DrumBeat: December 12, 2008

U.S. Northeast Heating-Oil Delinquent Bills Top $100 Million

(Bloomberg) -- Heating-oil dealers in the U.S. Northeast have more than $100 million in unpaid bills from residential and business customers after fuel prices rose to a record, a consumer-debt service found.

The money is owed by customers in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, according to data from Oil Well, a service provided by Rosyln Heights, New York-based Risk Assessment Data LLC. The debt, which piled up after home heating oil soared to a record last winter, comes as homeowners and businesses cope with recession and the highest unemployment level since 1993.

“People will sooner pay their revolving-credit debt that is ranked in credit-reporting agencies and that affects their credit directly,” Larry Smith, owner of closely held Risk Assessment, said yesterday in an interview. “There is no immediate consequence for not paying your oil bill. Oil bills are not consumers’ top priority.”

Petro-Canada in no rush to find U.S. refining space

CALGARY, Alberta -- Petro-Canada will not look for U.S. refining space to handle bitumen from its planned Fort Hills oil sands mine until it advances the project further, Ron Brenneman, the company's chief executive, said on Friday.

U.S. says North Korea will not get fuel until deal

WASHINGTON, Dec 12 (Reuters) - North Korea will not get any more shipments of heavy fuel oil until it agrees to specific steps to verify its nuclear activities which it rejected in talks this week, the United States said on Friday.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said all five countries negotiating with North Korea -- Japan, Russia, China, the United States and South Korea -- have agreed future fuel shipments would not go forward until there was progress on a so-called verification protocol with Pyongyang.

"This is an action-for-action process," McCormack told reporters. "Future fuel shipments aren't going to move forward absent a verification regime ... they (the North Koreans) understand that."

Gazprom hopeful of deal with Ukraine on gas debt

PARIS (Reuters) - Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom is hopeful of a resolution in its dispute with Ukraine over payment for natural gas, the deputy chairman of Gazprom's management board said on Friday.

Alexander Medvedev told a press conference Gazprom had made proposals to Ukraine and the two sides were in intensive talks over the situation.

Caltex Australia Shuts Queensland Refinery on Fault

Bloomberg) -- Caltex Australia Ltd., the nation’s biggest oil refiner, shut down its Lytton refinery near Brisbane after a failure of the plant’s steam system, potentially disrupting fuel supplies in Queensland state.

The company can’t yet estimate how long the shutdown will last, Frank Topham, public affairs manager for the Sydney-based refiner, said by telephone. It’s too early to assess any damage at the plant and the company is still studying how the stoppage will affect deliveries to customers, he said.

Fuel shortage, cost have village seeking state assistance

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The price of fuel in the village of Emmonak has residents deeply concerned about their future, and one member of the village has taken it upon himself to represent their concerns to the state.

Martin Moore has been coming to a borrowed Anchorage office for the past few months, making phone calls, writing letters, and setting up meetings with state officials advocating help with his village's high fuel costs.

"It's very serious," Moore said. "The cost of fuel now is $7.60 a gallon."

U.S. driving on the decline

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Driving in America has undergone its most dramatic continuous decline in history, the Department of Transportation said Friday.

Americans drove 100 billion fewer miles during the 12-month period between November 2007 and October 2008 compared with the prior year, according to the DOT's most recent data.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters noted that driving continued to decline even as gas prices came off their summertime peaks.

"The fact that the trend persists even as gas prices are dropping confirms that America's travel habits are fundamentally changing," she said in a statement.

Obama: Transportation can get economy moving

WASHINGTON – When President-elect Barack Obama says he wants to get the economy moving again, he means it quite literally.

Transportation will play a central role in Obama's first months in office, not just for policy changes aimed at improving highway, air and rail travel, but as a road toward economic recovery, energy independence and environmental protection.

GM to cut 250,000 vehicles from 1Q production

DETROIT – General Motors Corp. says it will cut another 250,000 vehicles from its first-quarter production schedule by temporarily closing 21 factories across North America.

The move affects most plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Many will be shut down for the whole month of January.

Mountaintop miners lose bank's backing

If you're having trouble getting a bank loan, you have something in common with the US coal mining industry. The Bank of America has announced that it will refuse loans to mining companies that pursue the damaging practice of lopping off mountaintops to extract coal. The hope is that other banks will now do the same.

Traffic fatalities decrease 10% this year

Federal highway officials say it's too soon to link the drop in traffic deaths to the reduction in driving. "We don't have any data that can provide any true correlation," Federal Highway Administration spokesman Doug Hecox said.

Chandra Bhat, a professor of transportation engineering at the University of Texas who studies driver behavior, said that fewer miles driven means fewer wrecks. But he said more study is needed to determine whether the drop in miles traveled is related to the decline in fatalities. He said researchers first must determine who is driving less because fatalities generally are higher among teen and elderly drivers. Another factor: what time of day the reduction in driving is occurring because nighttime crashes generally are more fatal than daytime wrecks.

ANALYSIS - Russia may cut in limited sympathy with OPEC

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia, the world's biggest non-OPEC exporter, could vow to curb supply in line with deep cuts OPEC is expected to agree in Algeria next week as it seeks to gain political clout, but its production is declining anyway.

Although Moscow has hinted it could join the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, most analysts say it has no real interest in becoming a member.

The power of gas

Europe should work with the US to contain the rise of Russia's gas monopoly.

Trouble in Toyland: U.S. recession jolts China

Toy makers also were hard hit by the rising price of oil, which surged to more than $140 a barrel in June, and in turn sharply increased the price of plastic.

Industry sources say the toy makers saw profits squeezed to the point where many tried to renegotiate contracts with buyers — especially major U.S. players, such as Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us. When they discovered the buyers wouldn’t budge on the purchase agreements, many simply decided to close their factories. Some locked the gates and vanished in the dead of night, leaving workers to discover they had no job when they arrived in the morning.

New map paves way for bike-friendly travel

State officials and bicycle enthusiasts are stitching together more than 50,000 miles of pedal-friendly pavement to form a vast network of bicycle routes connecting byways, cities and offroad trails in a system like the one created for cars and trucks over half a century ago.

Obama's 'green dream team' is warmly received

WASHINGTON — One is a Nobel Prize winner overseeing research of alternative energy. The three others all have one thing in common: experience working for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Together, the group — as the Associated Press has reported — will make up President-elect Barack Obama's team to oversee energy and environment, a lineup that drew mostly praise Thursday from environmental and industry groups alike.

As China economy brakes, oil demand goes in reverse

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's once insatiable appetite for oil has choked.

An abrupt economic slowdown has corroded the machinery of China's economy, while stubbornly high fuel prices have forced drivers off the road. Crude imports are falling, fuel exports have resumed and once flat-out refiners are shutting down.

Demand from the world's second biggest consumer of oil after the United States, one of the main catalysts that launched oil's rally six years ago, likely contracted for the first time in three years last month, data due next week is expected to show.

Analysts say that is not an anomaly. A full-year decline in consumption may loom next year, even if the economy continues to expand at 8 percent or more as expected.

Energy giants trim spending plans for 2009

Jeff Rubin, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, warned that "supply destruction" as a result of low oil prices is a "surefire recipe" for higher prices down the road.

"Although capacity is ample for now, we expect supply strains to emerge beyond mid-2009 as GDP growth and global demand turn the corner, setting the stage for a return to the $100-barrel mark by year-end (2009)," wrote Rubin in a research brief.

"In the Alberta oil sands alone, we estimate that project cancellations and delays, affecting $100 billion of investment, will shave over 800,000 barrels from daily new capacity, roughly half of earlier projected growth in the next five years. And what is happening there is occurring in Brazil, West Africa and the Middle East itself."

Post-Ike Gas Line Fixes Slow Return of US Gulf Oil

Most of the 15 percent of Gulf of Mexico oil output still shut three months after Hurricane Ike is offline pending completion of repairs to natural gas pipelines, officials said Thursday.

"We had some major impacts to gas transmission lines. That's what we still see, at this point, being the holdup on the gas as well as associated oil," Lars Herbst of the U.S. Minerals Management Service told a media teleconference.

"If you can't get the gas flowing in those transmission lines the oil associated with that platform is also curtailed or shut in," said Herbst, the MMS Gulf Region director. MMS forbids burning off gas to facilitate oil production.

Environment minister calls for a 'food Kyoto' as a billion people face starvation

"Global food production will need to double just to meet demand," Benn is expected to say. "We have the knowledge and the technology to do this, as things stand, but the perfect storm of climate change, environmental degradation and water and oil scarcity, threatens our ability to succeed."

In particular, the UK food system's "dependence on oil will have to change" to use more renewable energy. He also hints that more controversial genetically modified technology could also be needed, described as "new crops and technologies".

World Bank’s ‘Wrong Advice’ Left Silos Empty in Poor Countries

(Bloomberg) -- Inside and out, the rusted towers of El Salvador’s biggest grain silo show how the World Bank helped push developing countries into the global food crisis.

Inside, the silo, which once held thousands of tons of beans and cereals, is now empty. It was abandoned in 1991, after the bank told Salvadoran leaders to privatize grain storage, import staples such as corn and rice, and export crops including cocoa, coffee and palm oil.

Outside, where Rosa Maria Chavez’s food stand is propped against a tower wall, price increases for basic grains this year whittled business down to 16 customers a day from 80.

“It’s a monument to the mess we are in now,” says Chavez, 63.

Richard Heinberg - IEA: Everyone Gets to Be Right

In recent days our friends over at The Oil Drum have done a laudable job of dissecting the recent annual report of the International Energy Agency, "World Energy Outlook 2008".

Briefly: the report breaks ground in analyzing petroleum depletion and future supply prospects on the basis of a study of several hundred large oilfields. It warns that "Current global trends in energy supply and consumption are patently unsustainable" and that "the sources of oil to meet rising demand, the cost of producing it and the prices that consumers will need to pay for it . . . [are all now] extremely uncertain." The document also proclaims in no uncertain terms that "the era of cheap oil is over."

Book Review: "The Long Descent"

John Michael Greer has written a fascinating and engaging, but also contradictory and perplexing account of how he sees the industrial age ending.

His primary thesis is that collapse will not come as a sudden, abrupt End Of Days or Die Off scenario- one minute thriving bustling affluent society with the universe at its feet, the next a crumbling pile of rubble with nothing but wisps of smoke to hint of its former glory- but will follow a “catabolic” process of progressive disintegration, over possibly a couple of centuries. In Greer’s scenario, short periods of abrupt and sharp downturns- the beginning of which we are experiencing now- punctuate longer periods of relative stability. Like an organism that begins feeding on itself, society will collapse in a series of stepped-down stages as it becomes progressively unable to meet maintenance charges with income.

So, How Bad Will the Energy Crisis Be in 2025?

American intelligence agencies recently looked into their crystal balls and forecast a challenging and, in some cases, scary world in 2025.

Most of the news headlines emanating from the report have focused on nuclear weapons and the decline of American dominance, but there is plenty of sobering analysis about other subjects to keep one up nights as well.

Take, for instance, the competition for dwindling energy resources.

Three Inconvenient Energy Policy Truths

Before “good” energy policy can be enacted, three unpopular inconvenient “truths” need to be recognized and dealt with. Disregarding any of these three energy truths will result in energy policy that won’t work.

Exxon CEO Asks Obama For 'Realistic,' Long-Term Energy Policy

CHICAGO -(Dow Jones)- The top executive at Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) asked president-elected Barack Obama to have a "realistic," long-term energy policy and confirmed the company will continue to spend as planned despite declining oil prices.

ExxonMobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson also forecast that lower oil prices may translate in downward "adjustments" on how much national oil companies charge to access their reserves as some of these companies, he said, had a "very different view" on oil prices than ExxonMobil.

Exxon May Lift Spending as Rivals Cut, Tillerson Says

(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest company, may raise spending on oil exploration and refineries by $5 billion next year as rival energy producers reduce budgets to cope with falling prices and a recession-driven drop in demand.

...“We don’t see a need to make any cuts at this point,” Tillerson said. “We don’t pay attention to the day-to-day price of oil because it’s somewhat unimportant to us.”

