DrumBeat: November 30, 2008

Oil majors eye $5-billion ships to cut costs

London — Oil and gas companies are racing to develop a new type of vessel they hope will revolutionize offshore gas production but even if the untested technology works, its deployment could be blocked by resource holders who fear it will undermine development goals.

The industry hopes to build a fleet of ships or barges that can sail or be towed to offshore gas discoveries, extract gas, freeze it to liquefied natural gas (LNG) and offload the LNG to tankers for shipping to lucrative Western and Asian markets.

Aramco halts plan for Dammam oilfield - sources

DUBAI (Reuters) - Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia has cancelled plans for a $1 billion project to restart production from the country's first oil discovery due to the potentially high costs, industry sources said on Sunday.

State oil giant Aramco has put under review contracts for some of its biggest expansion projects, signed at the height of the commodities price boom. Aramco aims to negotiate cheaper deals reflecting the sharp fall in the cost of raw materials.

OPEC Warns of Collapsing Demand

OPEC's Secretariat has warned of a collapse in the global demand for crude oil. It made this warning in the last issue of its monthly bulletin on oil markets, highlighting a few major market developments that have led to this warning. Among these was the decline in demand in comparison to last year, the expectation that demand would further drop in the third quarter of the year, the collapse in the average price of OPEC's oil basket to below $50 at present, and the rapid decline in demand for oil in the US. driven by these factors, OPEC issued this warning, the first of its kind after years of significantly high demand for oil.

Iran plans to replace oil with nuclear energy

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Sheikholeslam said his country needs nuclear energy as a substitute for its oil resources.

“Iran will have oil for over 100 years but once its energy resources is depleted, nuclear energy will be the only logical substitute,” the Islamic republic news agency quoted Sheikholeslam as saying.

Memo to Obama: Help develop local responses to food and energy crises

As our petroleum bills drain our cash reserves — making it more difficult for us to address the challenges facing our countries — our problems are aggravated by the fact that the cost of foodstuffs is rising. This has had profound effects on the quality of life and the livelihoods of all our citizens, especially the poor.

The solution: Invest a portion of the profits earned from today's high oil prices to benefit the countries that have been worse hit by the increases.

America needs Big Three to succeed developing next generation of vehicles

Not only would the immediate economic ripple of a GM, Ford or Chrysler failure be of tsunami-like proportions, but the inevitably stalled or lost progress on alternatives to the internal combustion engine would be catastrophic. Understand that the new propulsion technology in which the auto industry is playing a lead role is not just about selling cars that use a lot less gas, but also about the future power of military equipment and the platform from which the United States deals with other nations, some of which sell us a lot of oil but really don't like us very much.

Uganda: In a land of plenty, why do they still go hungry?

By long cultural tradition, the people of Katine measure wealth in the number of cattle they own. In the absence of banks, cows are in effect a savings account, used for dowry in marriage and a safety net when crops fail. 'Without cows, you are nothing' is a familiar refrain.

After a period of civil war 20 years ago, many lost those precious savings when the Karamojong, a pastoral ethnic group from north-east Uganda, attacked and raided their cattle. Then, just when people were rebuilding their herds, rebels from the anti-government Lord's Resistance Army occupied Katine in 2003, stealing or slaughtering animals. Many residents fled, returning later to find themselves impoverished.

Suburbia's shallow critique

First, we as a nation need to have a thoughtful and respectful discussion about the future of our vast suburban landscapes -- a discussion that does not treat "the suburbs" as a mere straw man, that transcends single issues such as traffic or "big box" stores, that avoids simple solutions and that finally recognizes the numerous profound ways in which Americans and these landscapes are entwined.

Second, for this to happen we need to move beyond the often counterproductive and shrill suburban critiques that have dominated so much of the public debate in past years.

America Cannot Tolerate Unending Immigration from Somalia, Sudan, Bhutan, Myanmar or Anywhere Else

Beyond the sob stories and the human misery, those reporters never talk about the horrific impact of adding 2.4 million immigrants to the USA annually. Each one causes a 12.6 ´ecological footprint´ whereby 12.6 acres of land must be destroyed to support that person. The average immigrant causes an immediate 10 times more negative impact to as high as 30 times more impact on our delicate environment. Each immigrant overloads our carrying capacity. Those people represent a growing hyper-population load on the United States that cannot be tolerated as we head into the "Post Oil Era" whereby we cannot support 300 million U.S. citizens and growing toward 400 million in 30 years.

Did peak oil go away? No

ATHENS -- With the price of oil plummeting below $50 a barrel, shedding close to $100 since July, and commensurate readings appearing at the gas pump, people have something to feel good about during an otherwise dismal economic time. Unfortunately, it may mislead the less informed to dismiss warnings about imminent peak oil as so much Y2K false alarm.

For there is a dark side to this otherwise salutary turn of events. Rather then rendering moot the question of peak oil, the falling prices of petroleum actually exacerbate it. This is because, while the current economic free fall will continue to lower demand for petroleum and drive down prices, these lower prices have also fallen below the cost of bringing new oil into production.

Gas above $2 a gallon in only 3 states

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Just 4-1/2 months after setting record highs, the average price of regular unleaded gasoline is above $2 a gallon in only 3 states and the District of Columbia, according to a survey released Sunday.

Oil price rebound may be five years off

The recent collapse in oil prices to roughly US$55 per barrel makes this summer's rise to US$150 per barrel feel like a bad dream.

Higher oil prices were a red herring that diverted central bankers' attention from the global credit crisis to fighting inflation. Even now that the focus has firmly shifted to promoting economic growth, the prospect for a firm recovery in oil prices could still be years off.

Low oil prices depress Saudi foreign asset growth

Saudi Arabia's foreign assets gained about SR48 billion (Dh47bn) in October, but the growth was far lower than in previous months due to a plunge in oil prices, according to official Saudi figures.

Gold: The Next Reserve Currency Player

The parabolic rise last year in oil prices gave them daily billion dollar payouts. The drastic fall has still left them able to pay off substantial social committments to their populaces and have enough left over to make forays into the Sovereign Wealth Fund arena. However, there is a future to consider and oil will not be around forever. The twin conundrums the Kuwaitis and Saudis have faced in particular is how to protect themselves from the fallout of either unacceptably low or high oil prices and (critically) depreciating value of the currency they receive for their precious oil - US Dollars.

Gulf states should up development aid - UN official

DOHA, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Oil-rich Gulf Arab states should give more development aid to poor nations and raise transparency if they want a bigger voice on the world stage in the wake of the financial crisis, a senior U.N. official said on Sunday.

"If you want to become a full global player, it comes with responsibilities," said Salil Shetty, director of the U.N.'s Millennium Campaign, which aims to halve extreme poverty and boost life expectancy by 2015.

"If Gulf states are serious, let's have some cash down," Shetty said in an interview on the sidelines of a U.N. aid meeting in Qatar's capital.

Britain’s cars may go electric by 2025

BRITAIN’S roads would become green, clean and silent if the plans to be set out by the government’s Committee on Climate Change tomorrow were realised.

It will warn that motorists must get rid of their dependence on the internal combustion engine and switch in large numbers to vehicles powered by electricity, hydrogen and other low or zero-emission fuels.

Iran says oil market oversupplied by two million bpd

TEHRAN (AFP) – Crude producer Iran said on Sunday that the world oil market is oversupplied by two million barrels a day after OPEC decided to leave its oil output quota unchanged amid falling prices.

"There is oversupply of two million barrels per day on the market and we are seeking to create a balance between demand and supply," Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari told reporters.

State's future Moore's passion

This was her professional life for 13 years. She became the highest paid woman in banking. In 1991, she married Texas investment tycoon Richard Rainwater. In 1993, she left her job at the bank in New York to become president of Rainwater Inc. She was 39 and on the verge of a new career, still in the "get-rich" phase of her life.

Rainwater was a successful funds manager-turned-private investor from Fort Worth, Texas, who had gained a reputation for taking big risks that paid off handsomely. He bought 15 million square feet of real estate in Houston and Dallas after an episode of panic selling in the mid-1990s. Then he caught wind of the "peak oil" theory, which says that there is a possible peak in worldwide oil production, and decided to invest heavily while prices were low.

Fuel Ethanol Margins: Boom and Bust Cycles

Short-term profit margins for dry mill ethanol producers have been consistently low by historic standards since the last quarter of 2007, even as the prices of crude oil and gasoline rose through mid-July and have since fallen dramatically. Profit margins during the first half of 2008, when oil and gasoline prices were rising, were held down by high input costs and a substantial growth in production capacity in the wake of the 2006 boom in ethanol markets. The bottom line: In spite of being the recipient of government subsidies and mandates, ethanol has not avoided the boom and bust cycles seen in other commodities, though it has followed a different tempo. In fact, ethanol was already in a bust period when the current financial crisis, which has now added to the industry’s problems, hit.

Political critics owe American oil firms an apology

Apologize and do it now, Barack Obama, John McCain and all you members of Congress who ranted about Big Oil's price-gouging and the way future-markets speculators were abusing the wallets of consumers at the gas pump.

Those prices have come down to the lowest level in almost four years, something like $2 a gallon on the average, and you know why — slackening demand caused chiefly by a worldwide economic downturn.

