DrumBeat: December 11, 2008

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Great December Bailout

Those of us following the perturbations of the world's oil supply believe that in the next five or ten years worldwide oil supplies will start shrinking, prices will rise permanently, and the widespread use of the private automobile will start to decline. This will be either because liquid fuels will have become too expensive in comparison with incomes or perhaps because governments will be forced to impose fuel rationing to mitigate the consequences of shortages.

So what do we do with Detroit? As now seems likely, its future course will be increasingly controlled by the federal government. Currently the plan is for this control to be exercised by an auto czar tasked with making sure that the multi-billion government loans are not used to pay for excessive executive compensation or dividends on worthless stock, and that the companies move expeditiously to "restructure" so they will not become permanent wards of the state.

It is only a matter of time however that, no matter how well intentioned, the government's involvement in "restructuring" expands to corporate decisions about what to make and how to make it. Should the big three be consolidated? Should production of internal combustion engines be severely restricted in favor of electric propulsion? Should the auto industry return to making buses, railroad engines? As a harbinger of the future, the current bailout bill has a clause forbidding loan recipients from legally challenging state emissions standards. For an industry that for decades vigorously fought seat belts, air bags, pollution controls, and fuel consumption standards, big changes are in the wind.

Jeremy Leggett: At Poznan, no one is listening

At the world climate change summit, few delegates paid attention to the tale of oil's inevitable demise.

Oil Rises as Saudis Say They Delivered Promised Output Cuts

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil jumped 9.5 percent, the biggest gain in five weeks, after the Saudi Arabian oil minister said he had delivered the output cuts promised to OPEC, a sign that world supplies are smaller than traders had estimated.

Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi minister, said in an interview in Poznan, Poland, that the kingdom pumped 8.493 million barrels of oil a day in November, close to its OPEC production quota of 8.477 million barrels a day. That’s 287,000 barrels a day less than estimated by the International Energy Agency.

“It’s quite unusual for the Saudis to make this kind of statement, and it should give confidence that they are following through with the cuts,” said Chip Hodge, a managing director at MFC Global Investment Management in Boston, who oversees a $5 billion energy-company bond portfolio. “This may encourage others to behave similarly to end the free-fall in prices.”

ExxonMobil says U.S. LNG terminal may face delay

BARCELONA (Reuters) - The opening of the Golden Pass liquefied natural gas terminal in the United States will likely be delayed by hurricane damage, while Britain's South Hook LNG terminal now looks set to open in early 2009, an executive from ExxonMobil said on Thursday.

"There has been some damage and there is more likely than not to be a delay ... it's just not clear how long that will be," ExxonMobil's president of LNG market development, Tom Cordano, said of the Golden Pass project in Texas which had been expected to be completed in mid-2009.

Oil makes for strong ties between Italy and Libya

Italy never shared its European neighbors' unease about cozying up to Libya, its former colony. And under Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, the countries' special relationship is breaking new ground. This year, Libya has taken a stake in Unicredit, a major Italian bank, and is considering an investment in Telecom Italia. Now it wants a piece of Eni, the Italian energy giant.

For Boston, the lessons from Venice

Boston and Venice are separated - or united - by an ocean. Both are seaports that reincarnated themselves when their shipping and manufacturing economies faltered. Venice has long suffered from storm surges that used to flood St. Mark's Square once every five years. More recently beset with such "acqua alta" 40 times a year, including a severe episode last week, Venice began an ambitious public works project to protect itself from rising sea levels. It may be time for Boston to follow suit.

Good planets are hard to find

(CNN) -- Nature can be amazingly resilient, capable of adapting to constantly changing ecological conditions. And yet, this resiliency is limited and rapidly reaching the breaking point.

In the lifetime of a child born today, 20 percent to 30 percent of the world's plant and animal species will be on the brink of extinction -- in part because of global warming -- if we fail to act.

Downturn may reverse trend of rising energy costs

The price tag for new energy exploration, production and refining projects continues to rise, but there are early signs the economic downturn could soon cut into those costs, according to a pair of indexes kept by IHS/Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

The Upstream Capital Cost Index rose 9.2 percent during the second and third quarters of the year, as rising steel costs and the clamor for equipment and workers made oil and gas exploration and production projects more expensive.

And the Downstream Capital Cost Index, which tracks items related to the construction of refining and petrochemical facilities, climbed 6 percent in the second and third quarters.

Russia's Big Chill

The collapse in energy and commodity prices since this summer is exposing Russia's fragility: the boom, it turns out, was built on expensive oil, and precious little else. Economic growth, which averaged more than 7% for the past five years, has tumbled and may drop below 2% next year. And for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the threat of large-scale unemployment looms. "Money was falling from the sky in the past two to three years," says Maxim Oreshkin, the head of research at private-sector Rosbank in Moscow. "Now it's stopped falling."

Canadian oil firms make cautious spending cuts

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - EnCana Corp and Petro-Canada moved to cut 2009 capital spending on Thursday to cope with falling commodity prices and market turmoil, but they left themselves enough room to change plans quickly in case the economy swings to the better, or worse.

After years of boosting budgets to increase production from far-flung reserves and the expensive oil sands, Canada's big oil companies are retrenching to cope with crude prices that have fallen by close to $100 a barrel from July peaks.

Oil Recovery Rests On China

How bad crude gets depends a lot on how bad things become in Asia.

Analysis: Kirkuk faultline

The suicide bomb attack on an upmarket Kurdish restaurant near Kirkuk underscores the tension still wracking the ethnically-mixed and oil-rich province in northern Iraq.

While violence in most of Iraq is down by up to 80%, Kirkuk remains restless.

It is the centre of northern Iraq's oil industry yet no workable agreement has yet emerged as to how the wealth should be shared.

Algeria Says Oil/Gas to Earn Up to $76B in '08

Algerian oil and gas revenue could reach a record high of $76 billion in 2008, Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil was quoted as saying on Thursday, compared to $59 billion in 2007.

"The expected revenues of between $75 and $76 billion are a record," the official APS news agency quoted him as saying.

Russia to complete heating oil deliveries to N.Korea 'within months'

BEIJING, December 11 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will complete heating oil deliveries to North Korea within the next several months, the head of the Russian delegation at six-party talks on Korea's nuclear problem said on Thursday.

Under an international energy assistance program, Russia is to supply a total 100,000 metric tons of heating oil to North Korea in exchange for a pledge to abandon its nuclear program.

Drought parches much of the U.S., may get worse

The value of water is starting to become apparent in America. Over the past three years a drought has affected large swaths of the country, and conflicts over water usage may become commonplace in the future, climatologists say.

"Our focus is oil, but the critical need for water is going to make water the most significant natural resource that we're going to have to worry about in the future," says Larry Fillmer, executive director of the Natural Resources Management & Development Institute at Auburn University in Alabama.

Heading for zero

Central banks are making history. Last week's 1pc cut took interest rates down to 2pc, the level that they were last at in 1951, which was the all-time low since the Bank of England was formed in 1694.
Reminds me of Mike Hearn's Interesting economics.

John Michael Greer: Dissensus and organic process

Plenty of proposals for allegedly “natural” or “ecological” societies, communities, and institutions have been floated over the last three decades or so, and most of them are natural in the same sense that Wright’s architecture is organic: they represent one person’s best shot at grasping the natural potentials of a situation. Very often, though, these proposals fail to address issues of substance or process. Substance in a social context refers, among other things, to the people who will presumably take up the new social system, but who inevitably bring to it attitudes and behavior patterns from other social contexts and the evolution of our species; it’s notorious, and also true, that most Utopian schemes would work wondrously well if human beings could just stop behaving like human beings.

Carter Warns Obama on Energy-Policy Headwinds

ATLANTA -- Almost three decades later, Jimmy Carter recalls vividly what it was like trying to get Americans to turn down their thermostats and kick the oil habit.

"It was like gnawing on a rock," the former president says.

...Mr. Carter offers Mr. Obama this advice: Try to inspire Americans to see the virtue in making energy sacrifices, a notoriously tough sell, especially in the face of falling prices. Get energy legislation to Congress quickly, during the presidential honeymoon. And stick with it.

Infrastructure: What Not To Build

The government is set to spend hundreds of billions on energy, roads, railways and community development projects. Here's how to get stuff we actually want.

Mexico says oil exports to fall sharply by 2017

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico said Wednesday that rising domestic consumption will cause oil exports to drop by about 5.3 percent annually over the next decade, although the country hopes to increase crude production to just over 3 million barrels per day by 2017.

Mexico's Pemex Raises January Crude Pricing Constants For US

MEXICO CITY --Mexico's state oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said Wednesday it will raise the constants, or differentials, used to price its crude oil deliveries to the U.S. and other markets in January.

Latin America: An Ex-Exporter?

While economists, investors, and government officials fear that the current global financial crisis will put downward pressure on demand – and in turn, prices – for commodities, a greater threat could be imminent. The region's status as a net energy exporter is at risk from bad government policies; in the long term, energy trade deficits could put pressure on Latin America’s economic health.

Activists irked that 'green' money now goes to bailout

Environmental groups are disappointed that money put aside to aid automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars is now going to fund their operations.

Although the bill promises the money for retooling plants will be replenished in the future, environmentalists are skeptical. And they're also upset the bailout doesn't ban automakers from suing states that set tougher emissions limits than federal rules.

Oil will retain leading role, says Saudi Aramco Official

Dubai, SPA -- Presenting his views on the future of petroleum supply and demand in the "The Global Energy and Materials Forum" organized here recently by management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Saudi Aramco Executive Vice President of Operations Khalid A. Al-Falih said that oil will "retain its leading role among the world's energy sources ... [as] there is consensus that fossil fuels will still be supplying some 80 percent of the world's total energy requirements."

In remarks before an audience of energy and management executives and experts, Al-Falih said that the recent decline in oil prices is due to a "confluence of factors," including lower demand, a surplus of supplies, and a prevailing negative sentiment about the global economy.

Addressing the focus on alternative energy sources, Al-Falih said that "the world will need energy from different sources, yet, fossil fuels will continue to furnish the lion's share of global energy demand for the next few decades."

Rubin roasting

It must be hard being Jeff Rubin these days. As chief economist and strategist at CIBC World Markets, Mr. Rubin has not been shy to express his views, especially when they diverge from the safety of consensus opinion. In recent years, he has been especially bullish on crude oil, and its impact on the S&P/TSX composite index – a call that looked good on the way up.

But now, with stocks down and crude oil looking more and more like a popped bubble, he is taking it on the chin from readers commenting on a Globe and Mail article about his updated forecasts.

Germany Moves from Atoms to Photons

Germany has adopted a seemingly contradictory set of policies in its effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and increase energy security. While it has greatly emphasized renewable energy, the government remains committed to a phase-out of nuclear power and to the construction of new gas pipelines from Russia.

Conergy to develop solar power plant in KSA

Conergy Asia-Pacific, a regional subsidiary of Hamburg-based Conergy, has been awarded a contract for a 2-megawatt solar power plant for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

Mexico pledges greenhouse gas cuts

POZNAN, Poland: Mexico says it will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2002 levels by 2050.

Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira says he hopes the target will push richer countries to help Mexico with investments needed to meet the goal.

World oil demand to grow in 2009, shrink in 2008: IEA

LONDON (Reuters) - World oil demand growth will return in 2009 after shrinking this year for the first time since 1983 due to the global economic slowdown, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.

The IEA's view is in stark contrast to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which on Tuesday said demand is expected to shrink by 450,000 barrels per day in 2009 following a predicted 50,000 bpd decline in 2008.

Saudis Signal Deeper Oil Output Cuts Than Expected

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, cut production more than traders and analysts had estimated last month, reflecting the nation’s commitment to halt the $100 plunge in crude prices.

Oil rallied after Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said in an interview in Poznan, Poland, that the kingdom pumped 8.493 million barrels of oil a day in November. That’s 287,000 barrels a day less than estimated by the International Energy Agency, and close to Saudi Arabia’s OPEC quota of 8.477 million barrels. Libya’s top oil official Shokri Ghanem said previous OPEC cuts haven’t been enough.

Oil Outlook to Worsen as OPEC Action Fails, Deutsche Bank Says

(Bloomberg) -- A likely cut in crude oil production by OPEC will fail to support prices because of weakening demand, with oil potentially dropping as low as $30 a barrel by the end of next year, Deutsche Bank AG said in a report.

The price of oil returns to 'normal'

As the world price of crude oil soared up toward $150 a barrel earlier this year, even some of the most stalwart defenders of the ability of man to keep oil flowing began to lose faith. Despite the long history of oil's downward price drift over most of the past 140 years, the idea that this time was different became almost a new law of the world energy markets: Oil had reached it's peak, the world was running out, the fundamentals of market forces were at work, the price must soar and the result would be economic turmoil.

As it turns out, the opposite has happened. Oil traded at $43.72 yesterday. Philip Verleger, of the Haskayne School of Business in Calgary, said yesterday that oil could go to $20 a barrel as the economic slowdown drags on through the next year or more. Price recovery could take few years, before oil returns to "normal" levels.

The question now is: What's normal?

UK: Government turns up heat over power price cuts

The tension between the Government and Britain's biggest power companies escalated last night after British Gas, the country's biggest supplier, ruled out any price cuts until the spring, despite steep recent falls in wholesale prices and demands for action “as soon as possible” from Ed Miliband, the new Energy Secretary.

North Sea operator aims to boost output by 10%

OIL and gas company Nexen, whose principal production area is in the UK North Sea through its operated Buzzard field, said yesterday it expected to increase worldwide output in 2009 by about 10% year-on-year.

It said its daily net production should grow to 220,000-235,000 barrels of oil equivalent, gaining it cash flow of more than £1.5billion, based on an average oil price above $50 a barrel.

Russia-Serbia deal triggers Serb government split

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- An energy deal with Moscow, involving the sale of Serbia's oil monopoly to Russia in return for the construction of a strategic pipeline through the Balkan country, has triggered a split within Serbia's coalition government.

Natural Gas Transportation Is a Win-Win Technology

My question is a very simple one: why in the world isn’t the US embracing natural gas powered transportation? In spite of a very prestigious economic team including a plethora of PhD's, I have yet to hear one Obama economic adviser even mention natural gas transportation as a priority. Nor have I heard any Congressmen question the “big” three auto CEOs about natural gas cars and trucks. Why? Since the economic case to use natural gas for transportation is so obvious, there must be some technology, cost, or environmental reason why policy makers are not supporting such a common sense solution. Let’s discuss these issues one at a time.

