are strong indications that we are moving away from truth and backwards towards faith. Probably "superstition' never really went away or was defeated to the extent I thought it was.

Most of what we take to be true is really taken on faith. You might be able to prove that the Earth goes around the Sun, but most people wouldn't know where to begin with something as simple as that. And other "truths" are even harder.

So obviously, our society runs on faith. "Full faith and credit" -- both of which appear to be in short supply right now. But what else is there? Technocracy? They tried that in Argentina.

Just look at the numbers. We have been steadily loosing our manufacturing and industrial base for almost 20 years, and despite this we have managed to grow the economy through the creation of more non-productive jobs.

Visit shadowstats and think again. We only believe our economy has been growing because the government tells us it is so. And yet all the numbers they use to measure that are fantastical - manipulated outrageously in the odd places where they aren't just made up.

I would argue strongly that real economic output has not grown, that any measured growth is proportionate to massively increased debt loads, and that in fact we have been losing ground to inflation since at least the 70's.

"Growth" is very easy to manufacture and earn enormous profits from, as long as it lasts, as long as no one notices what's really happening.

There are so many ways to do this. One way is to buy up companies and pretend this represents growth, when it's only expansion. Enron were masters at this and we all know were that got us. Imagine this model applied to an entire country like the USA.

The banks have been involved in what ammounts to a gigantic Ponzi skam, a monsterous crime, too big to fail, their too big to go to jail! Which illustrates more about the nature of our society than most people care to acknowledge. That it's a massive criminal enterprise that thinks it's gone ligit, like the mob. But suddenly the mask of respectability drops and the guns come out again. Iraq is mugged, beaten to the ground, raped, sodomized, robbed and has it's throat cut; and now the gangster is returning home to the USA.


that was my point although it may have been lost in the sarcasm. I tend to believe that the economy has been failing, and that the numbers are bogus. We have used stimulus packages and cheap credit to encourage spending to simulate a growing economy. the big 3 have geared up to manufacture 17 million cars a year where we could probably only consume 11 million in an actual economy. The cheap credit and bogus numbers (lies) have sent bad data into the systems leading to further bad decisions.

Had the American people been told we were going into a recession based on real numbers 10 years ago, we probably would have been reluctant to borrow for new mcMansions and Hummers which we could ill afford. With out the excessive consumption, economic signals would not have synthetically stimulated the economy to give us the false belief that we are better off and could afford more when we could not.

I believe the high price of oil earlier in the year contributed to a slow down resulting in an exposure of the facade. Now things are falling apart quickly and the energy consumption leads oil prices to fall to almost 30% of the high only 5 months ago. This may lead people to believe the high prices were just because of speculators and when now with approaching $1.50 gas we can resume business as usual. Fundamentally, however, the economy is UNsound. But who will tell us that?

I think the growth of debt has helped make things look like they were going all right. Of course, people can't really pay back the debt, as we are finding out now. That creates a problem.

I think we really have been in a productive recession since about 9/11. While I think we would have found an excuse for the Greenspan Ponzi scheme no matter what, we certainly feared having a recession that Bin Laden could claim as his victory over America and global capitalism. But here we are, and it is still his victory, just bigger and more permanent.

Your comment about increased productivity reminded me about a question Ghandi asked when it was pointed out that the big looms in a factory were much more productive per worker than the hand looms most families in India owned. He asked how productive are the unemployed? Increasing productivity has only added profits for the owners while eliminating manufacturing jobs.

Second Life bank crash foretold financial crisis

Ginko had all the trademarks of a bad investment idea. It promised that people who deposited their virtual money would earn an astronomical interest rate of more than 40 percent, and similarly loaned out money with absurdly high interest rates attached to repayments. Thousands of "Second Life" residents opened accounts with the bank.

The end came when panicked investors began withdrawing their virtual money, known as Linden dollars in the game and exchangeable for U.S. dollars at a rate of roughly 250 Linden dollars to one U.S. dollar. Ginko did not have enough reserves to pay up. When the bank finally announced it was finished, an equivalent of $750,000 in real-world U.S. dollars went up in smoke. The collapse not only wiped out time spent earning Linden dollars in the game, but also hit the wallets of players who had legally paid U.S. dollars to buy Linden dollars.

750,000 only?

Wasn't there a first millionaire announced in 2006, a German-Chinese who is realtor in 2nd life and is said to have made more than a million real Dollars?

260 Linden-Dollars currently are worth 1 real Dollar, so there should be a little more cash in the system than just those 750,000. Maybe they have some more banks, or virtual hedge fonds (which, hm, seem virtual enough in our 'real' life ...)

Ginko Bank was just a teeny little part of the Second Life economy. Ms. Chung made her millions trading real estate in Second Life, which underwent its own bubble and collapse in 2006-2007.

I wish Daniel Yergin would give a press conference in Second Life. We could all show up and pelt him with animated flying genitalia, like Room 101 did to Chung.

So if we'd all been on Second Life 2 years ago we would have witnessed a preview of everything that was going to happen in the real world. It's like a Monopoly game at a higher level of reality.

That's plain hilarious. Pigs get slaughtered. Don't be a greedy pig like the bankster gnomes.

Re: Economic Slump May Limit Moves on Clean Energy

As usual, action on the environment is likely to be pushed to the end of the line when money gets "tight". The economists consider the natural world as an "externality", that is to say, something outside the realm of economic concern. The reality is that all economics, indeed, all civilization exists within the Earthly environment. The economists think they are being "scientific" with their calculations, yet, they want to ignore all the other sciences when they plan their moves.

After all the feel good talk from Prez-in-waiting Obama, I expect little to be done given the stark choices laid out before us, given that his cabinet choices like More of the Same...

E. Swanson

It looks like anything even remotely connected to the real economy is going to get bagged, be it the environment, car production, what have you. Apparently the fake economy requires all the world's resources from now to infinity.

Part of Obama's pitch today was that we need to restore economic growth for the indefinite future. No mention of what this economic growth would do to the planet which is continuing to deteriorate. No mention of the fact that we have already passed the tipping point on global warming. Can we continue to grow indefinitely and deal with these issues? Throughput is throughput. Throughput requires materials and energy which will continue to scar the earth and continue large scale emissions.

Obama wants to build roads. That is his first mistake as road building is anathema to a post carbon future.

This is an old discussion and I realize there are those who think we can grow our GDP without harming our environment. I would like to be convinced.

Obama wants to create green jobs, a plus. But does he truly realize the scale that is required? No mention of phasing out coal. That is the key. When he supports a moratorium on new coal plants and commits to phasing out existing plants, I will believe he is serious. One must deal with demand through conservation and alternatives, but one also has to take direct and immediate action to cut production from the most carbon intensive energy source.

Another thing that needs to be done is to tax carbon. No mention of that, either. He, like other politicians, will sacrifice our future and the planet in order to avoid what needs to be done with respect to carbon taxation. The excuse will be that we have to get out of this economic mess first. There is always an excuse. And do we believe that once we get out of the mess, that we will do anything meaningful. By then, it will be time for the next election.