Pataki to play role in energy foundation

ALBANY (AP) — Former Gov. George E. Pataki is joining a Cold War foundation to advocate independence from oil producers unfriendly to the United States.

The American Security Council Foundation plans to issue white papers and run media campaigns supporting that policy. Pataki said projects could include pushing for transmission systems to take advantage of solar panel installations in the Southwest and wind farms on the Plains.

The Philippines: Oil firms roll back petrol, diesel prices

Manila: The “Big 3” oil companies reduced their petorl and diesel prices by five pesos and two pesos per liter, respectively, in their biggest cuts yet since world oil prices started falling.

Nigeria: Power Woes to Worsen

Nigeria's power generation problems may worsen following the shutting down of a major gas facility belonging to Anglo Dutch giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), at Soku, the country's oil and gas nerve center.

Power generation has already dropped by over 800 megawatts owing to inadequate gas supply to Egbin and Sapele Power Stations.

Germans Split Over "Climate-Friendly" Big Cars

Car-buyers are being tugged two ways in a German debate over carbon-dioxide emissions: Should they buy cars for the fast lane, or downsize to smaller cars more suited to the slow lane of German autobahns?

Ocean currents can power the world, say scientists

A revolutionary device that can harness energy from slow-moving rivers and ocean currents could provide enough power for the entire world, scientists claim.

Tide turns for ocean energy

AN AUSTRALIAN company, using technology that a young Queensland engineer designed, is expected this week to announce a string of international contracts.

Atlantis Resources Corporation has developed turbines that can generate electricity from the sea's movement. It has begun trials at San Remo in Victoria.

Loophole in 'botched' law threatens Britain's biofuels industry

The British biofuels industry has warned that oil companies are set to save millions of pounds because of a mistake by government lawyers in drafting biofuels legislation – an error that could lead to the demise of the UK's alternative fuel industry.

A Land Rush in Wyoming Spurred by Wind Power

A quiet land rush is under way among the buttes of southeastern Wyoming, and it is changing the local rancher culture. The whipping winds cursed by descendants of the original homesteaders now have real value for out-of-state developers who dream of wind farms or of selling the rights to bigger companies.

But as developers descend upon the area, drawing comparisons to the oil patch “land men” in the movie “There Will Be Blood,” the ranchers of Albany, Converse and Platte Counties are rewriting the old script.

Scientist: South Florida Will Be Water by End of Century

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Scientists and economists Tuesday warned lawmakers of consequences Florida faces from climate change, including more destructive hurricanes and a rising sea level, but they also said the state could be a leader in reducing global warming.

Harold Wanless, chairman of the University of Miami's Department of Geological Sciences, predicted a 1.5 foot rise in sea level in 50 years and a three- to five-foot increase by the end of the century.

"Three feet's going to get messy," he said. "Four feet becomes extremely difficult to live in South Florida and five feet probably impossible."

Shorter Winters Making Some Seeds Sprout Later

Global warming may be bringing an earlier spring bloom to the northern United States and Canada, but in some parts of the South, it's actually making seeds sprout later, a new study shows.

Greenhouse gases will heat up planet 'for ever'

One of the main researchers – Professor David Archer of Chicago University – warns that "the climatic impacts of releasing fossil fuel carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will last longer than Stonehenge, longer than time capsules, far longer than the age of human civilisation so far. Ultimate recovery takes place on timescales of hundreds of thousands of years, a geologic longevity typically associated in public perceptions with nuclear waste."

Climate change remains a top priority

Skeptics believed that the fiscal crisis would force Obama to put his plans to address global warming on the back burner. But in a videotaped speech to a climate summit co-hosted by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this month, Obama said, "Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option."

Australia squibs on climate promise

THE Rudd Government has reneged on a commitment to present its 2020 target to cut greenhouse gases to UN climate talks that start today. The back-pedalling comes amid wrangling in cabinet over how far to go with curbing emissions.

Don’t Count On Magic

Former Vice President Al Gore—now a Nobel Prize winner and the world's most prominent environmentalist—isn't looking for another job in Washington. But his eloquent warnings about the dangers of global climate change have obviously helped shape the priorities of the incoming Obama administration. Gore sat down with NEWSWEEK's Fareed Zakaria recently to talk about a bailout for Detroit, the greening of China and the elusive promise of "clean coal."

Climate change gathers steam, say scientists

PARIS (AFP) – Earth's climate appears to be changing more quickly and deeply than a benchmark UN report for policymakers predicted, top scientists said ahead of international climate talks starting Monday in Poland.

Evidence published since the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change's (IPCC) February 2007 report suggests that future global warming may be driven not just by things over which humans have a degree of control, such as burning fossil fuels or destroying forest, a half-dozen climate experts told AFP.

Even without additional drivers, the IPCC has warned that current rates of greenhouse gas emissions, if unchecked, would unleash devastating droughts, floods and huge increases in human misery by century's end.

But the new studies, they say, indicate that human activity may be triggering powerful natural forces that would be nearly impossible to reverse and that could push temperatures up even further.

Freddy Hutter on January 7, 2007:

There are 13 recognized Outlooks that tell us we are on our way to 90-mbd shortly after the inaugeration [sic] of the next usa President. There are NONE that defy that trend.

Probably ol' Fred's blaming it all on volatile loonies. And instability in the Canadian dollar, eh?

Been parsing the technical articles from the site's early days, was amused by Freddy's solid confidence here, and derision for anyone not ultra-bullish on supply. 'Course there's still 2 months for him to be right, eh?

Re: Climate change gathers steam, say scientists

When the reflective ice surface retreats, the Sun's radiation -- heat -- is absorbed by open water rather than bounced back into the atmosphere, creating a vicious circle of heating.

"We had always known that the Arctic was going to respond first," said Mark Serreze of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. "What has us puzzled is that the changes are even faster than we would have thought possible," he said by phone.

The part of the puzzle they may be missing is that the difference in albedo between the ocean and sea-ice may not be as large as often described. That's because the process of melting the sea-ice produces ponds of water on the surface, which has nowhere to go and which has a much lower albedo than sea-ice, especially sea-ice covered with fresh snow. There is evidence that the melting is being accentuated by warmer waters below, water which flows into the Arctic from the Pacific and Atlantic. These flows may not be well represented in the models used to date. Also, there seems to be an increase in the deposition of "black carbon" (or soot) particles on to the sea-ice, which tends to reduce the albedo early in the melt season. The burning of coal without emissions control in China hay have added to this soot deposition.

E. Swanson

you're telling us that we're dropping a hot knife on a very big piece of butter?
the soot will absorb more heat, melt the ice beneath and "sink" in
i'm more worried about the methane or co2 deposites trapped beneath permafrost. it's well known that the current rate of co2 accumulation will fry us in about 100 years, i can live with that. but if there is a chance that the methane will fry us faster, i want to know.

ps: "x is going faster / worse than predicted" is mother of all GW titles :)))

There seems to be a race on as to which environmental catastrophe finally takes down civilisation. The potential acidification of topsoil in Northern America and Europe due to nitrogen deposition also seems to be a building threat.

Acid Soils In Slovakia Tell Somber Tale

Increasing levels of nitrogen deposition associated with industry and agriculture can drive soils toward a toxic level of acidification, reducing plant growth and polluting surface waters, according to a new study published online in Nature Geoscience...

...the authors warn that the high levels of nitrogen deposited in Europe and North America over the past half century already may have left many soils susceptible to this new stage of acidification.

Reminds me of the quote about civilisations leaving deserts in their wake.

It's time to dig out all those old copies of the book Dune to get some pointers about how to survive on the coming desertified planet. Bring on the Sand Worms!!

"Forests precede civilization and deserts follow." -- Francois Rene Chateaubriand (1768 - 1848)

"Forests precede us and deserts dog our heels." -- Derrick Jensen (1960 - )

Well how about this then?

A drop in oceanic zooplankton of 73 percent since 1960


Weirdly, Defra included the graph showing this without further comment, and simultaneously indicated in the same graph on page 9 of their report that sustainable fishing was increasing:

Good guess. This paper early this year seems to demonstrate the melt ponds have the impact you suggest (note: not free access). Next round of models probably will be trying to account for the effect. Soot reminds of me of Mars terraforming ideas.

Regarding the gold reserve currency article in todays Drumbeat.
I have read that if you totalled all of the gold mined in history it would amount to only one ounce for each person alive today. It seems that there would have to be a tremendous contraction in oil sales to allow a gold for oil exchange system .
I can understand the desire of those that hold a valuable commodity to be uncomfortable exchanging it for dollars but it seems there is not enough gold to make it work.
Maybe I am missing something?

I've thought about this as well. Guess the price would be about $20k an ounce to be a meaningful exchange rate in todays dollars. The whole purpose of gold standard is to limit the creation of money on a whim. There's a story that gets told on the gold websites about hotels for sale during the depression in SanFran for 4oz of gold or $140. Pretty wild when you think that the hotels now cost millions. I guess we can subdivide as needed? Any idea on the amount of ounces per person for silver?

Wasn't that long ago that a billion was consider alot of money. You could make the argument that it makes no sense to save since your money will be worthless eventually. As with alot of things, Heinlein said it best.

$100 placed at 7 percent interest compounded quarterly for 200 years will increase to more than $100,000,000 — by which time it will be worth nothing.