Collège de France Creates a Sustainable Development, Environment, Energy and Society Chair in Cooperation with Total

In cooperation with Total, Collège de France is creating a chair of sustainable development, energy and societal issues.

Endowed for five years, the chair will be held annually by an eminent, internationally recognized figure who will lecture on core sustainable development issues such as climate change and its impact on health and the economy; the impact of human activities on water, carbon and nitrogen cycles; food and nutrition; biodiversity; and the future of energy. Scientific, engineering and social science aspects will be considered.

Energy secretary pick argues for new fuel sources

WASHINGTON – Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who is President-elect Barack Obama's choice for energy secretary, has been a vocal advocate for more research into alternative energy, arguing that a shift away from fossil fuels is essential to combat global warming.

Chu, a Chinese-American who currently is director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, has in recent years campaigned to bring together a cross-section of scientific disciplines to find ways to counter climate change.

If action is not taken now to stop global warming, it may be too late, he argues.

Wind, Water And Sun Beat Biofuels, Nuclear And Coal For Clean Energy

ScienceDaily (Dec. 10, 2008) — The best ways to improve energy security, mitigate global warming and reduce the number of deaths caused by air pollution are blowing in the wind and rippling in the water, not growing on prairies or glowing inside nuclear power plants, says Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford.

And "clean coal," which involves capturing carbon emissions and sequestering them in the earth, is not clean at all, he asserts.

White House backs down on easing air-pollution rules

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration on Wednesday abandoned efforts to relax pollution controls on coal-fired power plants and industries it started with Vice President Dick Cheney's energy plan in 2001, bringing to a sudden end a long White House fight with environmental groups.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency also finalized a third rule that would allow for more polluted dust from mines, animal farms and other sources.

Calif. set to adopt sweeping global warming plan

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California's utilities, refineries and large factories must transform their operations to cut greenhouse gas emissions as part of a new climate plan before state regulators.

On Thursday, the California Air Resources Board was expected to adopt what would be the nation's most sweeping global warming plan, outlining for the first time how individuals and businesses would meet a landmark 2006 law that made the state a leader on global climate change.

UN's Ban: invest in fighting climate change

POZNAN, Poland – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday warned the world against backsliding in the fight against climate change as it battles financial crisis, calling for a renewed sense of urgency in facing "the defining challenge of our era."

..."The economic crisis is serious; yet when it comes to climate change, the stakes are far higher," Ban told the conference. "The climate crisis affects our potential prosperity and our people's lives, both now and far into the future."

A healthy planet? Top 10 environment articles in 2008

Climate change has continued to dominate environmental science in the past year. There are plenty of other issues out there, though, whether it's a surprise cause of diabetes, or the precious metals we leave behind in waste dumps.

NewScientist.com is now making free all in-depth articles from the past 12 months. In case you missed them, here are the top 10 best features on environmental science.

The free articles now include the The Folly of Growth issue from Oct. 2008, with articles like Why politicians dare not limit economic growth, Does growth really help the poor? and this interview with David Suzuki.

Bug alert: all of the stories on the front page say "Without comments."

It's not a bug, it's a feature.

Some people like our stories, but find the comments unsuitable for professional/political situations. So the "without comments" link is for when you want to share the story, but don't want people to see the flamewar du jour in the comment section.

Got it. Another variant on "NSFW."

A lot of people like to print stories so they can read them when they are out of internet range. There is a lot less to print if a person chooses the "without comments" mode.

A sure sign that the world as we know it is coming to an end soon - very soon.

Animated Clean Coal singing Holiday and Christmas Songs courtesy of Rachel Maddow. About one 1:20 in.

You can play for real here: http://www.americaspower.org/Carolers

Where are the emoticons when you need them.

Very funny pt...thanks for sharing. But there was a cute commercial the other night with the real story. I didn't catch the source but it opened with a giant door with the sign: CLEAN COAL -- ENTER HERE. When the door swung open a guy was standing in an empty field. The point: there is no such thing.

Who's paying for the ad spot?

That makes me want to end my life. They give people the impression that we already use clean coal! What a f#$%ing lie!!! seriously they should be taken to court for misinformation. Thank god people like thisisreality.org are doing something. They are operated by the Sierra Club.

The articles on the folly of growth are timely. In fact, I've been wondering something... I think it's fair to say that most everyone posting on this site is anti-growth. So where do you folks stand on the upcoming efforts by the Obama administration (and govt's in other countries) to reignite growth? I was reading Heinberg the other day, and it seemed like he was toning down his hard anti-growth stance in the context of this crisis. It struck me as odd. Isn't a downturn in growth the ideal time to promote no more growth, if that's what you believe in? Shouldn't anti-growth advocates be opposed to the stimulus package??

Here's some no growth.

Involuntary bankruptcy sought against ethanol plant.


BTW Ethanol production was down Sept 640K Brl's V Aug 647K Brl's/day

John Michael Greer has some interesting insights into the Doomer mindset that you might find of interest, JD, chalking up their desire for instant widespread collapse to an irrational embrace of select myths. Of course he considers a belief at this stage in infinite growth and "progress" to be equally deluded, you can skip those parts if you're so inclined.

I can't speak for everyone, but I'm not ANTI-GROWTH, I wish that growth would go on forever, and that we could all live in large homes and drive big cars, eat 3 full meals and have 4 snacks every day.

But I live on this planet, we call it The Earth


"Current" global recession? It really depends to whom you're talking. Certainly not the three billion people in the world, living on less than $2.50 a day. For them, there's nothing current about the global recession. For them, it's always been ongoing; it's almost a way of life.

Hi Ed, thanks for the reply. Like dipchip, you're dodging the issue, not addressing it. It seems that you are in fact anti-growth, although you're not entirely happy with it.
My point is this: if you genuinely believe that we must stop growth because it is killing us (a view which I believe I can fairly ascribe to the vast majority of people on the Oil Drum), then how can you, in good conscience, support measures which are aimed at reigniting growth, such as Obama's upcoming stimulus package and similar packages in other countries?
I realize that I may not be the ideal person to pose that question, but I think the question itself is an important one and deserves a serious answer.

I could support a stimulus package aimed at reinstating a growth economy if it's primary side effect was to invest in renewable energy and to restructure society to be less energy intensive and more socially cohesive.

What better way to kick-start the economy than spending a trillion dollars on wind power, upgrading the electric grid, developing adaptive (electricity) demand infrastructure, building and electrifying light rail systems, (small) electric or hybrid cars, etc. etc.

Of course the stimulus would fail, as we descend the energy slope, but it would be less painful. The US (and UK, and many other economies) are inevitably going to collapse. Better to use whatever credit the government can still control whilst it still has any, to build for the future.

It won't happen. The money will be spent building yet more SUVs and roads and airports and other Easter Island gods.

I suspect your view is probably the most common here at TOD. I would guess most here don't really support bailouts and other "stimulus" bills. They aren't going to work. The best we can hope for is to get some of it for what we want.

FWIW, Denninger thinks the auto bailout isn't as terrible as the bank bailout. But he's still upset about the debt.

I don't understand all the media noise about the auto bailout-15 billion is peanuts compared to the 8.5 trillion already billed to the USA taxpayer. Interestingly, almost all discussions take pains to avoid mentioning the 8.5 trillion dollar elephant in the room.

The auto industry is different from Wall Street in two important particulars:

1. It is staffed by workers from the evil UAW, which is to blame for everything.
2. If Wall Street fell, there would not be another even more Republican financial sector ready to expand into the vacuum. If Detroit falls, the vacuum is filled by foreign-owned car plants in Republican, union-busting states. Look at the state IDs of the senators most opposed to the bailout.

Now point #2 is based on the Republicans' fantasy that their own backward underpaid minions can make Toyota and BMW happy building SUVs and giant trucks. Recently Toyota decided to build its next new plant in Canada (with its own UAW) instead of the South. Why? National health insurance and a more educated workforce, perhaps?

But Detroit has to be killed off in a hurry before the Republicans at GM and Chrysler HQ commit heresy and tell the press that America's car companies are being bankrupted because of its lack of socialized medicine.

"Recently Toyota decided to build its next new plant in Canada (with its own UAW) instead of the South. Why? National health insurance and a more educated workforce, perhaps?"

Or perhaps not.

1) National health insurance in Canada is not exactly National. It's under provincial jurisdiction. Each with their own set of rules and ability to finance. The entire system is under strain because of direct Provincial government involvement (read no practicing physicians have been, and are being consulted on major policy issues) and because of demographics. Waiting times, physician shortages, nursing shortages and the shortage of (staffed) active treatment hospital beds .. are unacceptable. And have been for some 18 years.
Toyota must know this.

2) And are Canadians really more educated than Americans? What metrics are being used here?

build for the future

Does this require growth?

You're either growing or contracting.

Which world would you live in- a growing world or contracting one?

Funny, I am the same weight I was 20 years ago.

Net worth in 12-month tailspin (Note: you have to go halfway down the page)

Consumers watched their net worth fall for the fourth quarter in a row as it dropped by $2.8 trillion, or 4.7%, to $56.5 trillion, dragged down by huge drops in home values and in the stock market. It was the largest decline in the 57-year history of the report.

Americans' wealth also sank $393 billion in the second quarter, $2.4 trillion in the first quarter and $1.5 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2007. Until then, net worth had been rising steadily since 2003, climbing nearly 31% over those five years.

The four straight quarters of declines have resulted in a net 11.1% drop in Americans' wealth in the last 12 months. During the bear market of 2000 through 2002, household's net worth dropped just 6.2%.

You're either growing or contracting.

Which world would you live in- a growing world or contracting one?

This is a modest fall compared to the UK.
The fall against the dollar alone has knocked 25% off UK net worth, plus a similar amount to the US in stocks and home ownership, although the last is perhaps slightly smaller as we are a bit behind the US in entry into recession.

The currency fall is a real one in valuations, as much of the debt is owed internationally and so dollar denominated.

Hello Geckolizard,

Thxs for the info. If the planet has, in fact, passed Peak Everything: the cascading blowbacks will inevitably result in a contracting net worth, and fewer options for nearly everyone. Such is life.

Looks like Peak Wealth, doesn't it?

I'm still stuck in the original question posed: Which world would you live in- a growing world or contracting one?

A growing world means more starvation on the bottom end of society, more waste on the top, more distribution of wealth from the bottom to the top, and more resources that we start running against- oil, gas, water, I-NPK, food... Is this good?

Or, a contracting world means we do without a lot of the same things immediately... We go back to a lower standard of living... Possibly pre-industrial, with all of the things that came from that era, both good and bad. Is this good?

What's the best of both worlds...? Can we contract and grow at the same time?

Which world would you live in- a growing world or contracting one?

I'll take the one that is a reasonable facsimile of a steady state equilibrium.

I know it may seem to be boring to most but I'll take it, who knows I might have more time for actually enjoying the little pleasures in life.

I happen to have my own boring list of what those are, things like reading, music, art, science, sailing, being with my loved ones, teaching, learning, watching sunsets, drinking good wine etc.. etc..

Not one of the things on my list requires growth. I don't need power, a big house, a gas guzzling SUV, the latest and the greatest new gadgets that will make me more and more efficient but only give me less and less time to be myself. To be honest I'm not yet completely free of that world and may not completely attain that freedom in my life time but at least I understand the futility of seeking never ending growth. I will continue to try my best to live and let live.

I think your mistaken in your idea of a 'steady state'. as with the rest of this place the assumption is that a steady state is well a straight line. It's not, it means peaks and valley's. It means some growth, followed by a collapse, followed by some more growth though to about the same spot +/- a little. followed by about steepness of a drop.

for example this would be like experiencing a epidemic, followed by regrowth of the population to about same level before then another epidemic.

I completely agree with you and praise your outlook on life. However, I am sure you do not expect poor people in Africa to hope for no grwoth. They need some growth just to be treated like full human beings.

We are GOING to be living in a contracting world, whether we like it or not. My preferences are irrelevant, this is reality and we had best face up to and adjust to it, the sooner the better.

Yes, a great many people will suffer terribly. That is going to happen and can't be helped. Futile attempts to hang on to the past and sustain the unsustainable will not help them, only hurt them even more.

Getting ahead of the curve and downsizing/powering down one's life, before one absolutely is forced to do so by circumstances, is one thing that might actually help others in some small way, by leaving just a little more of earth's scarce resources (AKA "wealth") for other people to share.

Even if one is a no growth advocate, supporting a stimulus package if it focuses heavily on conservation,efficiency, and alternative eneryg, is called a compromise. We realize this is the only way to get these things. I believe in no growth but I know that is not going to happen, at the very least in my life time. We will keep pushing against the resources of the planet until we become one big Easter Island.

In any event, if this so called stimulus package spends billions on roads, this will largely cancel out many of the more sustainable initiatives. It needs to be informed by a grand vision of sustainability. But that ain't gonna happen even with Mr. Change.

The economic system under which we have arranged life on this planet, is based on debt.

I have read often that if all debt were settled there would be no money in circulation.

That will never be allowed to happen as it would spell the end for all the people at the top of the economic food chain.

Debt is 100% dependant on Growth. I’m not saying growth is dependant on debt.

We need to throw out the current economic system (no amount of tweeking will change the debt paradigm) and restructure life on this planet under a new system or expect growth to foisted on us to the very end.

P.S. I don't want collapse. I want things to go on as they are only without the burden of debt hanging over EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE.

This is where we differ

My point is this: if you genuinely believe that we must stop growth because it is killing us

"we must stop growth", No we will not stop growth, it's not in us. Throughout history mankind has wanted growth ie. children, more/better food etc. and that will not change.

But because of our (collective) actions I now believe that we are at the point where growth will not be possible without some outside or currently unknow form of energy.

Growth will stop not because we want it to, but because it is being forced on us.

This does not mean that the world is coming to an end only that it is going to be different.


Or, growth will be carried out the way it was hundreds of years ago: we exterminate you, take your land, and have more children on it. Then someone else does the same to us. Net growth: zero.

Stimulus packages don't work, in fact make matters worse.

The credit conflagration will have to burn itself out. After that? Probably no growth, anyway.

Credit destruction, resource 'shortages' and climate disruptions. Hard to get around one of these, not all three ...

If the population of the planet was say 500 million we probably could live just about any lifestyle we wished.