I voted for Obama and have held my fire during this honeymoon period. But urgency requires speaking out and pointing out these inconvenient truths to my friends who voted for Obama.

As a consumer, I am highly confident, confident that I will not be buying very much for at least the next year.

I, on the other hand, will be buying.
Soil, seeds, garden tools, and (if the law allows it) a rain cistern.

That is, the bogus "index" is showing some statistical fluctuation that some choose to characterize as a "rebound".

The Consumer Confidence Index is based on a monthly survey of 5,000 U.S. households that concluded on Nov. 18. To top of page

Financial crisis? That's nothing

The coming energy crisis is going to dwarf the financial crisis, says the head of Shell: if only he were wrong.

I must object to this statement. It implies that finance and energy are two free-standing, independent edifices; sort of like the twin towers were. If a plane would have struck only one, the other would still be standing.

This is not true of finance and energy. They are not two independent edifices. They are so inextricably interconnected that one cannot stand without the other.

Let's take a look at the trade deficit since the run-up in oil prices began in about 2000:

U.S. Trade deficit (millions of dollars)

Year          Total      Petroleum    Pct Petroleum
                          End-use*       End-use
1998          247985       43348         17.48%
1999          345559       59187         17.13%
2000          449468      108284         24.09%
2001          427165       92950         21.76%
2002          484353       93234         19.25%
2003          547552      120402         21.99%
2004          666183      163998         24.62%
2005          782740      229191         29.28%
2006          836077      270918         32.40%
2007          819373      293221         35.79%
2008**        856177      418621         48.89%

*This includes petroleum and products extracted from petroleum
**Extrapolated for full year based on 1st nine months


The trade defict can be financed several ways:

1) Foreigners buying US corporate equities
2) Foreigners buying US corporate bonds (think securitized
subprime mortgages and other securitized housing and
consumer debt)
3) Foreigners buying U.S. government t-bills
4) Foreigners buying U.S. real assets (real estate)
5) Foreigners buying foreign assets owned by US investors

Brad Setser at the Council on Foreign Relations has done some excellent reporting on how all this works:


What Stetser shows is that during 2005, 2006 and 2007 the way most of the trade deficit got financed was by option (2) above: foreigners buying US corporate bonds (think securitized subprime mortgages and other securitized housing and consumer debt).

The point I'm trying to make is this:

1) The run-up in the price of oil beginning in 2000 has greatly contributed to the balooning of the trade deficit.

2) Beginning in 2002, the Fed tried to put the brakes on an overheated economy by using the only two tools it had in its monetary toolkit: (a) It began slowing the growth in the money base (the amount of currency in circulation) beginning in 2003 and; (b) in 2004 began raising the Fed funds rate.


3) The US government also exhibited fiscal austerity during this period. As you can see from Setser's graphs, the sale of US agencies (think Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) remained flat during this time and the sale of Treasuries actually fell by about 50% during this period.

4) However, the government's efforts to cool the economy using a combination of monetary and fiscal austerity failed. The reason is, again looking at Setser's graphs, because foreigners began buying massive quantities of US corporate equities and US corporate bonds (again, think mortgage-backed securities).

5) If the trade deficit had not been so great--the inexorable increase in the price of oil being one of the principle causes of the run-up of the trade deficit--foreigners would not have had the money to buy US corporate bonds and equities. The monetary and fiscal austerity policies initiated by the US government beginning in 2003 would more than likely have served, as they had over the last six decades, to cool an overheated economy. However, because of the huge trade deficit foreigners had massive amounts of money that was recycled to US corporations, much of that money being passed through to make mortgages and other risky loans. The measures taken by the government to slow down the economy therefore failed to work.

The financial crisis--how it formed and how it came about--is not unrelated to the energy crisis.

It implies that finance and energy are two free-standing, independent edifices; sort of like the twin towers were. If a plane would have struck only one, the other would still be standing.

Err... No plane struck WT7, and it collapsed anyway.

Now, animal power can light up your house

An ox mill just to get a feel for the technology.

A pic of the actual generator.

Eric Sloane included drawings of horse and dog powered mills in his books. John Michael Greer cites auto alternators as a nigh-ubiquitous bit of technology that can be salvaged in the future to make simple electricity generators that utilize muscle power.

PO.com member SolarDave's avatar is of him pedaling the stationary bike generator that powers his PC. Can be done!

I'd really love to have one of those bicycle powered generators. It would be good to use when I'm feeling overly gluttonous on the TV/laptop usage and need to provide more power to my batteries. On the other hand, it probably would be more efficient for me to go outside and swing an axe on some trees for a bit.

from the toplinks:

Sending an e-mail requires a few seconds of electricity, while mailing a letter consumes a tree and truck fuel. But when the engineer weighed all the metal and plastic in his computer, he discovered an electronic message is three times as ecologically damaging as a letter.

I find that fascinating. We pin so much of our hope for future on the survival of Internet and information sharing. This is the first accounting that suggests in a real down-to-earth manner that the net takes more energy than we think. It's what Odum postulated - that information tech is extremely energy (emergy) intensive because of it's position in the hierarchy - top of the food chain.

No doubt Merkel did not include the emergy of all the lawyers, technicians, culture and society that underpin the Internet.

cfm in Gray, ME

Sending an e-mail requires a few seconds of electricity, while mailing a letter consumes a tree and truck fuel. But when the engineer weighed all the metal and plastic in his computer, he discovered an electronic message is three times as ecologically damaging as a letter.

This is a really really dumb statement. I have probably send thousand upon thousands of emails on my very lightweight, small laptop (not to mention it takes place of several other paper functions online) I pay my bills online, get my magazines online, etc etc, I hardly ever even get mail anymore. Statement is pure rubbish.

I agree with this. If you have economies of scale, the actual cost of sending an email through a computer vs. mailing thousands of letters reduces the impact of the hardware tremendously. However, if this guy sends one email a week, yeah, he probably doesn't even need a computer in the first place.

I do wonder if Odum has been "misquoted" and actually referred to the enivronmental costs of processing the various components that make up the computer (some requiring very energy intensive processing) rather than just weighing the components, which does sound a very dubious way to calculate things.

I suspect that no normal amount of email will amortise the computer "environmental cost" (particularly since machines tend to get replaced every 3 years whilst mail trucks? 5-10 years? dunno). The one defence of a computer is that it's a general purpose device: I can send email, use internet telephony, browse the internet/stored documents, play DVDs, play games, do various kinds of planning, control home automation devices, etc. In that sense a computer is probably more environmentally friendly that having separate TVs, telephones, DVD players, games consoles, etc.