Long-Term, Growth-Oriented Energy Policies Key to Economic Recovery

Market-based policies with a long-term focus will enable the energy industry to fulfill its essential role in America's energy future and economic recovery, Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation, said today.

Schools Consider Shortened Weeks

"It seems to be a proactive approach that's on everyone's agenda, try and make some budget cuts that will be effective," said superintendent Ken Tarrant. He says there's proof its working, Dexter was recently named one of the best high schools in Kansas by US World News and Report.

Dexter changed its approach to the school week during the energy crisis almost 30 years ago. In 1999, the district estimated the switch saved about $40,000 a year. Tarrant says since then they stopped keeping track because it's become a way of life. He knows keeping the buildings closed and buses parked on Friday's saves substantially in electrical and transportation costs.

The Philippines: ‘Govt’s controlling Petron only way to blunt oil price spikes’

IF the government truly wants to help the people and protect them from unreasonable price rises in fuel, it must have a controlling stake in Petron instead of privatizing its shares by selling to San Miguel Corporation, a congressman said on Thursday.

The Philippines: GMA, oil firms 'colluding to overprice gasoline'

Is Gloria Arroyo colluding with the Big 3 oil firms to overprice fuel? Sen. Mar Roxas thinks so. And he might be on the way to uncovering a big stink.

Climate Change Exhibit Falls Gravely Short

“Where we are is because of the Industrial Revolution,” said lead curator Dr. Edmond Mathez in a telephone interview. “So the implicit point in the [exhibit’s] introduction is that no one is to blame for this. It is not a stepchild of our recent consumptive society. It just because of our innovativeness, basically, that we have gotten to this point.”

But divorcing the Industrial Revolution from its social, political and economic context is irrevocably biased, implying that industrialism-by-means-of-capitalism was an innocent, natural evolution. Another story was told earlier this year at the annual United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, when native peoples from around the world met to discuss the impacts of climate change on their communities. No one there would claim “no one is to blame” for the pending global climate catastrophe. Rather, industralization is a direct consequence of centuries of conquest by imperial nations — the pursuit of wealth, power and progress by crushing native peoples and then seizing, privatizing and liquefying the landscape. Nature became a commodity and externalities became a problem left for future generations.

Goldman Expects Crude to Fall to $30 Early Next Year

(Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. cut its forecast for oil prices in the first quarter by half to $30 a barrel as the global economic slowdown curbs consumption.

Crude demand will fall by 1.7 million barrels a day in 2009, analysts Jeffrey Currie and Allison Nathan said in a note dated yesterday. Goldman previously expected West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark oil, to average $62 in the first quarter.

The worldwide economic decline has reduced consumer spending and weakened demand for fuel. Demand growth in China and other non-member states of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is “on the cusp of a sharp deceleration,” the analysts said.

OPEC meeting needs to cut, but size matters

LONDON/DUBAI - Shrinking fuel demand and battered oil prices have almost certainly convinced OPEC it needs to agree another big cut when it meets in Algeria next week. The issue is how deep that cut should be.

Iraqi official urges austerity measures due to falling oil prices

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's finance minister is urging government departments to cut down on expenses to offset the effects of the drop in world oil prices.

Bolivia Says New Gas Plants May Ease Brazil, Argentina Shortage

(Bloomberg) -- Bolivia’s energy minister said two proposed liquefied petroleum gas plants may allow the country to boost supplies to Brazil and Argentina by 2010, easing a shortage of the fuel after a lack of investment reduced output.

Medvedev Hints at Joining OPEC

Facing a looming budget deficit amid low oil prices, President Dmitry Medvedev indicated for the first time Thursday that Russia was ready to join OPEC and coordinate its exports with the oil cartel.

The apparent reversal from a Kremlin that has long prized Russia's oil independence drew immediate skepticism from industry players who said Medvedev's comments might amount to more talk than action.

Venezuela oil bid brings cautious investor interest

CARACAS, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Oil companies are showing cautious interest in Venezuela's tender of heavy oil blocks as they evaluate the risks of working with leftist President Hugo Chavez and making large investments as crude prices tumble. Nineteen companies are participating in a bid to produce at least 400,000 barrels per day of tar-like oil in seven areas of the Carabobo region of the Orinoco belt, and build three heavy crude facilities that produce lighter, more valuable oil.

Factors driving investor interest include the Orinoco's plentiful reserves with little exploration risk, expectations of a medium-term oil price recovery and the possibility of producing high-quality oil with new upgrading technology.

ANALYSIS - Global economy rebalancing the hard way

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The credit crisis is accomplishing something that years of scolding failed to do: curbing U.S. consumption and paring the piles of excess cash amassed in China and oil exporting countries.

While economists have long argued that such a rebalancing was badly needed to safeguard global growth, it is happening so fast that it threatens to deepen the downturn.

Credit Crunch Squeezes Petrobras

Falling oil prices and the credit crunch have ended the euphoria surrounding Brazilian state-controlled Petrobras. The new scenario is forcing the company and the government to consider a new strategy.

Sakhalin Energy Starts Year-Round Crude Oil Exports

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom’s Sakhalin Energy venture began year-round oil exports today and plans to start producing liquefied natural gas in “the next few weeks” after building pipelines to the southern tip of the Pacific island.

Rogers buys oil last week as price drops

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Renowned commodities investor Jim Rogers said on Thursday that he bought oil last week as crude prices collapsed to near four-year lows and that the world is running out of known oil reserves.

GM hires bankruptcy lawyers - report

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors has reportedly hired bankruptcy lawyers and restructuring consultants as lawmakers continue to debate the terms of a possible bailout of the ailing automaker.

Fuel shortage hits Indian forestry (video)

Villagers unable to get supplies of LPG are ravaging local forests for firewood.

Desperate villagers are felling trees in the woodlands around their homes in northern Himachal Pradesh, an area which has already suffered heavy deforestation.

Can Offshore Grids Solve Our Wind Power Woes?

The race is on for offshore wind power. The U.S. Department of Energy says that offshore wind power could account for up to 20 percent of America's electricity generation by 2030. But while the United States scrambles to construct its first offshore wind farm, Europe has over two dozen farms already and is considering implementing huge interconnected offshore power systems to compensate for dying winds or overwhelming storms. Could a similar system work for the United States' huge coasts?

Offshore wind project feels economic squeeze

OSTEND, Belgium - Taller than any of the country's soaring cathedrals, six off-shore windmills rise up from the gray, choppy North Sea waters, ready to start delivering green electricity and reward a e$200 million investment.

Once fully operational this month, the C-Power turbines will produce enough power for 60,000 people. The ultimate plan for the farm is more ambitious: To expand the facility tenfold and create the world's largest far-shore wind farm — enough to light up a city of 600,000.

But project manager Filip Martens needs hundreds of millions of dollars in funding — and with the financial crisis putting a break on bank lending — he's turning to a summit of European Union leaders on Thursday and Friday for help.

Boom for whom?: Tracking the price of success for boomtowns Whistler, Fort McMurray

Whistler – Mega projects, massive developments and international events are bringing vast changes across B.C. and Alberta. For the past few years, oil and the 2010 Olympics have been the primary drivers of Western Canada’s economy. Alberta’s Athabasca Tar Sands have been attracting lots of local and international attention, given that they are the world’s largest energy project and the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

Obama and the Middle East Oil War

You’ve surely noticed that much of the world’s oil supply is in the Middle East beneath Islamic lands – hence the power structure’s persistent linking of Muslims with “terrorists” (a word invariably left undefined). Your nationalist advisors have by now taught you that US “interests” (also invariably undefined) relate primarily to OIL. “Interests” is code for the US cornering oil reserves and guaranteeing pipelines and shipping lanes – not only for their own sake, but to control the world economy.

Such control, of course, also serves to bring cheap oil home where so many here think it belongs. Thanks to the perpetual greed of US oil and automobile companies, the US is morbidly addicted to oil. Consumer self-indulgence reinforces such addiction. If we haven’t done so already, we will soon pass “peak oil.” Unless the industrial world drastically reduces our over-consumption and switches to renewable energy, it may well tank within the lifetime of your children. Your predecessor failed to understand – or care – that our children will have to live in the toxic and depleted world we bequeath them.

Succession We Can Believe In: How Obama-esque activists are remaking the Vermont separatist movement.

Thomas Naylor, a retired Duke economics professor, ascended the podium at an anti-war rally at Johnson University in Johnson, Vermont, shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq. His speech was filled with the usual leftist rhetoric about the evils of the Bush administration. His solution, however, was far from traditional. It was an idea that he had been developing for about ten years, but had never spoken about in public. "They were shocked, bug-eyed," he tells me, reflecting on the speech. His idea was the peaceful dissolution of empire, beginning with the secession of Vermont from the United States of America.

Five years later, 11.5 percent of Vermonters agree with him, according to the 2008 poll conducted by the University of Vermont's Center for Rural Studies. One out of ten might not seem overwhelming, but Naylor is quick to point out that only about 25 percent of Americans supported secession from England. In the face of much derision and mockery, Naylor has remained resolute that his idea is possible. His organization, the Second Vermont Republic (SVR), has been joined by frustrated '60s activists, bohemian radicals, organic yak farmers, bartenders, college professors, and possibilitarianist puppeteers, all saying the same thing: Vermont would be better on its own.

Climate change 'largely ignored' by many big firms: report

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Corporate America is making progress on addressing climate change but many company executives are "largely ignoring" the issue when it comes to making business decisions, a report released Thursday said.

Global technology titan IBM scored highest, 79 on a scale of 100, when it came to the fight against Earth-warming gases, according to a report titled "Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Consumer and Technology Companies."

Britain-based grocery giant Tesco was ranked second most climate-conscious firm with 78 points and US computer maker Dell was third with 77.

Calif. expected to crack down on diesel emissions

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Fresh off adopting a sweeping plan to reduce greenhouse gases, California air regulators are considering cracking down on pollution from nearly a million diesel trucks that crowd the state's highways each year.

On Friday, the state Air Resources Board was expected to adopt what would be the country's most comprehensive rule to get the dirtiest trucks and buses off the road, including those that travel into California from other states, Canada and Mexico.

Unanimous agreement on climate package: Sarkozy

BRUSSELS (AFP) – European Union leaders reached a unanimous agreement on an ambitious climate change package at the end of a two-day summit in Brussels on Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

"It is quite historic what has happened here," summit chairman Sarkozy told a press conference.

"No continent has given itself such binding rules that we have adopted with unanimity."

While Detroit Slept (Friedman, NYT)

. . . our bailout of Detroit will be remembered as the equivalent of pouring billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the mail-order-catalogue business on the eve of the birth of eBay. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into the CD music business on the eve of the birth of the iPod and iTunes. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into a book-store chain on the eve of the birth of Amazon.com and the Kindle. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into improving typewriters on the eve of the birth of the PC and the Internet.

What business model am I talking about? It is Shai Agassi’s electric car network company, called Better Place. Just last week, the company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., announced a partnership with the state of Hawaii to road test its business plan there after already inking similar deals with Israel, Australia, the San Francisco Bay area and, yes, Denmark.

The Better Place electric car charging system involves generating electrons from as much renewable energy — such as wind and solar — as possible and then feeding those clean electrons into a national electric car charging infrastructure. This consists of electricity charging spots with plug-in outlets — the first pilots were opened in Israel this week — plus battery-exchange stations all over the respective country. The whole system is then coordinated by a service control center that integrates and does the billing.

Under the Better Place model, consumers can either buy or lease an electric car from the French automaker Renault or Japanese companies like Nissan (General Motors snubbed Agassi) and then buy miles on their electric car batteries from Better Place the way you now buy an Apple cellphone and the minutes from AT&T. That way Better Place, or any car company that partners with it, benefits from each mile you drive. G.M. sells cars. Better Place is selling mobility miles.

I often dislike Friedman, but today's column is a good one.