A more modern lifestyle would probably require advanced robots and factories that make factories etc.

With this small of a population you would probably go with some sort of universal constructor since demand would
be so low for a lot of items. I'm sure "handmade" would probably be popular. Most items would be works of art.

If population is stagnant you could have just about any lifestyle you could imagine and easily eliminate those
that are too environmentally destructive or wasteful.

I can't see how a politician would be able to call for no growth, or the end of growth. We're talking about a complete change in our economic system, which I would argue a political process cannot bring about. Frankly, I think there's a 97% chance the auto's bridge loan thing will be completely botched by the "Car Czar." I don't think governments can manage industries (at least not well), or invent a new economy. Rather, government can TRY to mitigate externalities and inequities resulting from the system.

What that may mean, to the degree I'm correct about that, is that the only way to move to a different system is for the old one to collapse, or be abandoned by society.

Obama? He is going to seek to restart growth in the US. Accept that. Critique his choices for how that's attempted, sure. But why argue the premise - it won't be changed.

I hope you are right-IMO Obama will have his work cut out for him if his goal is to restart growth in the USA economy.

I don't think growth per say is a problem. In our case, growth against finite resources of fossil fuels is the problem. If by some stroke of universal genius we acquired another cheaper energy source (cold fusion, cheap hot fusion), i believe we would enter a period of growth on the scale of the solar system. What would it take to enter a period of growth on the galactic scale? Who knows, but i do think the Fermi Paradox is pointing to the likley answer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox

growth against finite resources of fossil fuels is the problem. If by some stroke of universal genius we acquired another cheaper energy source (cold fusion, cheap hot fusion), i believe we would enter a period of growth on the scale of the solar system.

No. This attitude is the problem with all the technocopian idealists that post in these fora. You don't realize that the problem is excessive human population fueled by cheap energy. Fossil fuels are particularly bad because their oxidized wastes pollute the atmosphere & surface ocean, resulting in rapid climate change. But any other energy source is nearly as bad, because it fuels human population growth. When humans use energy to "develop" land for their own use, it is at the expense of natural ecosystems. Those ecosystems ultimately support human and all other life processes. Their destruction undermines the quality and very sustainability of life for all living things. The worst thing that could possibly happen for the planet, the biotia, and for human society would be the perfection of some cheap, plentiful, "clean" energy source. Human population would soar, ecosystem integrity would decline, and global biospheric collapse would soon ensue. Why is it that the technocopian contingent just doesn't "get" this?

Forget Fusion, what we really need is the PrayerMax 5000

Jesus-Dino pics never get old...

Amen brother Gecko! AMEN!

I believe the word dinosaur didn't come into play until around 1841.

Job 40:15 “Look now at the behemoth,[a] which I made along with you;He eats grass like an ox.16 See now, his strength is in his hips,And his power is in his stomach muscles.17 He moves his tail like a cedar;The sinews of his thighs are tightly knit.18 His bones are like beams of bronze,His ribs like bars of iron."

Job 3:7-9 May those curse it who curse the day,Those who are ready to arouse Leviathan.

Job 41:1 “Can you draw out Leviathan[a] with a hook,Or snare his tongue with a line which you lower?

Psalm 74:14 You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces,And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness

Psalm 104:26 There the ships sail about;There is that Leviathan Which You have made to play there.

Job 41:18 His sneezings flash forth light,And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.Out of his mouth go burning lights;Sparks of fire shoot out.


Edit: I should have added that Job I believe is generally considered the oldest book of the bible.

The worst thing that could possibly happen for the planet, the biotia, and for human society would be the perfection of some cheap, plentiful, "clean" energy source. Human population would soar, ecosystem integrity would decline, and global biospheric collapse would soon ensue.

Complete and utter BS DDog. "Technology" has allowed for cheaper and more plentiful birth control which has allowed us to start to rapidly decrease the rate of world population growth, look at this chart from TOD:


A cheap and plentiful energy source would allow us to further distribute birth control and other family planning methods to the rest of the world. Why can't the doomers "get" this?

DDog is correct.

Population is the time bomb that has precipitated the rest of the mess. There's no evidence that tech, even if proven, will be adopted with regard to procreation. Especially in time. I shudder to think of the changes to Africa as industrial farming overtakes it. A transition rapidly occurring as the Middle East uses their oil reserves to purchase land.

But to give the devil his due, suppose there was a cheap and plentiful energy source, birth control and worldwide family planning laws passed and enforced, we seeded the ocean with Fe and magically, all the atmospheric carbon vanished (only the excess-we stop it at the precise moment) in deep ocean trenches, then was subsumed into the crust with no adverse environmental consequences. Ways to steer moisture laden clouds overland to parched areas were developed with all the excess energy. All were gainfully employed as shrubbers, planting the newest, most colorful varieties. What then?

There wouldn't be a single untouched place left, our propensity to travel/migrate, would consume every last piece of untouched ground. And it would all collapse with the loss of the evolved natural ecosystems. Long before the devil got his due.

There are a lot of people that could use a course in ecology. Human population dynamics work the same as all animal populations do: if there are abundant resources available-the population expands; when resources become more scarce-the population declines. As individuals we may be able to control our reproduction, but as a whole populace the above statement will always be true. Why can't antidoomers 'get' this? We like to think humans are quite unique and divine, but at a biological level we are animals with an instinct to procreate, and as long as resources are available to us to grow, by god we will.

I view the resource limitations that we are quickly bumping into as signals that we have gotten too big and its time for Gaia to do something about it.

Of course we are NOT subject to the same dynamics as all animal populations. What animal population has been able to raise its life expectancy so much? What animal population has been able to greatly (immensly) increase the expectations for viable births? This is a function of improvement and interference in the way we treat ourselves, aka improvements in medicine, which, by themselves do not demand extensive unputs of new energy. Penicilin probably impacted human growth a lot more than the discovery of Gawar.

Penicilin probably impacted human growth a lot more than the discovery of Gawar.

I doubt it. Human population wasn't limited by lack of antibiotics. Yes, a lot of people died, but a lot of people were born, too. It's food and water that have been the limiting factors, and petroleum fixed that (temporarily).

Anthropologist Marvin Harris used to say that the only technology which truly benefited mankind was birth control.

You see boosts with agriculture, and the discovery of the new world, but it's nothing compared to the fossil fueled-spike.

You will see that the population spike graph also coincides with penicillin...and better mass healthcare in general (vaccines play an important part).
The thing with advances in mass medicin is that they help people stay alive LONGER. When people were dying at 45, a and every family would probably lose one child (at leats)lose high birth rate was not exactly a problem.
The effect of higher supply of energy on food was not very pronounced until the green revolution, on the later half of last century. Your spike started way before that.

Also the great movers that kept population in check were the outbreak of PLAGUES. With no noticeable scarcity of energy (aka wood and horses) the bubonic plague decimated 2/3s of the population in Western Europe, plagues were responsible for the deaths of billions in China, India and many other places...if you want to correlate energy growth with population increase, you should be able to correlate population decrease with energy shortages...and historically that is not what happened.

I think it is preposterous to claim that energy is the only (or even the main) factor at play in a complex ecossistem...

You're wrong on that. Life expectancy may have been 45, but that didn't mean people died at 45. People who survived childhood lived about as long as we do today. (There has been remarkably little change in lifespan for those who survive childhood.) The bible describes the span of a human life as "three score and ten" - 70 years, which is about what we can expect today. What's changed is childhood mortality. (In Hawaii, it's still traditional to have a huge party on a baby's first birthday - because once it survived the first year, it was considered likely to live.)

Many of the people of the world today have no access to penicillin, or sanitation, vitamins, etc. Yet their populations have spiked just as much more as those with access to modern healthcare.

"People who survived childhood lived about as long as we do today"

I only have data from my country, Brazil, but it could give you an idea.

Life expectancy in Brazil increased from 57.6 years in 1960, to 71,9 years (women live a whopping 9 years more than Brazilian men...). The lower level in the 60s in no way correlates with water or food shortages (Brazil has always been a food and water surplus country with about 10% of world supplies of fresh water). The big difference was universalization of health care.
I am NOT saying that medicine is the single most important driver in human growth, but the way I see it there are many factors at play (including, of course, energy), but not only that.
(on a sad anectode, the life expectancy of Brazilian women is so much higher than that of men, fue, in large part to urban violence that claim a desproportionate number of young males)

"Many of the people of the world today have no access to penicillin, or sanitation, vitamins, etc. Yet their populations have spiked just as much more as those with access to modern healthcare".

This logic would also apply to energy (even more, perhaps). Countries that have the lowest consumption of energy per capita are also the ones with higher birth rates and population growth. These places ALREADY live as if PO was in effect, and they still keep growing...Conversely, countries that use the most energy have declining or stabilizaed populations (Europe, Japan, Russia, US - if you account for migration).

But the general point about life expectancy being too simple a statistic to draw conclusions from still remains in the air. If the increase came from a large number of children who would have died in early childhood living to old-age-ish of 60+, then I can see that affecting population to a reasonable degree. But if it was from a significant number of people changing from dying at 60-ish to at 75-ish then beyond a slight increase from more "overlapping" of generations alive at one time, it's not clear that there would be much increase in population from that (since it's decisions in your 20s/30s that lead to having/not having children).

Incidentally, did Russia have levels of energy use on a par with Europe, Japan and the US during the 1990-2000 period when the population decline was strongest? I had the impression that things were rather bad for the majority of people at that time.

"If the increase came from a large number of children who would have died in early childhood living to old-age-ish of 60+, then I can see that affecting population to a reasonable degree"

Life expectancy measures exactly that. It is an average, so if a child dies as a newborn, that contributes with a negative 75 years to an average of 75. The increase in life span in this particular data is basically a function of better health care.

As for Russia, AFAIK, they were always an energy surpluss country in the last century, especially as far as oil is concerned, even when their country was coming to pieces.
The more recent phenomenon of population reduction in the west and some other developed countries is more of a function of urbanization, education and change in the social fabric than a lack of energy.

You're missing the point that the actual probability distribution of individual life expectancies can be multi-modal, so that the average can change due to changes in one mode without changes in another. As a silly example, suppose 50% of people die at within their 15th year and 50% die at 50, then the life expectancy is 32.5. If the 50% that die at 50 get better care so that they die at 70, the life expectancy is now 42.5. But nothing has changed about the proportion who died early, so the only changes that would be expected are those due to the behaviour of 50 to 70 year olds (say, an increase in sales of Barbara Taylor Bradford novels :-) ). Of course this is an unrealistically stark situation, but it illustrates the idea that unless you know more a simple increase in life expectancy does not necessarily mean that fewer people are dying before reproduction age.

(It's actually more complicated than that in that some life expectancies that are quoted are for those who have already alive a given age; getting life assurance at 50 actuaries will use tables using only data from people who lived to 50 anyway. If the life expectancy you quoted is of that sort this may be relevant.)

There's a definitionhere.

I agree with you, but I am not saying the fewer people are dying before reproductive age, just that fewer people are dying.

My point is that even though the situation regarding food and water (the proxy used for the impact of energy on population growth) was more or less the same in 1960 and 2006 (in both there was a huge surplus), population increased. This is attributed mainly (not only, but also by the Government) to advances and coverage of healthcare.

On the other hand, the declining birth rate is a function of urbanization (mainly), and as this processs goes forward, the Brailian population is bound to stabilize in about 30 years (note that there was no one child policy, or even incentives for lower families, and abortion is still illegal due to lobby from the Church).

Re life expectancy, global life expectancy, after increasing steadily for decades, reached a peak in 1998 and is currently slightly lower than in 1998. IMO we are post-peak Global Life Expectancy.

Have you got a link for that?
Not that I doubt you, but demographics are a hobby of mine, so I would be interested in looking at the data - sometimes also statistical artifacts influence the figures, so for instance a high birth rate of Africans with low life expectancy may reduce world life expectancy figures, even though everyone individually has a greater life expectancy in both the developed and developing world!
So I would like to take a look at the figures - The Population Reference Bureau, my usual source, does not seem to have them.

CIA factbook has it at 66 for 2008-it was slightly higher in 1998 (google it). In 1998, World Life Expectancy in 2008 was projected to have increased substantially as it had for decades prior.

My comment was just that there's a difference between life expectancy and population (beyond the "overlapping of generations" effect). If statistics show Brazil's population is increasing then that's what's happening, but that's pretty much independent of life expectancy. I'm still a bit sceptical that any advances in medicine in the past fifty years particularly influence population levels (as opposed to dramatically increasing quality of life at all ages and extending the proportion of people who die at, say, 75 rather than 65).

The statistics DO NOT show Brazilian population growing so much, in fact in 2008 we had our first year at less than 2 children per woman (1,9), we are just geting older, not that much bigger....its a fact, and it owes to medicine.

Yes, but we started off talking about population levels (because they generally correlate with resource usage and hence environmental degradation). To be clear: I think modern medicine probably gives people maybe 5-15 years of life expectancy after they reach 65 (say), and I'd really, really hate to live in a society without modern medicine and I want my individual lifespan as long as possible. But I think resource use is generally linearly proportional to the length of life, so extending lifespan by 10 percent increases resource usage by 10 percent.

The question is whether modern medicine leads to population increase (beyond the minor increased "overlapping of generations" that happens if you add on years to the end of life). If medicine were to lead to, say, a doubling in population (even if, say, it kept individual lifespan the same), that would double resource usage. If that happens every generation then resource usage would increase exponentially.

[I don't think you can delete comments, people just edit them to say "removed".]

sorry wrong place for the comment. How do I delete?

More energy doesn't necessarily mean more population growth. As you note, a high standard of living results in lower birth rates.

But it doesn't take much to boost the population. Farmers in Bangladesh don't drive Hummers or live in air-conditioned McMansions. But they do use petroleum-derived fertilizers and diesel for their irrigation pumps. That is what's made the population difference.

You are quite right that there are many factors that affect population growth, but what's made today's population possible is fossil fuels. We used to fight wars over bird poop, so valuable was fertilizer. Now, we fight the wars over oil.

We fight wars over oil not because it is key to population growth, but because it is key to the generation of wealth.