Wasn't that long ago that a billion was consider alot of money. You could make the argument that it makes no sense to save since your money will be worthless eventually.

You might be interested in a pair of linked articles on why you should save and what you can expect your money to be worth: Inflation Deflated and How to Build a Lifeboat.

You and Ilargi do a great job with "The Automatic Earth".


In the interest of presenting both side, it must be noted that the federal reserve will do everything in its power to see to it that the deflation Stoneleigh is describing does not occur. They even published what they plan on doing to stop it back in 2003. And they have pretty much stuck with this script.

"Monetary Policy in a Zero-Interest-Rate Economy". (pdf format)

"Policy-makers can find themselves in serious trouble if they come up against the zero interest-rate bound during a period of falling prices–that is, during a period of deflation. That’s because what ultimately matters to households and firms is the real cost of borrowing–what economists call the real interest rate."

Lots of good stuff in it showing what the fed will/is doing. Nice graph on page three, showing how the high deflation rate of the depression was followed by a period of double digit inflation.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that there is a “plan” or a “conspiracy”, but it would appear that everyone in the fed/government knows what options are available and as each one fails, they just move on to the next.

Next up will be “The goods & services solution”. From the Fed paper:

“The strategy can be implemented, however, by coordination with fiscal policy-makers. The Federal government, for example, could purchase goods and services and finance the purchases with new debt, which the Fed in turn would buy–in technical terminology, the Fed would ‘monetize’ the resulting debt.”

As to whether inflation or deflation wins? My guess is both.

IMO we see deflation first, then inflation. Good luck to the US government borrowing the money they would need to go the goods and services route. The bond market is still in charge for the time being, and unless they want to precipitate an interest rate crisis they'll have to keep the lid on debt monetization to some extent. Right now the flight to safety is giving them some leeway, but when that ends the real problems begin.

So far, all the monetization that they've done hasn't kept pace with credit destruction, and every bluff the market calls makes them look more desperate the next time. Those bluffs will keep being called until it's obvious that when everything is guaranteed, nothing is.

Is the flight to safety going to end?

Where else are they going to go?

It's starting to remind me of that Monty Python sketch, where the buildings stay up only if everyone believes in them.

Architect: Of course they're safe. There's absolutely no doubt about that. They are as strong, solid and as safe as any other building method in this country provided of course people believe in them.

Tenant: Yes, we received a note from the Council saying that if we ceased to believe in this building it would fall down.

Voice Over: You don't mind living in a figment of another man's imagination?

Tenant: No, it's much better than where we used to live.

I don't doubt that there are serious and likely fatal problems in our economic system, but I'm starting to think people will continue to believe in architect/hypnotist Bernanke's invisible buildings for a long time to come.

Auto Dealerships Teeter as Big Three Decline

Salesmen at Mr. Thomas’s two dealerships — one selling Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep cars and the other General Motors models — are so idle, they spend their time doing Sudoku puzzles, reading sports magazines and calling and writing old clients. They repeatedly implore the mail carrier to buy a car on mornings when he is the only one to come in the door. . .

The last couple of years of rising gasoline prices took the steam out of the market for his Dodge Ram 2500 heavy pickup trucks and GMC Yukon sport utilities. In recent months, gasoline prices came down, but unemployment began rising here. The weak economy has hurt farmers, government workers and others. Quincy’s middle class is hurting because of plummeting values for homes and stocks. And now the credit market — the lifeblood of any car dealership — is frozen. Finance companies have tightened credit both for car buyers and for dealerships like Mr. Thomas’s that stock their showrooms with vehicles bought on credit. The car companies are delaying some payments to dealers because of their own problems.

Seems that small town dealerships in rural areas may be least likely to survive. The website below shows a map of 72 Ford dealerships in Wisconsin.


Some of these dealerships are in towns with populations under 2000, and even the surrounding areas are low in population (envision many square miles of public land).

The upshot will be longer drives to dealer shops for warranty-related service visits, increasing the amount of gas (and time) consumed getting to and fro. The desirability of owning new cars and trucks in the countryside will decline. I'm reminded of a quote in a recent Clusterf#ck post: most Americans have bought their last new car, they just don't know it yet.

That's why there is a 1 1/2 (one and one half) YEAR long waiting list to buy a new Mercedes Smart for Two car. And why VW is building a new $1,000,000,000 (one billion) car manufacturing plant in the US.
The problem is the knuckleheaded morons managing "The Big Three" combined with the grossly excessive labor contracts the unions have coned the management knuckleheads to sign.
All of the "Other" US car manufacturers seem to be doing nicely (Toyota, Honda, Nissan, VW, Mercedes, etc...) I haven't heard of any of them asking for obscene bailout packages from any governments?
And many of the "Other" manufacturers use more Made in the USA parts in their cars than "The Big Three" use.
You never read that in the mass media or hear it from the politicians though, do you?

I've been a long time lurker, never seen the need to comment. I've just enjoyed learning from TOD, but I'm amazed at the lack of insight when it comes to the automotive industry.

The Germany automakers are in very bad shape (worst since WWII), and likely to get bailed out; http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,592658,00.html

The ports are full of Asian makes because nobody is buying them either; http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/business/economy/19ports.html?_r=1&scp...

The Asian makers are already "bailed out", as the industry is highly subsidized. For instance, their workers have good health care, that is paid for by the government, giving a them an advantage. The Yen is aggressively manipulated to help exports.

Apple is an "American" company, yet there products are produced elsewhere... Toyota and Honda are Japanese companies, yet they produce some of there products in North America. It's all about where the profits go to.

Direct all your anger to your government, as a simple gas tax could have steered all those Americans in to fuel efficient vehicles. Not producing SUV's as a tool to slow consumption would have taken collusion, collusion to avoid high profits, and let's be reasonable, thats just not going to happen in America.

I will not defend the actions of the "MBA's" leading the Big 3, as many mistakes have been made. But somebody has to start correcting the misunderstandings posted on this site.

Direct all your anger

Hehe, you live in a black and white world or your agenda just makes it seem that way ?

simple gas tax

Hmmm, Robert Rapier has written about gas taxes. Like him I'd like to see them - but don't expect to precisely cause they are not 'simple'.

But somebody has to start correcting the misunderstandings posted on this site.

Well ?

I too think it's unfair to pile all the blame on American automakers. It's also simplistic and in way 'unpatriotic' in the sense of looking for scapegoats, like the auto-workers.

I'm not going to go into too much detail just mention a few things.

The size of the wages of auto-workers are greatly exaggerated. Why shouldn't people receive a reasonable wage for high-productivity and working hard. These are about the last surviving 'high-pay' working-class industrial jobs remaining, after them, welcome to serfdom!

New, workers at the plants are on short-term contracts and substantially reduced wages, with almost non-existant benefits.

The management at the Big Three hasn't been especially great. They've paid themselves enormous wages, and not exactly set an example for the rest of the workforce.

It's easy to say today that they have been producing the wrong sort of product, big trucks and SUV's, but these beasts have been very popular, there was a real market for them, which they filled and more.

What about the role of government in all this. The job of auto-manufacturers is to build and sell products in the market place that exists. This is a complex area. Surely it's the role of government to take longterm strategic decissions about the environment and overall transport and industrial policy, and the right decissions. The central government could therefore have introduced environmental legislation, rules about gas consumption ect. to help US auto manufacturers produce smaller and cheaper products, only they didn't. The US government is just as 'guilty' as the bosses who've run not just the Big Three, but the whole country into the ground.

I too think it's unfair to pile all the blame on American automakers.

Agreed !

Personally I blame the IEA / EIA for a complete lack of philosophy and ability to think ahead. Their advices are representing a grand share of the financecrisis-pie, IMO.
The concept of $59 a barrel in 2015 (8 years into the future.... and some $100 per barrel in 2030 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ) hinted by the EIA a year ago is ..... mind boggling to me.

GM was convicted for buying up streetcar lines in order to shut them down.

When US railroads were switching away from steam locomotives, GM threatened to "blackball" (refuse to ship any GM or supplier freight) on any railroad that electrified.

The Hummer was designed with a psychologist in order to appeal to the "reptilian brain" in consumers.

Bob Lutz clearly shows that mindset is *FAR* from gone.

Best Hopes for no more GM,


The Toyota dealership in Silver City, NM is going out of business. Last year they were trying to expand and bought property from the GM dealership. What's left is a Ford dealership and one other small dealership.

as bad as it would be i say let them fail for their lack of foresight.

Regarding the 2 articles on ocean energy. Ocean energy includes wave energy, tidal energy, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), and wind energy off shore.

These four technologies provide electric power. Wave, tidal, and wind are functional technologies. But due to siting requirements they are limited by their numbers and will not generate much power. OTEC is in research and development.

I estimate that combined ocean energy power generated for the U.S. is no more than 2,000 Megawatts.

Matt Simmons is proposing a huge off shore wind turbine project to generate electric power to heat homes in the state of Maine.

Simmons knows that Peak Oil is here now.



The target generating capacity of 5 gigawatts equals the power required to replace the use of home heating oil in winter, said Simmons. But more could be generated if necessary. The Gulf of Maine has an estimated total wind power potential of 100 gigawatts.

The farm would likely be split into five sections, each about eight nautical miles, or 9.2 miles, or 14.8 kilometers, square, containing 200 turbines generating 5 megawatts each.