Imagine you have a diet that consists only of eggs from rare sturgeon or seeds from sequoia trees. Surely you only eat so little. But you are eating at the top of a very high food chain - a food chain supported by not only the sturgeon and the sequioas, but evolutionary time and the production of entire biospheres. What you eat is distilled from vast areas and very expensive. That would be (in a rough bastardized off-hand way) Odum's argument. It sounds like Merkel did a more basic analysis. If I recall - someone correct me if I'm wrong - doesn't it take three times the resources to make a laptop as it does a car? That's probably apportioning fab plants and deep strip mines for rare minerals over some number of laptops. Cars are not generally so exotic - at least the ones you could gap with a thumbnail.

One could make a paper bill with stuff found in Maine. But not an electronic bill. A whole different emergy level.

And another 160 workers are being laid off Dec 6 at the Rumford paper mill. No one knows which positions. Merry Christmas.

cfm in very Gray, ME

A laptop doesnt take more energy to make than a car, not even close.

A car has a computer in it, miles of copper wiring, LCD screens and switches, buttons, motors and lights. It has steel panels all pressed from sheet metal (which was mined, poured, forged and rolled) welded together. Tires, gearbox, engine, foam seats. Its not even close.

You might be able to show that laptops are turned over more regularly than cars. Cradle to grave a car may last 20 years or so. Laptops probably around 5 years. so over 20 years you might need to by 1 car and 4 laptops?

How "efficient" anything is depends on how intensivley you use it, if you use it for other things, and how long you use it for.

It's a great example why EROI calcs can be tricky. Its matter of handling the boundary conditions. Try taking EVERYTHING into account.

construction of Computer
construction of recipients computer
Power to run computers
construction of server farms
power to run server farms
energy used in the construction of the networks (cables to be buried etc..)

Real mail:
Construction of paper mill (to create paper, envelopes & stamps)
Farming of trees, felling and logging, transport to mill
Power to operate mill
Construction of paper delivery vehicles
fuel to deliver paper to store
Construction of local store that sells paper and envelopes
Fuel or food to get to store to buy paper and envelopes
Construction of local mail sorting office
power to run local sorting office (sender and recipient)
construction of mail delivery vehicles (18 wheelers, aircraft, local delivery vans etc...)
Fuel for delivery vehicles
Food for drivers of delivery vehicles.
Pen or pencil construction and consumption of ink or lead.
Construction of mailbox

In each case its not entirely fair to apportion ALL of the energy to the one activity of sending one message. Paper mills, computers and server farms all serve other purposes than just handling your one single message.

If you had to set a whole network up just to send one letter you would never bother to do it. likewise we dont build a pipeline to transport one barrel of oil, nor do we build an ethanol plant to produce just one barrel of ethanol. So one must ammortize the costs/energy consumption over the life of the devices and make allowance for the proportion of that asset that is actually needed. Fiber optice cables, server farms and computers do not last for ever, nor do delivery trucks, paper mills or pens. Likewise only 20% of the pen may be used writing letters, 20% of your computers time used for email, 5% of the paper mills output used to make letter sized stationary or envelopes....

A more simplistic approach would be to look at the incremental cost of one MORE letter. The cost of producing one more piece of paper, one more enevelope and one more delivery, vs the few seconds (or fractions of a second) of power required to charge the laptop and run the server farms for one more email. This means ignoring the cost of creating the networks in the first place.

In either case you must apply the same type of boundaries to BOTH forms of communication. You should not try to apply the entire cost of producing the laptop or the server network without comparing the cost of building a paper mill, store and a delivery network.

Apparently this guy does have a computer already - based on other mentions in the article (so that energy is already spent). The network cables have already been buried in the ground. If he leaves that computer sitting idle while he writes letters the old fashioned way then hes doubling up on his consumption and making matters far worse.

Hi indyphil,

I think your list is incomplete. Other things to include:

Manufacture of copmuter peripherals
Creation of computer user manual
IT technical support provision
Development of computer software
Marketing of laptop/software
Packaging manufacture/disposal
Running of IT corporations
Trading of corporation's shares on stockmarket
(ditto for power companies)
Running storage warehouses
Delivery of computers to retail outlet/customer
Energy to run computer retail outlet
Education of email sender/recipient (reading and writing, IT skills)
Manufacture/delivery of office furniture
Printing out the email ;-)

The ease of email encourages you to send many more messages than you ever would with letters (I am as guilty of this as anyone!). Writing a letter is an art: the effort and expense force you to craft your prose more carefully, and make you think twice before sending it. Letters are consequently often highly valued and certainly were in the past: consider all the historical figures who kept all their written correspondence. Without doubt, email can be useful, but I sometimes wonder (usually when trawling through my inbox) just how much real value we actually derive from it. IMHO less is often more.

i would imagine the postal service uses a fair number of computers to function.

Agreed, DaveMart. Most things use a fair number of computers to function these days. I imagine the computer industry relies on the postal service and other physical delivery and distibution networks as well. That's the wonder of complex systems.

On the other hand, what about the seemingly-inevitable cost of bailing out automakers because they hit the energy wall before the e-mail industry?

One could argue the email industry hit the wall first. ENRON (not only electricity but a lot of fiber optics), MCI, AT&T. The dot-com bubble. And then again, finance itself is essentially "email industry" - next to pure information. Poof.

The internet couldn't exist without advertising and a good chunk of pornography. Finance, maybe, but the sort of finance we have now is conditioned by the internet into a mass product. Online bill paying, manage your 401k, rip off someone else's 401k, etc....

cfm in Gray, ME

Consider only these two:

Running of IT corporations

Trading of corporation's shares on stockmarket

What in the world is the embedded energy in those? What is the emergy in law, culture, society and the whole technology of the computer age? Boundary conditions indeed.

I'm confident in saying that paper mail works in an agricultural, solar economy. Likewise that email requires an energy intensive economy and that we probably won't have the internet if we revert to an agricultural, solar economy.

That's not quite the same as saying the environmental destruction of an email exceeds that of a paper letter. It's boundary conditions again. If email requires a cultural and technological milieu that destroys the planet where the paper letter does not, it's a little unfair to assign that destruction to email. OTOH, if hanging on to email requires hanging on to that destructive milieu, then what?

A bigger issue - where the overall context plays such a role - is that one cannot argue the marginal cost of another email vs the marginal cost of another paper letter. We've already destroyed the planet, so let's burn more coal because it won't make any difference.

cfm in Gray, ME

Good job at dissecting the argument, indyphil. The claim about email being more energy intensive than paper mail is truly bizarre. Moving electrons is always preferable to moving stuff.

What is true is that the Internet may not be as resilient as paper mail. Even here the case isn't clear. Paper mail within the local area would be resilient, but across oceans? In contrast, the Internet could operate in some fashion over radio waves. The packet-switching architecture of the Internet has redundancy and resilience built into it.

Incidentally, Howard Odum thought that society should make preservation of communications networks a very high priority (The Prosperous Way Down):

Priority Use of Hydroelectric Power:
To continue the essentials of the world's civilization requires that global information networks be sustained. But this requires a priority in allocating electric power at a time when electric power from fossil and nuclear fuels becomes more expensive. Strip mining for coal will conflict with the need for agrarian production of food and fiber. It seems likely that centers of civilization will reorganize around the foot of mountains with hydroelectric power, thus using the high net emergy contributions of the earth.