According to the World Bank, infectious disease was responsible for about 34%(16.7 million people) of TOTAL deaths in the world in 1990(compared with 0.6 for war that year). Many of theses diseases have a cure, which is shown by the fact that in the US the number of deaths due to infectious disease was only about 77.000, if you extrapolate the same numbers for the EU (with similar population) not even 1% of deaths due to infectious disease happened where good health care was available.
PS: These numbers sound too stagering for me to grasp too, but they are referenced on google books? Infectious disease on Humans, page 2 and 9.

To get a better grasp on how many people can die as a result of disease, lets just take one epidemic that still has no cure? AIDS.
In 2003 alone about 3 million people died of AIDS, and about 20 million from the 80s until then. AND that is a relativelly low contagion disease, with circunstances relativelly easy to control (a condom would do it most of the time). Imagine if the AIDS virus were airborn, or transmissible through mosquitos. Those figures would explode, PO or not.

Another example, as recently as the 18th century 400.000 people died annualy of smallpox in Europe! That was Europe, the pinnacle of civilization at a time, and 400.000 was a much bigger percentage of the european population then. Smallpox also decimated the aztech and American Indian populations, greatly helping European domination during the conquest of the New World.

More recently, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 300,000 children (the vast majority are younger than five years of age) die from measles each year, and that is a big improvement from the 891.000 that died just in Africa in 1999. Note that these figures reflect a time where a cure was already available. Imagine the effects before that.
Before penicillin, people would die of the flu, or even from a tootchache.

Please also note that I do believe in PO, and that, unfortunately its onset will only contribute to make these horrible numbers even worse, but I disagree with atributing energy as the big driver in population increase. The sad fact is that disease kills more than hunger, even today.

For the data on smallpox:

According to the World Bank, infectious disease was responsible for about 34%(16.7 million people) of TOTAL deaths in the world in 1990(compared with 0.6 for war that year). Many of theses diseases have a cure, which is shown by the fact that in the US the number of deaths due to infectious disease was only about 77.000, if you extrapolate the same numbers for the EU (with similar population) not even 1% of deaths due to infectious disease happened where good health care was available.

Again there's an unstated assumption, which is that the basic rate of "possibly fatal" infectious disease infection in the US is the same as everywhere else. (Ie, it also matters how much "possibly fatal infectious disease there is going around" as well as "should you be infected, the probability of dying".) That may well be the case, but it requires additional facts to demonstrate. (Eg, sleeping sickness appears to be classified as an infectious disease, but I'm not going to catch that in the UK. Does the UK have other fatal infectious diseases that make up for not having this particuar disease "available"? I don't know.)

Again, I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your conclusions but pointing out they don't follow inevitably from the numbers you quote.

Yes, you will not get many infectious diseases in the UK because they have been erradicated in Europe and the US, measels, small pox, mumphs, are some of the examples. But also look at more modrn epidemics. AIDS, the chances of you getting AIDS in the UK are far smaller than in South Africa, and if you do get it, your chances of getting treatment for it and living more or less a normall life are much better. The difference is you have better access to medicine AND education (and culture). These are HUGE population drivers. Today probably bigger than energy.

I think it would be nice to quote sources. The classic teaching in medical school is that public health had more to do with life expectancy than anything else, specifically sanitation, better nutrition, control of the food supply (milk, especially), etc... Antibiotics do play a role. More details available here:

The thing to understand about infectious diseases is that they do not all affect everyone in an equal way. I am most likely to survive pneumonia (or measles) because I have been well-nourished all my life. My babies are less likely to die (than those of the average Haitian, to take an example) because I understand nutrition and sanitation, have access to infrastructure for these, and I am not under high levels of stress (you should see what domestic violence does for rates of premature birth!). The average Tanzanian in 1986 when I was there weans her baby on rice alone. No meat, not even beans or spinach. Too expensive. You do need some special cells to fight off infection, though antibiotics are powerful help.

And why do you think in your infinite wisdom, developed countries have the means to cure and fight disease?
Would cheap energy have anything to do with that? How do you think medicines, x-ray machines, hospitals, poisons and pesticides are mass produced, transported and used?

How do you think education became available to the common (cultured) person?
I suppose you think slavery, children working in mines and factories, fourteen hour days six or even seven days a week, back breaking farm work, prison terms for stealing a loaf of bread, hanging for stealing a horse were all improved, prevented or stopped because of medicine.
Do you think one percent of the population feeds the rest due to medicine?
You are so naive it's heartbreaking.

Drop half the energy from the world right now, do you really think the population will continue to grow because of medicine and medical procedures?
Do you have access to plentiful clean water, the food you need and decent clothing and shelter? Is that due to medicine?

You now throw (your) culture into the mix, I think you are more than naive, you are plain stupid and bigoted.

Well I am certainly NOT biggoted. When I referenced culture as a driver for growth I meant Urban vs rural culture, which reflects directly on birth rates.
My point is that ENERGY is not the end all and be all of HUMAN HISTORY. I wholeheartedly agree that it plays a very big (increasingly big role), but there are other vectors. Just take your post and substitute medicine for energy. Do you think it holds water? Education became available because of energy? Children working in factories 15 hours (or in orange fields in Texas) are a lot more a function of social structures than the availability of energy.
You are crazy if you think one percent of the population feeds the rest!! You are saying that 99% of the human population is urban???!! Your figures clearly do not take into acount subsistence levels of production. More than 60% of indian population is still rural.
I agree if you drop half the energy from the world it WILL stop growing, of course. But if you also drop modern medicine from the world it will stop growing just as surely, only people who have never witnessed the overwhelming power of an epidemic can think that medicine has no effect on human growth. Without it we would all die sooner, and die a lot more!! There would be no means of birth control (other than abstinence).

If you stick to simplistic analisys you will not get real solutions, but then again maybe that IS the point. There is NO solution other than let people in Africa and Asia die (because who do you think will get the shorter end of the stick when we reach PO). That would rebalance the Earth, for sure. Maybe it is you who is biggoted.

Do some googling .............."population percentage in agriculture"

Your link does not say anywhere that 99% of the population is sustained by 1% of the population. At all.

Also, there is a lot of improvement for energy reduction in agriculture. See this link. In the US, the most heavily mechanized agriculture on eatrth only uses 20% of energy in actually growing things , the rest goes to transportation (still vital), but also packaging, freeezing, restaurants etc (not so vital). The US is NOT the world, people in Africa do not buy packaged foods and freeze them. More than 90% of poultry in India is bought live.

Here is another link that puts the problem into more perspective. My point is that there is room for correction, and that education, not starvation should be the main driver for population control (of which I am a strong advocate).


Reducing the death rate isn't the issue. Human fecundity can quickly make up for even severe dieoffs. The issue is not the birth rate or the death rate, but how many people can be kept alive at once.

I think you are also overlooking the energy cost of complexity (see Tainter).

Many of the people of the world today have no access to penicillin, or sanitation, vitamins, etc. Yet their populations have spiked just as much more as those with access to modern healthcare.

They don't have access to this stuff but they have access to bookoodles of fossil fuels allowing their popluation to explode? O_o

President Clinton bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that made penicillin, among other drugs. Antibiotics are available in most of the 3rd World, and they do reduce mortality.

Likewise, eradicating smallpox prevented deaths. Cholera is much better controlled, and some progress with malaria. HIV is offsetting some of these gains though.


Sure, they're available in the 3rd world...to those who can pay for them.

Preventing deaths isn't really the issue. People make up for high death rates with high birth rates.

The issue is how many people you can keep alive at the same time.

I wouldn't claim energy was the "only" or "main" driver of an ecosystem, but I'm unconvinced that medicine is the dominant force in human population size (as opposed to "quality of life" in that population).

Anecdotes are poor quality data, but they're something: I've whilst I've been in hospital for a couple of medical procedures they weren't life-threatening (even in a second order "reduced fitness" sense). I've relatives who've had all sorts of medical procedures, but with the exception of cancer treatments none of those (AFAIK) have been for life threatening things. Stuff that would dramatically reduce the quality of life, but not things that would affect living to an age where they would have had children. On the other hand, every day I keep warmer and healthier than the homeless people using cheap energy, use sanitation built using energy intensive machines, eat food that has been trucked in to a supermarket, grown with fertilizers and machinery both of which require large energy inputs. If medicine is so much, much more important to keeping human beings alive than energy, then shouldn't almost everyone have experience of life saving medicine that is vaguely comparable with their energy consumption?

Also, did plagues actually keep the population in check? Ie, googling claims between 30 and 60% of Europe was apparently hit by the bubonic plague: did that reduction in population actually last longer than one generation or did population "spring back"? Quick googling doesn't reveal what happened afterwards: anyone know?

The Black Death was one episode in a long process of overpopulation pushing against resource limits, and had been preceded by the Great Famine:

Population recovery was slow and uncertain, particularly in the more crowded lands in the West and South of the continent, and punctuated by more outbreaks of plague.
Here is the situation in Britain:

Population remained low until at least the 1520's, so there is over 200 years of no growth in Britain.

When the viability of children is in question, the human family responds by making many more of them. The uncertainty of knowing whether your kids will be around to provide for your old age, is ameliorated by having as many kids as possible. This more than offsets for the increased morbidity and leads to high rates of population growth.


The discovery and development of antibiotics was significant, but as you state likely not as significant as suggested. Further, its darkside that now haunts us is a host of multi-drug resistant bacteria. These did not exist to the extent they do now, vs just 10 to 15 years ago. (rough guess)
Community acquired infections can travel at the speed of light in concentrated areas, like a City, or across the world in commercial/military planes and container ships.

Antibiotic contributions likely pale in comparison to the development and continuous refinement of the standard immunization series, and of general anesthesia which allowed for (painless) surgery. These two are arguably the most significant medical advances of the 20th century.

Of course Public Health (clean food and water) were major developments, which in turn were amplified, greatly, by fossil fuels.

Don't expect the engineering/economist types that predominate on these boards to "get" ecology. Ecosystem dynamics are profoundly complex. Hell, I don't claim to "understand" ecology myself, and I have a degree in it. The techno fetishists don't even know much basic biology, let alone the interrelationships of organisms with one another and with the abiotic environments. (I had to explain what "gonads" are to one of the poohbahs of TOD not long ago.) Let 'em enter inaccurate data into Excel, make their colorful graphs with the Chart Wizard, and pontificate bullshit. "Garbage in, garbage out." They'll be masturbating over their fantasies of electric trains for christmas, powered by thorium reactors, as they starve. There's no cure for such willful ignorance. Just ignore 'em. ;)

Yes, that's how you can tell peak oil is truly scientific: the bitter, frothing hatred for scientific progress.

Quite right, all the scientifically-illiterate republicans either elected or appointed in the last decade have set us back quite a ways. Their hatred for science has bewildered lots of us. With the truly analytical types that understand peak oil and oil depletion increasing in number we will once again start to make some progress.

There are a lot of people that could use a course in ecology. Human population dynamics work the same as all animal populations do: if there are abundant resources available-the population expands; when resources become more scarce-the population declines.

Reality doesn't agree with you:

"The total fertility rate is below its replacement level in most OECD countries with the only exceptions of Mexico and Turkey (at 2.2) and Iceland and the United States (where it is around 2.1). In 2004, fertility rates averaged 1.6 across OECD countries, well below the level that ensures population replacement"

The richest nations with the greatest access to resources have the lowest fertility rates. That simple fact should make it quite clear that human populations do not have the same dynamics as other animal populations.

Indeed, major demographic projections (UN, US Census) agree that human population is highly likely to peak and decline in the latter half of this century, even assuming business-as-usual. This trend has been under way for decades - the rate of population increase has been falling so fast that population growth is sublinear: more people were added in the 80s than will be added in this decade.

Human population is not growing exponentially, no serious demographers expect it to, and there is a strong correlation between wealth/development and lower fertility rates. Anyone who rants about "exponential population growth" is simply being naive.

So does that potentially mean that when living standards lower in the OECD countries, that fertility rates could increase?

When living standards fall in developed countries, then birth rates normally fall too.
This was the broad picture in the 30's, and was repeated when communism fell in Eastern block countries.

Unfortunately, this does not apply to agricultural societies, or ones engage in conflict, where the only retirement plan available is to have children, and if it becomes more likely that some will die then the pressure is to have more.
High birth rates throughout the Vietnamese conflict, and in Afghanistan and the Sudan for instance, show this tendency.

It would seem then that the previous pattern of declining birth rates in the developing world, which many of us hoped might lead to a gradual attainment of zero growth, is unlikely to survive severe hardship.

Since previous projections were neither peak oil aware, nor financial crisis aware, it seems to me that they are obsolete.
It would seem to be a race between far higher mortality and higher birth rates in much of the world, with endemic conflict likely as in parts of Africa at present.

I have previously tried to come up with some sort of guess, based on no nuclear war, no very severe falls due to climate change but ongoing deterioration of the world economy and oil availability.

My guess put the figure for 2050 at around the same as the current figure, rather than having a 3 billion increase previously assumed in UN figures.

This would mean very severe conditions in much of Africa, the Middle East, and perhaps India.

Population is growing exponentially at a decreasing rate. It's up to you whether that is progress enough. You seem to say that population can only grow at a exponential rate if that rate is ever increasing.

The problem is it isn't growing exponentially or linearly. This is after the fact curve fitting.

"Technology" has allowed for cheaper and more plentiful birth control which has allowed us to start to rapidly decrease the rate of world population growth"

and yet, the Pill was introduced in 1960 and the world's population was an estimated 3 billion, nearly 50 years of the pill being available and the world's population is approaching 7 billion

This is success? I'd hate to see what a birth-control failure would look like

"A cheap and plentiful energy source would allow us to further distribute birth control and other family planning methods to the rest of the world. Why can't the doomers "get" this?"

sure it would - now show me a viable "cheap and plentiful energy source" and I may have a moment of hope...

why can't the cornocopians get limits to growth, resource constraints and the "no free lunch" aspect of energy availability on this planet?

People don't seem to take birth control because it's good for them, but because it's convenient for them. Poor people are breeding their own beasts of burden or slaves, in a sense. They resist birth control. Rich societies find children an inconvenience, and after a generation or so their culture adjusts to reduce birth rate by all sorts of means. The pill was marketed because of that demand, not the population crisis. We all know that women's education carries the single biggest weight in birth rates.

Now how incredibly cheap must energy get such that the billions of folks making less than $3 a day could afford robot servants instead of breeding more kids?