Does anyone have an estimate of the cost for 1,000 wind turbines, 1,000 platforms, the planning, infrastructure development, and underwater cables?

Sometime in the future, there won't be enough oil to manufacture/replace/transport the parts in the wind turbines/platforms from the place of manufacture to the site in the Gulf of Maine.

Cliff Wirth

Yeah, I agree with this. None of the alternatives, nor all of them together are going to be able replace even a fraction of what we get from hydrocarbons, and oil in particular with its crucial role in transport.

And it's dangerous, because in the back of people's minds is the idea that somehow we can keep it all going -- just need to find some other sources of energy.

I think the peak oil debate is coming to a close. The new debate has to be about peak energy, which is not the same. And it entails peak other underground resources. Which leaves us the soil, water, forests, biology, nature. What will our energy budget be when that's all we've got?

At some point in this century, maybe not so many decades, it will no longer be affordable for us to dig or drill deeper for underground energy, metals and minerals.

The wisest thing would be to restrict ourselves to the existing fields and mines and do no further damage to the earth, thereby protecting and saving (what's left) of the above ground resources listed above.

Won't happen, I know. Darwin was wrong -- we descended from lemmings, not apes. Nah, I actually still have hope that at some point we'll get it together, but maybe not before quite a few of us have gone over the cliff.

"None of the alternatives, nor all of them together are going to be able replace even a fraction of what we get from hydrocarbons.."

Well it's already a fraction, yes a tiny one, and yet we know a number of technologies that do work, so it would stand us in good stead to both increase that fraction, and to reduce our overall consumption, wouldn't it? We know how to build houses that use far less power than they do now, we can figure out how to live closer to work and shops, while it won't be easy or cheap..

"None of the alternatives, nor all of them together are going to be able replace even a fraction of what we get from hydrocarbons.."

I think that is an open question. If he had our heads screwed on properly, the combination of alternatives plus efficiency improvements would be sufficuent. The problem comes bacause we naver have had, nor are likely to "have our heads screwed on properly". But if it were simply up to physics, and human cleverness we would be able to make a sucessful transition. The problem lies with the P's; Psychology, and Politics, make it almost impossible to make a sufficiently serious commitment to the right path.

This article gives a good perspective on how difficult it is for transportation companies to move forward with hybrid vehicles. In particular, there is a problem with the slow rate of replacing existing vehicles with the new hybrids. Something that will apply as well to individual vehicle owners.

FedEx Implements Green Fleet Initiative

"When you’re looking at a fleet population of 30,000, with a vehicle life of more than 10 years, you’re only in the low thousands for what one could replace on a year-to-year basis," Jackson notes. "Manufacturers need a lot more volume on an annual basis to justify their tooling investments."

Ford and GM's hands are tied by the expense of the hybrid systems. FedEx's hands are tied because they can't afford to pay for that substantial additional expense, in some cases a 75% premium over the cost of their standard vehicles.

On the other hand, DHL is pulling out of the domestic express market in the U.S. at the end of January. The good news is there will be tens of thousands of vehicles coming of the road and UPS and FedEx can absorb DHL's 4.8% market share with an insignificant increase in their vehicle fleets. The bad news is GM and Ford no longer have DHL to sell to and there is going to be a glut of used vans on the market, further reducing the need for new vans.

We have to do our best, yes.

Public plans quiet on rumours of losses

Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan is a major player in Canadian financial markets, so the abrupt exit last summer of a group of senior executives, including fixed-income portfolio head Sean Rogister, drew Bay Street's attention. The departures came without even a press release.

Now speculation is swirling about major losses at Teachers stemming from bad bets on debt instruments. Teachers declined to talk about how its portfolio is performing but the losses are rumoured to be in the billions.

Pensions and other retirement plans are going to be a nightmare. Those who haven't retired yet may not be able to, but what happens to people who are already retired, who find their pensions drastically cut or nonexistent?

This is from the Local Authories Pension Plan, which is the government agency responsible for pensions to municipal and other local authorities in Alberta.

"Yes, LAPP has suffered a reduction in value, on paper, as a result of the financial crisis. We started the year with $15.6 billion dollars, and that value has dropped to around $14.1 billion. We note that this reduction in value is "on paper", because gains and losses are only realized when an asset is sold. Eventually, when markets return to normal, we expect that the value of our assets will rise again. No, I do not believe we have "hit the bottom" yet. This crisis is unlike anything we have seen in the past few decades, so we don’t know when or how it will bottom out. I believe we will see some fundamental changes to the economy when this is all over – less growth, less leverage, and far more caution in the markets. ... For LAPP, we are now projecting lower investment returns and the need for higher contributions in the years to come. Yes, your pension is safe. We are a young, strong, growing pension plan with a positive cash flow. What we are experiencing right now is uncomfortable, but we believe our investments in good companies, our skilled investment managers and our fully diversified portfolio will combine to see us through."

Alberta banks and credit unions, which have 100% guaranteed deposits, had to take some writeoffs on toxic paper but will not fail. ATB Financial is owned by the provincial government and was founded by the Social Credit government back in the Great Depression to by-pass the national banks, which are headquartered in eastern Canada.

This is another way that poor market performance couples into the real economy. I can't really talk about the details, but the outfit I work for faces a multi-million dollar liability because the pension plans investments went south. The bottom line, rather than hiring several people next year, my bosses current plans are to hire no new employees next year. We know of at least one other employer in the same plan who went out of business because of the same liability. Multiply such direct effects on businesses by the thousands of affected businesses, and the overall impact on employment is not small.

if only there were thousands of businesses left in this country that actually still had pension plans.

I suspect many Boomers will toil until Rigor Mortis sends them to the great Kenyesian nivera where all are equal. "In the long run we are all dead." J. M. Kenyes

Five Innovations That Will Change Our Lives in the Next Five Years

Ever wonder how much energy could be created by having solar technology embedded in our sidewalks, driveways, siding, paint, rooftops, and windows? In the next five years, solar energy will be an affordable option for you and your neighbors. Until now, the materials and the process of producing solar cells to convert into solar energy have been too costly for widespread adoption. But now this is changing with the creation of “thin-film” solar cells, a new type of cost-efficient solar cell that can be 100 times thinner than silicon-wafer cells and produced at a lower cost. These new thin-film solar cells can be “printed” and arranged on a flexible backing, suitable for not only the tops, but also the sides of buildings, tinted windows, cell phones, notebook computers, cars, and even clothing.

Researchers Predict Indium will Run-Out in l0 Years or Less


CISG is the basis of the ink, the "I" is Indium.

Hi Westexas,,

Some info regarding the Land Export Model.

The news today from Xalapa, Mexico, population 400,000, in the region least affected by the economic crisis.


Since last January, the sale of regular gasoline is down 40%, and 30% down for diesel and premium gasoline.

The Mexican government has regularly increased gasoline/diesel prices since January, despite the global collapse of oil prices.

The Mexican government plans to keep prices high.

The Mexican economy is just now beginning to feel the credit crisis, and soon tens of millions of people will be unemployed.

Mexican domestic oil consumption will soon plummet more, as most oil in Mexico is used for auto/truck transportation and the construction industry.

This means that much oil will be freed up for exportation. So, the time frame for export reduction will be extended somewhat.

On another issue, "Oil and Gas Journal" reports recently that PEMEX claims that it can restore production back to more than 3 million barrels per day.


What is your read on this?


Cliff Wirth

Once production in an exporting country starts declining, in most cases, IMO, the rate of change in consumption will only change the slope of the net export decline. Regarding the original ELM, a +2.5%/year rate of change in consumption causes net exports to go to zero in 9 years. A zero rate of increase causes exports to go to zero in 14 years--not a big difference, especially when looked at in the context of the total producing history for a region.

Regarding Mexico's production, I anticipate that the ongoing crash in Cantarell's production (as well as production declines from other fields) will quickly cause Mexico to approach zero net export category, and once their net exports fall below one mbpd I doubt that they will ever again come close to major net exporter status.

Shiller, who takes a fairly pessimistic view of the economy although he is not AFAIK peak oil aware, has been advising the British Government last week, giving his views:
UK house prices 'to plunge like US'

'These housing cycles go for a long time. Real estate markets are very different from liquid financial markets, in that they have a lot of momentum, and they continue in the same direction for a long time.' He pointed out that during the last housing boom and bust, in the 1980s and early 1990s, prices in London more than doubled, in inflation-adjusted terms, 'and then they came almost all the way back down again. That's certainly a possibility now, and that would be huge. Think of all the balance-sheet problems that would cause, for banks and for households.'


My view is that this will lead to a default by the UK, but he seems to think that bail-outs may cover it.

Could you elaborate what you mean by "default by the UK"? Do you mean the government reneging on so much debt that no-one will lend money to the UK government at all? That's terrifying, but I thought that a lot of the new "super-debt" on the government books (Northern Rock, HBOS, guaranteeing deposits, etc) was of the "internal" sort they could say "Ok, we aren't honouring those obligations. We will honour IMF, foreign borrowing commitments, etc,". (I've always taken the bank deposit guarantee as only being honoured providing no big 5 (?) bank actually goes down.) I suppose there's also the issue that dramatically falling tax revenues might also affect our ability to repay "really important" loans.