... Since the prosperous way down depends on sharing a global information network, electricity must have high priority. The prosperous way down may well depend on society's ability to give priority to the greater need for geographic coherence of the larger scale.

Energy Bulletin

You need a whole Internet of computers to equal the capabilities of the postal service. All of those data centres and all of the spam they process takes a huge chunk of energy, so I don't think it's quite so clear-cut.

Nor did Merkel include all the incompetence, bureaucracy, corruption, deception, and manipulation which underpin the government that underpins the postal service.

Relevant issues, not easily quantifiable.

Now, animal power can light up your house

I expect to see a headline "Con Ed buys 40 million hamsters -- pundits ponder why".

Y'know, hamsters really do seem to like running in a wheel all day and are probably more efficient than most other critters; you can get by with mostly starch input if they cannibalize their dead, which they do. When I was abouut ten I built an ultra hamster cage and had a population explosion which was interesting to my bent young mind. And it was fascinating to watch the aggregate behavior as 20 or so tried to run in a very large wheel; about 80% would synch direction while the remaining 20% tried going the other way and ended up going over the top.

The striking thing about hamster wheels is that they would actually rate in the top 10% or so of halfassed energy ideas I've seen touted, which says more about human delusion than it does about the efficacy of hamsters.

Though in terms of lighting, where are those luminescent hamsters with squid genes? I think glowing domestic animals is one benefit of gene tech that could make an otherwise drab future a little more surreal.

As far as dogs go, they can do a lot more useful work. For instance, we have a lot of avocado trees on a steep hill with undergrowth, and it only took a few minutes to train a pair of border collies to run down the hill, root around for the fallen fruit, and run up to place them in a bushel basket, just for a word of encouragement. They'll happily do it until they fall over from exhaustion, then pant a bit and run down to do it some more. You could actually get some reasonable work done with them as opposed to just raw power.

Could a hyperactive hamster power your house?

Let's assume a hamster weighing 50 grams can run up a 30-degree slope at two metres per second. This corresponds to a power output of half a watt. If it delivers the same power when running on a hamster wheel, you would need 120 hamsters working flat out to keep a 60-watt bulb lit.

But the average hamster probably doesn't spend more than 5 per cent of its life running on its wheel, so already we would need a rotating brigade of 2,400 hamsters just to light our bulb.

It gets worse. The average UK household needs a constant power consumption of about 2.5 kilowatts, some 2,500 watts. Each house would need 100,000 hamsters to keep it powered. Multiply this by the number of households in the UK and we would have an environmental and economic disaster. Lucky we don't rely on hamsters, then.

Considering my daily usage of electricity in my home is less than an average of 60 watts, that means I only need 2,400 hamsters in my house. (I'm not taking into account "power" used in the form of propane for cooking/heating, however.)

I figure one hippo and a rather large wheel should do me.....

This sounds like a job for -- Mighty Mouse!

My daughter had a hampster who had a squeeking wheel. We were on a trip and in a motel. Sure enough the hampster started going ... squeek, squeek, squeek ... After about forty five minutes the people next door banged on the wall. I jammed a stick in the hampster wheel but as we were loading the car I looked extra proud to the folks next door.

MST3K ep. 0324 p. 1/10 - Master Ninja II, featuring "Gerbil Sphere II" at 4:30 in, mocking the Biosphere experiments, including a rodent's muscle power harnessed to cut wood chips.

"Yes...and...it's really bad!"

Gotta love those Border Collies! All mine wants to do is chase the frisbee, but you have inspired me to try and get some useful work back for my dog chow investment. I suspect the EROI would be surprising with those dogs.

There is nothing better than having dog toys dropped in the way while I'm splitting fire wood.

Quite the DOW anomaly this morning.

Yahoo shows DOW DOWN 150.3 at 12:57 pm.


Bloomberg has it UP 657.


I guess they must be using different companies for their index.

It's dated Oct. 28.

I think they're in a time warp...

finance.yahoo has been screwed all day, and still is

Shipping Woes: More Than Just Pirates: Because of the global recession, the world's shipping industry has spent recent months in a slow-motion collapse

Just six months ago, despite the fact that the economy in the U.S. was already slowing down, the industry was steaming ahead. As ships of every flag, color, and size were crossing oceans, carrying in their often cavernous cargo bays the essentials of trade—oil, steel, cement, iron ore, and coal—shipping rates worldwide in June hit their highest peak ever. It cost nearly $234,000 a day to rent one of those large capesize vessels, the ones so big that they don't even fit through the Suez Canal.

Last week, you and your friends could have rented one of those ships for a weekend bachelor party and football game for less than $4,000, according to data collected by the London-based Baltic Exchange.

If the slump last another couple of years or more we may be seeing some those $700,000/day offshore drilling rigs being stacked and paying anchorage fees. The Deep Water drilling programs take years of planning and can't be altered very quickly. But it works the same on the backside: once the economy of such efforts returns it also takes years to gear back up significantly.

Oil imports to the U.S. remain above last year's levels. I deduce that oil tankers are not part of the shipping collapse. Oil, steel, cement, iron ore, coal drops off, but oil remains. If the lack of letters of credit are part of the shipping collapse, why are oil tankers not affected?

According to this article (posted up top), oil tankers are very much affected.

oil tankers are very much affected.

Not to the USA yet I would guess, WTI is in major demand, but check out the daily prices for the likes of TAPIS, usually the most expensive by far.


Spot the difference between 'peak oil' and 'peak credit' - same result - from 'The Automatic Earth' ...


Most worrying of all, my phone rang Monday and it was Bryan Lutter, South Dakota farmer, agronomist, and agricultural market watcher. "Neal, we're out of propane!" I figured he was experiencing personal financial stress and I offered some consolation. "No, we're out! Everybody's out … all three elevators in the area can't get fuel to dry the corn crop." Their crop is coming in wet this year, 22% moisture as opposed to the more normal 18%, and it must be dried to 13% or 14% for storage no propane at this time of year means crops left standing in the field overwinter with the hopes of harvesting in spring. Today I happened to talk to one of the staffers who works for Steve King, IA-05's Congressman, and he confirmed that this is a systemic problem – a friend in the region with a propane business is running trucks all over to get enough fuel for the elevators they service.

That last bit isn't peak oil, it's credit issues getting loose in farm production.

I'm not sure that is a credit issue.

The Dakotas have been having spot fuel shortages for a couple of years now, even before the credit crisis started. If it were New York or LA, it would be big news, but since it's South Dakota, there's been very little attention paid. (Though there was a senate committee looking into it at one point.) They're at the end of the pipelines, and the population is so sparse there isn't a lot of incentive to increase supply.

I think the problem is their propane pipeline just couldn't carry enough to meet demand, when the corn ended up needing more drying than usual.

I did a little checking into this, after Neal from the article (known as SacredCowTipper here) called me.

If this is a credit issue, I think it is the particular grain elevator operators not having enough money/credit to buy propane in advance. Someone would need to talk to people involved to know whether this is the case.