I think that business model could work well in cities with high density, but it wouldn't work well at all in rural areas. Fortunately, I don't think that efforts will ever be wasted on rural areas. What we need for rural areas is turbo-charged or supercharged 4-cylinder trucks with CVTs so that they can provide high RPMs to provide torque at low speeds for hauling stuff, then providing low RPMs with the low displacement for high MPG at higher speeds.

The idea that a person needs a V8 or v10 for hauling things is unreasonable unless you're hauling a bunch of cattle or similarly absurdly heavy things. (Such as my Airstream trailer which is nearly 8,000 lbs.) Even then, a supercharged I6 with a CVT could handle it.

But, back on topic, I think that Americans will be slower to adapt to a system where you rent by the mile or swap out batteries, etc than Europeans and those in other countries. Until Americans view cars and trucks as modes of transportation instead of extensions of themselves, this will persist.

Americans will be slower to adapt to a system where you rent by the mile or swap out batteries, etc than Europeans and those in other countries. Until Americans view cars and trucks as modes of transportation instead of extensions of themselves, this will persist.

It's often been said that Americans don't drive their cars so much as wear them. I think this is just another symptom of American's defining themselves by what they consume/own over what they do. I do detect among some younger folks (teenagers) a general disillusion with the current system, and there may be hope for a shift to valuing the use/utility of things over owning them.

To be fair, I'd say cowboys might be said to 'Wear' their horses, and an Inuit most certainly wears his Kayak.. It's less whether we are tied to our ride, but whether our ride is sensibly put together. (ie, 'Sustainably Harvested')

Excuse me, I'm late for a bike fitting..

There is a small revolution occurring in my area of the flyover outback.

More and LOTS more folks are buying and driving the vehicles which started as the John Deere Gator,but now Polaris is making them and a whole lot more.

So instead of so many 4 wheel ATVs I am seeing these fourwheel contraptions driving all over the place.

None are truly licensed but they run to the mailbox,go to the back 40,even drive into town sometimes and in general make plenty of the short trips on and off the farm that used to be done with pickups and sometimes ATVs. The ATVs are a different thing. Usually kids do them. With these its a lot of more senior folks. Past their 20s, so to speak.

Yes a lot of hunters are using them, laziness I guess. But I see a brisk market developing here for them. Seem now each farm has one or two.

Don't know what kind of mileage they get but they are very simple to operate. Have a roof but usually open sides. Has a bed in back for carrying cargo. Two seats in front.

Can't compete on the highways but can run up to 40-50 mph. Don't usually go on 2 lane state highways except for short forays. Used mostly on county back roads but they are becoming very prevalent.

Perhaps pouring gas in fuel inefficient pickups is costing too much.

Seems pretty nice way to motor into the woods to pick up some deadfall or sawed up tree trunks.


They look to be a step up from golf carts - much more sturdy and durable, probably less likely to roll over unless you do something stupid.

If an NEV like a GEM is street legal, I don't see why one of these shouldn't be. Not for highway use, though.

Side by side ATV's (and even regular 4 wheeled ATV's) are now street legal in Utah:


The reality of ATV's is similar to the reality of most large motorcycles. They don't get great gas mileage. 20-30mpg is the usual. Of course, when you ride an ATV you normally are not driving it like you are in the Mobil Mileage Rally.

I talked to a guy in Moab who was out driving his Polaris Ranger. He said since the law was passed, he hardly ever drove his truck. Of course, Moab, Utah is pretty much the perfect environment for an open ATV. I doubt you would see a lot of people driving one of these in Dallas in August, or Chicago in January.

I get sticker shock. And I wonder about durability. Will they get 200K, or the hours of a tractor?

Right now I see them mostly as status, highly visible signs of affluence. Last winter you could hardly keep them in the showroom, wonder what goes on this winter.

Manchester votes massively against a Congestion Charge, even though the money would go towards public transport, and the government would provide lots more on top (£2.8bn).


Those who like to think that people will vote for public transport in a big way need to take this onboard. Even with a large government bribe to accept the idea of a congestion charge - people weren't going to pay more for driving their cars.

And believe me, having been there, Manchester has good public transport already with lots of users.

IMO I don't think that the vote was against public transport but more of " you don't bribe us with that , mate" sort of vote.


No, it is a "I don't want to pay for anything that used to be free" vote.

Putting a congestion charge to vote is the dumbest idea ever. If Roosevelt had put entering WWII to vote we would have all been Nazi now. Sometimes democracy just doesn't work - put people in front of a finished fact, they will be angry (initially), will grumble for some time, and then will get used to it. After the positives become visible to all, it is going to move from "What a stupid idea!" to "I have always supported it".

Roosevelt did put going into WWII to a vote. The elected representatives of the American people, i.e. Congress approved the declaration of war following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Only one member of Congress voted no on the general principle that nothing should be unanimous in a democracy.

sorry I disagree

those roads were paid for by road tax , now I'm being charged again because its a congestion tax ? and its still a bribe and very small one compared to what is actually required.

Get the Public Transport right , then just ban personal cars, if you care /dare ..........


In the USA, most city streets are paid for by property taxes. not gas taxes.

Another subsidy to the Suburbanites. Free streets to drive on to work.

And the gas taxes I pay go towards highways I almost never use (but essential for Suburbanites), since I burn mine on city streets (paid for by property taxes).

Best Hopes for Higher Gas Taxes AND Congestion Charges,


Notice how govs have referenda on topics they are sure will not be agreed to - when that's the outcome they want!

In contrast, we don't get to vote on our politicians having 24 days break this Xmas..

Pre-Bailout Bull Trap?

(edit - the first article was highlighted on the front page of Market Watch up until about 30 minutes ago)

Is The Bear Market Over?
Commentary: Signs suggest we may have seen worst of bear market
Last update: 12:58 a.m. EST Dec. 11, 2008

"Dow Theory Letters' Richard Russell thinks it might be. He writes: "We may now be hitting the inflection point that I've been talking about. The selling of stocks could be exhausted, the deflation may be on the edge of turning into inflation -- today bonds were down, dollar was down, gold up strongly...

In their issue that arrived Wednesday, Mary Anne and Pamela Aden write: "We do not recommend selling now.

Keep your resource and energy stocks in order to sell at a better price, assuming the stock market stays bearish.

If it turns bullish, then we'll keep our stocks and/or adjust our positions. Watch the Dow Industrials ... it'll be positive above 8,900 but if it rises above 9,000 and then 9,600, the rebound rise will clearly be underway."


This morning's headline...

Futures Indicate Bloodbath


My personal rule of thumb: If you want to get a good feel for what the stock market will do today, look at the world markets. While not perfect, they do tend to show which way the Dow will head...

1 year ago RBS paid $100bn for ABN Amro.

For this amount it could now buy:
Citibank $22.5bn
Morgan Stanley $10.5bn
Goldman Sachs $21bn
Merrill Lynch $12.3bn
Deutsche Bank $13bn
Barclays $12.7bn
And still have $8bn change......
with which you would be able to pick up GM, Ford, Chrysler and the Honda F1 Team & sponsor Lance in his 9th Tour de France!!!"

From: http://americanenergycrisis.blogspot.com/

Thanks euro, that compilation was damn funny.

You probably also throw in a vacant senate seat or two . . .

Matriarchal Communism? It's so crazy it just might work.

"The Kerala Model"


"At a time when the world is looking for alternatives to market fundamentalism, Kerala may hold the secret to sustainable growth and development."

Kerala has one of the highest suicide rates in India. A large number of people from Kerala have migrated out of that state to other parts of India and the rest of the world. The economy of Kerala is mostly driven by remittances from keralites who live abroad. There is not much that is sustainable about Kerala's growth and development.

Oops! Never Mind.

Formula 1 feels the pinch

Changes to be introduced after next season will be even more radical, as the FIA seeks to ensure the sport's long-term survival. Races could even be shortened to save money, and refueling will be banned from 2010 -- which could dramatically alter the spectacle for fans.

We should all live so long to see the spectacle of feeding and providing drinking water to the poor supercede the circulus in probando of F1, NASCAR, et al

other "entertainment" that should be eliminated so the poor (eveywhere) may eat and drink:

all sports
non-informative websites
video games
the olympics

these are all horrendous wastes of resources that do nothing to provide safe drinking water and food to the poor of the world. we must purge these scourges from our planet so that we all may live. Until every single person is fed, I declare that all who care about the poor stop participating in any of the above events.

I understand your sentiment.

However when I stop playing wheelchair basketball, or stop listening to music, it ain't gonna stop ethnic cleansing in Darfur, it ain't gonna stop Mugabe to say there is no cholera in Zimbabwe, and it ain't gonna stop the fighting in East Congo.

Really, the "international community" is obviously not very interested in feeding the poor. In that case they could do a lot more. It's more like an extension of defending certain interests.

Refrigerator magnets, don't forget about those. Evil I tell you.

Those are your choices; I could think of other choices like quitting the eating of meat or cutting out all discretionary driving or banning all driving in cities over 100,000. Oh, and let's mandate that all new houses be built to passiv haus standards and that the stimulus package embark on the retrofiting of 50 million homes at least. The list could go on and on but I don't think their is much hope for the world's poor without a much more redistributionist point of view and a program to immediately halt further population. Getting rid of music? I don't think so. Getting rid of the olympics? Yeh, why not.

I think my new motto is going to be "Ban nothing, but price everything appropriately".

and who is going to determine the "appropriate price"?

Some mindless bureaucrat. Note: he will also be nameless for his own protection FROM YOU!

Well, that's pretty much the fly in the ointment. The best would be to have a completely non-partisan, non-political group of scientists and economists appointed by the president and congress that could dispassionately determine the externalities of everything and tax them appropriately so their price reflected their true cost. Of course it's pretty hard to get politics out of Government, so this would never happen.

In the short term, I think we should just bill the cost of the Iraq war to gasoline, and call it a day.

Music and Plays, huh?

I can understand why people think the arts are frivolous, but they are not. They, like the even more dismissed Poetry are simply a part of having a language at all, something which I expect you would have us keep, right?

Communications in the form of storytelling is how we learn what experiences and patterns other people lived by, and so adds to the blueprint that we keep in our heads for 'how the whole thing works' .. for how to relate to each other, what kinds of choices and points of view seem wise at first, but then prove to be devastating.

Calling the arts 'Cultural' doesn't mean they just belong in a world of wine-laced society openings. It means that they define and constantly reexplore and reinterpret the systems that our civilization patterns itself on.

A couple things we waste a phenomenal amount of energy and materials on are Weaponry and Prisons, including the vast amount of power and brainpower of the many people who are drawn into them, only to put their efforts into banging their heads against walls. I don't oppose having a Military or Prisons, but like our energy paradigm overall, they are simply WAY out of proportion.

Bob (Filmmaker.. surviving with no subsidies)

I agree. Human culture is not a waste of resources. And I will posit that sport is a vital part of human culture. Humanity minus our culture: we are just bald primates. We need these tools.

We do not need to eliminate these parts of our culture, though we probably need to re-localize them. Sports Leagues spanning whole continents are probably not needed. Sport needs to return to a participatory activity rather than a spectator activity.

"Sports Leagues spanning whole continents are probably not needed."

What does need have to do with any of this? Technically, to live, all a human needs is food, water and a few key elements. Everything else is just needless consumption.

Technically, to live, all a human needs is food, water and a few key elements. Everything else is just needless consumption.

We're more complex animals than that. We have societies for inter-human contact and communication. Most people don't just want to breathe and excrete.

Even the most primitive societies have games and art. In the depths of the "dark ages" there were dramas, literature, games.

I feel like sarcasm is lost on this site....

Use the sarcasm on/off tag.


< sarcasm>Let them eat cake.< /sarcasm>

It's that simple.

I should have known I'd be taking a position that surprises very few on this site. Good lord...

Whatever happened to sarcanol ?

Thank you,


Thank you.

It is sad that for in a place like TOD such a staringly sarcastic piece should be labeled as such in order to be recognized.

Makes me think that many people are starting to take themselves or their views too seriously, which is a very bad sign.