The UK banks have outstanding debts and alleged balancing 'assets' of around 300% of it's GDP.
Up until 2001 mortgage finance, for instance, was paid for almost completely by depositors in British Banks.
The influx of new money which made the huge rise in house prices possible was from the international money markets, some of which will have been denominated in Sterling but a great deal of which has unknown provenance.
Similar considerations apply to the financing for all the glitzy new malls.
To take the example of one bank, RBS, it has on it's books debts and assets each valued at around £1.8 billion pounds, or around the same size as the UK GDP.
Of this nearly £500 billion is in derivatives, which is about as much as the UK Government annual budget and recent sales of this sort of derivative have raised a few pence in the pound.

The total banking position is around 3 times that of RBS.

On the Government's optimistic projections which allow only for a short recession then the budget deficit will balloon to 8% of GDP.

There appear to be no grounds at all to assume that any recession will be short.

House prices are still grossly over-leveraged, being around 5 times average joint incomes, or around, say, £160,000 depending on which estimate you choose
Before the boom prices were around £55,000, and in the last not particularly severe recession prices dropped back to less than they were before the previous boom, after allowing for inflation.

To float the banks in these circumstances would need monies the UK Government just does not have, and sterling already risks collapse.
The UK's AAA credit rating is also under severe strain, and may crumble greatly raising the UK's costs to maintain current spending, never mind carry out still more, much more major, bail outs.

Should the opposite tack be taken and expenditures be severely curtailed, the huge drop in income would ensure even more deflation and consequent damage to the financial system and massive losses.

The UK Government has outstanding debt of around 40% of GDP with many other items off the balance sheet, and debts by the personal sector are around the same size as the GDP, all of which has been chopped up in countless ways so that a lot of it will be in foreign currencies.

In addition to the above considerations, the UK already runs a massive balance of payments deficit, which has been supported because we had our own oil and gas and by earnings in financial services.

The oil and gas accounts are dropping like a stone, and all the ponzi bubble of monies being repackaged and the vast earnings of those companies is vanishing.

Around 25% of the UK workforce is in the financial services industry and in construction.

A very, very conservative estimate of the coming recession might see then 10% of the present workforce without jobs - and that is before considering knock-on effects.

The UK economy is dead, and the country bankrupt, it is just stumbling on until everyone realises that and the rug gets pulled.

Thanks, I'll try and digest this. I still wonder if the fact that the UK gov is a government rather than a company is significant: a company can't selectively choose who not to pay without ending up in court and losing, but events like the RailTrack privatisation lawsuits seem to show that whilst an aggreived party can file with the courts, in practice they aren't going to get anywhere against the government. Obviously the UK government selectively reneging on debts will hurt further investment in those areas, but may be the lesser of two evils.

(I think you're right things are going to get bad, I'm just trying to figure out if the government defaulting is gonna happen.)

I'm not absolutely clear that there will be a technical default by the UK Government either, as there will be huge incentives for other Governments to come up with some sort of fudge, but it is plain that there will be such a catastrophic fall in living standards in any case that whether there is a technical bankruptcy or not may make little difference.

For example, in unfunded Civil Service pension liabilities the Government on current plans would be paying our £21 billion per year - at z time when the total amount for private pensions, ie the other 80% of the population, will even on current projections be only about £14 billion.

The money to fund the housing boom and commercial real estate is all borrowed money, and the investment is worthless.

Energy infrastructure is reaching the end of it's life, especially the nuclear component, and EDF for instance who are to build new nuclear stations says that gas will have to fill the gap until they are ready, at a time when Russia is saying that they may have difficulty maintaining gas exports as early as 2010.

In any case, since we have no long term contracts our energy costs for industry are rising to make industry less competitive, whilst power cuts would worsen the ability to build anything to sell to buy the oil and gas.

With or without technical bankruptcy we will be Iceland without the geothermal energy and fish, but with a population with high ethnic and religious diversity, which has not got a good track record in terms of the potential for civil war when times get tough.

Wait a minute, didn't the article say the same drop in house prices occurred in 1980's to 1990's?
I didn't notice the UK defaulting 20 years ago. What about 1930's depression? Did the UK government default?

I can't think of any indicators which are not far worse than in the 90's, and many which are worse than the 30's- I don't know enough about the latter to be too definative.

To deal with the 90's:
At the time house finance was provided by depositors in British banks, which retained the mortgage and the losses and so practised relationship banking - they carried out credit checks, although standards had slipped and did not simply re-package the debt and get it off their books.
Most of the debt was therefore internal, not owed abroad.

Multiples of joint income did not reach the same exotic levels as in the current house overstretch.

Personal debt levels were much lower than the present figure of about the same as GDP.

The sums put into new malls with no shoppers were comparatively modest.

There was no world-wide recession.

We were not about to run out of fossil fuels, indeed revenue from oil and gas was still rising in the UK.

Government finances were not overstretched to the same degree by running a deficit, so borrowing could rise much more easily.

As for the 30's, at the time we were not running out of reasonably priced fossil fuels, but were changing many inputs to the far more flexible oil.

The UK in Sterling had one of the major reserve currencies.

I do not have the figures for the UK laid out in precisely the same way, but at least for the US debt levels were far less elevated than in the current slump, and the UK has greater proportional debts than the US.

All the figures for Britain struggling through and managing to handle it's debt are based on assumptions which most of us here do not share, that the slump will be far less severe than the 30's and that peak oil is some way off, hitting in perhaps the 2030's.

Since yesterday I have thought about the situation further, and have decided it is safe to firm up my argument that UK debt is unsustainable, or at least if it is sustained we will be far worse off than through a default.

The problem is that the monies that have been spent and are now owed are not in productive use, but have gone in the housing boom, and in shopping malls etc.

In addition, it is in my view inevitable that incomes in the UK are going to sink drastically, as they were also part of the same ponzi scheme.

You then have a situation where huge debts incurred at current income levels fall upon people with perhaps half current incomes, who are trying to export their way out of trouble in a depressed world market and with unreliable energy supplies to power their factories.

This will not work.

Perhaps a rapid, world wide inflation is the only thing that will float this boat away from default, and that seems unlikely.

Was working a holiday feed for families this week and got caught up with an old friend that serves on a state university financing committee. Talk turned to the financial crisis and he indicated that the major state universities were in a real pickle on financing scholarships for 2nd semester and beyond. Their large endowments have been so devastated by the drop in the markets that they are literally not able to fund the schollies already awarded off the cash flows. They are near freaking out about what to do! They will probably suck it up for the 2nd semester but not certain they can get away with it as they are severely constrained on what they can do. Next years awards and obligations...who knows. So far this is not being openly discussed but looks like a significant problem in all 50 states.

You should pass along this article from the Milwaukee paper highlighting how students are having harder times accessing credit markets to pay for tuition (leading to more students taking time off or dropping out completely):

I am reminded of another Kunstler quote: when JHK spoke on my campus in 2005, he was asked what prognosis he gave to universities like ours (mid-sized state colleges). His response: they will not make it through peak oil, they are luxury items financed by boom time economies. I personally think they survive, but look a lot more like they did in 1915 with respect to enrollment and purpose: 75% less students, all preparing to be K-12 educators.

On the other hand, I could see a every community with some sort of college-level community college in the empty malls and stores and even people's homes. Very inexpensive. Then again, my experience with local budgeting last week - nope, that money will get sucked up by police and jails instead. It suggests to me that the longstanding nurture vs authority struggle will continue and the authoritarians - who typically hold most of the reigns because they are the ones that fight hardest for the power - will choke out the communities. Authoritarians are the last people we need in this coming crisis.

cfm in Gray, ME

I most enjoyed reading that 'slice of life' article you linked:

It also kills her mom, Terri, to see Rheannon leaving school.

"She's so smart, and I don't want her to get home and then not go back," she said. "It's so depressing as a parent. Hindsight's 20/20. If I had known then what I know now, I would have started a college fund. She's got a really good GPA. It breaks my heart."

[emphasis mine]

Of course, I have no idea what Rheannon's 'Grade Point Average' was, but I reckon that 90% of American students believe that their grade point average is above the average. With math skills like that, who needs to know how to count?

The fact that Rheannon can't afford to go to university is probably the best thing ever happened to her -- particularly because it costs nothing to enrol in 'the school of hard knocks'.

I reckon I'm a natural born career counsellor.

The article says what Rheannon's GPA was: 3.7. Which probably is above average, even with grade inflation.

Agree that these days, kids are probably better off without a college degree, at least if they have to go into debt to get it.

I thought Obama's plan of national service in exchange for college tuition was meant to address this issue

Already there is the military deal - newly enlarged this year by a huge amount. Basically, about $80,000 in benefits for tuition, books, room and board for 3 years in the military. If you do not use the benefit, your spouse can. In fact, I think that for some military (I do not know all of the rules) the spouse can use the benefits of the serving partner while that person is still in the military.

yea. i went to college for a two year carrier oriented degree, then that market imploded as soon as i got out. I have been asked several times why don't i go back to college and get a full degree so i can get better jobs. i tell them i do not want to go into debt because i already used up the free state services to help those who other wise can't afford to go to college to go. there eyes glaze over when i try to explain going into debt 'as a bad thing'(tm)

I've been kind of expecting this. It's one reason why I don't expect technology to save us. It will be increasingly difficult to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers.