I suspect it is mostly a problem of a particular area needing more propane than usual, because of the wet crops being harvested at the same time. Propane is shipped by truck from the pipeline. The governor has signed legislation allowing drivers to work longer hours (make more trips, drive from more distant supplies). When I looked at EIA info on propane supplies in the Midwest, they looked fairly normal.

Xeroid, it's the paragraph after the one that you quote that's IMO the important one:

That last bit isn't peak oil, it's credit issues getting loose in farm production. People will starve over this stuff starting some time in 2009 – wheat farmers couldn't finance the high price of ammonia this year and crop protein percentages will be down from 14% to perhaps 8% to 10%. This isn't a big deal for developed nations … yet … but the fifty percent of Egyptians who live on $2/day and receive subsidized bread? We've not seen famine like what is pending outside sub-Saharan Africa since China's misnamed Great Leap Forward.

It looks like TAPIS are still higher than most, so I am not sure what you were indicating. If some tankers are idle, and US imports are up YOY, who's getting less oil (what nations specifically) and how are they coping? My guess would be the poorest of the poor, but then they didn't consume much to begin with, so who really is responsible for the involuntary conservation?

The prices are all over the place at the moment but Tapis has usually been consistently way higher than say WTI - this is most definitely not a normal situation - look how much they are moving on a daily basis, just today some benchmarks are up ~10% while others are down ~8%.

I think its just the lag time. A couple more weeks and expect less oil everywhere.

Here's a Bloomberg site with data on tanker shipping rates; the rates are all over the place, but look very little like the now infamous Baltic Dry Index. Tanker rates went bonkers at the end of 2007 and today they are where they started before that.



This is, of course, a very illustrative piece of information, and shows just how dire the world's economic situation really is. The virtual total collapse of the Baltic Exchange Rate is frightening.

And there are other dire signs too. The market for insuring business trade contracts is also collapsing as credit dries up completely as everyone wants cash and is afraid to trust anyone or their paper. This is a serious development and may lead to international trade simply grinding to somehing close to a halt, incredible as this may seem, unimaginable as this may seem. Surely something will be done by someone, this could never be allowed to happen could it?

Now, I am not saying world trade is going to grind to a halt tomorrow, only that this is just another massive problem, along with all the others which is emerging out of the shadows of the "Long Boom." An "artificial" boom, that was too long and too big, based on the biggest debt bubble in history. Trying to reflate this gigantic bubble, which arguably should never have been created in the first place is not only going to be very, very, difficult. It may also be imprudent, dangerous and impossible.

"The virtual total collapse of the Baltic Exchange Rate is frightening."

looking over the last 5 years, the Baltic Rate looks like back to normal values, certainly not frightening, unless you just purchased a ship on the basis of last 6 months rates!

5 years the Baltic Dry Index ranged in the 4,000 to 5,000 area. Today it is under 900. To me, that's a bit under normal. Over the last five years, the low was just above 1700 and occurred in summer 2005.

If global shipping has collapsed, how come the stores are full of foreign goods?
We don't have shortages of anything right now.

Wow... you do understand your remark was completely illogical and nonsensical, right? Or do you not know what the Baltic Dry is and how shipping works?


Sounds like those pirates did an awful job of timing the market.

Historical Perspective

For those who haven't already checked it out, the Energy Export Databrowser can give you a historical perspective for some of the articles above:

Investigating "Norway Slips on Scarcer Oil" we find the following example plot showing Norway's lovely Gaussian production profile:

We have read many times that North Sea production is falling but production/consumption graphs can give you an intuitive feel for how we got here.

For instance, can everyone see that Poland, for all of its previous history a coal exporter, has now reached a point where it can barely meet its own demand? Whatever the combination of political, economic and geologic causes, Poland seems to be experiencing Net Export Decline of coal just like Indonesia and the UK experienced this for oil. It's no wonder they're interested in "going green".

Yes, there's lots of interesting stuff in there.

The data comparison that I find compelling is world coal, gas then oil - the coal and gas production has recieved the investment required for world economic growth while the oil has been almost flat for 4 years - something is up with the oil, and not just the price!


Kerry and Specter push for more high-speed rail

There's been a lot of talk in Washington and the media lately that one way for the federal government to give the economy a boost would be to start making massive investments in the nation's infrastructure. Such spending would both create jobs in the short term and give the U.S. the kind of infrastructure to build its economy around in the future.

I agree with Kunstler today: Good old fashioned 80 MPH passenger rail would be a better investment.

Or maybe would HAVE BEEN a better investment.

The town I grew up in only existed because it was where the Illinois Central and Penn Central railroad tracks crossed. Besides these two major rail lines, other lines came into town from several other directions. As a kid, it was unusual to get across town without being obliged to wait on at least one train. Today, only the Illinois Central line still runs. In fact, all the other rail lines have had the tracks taken up and the steel rails recycled. The right-of-ways have in most cases been developed. The time to have invested in renewed rail transport has gone by.

Repurpose the roadways.

The interstates are no good for that because they go up grades that are too steep for trains (and too steep for horses also), but at least for the upper Midwest, all the roads on Jefferson's grid will happily accomodate a rail right of way.

Another 800 billion dollar injection! Why 800 again?

I think it's that number because 900B would sound too close to one trillion and if they said one trillion dollars people would run about trying to figure out things like how tall a pile of twenty dollar bills that would make, at least it would result in mass blinking and swearing.

Next time, to be extra cunning, maybe they should vary that 800 billion, maybe make it $799,999,999,999.95

I don't know...

$799,999,999,999.95 sure looks like a tall stack of twenties to me.

Can't make a stack of twenties out of $799,999,999,999.95 ... and there lies the cunning:).

Keep em confused and stuttering!

Only the $0.95 has real, intrinic value: 3 quarters and two dimes properly recycled might make one casing to hold a bullet and gunpowder.

Too bad the rest of the money is digital vaporware--no heat value. $800 billion in printed $1 George Washingtons might heat a small village for one winter as it is burned.

The toilet paper value of $800 billion might be the best use of this currency if it exists. Will we be like Pavlov's dog--> the sounds of Bernanke's approaching helicopters dispensing cash will eventually synchronize with our desire for a strong bowel movement?

Only the $0.95 has real, intrinic value: 3 quarters and two dimes properly recycled might make one casing to hold a bullet and gunpowder.

Right you are! ... and just with current inflation, I have been using pennies drilled for washers for years, (washers cost a nickel). Maybe we should start a new currency based on washers nuts and bolts and any loose gears and springs that may be left over from the imploding economic machine?

PS. I enjoyed your strong bowel movement, ... uh, the helicopter bit, that is.