Good freaking grief! I am assuming that you are male and therefore did not have to deal with
"the Pill" on a personal level. Initially, it was 21 days on followed by 7 days off. I am exceedingly well educated, highly numerate, and did not want children while progressing my career. Yet, even I goofed up once in a while. Take an illiterate, anumerate woman without the financial or even geographical access to the pill and HTF (pun or not, your choice) was she to keep to the schedule,assuming she had access to it
in the first place. The longer lasting options
available today still present access and financial problems. The social and "retirement" issues have been well dealt with by others.

I am not saying we humans would go on to grow to other planets, just that it is theoretically possible. If we had a really cheap energy source, we would be highly rewarded. Why grow plants under the sun, when you can light them 24-7 for very cheap indoors? Global warming, no problem just suck that CO2 right out of the atmosphere. A steep enough energy gradient would allow replication of the environments under which DNA based life flourishes to other planets. This gradient would need to be very steep indeed, but not nearly as steep as that required to reach galactic scale. I personally don't think either are possible which would explain my purchses of Jan 2011 100 USO leaps. Its fossil fuels or nothing...

I disagree with the premise. To my view, rampant poverty, illiteracy and desperation is one of the causes for rampant polution, and population growth.
As Hard as it may be to realise, poverty in 3rd world countries contributes strongly to the burning of forests, poverty can be a very important part of pollution and environmental degradation (just see the slums in the third world), as well as over utilization of rivers and water resources, AND birth rates.

It is not Energy that keeps the plantet´s population high and growing, it is a vicious circle of poverty and ignorance that leads a poor (say) Indian woman to have 5 children in the hopes that one (male) child will survive and work in orther to support her in her old age (India has no comprehensive retirement scheme, they depend on their sons).
This dynamic is enhanced by the advances in vaccines and mass medicine that are relativelly inexpensive and can help keep more babies alive, albeit in a constantly undernourished, ill educated status. Without growth, and growth that generates income and education in the poor parts of the world, we will certainly not have any hope of ever stabilising the planet (or do people think that starving the poor in africa can count as a legitimate method for population control?)

But Onedip;
Energy and Technology has allowed the so-called first-world nations and corporations to colonize and manipulate vast swaths of the world that then get called 'third world'.. these poor areas get blamed for their own misery, since the Industrialists have an energetically-supported luxury of staying well out of sight of those sorry states, and so can avoid being obviously implicated in their 'failure to thrive'. Bhopal, East LA and Haiti are not devastations of their own making, they were rubes of a business and social model that is more than content to sweep our crap under someone else's rugs.


Yeah. That has a lot of truth in it, is a bit of an oversimplification. It is wrong to portray 3rd world countries as passive actors and mere victims of imperialistic schemes. But in general I agree that the developping (or 3rd world) countries have been the target of a lot of crap.
But again, to associate abundance of energy with domination is not historically correct (technology has mor to do with it, but even that does not tell the whole story).
I am not against energy or technology (on the contrary), I am very much against waste that has flourished mainly in rich societies, that is all.If we are talking survival of the species here or back to the caves crunch we have still a LONG way to go. The average American conumes 6x more energy than the average Brazilian (hardly a dirt poor country), that says that if Americans would reduce energy conumption level to something on par with Brazil, there would still be enough energy to go around to bring 1 billion people to Brazilian life standards...a trade up for practically all of Africa and even most of Asia.

"But again, to associate abundance of energy with domination is not historically correct (technology has mor to do with it, but even that does not tell the whole story)."

a chicken and egg problem

technology IMHO has for the most part comes after the energy source is discovered e.g. oil 1859 and the internal combustion engine ~1880.

the another way to look at this is, we can dream big dreams as if it is common e.g. man on the moon, genetic engineering and skyscraper that goes thousands of feet high only if we have an abundance of energy.

Technologies and discoveries are simply extensions of our faculty based on available resources (energy and material).


Well, the other way round where the energy was in place first and then a tachnology was invented to harness it is also common. Think of sail boats, windmills and water mills, also think of horses being harnessed to a plow.

When I talk about the other factors that affect domination I am thinking of organizational and even institutional factors. Think the roman war machine, it was mainly better organised than the "barbarians" it conquered, also the conquests were long lived based, to a great extent, on the strength and flexibility of Roman institutions, Roman Law, its ability to incorporate citizens from the fringes of the empire, etc.

It doesn't seem to me a chicken and egg problem. Rather it seems that technology, culture, society and energy use are of a piece. Tech at one leve makes no sense for an energy level that doesn't match. Consider copyright and intellectual property. The law and societal structures (technology) built around intellectual property would not be there at sailing ship energy levels, eg in Ben Franklin's time. Another example - globalization.

The problem is that even within Brazil you have tremendous disparity. There are many rich Brazilians who live in gated communities and commute to work in helicopters and then there are millions of Brazilians who live in favelas (shantytowns). You see the same thing in Mumbai where Mukesh Ambani is building a $2 billion (I am not kidding!) house while 50% of the population lives in shacks or sleeps on the sidewalk. You now have rich people in Bangalore living in million $ houses in gated communities and commuting to work in BMW SUVs. You will never be able to convince the rich Indians/Brazilians/Chinese/Russians to reduce their energy consumption. If Americans reduce their consumption, it will not benefit the poor in Asia or Africa; what will happen is that the wealthy in BRIC countries will simply buy more SUVs and bigger houses.

Yes, that's the problem. Certainly, the wealthy could cut back their consumption so poor farmers in Africa can have fertilizer for their crops.

But that's not going to happen. And even if it did, it's strictly a short-term solution. Oil production will keep falling. Population will be increasing. The crash, when it comes, will be even worse.

My point is that on average, even accounting for imense income disparity, Brazilian people have broad access to consumer goods (99% of families have TVs, about 85-90% have fridges, 1 car for every 7,5 people, etc).

If the world would "downgrade" as a result of peak oil to the level of Brazil, we would be still very far away from the caves and hunting for survival. It also mean that you can achieve a moderate level of living standards while using a LOT less energy. We should try to do that.

Besides the argument that if americans reduce their consumptio the excess will go to the rich in the BRICs is a bit of a cop out and a generalization. There are not enough rich people in the BRICs to do that. Less consumption in America would mean lower energy prices for everyone, rich and poor alike, and since the poor spend a bigger part of their income in energy than the rich, they would benefit proportionally more from a reduction in prices.

I am not saying that it will happen (I agree with Leanan that it is highly unlikely) but to say that it would not help the world at all is merelly a band-aid to salvage our conscience...

Less consumption in America would mean lower energy prices for everyone, rich and poor alike, ........

For a while; then the wealthy or not so wealthy in other parts of the world will be happy to pick up the slack and in a few years we will be back to square one. If Americans trade their SUVs for scooters, they will sell more Tata Nanos in India :-)

Think of it this way: when oil was cheap a few years ago, the global demand for oil was growing at the rate of approximately 2 million barrels per day per year. If America stops importing oil, it buys the rest of the world just 6 more years before we are back to square one.
And this doesn't even account for declining exports which will happen whether Americans consume a lot or not.

Lets try a different example. If Americans trade their SUVs for honda civics the prices of fertilizers will drop...
If the Chines sto subsidizing fuel so much (which they might do soon) the price of fuel might ease a bit , and maybe kids that have to walk for 3 hours to go to school might get some public transportation or even a ride...
Everything matters.

Ofcourse, conservation by wealthy will make resources cheaper for a while. But my point is that after the slack is picked up by others, resources will become very expensive again. As I pointed out in my example above, even if the US oil imports fall to zero, it will only take the rest of the world 6 years to pick up the slack. In real life it will be earlier than that because of declining exports.

My kids are 9. With them I am pro-growth.

I am 39. With me I am anti-growth (we are talking physical here).

I take the same attitude with the economy.

(1) Are there sectors that need to grow--yes.

(2) Are there obese sectors or ancient sectors that need to decline or die--yes.

(3) Is the human economy in its totality too large relative to the planet--yes.

Therefore, any stimulus plan needs to increase 1 and allow 2 to decrease so that total economic scale is reduced.

I am not talking about money when I talk about scale, but actual quantities of low entropy materials extracted, work performed, and waste created.

You're right, but ultimately every president stands before the voters after 4 years and the grand inquisitor asks the voters, "Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?" And the voters check their bank statements and how many toys they've stuffed in their McMansions. That seems to be the part we can't get around in a democracy.

Pro-growth or anti-growth? What is the point proposed by pigeon-holing people into one of two preconceived partitions?

Because we'd have to understand (1) what we mean by growth and (2) in what environments, specific or general, are we talking about growth.

A lot of people think that growth is the creating of something from nothing, and that's not how it works. All growth is the temporary appropriation of materials from somewhere else (this follows from Conservation of Mass). In the process, on a fundamental level, nothing is created or destroyed, only depleted in one area and increased in another.

All living things "grow" in this fashion. But after a sustainable point, molded by evolutionary and complex self-organizing forces, growth ceases and the system of the living thing is maintained until collapse (death) from injury, old age, etc. Cancer is a disorder in this process in living things, where cells become damaged and replicate out of control.

It is not a matter of being pro- or anti-growth. It is about whether it is appropriate for our society, our species, and the ecology upon which we rely.

As to answering the question of appropriateness, we can look to mass poverty, resource depletion, arable land depletion, deforestation, climate change, species mass extinctions. Growth at this point is certainly no longer medium-term or long-term appropriate for us or the ecosystem, and hasn't been for quite some time.

There are two confounding problems with this.

The first is that in the short-term, where we humans make most of our decisions, growth is the only remotely appealing option for the overwhelming majority of people. Everything else involves major sacrifices and/or hardships somewhere.

The second is the issue of making changes in a massively complex social system (6.7 billion nodes and counting) at a time when the system is already under incredible stress. Nobody understands all the issues, details, forces, and inter-relationships involved between and among billions of people, and altering such a complex system opens it up to black swans (Black Swan theory, wiki on "The Black Swan" by Nassim Taleb).

These black swans, unintended consequences of our mis-informed actions, tend to make matters worse, not better.

Not pro-growth or anti-growth, but instead anti-constraint or objectively pro-constraint. So the question becomes: do we believe in ultimate hard constraints or not?

I, for one, am completely in favour of growth, no growth would condemn billions of people around the world especially in the poorer parts of Africa and Asia to a continuous life of strife, misery, and violence that is today much worse than the worse Long Emergency scenarios.

Growth, however, needs to be balanced and not predicated on wasteful consumerism, if growth policies are needed to help arrest this downturn, they should be aimed at increasing efficiency in the economy, especially in the energy sector, not on just throwing money out the window and telling people to go shopping for more "apple corers", "pasta turners", or magic electric belts that will make your fat ass lose weight even while you sit in your couch drinking beer and buying more crap from TV...

This growth predicated on gadget buying at a frenetic pace (this IPod is so 2008 already...) is, in my view unsustainable, and will sap the strength of even a strong economy, let alone one debilitated by rampant economic mismanagment.

" they should be aimed at increasing efficiency in the economy, especially in the energy sector, "

to think of energy as just one of the sector in the economy is flaw. It is the lifeblood of all biological systems, not just humans.


I, for one, am completely in favour of shrinking. Growth would condemn billions of people around the world especially in the poorer parts of Africa and Asia to a continuous life of strife, misery, and violence that is today much worse than the worse Long Emergency scenarios.

The only smart growth is shrinking. That increases the share of the commonwealth available to eash person and decreases the footprint each of us puts on Gaia's neck. We are a heavy burden and we are killing her. And nether can we live without her.

cfm in Gray, ME

So where do you folks stand on the upcoming efforts by the Obama administration (and govt's in other countries) to reignite growth?

I stand against re-igniting growth. I favor government spending to help us shrink comfortably -- i.e. reviving small, dense towns with surrounding diversified agriculture, light industry and few or no cars; contracting and densifying the suburbs; getting cars out of urban areas; running train tracks down the median strips of interstates, radically reducing truck and car traffic, etc.

Millions of people are being sidelined, the market economy no longer has room for them. It's a great opportunity to begin going in the direction we will have to go anyway.

The market system can't be allowed to just collapse, so intervention is needed. Fed money should be carefully targeted at those business necessary to keeping the essentials working. The bailout approach is useless and criminal. The Fed should have nationalized the banks and/or made the loans directly. There should be no attempt to prop up asset values.

A steeply progressive tax schedule should be imposed, same for estate, and possibly an assets tax. For that matter, there should be a steep tax on oil too. Instead, they are printing money, wrecking the currency. Deflation and credit contraction will be replaced with hyper-inflation at some point. The money raised should be used to make sure no one starves, has a roof and medical care, and a job, and to carry out above programs. There's plenty to do in shrinking, radical retrenchment I call it. The shrinking will take place one way or another. It will be a lot less painful, at least for the common folk, if we do it under our control.

Chances of happening anytime soon? Zilch. Still, has to be put out there.

I'm for growth to lunar colonies, terraforming Mars, and possibly inhabiting Lagrange points. Maybe even leave Earth for recuperation (re: David Brin). Sure, its out there, but its a good goal, to find other places to thrive, and bring out more forms of life.

I'm sure as soon as I try to build a business doing safari trips to hunt Jovian lopers, there will be some PETA (people for the ethical treatment of aliens) activist sabotaging my transport ships.

I wonder if they'll taste like chicken?

I know you're just being a tease..
I don't belong to PETA, but you're damn right I'd fight it. You envision the existence of some species living on another planet, and what you come up with is a fantasy of going out there to shoot them down?

Kill what you need to eat.. kill if it's attacking your family. But selling tickets to go on a killing spree? I hope you don't complain about the junk on TV much, cause this is the same rubbish.

Happiness is a warm gun.. obey your thirst.


I am not anti-growth, I think that we need to function sustainably. There are two reasons why being anti-growth is overkill.

1. If to accomplish a task takes 100 joules of energy now, but through cleverness we can accomplish the same task with 50 joules of energy, then we can grow quite a bit.

2. There are massive amounts of energy resources available that we aren't tapping into because of inertia.

While certainly there are clear examples of modern technology reducing the efficiency of tasks (particularly farming, but I'm sure there are plenty of others), there are also examples such as computers. Certainly it is difficult to do a full life-cycle analysis of all of the R&D that has gone into electronics research over 50 years, but I think that if you consider increased capacity for computation as a society to be growth (and I do), then we have probably increased this capacity by many, many orders of magnitude. What would have certainly taken a thousand people a decade to do by hand can be done by a computer consuming 300W in a day (I'm specifically doing my fermi analysis on an example physics simulation, say turbulence).