I don't think any of those things are fivolous, there are acitivities that some people enjoy because they can. Just because another person's taste may make him think that some of those are frivolities does not make them so. It just means he does something different for fun. I assumed people would understand my sarcasm at the joy some people are feeling at the decline of F1 and NASCAR, considering those useless entertainment whose proceeds would have been better spent on feeding the african poor, but I don't see the paramount importance of what I listed versus NASCAR or F1. Its just elitism to think somebody's form of harmless entertainment is better than another person's form of harmless entertainment.

I wondered if you were being saracastic, its a pretty long list. My first thought, since this is the oildrum after all, was "the gene pool needs some chlorine" but the second thought was....."na, he can't be serious".

Get Al Gore to turn the lights off and stop flying around, it'll save enough money for every poor person to have drinking water. Oh I forgot, he's an "activist" aka hypocrite.

Don't worry, the new sport will be "Bust a cap in da bread line" soon enough. Got bullets?

As I've come to understand it, the term "Bust a Cap" as used in the 'Hood can mean shooting a person in the kneecap, which is not likely to be life threatening, but which will severely incapacitate the individual so injured.

Got bullets? I can "grow" my own. Better yet, Got Caps (209 or large rifle)?? Caps are an entirely different matter...

E. Swanson

But a Cap just means shooting a bullet. I suspect its derived from the toy Cap guns that are probably no longer around.

When I first ran across the expression, I thought the same as you. "Cap" as in "Percussion Cap", which was the ignition source for black power firearms invented before the Civil War. The invention of the percussion cap led to the design of a repeating pistol, the Colt Walker, which could fire 6 shots rapidly without re-loading, which was a large advance over the single shot pistols of the day. As metallic cartridges evolved, the percussion cap was morphed into the primer in the base of the metal case. The old toy cap guns were actually similar to a priming system invented by Maynard in 1845, which used a roll of paper tape with dots of primer material evenly spaced.

E. Swanson

Now thats the kind of "cap n trade" I can get behind.

In the words of the immortal Biff: "you can busta move or busta rhyme anywhere, but you can only busta cap in someone's ass"

Christopher Moore, "Lamb"

Sorry, Greg.
I totally missed the sarcasm. Partly because that kind of statement would not be too surprising to hear as completely serious by some posters.

In Text and in this context, regrettably, it sometimes is useful to be a little more obvious with the humor.

I work in entertainment, and I do think that a horrendous amount of it is frivolous and offensive, but there are those sparks of true inspiration that are the brass-rings that keep us in this game. Still, too much of media, not unlike sports, food and drink, cars etc are premised and marketed on some form of Addiction, not on real need. Selling us things we think we want, but we don't actually need.

Bob, being far too serious.

Sarcasm or not, it's an interesting discussion though... Some of what we pay for entertainment is just as mindlessly consumeristic as those over-the-top children's toys we have been deriding in previous DB comments, or the $300 dog pillow sold in mainstream catalogs. Do we need superstar musicians or might we prefer getting together with neighbors to sing some carols? Do we need multimillionaire football players or is there more fun to be had in throwing a ball around with our kids?
I heard a man in India is building himself a $2 billion home. Good, it certainly provides much work for many. But might he have cut those costs in half, provided the same number of jobs, and ended up with housing for hundreds of thousands of fellow humans? But WHY should he care?
Why should any of us care parked in front of the TV watching others play while we slowly lose the ability to do anything for ourselves?

/not sarcasm, but maybe a rant? ; )

considering those useless entertainment whose proceeds would have been better spent on feeding the african poor

Neat how your assumptions give you away. Nobody said anything about the poor being African, other than maybe the bats flying out of your belfry. But as long as the poor are blacks in Africa, the whole idea of Western Whitey making some sacrifice in entertainment expenditures is pretty absurd, isn't it?

In fact some of these wastes will cease (or at least change) - right about when the poor that need feeding are us, and the masses cannot be separated from money they no longer have.

NASCAR gonna be pretty cool when it's painted 4cyl Toyota's flying around Darlington at 60 with a handful of die-hard fans too drunk to notice it ain't what it used to be. Who'll be the only sponsors left - Army, Navy, Marines?

Arts, sports, entertainment are all important parts of life, at least if you've got the other parts covered. But most of the stuff on your list is big business. Throw a lot of money at something and is goes all to hell. Real entertainment is participatory.

Well, here in sunny California, there is movement afoot to eliminate school sports:


I hear black or white fallacies stopped being fallacies some time ago.

This is rather the textbook "We shouldn't send space probes/do massive scientific experiments/engage in large festivities until ALL people are equal and cared for" argument. Guess what? Getting everyone to be fed, clothed and looked after with the same standards we enjoy in the West isn't going to happen. Ever. Human nature is against it, and you will always have opportunists screwing the system up. It's patently ridiculous to put culture or any other advancement on hold until others catch-up.

Ok, I completely agree with you that there is no way for people to be ALL equal. Also, sure, the whole world, at this level of population, cannot stand West consumptiion levels (many of us are overfed and obese anyway).
But what about we maybe strive for having people with "decent", adequate food, health and homes?
Would that be too bad? Some celebrities (Bill Gates stands out) have already donated big part of their fortunes to helping the poor everywhere.
Of course this goal should not be achieved by cutting off scientific resaerch, but maybe if the idea of shredding 100 dollar bills to glue to pop star nails acquired the real abhorent connotation they should have, then more money could be spent sensibly...

refueling will be banned from 2010 -- which could dramatically alter the spectacle for fans.

Hmmmm... Now they have to build car that's fuel efficient enough to finish the race, and then fast enough to win it. I think it's a very interesting proposition...

+1, this will lead to some really creative minds actively looking at fuel economy. Alot of good research comes from racing.

Some people forget they live in a free country and wish they were the dictator.

In the mid-80's F1 had no refueling; that's why you saw mechanics performing pit stops for tire changes in shorts and shirtsleeves instead of firesuits. Cars ran the whole race on a 220 liter fuel tank. Running out of fuel in the final laps was a frequent occurence as drivers had to balance power and fuel consumption.

It was reduced to 150 liters for the 1988 season, the last year of the turbo engines. Honda made a purpose-built engine for the 150 liter limit and dominated that season, winning 15 out of 16 races. It was a brilliant design and probably one of the most efficient race engines of all time.

Yes, I'm a bit of a motorsports fan. And yes, I'm aware of the irony of being both a motorsports fan and a peak oil activist.

NASCAR is already in deep trouble. The impending lack of sponsorship support from the various companies will doom the high dollar teams. As I understand it, it would be highly unlikely that the auto companies could spend any money on racing if the bailout had passed. Maybe auto racing will go back to small time operators and individual efforts, such as SCCA used to be back 30 years ago when I helped build a race car in a friend's garage. But, we know men (overgrown boys?) will race anything, including riding lawnmowers and bicycles...

E. Swanson

I fail to understand why giving the US Big Three a bailout would prevent them from racing. After all, it hasn't prevented Citigroup from spending FOUR-HUNDRED MILLION to name the New York Mets baseball team's new stadium:


This while laying off 52,000+ workers.

Where is the outrage?

Outrage? ROFL. It's bog-standard for cities to squander billions in tax money on stadiums. Panem et circenses, bread and circuses. So 400 million US$ is just a blip, beneath notice. What matters is to keep J&J6P, our very own land whales, entertained at any and all cost. Otherwise they might riot, 'cos they're just too stupid and unambitious to actually find something to do, such as, oh, getting the exercise they so urgently need. Sigh. </rant>

How will the incoming government justify the list of bailouts which includes ONLY banks and union jobs, but ignores oil service works?

Just because the pipe fitters in Houston don't all belong to a union. And just because they are outcast as part of the "Big Oil" bad guys. They are still hard working people who live in this country and pay taxes. They will be laid off next year as the projects get dropped or postponed.

Hey Washington! how about some of that money down here!

The unionized auto workers don't seem to be faring very well.

It was just an example.

The point was that every dollar spent, by Washington, is a zero sum scenario. Somebody wins and I loose.

maybe their mistake was not joining the joe-the-plumber union.

"The unionized auto workers don't seem to be faring very well."

People who shoot themselves in the foot seldom do. . .

Speaking of Unions, successfull and not so, does anyone who lives near Chicago know how this union is doing?


All that I read and learn about the Argentinian recuperation of factories gives me hope in this economic crisis.

BOA allowed the company to "borrow" $1.75million to pay the workers' vacation time and severance, about $7000 per worker. The workers are happy with the deal. This was on Yahoo News yesterday.

that was the mistake of the houston pipe fitters...they didn't buy congressmen so how can they expect to get anything. Lazy, selfish bastards.

If the stakes were not so high this Political Theater would be so much more entertaining.

Peak Political Theater - not yet.

Man, do we need change, but I do not think Obama type change is gonna do it - not by a longshot - and I so wanted to be a believer.

At least we have our Security Theatre to keep us entertained when we fly.

Bruce Schneier's blog is my favorite place from which to watch Security Theater.

  • http://www.schneier.com/blog/
  • Enjoy! Assuming you don't know it already.

    These guys have some good ideas re: change. CAUTION: mostlyBAU, but would have been quite interesting before I thought the odds of globalself-immolation were quite high:

    What is to be Done?
    The End of the Washington Consensus


    ...By contrast, the financial and trade model that U.S. oligarchs and their allies are promoting is a double standard. Most notoriously, when the 1997 Asian financial crisis broke out, the IMF demanded that foreign governments sell out their banks and industry at fire-sale prices to foreigners. U.S. vulture capital firms were especially aggressive in grabbing Asian and other global assets. But the U.S. financial bailout stands in sharp contrast to what Washington Consensus institutions imposed on other countries. There is no intention of letting foreign investors buy into the commanding U.S. heights, except at exorbitant prices. And for industry, the United States has once more violated international trade rules by offering special bailout money and subsidies to its own Big Three U.S. automakers (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) but not to foreign-owned automakers in the United States. In thus favoring its own national industry and taking punitive measures to injure foreign-owned investments, the United States is once again providing an object lesson in nationalistic economic policy.

    ... in the early 1960s, the financial sector accounted for only 2 per cent of U.S. corporate profits. Today, it is 40 per cent!...

    ...Today’s “new economy” is based not on new technology and capital investment, as former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan trumpeted in the late 1990s, but on price inflation generating capital gains (mainly in land prices, as land is still the largest asset in the U.S. and other industrial economies). The economic surplus is absorbed by debt service payments (and higher priced health care), not investment in production or in sharing productivity gains with labor and professionals. Wages and living standards are stagnant for most people, as the economy tries to get rich by “the miracle of compound interest,” while capital gains... provide... new credit to bid up asset prices, all the more in a seemingly perpetual motion credit-and-debt machine. But the effect has been for the richest 1 per cent... to increase its share of interest extraction, dividends and capital gains from 37 per cent ten years ago to 57 per cent five years ago, and nearly 70 per cent today. Savings remain high, but only the wealthiest 10 per cent are saving – and this money is being lent out to the bottom 90 per cent, so no net saving is occurring...

    ...Today’s desperate U.S. attempt to re-inflate post-crash prices cannot cure the bad-debt problem. Foreign attempts to do this will merely aid foreign bankers and financial investors, not the domestic economy. Countries need to invest in their real economy, to raise productivity and wages. Governments must punish speculation and capital gains that merely reflect asset-price inflation, not real value...

    In sum, a much better economy can be created by rejecting Washington’s financial model of austerity programs, privatization selloffs and trade dependency, financed by foreign-currency credit. Prosperity cannot be achieved by creating a favorable climate for extractive foreign capital, or by tightening credit and balancing budgets, decade after decade. The United States itself has always rejected these policies, and foreign countries also must do this... if they wish to follow the policies, by which America actually grew rich, not by what U.S. neoliberal advisors tell other countries to do to please U.S. banks and foreign investors.