(my wife often tells me that my humour is on the level of a grade five elementary student - high praise indeed, to attain such simplicity of form, as Matisse might say)

Nostradamus Redux

Celente's accurate forecasts include the 1987 stock market crash, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the 1997 Asian currency crash, the 2007 subprime mortgage scandal that he said would soon engulf the world at a time when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, a macroeconomist and expert on the Great Depression, told us, "The worst is behind us." In November 2007, Celente also told UPI that a massive devaluation of the dollar was coming and that some Wall Street giants were headed for total collapse. He called it "The Panic of 2008."

"Worse than the Great Depression," Celente opined -- beginning with a sharp drop in standards of living, and continuing with an angry urban underclass that threatens a social order that allowed the mega-rich to continue living behind gated communities with summer escapades to luxurious homes on the French and Italian Rivieras or to bigger and better and more expensive boats from year to year.

This time, Celente's Trends Research Institute, which the Los Angeles Times described as the Standard and Poor's of popular culture, can see a tax rebellion in America by 2012, food riots, squatter rebellions, job marches and a culture that puts a higher premium on food on the table than gifts under the Christmas tree.

Sounds kind of like this description of the last years of 16th-century Europe:

This was a society in which over-population, with a consequent shortage of food and employment, had created tensions which the social and political framework proved unable to contain. The possessing classes reacted by emphasizing with renewed determination the exclusive nature of their rights and their privileges, while the dispossessed responded by resorting to violence in any one of its multifarious forms--piracy and banditry, riot and rebellion, looting and pillage and frenzied iconoclasm... The consequence of this was a descent from (modified) order into total disorder, on the horrors of which Shakespeare was characteristically eloquent:

Civil dissension is a viperous worm,
That gnaws the bowels of the commonwealth.

The common response to this frightening situation was predictable enough: extreme political and social conservatism. The radical voice of the early sixteenth-century humanists, protesting against privilege and property, was silent in the late years of the century. An era of social experiment had given way to an era remarkable for its siege mentality... In a world like this, where order was at a premium, innovation stood at a discount.

J.H. Elliott, Europe Divided: 1559-1598

As a 75 year old, born in the depression, I am really am amazed about the psychology of generation X, Y, Z or whatever. Somehow, I get the feeling from posts above and previous Drums that debt was somehow forced on to these poor people. We are wallowing in debt, save us! Hello, you do not need a big screen TV, you do not need a computer, you do not need a $99/mo cell phone service, your kids will live through it not having $150 tennis shoes and you do not need a Ford Expedition to haul their butts to soccer. Like people taking the escalator up to top floor of the gym to get on an exercise machine. Dig a ditch, you will feel better and have something to show for your effort.

There is no reason to run up debt on a credit card because you saw a new widget on TV. If you have a ‘too big house’ and too big mortgage why did you buy it? My first house was less than 800 square feet and we had a child too. Cranius Extractus Anis. The same goes for financial institutions in trouble, auto industry in trouble and the congress critters.

I see it in the way the ‘Me Generations’ drive and the classic pileups around here because they (Me, Me, Me) are in a hurry, following too close, cutting off this one and that. Even without a wreck, it is outrageous.

Old Fart Rant Off …

The younger generation actually doesn't waste any more money than previous generations. Elizabeth Warren (mentioned upthread) had done some fascinating work on this subject. While it's true families today spend more money on some things than their parents did, they spend less on others.

In fact, when all the numbers are added up, an increase in one category of spending is generally offset by a decrease in another. On average, a family today spends more on airline travel than it did a generation ago, but less on dry cleaning. More on telephone services, but less on tobacco. More on pets, but less on carpets. All in all, there seems to be about as much frivolous spending today as there was a generation ago.

She argues, convincingly, that it's not big screen TVs and Starbuck's lattes that have made today's middle class so vulnerable. It's the high cost of housing and health care.


I will not cross swords with the lawyer professor lady who lives on the other side of the fence from the reality where I live.

I thought her speech was informative and her books probably have the same blah excuses for unwillingness to live within an income but I would have added a lot of non-politically correct points. She never did mention the duh! factor of spending more than your income on a rather regular basis. Nor did she mention that any damn fool should understand 27% interest on a credit card. Perhaps we could blame the educational system for not teaching us. It must have been their parents fault. On and on and on.

We have a lot of Mexicans here in Reno, living on essentially minimum wage and sending money back to Mexico. How do we address that concept with what she had fully documented with pretty charts? I haven't heard of any of them going bankrupt. They have lowered their standard of living to exist within their means. This was the solution before the 'ME' generations and still holds.

We have a lot of Mexicans here in Reno, living on essentially minimum wage and sending money back to Mexico.

You didn't say anything about Mexicans in your original post. You were comparing the older the generation of Americans with "generation x, y" etc. Obviously, we Americans - old and young - use way more than our share of the world's resources. Most of the people in the world use far less than even the poorest of us.

But that is not what you said. If you had, I doubt anyone would have disagreed. Rather, you accused today's middle class of spending more frivolously than their parents, when that is simply not true.

You are wrong, Leanan. You are focusing, rather disingenuously in my opinion, on what Lynford said about frivolity when the main point is living within your means. That is, if housing and health care cost more, then there should be less spending on the frivolous. Lynford is absolutely right, regardless of whether he thought it was frivolous spending or not as that is a family-by-family issue: is it health care and housing or is it waste?

It has nothing to do with Mexicans. His point was simply, if poor Mexicans can do it, why can't poor and middle class Americans?


Thanks Leanan. I tried to convince a very knowledgeable friend who totally disbelieved and challenged me to send a link which I didn't have and you provided.
There are, I believe, a lot of people who fit the propaganda this article challenges, but a lot more who do not. These latter live those lives of quiet desperation we have heard about. You understand because you take information seriously. I understand because of the people I know.

The whole set-up, at least in the UK, where I can speak more authoritatively, was rigged against saving and trying to live within one's means.

Planning permissions mean that you can't buy the house you want and can afford, but must go for the something often far more than you want or can afford.
Saving to pay off more of it would have been in vain, as the money being pumped in would mean that it was ever further out of your reach.
Of course, this is exactly what the financiers wanted, or they would never have made far more on houses than the actual cost, if one could save up and buy a one-room prefabricated structure and add as needed.

This debt structure was not something which was invented by the common man, although of course being human they would be tempted by the apparent ease of obtaining goods far greater than they could afford, especially since real wages have been held back ruthlessly by the imposition of globalisation, imported labour and the rest of the box of tricks.

It would help more if you put the greatest responsibility where it truly lies, with the greed, stupidity and irresponsibility of the people who actually run the system.

Your comments seem to echo something I read recently:

[I]t is useful to recall that for all its hitorical association with freedom, market society--i.e. capitalism--does not appear as the spontaneous upwelling of a drive for individuation, but is at first imposed over earlier forms of social orchestration. The extension and generalization of exchange relationships does not come until the eighteenth and even nineteenth centuries, with the enforced commodification of labor and land... No one, reading of the manner in which dispossessed agricultural labor was forced into the early English mills, would describe this as a manifestation of freedom working its way in history.