This is just one example, but anti-growth is too far, what we need is a reevaluation of where we are investing our limited energy resources to cause the most benefit to society. If by shifting resources from flying planes to building high speed trains and better internet pipelines for communication, we can reduce our resource utilization by a factor of 10 (and I think this is probably the case, if not more than a factor of 10), then isn't that growth? Certainly we can communicate better for less energy...

If Obama's "growth" involves improving broadband internet access to better handle video conferencing and online collaboration, building high speed electrified rail to handle in-person interactions, improving building energy efficiency, and building renewable energy facilities with the goal to eventually increase our resource base, then we are simultaneously improving our societal efficiency (which if I recall is now at about 30% from articles I read here a while back, where an EROI of 3 or less was unable to sustain our civilization) while tapping into our massive unutilized resource base in the form of solar, wind, and (breeder) nuclear energy, then certainly we can continue to grow -- and it will create job "growth" in the short term as well.

China's exports' sharp decline signify worse global slowdown

Signaling a worsening global slowdown, China said its exports fell in November for the first time in seven years. The 2.2% dip represented an abrupt reversal from the previous month, when foreign shipments grew 19%.

"Their growth is obviously slowing dramatically. … We're going to see more factory closures," says Nicholas Lardy, a China-watcher at the Peterson Institute in Washington.

Same things happening with South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. It's a global reversal, all that was good before is now bad.

Interesting comments by Ilargi and others in "The Automatic Earth" this morning on the coming firestorm in China.
As an Australian I am wondering what the response to this will be from our sinophile Prime Minister.
Maybe the touted Chinese-Australian free trade agreement will be quietly dropped and replaced by a huge increase in Chinese emigration to Austrlia.
I'm sure that Beijing's man in Canberra will find some sort of insane program to run the country into the ground.

I Think that immigration will reduce potentially. As an International student whose just finished studying in Australia, the job market doesn't look to good and it's going to get worse for a long time. I know of quite a few people looking for full time jobs and not finding anything and those who are studying one more year in order to further their chances for a job (which I doubt will exist at the rate this slide is happening). Australia is a pretty darn expensive place if you're an immigrant and don't have a job!!

I think that with peak oil imminent, Australia is quite a decent place to be. It has many natural resources and lots of gas and coal but life will be very different I expect in the next 10 years. We can't go on BAU, concessions will be forced upon us. How drastic will depend on the interplay between finance, international geo-politics and the human ability to adapt to adverse conditions.

The people are as much to blame as the politicians. They are the ones who elect them. You get whom you voted for!

The overall trade deficit grew in October and grew to an all time high between China and the United States.


As China and India have few pollution rules they are becoming world centers of manufacturing and commerce with strong economies. Tightening pollution rules in the U.S. causes higher unemployment here. The factories were moved to where they were allowed to burn coal and the United States standard of living decreased. It did not eliminate the global warming trend as it has China and India burning coal and the U.S. paying for it in the form of imports. The global warming due to natual causes has melted a mile thick continental ice cap in North America, Europe, and Asia over the past 20,000 years before Al Gore became a movie star.

Not quite sure what you are suggesting here. Is this tongue-in-cheek?
China and India "becoming world centers of manufacturing and commerce with strong economies" will be tragically short-lived. Have you paid attention to the environmental disasters unfolding in these countries? China now has an urgent need for example for new sources of clean water, and the funds available to pay for its development are vanishing as we speak.

Outsourcing our industrial production invariably means outsourcing our pollution, with a few exceptions...

It makes sense to relocate industrial production to locations of the world where electricity can be produced without pollution... An great example is Iceland. But, as I said, this is an exception... generally, industrial production is done where there's the lowest cost, and currently the lowest cost of electricity production is coal. (And, as a side note, it's mind blowing how much coal is needed to produce electricity...)

If one wants to cut pollution from coal or any other fossil fuel, you need a method of energy production that is lower cost than coal- this might happen if wind and solar costs go down, or if coal costs go up.

Of course, this will shift industrial production to the countries with high solar/wind/whatever capacities, but that's exactly what we want in the long term...

The United States has 27% of the world's proven coal reserves at about 250 billion tons, more than 200 years of domestic consumption at current burn rates. Some of the coal is necessary for steel production and metal refining. There are parts of the central United States underlain by thousands of square kilometers of nearly continuous coal seams. In the Powder River basin there are coal seams up to 20 meters thick. There is expensive technology to turn coal to synthetic gas for heating, cooking, and perhaps CNG buses, trucks, and cars. The extent of coal in the United States is great. More than half the states of the union mine coal. Twenty-seven states have coal mines. Alaska has huge coal deposits in the northern quarter that are not currently calculated as reserves.

94% of the nations BTU reserves are in coal.

There is no way you can send all the coal driven industry to bankrupt Iceland. One might as well get a teepee and gather herbs and roots to live the pollution free existence, except for cooking fires, lack of water treatment facilities, lack of medical facilities, lack of transport, and shorter life expectancies without pollution than with it. The Chinese are living longer rather than shorter.

But as Nate Hagens likes to mention with his graph, it's somewhere on the oildrum, that the NET energy of coal peaked in 1998? So for 10 years there has no increase in the amount of energy provided by this coal. Most of the coal is of poorer quality.

Well you know, that's exactly the direction we need to go in. Teepees and herb gathering and pollution free living. Not so bad. Lack of transport, ok, along with shorter life expectancies for those long past their natural life we keep alive as zombies in a bed. I'm for that.

The coal in the US would last a thousand lifetimes and the earth would easily keep up with the CO2.

I'm no Luddite by any measure, but we really need to go in a different direction. Technology just for the sake of wiz bang is killing us all.

Power Down.

Mark Z Jacobsen is an anti-ethanol nutjob in the Patzek/Pimental mode who claims that burning ethanol causes cancer.
He wants us to care about his new energy system rating(good/bad/worse). He likes wind but hates clean coal and nuclear.
So he has opinions.
This is news?

If it isn't cancer, is it still worth mentioning?

"One antibacterial spray was found to contain denatured ethanol which may cause irritation of the eyes and affect the central nervous system if inhaled or ingested."

"Ethanol exposure to the fetus causes various malformation ranging from the cellular to the organismic levels with the eventual results frequently being different levels of mental retardation (3). "

" Findings shed light on how ethanol promotes cancer progression

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Ethanol seems to promote cancer progression by inducing angiogenesis and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression, according to a report in the January 15th issue of Cancer."

Gasoline isn't good to spray in your eyes, ingest, inhale, or inject, either.

Fetal alcohol syndrome is pretty well documented too, as are the other symptoms over alcohol ingestion.

But once your burn them all, that danger pretty much goes away, IMHO.

Tell that to a polar bear.

Re: Activists irked that 'green' money now goes to bailout

As might have been expected, as TSHTF, the environment is the loser. The push to drill ANWR or the latest ruling that whales don't count compared to NAVY sonar, it all reminds us that environmental concerns are a luxury item, to be cut whenever there's a serious financial or security concern. Our government mirrors the will of the people, who don't really care about the future of the planet when they are faced with more immediate problems of survival. Economic growth is the mantra to be pursued at all cost, the cost being a dead planet. We won't learn till it's all gone and then the lament will be: "Why were we so stupid?"...

E. Swanson

In addition, the provision that the auto companies can't get bailout money if they continue to fight state mandated carbon reductions will probably be left out of the bill to get it passed. I was leaning towards the bailout. Now I am opposed.

I would call attention to the rather short lifespan and the egocentric nature of the human species. Whether this is genetic as per sequences in the DNA or heredity as per teachings of the young or some other cause, I don’t know but it is apparently very strong.

If people lived for a 1000 years, they would probably think more about the future a couple hundred years from now but as it is this "I got mine, let them find their own oil." mentality is most prevalent. Does education or intelligence change this? … Maybe and maybe not. It seems the people making the decisions to sustain or destroy the planet are educated and intelligent. So why are short-term goals more important than long-term survival? We have seen the same concept in business failures where the current quarter bottom line for profit is more important than the long-term success of the company.

I don’t know why this is, nor will I speculate how to cure it. I am just preparing for the worst and hoping for the best but so far I have seen nothing much in the ‘actions’ of TPTB to hope for. IMHO so far, our new president-elect is a mixed bag. Perhaps that is the best we can hope for since he too will only live a short while and is very egocentric like the rest of us.

Jobless claims at 26-year high
Number of people filing for initial unemployment insurance climbs to 573,000 in latest week. Continuing claims are also at a 26-year high.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial filings for state jobless benefits surged to 573,000 for the week ended Dec. 6. That was an increase of 58,000 from a revised 515,000 claims in the previous week.

It was the highest number of jobless claims since Nov. 27, 1982 when initial filings hit 612,000. Economists were expecting jobless claims increase to 525,000, according to a consensus compiled by Briefing.com.

The number of people continuing to collect unemployment rose to 4,429,000 in the week ended Nov. 29, the most recent week available, which was also a 26-year high. The measure was an increase of 338,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 4,091,000.

Bleeding jobs at 500,000/week... Is this sustainable?

Bleeding jobs at 500,000/week... Is this sustainable?

What's to stop it? Loans to GM and Citigroup? Going on a shopping spree at Macy's?

We're hosed.

Running out of employed people will stop it.

But I wonder if there is some mimimum level beyond which we would descend into a place we really do not want to go.

I've seen speculated anywhere from 20%-45%. IS ther a point - 50%, 60%+ where even for the remainginemplyed it is just intolerable or even the remainign employed would collapes into unemployment - and frankly to some level where there is no one to count or cares to count.


I hate to tell you this, but I read that the US government had the Rand Corp or some other think tank back in the 1960s attempt to figure out exactly how much unemployment the country could survive, and they came up with 90%. Presumably they were assuming a situation where the government was not itself blamed, since we'd have a revolution well below that figure. What scares me is why the government wanted to know that.

That says something... 10% of the population is doing something 'vitally important' (food production, etc.) and the rest (90%) of us are 'loafers' in a sense (including myself and probably most of the folks on this board)

Energy abundance allows that to happen.

Let's see what happens when the energy starts to go away...

I think a surplus of these:
Gonna be a surplus of used trophy wifes...in the near future.
Darth Paulson

But maybe the person who could grow the biggest squash they would go to?

I wouldn't want a trophy wife... Not if I have to grow the biggest squash. She'll want the most consumption... Nah, I want the wife who can consume the least and produce the most... Maybe the biggest, warmest quilt or the best pies. Oh, and the one who would put out the most (and, If I lived a few centuries ago, would have allowed me to have the most kids).

Oh, wait, that's ME picking the mate that I can get the most consumption from...

(Funny, you look back at history and the mates that everyone picked were the ones that lead to overconsumption... Nice how that's in our genes...)

Of course, this was the same Rand Corp that also spun out analysis after analysis convincing "the Best and the Brightest" back in Washington that the Vietnam War was winnable.

The Automatic Earth has more figures today comparing this to the first year of the 1929 crash.
The fall in the DOW has been marginally greater.

From this one might reasonably think that the results for unemployment might be similar, with around 25% out of work.

Things are never that simple though, and some would argue that expansionary measures such as the Obama plan will mitigate this.
Furthermore there are more migrant workers who may return home, reducing unemployment in the US.
As against that, the debt burden incurred up to 2007 that needs to unwind is greater than in 1929.

Weighing one thing against another, my central expectation would be for similar unemployment levels, but disguised somewhat by various work schemes, second income earners dropping out of the job market etc.

Call it 15% on the official rolls.

Now is the time for that Revolution..

Power Down.

I think we'd have to get over 50% to have a revolution now. In 1932 there was far more class consciousness; workers in the same factory also lived in the same community. A lot more current Americans are bought off by crumbs from the bosses' domination of the global financial system than was possible in the pre-globalized economy. If you cut off those crumbs, sure, more Americans are immediately facing death, but those crumbs have already conditioned us to think very differently than our proletarian forefathers.

The unemployment numbers always reference 'non-farm' jobs.


At the beginning of the 20th century, almost 50 percent of the U.S. civilian work force was employed in agriculture. By 1950 this number had decreased to just slightly over 25 percent of all jobs in the country. And by 2005, only between 2-3 percent of those working were employed in farming.

In 1800 this number was around 80%. Maybe if only 10% of the population is required for non-farm employment the other 90% will be back farming? This would put us back to about a 1750's lifestyle.

Well, it sure isn't growth, is it? John

A tattered safety net for US unemployed

East Orange, N.J. – As a rising number of Americans sign up for unemployment benefits, many of the state-funded trusts that pay them are on the decline.

At least 12 of them are on the brink of insolvency. In 20 other states, the funds have lost value, even before the big job losses of the past two months.

While unemployed workers will get their benefits – federal law requires it – the trust fund woes are putting states into a peculiar squeeze. They're loath to raise taxes or cut services in a recession, so many are racking up new loans. That debt burden will affect residents for years to come.

OMG. It really is TEOTWAWKI:

Households cut back on debt for first time ever

WASHINGTON - U.S. households, hit by declining home values and stock market losses, cut back on their debt levels for the first time on record.

The Federal Reserve says in its quarterly look at consumer and business finances that households reduced their debt levels by 0.8 percent at an annual rate in the July-September period, the first drop on records that go back more than 50 years.

Even people who don't have to are cutting back.

OMG. It really is TEOTWAWKI:

When I saw this heading, I could only assume that you were going to post this news item:

Fran Drescher for Senator Shmenator



Could any of the reduction in mortgage debt be due to mortgages cancelled on forclosed homes?

Could any of the reduction in mortgage debt be due to mortgages cancelled on forclosed homes?

All of it (and then some) I believe. Normally you have the slow shrinkage of mortgage debt through normal mortgage payments dwarfed by new mortgages and refinances. If mortgage debt actually shrunk, it would mean a combination of defaults and a collapse in new house buying. The clue that this is not a healthy thing is that credit card debt is increasing. Who would voluntarily pay down low-interest mortgages to run up more usurious credit card debt?

TransUnion.com Quarterly Credit Card Analysis Reveals That National Credit Card Debt Increases While Delinquency Rate Changes Direction and Heads Upward

TransUnion.com released today the results of its analysis of trends in the credit card lending industry for the third quarter of 2008. The report is part of an ongoing series of quarterly consumer lending sector analyses focusing on credit card, auto loan and mortgage data that may be found on TransUnion's Web site.