    Also to be rejected is the anti-labor neoliberal tax policy (heavy taxes on employees and employers, low or zero taxes on real estate, finance and capital gains) and anti-labor workplace policies, ranging from safety protection and health care to working conditions. The U.S. economy rose to dominance as a result of Progressive Era regulatory reforms prior to World War I, reinforced by popular New Deal reforms put in place in the Great Depression. Neoliberal economics was promoted as a means of undoing these reforms. By undoing them, the Washington Consensus would deny to foreign countries the development strategy that has best succeeded in creating thriving domestic markets, rising productivity, capital formation and living standards. The effect has been to decouple saving from tangible capital formation. They need to be re-coupled, and this can be achieved only by restoring the kind of mixed economy by which North America and Europe achieved their economic growth....

    Also helps explain why Kucinich is so far ahead of the game than all the idiots we had running - and winning - for president.


    Hi eastex,

    Wasn't there a shortage of people to work in the oil industry?

    BTW, any bailout, to banks or whatever, have failed to deliver the desired results so far.

    BTW, any bailout, to banks or whatever, have failed to deliver the desired results so far

    No, I disagree... There are a lot of people who have benefitted from the trillions spent... Most of them make much more than the average poster on the TOD, though...

    I guess the desired results and advertised results might have been a *little* different.

    A tiny tad, slightly different only.

    "Hey Washington! how about some of that money down here!"

    Just as soon as you agree to work for East Singapore wages.

    Wall St. bailout targeted for Big 3
    Bush, in flip, eyes $700B bailout to rescue GM, Chrysler.

    The Bush administration said Friday that it will consider using the money set aside to help banks and Wall Street to rescue the auto industry.

    The statement -- a change in the administration's long-held position -- might be the last best chance to keep troubled automakers General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) and Chrysler LLC out of bankruptcy.

    The defeat of a $14 billion bailout plan in the Senate late Thursday left the administration little choice but to tap the $700 billion bailout approved by Congress in October, the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP, according to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

    "Given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary -- including use of the TARP program -- to prevent a collapse of troubled automakers," Perino said in a statement. "A precipitous collapse of this industry would have a severe impact on our economy, and it would be irresponsible to further weaken and destabilize our economy at this time."

    See, the Detroit boyz went to the Capitol building... They should have gone to the White House instead. Would have saved a lot of public embarassment...

    The preference was for a new bill to drain the money already set aside to re-tool for fuel efficient vehicles and to codify punishment for union workers. Failing that, W has to decide if he wants GM to file for bankruptcy under his watch or Obama's.

    The answer is easy. Tell Hank to give them $14 billion and make sure they last at least until noon on January 20th.

    I predict they'll get their $14 billion from the financial bailout.

    Why home values may take decades to recover

    Rick Wallick moved into a new, three-bedroom $200,000 home in Maricopa, Ariz., in October 2005. Today, the home is worth $80,000.

    The disabled software engineer stopped making mortgage payments this month. His $70,000 down payment is now worthless. His dream house will be foreclosed on next year.

    ...As painful as the decline has been, history suggests home values still may have a long way to drop and may take decades to return to the heights of 2½ years ago.

    "We will never see these prices again in our lifetime, when you adjust for inflation," says Peter Schiff, president of investment firm Euro Pacific Capital of Darien, Conn. "These were lifetime peaks."


    We probably won't see home prices return to their (inflation adjusted) highs... EVER.

    Inflation Adjusted, Home Prices never been this high... EVER.

    Better chart here...

    We just might. It is the unstated goal of the federal reserve system to cause huge gyrations in the market (boom/bust cycles). As long as there is wealth in the middle class for them to transfer to the elite, you can bet on these wild swings to continue. We are headed straight for depression and world war 3. We're going to get a direct repeat of the mistakes made 70 years ago, because people today are so naive that they still believe there is no such thing as an occult ruling class. People are either going to discover the truth about reality, or bend over and accept whatever excuse the ruling class gives after all their wealth is stolen.

    This is the kind of thing that they've been talking about at The Automatic Earth for some time now, and just now the MSM picks it up. As pointed out by a coworker, they didn't want to upset the applecart that they get their apples from. (Advertisers.)


    Sadly, these may soon be reffered to as the "good ole days". I’ll offer a very disturbing story I read just this morning. Sorry...didn’t think to save the link. According to a report done by a bond rating agency, we haven’t even seen the worst of the mortgage blow up yet. Most of the current problems have occurred because of the resets of the initial 2 to 3 year teaser rates given to subprime borrowers. But there’s a much bigger crunch heading our way in 2009 - 10. Most of the variable rate mortgages are due to reset after 5 years…2 to 3 years after the teaser rate resets started to hurt folks. The report showed there are about 3+X as many loans falling into this group then were in the teaser group. Even worse, many were written as “pay option” mortgages. I wasn’t aware of this neat little trick: the homeowner could choose to not pay the full monthly note with the difference being added to the balance. Brokers were paid twice the commission for placing such loans. Wachovia (who just bellied up) required its loan officer to do 50% of the loans as “pay options” loans. So not only will these loans start resetting over the next 2 years, some may be resetting at higher rates on balances that were greater then the original loan.

    Just a guess on my part but looking at the distribution and maturity of these 5 yr ARM’s, if they have a default rate similar to those associated with the teaser rates, we may be seeing 3 to 4 times the mortgage defaults by 2010 as we’re seeing today.

    I posted this link yesterday. Wouldn't surprise me if there were a lot more of these "pay option" mortgages...since apparently, that's what the mortgage companies were pushing.

    Excellent Leanan. That's the story I read. But moneyman made a good point I hadn't thought about: potential reset rates being lower. It looks like there will be at least 4 or 5 times the number of resets in the next 3 years as we've seen already. If inflation does kick in relative soon, as some have predicted, those resets could be significantly higher. And, as was just pointed out, the growing unemployment rate may overtake the resets as the primary cause of foreclosures. All in all, throw the two potential factors together, it's difficult to not be very concerned with just this one aspect of the down turn. One big question: how many of these ARMs were bundled and sold off just like the ones that have already taken down so many financial institutions and funds? If it’s comparable to what we’ve seen the last few months then we may have wasted all that bail out money: it’s difficult to imagine these operations surviving another hit several times bigger then the one they just took.

    I read somewhere (sorry no link) that job loss is now the #1 issue in forclosures out pacing the subprime, ARM issues.

    Layoffs are comming hot and heavy in my area. A lot of folks are walking around zombie like.

    This is not going to get better anytime soon.

    I actually have an ARM on my home, and it has worked out well. It was a 3/1 ARM originated in 11/2004 at 3.6%. It reset in 11/2007 at 5.6%, and just a few weeks ago it went back down to 3.6%. The rate is a benchmark + 2%, but can go no lower than 3.6 or higher than 9.6. With benchmark rates as low as they are, Hopefully, most people with ARMS will be getting lower bills on the next reset, not higher.

    I am sticking to a 30 year fixed.


    I expect deflation short term (1-3 years) and inflation long term (5+ years). Deflation short term because the economy is contracting, and inflation long term because the solution will be for the government to issue trillions more in debt, driving inflation through the roof.

    I will lock in my mortgage at the deflation rate, and ride it out through the high inflation.

    I am in the process of refinancing from 6.375% to 4.875%. It will save me ~$30K over 30 years.

    I will continue to refinance until things bottom out. I look at the way I'm doing it as like an ARM in a sense that it can go down, but never go up.

    Best of all worlds.

    Mortgage rates hit 4 1/2 year low

    Mortgage rates fell again this week, following the government's efforts to assist the troubled housing market.

    Government sponsored mortgage lender Freddie Mac said Thursday that fixed rates on 30-year mortgages averaged 5.47% for the week ending Dec. 11. That's down from 5.53% last week and well below 6.11%, which is where the rate stood at this time last year.

    Mortgage rates began to fall after November 25th, when the administration announced that it would pump another $800 billion into the credit markets to unfreeze consumer and mortgage lending.

    "What we're seeing is a slight continued decline influenced by the Federal Reserve's announcement to buy half a trillion in mortgage backed securities," Gumbinger said. "And this continued minor downdraft is also due to the poor economic climate."

    The guy in the article did everything right. 35% down payment, 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage at 5.75%. But the drop in housing prices was so steep he basically threw his $70,000 down payment away.

    I think we could have a lot more than 2-3 years of deflation. Without rising wages, I don't see housing values rising. And I'm not expecting rising wages any time soon.

    A lot of it is specific to location as well. I live in northeast Wisconsin, and there was never a 'boom' here, ergo no bust either. (The house I bought was $120K, and if it were located in Phoenix it would have easily fetched twice that amount in the condition it is in). Year over year, median the value of homes in Maricopa AZ (per article) has dropped 33%, where in my neck of the woods it's dropped only 2%...

    And home price is really determined by wages and interest rate. If the interest rate goes down, home prices go up; if wages go down, home prices go down. But, if fewer people are employed, home prices will certainly go down.

    Hello Geckolizard,

    I have never been to Wisconsin, but I would also suspect that your area is much more survivable than my Asphaltistan + golf courses + tanning booths located in the middle of a huge, scorching desert. I just hope Cascadia, the New Vermont Republic, the Great Lakes, etc, are getting postPeak ready.

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

    It's damn cold here, Toto.

    We'll have our wind power, adequate water (it is the great lakes, for crying out loud), and food (that's why Wisconsin is the dairy state). We love our brat(wurst)s, cheese, and beer. We can grow gardens outside in our fertile soil located in a moderate climate. We can survive without A/C...

    However, heating's a b*tch. It's damn cold here... But, we'll upgrade our homes to passivhaus standards, put up windmills, and use geothermal heating... We'll survive. :)

    Hello Geckolizard,

    Thxs for responding. My dream, although I will probably never have the money, is to buy some used road culvert big enough to house inside a small used trailer or cabover camper [plus extra storage space], then cover it with dirt, a couple of skylights, and a heavy, insulated door on the open end. I could probably shovel/wheelbarrow the dirt myself to cover the culvert eventually. The trailer would be on rails so during nice climate times: I just open the door, then easily hand-push the trailer outside to soak up the warmth. Too bad the building codes don't encourage 'cave living'--> it works fine for millions of species smarter than us. Oh well.

    Maybe all you need to do is move to Coober Pedy, Australia... The whole town is underground homes. You want to expand? all you need to do is grab a shovel.

    Thxs for the link--beautiful homes--windows are so over-rated. Very few people actually have the time to gaze out a window.

    hey Toto,
    here in the 2nd VT Republik I made a nano-wood-shop in the rear of my garage with enuf insulation to heat it to a comfy 50F when it's -30 outside with a tiny electric milkhouse heater on a thermostat that goes down to 32.001F.
    I use sweaters and underwear and etc. I made a little box with a litebulb in it for keeping glue in so i can run the shop down to 32 when not using it.
    My wife and I have worked our way down from 73F to 63F in the house and we feel good enuf about it to keep the progression going.
    My first VT farmhouse had no insulation behind the lath&plaster walls. It had single-glazed ill-fitting windows that let snowflakes blow into the house when it got too windy. But my daughter remembers that with great joy and nostalgia.
    So while it doesn't appeal to hotblooded flatlanders, there's nothing intrinsically ipmossible or unhealthy about living in a "cool" house.
    Growing season is another matter but greens & leafy winter crops do fine.

    Here is a chart which was posted in 2007 at Calculated Risk showing mortgage resets through 2016:

    2010 through early 2012 looks to be a scary period. Restructuring of mortgages may have changed the reset schedule. I searched for an updated chart but could not find one.

    I thought I remembered reading that a slew of 30 year US Treasuries mature during the same time period. I'm pretty far from an economics/finance expert, but the confluence of these two things sounds potentially catastrophic.

    Good Grief! You can refinance now into a 30-year fixed at about 5.5%. If you cannot afford to do that, then you have no business in the house and you are one of the luckiest people on Earth.

    Why? Because there has been about a trillion $ of net worth transferred from those who had "wealth" to those who were in over their heads. The average person who is forclosed on probably recieves a plus $100,000 on their balance sheet and probably $1000/month increased cash flow by moving into a rental. No one is going to chase them down for defaulting on their mortgage - even if they bought 4 years ago and refinanced to the point where they were $100,000 or more in pocket on their original purchase. Boy, I really feel sorry for them, cause I know that they do not feel sorry for themselves.