Whatever the difficulties of comparing the objective constraints of tradition and command with those of the market, there is no doubt that a decisive change soon takes place in the manner in which social controls over behavior are perceived. In earlier societies the integration of the individual into the life of the community is clearly seen as arising from feelings of positive affect (family ties, friendship, communal observances, etc.), or under the duress of communal pressure (scorn, ostracism) or coercive authority. Once its transitional pains are past, the integrative mechanism in market society appears to use none of these pressures, and to rest solely on our free engagement with the transactional apparatus of society. The economy appears as an autonomous process, wholly independent of the society within which it operates.

Robert L. Heilbroner, Behind the Veil of Economics

You're right, of course, but some of the responsibility must be borne by the motivational psychologists working for the marketing industry. Humans, in the aggregate, aren't very bright; look at how superstitious and easily addicted people are. The tendency to acquire 'stuff' and to affect the trappings of social status are phyletically ordained, after all. While the responsibility for taking on debt in order to finance consumption of trivialities must ultimately be assumed by the individual, the sociopolitical climate that allows or actively fosters debt fueled consumption likewise bears a burden of blame. I would contend that the 'Old Fart' generation would have been every bit as susceptible to these temptations, given a similar climate.

Also, in the US at least, many fall into debt due to illness. While much of this illness results from ill-considered lifestyle decisions, much too stems from inherited deleterious alleles that selection hasn't been allowed to sweep away due to medical intervention, metabolic reactions to environmental toxins, machine related accidents, and other unintended or unavoidable factors beyond the individuals' control.

"You're right, of course, but some of the responsibility must be borne by the motivational psychologists working for the marketing industry."

This is part of what I was talking about. Don't you see the cop out from responsibility here?

Old geezer Chuckle.

Don in Maine

Lynford, susceptibility to suggestion is just as much a reality as anything else. You can call it a cop out, but it is only true if you aren't one of those wired/trained to be susceptible.

Psychology isn't voodoo. Words and images have real effects. They have forever and will forever. Dismissing this aspect of human reality is also a cop out: it's letting people off the hook for intentionally manipulating people. And it isn't all people. Anyone in sales will tell you you throw out a hundred lines and are happy with one, two or three hits. That means 97% or more don't get hooked by any given attempted manipulation.


Dear Old Fart,

I agree. But we are not just individuals, we are also part of a society and a culture. Consumers aren't born, so much as created and nutured. Consumer Culture isn't just a clever phrase, it also decribes a way of life.

I've done my best to spoil my two daughters over the years rotten. I've tried to lavish them with luxury and time and love. I figured I had all this money for doing not that much, so, what the hell, just spend it, after all you can't take it with you! So it was spend, spend, spend on my part. The most expensive baby clothes, toys, books, everything money could buy. I even bought presents for the kids who came to their birthday parties!

Strangely, my wife came from a family that lost almost everything during the Great Depression. Beautiful young women moving from the lives of princesses to the lives of Cinderella, ouch! This Great Depression trauma went through three generations, perhaps four. The memory, the scepticism, the feeling that the good times were perhaps only a tease, an illusion; that reality was very diifferent underneath, that it was temporary.

Anyway, despite my best efforts to spoil them, or maybe it was the time and love I lavished on them that really counted, my two daughters, rejected all the luxury I showered on them and incredibly sensible, prudent, non-materlialistic, lovely, kind, resourceful and nice. They have the repect for money I've never, ever, had; and make me feel somewhat ashamed of my formere antics.

On the other hand, many of their friends have bought into consumer culture with a vengence that has to be seen to be believed. Golden, glowing, children fo the sun, who luxuriate in life of easy, comfort and plenty. Protected and provided with everything money can buy, blissfully unaware of how fragile all this can be, how quickly it can be snatched away, how harsh and brutal life can also be. I have a terrible, terrible, feeling these golden children are in for a very rude awakening!

Living in debt is rooted in our immigrant origins. Most of our European ancestors landed on our shores already deeply in debt. In the 17th and 18th centuries indentured servitude was the only way to pay for the voyage across the Atlantic. It took many years of hard labor to repay those rich few who financed the trip. As America industrialized in the 19th century factory owners would recruit the poor of Europe and have them bound to sweatshops for many years to pay off that debt. Those fortunate enough to move to land recently stolen from native Americans would go into debt buying land and tools for their farms and borrowing for seeds and other expenses every year. Consumer debt is an offspring of the accounts run up at the local general store to be paid when the crop came in. The company stores in industrial towns were a way of keeping low wage workers from just walking away from their 16 hour a day seven day a week jobs where foremen commonly beat their underlings as a way of enforcing discipline. The new technologies of the 20th century like radio, refrigerators, and cars could only be sold in large numbers by loaning money to buyers. The post WWII home developments of modern suburbia meant offering low down payment FHA and no down payment VA mortgages became common. Those who could save up to escape the debt traps that surround us are few and far between.

The inflation of the past 30 years has made saving money for some future purchase nearly impossible. Saving for your child's college education is a fool's errand since college costs for some reason have risen much faster than general inflation. The student debt industry though is a new and very entrapping form of debt. The rapid rise of the need for a college degree as the only way out of the low wage world since the demise of organized labor means tens of millions of young Americans starting their working lives with very high debt burdens. A large percentage of those so indebted were people who should have never gone to college in the first place and drop out without a degree and without a job which pays enough to pay off the loan. Something had to break under this inequitable burden and consumer spending is it. Those coming of age in the 21st century can no longer offset the reduced spending that comes with the retirement of the baby boomers.

This is all well and good if you can afford it and not bankrupt yourself and your family. Bravo. Your daughters seem to have more of your wife's reality outlook, which is good for them IMHO.

You obviously are not crying fowl because of financial hardship. That's the part I am alluding to.

I too dread the future for these young Golden Ones. One of the toughest things I have seen is a whole family (and fifty more) starting through an asparagus field and cutting the asparagus off at the ground. The field was 160 acres so it was a half-mile long. When they got to the end of the row, they turned around and started back. All of them bent over from the waist cutting asparagus for 12-hour days. The next day it was back to the fields a little after sun up. Yes the Golden Ones will have a hard time and probably die.

I also understand there is the fickle finger of fate or here on TOD we would say “A negative Black Swan” passed overhead (splat!). I essentially started over in 1987 (at 54) and lowered my standard of living to a 24-foot trailer and a simple job so I do know something the professor doesn’t know and hopefully she never will.

At this time of year all the turkeys cry fowl.

Lynford: 1. You are a guy 2. You are an old guy to boot. Generally speaking, the older you get the less the fanatical pursuit of material items appeals to anyone, and to a large extent it is a female passion. A lot of male expenditures are focused around attracting or impressing women, which is why a lot of Married with Children types feel spending money is a waste of time. Newly divorced males are renowned for throwing around any money they still possess. The rise of women in the workplace parallels the rise of consumer debt, and is arguably the main cause of said rise.

Generally speaking, the older you get the less the fanatical pursuit of material items appeals to anyone, and to a large extent it is a female passion.