But I'm not sure exactly how it will unfold. Probably a lot of small, private colleges will go belly-up (like Richard Heinberg's did). The state universities might undergo some consolidation, but will probably last awhile.

But in the end...they need students. I don't see how they can continue operating without the tuition money coming in. They can't fire their tenured professors, but I'm not sure they can afford to keep paying them all, either.

And what will become of the big-name, wealthy colleges? I suppose Harvard will be all right. Their rich alums will probably bail them out if necessary. Schools like Rice will probably survive, too. Huge endowment, and ties to the oil industry. The second tier of private schools (in wealth and prestige) may not survive.

"They can't fire their tenured professors, but I'm not sure they can afford to keep paying them all, either."

Actually, there are methods for offloading tenured professors: Reorg. A university can cut and/or consolidate departments. In the process, professors, even tenured ones, can be let go. A tenured prof might be given preference for any positions that remain after the downsizing process, but not everyone would be able to stay due to the reduced number of available job slots.



If the internet survives, you can still make engineers, and at a cheaper cost than traditional brick and mortar college. Many lectures are taped, put them on Youtube or the college website.

I took some graduate courses by video. Much better than traditional college, you could play the video over and over till you actually understood the material.

Labs can be handled with a simple and cheep instructions using discarded household items, or prepackaged kits.

In the UK many thousands of degrees are awarded annually by the Open University.
The vast expense of the traditional University infrastructure needs to be hacked right back, as does Health care costs which remain a medieval structure.
In the UK GP's are paid over £100,000 a year to see people with colds, when what is needed for this low-level consultation is a nurse and a database.
Huge amounts of cost can be taken out before any adverse effects at all are encountered, save for the salary reductions for those concerned.

Here's a comment from someone with a PhD who until recently worked in academic research.

Video lectures and other on-line materials are great, but you do really need some minimum level of interaction with people who already know this stuff (at least in maths, physics, etc; dunno about liberal arts, etc). The reason is simply that you sometimes get the wrong interpretation in your mind and it can take a long time if you've got to correct all your misapprehensions by figuring them out yourself. One of the reasons, AFAICS, why people who do nothing all year, then try and cram for exams generally do poorly is not that you can't learn the material significantly quicker than the college year but that they've not got the option of presenting work to TAs and others running problem classes, etc, where they spot the misapprehension you've got.

This is not to say you can't have education over the internet, just that you have to figure out how to have people providing some minimal level of feedback, and hence the economic model for to paying them. (The Open University that DaveMart mentions has a key point of mailing off problem sheets/essays and getting some feedback that way.)

The Open University is very well respected for the quality of it's degrees and other study courses, and does indeed provide not only for written feedback but a number of seminars and, where appropriate, hands on courses in a residential setting for periods of up to a few weeks - essential for instance for laboratory work.
It still costs a fraction of traditional degree courses, and can be spread over a number of years so that employment can be carried on.

Agree expect the small privates to feel the extreme pressure first they are even more dependent on endowment revenues than the publics to buy down their higher rates thru schollies. Without the easy schollie dough its going to be very tough for most families to swallow the 2x-3x cost difference of privates over the state and local public options.
Also going to be hard for the publics to keep up with tax revenues suffering but it will be very politically difficult for State U to go away at least for the next decade or two.

Considering the fact that it was highly educated individuals that caused the mess we're in, less of them might actually be beneficial. I don't really see it as being a problem going forward, its not worth the additional burden upon a collapsing economy.

Being given a higher education degree, is not the same thing as having earned it, or having learned anything. Consider the parting shot of successful hedge-fund manager Andrew Lahde:

"The low-hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government.

All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other sides of my trades. God Bless America."


And a perfect example; Friend gets a degree in French Lit from Stanford, inherits a chunk of a newspaper chain, becomes a trustee and votes for a major expansion last year. Stock price has dropped over 90%.

How the rich become middle class.

There are ways to spin almost anything.

Tell them your friend made a "small fortune" last year.

(Don't mention that he did it by starting out with a large fortune. ;-)

That is mainly because the majority of those people were not taught critical thinking skills such as those on which the scientific method is based. So in reality what we have ended up with is a bunch of highly brained washed ignoramuses who can't think their way out of a wet paper bag. Not exactly my definition of highly educated but then I've always listened to the beat of a different percussionist. Maybe we just need to adjust our definition of highly educated. I for one strongly believe we will need more not fewer highly educated individuals, preferably with a strong grounding in ethics, OK, I can dream can't I?

Individual accountability, trust and the Dodgy Dossier

It’s the men who are mostly to blame. Were wise women present when the notorious and acutely embarrassing Iraq Dossier, justifying Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war—and better known as the Dodgy Dossier—was composed?

Nothing more insidious to the human spirit - and by extension to the culture that human lives in - than the lack of trust.

Trust is woven into a culture in many ways i.e. energy transactions. My new NG company, Black Hills Energy, had projected up to 40% rise in my bill.

Now they are projecting something less. How much less ? A rise of only 15% to 20%, maybe. How much trust do I have in the revised projection ? Not much.

Living, even frugally, only goes so far. My degree of dependence on the system makes me uncomfortable. I am as yet in-progress to minimize, somewhat, that degree of dependence. But I am vulnerable.

i find that people who say one gender or the other is better/worse then the other in (insert something here) being less then truthful and very annoying. women can be JUST as dishonest as men, nothing that makes up a woman makes them inherently MORE trustworthy then a man. npr did something similar by actually giving airtime to a nut case who said women make better political officials then men and the problems in the world today would not be here if women were in charge.

Ha ! Yes I don't believe either gender has the corner on dishonesty !

My experience has been that people who seek power, are inherently untrustworthy and of low moral character, independent of race, creed or gender.

Having said that, the meanest, most untrustworthy and just plan destructive manager I ever dealt with, was a women. She had a massive inferiority complex, was mean as a snake, technically illiterate and did more to undermine the mission than an enemy agent ever could.

i think he was saying that women are more practical and less prone to testosterone fuelled flights of fancy. Whether that is true I don't know.I remember seeing a BBC documentary on Angleton, and how his deranged and paronoid character undermined Western intelligence. If he had been a Soviet agent he couldn't have done it better. Spying is a strange closed world that breeds such characters.

My reading is that Britain's involvement in Iraq was not testosterone fueled but "righteousness fueled": Tony Blair is deeply religious man who wants to take bold, righteous, almost messianic actions to make the world better. Unfortunately in order to do this you have to have a truly evil and dangerous opponent. This was combined with some less religious key advisors who had a secular version of this: we can only make global-scale good actions if we have an enemy justifying this. Otherwise they're stuck with the middling stuff that isn't that sexy (and certainly doesn't attract media attention and posts at Harvard, etc) but has more practical effects.

I would say Saddam Hussein was, like a lot of people, evil-in-intent, but in terms of both the practical danger to the UK/US/the world and in the "damage to his own people" stakes he was not the top of the list.

Bush and his partners in crime, have done more to damage this country with their Treason, than Saddam ever did, or could do in 2 lifetimes. The real Terrorists have been in the Whitehouse (and Congress) for the last 8 years....

It is so unfortunate that so many died "Fighting for our Freedom", when they were killed by their own President.

Nate (if I understand him correctly) thinks women are better at long-term thinking than men. Basically, because of the fundamental difference between men and women: the investment in offspring. Historically, men haven't had much incentive to think beyond one night, while women have to think about the next 18 years.

I dunno if I buy it. I do think there are differences (on average) between men and women, but I'm not sure they're significant. Men may be better at math than women on average, but if you pick a random man and woman off the street, their genders alone wouldn't tell you much about their relative math abilities.

My personal view is that, in a lot of mental areas, there's not a significant systematic difference in mean between men and women, but the group of men will have a much greater variance in ability. For example, I think -- and I've got no statistics to back this up -- there are a lot more men than women who do almost no planning in their lives, but there are a lot more men who are almost obssessive in their long-term thinking about the future. (That one describes me, and I don't think it's a uniformly good thing for being successful or enjoying your life.) In contrast, most women I know tend to be close to the level of having good planning skills without going to the extremes in either way. (Obviously this is statistical: individuals may be atypical.)

What factors encouraged this variance I have no idea (beyond the "just-so" story that as you say women have maybe 12 years -- in evolutionary timescales -- of consistent nurturing to do whilst men need to look to be the best mate for one night at a time).

I suspect that on average, women are somewhat more nurturing, and a bit less competitive than men. The fact that the girls on average are kicking the boys butts in American education isn't simply because of the greater promotion of the girls*, but is based upon the fact that the girls are more likely to do as instructed (study), and the boys are natually more mischevious. Given the currently large gender imbalance in US college attendance, I wouldn't be surprised if the leading gender in our economy were to change places in the coming decades.

* I am always seeing programs to support and encourage science and math in students. But they are almost invariably for girls only. The desire to overcome past imbalances is a greater motivational force than the desire to help all worthy candidates.

I do think there are differences (on average) between men and women, but I'm not sure they're significant. Men may be better at math than women on average, but if you pick a random man and woman off the street, their genders alone wouldn't tell you much about their relative math abilities.