    A couple days ago there was a call-in program on NPR radio for those who had lost jobs and what they were doing.

    Many callers. No solutions. Their stories were quite dramatic as far as finding new work. Many were at their end of finding anything. Many had degrees and it did them no good at all.

    The stories were what one would expect.
    "I have no job,no prospects,my savings have run out and I don't know what to do."....along those lines.

    This is the very first I have heard publicly of the ones for who TSHHTFA
    (The Shit Has Hit The Fan Already)...they are now looking at nothing.

    Perhaps food stamps. Perhaps begging? Perhaps a cardboard box? Perhaps selling their sex? Who knows.

    IMO the end times are already here for many. I mean what does a yuppie type do when his and his wifes job is not there anylonger and no jobs can be had?

    What will be next one wonders. I propose nursing homes will rapidly die out. When folks have no assest left to pay and medaid might go away then I expect many nursing home to shut the doors. It wouldn't take much.

    Then Ag will be next. Maybe this coming spring.

    Why don't we hear more of this? Is it being suppressed by the media?
    What about pensions going away? What about no more health insurance?
    All we seem to hear is about foreclosures.


    Why don't we hear more of this? Is it being suppressed by the media?

    Around the country, there's been a recent spate of people whose homes are foreclosed committing suicide, shooting at the deputies coming to evict them, burning down the house they're losing, killing their pets &/or family members, etc. The lack of media coverage of these events appears to be deliberate suppression, presumably to prevent others from imitating these actions. Individual acts of desperation are one thing; the powers-that-be can't afford to have such actions morph into an organized defiance of authority movement.

    Any reporting at all of this, dd? Is it all local news and downplayed?

    Local reporting, omission of relevant facts about the perpetrator/victims' financial circumstances, portrayal of events as being an 'isolated incident,' & so forth... Little or no nationwide coverage of the accelerating occurrence of such incidents or of their being motivated by foreclosure or repossession. I'm not much of a believer in so-called "conspiracy theories" but this lack of coverage appears to be deliberate suppression of news by the mainstream media.

    It's a dog bites man story. No surprise, so not newsworthy beyond the local area.

    The stats will show up a year or two later in crime statistics, by which time it will still not be news because everybody knows it already.

    I'm not much of a believer in so-called "conspiracy theories" but ...

    It's time to wake up and smell the coffee brewing at your local Chamber of Commerce.

    Every community has one. Their business is to promote the good aspects of their neighborhood and sweep under the rug any bad spots.

    What? You think the local real estate society is going to let the papers print stories about how everyone's losing their job and becoming homeless? What is that going to do to the real estate market (a.k.a. too big to fail)? What is that going to do to local business growth (a.k.a. too big to fail)?

    Suppression of "bad news" information IS the business of business.

    Post-Katrina, overall mortality rose 48% in New Orleans, despite the loss of the nursing home and frail elderly populations (both major sources of morbidity). Suicides more than tripled with < half the population.

    Not news.

    Best Hopes for People when TSHTF,


    I absolutely believe that there are certain stories that are frowned upon by the owners and editors of the monied/elite-controlled media.

    Examples that come to my mind are the massive overspending on lunatic defense programs like the V-22 and F-22 as well as the federal government's 30+ year tax policy of actively redistributing wealth via geography.

    It is truly bleak. I do hope that in the midst of all this flurry of activity in Washington, TPTB can be be distracted from all of their wheeling and dealing long enough to create a new Civilian Conservation Corps. This one would be put to work on energy conservation projects on public buildings first, and then on the residences of those people who are too poor or disabled to do it themselves. There has got to be enough work there to keep many millions busy for a year or two, and we will end up actually having gained something of value and importance to the nation. Given the hundreds of billions, even trillions, of dollars being spent, we can afford a few billion to fund a program like this.

    There was a small piece in the local paper (my wife scans the crime report online daily) about the local slum lord who has received 5 death threats in the last month. Also said of his 180 some odd properties 60 are in defalt.

    Also we have had 6 ARMED robberies in town over the last month. A record.

    B&Es are up quite a bit too.

    Hi Leanan,

    I have an apology to make. I added my political "venting" to this site and just realized that this is not why I became an avid reader of TOD.

    When I first started reading TOD, most people had never contemplated peak oil. The time and energy spent by members to describe the event, is what pulled me in. The technical data collected, and displayed here, showed convincing evidence of the coming trauma. I think that the political cycle of the past months has blurred our focus on the evolving story of peak oil. The economical fallout caused by high oil prices hit us faster that most of us imagined. I would hope that we could get back to mapping possible future scenarios, based on what we know now. The insight from this group gives me some sense of security. I can't imagine how confused I would feel, if the events of the last year had happened to me without the context of peak oil.

    Again, I am sorry for contributing to the clutter.

    I've noticed the trend on migration of the topics away from peak oil data studying and more towards political impacts and economic impacts. Early in days of my posting, I would be lambasted for worsening the signal to noise ratio by replying with something that wasn't 100% on-topic, but now I receive no such reaction.

    My personal opinion of the matter is the economic crisis that we are now stuck in has been the #1 topic on anyone's mind, as it will mask the the symptoms of peak oil. When prices decline for oil, people relax. Until prices start increasing again due to output shortfalls exceeding demand decline, I don't forsee peak oil being at the forefront of discussions in the public's mind. By that time, it likely will just be one of the top 5 items in people's minds:

    Global Warming / Climate Change
    Economic Collapse
    Peak Oil
    Crime & Civil Unrest
    Hunger & Poverty worldwide
    ~Durandal (http://www.wtdwtshtf.com)

    Well I certainly suggested that absolute aka oil depletion would not be the way we crashed.

    A lot of others share this thought.

    The crash is complex and the interplay of oil with it interesting but as we go down I think its important for the oil drum to look at all aspects of the end of our civilization in hopes that future historians will have access to our viewpoint.

    I don't understand how it masks Peak Oil. Maybe the symptoms - that's probably what you mean. Or maybe people will start attributing causes to the symptoms, that sort of thing. And yes, there is feedback.

    Nor do I understand those who say that "above ground" factors are going to prevent us from hitting Peak Oil. Among them, Heinberg in one of the top-links today

    But on the other hand, the argument will be made that this is not a geological peak; it has resulted merely from lack of investment. So the anti-Peak Oilers get to be right too.

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding Peak Oil. All along I thought it was the point at which production started to fall. It seems obvious to me that is determined by interplay of all sorts of "above-ground" factors; production is, after all, bringing that oil into a world above ground. Seems to me that thinking above-ground factors have no importance requires assuming an infinity of resources and gross environmental stability - exactly what is destroyed by a global peak oil. The distinction of above-ground from geological causes would seem only to apply to small geographical areas within an otherwise relatively unbounded system.

    I can easily make the case that economic class and inequality are critical Peak Oil issues. One aspect of it, class, Chris Hedges does better than I could today. Fundamentally, the entire world is energy and the organisation of the world is energy. Sorry to go all Druid on you, but I don't see how to limit a useful discussion to only depletion numbers.

    cfm in Gray, ME

    Hi Leanan,

    This is just a good place to say, Thank you for all you do on with the DrumBeat. Been busy lately getting thing together and haven't had time to post, I hope to change that now.

    On this thread: I read the DrumBeat everyday but if the subject is not oil then the thread just get's skimmed. There are only so many hours in a day


    don't hear much about the "core" inflation rate of late.

    The greatest insight of the Bush Presidency:

    Ashcroft: Maybe I make better decisions on 'morphine'

    I'm a longtime OD reader, first time contributor. I'd just like to suggest a theme song/video for our current ecological predicament. It's "Highway of Demise" by Neal Learner. Check it out on youtube:

    Great song. Thanks. Can I get a copy to play on my radio show?

    jcbradford4 "at" gmail.com


    Or the American Jesus. Same band.


    we've got the American Jesus
    bolstering national plan
    we've got the American Jesus
    overwhelming millions everyday

    he's the farmer barren fields,
    the force the army wields,
    the expressions in the faces
    of the starving millions,
    the power of the man.
    the fuel that drives the clan,
    the motive and the conscience
    of the murderer
    he's the preacher on TV,
    the false sincerity,
    the form letter that written by
    the big computers,
    he's the nuclear bombs,
    and the kids with no moms
    and I'm fearful that
    he's inside me.


    "How it ends"


    Great band!

    Retail sales fall for record fifth straight month

    WASHINGTON - Consumers reduced their spending at retail stores again in November while the costs of goods before they reach store shelves also continued to drop, more bad signs in a recession that appears to be deepening.

    The Commerce Department reported Friday that retail sales dropped by 1.8 percent in November. The decline, which was slightly below the 1.9 percent dip that had been expected, was the fifth straight monthly drop, a record stretch of weakness.

    Honda cuts North American production again

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Honda says it is making more production cuts in North America as it adjusts to lower demand.

    Honda Motor Co. is lowering production by another 119,000 vehicles, bringing anticipated production for its fiscal year ending March 31 to 1.3 million cars and light trucks. The company already has cut production by 56,000 units this fiscal year.

    Stuart found that during times of high oil prices the rate of new vehicle purchases fell:

    Vehicle Efficiency Wedge

    Hopefully we will see another large efficiency jump in the lesser number of vehicles purchased. The high/low spikes we are currently experiencing could lower the improvement rate.

    I have checked out the mall about 40 miles away and another the same distance.

    There is NO bargains there. None.

    JC Penneys is still selling Levis for about $50.
    Best Buy has no real bargains.
    Nothing suprising at Books A Million.
    Others stores the same.

    SO what is going on? I thought they were in trouble and if so why isn't the prices reflecting this?

    Perhaps its different in the big Citz. But here? Nada.

    So IMO let them go under. I mean stores that sell bedding? Stuff like
    "Old Navy"...they have no old navy clothes..its just a gimmick.
    Stores that sell fufu nonsense.

    I get my Levis at farm supply stores for less than $30. If they can make a profit at that price why not the big stores?

    Maybe they are not so anxious to liquidate inventory this time around because they know that they are not going to be getting any more deliveries for a while? The factories in China are shutting down, and they couldn't afford to buy any more output even if it were available. Global shipping is shutting down because banks are not issuing or honoring letters of credit. The retailers are probably finding it harder to get financing for their inventories, too. Thus, they may be counting upon whatever merchandise remains unsold to remain on their shelves so that customers coming into their stores after Christmas will still have something to buy for a while. They might be counting on cutting their hours of operation and staffing to the bone, and just hoping that their competitors go out of business before they have to. That may be about the only hope left for many of them.

    "Stuff like
    "Old Navy"...they have no old navy clothes..its just a gimmick."

    Were you intentionally being funny here?? I couldn't stop laughing!!!

    As an aside - I really appreciate all your posts - especially when you write about farming, food, and health.


    Yep,kidding Lilith.

    I was in the Navy of course and still have my old uniforms and even wear some stuff. But most doesn't fit.

    Someday perhaps it might if I continue losing weight on my total-farm-food menus.

    We are cooking up some great foodstuffs for yall out there.
    We send our corn to ADM. They fuss with it and take out all the good stuff to sell to the pharma folks,like vitamins etc, and then they take the corn oil to others and finally the fructose to the soda folks.

    What is left we likely get as Taco Chips,fakedup corn chips and all the rest. Its a crying shame what they do to grits. So we get the leavins and all the good stuff is gone so, yep its bad for you.

    And like Pollan sez...if it don't rot its not real food.

    So I try to eat rotable food.My corn goes from the stalk to my sheller and then my grinder when I need real grits or cornmeal.

    Airdale-And so we beat on,
    boats against the current,
    borne back ceaselessly into the past. (Fitzgerald)

    Airdale, got a recipe for real grits?

    Levis at the farm store are less probably due to lower real estate prices in farm country and lower property tax rates. Old Navy and other mall based stores lease their space and have higher operating costs. I also suspect there is very little shoplifting or pilfering at the farm store.

    My wife does too much on-line shopping and has seen JC Penney prices recently drop. She is waiting for the post Xmas sales and has already planned an overnight trip to Kansas City.