Folderol. There is no evidence that women are any more materialistic than men (and some that it's the opposite way around).

which is why a lot of Married with Children types feel spending money is a waste of time.

It is in fact families with children who are most vulnerable to bankruptcy and deepest in debt. People spend money to provide for their children in a way they wouldn't do for themselves.

The rise of women in the workplace parallels the rise of consumer debt, and is arguably the main cause of said rise.

It's more complex than that. It might even be more accurate to say it's the effect, not the cause.

I think you can even argue that it's peak oil that's caused the rise in consumer debt. Peak oil USA encouraged offshoring - moving manufacturing jobs to where the cheap energy was (not just the cheap labor). Suddenly, one person with just a high school degree could not support a middle class lifestyle. And suddenly, education became a necessity for everyone, not just the upper class. That's what made a house in a good school district so valuable.

It's not really a huge McMansion that families go into debt for. It's a house in a good school district.

Leanan: You might be right. I haven't heard Folderol before.

Your rant is well taken. My 85 year old father-in-law worked as a carpenter for most of his life. He has plenty of cash in the bank, all his cars were always paid for in cash, never had a mortgage, and has no other debt. Raised three kids. When I say he worked as a carpenter, I don't mean he owned his own construction business most of the time. He simply worked for other builders. During the years when he was self-employed, he had just one employee. And he did all this in the economy of the Northeast Kingdom in VT.

He did splurge the other day and bought a new chain saw:)

We have to go back several generations before we find an economic model of personal fiscal responsibility that is sustainable.

Natural gas cars cost less than half as much as gasoline operated cars to operate in terms of fuel costs and did not require corn ethanol to reduce summer ozone:


Hello TODers,

Kenya readies for oil spill scenario
IF negotiations fail:

I am not an explosives or tanker expert, but it might be ecologically less hazardous to really nail this tanker with close, repeated sequences of fuel-air explosives such as the 'Daisy-Cutter' or MOAB [Mother of all Bombs]. Not only would the far reaching high overpressure blastwaves send a very strong message to those ashore in Somalia, but if it succeeds in vaporizing most of the oil, any resultant oil slick heading ashore might be very minor.

The trick is to get the ship's cargo burning as fast as possible. What you don't want is a slow rupture of the hull, then sinking, the whole time leaking out huge gobs of unburned fuel to decimate the habitat.

Then the crew would just be SOL?

Hello DaveMart,

My guess is that the crew has already been smuggled ashore for the later exchange of even more ransom money.

Alternatively, if this ship is attacked by the Islamic militants, I think the pirates will shoot the crew, and/or the resulting chaos will probably result with most of this crew being left to burn alive on a sinking ship. My feeble two cents, thus I hope negotiation can be successful first.

I wonder if it is possible to covertly fill the ship with chloroform gas or some other chemical fumes to render the pirates unconscious?

You've lost me.
The pirates will not put the crew ashore precisely because their presence prevents attacks - theya re hostages.

Why in the world would Islamic militants attack the ship?

Those ships are bloody huge, and I can't imagine that it would be possible to knock the pirates out with gas - it's windy most places off-shore, and there must be lots of places which you would have to get the gas in sumultaneously.

Hello DaveMart,

"Why in the world would Islamic militants attack the ship?"

Sailors from Croatia, the Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia are also among the crew of the ship, which is now anchored off the Somali coastal village of Harardhere.

Islamist fighters controlling much of southern and central Somalia have vowed to root out piracy, but the pirates have beefed up their military set-up around Harardhere and warned any attack would have "disastrous" consequences.
The Islamic militants consider the pirate takeover of this Saudi crude an affront to Islam and the land of Mecca & Medina. They don't really care what happens to any 'infidels' that comprise the crew. Keeping the Muslim crewmembers aboard ship may be the best way to keep the militants from attacking.

I would suspect the Muslim crew members would be released unharmed after the ranson is paid, but the Croats, Philippinos, and Poles are probably Catholics of some denomination or other. Smuggling them ashore, then hiding them, is probably the best way to protect them from the Islamic Militants that most likely will just want to behead them. Tough to get much ransom money from corpses.

Gas is $1.49/gal where I live, E85 is $1.39 (the $.40 spread is gone, they can't compete). Anyway, at the rate it is dropping, in a couple of months the oil companies are going to have to pay me drive.

Noticed this at EIA: Frequently-Asked Question: How much can I expect to pay for heating this winter?

Forecasts (as of November 12, 2008) for average winter heating expenditures and the percent change over last winter, for households heating with:

+ Natural gas – $889 per household, 3.6% increase
+ Heating oil – $1,694 per household, 13.3% decrease
+ Propane – $1,544 per household, 8.1% decrease
+ Electricity – $943 per household, 9.5% increase

Big blow in maine tonite, 50 to 65 mph winds, 2 to 3 inches of rain. Grid power has been gone for hours. Running off the battery banks just fine. Sat. modem , laptop and a single CFL. Plenty of dry wood in and dog is once again snoring by the woodstove. I really do enjoy extreme weather and it is a good test of all the backup systems. Probably be a ton of free firewood out there tomorrow.


Don in Maine

Hello Don in Maine,

Good for you for being lifeboat prepared--Big Kudos from me.

Meanwhile in my Asphalt Wonderland: high of 77, low of 56 tonight.

Wealthy Snowbird tourists flocking in to partake of pointless golf, top-notch resort living amenities [if good enough for AIG, good enuf' for me], and holiday useless-crap shopping. Carowners upset that rain is in the forecast for Thxsgiving--their chrome penis will have to go to the carwash immediately afterward to restore maximum gleam as they truly revel in cheap gasoline prices. Huge fountains and high power landscape lighting on full blast to maximize the party-on impression.

Not uncommon for punk kids in cars to happily shout out 'loser' or worse to those on foot or pedaling. Fast growing pastime is to shoot pedestrians or those waiting at bustops in a deranged driveby. I myself have been slapped on the back of the head by passing cars full of kids, also sprayed down with tossed soda-pop, water balloons, or a fire extinguisher in years past.

No massive community movement towards recognition of the looming postPeak problems. Is Cascadia ready for an influx of multi-millions?

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

When visiting Phoenix/Scottsdale (had a short meeting with you :-), I walked to the store. The Police slowed down and "gave me the eye" for my suspicious behavior.

Not much Hope for Phoenix aka "The Valley" post-Peak Oil,


US oil independence not applicable -- Saudi prince, Nov 20, 2008

The former Saudi Chief of Intelligence Prince Turki Al-Faisal said that:

Saudi was near the end of the oil era, as it was investing in human resources through sending its students abroad to gain experiences and knowledge

Hello TODers,

UN: greenhouse gases at new record highs

Brazilian Farm Credit Shrinks; Growers Reduce Crops (Update1)

“The government is helping the banks, not the producers,” said Augustin, the Mato Grosso farmer who is also an adviser at the state’s agriculture federation. “There’s no credit renewal going on.”

“A lot of people are ceasing to plant because it’s not viable,” the corn association’s Barbieri said. “People have lost hope.”