Wow. Did I just read a money.cnn article promoting public transportation? Here's a quote:

"When it comes to infrastructure Obama talks roads and bridges, he really doesn't think in broader terms" said Robert Cervero, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of California Berkeley. "He needs to start [talking about] high-speed rail, light rail, and buses."

And here's the link again:

This is positive, yes? Maybe there's room for some hope.


Yup, I looked at that article expecting to see a push for new highways, and instead I saw these main points:
* Start by fixing existing infrastructure
* Transportation in the long term
* Besides bridges, roads and rail (energy, including insulation and central city revitalization)

An interesting observation there:

"much federal road funding is still appropriated based on miles driven, not population, essentially encouraging states to build projects that make people drive more"

So is the MSM "getting it", or did this reporter escape the asylum and will soon be caught and straightjacketed?

Oil Rises Above $46 on IEA Report

Nothing to see in that article except this:


Also boosting prices, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said the world's largest exporter pumped 8.49 million bpd of oil in November, less than estimated by analysts and in line with its OPEC target.

"We will give you the November number because that's what everybody is looking for," Naimi said during a visit to Poznan, Poland. "It's 8,493,300 barrels per day."

That would put the kingdom's output in line with its implied OPEC target of 8.47 million bpd and is 560,000 bpd less than the IEA's estimate of Saudi November production, published earlier on Thursday, of 9.05 million bpd.

8.5 million barrels per day? I don't have a copy handy of the most recent data, but according to the BP factbook, the last time the yearly average for KSA was that low was 1990

I looked at the EIA data and they show the last time monthly production for C+C was this low was December 2002. Whatever it is, if this is right, KSA is either well below their maximum production, or has maxed out and is using the OPEC production agreements as an excuse.

"The Folly of Growth" article above in the New Scientist raises the issue of peak oil amongst us peak oilers, of course. But now, peak oil's nasty twin, peak debt, is stealing the show. Peak oil is, for the time being, a non-issue compared to the global debt unwind that has begun and is taking control of just about all financial markets.

Debt has been as much of a fuel source for growth as oil has been for the last 30 years, maybe more so.

Sort of looks like the double peak of the Russian oil curve. We can go back to the relatively stable debt, dull, lack luster growth of the decades prior to the '80s with a debt unwind cycle. Alas, we can't fix peak oil with anything but a crude replacement cycle.

The above diagram would suggest we have a way to go in the bear market before world debt stability is regained. The packaged and marketed debt instruments (CDSs, CDOs, etc.) that proliferated from the late 80s on has to be worked down, and unless some new-fangled financial invention circumvents the historical laws of debt stability, this puts the S&P 500 at less than 500. Let's hope they figure out something. But as Satyajit Das, one of the leading derivatives traders, has said, we now have one dollar of real money supporting about thirty dollars in Debt World funny money; and this instability has to be undone. You should read his book Traders, Guns, and Money. He is predicting what he calls "nuclear de-leveraging".

It's significant that the 2000-2003 bear market was powered to a great extent by the market margin debt unwind that occurred with it. And it was quite a powerful bear market, especially toward the end in 2002. But as powerful as this bear was, it was powered by just a small piece of Debt World, the margin debt. The rest of Debt World was still in an early, healthy expansion, early bubble phase you could even say. The housing bubble was just getting cranked up back then. Our current bear is occurring with not just another, more powerful margin bubble unwind, but with the entire global Debt World imploding this time in unison. So comparing this bear to others may not be very meaningful.

So we have two big transitions going:

1. A return to the flat, dull stock markets of '66 to '82 with little debt fuel
2. A return to fuel sources other than conventional crude.

But these two depend on each other. Alternative fuel needs healthy financial markets, and a flat, stable stock market needs a dependable energy source. Ah, the folly of growth.

Thanks. Here is a link to a summary I Googled up:

A postscript to the graph above on debt - if you place an inflation adjusted line in the upper chart for stable debt, it would have an upward slope that runs through the low of 2002 and much closer to where the market is now. But that raises a question about where a complete unwind of all the debt should run to, a base line with or without inflation. It was largely the debt build that powered the inflation as opposed to a commodity bull market during that period or some other cause. It was at least partially a paper-caused inflation. So where should a debt deconstruct take the market? A lot of things besides debt grew GDP and the economy in general like the technology productivity gains, for example. Maybe somewhere in between a flat zero growth line and fully inflation adjusted one. There is still a mountain of total debt that is turning toxic and in need of "nuclear de-leveraging".

The problem with President Carter was that he put on a Cardigan sweater instead of a Hubbert curve so that we could have a better idea of the timing. "W" is just the opposite with his 52 years remaining. No one asked what was going to take place in year 53 with regard to oil production. Was it 52 years to a peak or until we stopped pumping? In my opinion, both were lousy communicators.

I would suggest that President Elect Obama invite Representative Roscoe Bartlett or Matt Simmons to the White House press room with their set of slides. These are men who knows how to communicate Peak Oil and can present a much better idea of timing.


President's Carter's problem wasn't communication. It was the course of events largely outside of his control. Events which seem poised to repeat. Is there enough groundswell public opinion this time around to alter the old course? Having lived through the first round, I doubt it. Cultural change is slow.

Yet another sign that the Depression is coming back, complete with the Dust Bowl...

Drought parches much of the U.S., may get worse

The value of water is starting to become apparent in America. Over the past three years a drought has affected large swaths of the country, and conflicts over water usage may become commonplace in the future, climatologists say.

"Our focus is oil, but the critical need for water is going to make water the most significant natural resource that we're going to have to worry about in the future," says Larry Fillmer, executive director of the Natural Resources Management & Development Institute at Auburn University in Alabama.

At least 36 states expect to face water shortages within the next five years, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

"The demand for water has gone up," Christy says. "The demand has skyrocketed in places like California and New Mexico because they've tried to grow crops in deserts."

..."We take water for granted," he (Mark Svoboda) says. "We think it's a cheap commodity that's always going to be there."

Peak Water...? Or Dust Bowl, 21st century style...?

I encourage we send this to the EIA, IEA and OPEC. The following are from Carl Sagan's book the demon haunted world. The baloney detection kit!

I believe the following principles should be used to test the Net energy haunted world.

Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts.

Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.

Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").

Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.

Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.

Quantify, wherever possible.

If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.

Occam's razor - if there are two hypotheses that explain the data equally well choose the simpler.

Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?

Demand destruction (for oil in USA)?

Perhaps not:

The trade deficit rose to $57.2 billion in October, from an imbalance of $56.6 billion in September. Analysts had been looking for the deficit to decline to $53.5 billion on lower oil prices.

While oil prices did drop by a record amount, that was offset by a record surge in the volume of oil imports.

Although note that that's for October, November may have been different, with yet lower oil prices - but the EIA said yesterday that recent imports are up YOY.

I think the September Hurricanes played a major role in increasing October oil imports in 2 key ways:
1. lower domestic production means we needed more foreign oil to maintain inventories
2. Sept oil imports were low because the hurricane-filled channels were closed for ~2 weeks in Sept

Demand destruction has been occurring, we'll see how long it persists with sub $1.75 gasoline...
Dennis www.setenergy.org

‘Pay option’ mortgages could swell foreclosures

Some time after Sharren McGarry went to work as a mortgage consultant at Wachovia’s Stuart, Fla., branch in July 2007, she and her colleagues were directed to market a mortgage called the “Pick A Pay” loan. Sales commissions on the product were double the rates for conventional mortgages, and she was required to make sure nearly half the loans she sold were "Pick A Pay," she said.

...While McGarry balked at selling these pay-option ARMs, other lenders and mortgage brokers were happy to sell the loans and pocket the higher commissions.

Now, as the housing recession deepens, a coming wave of payment shocks threatens to bring another surge in defaults and foreclosures as these mortgages “recast” to higher monthly payments over the next two years.

It's all Ayn Rand's fault.

from Newsweak art:

Has Objectivism been dealt a deathblow?
Yaron Brook: No, not at all. From a public-relations perspective, it's been hurt. But in the long term there will be a backlash against what's going on in the markets today—the heavy government involvement, the nationalizations and the move toward socialism. If the free-market advocacy groups position themselves correctly, they can benefit from it.

gag me with a spoon!

They positioned themselves nicely in Chile and Argentina. In Russia, etc...

Nevermind that it was never free-market to begin with. With Freddi Mac and Fannie Mae pushed to buy craptacular loans and give loans to people who shouldn't have had them, running under the assumption that the Fed would bail them out, the real motivation of capitalism had been removed, which is the creation and RETENTION of profits. People can blame dead people like Ayn Rand, or they might expect other dead people to save them....

Russians Buy Jewelry, Hoard Dollars as Ruble Plunges

(Bloomberg) -- Moscow resident Tima Kulikov banked on the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, not the Kremlin, when he sold his biggest asset for cash.

The 31-year-old director of a social networking Web site initially agreed to sell his apartment for rubles, then cringed at the thought of the currency weakening as it sat in a lockbox pending settlement of the contract. It wasn’t until the buyer showed up with $250,000 stacked in old mobile-phone boxes and stuffed in his pockets that Kulikov closed the deal.

If you're into cash then be careful where you keep it. I had a neighbour who believed in literally keeping his money under his mattress. Then one day he knocked over a candle and it all caught fire.

He had to send a thick bundle of seriously singed notes to the Bank of England to verify the serial numbers and give him some unincinerated cash back again.

He was lucky not to have been seriously singed himself.


Hello TODers,

Agrium halts production at plant
Company slashes supply as sales slump

.."Unprecedented reduction in fertilizer use this fall in both North America and globally has resulted in significant production curtailments and shutdowns, and is expected to place extreme pressure on an already strained distribution system next spring," Agrium president and chief executive Mike Wilson said in a statement.
Let's hope that many farmers are at least stocking some quantities of seeds, I-NPK, and fuel on their land. This would help prevent a distributional logjam next spring that might result in many farmers missing the ideal seasonal planting and fertilizing timeslots.

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

Imagine if farmers wait too long before ordering and I-NPK prices start climbing fast because of factory curtailments. Then when the farmers finally rush in to buy & take last minute delivery: this only further levers prices up.

Those farmers that have earlier prepaid for their I-NPK [but not yet taken farmgate delivery] could find themselves waiting as an unscrupulous dealer sells the inventory to a desperate farmer willing to pay much more per ton.

The prepaid farmer might have to get the police to intervene to make sure that his delivery is routed first so that he won't miss the optimal timeslot. Of course, if something like this occurs: that dealer's future credibility is worthless, but short term gain often outweighs long term concerns [as Nate has so often expressed].

IMO, it would help flowrate smooth the very long JIT supply chain and decrease pricing volativity if every farmer in every country took the opportunity to directly pre-stock 1/10 to 1/8 of his anticipated needs early. Easier said than done with the credit crisis, but we will see...

Hello TODers,

It would be fascinating if Obama's Agro-Sec, and other Cabinet members reach a consensus, then start steering the US in this direction to reduce our increasing import reliance on I-NPK:

Organic Farming May Be the Best Route to Global Food Security
IMO, national security starts with clean water and healthy food.

The forecast below has been updated for the IEA OMR Dec 11 2008.

click to enlarge

The oil price has been very volatile recently. I expect that this volatility should reduce soon and prices should increase back to about $100 next year. Two key assumptions for this price increase are further OPEC production cuts and continued weakening of the US dollar.

The US dollar, measured by the USD Index, has fallen significantly from 88.2 in mid November to 83.6 today. It is possible that the USD Index will fall to 70 as the rate of financial deleveraging slows which reduces the demand for US dollars.


An important currency that has been at a relatively constant exchange rate with the USD is the Chinese Yuan, CNY. Since July 2008 the USD Index has strengthened but the CNY exchange rate has stayed at about 6.85 for that same time period. This means that the CNY has strengthened along with the USD, relative to other currencies.

If the CNY USD exchange rate remains constant then a falling USD will make exports from both USA and China more competitive in world markets. This could help both the US and Chinese economies.


For a further discussion of price http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4846/441816

For additional forecasts of crude and condensate only http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4856/442707

As for your first graph and a part of it being a forecast, I cannot see the coming OPEC cuts being accounted for in the supply curve in early 2009. Why is that? Do you think it will be so temporary it won't change a thing? Or do you think the coming abrupt increase in price will make the whole 'cutting it back' point moot?

The OPEC cuts of a total of 2 mbd announced in Sep and Oct are already included in the forecast. I have not made any adjustments for the yet to be announced Dec 17 OPEC cuts.

About 1 mbd of the OPEC cuts have been offset by recent non OPEC increases due to restoring production in regions like the Gulf of Mexico. In Sep 2008 non OPEC crude and condensate production was 39.2 mbd and is estimated to be 40.4 mbd in Nov 2008, an increase of just over 1 mbd.

Nov 2008 total liquids supply was 86.5 mbd. My forecast indicates 85.7 mbd for Jan 2009 which is almost 1 mbd lower due mainly to the OPEC cuts.

In addition, there is a forecast increase of just over 0.1 mbd from NGL and bio-fuels from Nov 2008 to Jan 2009.

Thanks for making it clear.

I have a slightly different forecast as I think the actual cut will be more pronounced unless prices go directly to 80 in January as your graph suggests. I'm looking forward to seeing OPEC and Russia talking of a 3 mbpd cut, not all of which will be implemented though. In essence I think exports are going to be 2 mbpd lower come February than they are now.

As for the price I basically agree with you - the direction is up. However, I'm not sure it will all happen for 2009 in the next 2-3 months alone. It'll surely be volatile and I can see spikes and big drops early next year. All in all I think the average price for 2009Q1 will be higher than 2008Q4, 2009Q2 will be close to 2008Q3 but lower. The price in 2009Q3 will likely be more than the average for 2008, and next year's average will also be a bit higher than this year's.

We shall see, quantity is a lot more important than price anyway. Speaking of which, I can see C&C at or below 60mbpd by 2015 if things go well. If the economic situation gets a lot worse next year and the price of commodities are not on the rise very soon, this 60 mbpd in 2015 can actually be a lot less. I cannot see it being more.

EDIT: The 'I can see C&C' part has a certain ring to it. ;-)


I follow your total liquids graphs out each time, thanks for your efforts.

But I still don't see why you don't define peak plateau from summer 04 out, instead of 2006. Comments?

I agree, the peak plateau can be represented differently.