The general view, held by most differential psychologists, is that while average cognitive performance is much the same for both sexes, there are more males at both extremes of the distribution, with women being more bundled around the mean. There is a greater variance in males, in other words. The male IQ bell curve is 'flatter' than the female one.

Hence more mentally subnormal males, but also more male geniuses, rocket scientists and chess grand masters.

Interesting data here:


Studies consistently show greater variance in the performance of men compared to that of women (i.e., men are more represented at the extremes of performance), and that men and women have statistically significant differences in average scores on tests of particular abilities, which even out when the overall IQ scores are weighted. Colom et alii (2002), for example, show that the difference observed is in "ability in general", not in "general ability", and that the average IQ sex-difference favoring males must be attributed to specific group factors and test specificity.

More controversially:

1999 controversial[8][9] study by Richard Lynn in which he analyzed data from a number of published tests (such as the standardized g-loaded Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised) found that the mean IQ of men exceeded that of women by approximately 3-4 IQ points.[10] Lynn's meta-analysis, conducted in 2004, examining sex differences on the Standard and Advanced Progressive Matrices (comprising various g-loaded tests of non-verbal reasoning) also found that men exceeded women by an average of 5.0 IQ points.[11]

One of the hottest of hot potatoes around.

Eh. Doesn't seem like a terribly hot potato to me. 3-4 points is hardly earth-shattering (especially given the problems with IQ tests in general).

It's not like men and women are separate species. The default setting of human is female. We all start out as females. As some scientists have put it, "Masculinity is a birth defect." ;-) The Kzinti may have bred intelligence out of their females, but I don't see how that could work with humans. Intelligence is not a sex-linked trait...and if it were, I suspect it would be male intelligence that suffered.

"Masculinity is a birth defect." Chuckle, oh gawd, my wife is just going to love that!! Thanks !!

Don in Maine

Well, these men have a more than just "birth defect"- they are F**king Nuts!

If there really was a 3-4point difference. And you postulate that the variance is unaffected by sex, and secondly you postulate that candidates for the all important society of wizards can-only be taken from people at least 4 sigma above the average. That would present a real problem if the society expected you to get nearly equal numbers of male/female wizards. Either you would have to dissapoint the expectations, or you would have to accept a less than optimal mix of wizard-trainees. Yes I am aware that the expected error on an indivdual test is greater than the proposed measured difference, but in the statistics of large numbers it would have major consequences.

And, of course, it's usually the men who write the IQ tests.

Men commit most of the crime...

I started taking serious shop classes in the 7th grade and continued through high school and college. Since there were no computers or calculators allowed we got good training in TLAR "That looks about right". Our slide rules were only as accurate as the user was to estimate the answer. 10,000 or 100,000 or 10.00 are the same on the old slide rules. One problem I see is that young people are clueless about reality if the calculator says 14,274.56 it is like it was written in stone while the real answer is about 1400 ... and the problem was GIGO or pressing the wrong function.

It is very difficult to find a good shop class in public schools these days because there is a line of attorneys at the shop door waiting for some kid to hit his finger with a hammer. Even the Junior Collages have limited facilities compared the high schools of the 50’s. Wood shop, welding (forging), sharpening, farming, husbandry and other hand/eye coordination skills will be required more in the future as TLAR becomes more important than precision circuit board work.

BTW: Do any of the EE’s on site have a link to a good schematic of a 48V PV array charger to a 36V battery at about 6 amps? I haven’t found one and no sense re-inventing the wheel unless I have to. lynandclarice at charter dot net. TIA My Golf Cart portable power project (~3500 Watts available for a while without too much strain) is starting to take shape. I will have the only one on the block, he he ... KF7O

Comments on TLAR, and the art of using slide rules. I agree, that this is an important part of mathematical understanding. Slide rules were great because they are based upon logarithms. Now, kids see logarithms as obscure things they are made to manipulate in math class -but in their minds have only been invented to make life difficult for students. When I took physics in college (early calculator days), they made sure we could do rough (say 10%) estimation of answers, without resort to mechanical aid, or paperwork.

How many times do we see arguments, for and against various things, were a basic back of the envelope estimation of magnitude would have said -"that effect isn't important here"?

I had to go to graduate school before they bothered teaching order of magnitude estimates as a serious part of scientific practice. A colleague of mine and I like to do them back and forth across the office for everything from evaluating John McCain's energy policy to determining the size of a telescope necessary to read alien newspapers at ten parsecs.

I do these sorts of calculations all the time. The one mistake that I commonly make is in assuming that everyone does..

Big mistake. It's notorious in the navigation business that some people will believe whatever a pretty display on a high tech gadget tells them. Some drive into rivers, others into overpasses. And some even run big ships aground on shoals (scroll down in link):

...a lookout on the port bow reported to the bridge he sighted "blue and white water, dead ahead"...Before anyone could do anything, the ship ran hard aground on the Rose and Crown shoal, 10 miles east of Nantucket. The shoal is clearly marked on charts...The mishap occurred because crew on board were unaware a key navigation system was malfunctioning, federal investigators determined...One perplexed mariner observed, "They gotta look out the window. Complacency don't cut it."

Actually, GPS systems of that sort raise alarms when there's no signal, so one suspects somebody was punching out the alarm instead of heeding it...kind of like with alarms about future energy availability...

A good source for PV schematics is Homepower magazine,

What you need is a charge controller; Google "solar charge controller".

Australia squibs on climate promise

Climate scientists want 40% emissions cuts by 2020 but Australia offers 5%. I think we could still get 40% due to the recessionary effects of Peak Oil, but thanks for not trying. Not only was climate mitigation a major election promise but they also took the congrats at the Bali conference when they announced signing on to Kyoto. They could make that a musical number 'The Bali High Fives'.

The stupid thing is that Australia's coal exports create as much emissions as the entire domestic economy. Yet the new guvmint has approved loading terminals perhaps because coal doesn't create as much CO2 when furriners burn it.

Even stupider is Australia's increasing reliance on coal when there are huge wind resources and large uranium deposits. It seems Australians doesn't want nuclear but they do like to read about tiny experimental energy projects that never go anywhere. Just so long as electricity bills stay low in the meanwhile.

I think the US should expect the same disappointment under Obama. A year from now you will have to ask if anything has really changed.

Disappointment was evident in nb41 in his Coal to Methane - What About the CO2?:

I guess it sort of depends on how lazy we are as a country, as to which path gets chosen.

At least coal to methane, or coal gasification emits a bit less CO2 per BTU of usable energy. So it is a modest improvement over directly burning the stuff. But you are correct, that it is not moving us where we need to go (which is at least a 90% reduction in emissions).

The stupid thing is that Australia's coal exports create as much emissions as the entire domestic economy. Yet the new guvmint has approved loading terminals perhaps because coal doesn't create as much CO2 when furriners burn it.

The coupling between the north and south hemispheres is fairly slow. If the coal is exported to the northern hemisphere, it will be a decade or two before the full effect is felt south of the equator.

I usually take Mish with many grains of salt, but his article focusing on downsizing is spot on today.

19,000 WaMu Employees Will Be Synergized Out Of A Job

Non-Financial Downsizing

After Christmas, expect to see massive job losses in commercial real estate, restaurants, and retail stores. Looking ahead there is no source of jobs anywhere to be found. Unemployment is going to soar.

Many who have not yet embraced frugality are going to have frugality embrace them.

I really doesn't matter how well the rest of the holiday retail season plays out for the rest of 2008. Black Friday was up, but lackluster and hardly enough to pull retail companies out of the hole they are in for the whole of 2008.

The 1st QTR 2009 is going to see a slew of retail shops closing and major retail companies tightening the screws internally even more than they already have. I speak from experience inside one of those companies. The best stores will stay open, but the rest will get ditched.

I briefly looked at a NYT article on scaled down plans for holiday parties, and the sub-headline caught my attention: "Many people plan to party like it's 1929."

"Many people plan to party like it's 1929."

Since the major source of extra funds for my college student son, is playing musical gigs at private parties, I hope this holds true.

More perspective on Black Friday:
Sales were up 3% YOY, but what about the Gross Margin? That's what companies care about...

US holiday sales view still weak after weekend rush

"We take all of this into context and realize Black Friday is not going to save the holiday season," NRF spokeswoman Ellen Davis said. "Regardless of retail sales, retail profits are another matter. Everything they sold was at a razor-thin margin."

Home Depot

Three weeks ago a 10' miter saw $159

Two weeks ago the same saw was $99

this weekend the same saw is $59

Like everything else this year I bought at the $99 level

I don't think the margin is going to be there this year


As we move closer to Xmas, we will see more and more discounts to move the overstocked inventory out...mostly of things that were not "hot". Things that people used to pick up in addition to the "hot" items. The items that bring people into the door do not have a very good margin. They are used as bait. It's the secondary product that has the margin and stuff people used to buy almost blindly. For example, if people go to Best Buy and only buy Ninetendo Wii's, but forego buying the additional 5-7 CDs, then Best Buy is not going to make much profit.

So, if you are thinking of buying a big ticket item (TV, steroes, tools, appliances), hold out at least two weeks before Xmas and see what price you get.

Things are tough all over...

Trump Entertainment to miss interest payment

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) -- Facing tough competition and sliding revenue amid the economic meltdown, Trump Entertainment Resorts will have to skip a $53.1 million interest payment scheduled for Monday on its 8.5% senior secured notes due 2015 in order to maintain sufficient liquidity.