    Ran across an interesting - no, astonishing - statistic a few months ago. They compared per-capita retail store area (square feet of store floor space, etc.) for a number of countries. Turns out the USA per-capita figure was TEN TIMES that of Sweden. Given that, it's clear that U.S. shoppers are required to spend a heckuva lot more than your typical Swede to keep all that floor space in profits, paying their light and heating bills, and employees, etc. Suggesting that they're probably buying a lot of crap they don't need; and heaven help the merchandisers when they cut back ... which seems to be what's happening now. Imagine 90% or present retail space going belly up.

    - Dick Lawrence

    Yes, I found that a while back, but forgot to bookmark it.

    Link ?

    That ratio is typical of Suburbia, much rarer in walkable urban areas.

    Couple that with new SFRs growing by x2.4 from 1950 till 2006 as average household size (# of people) shrank, and the USA has a massive surplus of built structures post-Peak.

    Best Hopes for fewer sq ft,


    Well, yes, in a way. At the mall, you're paying bigtime extra to entertain and supervise other people's feckless teenagers. Haven't gone there for serious shopping for years.

    Isn't "feckless teenagers" redundant?

    I had bought a large lot of shares of a medium sized oil Refinery just before the $700 Billion bailout in the US Congress. I thought my timing was perfect. But since that time, the stocks has gone down 70%. :(

    Demand destruction was worse than I could imagine. And its going to get worse. Should I sell my Oil refiner shares and book a loss?

    Refining as a business in the US is dead. With a 5% drop in gasoline demand, we suddenly have idle refineries; and refining margins have gone to zero and below. Also, as has been discussed here, a barrel of oil makes a fixed amount of diesel and gasoline and other stuff. Europe and Asia use relatively less gasoline compared to diesel and are thus selling us their "extra" refined gasoline. US refining is a declining business and its never coming back.
    I like to think of gasoline as a byproduct of diesel prodcution. For every gallon of diesel we use doing something productive, we get 1 free gallon of gas to do something fun. Europe and Asia dont like to have as much fun (driving gas powered cars), so we are having extra "fun" at their expense.

    I have a substantial portion of my portfolio in oil & gas. Bought in around 2002 and now am back to aboue even with where I went in, + dividends and distributions. I'm still long as I firmly believe we're past peak and there will be supply disruptions sooner than later, demand destruction or not.

    From the article above, "Succession We Can Believe In: How Obama-esque activists are remaking the Vermont separatist movement."

    Given the mess things are likely to be in the next couple of years (ie $100 menu at McDs), I wonder how long until this movement spreads. States such as Oklahoma that actually have rainy day funds would be pretty upset if California gets 50billion from the Fed this year.

    Anyone have the current odds on Balkanization versus "Argentina/Russia" collapse?

    I would hope that the good people of Oklahoma would recall that the federal government has been giving them set asides for over two decades now.

    Page 36:


    Wow, I was just about to post the same link. We'll see how states like OK do when the federal teat is pulled away.

    OK will do fine, relatively speaking. Good NG production, some remaining oil, lots of hydro in the east, room for wind in the west. Plenty of wheat and other grain farming, plus cattle where irrigation or soil won't support ag.

    OK didn't participate in the housing bubble, and OKC is, IIRC, the largest metro area with no drop in housing prices over the past year.

    Low prices for energy and grains will hurt this year, and the downturn is coming, but intrinsically it's better positioned than during the 30's as long as drought stays away. There will be racially-charged and gang issues with illegal immigrants eventually, but mostly just in a couple of cities, and the rest will decentralize a bit and survive, IMHO.

    This depression the rust belt will be the new Dust Bowl.

    It's good to hear that OK is doing good. I'm sure that Sen. Inhofe and friends are great fans of redistribution of wealth, right?

    I love it - blaming Cali? Cali and NY and other populous wealthy states have been paying in FAR more to the Federal gov't for years and years - and watching most of that $ head to Southern states as federal aid - then when Cali needs some help due to the recession, it's all Cali's fault?


    California is the 10th largest economy in the world (if it were a separate nation). It leads the world in computer technology and entertainment. It grows a remarkable amount of fruits and vegetables and beef (and even exports large quantities of rice). The budget problems come from the same mistake that everybody else made, planning on a future that would always be like the past boom years. California is a state that actually still produces things the world wants.

    Nobody should complain about the performance of Cali - just it's planning skills, and that is a problem is shares with the whole nation.

    Is California energy independent?

    nope, but wanna place bets on how quickly we get there? The new solar-thermal plants, combined with the sun Cali gets (and lots of open space in the southeast of the state) - and all those silicon-valley solar firms, could easily find Cali becoming an exporter of electricity in the not-too-distant future

    and btw, I think if you count the oil we produce, we may not be as big of a net consumer as you'd think...Kern, LA basin and Santa Barbara offshore keep pumping away...

    Wow, I see the breakup of the US is already ready to go here - California vs. OK, Northeast vs. Southeast...

    My stated feeling on VT secession is that I adamantly oppose it unless they are willing to take upstate NY and me with them. It only makes sense - we can be a large, bucolic, poor agrarian nation without anything anyone ever would want - saves on military budgets.


    Wouldn't people want good rich farmland?

    I'm sure they'd love good, rich farmland - which is why so many northeasterners went West trying to get some in the 19th century ;-). The mountainous areas of VT and upstate NY have very thin soils - good for grazing and growing wood, terrible for farming. We have some good soils, especially near the Great Lakes, but even the best aren't things that most Iowans would ever consider even adequate. And then there are the rocks - lots, and lots of rocks. And winter.

    I'm from New England, and my family is mostly Yankees, northeastern Indians and immigrants who got off the boat and stayed here. This place is in my blood, I grow a lot of food here, and I love the northeast. I live just above the area that fed the US during the Revolution, and I belive that we could do a lot more with what we've got. But I'm not foolish enough to deny that it has its limitations - the idea that anyone's battle cry would be "To New England to Farm!" is pretty funny!


    Thomas Jefferson had some unkind things to say about Massachusetts farming.


    Texas is an oil importer. California not even close.


    Done shoveling?

    When New Orleans gets it's every decade or so snow, one just waits :-)

    Gone by mid-afternoon.

    Best Hopes for Occasional winter wonderland,


    The inland northwest, WA thru MT, gets it first major snow storm today(Fri) through Sun. 6-15" valleys, 16-24" mountains.

    And cold-highs through end of next week to only single digits, lows well below zero.

    Probably hit the east by end of next week.

    Best Hopes for Bing Crosby, may he rest in peace.

    Statistics are here:


    CA imports 61% of its oil from other states.

    11.8% of its electricity is "renewable" which includes a lot of imported large hydro from the Pacific Northwest. Instate generation of solar and wind electricity is ca. 2% of total electricity use.

    As a recent visitor, I must say I am appalled and impressed by California. Appalled by the traffic, density, culture and congestion in LA or the Bay area.

    And after visits in both January and early September, impressed by the Central Valley agriculture or the wind and solar works in the Tehachapi and Mojave areas. The water distribution system is eye popping monumental. Looking at the mass of those pipes jumping out of the southern end of the Central Valley to water LA forced me to pull over and just stare, even from the many mile distance of I5. The inland route (99?)from Bakersfield to Sacramento and north, the miles and miles of irrigation lattice and fields producing year around in the warmth. And flat. Like the midwest never dreamed.

    Yea, I'm sure this is offensive to many, that it is unsustainable, etc, but what folks keep pushing under the table is that aside from water, how perfect CA is for agriculture. There's nothing like it. This November, farmers were told they may, depending on conditions, expect only 15% of their water allotments next summer. If I were dictator, I'd be cutting the water to the cities, and saving it for the farms.

    Sadly, golf courses, swimming pools, carwashes, green lawns, and resort & shopping mall fountains are valued more than food and clean drinking water.

    Hell on Earth:

    ..In the townships, the water turns in a deadly cycle. Months without it mean that toilets are blocked, leading to people defecating in the open, everywhere, at night. At the same time, the pressure of the trapped sewage is enough to flip open cast-iron manhole covers and spew the contents through the streets, into people’s yards. The stench of feces is all-pervasive..

    ..It has been like this for years, in nearly every poor, crowded township in the country, and inevitably cholera has struck.

    ..Yesterday, for the first time, I saw that a flow of sewage had forged its way down the road, and into the stream running through the golf course.

    Heaven on Earth: Zimbabwe's golf courses--> book your exciting golf & safari trip now!

    The Harare Mayor’s Christmas Cheer Fund Golf Day for 2008 has come and gone but will forever be remembered for the indelible “footprint” it set after raising more than US$9,000 for the under-privileged members of the Harare Community..

    In association with SHOWMAN TRAVEL & TOURS


    Golfzone can say this with certainty - There is nowhere else on the continent where such a balance between wilderness and civilization as exists in Zimbabwe! Where else in the world can a visitor enjoy the sweet science that golf is, gaze upon hundreds of species of tropical wildlife, thrill to the experience of white water rafting, scale chilly mountain peaks and savor the history of a people that goes back tens of thousands of years? Zimbabwe!

    Poorer nations inflated vaccination numbers

    LONDON - Dozens of developing countries exaggerated figures on how many children were vaccinated against deadly diseases, which allowed them to get more money from U.N.-sponsored programs, a new study said Friday.

    Research in the medical journal, The Lancet, said only half as many children were vaccinated than was claimed by countries taking part in special programs meant to reach kids in poor nations. The findings raise serious issues about vaccination programs — and whether money earmarked for children is actually reaching their intended recipients.

    does this contribute to the fertilizer (phospate?) shortage?

    Apatite is a mineral often used in the making of fertilizers.

    "A large-scale blast was being prepared at the mine for which 55 tonnes of explosives had been laid. According to confirmed figures, 12 died and four were injured," a source at the emergency situations ministry told Interfax

    Isn't 55 tons of TNT about what the smallest Nuke device is?

    What the hell were these guys doing??????

    Helluva way to mine.

    Power Down.

    Not quite. :)

    Little Boy, the first nuke dropped on Hiroshima, clocked in around 13,000 tons of TNT.

    IIRC, minimum yield of a nuclear device is 10KT TNT equivalent. The Davy Crockett was rated at 10-20 KT.

    Its about the smallest 'efficient' nuclear explosive you can have, but you can artificially reduce the blast to several hundred tonnes of TNT equivalent using about the same amount of fissile material as you would for a full 10KT, and the US military at one point experimented with these low yield nukes for tactical purposes.

    In the same vein you can make a pure fusion device using explosively driven magnetic flux compression devices that have a yield of a couple of tonnes of TNT with the caveat that you have to have a couple of tonnes of equipment. Not exactly an efficient explosive unless you're trying to disable with the neutron flash.

    IIRC, minimum yield of a nuclear device is 10KT TNT equivalent.

    You can go as low as you wish. But the minimum amount of Plutonium or HEU you need is enough for your 10KT. Below that, you are just make lower and lower efficiency (i.e. most of the fissionable material doesn't fission). Just screw up the timing of the charges for the implosion (so it is less spherical), and you have much lower yield from the same design.

    Re toplink: "Traffic fatalities decrease 10% this year... more study is needed to determine whether the drop in miles traveled is related to the decline in fatalities"

    - I've noticed anecdotally this last summer people around here were driving slower than they used to, perhaps to save gas. That would definitely reduce fatal crashes.

    Another hypothesis: fewer truck miles?

    I like the truck theory a lot. I saw the stat once of the % of interstate fatalities that involved trucks and it was something close to 40%. It's really hard to get killed in a car on car accident on a highway unless you aren't belted in.Trucks definately vastly increase the danger level,esp. with all the guys who drive them like sports cars. I think the existing trucks have been going slower. I know the governor speeds were lowered on many.

    Most truckers I see these days are youngsters with cellphones always in their ears. Ipods going. GPS telling them where to go.

    Old time truckers call them 'wheel holders'. The Qualcomm sat receiver on the roof keeps them on track. They are rather dangerous.