According to the IEA, the average 2004 total liquids production was just over 83 mbd; 2005, just over 84 mbd; and 2006 was 85.4 mbd. Using an annual average calculation the peak plateau starts in 2006 if 85 mbd is a lower limit. If 84 mbd was used then the peak plateau spans more years.

The forecast average supply for 2010 is 84.6 mbd which is less than 85 mbd which is why the peak plateau ends in 2009.

Hi all,

I just wanted to repost a link that was posted over on the "Campfire" forum by erichacker. I downloaded and started reading the book (it's a free, 382 page PDF download) and it is really quite good (I'm 75 pages in). Gives a very balanced, fair and mathematical look at renewable energy possibilities in the UK, as well as breaking down consumption by usage.

Again it's free, and seems to be fair, accurate and comprehensive from what I can tell so far:

Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air


You can argue about the fairness of the book, I know other people on TOD drumbeats have. (FWIW, I think it's pretty fair, but then I use his book on information theory as a reference at work so I'm arguably biased.)

What's great about the book though is that it's primarily presents lots of numbers (with sources) and adds them up to get an overall picture rather than the "argument full of just words and principles" lots of these sort of books contain, so that if you disagree with something it's up to you to come up with other numbers and show they change things enough to give different conclusions.

California budget gap now seen nearing $42 billion

"If we don't put aside our ideological differences and negotiate and solve this problem we are heading toward a financial Armageddon," Schwarzenegger said.
Will the necessary cutbacks in services make many Cali-residents head towards Cascadia? A wealthy & brain drain towards the north may rapidly intensify the Cali-problems even faster. See Zimbabwe's brain drain for a recent reference.


BREAKING NEWS: Auto bailout measure collapses in Senate, leaving fate of GM and Chrysler uncertain. More soon. (CNN.COM)

I wonder why CNN thinks their fates are uncertain. To me it looks as certain as death. The bailout will just prolong the suffering and the misery.


Lots of Ponzi schemes falling apart as investors try to retrieve their money during financial collapse

In this case, it looks like the high-rollers got rolled. It sounded like a very elite fund, and it serves them right that they believed in that constant a rate of return on the investments. Not too high, but not low enough for them to get spooked and start pulling it out. But, alas, when everyone got spooked this September, it all fell apart. Otherwise, who knows how long this could have kept going?

Another huckster

I just had apufr2 w/my neighbor so excuse me
Does anyone remember when cheny verbally flogged his finance manager? 2003/4. Or when they changed the personal bankruptcy laws?

Saudi Arabia is using attic oil reserves in old carbonate fields to help maintain their oil production rates. This practice is probably assisting production at Ghawar, Berri and Abqaiq. If attic oil production starts declining then this could cause production difficulties for Saudi Aramco.

This recent Fall 2008 article by Saudi Aramco discusses the extraction of attic oil reserves.

Advanced Completion Technologies Result in Successful Extraction of Attic Oil Reserves in a Mature Giant Carbonate Field

Although the article does not state the name of the discussed field, it is most likely Abqaiq. The three authors of the article are Saudi Aramco petroleum engineers working on the Abqaiq field. In addition, the first paragraph says that "after more than 60 years of continuous production, approximately 57% of the oil initially in place in the primary reservoir has been produced". This is characteristic of Abqaiq.

In Feb 2007, Nansen Saleri presented this chart of Abqaiq production. It shows about 400 kbd in 2006.

click to enlarge

source http://satelliteoerthedesert.blogspot.com/2008/05/abqaiq-and-eat-it-too....

The chart below shows increasing production from the Abqaiq attic, the upper 25 feet of the Arab D reservoir. A significant feature on the chart is that the upper corner states that the attic oil production is 30% of field production.

If Abqaiq production is about 350 kbd now then 30% is 105 kbd. That means that attic oil production increased from 0 kbd in 1994 to 105 kbd in 2008. The Saudi Aramco article says that smart completion MRC wells are the optimum development solution for attic oil which helps to explain the production increase. However MRC wells can also water out quickly.

If the production increase from attic oil has been replicated for Aramco's other large carbonate fields (Ghawar and Berri) and the attic oil production rates enter decline then Saudi Aramco's total production rates may be adversely affected.

If all that is left is the top 25 feet, and maximum reservoir contact wells are being to pull this oil out quickly, then your statement about these "wells can water out quickly" is an understatement. It would seem like when this oil is gone, virtually all of oil in the well is gone, so production could collapse very quickly--at least 10% a year, probably much more.

But the fact is you guys have no clue if any of this is true. All of this information is held secret by the ssudi's, so any guess work on this is beyond just speculation.

TAD -- I agree about the credibility of the KSA numbers when it comes to all the production let alone the attic oil gain. But it doesn't change the laws of reservoir engineering. Developing attic oil will always add some high rate gains. Attic oil, by the geometry of structural oil traps, always represents a much smaller area then the original field limits. Modern completion techniques in these types of reservoirs greatly increase initial flow rates and ultimate recovery. But they also accelerate the movement of the water level to the attic. This will always produce a very sudden and significant decrease in net oil production rates....always.

As you imply, we may not have a credible handle on the exact numbers. But this is how water drive reservoirs perform. At some point in time we can't specify with full credibility, the rates gained from attic redevelopment will be lost very quickly. No amount of optimism will change the dynamics of a water drive system. The situation is similar to walking through a mine field: every thing appears Ok until you make that last step. But even when you don’t know exactly when you’ll make that last step (or when the water level will reach the attic wells) it doesn’t change the outcome. This isn’t pessimism. It the collective knowledge of having watched tens of thousand of water drive oil reservoirs deplete.


The field mentioned in the paper is certainly Abqaiq given the paper authors credentials:

"Stig Lyngra is a Petroleum Engineering Specialist in the Abqaiq Reservoir Management Division of the Southern Area Reservoir Management Department."

"Asaad I. Al-Towailib is the Division Head of Abqaiq Reservoir Management Division of the Southern Area Reservoir Management Department."

"Uthman F. Al-Otaibi.. is a Supervisor in the Abqaiq Reservoir Management Division of the Southern Area Reservoir Management Department."

I think that almost every day we (humans) are being given an opportunity to shed the skin of greed and unsustainablity. The current U.S auto fiasco is another chance to make the shift towards sustainability. Rather than giving the dinosaur another blood transfusion , we should be seeing this as a means of providing resources (especially human) to deal with the energy/economy/ecology paradigm shift that is underway.

The U.S car issue seems to me to be all about jobs. Okay, there are many jobs that need to be done if we have any chance of surviving the convergence of crises upon us. Restructuring urban communities for self sufficiency is an important one that comes to mind. During the 1970's oil crisis in Australia, which precipitated a recession, we had the RED Scheme. This mobilised unemployed men to undertake community capital works. It was empowering to both the workers and the community.

It is about time that those responsible for the leadership and governance of our nations gave up on the current notion of economics. It is broke(n) and it is time to build something new that recognises finite needs on a finite planet.

The initial financial crisis warning went unheeded. We lost a big chance for current and future generations. Are we going to lose another chance? Lateral thinking anyone?

give up on the current notion of economics. It is broke(n) and it is time to build something new

But there's the rub. What exactly is this "something new" that we are going to build?

It's a question I've racked my brains over for years and don't see an answer.

In some respects, capitalism has been very successful because it found a way to turn human greed into a reason for all people wanting to work.

On the other hand, it created this mindless money making machine that is driving us over the cliff's edge.

So what does the new social order look like? How is decided who gets what and who doesn't? (Don't give me the "to each according to his needs" crap.)

One argument often made on these pages, that capitalism cannot function in a nil-growth society, I would disagree with.
This is simply because it has often functioned in a nil or negative growth society.
From the start of the 14th century, in England and much of Europe, for instance, the population fell and did not recover until after the 1520's, and there was massive disruption of the social fabric, and if there was any economic growth it was certainly at a miniscule rate.
Some areas expanded vigorously though, whilst others contracted equally vigorously.

It seems to me that it is that wide variability that allowed capitalism to continue - no one made a commitment to zero growth, they simply looked to put their money into those areas where they could make money.

This analogy of course has serious weaknesses, as the size and sophistication of the financial systems was in noway comparable to today, but then again in a nil or negative growth society then arrangements seem likely to simplify.

Regarding the Stanford report.


The most important sentence is,

Costs are not examined since policy decisions should be based on the ability of a technology to address a problem rather than costs

Without cost data, practicality is impossible to determine.

Denmark generates about 19% of its electric power from wind energy.

The author omits several important points about Denmark.

1 Denmark has been pushing wind with huge subsidies for 30 years.

2 Denmark has the most expensive electricity in the world, about 40 cents/kWh.

3 Denmark exports half its wind power due to intermittency problems, so only 9.5% of electricity consumed in Denmark is wind. It imports hydro and nuclear power.

4 Denmark uses half the power per person as the U.S., so if we matched Denmark’s performance, wind would be about 5% of U.S. total.

it is a valid exercise to estimate the potential number of immediate deaths and carbon emissions due to the burning of buildings and infrastructure associated with the proliferation of nuclear energy facilities and the resulting proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The author overlooks several points here.

1 The Manhattan project began in 1942 when knowledge of nuclear weapons design was nil yet the U.S. had working examples of two designs in 1945. The physics and chemistry of nuclear weapons is well known now.

2 A simple unpressurized plutonium production reactor can be built with a small fraction of the money and time of a nuclear power plant.

3 To make plutonium 239, uranium is exposed to neutrons in a reactor for only a few weeks. Commercial spent fuel has been in the reactor 3-5 years and contains higher isotopes of plutonium that are highly radioactive and heat producing, making bomb design and construction very difficult.

4. Uranium supplies are abundant. Reprocessing is not required with Gen III reactors.

5 Enrichment facilities should be limited to large stable countries, and made available to all countries at a reasonable price, if they cooperate with the IAEA. It is a small fraction of the cost per kWh.

6 No nation builds bombs from spent commercial reactor fuel. Giving up the most difficult and unused paths to nuclear weapons leaves the easy paths still at hand.

Currently, about 30 000 nuclear warheads exist worldwide, with 95% in the US and Russia, but enough refined and unrefined material to produce another 100 000 weapons.

There are only two ways to make this material unavailable. Explode the bombs or burn it up in commercial power reactors.

For nuclear energy, we add, in the high case, the potential death rate due to a nuclear exchange, as described in Section 4d, which could kill up to 16.7 million people. Dividing this number by 30 yr and the ratio of the US to world population today (302 million : 6.602 billion) gives an upper limit to deaths scaled to US population of 25 500 yr−1 attributable to nuclear energy.

I believe the author includes this calculation to get an annual death toll similar to that from the routine operation of coal plants.

In the case of centralized power sources, the larger the plant, the greater the risk of terrorism and collateral damage.

A grid relying on intermittent sources requires massive long range transmission capacity which would be a terrorist’s delight. Scientific American published A Solar Grand Plan


calling for a transmission system that could be used to kill millions of Americans.


nuclear power plants are vulnerable to heat waves. Because nuclear power plants rely on the temperature differential between steam and river or lake water used in the condenser, they often cannot generate electricity when the water becomes too hot, as occurred during the European heat wave of 2004, when several nuclear reactors in France were shut down….

nuclear power plants have unscheduled outages during heat waves

The author makes it sound as if nuclear plants fail under heat wave conditions. In reality the plants were shutdown due to regulatory limits on river temperature. Those limits could have been waved.

Nuclear and fossil plants on rivers and lakes often have cooling towers to avoid this problem, as a satellite photo trip down the Ohio River will show.

Solar thermal plants and geothermal plants operate on lower temperature steam making them less efficient than nuclear plants, especially with high condenser temperature.

Solar cell efficiency drops off at high temperatures.

Hot air is less dense and therefore delivers less power to windmills than cold air at the same speed. Windmill maintenance is often scheduled for the summer because that is their worst season. Nuclear plants have above average capacity factors in the summer because maintenance is scheduled for spring and fall when demand is lowest.

The author only mentions the temperature effect on nuclear, and he misrepresents it.

interconnecting 19 wind farms through the transmission grid allowed the long-distance portion of capacity to be reduced, for example, by 20% with only a 1.6% loss in energy. With one wind farm, on the other hand, a 20% reduction in long-distance transmission caused a 9.8% loss in electric power.

Cost was not included in the study, except when it favored wind by comparing one wind farm with many wind farms. The author does not mention that transmission costs are far less per kWh for nuclear because the average distance traveled for each kWh is much less and the average capacity factor of the power lines is much higher.

all cases considered involve combinations of the technology with either BEVs, HFCVs, or E85.

Intermittent sources like wind and solar power need storage, so the author conveniently adds battery electric vehicles to the mix as if is free storage. He calculates the opportunity cost of long nuclear construction time but omits the opportunity cost to wind and solar of the decades it will take to convert the U.S. transportation system to battery vehicles.

Nuclear plants do not need storage, but the author includes it so that the average reader will not realize that this is a big benefit for wind and solar.

Imagine that you bought a Chevy Volt three years ago and you find that the range is falling off lately. You dropped it off at the dealer this morning and the manager is calling.

“We see from our diagnostic computer that your battery has had several hundred charge/discharge cycles while sitting in your garage. That is not covered under the warranty. We can install a new battery for $11,500, prepaid.”

People will require substantial payments in exchange for the use of their cars battery.

Round trip charge/discharge loses are typically 20-30%. During calm periods you may find that your battery is being drained to charge your neighbors car, resulting in a compound loss. Who will pay for this expensive battery capacity and energy losses?

The assumed 40 year lifetime for nuclear plants is not realistic since existing plants are getting extensions to 60 years, and new plants are designed for 60 years with possible extension to 80 or more.

If the CO2 emissions of coal were plotted, all the others would be small bumps on the graph.

The author makes carbon calculations based on the existing fuel mix as if it never changes. Most CO2 emissions for wind come before the first watt is generated whereas for nuclear it is spread over the 60 year life of the plant. To really compare alternatives he should assume the grid is powered by the source in question. That would reduce nuclear CO2/kWh to near zero.

The author is comparing well proven 1945-1965 nuclear technology with experimental 2020 technology. Cold war diffusion enrichment plants use vastly more energy than modern centrifuge technology, which in turn may be eclipsed by laser enrichment.

Rebuilding a facility like Offshore Power Systems


to mass produce nuclear power plants the way Boeing builds airliners would dramatically change the comparison.