Hello TODers,

JHK, Pimental, and others have written much about the 1500 mile Caesar salad, and it has been much discussed on TOD and other websites. Therefore, I applaud those that O-NPK compost, then grow lettuce and other vitals in their backyards, as every little bit helps.

IMO, what is not discussed often enough, or in sufficient detail, is the 5,000-to-10,000 [20,000?] transport miles embedded into a typical bag of high potency [high X:X:X], finished bag of I-NPK, that is obviously first required to grow that 1500 mile salad, or the 5,000 mile banana or coffee bean.

The very few locations of P & K mines will remain fixed postPeak [duh!], and since Moore's Law doesn't apply to multi-million ton flowrates: we are therefore locked into these daunting transport physics [distance and elevation]. Example: consider backpacking a 50 lb. sack of DAP from a northern Russian I-NPK factory to a Himalayan veggie plot in Nepal, or even further to a garden on the slope of Mt. Kilimanjaro. As there are NO SUBSTITUTES to the Elements NPK: it will truly Kill-a-Man trying to move I-NPK this mind-jarring distance--O-NPK recycling will be the only choice.

The chemical processing contraints going forward are not helping either,IMO. The 'easy fruit' of first depleting by mining the naturally superphosphated bird & bat guanos is basically completed, and I see no global alarm about white-nose fungi decimating various bat species, declining bird headcounts, nor a mad rush to build giant bird & bat houses for localized, therefore cheap and convenient flowrates from future guano reserves. I have previously posted much about these topics in the TOD archives showing astounding photos of late 1800s, early 1900s guano harvesting from bat-houses.

Recall that a bag of bat guano, extracted from a cave or bathouse, is good-to-go directly into the topsoil. Compare to the energetic working of a Haber-Bosch N factory in Trinidad, a Moroccan P-mine, a Canadian K-mine, and an OPEC recovered sulfur refinery all coordinating their shipments to send their outputs for final processing and blending into the numerous finished products of a I-NPK factory in Brazil or some other far-flung locale. In previous postings: I detailed weblinks that calculated three to five gallons of gasoline energy-embedded per I-NPK sack versus none for guano.

Thus, we are stupidly forcing ourselves to increasingly mine ever poorer, depleting P & K deposits: this is a perverse, exact inverse of Moore's Law. It will take ever more energy and equipment to extract ever greater tonnages that will need just that much more water, energy, and chemicals to separate the useless mud from the desired P & K [just to stay equal], then even more inputs [like much more sulfur] to repeat process beneficiate the ever weaker raw concentrate to a suitable finished form factor that a farmer would consider buying.

IMO, the bailouts happening globally are profoundly misdirected as we go postPeak. Since job specialization, therefore civilization, is only possible when long-term food surpluses exist: I would have greatly preferred funding for Maximum Peak Outreach, minimal potable water usage strategies [For TOD newbies: Please read my earlier TOD postings], massive O-NPK recycling supported by Alan Drake's proposals and SpiderWebRiding Networks, and a huge buildout of bird and bat habitats for natural, local, superphosphated O-NPK fertilizers and bug control.

Sadly, we persist in moving massive I-NPK tonnages for golf courses and winter lawns in deserts worldwide. The mothers cry as their babies die...

IMO, effective FF-derived pesticides & herbicides will be 'diminishing return' heading towards Unobtainium: due to food chain concentrating, it is probably resulting in more problems for higher level predators [us included] than the killing of bacteriums, bugs, and weeds as their short life cycles allows them to quickly evolve around the chemical effect. A sky chock-full of birds and bats, then roosting & pooping for our benefit is the far wiser 'Optimal Overshoot Decline' choice, IMO.

Otherwise, we can expect increasing endangered species and extinctions. How many deformed fish with skin lesions and blisters will we tolerate; how many frogs having more than two legs is acceptable? How many habitats must collapse before we plan 'the seventh generation' ahead?

Is 'counting down our digits' less painful than giving birth to future generations with Minimata or Thalidomide deformities? Eight or nine fingers is nothing compared to being born with no arms or legs when exosomatic physical ability will be the postPeak priority. Lepers and diabetics, upon losing their extremities, will find that hefting the handles of a wheelbarrow will be impossible.

Jay Hanson Quote: "Stuck in obsolete belief systems, Americans had no understanding why everything collapsed."

Have you hugged your bag of NPK today? My feeble two cents.

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

My mother has asked my father for a composter for Christmas. I suggest one under a tree for everyone with a garden in America.

I hear Neiman Marcus is selling silver plated wheelbarrows with gold handles.

Hello Tstreet,

LOL--That's great!--Thxs. Myself-->I'm holding out for the Nike/Tiger superlight signature model with never-corroding carbon-fiber handles, frame, & wheel, run-flat Michelin radial tire, and rustproof titanium cargo bed. ;)

So how long, in your opinion, before NPK bottlenecks cause acute and serious problems?

Hello PhilRelig,

Thxs for responding. That is a difficult question to answer as so many variables need to be considered as I-NPK moves through the supply chain until it is finally applied to the final square foot of topsoil, but I will attempt to give it a shot...

We can already see, as evidenced by prior Zim, Haiti, and Nepal weblinks, that poor countries with bad roads and rail, plus long overland distances and/or drastic elevation changes from their closest seaport, are struggling mightily to net out a positive agro-ERoEI. Liebig Minimums in transport thus leads directly to the classic chemical Liebig Minimum in the far-flung acre.

Thus, charity donated food, I-NPK & seeds can pile up in the port--but very little is effectively dispersed nationally in a cost-efficient manner. The spectrum extreme is being forced to use helicopters everywhere in Haiti because even the bridges are gone from city-to-city along with the bridges to the mountain villages. Even the US & IMF & OPEC combined cannot long afford unlimited high energy postPeak 'moonshots' that net out to energy sinks. :(

So I would expect the same trend to gradually spread to the First World in the fullness of BAU time. For example: a high elevation farm or ranch in the Rockies or Sierra Nevada, even if they had plentiful local water, but are totally dependent upon long road, multi-ton I-NPK transport from a seaport or railhead--will be headed into trouble. Recall that in Africa where bad roads are common: the transport cost can be six times or more the seaport cost of the I-NPK.

Since the same dynamics will apply to moving the even greater multi-ton harvest the other direction: a far-flung farmer will be at a decided competitive disadvantage to a farmer located closer to seaports and railheads to sell in larger markets. Obviously, many other details such as land taxes, climate agro-zones, labor availability and skill, pest infestations, road maintenance, and other factors need consideration in this overall calculation [far above my statistical ability].

If people accept that we are evolved to sit in the dark so that max energy can be diverted to plentiful infrastructure to support widespread O-NPK recycling, then global Overshoot violence, migration, and starvation could be somewhat optimally mitigated if pop. control measures were also followed. Failing this by continuing BAU: the latest UN FAO report of one billion suffering insufficient nutrition will probably ratchet upward by an approx. long-term average of 100 million per year [my SWAG].

As usual, I hope those TODers, skilled in statistical data wizardry, can further enhance or refute my speculation. Norman Borlaug & Bill Doyle of POT have already stated their belief that NPK for record crops are crucial going forward. Time will tell...

Even if I-NPK supplies are maintained, it only gets us from the frying pan into the fire. I-NPK is destroying the health of the top soil, which ultimately means the health of humanity also. Disease follows famine and in a sense we are in a famine in that the nutritional value of our food is falling due to industrial farming methods.

Even increasing agricultural productivity using I-NPK may have left us less well fed and vulnerable to disease. Throw into the mix the acidification, de-carbonisation and general destruction of top soil, the result will be poor fertility, less yield and further reductions in the nutritional value of crops. Eventually the use of I-NPK will leave the land near sterile and useless, humanity sickly and vulnerable to disease and accelerate the mass extinction we're already witnessing.

Add economic collapse, Climate Change and Peak Energy to the already dire problems faced by agriculture and a picture of impending disaster appears. While governments around the World are focused on financial matters, far bigger problems with even less chance of a successful outcome are growing fast in the shadows.

Abandon ship! To the lifeboats or perish! Leave the bags of I-NPK behind or they will drag us to the bottom. Organic farming cannot save the World, nor can Industrial Agriculture. But farming organically can save those involved in it and those close to them. There is no room for everyone in the lifeboats.

Recall that a bag of bat guano, extracted from a cave or bathouse, is good-to-go directly into the topsoil.

The bats/birds are harvesting insects from large areas like forests/wetlands - aka non crop lands.

Another way of concentrating sunlight/soil is allowing goats to forage then collect the fecal material. Yaks - don't know about 'em yet.

Any of the non industrial PNK solutions are a concentrating sunlight and topsoil.

Pipelines race out of the mountains; into yards

The bulk of the new natural gas supply is in the energy-rich Rockies and Texas. Producers are sinking traditional oil and gas wells and drilling into coal-bed methane reserves in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. In Texas, it's the Barnett Shale, a 6,000-square-mile bedrock region of natural gas, and the Bossier Sands tight-gas formation.

Between 1998 and 2006, natural gas production in these two regions jumped 96 percent and proved natural gas reserves climbed 127 percent, government statistics show.