    I have watched some of this crew at the CDL testing arena. Most don't pass the 1st or even the 2nd time. They scare me. Tthey don't know the 'culture' of the way it used to be.

    They never lay back from the intersection so another trucker(me) gets their legal right of way stolen as they wheel out in the far lane making a right turn as I go wide for my left turn at the light.

    They also like to play intimidation games with the bumpers of the 4 wheelers.

    I gave my CDL a rest now.

    I assume every trucker I see is one of those.

    Re: World Bank "Wrong Advice" up top.

    It seems to me that is was one only a few months ago several posters were raking ethanol proponents over the coals based on a World Bank report that ethanol production and rising corn prices were the cause of rising food prices.

    The World Bank is notorious for giving out bad advice and bad reports. Commodity prices have collapsed and as far as I can tell food prices have not gone down much, if at all. I doubt the world hunger/starvation situation is much improved either.

    Bankers in general are one of the most unreliable and hypocritical judges of economic situations. Witness the housing bubble which was in large part due to their behavior.

    They are forever telling borrowers that they have too much debt all the while the banks are often leveraged 10 to 1 or worse and the borrower has assets greater than than his borrowings.

    Advice and reports from banks should be treated with skepticism. Especially anything put out by the World Bank.

    It should be obvious that more food is grown from less land when ethanol consumption is mandated by government. Government-mandated ethanol consumption is the key to increased food production.

    I once met a guy who contested these obvious truths, but he had two hands, just like Nixon, so you know what a liar he was.

    might wanna do some fact checking. IIRC, a recent article cited the lag in the system for the continued high food prices. That is, food producers and retailers couldn't raise their prices nearly as high as the rise in commodities, so are still recovering from losses during the big run up in prices.


    U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters noted that driving continued to decline even as gas prices came off their summertime peaks.

    "The fact that the trend persists even as gas prices are dropping confirms that America's travel habits are fundamentally changing," she said in a statement.

    Or maybe because the declines are not because of high gasoline prices ?

    Square peg meet round hole have hammer.

    Hello TODers,

    Recipe for Famine: Part 5 of 7

    Wasting Enough Rice to Feed 184 Million Is Habit Only Rats Love

    Inside his northern Philippines granary, Marlon Ventura stirs gray zinc phosphide into a bowl of boiled rice, making a garlicky, toxic meal for rats.

    He puts the bowl on a dirt floor dotted with grain spilled from vermin-gnawed sacks. Each year, rats steal or foul almost three-quarters of a metric ton (1,654 pounds) of his rice. The cost -- 12,240 pesos ($250) -- equals 7.8 percent of his farm’s net income.
    Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

    EIA found September implied oil demand was 17.796 Mbd (the lowest since 1996)! This gives hope for US GHG emissions falling to 1990 levels, as September oil demand was only 7.8% above 1990 Sept oil demand. We'll see how post-hurricane numbers develop...

    See details at: http://www.setenergy.org


    I Knew Bernie Madoff Was Cheating; That's Why I Invested with Him
    Love the sarcastic forum comment: this Ponzi scheme is Too Big to fail, therefore the Govt. needs to bail it out so it can continue...


    New England Grid Outages from Ice Storm.. something like half a million home dark..


    I'm working in Mexico, supposed to fly back to Maine tomorrow night. Guess we'll see.

    This was nothing like the Ice Storm of ten years ago. The forecast said up to an inch of solid ice. We got more like 1/4 to 3/8 here in Gray. My sister in Whitefield had power back on early today. I did have to chainsaw apart a 75 maple tree that fell on my car. No damage to car; the tree sort of straddled it. Chickens were not happy; they stayed in the coops.

    Duffers are being promised better city golf courses under a new contract OKd Wednesday by the Chicago Park District board.

    The six courses, two miniature golf courses and three driving ranges will get $5.5 million in improvements under a 15-year deal with Billy Casper Golf Management.
    I would suggest this money could be better spent rehabilitating and enlarging the sixty miles of subterranean narrow gauge track in downtown Chicago. They will need to have this abandoned spiderweb functional again when they need to heat the buildings with coal as in earlier times:


    EDIT: Replicating this network would make a great deal of common sense for Phx--much, much cooler underground. Years ago, I worked in a huge above-ground, uninsulated, non-refrigerated furniture warehouse with 7 levels of towering storage racks. You could actually feel the temperature going up fast as you rode the lift truck platform to the top level. It definitely made you work fast to load/unload the furniture so that you could go back down.

    Another one bites the dust...

    Failed Bank Information for Haven Trust Bank, Duluth, GA

    On December 12, 2008, Haven Trust Bank, Duluth, GA was closed by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver. No advance notice is given to the public when a financial institution is closed.

    And another one...

    Sanderson State Bank, Sanderson, TX

    On Friday, December 12, 2008, Sanderson State Bank, Sanderson, TX was closed by the Texas Department of Banking and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver.

    How is everyone in the New England area holding up with today's wild weather? In an unusual twist, we've been sitting at a rather balmy +16C (61F) for much of the day, although as of 22h00 local time, we've slid back to +13C (55F). The wind gusts, however, have been incredibly strong -- driving on the roads earlier today, the rear end of my station wagon was kicking about like a bronco in heat.

    Good luck to all, especially those without power.


    Hi Paul, we've been out about 24 hrs now. On backup battery banks, so I'm still online. Lights and some power, water coming from the hand pump down cellar and heat is wood, and I have a good supply inside. Cook with propane, so no big deal. I took the boy scout thing seriously. Chuckle! It was a howler. Not anywhere near as bad as the "big" one a few years ago though.

    Weather did some tricks here to, I swear it went from below freezing to 57 degrees in the space of minutes. All the windows on the house fogged up, on the outside. I'm not sure I have ever seen that. Temp is slowly going down from that point and we are just now dropping back below freezing.

    I do have to say in 50 something years of driving, it was not a good night to be on the road last night. I was at work, and drove home around 7:00 last night. Coastal road that follows the ups and downs of the shore line, and this is Maine shoreline. At least 3 90 degree turns, and a whole bunch of very steep ups and downs. Watched tree limbs just fly over the car.

    17 miles took 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cleaned out the freezer, and it's all outside now in coolers, that way I don't have to run it. Give the battery bank a break. Got 28 degrees out there now just fine for the frozen food. Makes no sense to heat the house and then use electricity to cool the food when it's perfect outside for it.

    One other note, I ah, have some experience with security communications, now if you wanted to make an unscheduled large withdrawal, this was good night, most coms were down. While alarms might be active, they could not call out. Just trash the pcs recording. Our landline is out, and I drove by the one cellular tower that feeds us and it sparkles very nicely with ice load and I have no signal.

    No idea when power is expected back.

    And son of gun, look at that, here I am on TOD.

    Chuckle !!

    Don in Maine

    Thanks for the update, Don; I'm glad to hear you made it home safely and that your home is undamaged. You appear to be in a better position to weather this storm and its aftermath than most, although Mainers, in general, are a pretty resilient lot. Best wishes to all affected and I trust NB Power, Nova Scotia Power and Maritime Electric will be lending a hand to help restore electrical service as quickly as possible.

    As mentioned, we were on the "warm side" of this front, so our temperatures shot up from near freezing to +16C in the span of a few hours, but the winds were blowing at a steady 90 to 100 kph and never let up. Thankfully, no widespread power outages or reports of significant wind damage in this province that I know of, but as of 08h300 there are 300 or so customers in New Brunswick without electricity, mostly in the Sussex and Tracadie regions, down from just over 11,000 yesterday afternoon.


    Hello TODers,

    Recall my earlier postings on investors teaming up with a farmer to store I-NPK, or the postings on 'Federal Reserve Banks of I-NPK'. As usual, Zimbabwe, their Central Reserve Bank, and their useless currency, is instructive:

    Police in Harare have impounded five trucks loaded with 150 tonnes of fertilizer belonging to a Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe [RBZ]clerk...

    ..Ajaya, who is also the RBZ workers’ committee chairman and owns the impounded trucks, was once contracted by the central bank to ferry fertilizer from BAK Storage to various destinations countrywide.
    It is suspected that Ajaya and some officials at the storage company could have withheld some of the fertilizer...
    Gee, ya think! The 'real asset' tons diverted was nothing more than financing costs & interest. Sadly, the INSANE inflation rate has now made it much less work to shovel/wheelbarrow tons of I-NPK--if you can get it [Unobtainium]. You would have to physically move many more tons of Zim currency to get one ton of I-NPK.

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

    Hello TODers,

    Ag groups push USDA for action

    “The fact is crop farmers really have their back up against the wall right now”...

    In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer this week, more than 20 national farm organizations demanded action on farm program provisions for 2009.

    Fortune has a great article looking at the 2009 predictions from some of the world's scariest forecasters: Nouriel Roubini, Bill Gross, Robert Shiller, Jim Rogers and Meredith Whitney.

    But if you're looking for opportunities amid the hair-raising forecasts, head straight for Mr. Rogers: "Historically, the way you make money in times like these is that you find things where the fundamentals are unimpaired," he said. That is, his well-documented love of commodities is alive and well.

    "Farmers cannot get a loan to buy fertilizer right now. Nobody's going to get a loan to open a zinc or a lead mine. Meanwhile, every day the supply of commodities shrinks more and more," he said . "You're going to see gigantic shortages developing over the next few years."
    Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

    Parting Thoughts:

    Last time I checked, the world still needed food, the world’s grain silos were still low, the world’s arable land still shrinking, its nutrients depleting, and its population growing. I’m wary of the short-term volatility and noise, but I refuse to let go of the secular trends driving sustained, higher fertilizer prices.
    No author mention of Peak FFs or P & K ore-depletion, which would tend to drive I-NPK prices even higher over time.

    Do they have an I-NPK ETF?

    Someone's analysis of energy supply alternatives:


    Someone else's beef against 'net energy' analysis:


    This is hilarious. I found it in the Pit of Asshatery (where else). Possible post-peak transportation?


    Calling Foreign Debt 'Immoral,' Leader Allows Ecuador to Default

    Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said yesterday that his nation is defaulting on its foreign debt, fulfilling his longtime populist pledge to leave international creditors in the lurch.

    ..Ecuador is ceasing payments not because the oil-rich country cannot afford to pay but because it has made a political decision not to.

    ..Last month, Correa, an economist with a degree from the University of Illinois, said Ecuador would hold off on a $31 million interest payment, triggering a 30-day grace period that runs out Monday. He had hinted since then that Ecuador might make the payment. But speaking to reporters in the commercial center of Guayaquil yesterday, Correa said it would not be made and declared the country in default.
    Imagine another oil-rich country, maybe KSA doing the same thing as their external debt has grown to 52 billion [see chart]:

    This entry gives the total public and private debt owed to nonresidents repayable in foreign currency, goods, or services.

    Source: CIA World Factbook
    In one easy to accomplish fell-swoop: KSA would instantly drive crude back well above $100/barrel by defaulting on their debt. Recall that the Saudi king is very interested in making things better for future Saudi generations...

    EDIT: Can you think of a better combo when KSA decides to announce that they are now officially PostPeak? Thxs for any reply

    ksa may be signaling just that. first they announced they were raising the price on oil to asian markets, next they announced november output. the reduction may be involuntary. and this may be involuntary reduction may be temporary. and may be i have exceeded the maximum number of may be 's in a single paragraph.

    I was awakened this morning to a piece on Peak Oil on NPR's Weekend Edition.

    Though I was worried that current lower crude prices would be fodder for a scoffing hit piece, it actually was very well done. The reporter interviewed members of a peak oil group named Crude Awakenings, Matthew Simmons, and three members of the audience of Simmons' talk. The latter three were oil professionals at a professional meeting

    All of those interviewed were articulate; they were able to convey the basics of our predicament well.

    Peter Jackson of CERA provided 'balance' on the other side.

    The weekend Edition website will have a listing of today's programming after 10 AM ET.

    The Oil Drum

    EDIT: My wife wanted me to add the absence of female voices was notable. I really had noticed that too. I really had. :)

    That was a good, fair piece. I wonder why it was in the "Health Care" section...